withdrawal…???

That’s my husband’s take on how I’ll respond to the day after, i.e. November 7. 

President Obama @ UNC

President Obama @ UNC (Photo credit: mehlam786)

Today is Election Day.

Washington’s movers and shakers for the next 4 years are being decided upon today. Even as I write.

I actually left the gyrations of politics behind a few days ago. The nonstop spin of media pundits and the constant polling wore thin.

For me, the die was cast when I mailed in my vote for President Obama. Nothing anyone could say or do would make me reflect upon my decision. That is until SHE happened along.

Sandy.

Two major American cities were brought to their knees by Mother Nature. She reminded us that in the end, we humans must look to each other for comfort, solace, and resurrection.

Watching high winds and swollen waters overwhelm our puny structures was humbling. To this day, I have difficulty dispelling the notion that our existence is, at best…whimsical.

Running parallel is my feeling that what does matter…is us. In the blink of an eye, we could cease to be.

Cole's Restaurant Hit by Hurricane Sandy in St...

Cole’s Restaurant Hit by Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, NY. (Photo credit: bozer★)

And in that same blink what’sapparent is that we can’t take it with us…stuff, that  is.

Governor Romney promises, with him as President, we will be able to have stuff..to buy stuff.

In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. It’s how Romney plans to do it that threatens our already tentative existence.

To do that, he guarantees 12 million new jobs. It’s certain those jobs will involve fossil fuel, the primary pollutant affecting climate change.

Short term solutions are the life blood of a corporate raider. A career for which Romney takes pride, having made millions for himself and investors while at Bain Capital.

Romney’s business mentality…taking care of the now, squeezing as much out of the moment as possible, getting out before the tide turns, hoping for the best, not looking back, and above all…having no regrets.

In contrast, President Obama has deliberated the long term effects of his actions. A sign, perhaps, of his professorial background. He has made value-based decisions, including ones to do with climate change. Not all have been politically correct. In some instances the President has lost favor with one group or another, even his own liberal constituency. But at the end of the day, he remained true to his own moral compass.

The President made the last campaign speech of his political career last night in Iowa.

He reminded the audience, those standing in the cold with him and we who watched on TV while comfortably ensconced in our warm homes, that he and his wife were catapulted to the national stage with their first win in that state during the last election. He spoke of local meetings with only 20 folks in attendance…of backyard barbecues…of meet and greets in community centers and church halls. Small town folks…with small town values.

As I watched the President and the First Lady embrace to the raucous applause of cheering Iowans, I identified with the unassuming couple at the center of the crowds.

President Barack Obama embraces First Lady Mic...

President Barack Obama embraces First Lady Michelle Obama as she prepares to leave for her return to the United States April 5, 2009, as President Obama continued his overseas travel schedule. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barack and Michelle Obama hail from families who struggled to keep food on the table, clothing on their backs, and rooves over their heads. Education was a priority in both their households. And as a result of having been raised by loving and supportive parents and grandparents, Barack and Michelle continue to display the same for all those in need of that same love and support.

Like the Obamas, my worldview embraces all those who struggle in their daily lives. I’ve been there. To some extent, I’m still there. Retirement looms on the horizon for my husband and me, and my daughter, an artist, will always live frugally.

Knowing that I am part of a larger human community makes Mother Nature’s whimsy more bearable.

I am not alone.

When I die I won’t care about the stuff I leave behind. I will take my leave of this transitory existence knowing that I share the love and support of all those with whom I have aligned my life.

…love thy neighbor as thyself…

…he’s not heavy, he’s my brother…

…do unto others, as you would have them do unto you…

…no man is an island unto himself…

…share and share alike

…verily I say to you, inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me…

…the obamas…my kind of people…

………hugmamma.

English: President Barack Obama, First Lady Mi...

English: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, sit for a family portrait in the Green Room of the White House, Sept. 1, 2009. Français : Le président Barack Obama, la First Lady Michelle Obama et leurs filles Sasha and Malia, assis dans la Green Room de la Maison Blanche pour un portrait de famille, 1er sept. 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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“sandy”…nature’s equalizer

Those of us not impacted by the monstrous storms pelting the east coast, can only offer our heartfelt hope for everyone’s safety.

Mother Nature has a way of eliminating barriers, both of her own making…and of mankind’s.

She forces us to come together. 

She forces us to set aside our differences. Those endowed by God…and those we imagine.

Since man has been allowed to run amok with earth’s resources, perhaps Mother Nature is finally stepping in to put a halt to our destructive ways.

Her wrath shows no favoritism. Mansions and shacks alike fall prey to the winds and flood waters.

There is no escaping Mother Nature’s fury. 

We can only ride it out. And hope for the best.

Might we also rethink our use of her gifts?

Or shall we continue to pillage and plunder…until…

…we are…no more?…

………hugmamma. 

i have my memories…

It’d been several years since I was home to visit family in Hawaii. With my mother in-law’s passing, my husband, daughter and I made the trip to Honolulu with a mixture of sadness and joy.

We were fortunate to rent a condo near the hub of tourist activities, Waikiki Beach, without being in the midst of all the traffic…pedestrian and automotive.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To say I felt rejuvenated as the days unfolded, is an understatement. The sheer pleasure of walking out the front door, hand-in-hand with my hubby, and having the warm, tropical breezes softly brush both cheeks was simply…heaven on earth.

Our walks rarely varied. We’d stop to breakfast at a small cafe in a nearby hotel, before leisurely strolling along the beach.

