Homeless and Luckless, Piano Man Wows Internet and Gets New Start

…never too late…to live your best life…


The Feels

The city of Sarasota, Fla., has a project called “Sarasota Keys,” which installs lovely old upright pianos in public places where anyone can play. One day last week, a homeless man sat down at one of these sidewalk pianos at a public art exhibit and started playing the Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” Passersby took notice, pulling out smartphones to capture the moment and dollar bills to thank the musician.

Donald Gould, 51, a scrawny man of “cave man” appearance with scraggly hair and unkempt beard, kept his eyes on the keys and his music filled Main Street in downtown Sarasota, Fla.

Gould, or “Boone” as he is known around town, said he only wanted to earn a few bucks. A week later, video of his impromptu performance has been viewed more than 7.5 million times on YouTube and more than 5 million times on Facebook, with the videographer, Aroar Natasha,

View original post 599 more words

like the rock of gibraltar…but not

Just got off the phone with my wonderful and loving daughter. She it is who is wise beyond her 28 years. She who can heal whatever it is that ails me. And not with a cup of green tea to warm my insides, although she does that too, but with sentiments that wrap themselves around my oft-times troubled soul.

Without going into details, suffice it to say my normally blissful life has been upended by something that occurred decades ago. While I’d been able to move on with my life, the event was there like a rock secured to my ankle which I dragged around with me…everywhere. For a long time I barely noticed it was there.

But it was there.

Resolving issues through compromise is always my preference. I’d like to think I’m no different from other folks in that regard.

It’s not my style to pretend like something never happened. It’s like glossing over the truth. And if I learned anything from the 12 years I spent in the daily company of Catholic nuns…TRUTH above all else!

What I didn’t assimilate until I was older is that the truth can hurt…real bad.

I recently decided to stop ignoring that “rock” and see if I could break free of its hold once and for all. 

My daughter’s words of encouragement were enlightening.

She reminded me how far I’d come in living my best life. As far as the “rock” was concerned, she felt I’d had the best of intentions in trying to be rid of it, and that I no longer needed to agonize over it.  

My “light bulb” moment was when she reminded me of how I felt when I decided to buy coffee and food along with a $25 gift card from Starbuck’s for a woman I thought was homeless. What I chose to ignore was that the woman wasn’t dressed exactly like one might expect of a homeless person. In fact, she could have been the poster person for what the homeless could look like…poised, almost like a model…modestly dressed, but still fashionable-looking…hair done in dread locks, and impeccably clean-looking …face made up, even more so than mine.

Of course I didn’t see these details until my daughter and I were standing in front of the woman, gifts in hand. What had caught my eye, and my heart strings, from the distance was the shopping cart behind the woman which looked to be loaded down with all that she had in the world.

How could I leave, packages in hand…loaded down with Christmas gifts for my loved ones, when this poor woman stood there in the cold and rain as countless shoppers passed her by, sometimes only inches away from where she stood?

Upon approaching the woman, my daughter spoke first offering the coffee, sandwich and cookie that we’d bought. We were caught off by guard by the woman’s quick response…”I don’t take food from people I don’t know.” Needless to say my daughter and I were totally thrown off, and took a bit to recover.

While I tried to ascertain her circumstances, ever so carefully choosing my words, the woman asked who we were, where were we from. She wanted to know what ethnicity we were. When told we were Hawaiian, she said she’d lived in Hawaii and asked if we knew someone she’d known there.

Trying to process the conversation as we stood rooted in place, still clutching our donations, I couldn’t decide if the woman was legitimate or simply conning us. Unable to think straight, I offered her the gift card which she took. Without acknowledging our donation, she continued talking. At which point I wished her well, eager to extricate myself from a situation about which I wasn’t quite sure.

To this day, we’ll never know if the woman was homeless or if she was simply trying to solicit cash. And yes, I did agonize over whether or not I’d done the right thing.

Why? Because a number of years ago I gave a guy $20 after he told me his hard luck story. A few days later he told me the same story, not realizing he’d already hit me up for money before. And at the time I gave it to him, my girlfriend, who was with me, told me she thought I’d been scammed. 

My daughter explained that just as my intentions were good in wanting to give to the woman, so too were they good in removing the “rock” that continued to weigh me down. She went on to say that I’d gotten rid of the “rock,” and that I needn’t dwell on whether or not I did the right thing. Rather, that I needed to return to…living my best life.

