nurturing thursdays: celebrating the goodness of people…

My husband’s 40+ years of dedicated service to the traveling public has come to an end.

What began as a summer job with Pan American World Airways in the mid-to-late 60s, followed by a stint with American Express as a travel agent in the early 70s, eventually flourished into a full-fledged career in the cruise industry.

I have never doubted my husband’s charisma and talent to do anything he wanted. Although his seeming shyness and humility had me wondering if he could ever climb the corporate ladder. I didn’t think he had the killer instinct required to get from one rung to the next. Last night’s retirement dinner confirmed the fact that he remained true to himself through all the twists and turns of a career that took him from airport ticket agent in Honolulu to Vice President of Human Resources in Seattle…via The Big Apple, New York City.

One of three executives who retired the beginning of this year, my husband listened as others spoke of their personal and professional experiences with him throughout the years.

The man who heads the entire brand has known my husband since their younger days working at another cruise line headquartered in NYC. That’s going back some 30+ years. My husband was then a reservations supervisor; the other, a purser on board one of the ships. I didn’t know him then. We only became acquainted about 6 years ago, when my husband moved out of Guest Programs into Human Resources and reported directly to his former colleague, now in charge of the whole operation here on the West Coast.

Small world. Even smaller when folks remain in one industry throughout their entire careers. Our daughter, the dancer, will confirm that.

It’s always deeply moving for me when others reiterate the same qualities I most admire in my husband…his compassion…his fairness…his trustworthiness…his calming influence. Once a prospect for the priesthood…before we met, obviously…he has never lost his Christianity. He continues to practice his faith in God and others…in all ways.

Last night some jokingly referred to him as a saint, including his boss.

During one of our first arguments as newlyweds 44 years ago, I asked if he knew how hard it was living with a saint. Genuinely hurt, he said that was the worst thing I could have said. Of course I never went there again. Nonetheless…it isn’t always easy trying to modify my behavior according to someone who is so uniquely wired.

I had worked for a number of corporations before opting out of the rat race for the best career ever handed me…motherhood. None has been more satisfying or rewarding. I got out what I put in. I couldn’t say that about the corporate jobs I’ve had. I always felt I put in more than I got out. It was always…”manana”…tomorrow. Do this today and you MIGHT see some payback tomorrow…or the next day…the next year… or the year after. I didn’t have that kind of patience. Still don’t. A little better, but not the same as my husband’s.

I’ve always felt, still do, that employees are a reflection of those for whom they work. They embody the corporation’s principles. The management style of the person at the top filters down throughout the entire workforce. Great employees are a credit to a great boss; on the flip side, a mediocre boss inevitably breeds mediocrity among his employees.

Having had access to the back story via what I saw for myself as well as what my husband confided in me, the corporation from which he recently retired was the best I’d seen in all my time in and around the business world. 

The man at the top, my husband’s boss, held to the same values as us…uncompromising integrity and family above all else. The leaders he chose to effect his agenda were men and women who demonstrated similar principles. I can attest to it because I met many of them, even getting to know some well. Talk of family, interest in our daughter’s dance career, was always part of the conversation. And, of course, we always asked after their children’s well-being and what they were doing.

My husband’s boss and his wife are the only executive couple with whom I have ever been able to speak freely and from the heart. So I guess it was no surprise to them, that when after all other speeches were made, including those by the retirees themselves…I asked if I could say a few words.

Speaking from the heart…as Hawaiians do so well…I explained the attachment I felt to my husband’s boss and his wife. Once, some time ago, at a social function I had said I would have loved being both their mothers. (They are good people. They would make any mother proud. Having met both sets of parents, I understand why they became who they are.)

I went on to explain to those gathered my own corporate career experience, and how I’d never witnessed the same familial environment apparent in my husband’s company. I credited that fact and my husband’s ability to thrive within such an atmosphere…to his boss’s management style. One that wasn’t only focused upon “the bottom line,” but also upon the coming together as…ohana…Hawaiian for “family.” 

In conclusion, I asked that those present…all in varying leadership positions within the company…”hang onto that feeling of ohana. That it is a rarity, as much now as in the past.