Thinking healthy, we’d order scrambled egg whites, oatmeal, and island must-haves…a few pieces of Portuguese sausage and a couple of macadamia nut pancakes. To the surprise of the young waitress, hubby and I would share our bountiful meal. Explaining our desire to live long, happy lives…she’d smile, nodding her approval.

Sitting among planters brimming with colorful varieties of orchids, and gentle trees whose limbs directed our eyes toward the sand and sea…we felt at peace with our surroundings…and life in general.

This was the Hawaii of my childhood, only better. Carefree…bellies full…dreams realized.

Wandering the length of the beach, we were amazed at the expanded shore line. It literally took my breath away.

The last time I saw this section of Waikiki Beach, much of the ocean was walled off by a long, winding stonewall. What water was free of obstruction was literally lapping at my feet.

View of Waikiki Beach area hotels. Halekulani ...

View of Waikiki Beach area hotels. Halekulani is in the center, to the left of the large curved building (Hotel Sheraton). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I liked what I was seeing this go round.

Sand as far as my eyes could see. The beach front of my childhood. Nothing between me and the Pacific, blue waters…but glistening, white sand.

One day when my daughter and I sought to spend several hours basking in the sun, we made our way down to the beach. I opted for laying our towels in the immediate vicinity of a manmade lagoon which sat between a hotel and the ocean.

Dropping myself onto the towel, my bottom literally went…kerplunk! The sand felt as hard as a wood floor. Wasn’t it suppose to be cushiony?

My daughter laughed, her eyes twinkling in the sunlight.

She reminded me that my brother-in-law, her uncle, had told us the beach front had been a creation of man’s ingenuity.

All of the sand we beheld had been brought there, tons and tons of it. The shoreline had literally been swallowed up by the ocean. As a result, the city and affected businesses had to pay for its reconstruction. Otherwise, where would the tourists go? Elsewhere, obviously.

I remember an older sister telling me long ago, that the beaches were disappearing inch by inch.

A teen, too young to care, I didn’t put much stock in what she said. But after thinking about this situation recently, I can remember how surprised I was when I visited Kihei on the island of Maui over 20 years ago. My favorite beach bore no resemblance to the one I loved, growing up.

Kalama Beach Park was a regular weekend destination for my family. As soon as my mom pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car, my brother, sister and I flung open the doors and raced one another to the beach.

Digging our toes into the hot sand, we’d plop our bodies down…reveling in the openness and the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us.

Never could I have imagined that sweet memories of childhood days frolicking on the wide open beaches of my birthplace…would be all that remained.

When I hear and see, as I did last night when watching the PBS FRONTLINE documentary, of the effects of global warming, I’m saddened to know what has happened in Hawaii has occurred elsewhere, and is continuing to take place…now…in areas of our country such as North Carolina.

I believe we have tampered with Mother Nature.

Anyone who contemplates all the changes that have occurred within recent decades to the weather and to the earth itself, cannot explain away our impact upon these events.

We are not invisible.

We have used all available natural resources to indulge ourselves. Meanwhile, we have put very little effort into ensuring that these resources will be available long term…for our children, grand-children, great-grand-children…and their children, grand-children, great-grand-children.

I have my memories. You probably have yours. What kind of memories will our loved ones have?

Unless we invest in our environment, our beaches…may altogether…disappear. …and so it begins………hugmamma.

 

Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

 

…a world away…in our own “backyard”

A typical scenic view on just about any Washin...

A typical scenic view on just about any Washington state freeway. This is northbound I-405 in Bothell, WA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past weekend hubby and I enjoyed some nice get-away time, thanks to it being combined with company business.

Thursday afternoon found us driving east toward wide open country, where buildings disappear from view only to be replaced by oceans of evergreens. God’s land, as He had envisioned it. Before He relinquished all to us.

Over the next couple of days, I breathed air that was free of pollutants. The great outdoors, whether bathed in brilliant sunlight or the shadowy gray of falling raindrops, was nonetheless boldly painted in varying shades of green. Only Mother Nature, keeper of our planet, could’ve imagined such a pallette.

Though reminiscent of our time years ago in Banff, Canada, Suncadia Resort Lodge lay only a short distance from our home in the suburbs of Seattle. We plan to return mid-summer to spend some quality family time with our 24-year-old daughter in tow. After a month’s dancing with a contemporary company in Pittsburgh, she’ll be ready for a day at the spa.

Nights are earmarked for challenging games of Bananagrams. All bets are off as to who will be declared the winner. Although my loved ones know…

…if hugmamma ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy!…

………hugmamma.   😆   

daily post challenge #211: one luxury i can’t do without

Let’s just say it’s one luxury my husband can’t do without. He assures me of his undying love…especially in light of our 41 years as an old, married couple. But he doesn’t bat an eyelid when I ask if I shouldn’t forego getting my hair colored every month.

My mom went gray in her mid to late 40s. So it’s no surprise that I followed suit. When it was that my hair began transitioning from youthful, dark brown to middle-age gray and soon, white, remains a mystery. I’m sure I nipped it in the bud…or at the root, as the case may be. Between my home coloring with store bought kits, and eventual trips to the hairdresser, my hair magically transformed itself. Old was new again…well, at least what grew out of my scalp. I’m still working on the rest.