…i think i’ll do as she asks…for my sake…

and hers.



friday fictioneers: homeless

copyright -Janet Webb


Marnie loved waking up to beds squeaking, feet shuffling quietly, voices whispering. She found comfort in the morning ritual. 

As she wiped the sleep from her eyes, Marnie surveyed her family, a motley group of folks whose upended lives brought them together.

Under the same roof, individuals coalesced.

Working in harmony, beds were made, breakfast prepared, children dressed and readied for school.

Hopes high, the adults scattered in search of work to help sustain their loved ones and their community.

For little Marnie, homeless meant sharing. A small sacrifice, she felt, for the love bestowed by…her extended family.


getting more…than we give

Flanders, Netherlands

Flanders, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hubby and I had a date night Saturday evening that included about 35 others. We helped serve dinner to those in need at our town’s community center. Although I donate a home-cooked meal with some regularity, we’re not always able to help with its serving. But when we’re able, we find those we help feed give so much more to us…than we give to them.

 All who volunteer agree that being able to share food with folks who are so grateful for whatever is placed before them, is humbling.  They thank us, numerous times, for making the entrees, the side dishes, the salads and the desserts. Some lower their eyes as they mumble their thanks. Others greet us with large smiles, asking after our well-being. Can you imagine? Concern for us who live comfortably, compared with their meagre day-to-day subsistence.

Marilyn, the meal coordinator, is a true Christian. She fills a need in our community without passing judgment on those who partake. All are welcome; all are treated with respect. They line up, help themselves, find their own seats. Returning for more helpings is fine, as is taking food home for another meal. They are sensitive to leaving some for others; they never exhibit greed. Many even help with the cleanup.

Most are men, some with jobs. Women, retirees, teens and children comprise the remainder who dine with us. Many are repeats who are known by name. No tension exists, only calm and serenity. Barriers dissolve into thin air. Class, ethnicity, education, religion, politics, even cleanliness have no place as we mingle with one another. 

We and they…have something in common.

It’s not easy to step outside one’s comfort zone, and cross over into the unknown. I’m sure it’s as difficult for those in need of our support, as it is for us who offer it. That we do… makes for a magical evening…

…of heartfelt…camaraderie…


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…


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

japan…lesson learned?

In part because of its

Image via Wikipedia

Another poignant article in this week’s Real Change, Seattle’s street newspaper, is from its counterpart The Big Issue in Japan. How easily current news displaces yesterday’s headlines. The fact that there’s no comparison between watching Casey Anthony get away with …something, and the people of Japan suffering a major catastrophic event holds no sway. Old news is no news, not anymore it seems. So as a reminder, I wanted to share the following from the people who have been relegated to the bottom of the heap, with the passing of time.

Living life under the fear of radiation
The city of Minamisoma, Japan is a place where no one is allowed to move freely because of the radiation danger. In this dispatch from Japan, translated by Kamila Nowak, the owner of a cleaning company living in the area writes anonymously about the toll these restrictions have taken on her business and personal life.