Hugging both the CEO of Holland America Group, Stein Cruse, and his wife Linda, I said I loved them. She and I shed tears as we hugged. Just like a daughter… And he stooped to embrace me in a bear hug, whispering that it was sweet of me. Just like a son…

Public speaking has never been my forte. My voice cracks. I ramble. I say things which might make most husbands and daughters cringe with embarrassment. Fortunately for me, mine “get” who I am. As my daughter explained…whatever I know might go public. She knows too that it’s only done out of love and compassion.

I have no filter when it comes to praising others. I say what I feel. Perhaps because I craved approval the better part of my life, and probably still do, I give it freely whenever I am afforded the opportunity.

Seeing others warmed by a few words of praise…blesses me.

And so I count my blessings…

…as often as i can.

………hugmamma.

Enjoy other inspirational words at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/nurt-thurs-you-are/

 

 

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whatever works…who am i to judge

I reiterated to my husband again last night…”Don’t touch that stack of Wall Street Journal papers!” Never mind that it’s taking up space in his home office.

There are gems to be found in that mountain of treasure. Take for instance the article reprinted in my next post, “Letting Babies Cry a Bit is OK” by Andrea Petersen.

Of tremendous interest to “mwaaa”…me, that is, the information contained in Petersen’s writing reminded me of my husband’s least favorite bedtime story.

Our family had recently returned from visiting relatives in Hawaii. Our daughter, then a toddler, had difficulty returning to her routine of sleeping alone in her crib. Bunking with mom and dad while away from home was probably to blame. We had no choice in the matter since space was scarce in my mother-in-law’s already overcrowded home.

I’d read in a book that was my parenting bible at the time, that I shouldn’t remove my child from her crib when she cried, begging to sleep in mine. Rather, I should return to her side in 20-minute intervals to comfort her until she fell asleep. This had worked before our vacation; I was certain it would continue to work again.

My husband was not as convinced. In fact, he was adamant it wouldn’t.

That was one of the very few times I angered my husband.

In utter disgust and disbelief, he stormed off saying he’d rather sleep downstairs if I didn’t give in to our daughter’s pitiful cries. And they were pitiful. Trust me. They were.

However monstrous I might’ve seemed to my loved ones at the time, I knew the long-term result would benefit our child. And it has.

My daughter has confidently traveled the country and Canada since she was 14, pursuing the dance career she now enjoys. She slept in dorms with strangers as roommates. Since she was 18 she has lived on her own, 3,000 miles separating her from us.

She still dreams of living abroad some day.

And as for our relationship?

Our love for one another has grown exponentially over the years!!!

I don’t suggest it’s my way…or the highway. Parents need to do what feels instinctively right in their guts.

…and my instincts suit my guts…just fine…

………hugmamma.

“big aunty” levitates, “trick-or-treat?”

As Halloween’s ghostly hour draws near, prepare yourself for some true-to-life, Hawaiian storytelling. Granted, it’s from accumulated memories, some mine, some my mom’s, and some from my older siblings. A very superstitious people, belief in the supernatural is inherent in our culture. While native Hawaiians today may not speak of the religion of our ancestors, most, including myself, won’t dispute what we were told. I’m certain it’s the same with descendants of other native people, whose beliefs were so closely intertwined with nature.

When I was a pre-teen, I met “big-aunty” for the first time. I’d heard tales about her, so I imagined she’d look and act like a mean, ugly old woman, a hag, a witch. I dreaded having to look at her, scared to death that she’d cast her malevolent eye upon me. I didn’t want to touch any part of her, not even shake her hand. I was baptized a Catholic, but as a frightened kid, I wasn’t sure my religion was going to protect me from a relative imbued with supernatural powers. In truth, I don’t think we children even spoke of “big aunty,” fearful that even our words would draw her attention, and bad luck would befall us.

With great anticipation, and some anxiety, I looked forward to finally meeting our family “Kahuna,” the witch doctor. At a cousin’s high school graduation reception at his parent’s home, my mom introduced me to “big aunty.” If my memory serves me right, my mom’s attitude seemed reverential, as if deferring to someone of higher standing. 