Yesterday while dining at Wild Ginger, an Asian-Fusion restaurant in Bellevue, my daughter and I admired my husband’s head of thick, “salt and pepper” hair. If my hair had done that…I would’ve let Mother Nature have her way with my tresses. But since she saw fit to strip them of color, I opted to fight Her with my own brand of feminine wiles…Zorianna’s custom color! Ha! Take that…is all I have to say to MN!!!

except you know who’s going to win out…when hubby says…”i’m retiring…so i’m pulling the plug…on zorianna!”………hugmamma.

air…give me air…although…

That seems to be my dog Mocha’s daily plea. Wish there was a spot of yard for her to roam unattended, like she does when visiting with our friends Sylvia and Jim and their dachschund, Gretchen. Living in a retirement community, they have a charming, enclosed backyard where the dogs can relax on the patio, luxuriating in the outdoors unchaperoned. When they’re indoors and want to “go potty,” all they need is a helping hand to open and close the door.

I must admit when I exited our yard a short while ago, heading out into the neighborhood, Mocha pulling ahead on her leash, it felt good to breathe in the great outdoors. Viewing the lush foliage everywhere as a result of our area’s penchant for rain, Mother Nature never fails to overwhelm me with wondrous awe. Towering evergreens, hence Washington’s other name, The Evergreen State, dwarf the homes that peak out from verdant landscapes, some neat and orderly, others wild and overgrown. Mine is somewhere in-between. I’ve been going for the English garden look, not always with success.

Mocha pays no heed to anything above ground level, maintaining her focus at what’s at the end of her nose or under her paw. None of which satsfies my aesthetics, except that whatever makes Mocha happy, makes me happy. Well…not everything.

I’m definitely against her desire to chase down dogs taller and heftier than her, or small ones with teeth as sharp as razors. I’ve had to pick Mocha up once or twice, transporting her, and me, away from the snarling grins of unleashed dogs who looked ready for their next meal. In such situations my heart is pounding looking to escape its confines, while my brain is willing me not to move a muscle for fear that I’ll become mincemeat in seconds. More often than not, a yell emanates from deep within, finally tumbling forth from my mouth with a venomous “Get away! Shoo! Get out of here!” As if our transgressor could care less, staring me down without so much as flinching a muscle.

Scared? Me, scared? You bet your life I’m petrified of untethered dogs wandering about. I can’t tell whether they’re friendly or not. Nor is it obvious whether or not they’ll start something with Mocha. Just as I don’t want her torn to shreds, I don’t want to get caught up in the milieu either. A year or so ago, when I was out running errands, a neighbor who regularly walks his dog, came under attack by 2 dogs living in the house above mine. His dog was badly injured, requiring surgery that cost $1,000. He had a commendable attitude, saying that “dogs will be dogs.” Of course the owner of the attacking dogs expressed great remorse and paid the vet bill.

A German Shepherd Dog.

Image via Wikipedia

There is a leash law in our city, but not everyone heeds it. The Center for The Preservation of Wildlife has also erected a sign in our neighborhood, and elsewhere, stating that dogs should be kept on leashes so that they don’t attack the wildlife. There are hiking trails at the end of our road. The warning sign stands at that juncture, and so do 3 houses whose owners allow their dogs to wander freely pretty regularly. One of them looks like those I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel, that live in the African wild. Its owners were present once when their dog confronted Mocha. I told them how I felt, which seemed to upset them. They didn’t smile back at me when I saw them later. I understand people don’t like criticism, but when it involves my safety, and my dog’s, well…so be it.

Port-a-Potty on My Land

Image by joanna8555 via Flickr

My next door neighbors have always allowed their labradors to run freely through the neighborhood, even when they use to walk them. I didn’t appreciate the dogs making my yard their personal “honey pot.” Still don’t. Fortunately, the fence we erected, and the hedge that grows between our side yards have kept their pets from trespassing. But recently when the owners were combing the neighborhood in their car in search of one of their dogs, I advised them that it had wandered through my yard and then scared Mocha and me as we went around a bend. Standing taller than my waistline, the labrador, growling,  circled Mocha, nudged my backside with its nose, pushing me forward, before it wandered off. That was a first for me. That was one nervy dog, I thought, before I collected my wits, and Mocha her’s, and moved on.

I love pets, cats and dogs, of which I have 3 felines, Sunkist, Sitka and Juneau, and my Mocha. But there’s no telling what will set an animal off, domesticated or not. They’re not human, and no amount of wishing will make them one of us. So when they act out of character, I have to hold the owners accountable when an innocent bystander, or a restrained pet, is injured. I don’t really put a lot of stock in the words “But he’s such a sweet dog. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” My thought is, there’s always a first time. So why take a chance…

Dobermann Dog

Image via Wikipedia

I think my fear began when a Doberman Pinscher raced across its yard, as I walked by pushing my daughter’s stroller. Gnashing teeth within inches of us, it’s owner finally heard my yells and came to the front door to save my toddler and me from being mauled. That feeling of dread remains embedded in my subconscience. But I try my best to suppress it, when Mocha wants…  

…a breath of fresh air…hugmamma.  

“walking a fine line”

Once in a while it’s good to step away from my own blog to visit others. There are so many on WordPress that are interesting and well written. And there are as many personalities as there are blogs. Each unique unto itself.

WordPress.com

Image via Wikipedia

The Worpress community repesents a microcosm of the world at large since its members are from all over the globe. The conversations run the gamut from religious beliefs to political persuasions to everyday life. Sometimes a blog includes a range of topics, like mine; sometimes there’s a particular focus, like a journal of one’s daily activities. What’s valuable to the writer, is what drives the blog. Otherwise what’s the point?