Japan - Kyoto

Image by Marc Veraart via Flickr

     The place where I live is Minamisoma city, Haramachi town. The town is situated within 30 km of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and because of that we have been forced to stay indoors.
     Everything that I have dedicated my strength, heart and soul to, is devastated. My company, my employees, the customers–all gone since the town was wiped away. All four of my shops are closed, but I managed to open the main office just a few days ago. Still, I don’t know when I have to close it again because of the evacuation orders that might come from the government. I am constantly watching the news.
     All 30 of my workers face many problems. There are people who lost their houses due to the tsunami, parents with small children that go from one shelter to another. Those who lived within a 20 km radius of the power plant were forced to leave their homes. Everyone is living in anxiety and with no one to depend upon.
     At least the company was able to secure a small income for the workers. However, the contradicting laws brought us to a state of extreme anger. In just a few hours our daily lives were destroyed by the state. We cannot call this a natural disaster; it is a man-made disaster.
     We have water, electricity, gas and all the goods we need. However, we are closed in by an invisible wall. We feel that this region is now being erased from the Japanese map.
     Newspaper, mail and goods have stopped coming in just because the town is within a 30 km radius of the plant. This is especially difficult for families that lost their relatives or friends and cannot go look for the bodies of their loved ones because of the risk of radiation. In addition, the reconstruction assistance, financial support and employment subsidies are not reaching us, because the magnitude of the aid given is based on recorded cases of similar incidents. (There have not been any nuclear power plant accidents before the one in March; therefore there is no precedent for the action to be taken.)
     Workers are a company’s greatest asset, and without capital it all falls into pieces. These are the things that should be on top of the government’s support list, but unfortunately none of the aid reaches through the border set at the infamous 30 km radius.
     Please, do not forget about us!
     Would you tell your employee to go to work within 30 km of the power plant? Would you be able to take machines, trucks and materials there? Would you invest in a company that is located in a town where an evacuation order might be given at any time? If you look from a management or an economical point of view then the answer is of course “No.” This is how the invisible wall keeps anyone from entering.
     Before all this happened, my grandchildren were running and playing in the mountains, sea, rivers and fields around the town. And they loved to come and spend time with us, in our house. They called it “Grandma’s and Grandpa’s Haramachi house.” They might never be able to come back to this place.
     Our heart is in a great despair. Thus, I will shout out, I will pray, please stop using nuclear power!
     In these difficult times our only hope is that people will have these same strong ideas against nuclear power. If you try to place a pin in all the nuclear power plants on a Japanese map, you will realize that there is no place on the coastline that is safe from natural disasters. I want to believe that human wisdom can be used to make a world full of happiness.
     Please, do not forget about us! When you use electricity remember that this electricity is supplied to you upon sacrifice of those people who live in the vicinity of the power plant.
     The only way for us to escape from this despair is if people from the outside try to raise their voices to change the government’s decisions.
     Using human wisdom, let’s produce electricity without using nuclear power! Let’s start to walk towards this destination together!
     Tell your friend and neighbors not to think of us as “poor Minamisoma inhabitants,” but to think about “unfairness that can come upon anyone.” Use that time you spend for criticizing the government to come up with an idea on how to save and reconstruct those towns that have collapsed.


Oi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3, Unit 4. Locatio...

Image via Wikipedia

…will we change?…before mother nature deals us another blow  ……………………..hugmamma.

real change…street news

Real Change

Image by djwudi via Flickr

It’s been a while since I posted something from one of my favorites, street newspapers. Begun to help the homeless help themselves, nonprofit ventures like Real Change here in Seattle provide a source of income for many who want to make a difference in their own lives. They’re offered a hand up, not a hand out. One such person is Reggie Thompson, Vendor of the Week.

     Reggie Thompson is discovering a new Reggie Thompson. For years, too many too-long days aboard an Alaskan fishing boat stifled his creative side and artistic ambitions. The physical–and sometimes deadly–work kept him moving 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
     Since the day he had first arrived in Alaska, Reggie had imagined he would be fishing for the rest of his life. But an injury to his wrist had cut short his life at sea. He returned briefly to previous work in telemarketing management in Anchorage, but the job then ended and Reggie moved on.
     And so it was with an injured wrist, no job and two aging parents back home in Virginia that Reggie picked up and moved to Seattle in 1997. Then, two and a half years ago, he found himselt at the Real Change office.
     “You got to work your own hours, be your own boss,” he says of the career change. “After all those years on the boat, that sounded really good to me.”
     He regularly sells more than 300 papers each month in front of the Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery at 3rd and Spring downtown. He’s close with many of the people who work there and the customers who frequent the bakery. Some just stop to buy the paper, others want to stop and talk with him at great length about his life, their lives, Alaska, music, anything.
     But while that’s been important to Reggie, it’s not what has stirred this latest transformation in him. Last year, he joined photography and community journalism classes hosted at the Real Change office.
     “I thought that journalists on the street have a lot of good stories to tell that people haven’t heard yet,” he explains. “I like writing because I can express myself and also share these stories with my customers.”
     He is also working on improving his photography skills through Path with Art, a nonprofit aimed at providing art classes to homeless and low-income individuals in Seattle. And then there’s music. When he was a young child, Reggie received a guitar from his father. Reggie taught himself to play by ear. Rock ‘n’ roll, soul, jazz; he loved it all. Years later, in the 1970s, he would even get the chance to play onstage with the Motown band The Symbolics at New York City’s historic Apollo Theater.