The eyes that greeted mine reminded me of the sea as it washes up onto black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. While her stare seemed able to penetrate right through me, I felt as though I were gazing into eyes that were dull, dead. I think she was in her 80’s at the time. But I was captivated by my “big aunty’s” small stature, and soft, gentle countenance, framed by thinning, white hair, cut short. By comparison, her younger sister, my mom, was broader, towering over her older sibling by several inches. At that moment, I feared my mom more than my aunt. Strange, I thought, how different the real person, from the one I’d imagined all those years.

Caught up in the celebration, and wanting to hang out with my boy cousins, Lincoln and Martin, whom I rarely ever saw, I didn’t engage in much conversation with “big aunty.” She, of course, spent most of her time mingling with the other adults. From time to time, I would seek her out, just to be near her. Her charisma was evident, even when she was still. In her presence, I felt no evil, only goodness. But I knew from my mom that “kahunas” possessed both; they could cast good spells, and bad ones. They could also remove spells cast by other “kahunas.”

An older brother and sister were favorites of  “big aunty,” from what I’ve been told. Because there were so many of us, she would have them spend the summers with her in Kahakuloa on Maui. While tourists are able to visit that coastal village today, roads were almost nonexistent in the old days. Of packed dirt, they were difficult to travel, especially when heavy rains eroded the soil, leaving behind deep ruts. Electricity did not exist, so nights were lit by kerosene lamps. I can remember only a couple of occasions when I visited the home built by “big aunty’s” oldest son. Being the youngest in my family, I always went with my mom. Thank God! Nights in that house by the beach, scared the living day lights out of me!

There were no screens on the windows, so I’d lay awake watching the flimsy, homemade, cotton, print curtains gently swaying in the breeze. Humid, the still air would make falling asleep difficult, especially with one whose imagination was as active as mine. I’m sure I lay there bug-eyed, anticipating what might happen at any moment.  Listening to the smooth pebbles that blanketed the nearby shore, tumbling over one another as the waves washed over them, added to my insomnia. On one such night as I’ve described, something did happen.

I was but a child, not allowed, and probably not inclined, to witness as much as the adults. But I still remember the overwhelming sense that things were not right, not good, not holy. We were awaken by “big aunty’s” children, whom we kids called aunty and uncle because they were near my mom’s age, even though they were her nephew and niece-in-law. I’m not positive, but I think my two siblings directly above me in age, were with my mom and me.

As the kerosene lamp cast eerie shadows in the darkness, I could hear the adults speaking in hushed, frantic whispers. Beads of sweat appeared upon my mom’s brow; fear showing in her eyes. Uncle left the room, as mom and aunty continued talking in barely audible voices. “Big aunty” was mentioned throughout the conversation. It seemed something was happening that involved her. I think we kids were told to go back to sleep, when they left the bedroom. Easier said than done.

Other than seeing the adults’ reaction, the only picture framed in my memory is the one I have looking out the window at a shack set back towards the edge of the property, which belonged to “big aunty.” I don’t think she lived there, but she would ensconce herself in the shack for days at a time. On this particular night, I could see images walking back and forth inside the shack. For some reason, the light emanating from within was bright, not like the dimly lit rooms in the main house. I don’t know who the figures were. I don’t think they included my mom, aunt and uncle. It seems to me they were watching from elsewhere in the house, that they were not with “big aunty.” My sense was they were staying clear of what was occurring in the shack. The only other thing I remember before finally succumbing to sleep, is hearing wails coming from the shack, ungodly cries. Now, in the comfort of older age and the safety of my home, I can wish I’d been a “fly on the wall” of the shack. Back then I wished we would have gotten the h— out of there.

The next morning at the breakfast table, the adults were still speaking in quiet voices. From what they said, I gathered “big aunty” was exhausted, worn out from the previous evenings occurrences. I don’t remember if we saw her before leaving Kahakuloa later that day. In fact, we may have driven off after breakfast, my mom not wanting to remain any longer than necessary.

Whether I overheard or was told, it seems a woman had visited “big aunty” in the middle of the night. Looking to enlist her help, the woman asked that a curse be placed upon her husband, or the woman with whom he was having an affair. Evidently “big aunty” consented, and what took place involved her levitating off the ground.

From what I understand, “big aunty” derived her powers from the devil. They were “held” within a “special, blue rock” secreted away in a cave in the side of the mountain, overlooking her shack. There was one particular story which my child’s imagination could vividly picture, when it was told to me.