What fascinates me about the blog world is that we all coexist, side by side, with true freedom of expression, except for what might be deemed inappropriate by “management.” Except for a short period where I was mistakenly being spammed from leaving comments a month or so ago, I’ve not otherwise seen evidence of suppression by WordPress. Heck, they’ve even allowed some spams to come through for my deletion. Although they have fortunately prohibited more than 26,000, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Just as in life, bloggers can rally with others who seem like-minded. Many do. I have. I guess that’s how we form relationships as human beings. It’s comforting; it’s secure; it’s familiar. But what’s nice about WordPress is that we can step outside our comfort zone to “test the waters” without being “seen.” We can read others’ opinions, get a feel for who they are, and decide whether or not to engage in conversation. That’s not always easy to do in real life, without “getting into it” from the get-go.

I think most of us want to be part of the larger community. I don’t imagine too many prefer isolation. I know I don’t. When I first began this blog in July of 2010, I was hell-bent on writing. But I learned in time that while I had readers, most were not really interactive. They came and they left without leaving their imprint. So I worked at making connections by getting out and about. Leaving comments on others blogs, brought them to mine where they reciprocated. I’ve formed strong bonds with a few based upon respect, compassion and positive support.  

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a fine line between “telling it like it is” and expressing one’s opinions, I think.  Walking the line between both is difficult at best. Refusing to walk that line can mean isolation, a lone voice in the desert. I don’t think we were built to live like islands unto ourselves. Where are we when Mother Nature upends our lives like Katrina or Japan? To whom do we turn if our loved ones are wiped out in a tsunami, and we’re left alone having isolated ourselves from others?

8 12 09 Bearman Cartoon Freedom of Speech

As I’ve indicated, it’s hard to be true to one’s own self, while coexisting with others who feel as strongly about their own true selves. It’s a matter of give-and-take, compromise really, just as in any relationship, even political ones and religious ones. It really does come down to compromise. Being correct can be isolating.

Research still points to the fact that Alzheimer’s might be in my future since my mom suffered its effects for years before she died. That is an isolating disease. I don’t care to self-impose more years of isolation…

by not being open to compromise…hugmamma. 

street newspaper: japan’s “big issue”

Street newspapers are a phenomenal, global network. I was touched to read that even in the midst of Japan‘s devastation, a street newspaper struggles to survive, its vendors dependent upon its existence, for their own meagre livelihoods. What strikes me as macabre in the aftermath of Mother Nature‘s triple threat, the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster, is that Sendai is now home to thousands more homeless. The following article ran in the Real Change. It gives a first hand account of the people’s attempts to recover from the horrific blow dealt them. 

JAPAN’S STREET NEWSPAPER STRUGGLES AMID DISASTER

THE BIG ISSUE JAPAN / ビッグイシュー日本版

Image by jetalone via Flickr

Vendors and staff at The Big Issue Japan are struggling in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the nation.

Miku Sano of The Big Issue Japan said in an email to partner newspapers that in Sendai, which bore the brunt of the tsunami, vendors survived but are unable to sell the magazine. “Things are not easy and will not be the same, but we are not defeated,” Sano wrote.

“The vendors and people in Northern cities are fighting for their lives and for the loved ones. We are trying the best we can to support them.”

Distribution of the magazine is impossible in northern cities, “hence, the vendors in Sapporo have nothing to sell,” Sano said. There are plans to re-start football practice in Tokyo, as “many of our vendors said that they want to play football to feel better.”

(If you want to contribute to the efforts of The Big Issue Japan, there is an English language site for donations: http://www.jcie.org/earthquake)

Night View of Sendai City, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Diary of a disaster
The Big Issue Japan works with the Sendai Night Patrol Group to help the homeless in Sendai City. Staff members have been providing free meals for anyone sleeping rough as the city attempts to recover from the disaster. Aoiki san, head of the patrol team and magazine distribution in Sendai, allowed us to publish extracts from his diary about the relief effort:

March 14: In Sendai, the supply of water and electricity was restored in some parts, but it will take more than a month to restore gas supply. In the Wakabayashi area, the worst affected area within Sendai city, I saw a very long queue of people trying to get half-rotten oranges and only one banana. A thousand dead bodies are left unattended in a gymnasium, and there is no information about those unaccounted for. We are planning to provide free meals of curry rice for everyone from 11 a.m. The death toll is too big to comprehend, and many people seem to know nothing about what to do.

Sendai Airport in Natori and Iwanuma, Miyagi p...

Image via Wikipedia

March 15: Roads, airlines and trains are not allowed to run except for emergency vehicles, and there is the dire prospect of a shortage of goods. More than 1,000 people queued for a motorway bus. I joined a queue for Daiei Supermarket before its opening at 10 a.m., but 30 minutes after the opening, major goods had already gone. There is a shortage of gas cylinders, noodles, tinned food, batteries and rice.

March 16: Public administration is completely paralyzed. Sendai City Council opened a help desk today, four days after the earthquake. Hospitals in the city are only able to provide a partial service due to electricity shortages. Without a battery-powered radio, people are getting no information at all. Many citizens don’t know about the accidents at Fukushima nuclear plant. Local radio stations help people to find out about missing persons. Strong aftershocks at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

March 17: Today the local radio announced about the food at Wakabayashi City Hall, so we had to make 1,000 meals. We gave out curry, miso soup and rice for about 800 people and it was gone in a second. Some hadn’t eaten for three days and queued for the food in the rain.