Apollo Theater (New York City)

Image via Wikipedia

     “That was an experience I will never forget. I had been hanging out with all those guys, all those musicians in Harlem at the time. And to get to play at the Apollo, it was unforgettable.”
     Reggie is grateful for the chance to grow with his artwork now. His writing has been published in San Fransisco‘s Poor Magazine, and he writes regularly for the vendor-powered blog (insp-blog.org/realchange).
     Loyal customers who support him at his spot in front of Specialty’s are also some of the biggest supporters of his writing, artwork and music. Talking about those people–his community–he tells me, “I just enjoy working here. Since the first day I came here they’ve been a part of my life. I’ve got to thank them for supporting me through all the ups and downs. It’s beautiful, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

(Adrienne Brown…writer) 

…everyone has a compelling story…deserving to be told…hugmamma.

superheros…come to life?!?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have been singled out for protection by real superheroes, not the make-believe ones of comic book fame. In its February 25, 2011 edition, The Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled “Bam! Pow! Superhero Groups Clash In an Epic Battle of Good vs. Good.” I knew I wanted to share this story so I added it to a stack of other articles I’ve been collecting.

I was mystified by the thought that real people would risk their self-esteem, not to mention their lives, wandering the streets of Seattle and Portland, bedecked in costumes that would surely have citizens chuckling, if not laughing out loud. Phoenix Jones will appear at Crypticon May 29thPhoenix Jones, a 22-yearold-day care worker, changes into his black-and-gold outfit at night, to walk Seattle attempting to “harass drug dealers and break up street fights.” This, it seems, is not as big  a deal to Jones as having to deal with “his latest nemeses: members of the ‘Real Life Superhero (RLSH) movement.’ ” So what’s the beef? Evidently they don’t like Jones’ confrontational style, or rather they don’t like that he’s getting all the publicity because of it.

World-wide RLSHers include grown men posing as Zetaman, Knight Owl, Dark Guardian and Mr. Raven Blade. Trying to convince the communities in which they serve that they’re the “real deal,” not geeky comic-book charachters, they feel their efforts are compromised by Jones’ physical approach. They prefer to carry out charitable works like delivering food to the homeless, rather than bring attention to themselves personally. They want to be “a force for good in the world,” and as such do not give out their names.

Real Life Superheroes, who seem to favor masks and dark clothing–sometimes emblazoned with homemade logos (like the Superman “S”)–exist in pockets all over the world. Some like Knight Owl and Thanatos, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, typically focus on charitable activities.

Others, such as New York’s Dark Guardian, patrol areas known for drug activity–a bit like the city’s old subway-riding Guardian Angels. Dark Guardian shines lights and takes videos to try to deter crime nonviolently, and he makes emergency calls to 911.

“Mostly, they’re relatively normal people trying to help out and have a little fun along the way,” says Tea Krulos, a Milwaukee writer working on a book about them.

Phoenix Jones, on the other hand, interjects himself into situations.

A mixed martial-arts fighter, he broke his nose last month while breaking up a fight, and he says he has been shot and stabbed, too. He often travels with a posse, sometimes carries a Taser nightstick and tear gas, and repeatedly has himself been mistaken for a criminal.

On a particular Friday evening Jones, accompanied by 3 men, Buster Doe, Pitch Black and Ski Man, a superhero-in-training, and a female, Blue Sparrow, walked Seattle’s streets. Obliging night spot patrons, Jones posed for photos outside the establishments but admitted that it “distracts me from my mission.” Turning to the task at hand, he “chastised a man for yelling at a downtrodden passerby. ‘Let’s keep it cool; let’s all have a good night,’ he said to the man, who quickly backed down. ” To those hanging out in areas frequented by drug dealers Jones remarked ” ‘Stay safe tonight,’ he said. ‘Stay warm.’ ” One thing was clear when he and his posse couldn’t catch a car driven by a suspected DUI, their inability to fly was a definite disadvantage. Jones admits to feeling foolish in his superhero get-up when he does little in the way of crime-fighting.


While Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson congratulates the efforts of citizens getting involved, he is concerned about situations going awry. ” ‘Our concern is that if it goes badly, then we wind up getting called anyway, and we may get additional victims.’ ” Zetaman, a Portland superhero, feels similarly. After an evening of late-night patrolling in Seattle by both Jones’ group, the Rain City Superheroes, and Zetaman’s Real Life Superheroes, the leaders and their groups have gone their separate ways for good. Jones makes his position clear when he says ” ‘I don’t see the point in handing sandwiches to homeless people in areas in which the homeless are getting abused, attacked, harassed by drug dealers.’ ” And Zetaman charges back with ” ‘(A)ll of us are afraid of one day someone is going to get killed and it’ll be all over. … I don’t need this kind of macho c_ in my life and I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, least of all to Phoenix Jones and his Rain City Superhero Movement.’ ” Superhero Knight Owl makes a good point when he said ‘We’re not one giant family, … After all, we’re a colorful collection of individuals. We’re superheroes.’ “

how I wish superheros were real.


heavens to mergatroid!!!…………real life?…………or reality show gone amok?!?

england’s monarchy…still relevant?

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Image by AN HONORABLE GERMAN via Flickr

Thought I’d poll readers of hugmamma’s mind, body and soul as to your opinion about the relevance of the British monarchy going forward? What prompted my curiosity is that Bill Cafferty of CNN just revealed that a poll taken by anti-monarchy supporters showed that only 3% of Brits will be tuned into coverage of the wedding between William and Kate. Forty-six percent said they could care less. While only their countrymen know for sure why the disinterest, I wondered if you’d weigh in on the discussion.

As I indicated in the previous post, “entrepreneurialship..the royal connection,” I’m definitely up for the entertainment factor. Prince meets commoner, falls in love, and makes her his princess. I mean I grew up reading fairy tales, imagining my handsome knight in white armor would carry me off to his princely castle, on his magnificent steed. That romantic notion has been imbedded into my brain cells for more than half-a-century. So for me, being happy for Kate is part of the fibre of who I am.

Sleeping rough

Image by sk8geek via Flickr

On the other hand, the wealth of the monarchy in an economy where the masses over whom they are figurehead rulers, makes me wonder about its morality. Just as I’ve difficulty stomaching the upper echelons of society everywhere, having billions to pad their lifestyles, while the majority of the world lives in poverty, I can’t imagine twenty-something year olds William and Kate continuing the inheritance of wealth when people their age are sleeping rough,” as the prince himself has witnessed.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X

Image via Wikipedia

But the decision is not mine to make, it belongs in the hands of English citizens…like Sylvia. And I know her opinion in the matter. But what’s yours? Leave a comment and we’ll see what “hugmamma’s” poll reveals. No comments will indicate the topic’s irrelevant.

can’t wait to see…what you think…

…..still relevant?…..hugmamma.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visiting ...

Image via Wikipedia

an easter gift to ourselves, feeding the hungry

Spent a couple of hours Saturday evening volunteering once again at the community hall serving dinner to those who wandered in from the street. My husband and I decided to fill in wherever needed, rather than commit to a regular schedule. As with most who offer their time, it’ll probably work out to be once-a-month that I prepare a dish that we bring along for the meal.

While 2 or 3 of the women are there more often because they coordinate the effort, others like us are there now and then. As for the needy, most seem to be regulars who are familiar with the routine. They’re very respectful as they enter the hall. Early by about 15-20 minutes, the men and women mill about, settling into chairs while they wait. If dessert is set out some might help themselves to a little, probably too hungry to wait, while others wander about aimlessly, perhaps too antsy, and hungry, to sit still.


Image by su-lin via Flickr

The woman-in-charge was delayed, so we waited until she arrived to serve up dinner. We didn’t know where the second pan of meat loaf and a side dish of cauliflower were, or if they’d even been delivered. The coordinator arrived, the food was found warming in the oven, and the meal was ready. Meanwhile, the diners had lined up along one side of the hall, patiently waiting to be invited to step up and be served.

Salad with vinaigrette dressing

Image via Wikipedia

I served the meatloaf, another woman served the risotto dish she’d made, a middle-school boy helped with the tomato/mozzarella salad with balsamic vinaigrette I’d assembled, while his mom served up an ambrosia fruit salad. The diners helped themselves to garlic bread and the dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake.