I am worried becuse there’s no information about what’s going on at the nuclear power plant. I am worried about the radioactive contamination for the north Kanto region because of the north winds. There are thousands of people sleeping in the elementary schools, city halls and public halls. I will do my best to provide free meals tomorrow, although we may run out of stock if we do so.

(Translated by Mayuko Hida and Yushin Toda – University of Glasgow)       

never too late, “good manners”

The age of technology seems to have signaled an era where good manners have become extinct. Cell phone calls interrupt romantic dinners, cat naps on public transport, silence in a library. Text messaging is a never-ending, voiceless conversation. E-books and lap tops are all the companions some folks need. The latest gadgets and gizmos make it unnecessary for us to interact with one another.

Perhaps Mother Nature is encouraging us to get back to basics. Because in the final analysis, when all material things are washed away in a tsunami, or demolished in an earthquake, or engulfed in wildfires, people have to turn to each other for answers. We may do well to take a refresher course on good manners, on doing unto others as we would have them do unto us…before we find ourselves in need of their help.

The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., offers some good advice on being neighborly. Our memories just need a little jogging, and dusting off, to get us back on track toward being more human in an environment that’s becoming less and less so.

  1. Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the caller’s.
  2.  Don’t burn bridges.You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
  3. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per
    Mother Teresa

    Image via Wikipedia

    day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

  4. Rekindle old friendships.
  5. Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death-bed, “Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.”
  6.  Don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t know,” “I made a mistake,” I need help,” “I’m sorry.”
  7. Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
  8. Don’t rain on other people’s parades.
  9. Don’t interrupt.
  10. Never underestimate the power of words to heal and reconcile relationships.
  11. Be as friendly to the janitor as you are to the chairman of the board.
  12. Treat your employees with the same respect you give your clients.
  13. Remove your sunglasses when you talk to someone.
  14. Show extra respect for people whose jobs put dirt under their fingernails.
  15. Surprise an old friend with a phone call.
  16. Don’t be so concerned with your rights that you forget your manners.
  17. Act with courtesy and fairness regardless of how others treat you. Don’t let them determine your response.
  18. Spend your life lifting people up, not putting people down.
  19. Remember that everyone you meet wears an invisible sign. It reads, “Notice me. Make me feel important.”
  20. Encourage anyone who is trying to improve mentally, physically, or spiritually.
  21. Be especially courteous and patient with older people.
  22. Let your handshake be as binding as a signed contract.
  23. Love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  24. Regardless of the situation, react with class.
  25. Become the kind of person who brightens a room just by entering it.
  26. Remember that a kind word goes a long way.
  27. Spend twice as much time praising as you do criticizing.
  28. Offer hope.
  29. When you need to apologize to someone, do it in person.
  30. When a friend is in need, help him without his having to ask
  31. Never be too busy to meet someone new.
  32. If it’s not a beautiful morning, let your cheerfulness make it one.
  33. Remember that cruel words hurt deeply, and loving words quickly heal.
  34. Before criticizing a new employee, remember your first days at work.
  35. Never call anybody stupid, even if you’re kidding.
  36. Offer your place in line at the grocery checkout if the person behind you has only two or three items.
  37. This year, buy an extra box of Girl Scout cookies.
    Boxes of the two most popular Girl Scout cooki...

    Image via Wikipedia

  38. After someone apologizes to you, don’t lecture them.
  39. Carry a couple of inexpensive umbrellas in your car that you can give to people caught in the rain.
  40. When you really like someone, tell them. Sometimes you only get one chance.
  41. Take more pictures of people than of places.
  42. Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language.
  43. If you ask someone to do something for you, let them do it their way.
  44. Remember it’s not your job to get people to like you, it’s your job to like people.
  45. Write a thank-you note to your children’s teacher when you see your child learning new things.
  46. Never intentionally embarrass anyone.
  47. Don’t forget that your attitude is just as important as the facts.
  48. Remember that much truth is spoken in jest.
  49. Never resist a generous impulse.
  50. When in doubt, smile.

This list should keep us all busy for some time. In fact, just pondering them will probably occupy more than a few minutes. But we can take our time, for we’ve lots of time. Or have we?

practicing just one a day…will get us somewhere better than where we already are…hugmamma.

tsunamis, on maui

Growing up on Maui in the 50s, I can remember a couple of instances when the island was hit by tsunamis. I don’t recall, however, that they were as devastating as the one which hit Japan today.

Coquillages à Fadiouth, Sénégal

Image via Wikipedia

As a toddler my family rented a large house in Waiehu, across a one-lane road from the beach. The land was flat, hills looming tall behind our home. As kids, my siblings and I spent a good amount of time playing on the beach, pocketing sea shells, chasing one another along the shoreline, and yelling our fool heads off when the cold water splashed against our bare legs. We enjoyed frolicking in the sand and the surf, while the heat of the tropical sun warmed and tanned our bodies.

I can recall one specific, sun-drenched day, when an eerie quiet hung in the air. And yet, there was a faint, far-off ringing that pierced the stillness. It seemed to come from the vicinity of the horizon. Over the period of a few hours, the entire ocean had withdrawn until it loomed ominously across the horizon line. After surveying the ocean floor, devoid of water, our family quickly withdrew to the hilltop, and awaited the inevitable.

A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krab...

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The ringing grew louder as the sea came roaring back toward land, wave upon wave seeming to consume all that lay below us. And that’s where my memory ends. I’ve no idea what we salvaged, for we kept rabbits and chickens. Perhaps we released them to run for their lives, and went in search of them in the aftermath. I’ve no idea. I’ve also no recollection what damages befell our house. Those things don’t figure into a toddler’s mind, at least not mine.

I remember another time when I was older, my mom was driving a few of us kids along the road that ran past the pier that bordered Maui’s capital city, Wailuku, and the neighboring town of Kahului. Traffic crawled as those in cars gawked at people who had abandoned their cars alongside the road, running to scavenge fish that lay on the exposed ocean floor. They thought little about the risk to their lives, for it was certain they could not outrun the thunderous waves that would come crashing down upon them, when the sea rolled back in from where it stood along the horizon. The police seemed helpless in their efforts to corral those who would sacrifice everything for a few fish. My mom didn’t linger to witness the sad scenario that was destined to become even worse. We read of the fatalities the next day, in the local newspaper.

Though these events are distant memories, my fear is still palpable. As I watch TV news programs showing the terrible destruction in Japan, I can feel the despair that must have overwhelmed those who were unprepared for the onslaught, and the dread of those who could only watch as fellow Japanese were bandied about like Mother Nature‘s playthings.

Kahikinui coastline, Maui

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Tsunamis, like other natural disasters, leave little to the imagination. They’re here, and then they’re gone. What’s left in their wake is of little consequence to them. Humankind is left to refashion its environment, after Mother Nature has had her way. Is there any doubt then, who is the true master of this earth we call home?

reflecting upon our smallness…keeps us humble…hugmamma. 

ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

“sun’s out!,” time to plant?

What a difference a day makes, even here in the Pacific Northwest! The sun’s rays are showering down on all the tree tops; glistening raindrops hanging ever so delicately from the twiggy branches of the apple tree. It feels like spring. Yet I have to remind myself that the calendar on the desk top reads January 19. No scurrying out to weed or plant bulbs. I did that when we first moved from the east coast 13 years ago.

Having left icy winters behind whose last dregs were not gone until Memorial Day, I was elated to find that here in the Seattle burbs my garden began to show signs of new birth in February. So I got outside and sloshed around in the mud, oft-times kneeling in it to pull out unwanted stuff, and replace them with finds I’d discovered at Molbak’s or Squawk Mountain Nursery.

I wallowed in early spring, in the sunshine, in the sweet smell of new growth. I loved the sun warmly beating against my bent back, as I toiled away in the dirt. I am my mother’s daughter, I’d think to myself. She left me her “green thumb,” and she’d be proud at my constant use of it, even when I lived in Redding, Connecticut.

Friends, neighbors, and passersby would often comment upon the lovely cottage garden that surrounded our small, Victorian farmhouse. I strived to outdo myself each year. But my loveliest memory is of the abundance of wildflowers which grew from a packet. I sprinkled its contents on either side of the walkway leading to our front porch. Never one for math, I overlooked the explanation that the seeds were to be spread over a larger area than where I’d chosen.

It seemed forever before the blooms all emerged. But as they filled in, overwhelming the space in which they grew, I was like a child experiencing nature’s glory for the first time. Every morning I’d bound out the front door, which slammed shut with a loud bang. I’d walk the path, oohing and aahing at the varieties, the colors, the scents. I couldn’t count the number of wildflowers peeking out from behind one another. I tried picking favorites but gave up, because en-masse they were all beautiful!

Soon the bees came calling. And the butterflies, tiny ones and Monarchs, began congregating in my garden. Nearby, robins and finches twittered and chirped in the massive, overhanging, rhododendron shrub. Being careful not to get stung by a busy bee, my husband, daughter and I would plop ourselves down on the porch steps or an outdoor bench. Gazing upon Mother Nature’s handiwork, we were enthralled by what she could do with one inexpensive, little packet of seeds.

Those among you who are gardeners, probably know the ending to my story. Yes, it didn’t take long, perhaps a few weeks, before happiness turned to sorrow. With the first heavy downpour, my glorious, little garden nearly drowned in the onslaught. Hardier flowers were able to lift their heads once more, but the more fragile were too frail to pick themselves up again. I tried for a time to help, leaning some against others for support, propping others up with twine and stakes. Before long I too gave in, digging up the whole mess, save for a few that didn’t “throw in the towel” like me.

I replanted with specimens that were tried and true. Though the results were lovely, they never recaptured that brief moment when our house and its front path looked as though Cinderella and her fairy godmothers lived there, or Snow White and the seven dwarfs, or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

Throughout the first decade of her life however, my daughter loved the first home she ever knew, and all the flowers that grew in its gardens. And so, while I could never replicate my cottage garden fantasy, I’ve continued to make my garden here my own. I try very hard to follow planting instructions, but I’m still inclined to want every plant that I fancy to have a home with me. Grumbling to dissuade me, my husband is usually won over, and moves plants to make room for a new neighbor, or two, or three.

But thank goodness my energy’s maxing out as the years pass, for my garden space is maturing as well, meaning that it’s maxed out too. Although there’s still that wild, unkempt patch of brush at the top right of our driveway. I Wonder what I can do there? Hmmm…

it never ends…nature’s beauty, i mean…hugmamma.

my minutiae, an update

As in the past, here’s another post to update some of the minute details that make my life, mine. We all have them, some are commonplace, some are unique. If you’re ever inclined, feel free to share some of yours.