There were a couple of newcomers that made me reflect. One was a young boy about 15 years old, I think. He looked as though he’d not bathed in a while, his hair disheveled, his face streaked with dirt, his ti-shirt and pants wrinkled and perhaps a little smelly. He arrived late, quietly approached the table, and mumbled that he was starving. My mother’s heart quickly sprang into action, offering him a couple of helpings of meatloaf, huge servings of mashed potatoes and risotto, and several slices of the tomato/mozzarella salad. He also got a spoonful of the cauliflower dish from another volunteer.The boy accepted everything gratefully, as they all do. Of course they may not like everything, but they’re not forced to eat it all. Later I did see the young man very discreetly throw out what remained on his plate, including the tomatoes and cheese. I felt for him as he stood at the  trash bin, seeming unsure as to whether or not he should discard the food given him. I think he did, finally. I’m glad. Just because he’s destitute, doesn’t mean he’s not free to still choose. My husband said he’d encountered the boy as he neared the hall. Standing outside until he could be useful, my husband informed the boy who asked what time it was, that, in fact, a meal was being served for any who desired to partake. My husband was also touched to see such a young person obviously in need of something to eat.

strawberry shortcake

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

Late into the meal, a mother pushing a stroller arrived, accompanied by a younger relative carrying the baby. We had to scrape together what remained of the food, except for the salad of which there was lots left since I’d brought 3 platters. The latecomers seemed happy to be getting whatever they could. They, and the others, are a reminder that there are those who will eat anything, rather than have nothing whatsoever to eat.

As he did the last time we volunteered, my husband got to work scrubbing what serving dishes were emptied of food. Most had been cooked in disposable aluminum foil pans which were tossed, so there was less to clean up than before. As a result we left earlier than others who remained behind chatting. In taking our leave, we agreed that it was another evening well spent at the community hall. It felt especially good since we were celebrating Easter the following day. Feeding the hungry meant we were doing what Christ had done.

What Good Are These For So Many?

Image by andycoan via Flickr

giving to others…what we take for granted…hugmamma.  

“give a damn,” architectural design


Architecture for Humanity - Design like you gi...

Image by inuse pictures via Flickr

Was puttering around when I overheard a conversation on MSNBC with a member of Architecture for Humanity.” Intrigued by the organization’s participation in helping rebuild devastated communities, I googled it. Perusing its website, I was impressed by its mission to improve the lot of those whose lives have been upended by natural disasters, including Katrina, Haiti, and now Japan. As a not-for-profit group, “Architecture for Humanity” is striving to refocus the stereotypical image of architects as being employed by only the rich and famous, to a more philanthropic one of helping those in dire need. This is a cause worthy of the donations being requested.

By showing an active interest in Architecture for Humanity, you are part of a growing grassroots humanitarian design movement helping to change the perception of the role of the designer. In most circles, architecture and design is seen as a service for the privileged. Our profession is guilty of embracing this ideal. Design should be a profession of inclusion whose talents help those who need them most. It is time for you to change the perception and design like you give a damn.


Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

Image via Wikipedia

I think they’re putting a call out to those in their profession, as well as to those of us who give a damn about the world in which we live, and the less fortunate who are trying to carve out a place in which to live. Forget mortgages and foreclosures, these people probably have no ground upon which to stand, let alone a temporary roof and walls within which to find shelter.

makes you think…about the bare essentials…and those who don’t have them…hugmamma.



“point, and shoot!”

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

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

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

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“something in common,” an actor and a homeless songwriter

Just saw the Academy Award‘s tribute to singer/actress Lena Horne, with actress Halle Berry doing the honors. Ending the segment was a black and white flashback of Ms. Horne singing “Stormy Weather.” When the picture faded, the screen was left with words attributed to her.

It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s how you carry it. 

While they undoubtedly speak to the centuries-old African-American struggle, they seem equally befitting of the plight of the homeless in our society. Ms. Horne was the first black actor to sign a long-term contract with MGM studios. Perhaps someone like Chris Scott, a formerly homeless songwriter will be the breakthrough star on behalf of all those living on the streets, or in less than adequate or desirable housing.

Happy Homeless Camper
by Chris Scott (formerly homeless songwriter)

On October 28th, 2010, I had all my possessions confiscated and disposed of by the powers that be–for the second time. This song was written on October 29th, the day after.