  • While I was visiting my daughter, a huge tree fell in our back yard, landing precariously close to our house, perhaps 20 feet away. The top branches lay across the arbor that serves as an overhead roof to the back deck. A “chunk of change” later, a local tree service removed the precariously perched tree right down to its trunk, leaving our house intact. An act of Mother Nature, from which we were spared catastrophic damage by the hand of God. Thank goodness I wasn’t on hand to witness the event. Might have been too much for my heart. Something to ponder.
  • Yesterday was the first day of Fall. The season usually portends of rain, chilly weather, gray skies. So I guess those of us in the Pacific Northwest had exactly one month of summer, August. Retiring to Hawaii or Florida sounds really enticing. Also something to ponder.
  • On the local news yesterday they reported that a man returning home from walking his 2 dogs, was attacked by a black bear at the foot of his driveway. His wife could be heard on a 911 call, pleading for help. Because black bears have been sighted in our neighborhood, I’m very fearful of encountering one. In addition to the one bear bell attached to my dog’s leash, I may have to sew a whole bunch to my jacket. Who cares if I sound like the “Good Humor” man selling ice cream from a truck. I may look like “princess pupule” (Hawaiian for “crazy princess), but I’m sure the bears will avoid me, but so might the neighbors. Hmmm, something else to ponder.
  • The other night my husband announced that we’d been invited to his boss’s home to dine, one of the other guests being the new bishop of our diocese. It always surprises me when we’re asked to socialize with the CEO/President and his wife, because they “run” in such different circles from us. I love them dearly, having told them once that they bring out my maternal instincts. A decade younger, I look upon them like my other children. I’ve met both their parents, whom I also find enchanting. What surprises me is that my candidness seems to endear me to them. I do tread carefully, however, because my husband hovers nearby making sure I don’t say something too outrageous. But what do I chat about with a Catholic bishop? Hmmm…even more to ponder. One thing’s for sure, I’d better not have a lemon-drop martini. You know what they say, “Loose lips sinks ships.” And if I get too loose, oh my goodness…
  • A dance career can be an obstacle course because of the “detours” that unexpectedly present themselves. The last week I was with my daughter, she was unable to dance. Towards the end of the previous week, her male partner had brought her down from an overhead lift too quickly. Caught off guard, my daughter’s pointe shoe hit the ground hard, probably exacerbating an already tentative ankle. As a preventive measure from further injury, her foot is in an orthopedic boot, awaiting a doctor’s diagnosis. She’s hoping it’s not serious enough to sideline her from performing in Swan Lake. As a professional she knows such mishaps are part of the job. All she can do is seek resolution so that she can move forward. We can all learn something from these young folk, I know I can, and am.
  • Dr. Oz’ show shared some good information today. It included a discussion of “obesogens.” From what I gathered, since I tuned in late, environmental factors may contribute to our obesity, from plastics and canned foods that leach chemicals into our food, to farmed-fish, like salmon, whose pesticides and coloring agent also promote obesity. One tip, among several suggested, is not to microwave foods in plastic containers because of the leaching effect. Better to cook or reheat in glass containers. Another topic was dehydration, which many of us fail to recognize until we head to the emergency room for resuscitation. Drinking plenty of water to maintain our body’s 60% composition, is essential to keeping our cells, and the surrounding areas, hydrated. One tip was specifically helpful since I consume a lot of green tea daily. Coffee and tea are diuretics which cause us to lose water. Because of this, we need to replenish the loss by drinking 8 ozs. of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage we consume. Years ago when I followed the Weight Watcher’s Diet, I understood that coffee and tea would count towards the required amount of water consumption. Perhaps their information has been adjusted to reflect more current data.
  • My husband and I are starting our Fall weather regime this evening, going to our community center to walk the track and use the fitness equipment. Wish us luck, for the long haul.

small stuff, that’s life…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.

not so friendly skies

 Hearing about a Delta Airline flight whose passengers were closeted in a plane for 3 hours on the tarmac, inspired me to write this post. An engine problem was said to be the culprit, but upon close inspection nothing was found to be amiss. To Delta’s chagrin, the event was broadcast worldwide on YouTube. A very resourceful passenger captured his image with the camera on his cell phone.  Beads of sweat were shown cascading down his bald scalp, over his brows, and onto his cheekbones. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I can’t imagine that it felt any better than it looked. This picture ran countless times throughout the newscast. The Network drove home its point, and then some. Of course they included snippets of an interview with the passenger. In it he underscored how awful the situation was by explaining, that as a soldier, he’d served in Africa where temperatures soared well over 100 degrees. He’d also endured grueling conditions as a navy Seal. But nothing, he said, NOTHING could compare with the abhorrent conditions he experienced onboard Delta’s “flight from Hell.”  

Pictures of fellow passengers showed their disgruntled faces. Children’s cheeks were flushed from the heat. The air-conditioning was left off because of the supposed engine problem. A lone flight attendant finally took it upon herself to distribute bottles of water. Meanwhile, no announcements were made to explain the situation to the passengers. And according to the man in the picture, no apology was extended by Delta. I don’t remember what was contained in a formal letter sent by the airline. But judging from the man’s demeanor, it didn’t contain the mea culpa he expected. My husband and I experienced a similar situation on a USAirways flight leaving Philadelphia, but the outcome was considerably different.