Like a leaf on the wind blowing down the street
Backpack carrying everything I need
Like a Bedouin gypsy or refugee
Always seem to catch them staring at me
Well I do OK to make it through the day
But it’s a fight to survive the night
Find a little place that’s out of the way
And try to stay out of sight

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

Now trying to get by and live a simple life’s
Not as easy as it seems
There’s a price to pay when you live this way
Trying to chase your dreams
Find a good spot in the woods that’s not
A problem or disturbing the peace
And sooner or later someone’s gonna make you
Pack up all of your stuff and leave
Usually it’ll be the police

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

Why can’t they leave well enough alone
We’re trying to make it on our own
In the struggle to survive
We’re fighting for our lives
With no place to stay and no place to call home

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

know anyone in need of a lyricist?…hugmamma.

“homeless celebrity,” ted williams


Along with most other Americans, I rooted for Ted Williams as his resurrection from the homeless heap was broadcast across all TV channels not too long ago. But where is he now? Is he still in rehab for alcoholism? Is he still getting phenomenal job offers? Does anybody care anymore? Now that I think about it, didn’t Dr. Phil assume responsibility for getting Williams “back on track?” But no longer media’s darling, he seems to have been quietly relegated to castaway status again.

An article in Tennessee’s homeless paper, The Contributor, “Lessons Learned from Ted Williams the homeless man with the golden voice” by Gemma Holmes, once again shines the spotlight on the man who was given the chance to salvage his life in a big way. Holmes explains, convincingly, that the homeless experience cannot be rinsed clean by fame and money.

The rags to riches story of a homeless veteran with a golden voice took him off the street corner begging for change to the sets of the Today Show, The Tonight Show, The Early Show, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, and Dr. Phil. He had a tearful on-air reunion with his mother and a public meeting with his children. Lucrative voiceover contracts with Kraft, MSNBC and others were given to him within days of his story going viral. The video of him being interviewed by a local reporter has been seen by 15 million viewers and counting. His rise to stardom in less than two weeks was remarkable. The glare of the spotlight showed us his talents, but it also showed us his demons that made the media who took him to the high heavens in one swoop, quickly throw him back to earth with a crashing hand.

Comparing Williams to other homeless whose “comeback stories are filled with ups and downs,” Holmes says about them

They may not have a golden voice, but many have skills and abilities that have been buried under the hardships that come with being homeless. Homelessness affects a person physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Many are looking for a second or even a third chance to correct the mistakes of the past.

The remainder of the article speaks to the selfless involvement of a local Nashvillian, Pat Waggoner, who is giving a “hand up” to the homeless in his community. Unlike Ted Williams who obviously had no support system in place to help him maneuver his way back from the brink, Waggoner provides the backbone needed for the homeless to stand tall once again, taking their rightful place among the rest of society. He understands “that getting a Ted Williams off the streets does not stop the struggles instantly. Unlike our culture of instant gratification, Pat is patient and believes that with faith, perseverance and hard work, lives can change for the better.” In offering the usual assistance to the homeless, such as meals, clothing and housing, Waggoner enlists the aid of others in the community, from “networking and civic groups, and church members who abide in his passion for helping others.” But he goes “above and beyond” as well.

He even finds jobs to help them become independent and self-sufficient. Pat is a strong advocate for rehabilitation to make sure that individuals stay drug and alcohol free after they leave the streets…he makes sure that for long-term well-being, he mentors men and families about financial literacy along with making sure they have someone to call when stressful situations occur that can push one over the edge. He encourages group therapy and spiritual counseling and believes strongly that counseling is one of the keys for personal growth. No, Pat Waggoner is not superman, but he is dedicated to deflating our homelessness numbers one person at a time.

The author goes on to say that Waggoner recruits others to help in his crusade by telling one homeless story at a time, enlisting his listeners compassion in believing in “the goodness of men and women who just need a break.” Undoubtedly not every story has a happy ending, but this doesn’t deter Waggoner from continuing to reach out to others.

“All too often when a very public rags to glad story falls short of our expectations, it has a chilling effect on us, and cynicism can creep into our giving and serving others.” This says the article’s author is why Pat Waggoner’s actions “can teach us to give to those in need, to step out on faith and build relationships with individuals who may still stumble and fall on the road to recovery. Leaving a life on the streets can happen with just one faithful encounter, but the emotional scars often remain as they transition into their new dwellings.” The writer goes on to suggest

If you come across a Ted Williams today, help him find a Pat Waggoner. Slowly but surely, you just might change a life.

there’s nothing i can add to such a profound statement…except “amen”…hugmamma.