Taxiing out on the runway, we were lined up with other outbound flights. It wasn’t clear if a passenger forced the captain to relinquish his place in line when she went to the bathroom, ignoring the “fasten your seat belt ” sign. I gathered that’s what happened because announcements were made to that effect. Pulling out of position, the plane went to the back of the line. Then Mother Nature stepped in, and “leveled the playing field.” All flights were delayed indefinitely because of bad weather in the Midwest. 

TV newscasts showing scenes like the one described earlier, drifted through my mind. I let myself go numb, knowing there was nothing to be done but settle in for the long haul. Getting agitated wouldn’t resolve the situation, and the accompanying stress would go against my resolve to stay healthy, and avoid Alzheimer’s. You know the old saying “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” 

Unlike Delta’s indifference to its passengers, USAir kept us apprised of the status of our delay. It was like having an open phone line between the cockpit and the cabin. When the captain wasn’t on the line, the flight attendants were. At the time I was slightly annoyed. (I told you I was calm, not dead.) I just wanted them to stop talking and do something, anything, to relieve our discomfort. Even in business class, the seats were HARD. More disturbing, you’d have thought there was a party going on! (Helllooo…am I the only one wanting to get underway here?)  The  flight attendants strolled the aisle, smiling and laughing while serving up cups of water, and casually visiting with passengers who got up to remove items from overhead bins. All around me were voices chattering, while I sat with furrowed brow.

Finally, the captain announced that our plane would be returning to the terminal. Once there, the door was opened and a ticket agent came aboard. From the cockpit came a further update that our delay would depend upon reconfiguration of flight patterns due to the thunderstorms and lightning. What came next must have surprised my fellow travelers as much as it did me. We were told that, because of new government regulations, passengers were free to disembark to make other arrangements if they so chose. Now THAT caught my attention! Wow! An airline wasputting the passenger ahead of the “bottom line.” Of course they had their “neck on the block,” but no matter. While it didn’t make a loyal fan of me, USAir won my respect.

My husband and I have both worked in the airline industry, he with Pan Am, and me with Iran Air and TWA.  Airline employees enjoy very nice perks, foremost of which is traveling free or at greatly discounted rates. It does involve going “stand by,” where they literally stand around waiting to hear their names called if space is available on the aircraft. This can be nerve-wracking, especially when accompanied by young children who wonder aloud “Why can’t we get on yet?” The wait is worthwhile, however, if they’re upgraded to first class…for free.

When we flew our own airlines, we awaited takeoff, giddy and delighted at our good fortune.  Gazing out the window, we’d admire the planes bearing the company logo. We felt proud, and special. Proud to be employed by companies who transported people all over the world. Special, because we were part of what seemed a fantasy, air travel. We dressed accordingly, suit and tie for my husband, dress and heels for me. Stewardesses were fashionistas, carefully groomed from head to toe. How I admired, and wanted to be one of them. But they seemed an elite class. Pilots too seemed like mythical beings, ensconced in their private domain, the cockpit. Catching a glimpse inside was a treat, sitting in one during flight was memorable. I had that privilege once, on an Iran Air flight.  Reminiscing about air travel in decades past, makes me think how different it is today.

I’ve agreed with friends that flying today is like riding a bus. Line up; get your ticket punched; squeeze into a seat; read your book or paper; eat food you’ve brought aboard; get to your destination, deplane, and go your own way. Flight attendants are likened to waiters and waitresses, except they may, or may not, serve you something. These days, you couldn’t pay me to be one of them. I’d much rather sit in my comfy jeans, “catching 40 winks” or some part thereof. Now, passengers try to cram as much as possible into carry-on luggage, not wanting to hand over $15, $20, or $30 for checked bags.

Airline travel has certainly changed. Deregulation enabled airlines to set their own rates which allowed consumers more options in popular markets; not so much, in  less traveled markets. Big companies scrambled, some eventually closed their doors, or merged with others to survive. Small companies like Southwest and Jet Blue grew to prominence with travelers who wanted the biggest “bang” for their buck. The industry continues to expand and contract, mirroring the economy upon which it depends.

My initial experience with Southwest was terrible. Traveling with my husband and daughter, we stood in the haphazard line waiting to board. People were sitting on the floor or standing, luggage at the ready, making sure they’d get a good seat, for it was “first-come, first-serve.” Then unexpectedly a voice was heard over the loudspeaker calling out a gate change. A mad scramble ensued. Everyone made a dash for the new gate. Upon arriving there, our family was nearer the front of the line than before. Eventually we heard murmurings at the back that there was another change. Slowly the line unraveled, people running in another direction. Finally making it aboard the plane, my husband, daughter and I managed to sit together in one row. There and then, I made my husband promise never to book another Southwest flight again. He promised. 

Fast forward to now, and Southwest is my airline of choice. Management figured out that herding passengers like cattle wasn’t good for public relations. A new system was put into effect lining people up according to positions assigned upon check-in, A-1 through 30, B-1 through 30, and c-1 through 30. People are more civil; boarding runs more smoothly. Without the lengthy process inherent with other airlines, it seems Southwest is in and out of the gate more quickly. Service on board is comparable to major carriers, sometimes even besting them. Air fares are comparable or better.

Current air travel is a “free-for-all.” Passengers get, or don’t get, what they pay for; airlines make, or don’t make, a profit. Fate seems to have the upper hand these days. I’m not sure what to think.

what do you think?…hugmamma.