During my childhood, tsunamis seemed commonplace. As my older sister, beloved by “big aunty” told the story, the sea had rolled back toward the horizon, exposing the ocean floor, a normal phenomenon with tidal waves. When the waters thundered back towards the shoreline, they split in time to spare a cow tied to a palm tree in front of my uncle’s home and “big aunty’s” shack. The waters circumvented the buildings as they continued thrashing forward, wreaking havoc everywherelse. I would liked to have been standing alongside my relatives as they witnessed the extraordinary event, from high atop the mountain.

Before “big aunty” died, she attempted to pass her powers along to her beloved nephew, my older brother. My older sister, of whom I’ve spoken, had called my mom from Honolulu, where she and my brother lived in neighboring apartments. He was sick with cold sweats and fever. At night when the moon was full, he claimed to see a spirit enter through an open window, coming to rest on top of his chest. He felt its full weight as it tried to squeeze the life out of him. I think this happened more than once. With the break of dawn, the apparition disappeared. When my mom heard this, she called “big aunty’s” family right away. From them she learned that her sister was very sick. Phoning my sister with the news, she was ordered not to let my brother return to Maui.

My mom felt that “big aunty” wanted my brother by her side before she died, that she wanted to tell him where to look for the “special” rock, wanting him to carry on as “kahuna.” A devout Catholic after converting to my father’s religion, my mom had no desire to have dealings with the devil, or have any of her children involved either. When my brother did not fly home to Maui, I think “big aunty” got better, and so did my brother. I’m not certain when she died, but she did so without passing her powers onto anyone, that I know. Unless she found someonelse, the rock remains hidden in the cave to this day.

I’m as dedicated to my Catholic beliefs, as my mom was when she lived. But like her, I’m a native very respectful of my Hawaiian heritage. As I get older, my roots seem even more deeply embedded in the soil of my culture. When I visit sacred grounds or spend the night lodged near sea cliffs, the hairs on my neck stand up, and I sense, and feel things that others don’t, not even my husband or daughter.  It’s as though spirits of my ancestors know I feel their presence, that I’m sensitive, a potential “medium.” It may be my imagination playing tricks upon me, but my family history makes me feel otherwise.

“Big aunty” wasn’t the only purveyor of curses; my mom would herself seek the help of “others” when she felt someone had put a spell on her. I’m not sure if they were “kahunas,” but they had influence over my mom for sure. I recall that she would refer to those she saw as “holy” people who would “lay their hands upon her,” blessing her, removing any evil.

There were times when my mom would drive to a lady’s home in Iao Valley, after picking me up from school. She’d disappear into the house for hours, while I waited in the car doing my homework, eventually curling up to take a nap. When my mom returned, she’d either recovered from whatever ailed her, or murmured worriedly that it would take time for things to sort themselves out. I never asked what she meant; I don’t think I really wanted to know. Taught by priests and nuns, I couldn’t reconcile my mom’s superstitious practices with my Catholic school upbringing. But the passing of years has a way of altering one’s perspective.

Maturity, motherhood, and a lifetime of experiences changed my perception of what was, and what is. I can accept, in fact cherish, being a native Hawaiian, and all that encompasses. Yet I can still worship God who, in His generosity, created all of us to live our best lives with what He has given us, including nature, its inhabitants and their habitats. God did not tell us how to live, just that we live. He gave us “free will;” and he will determine if we did the best we could.

proud of my heritage, including “big aunty”…hugmamma.

totally surprised

While I wallowed in human kindness, my husband and daughter gasped in surprise! Was I the same person who always reminded them to “drive carefully and be safe?” How could I then hitch a ride with total strangers, far from home. Not until days later when we celebrated Thanksgiving did I learn of their dismay.

A friend of our daughter’s dined with us at a charming restaurant. Because of Nutcracker rehearsals, she wasn’t able to spend the holiday with family living in another state. Sipping martinis and nibbling appetizers, my family recounted my sojourn for the benefit of our guest. Until then I hadn’t realized how much my rash decision affected them.

Our daughter likened my behavior to Kevin’s mom in “Home Alone” when she begged a group of traveling musicians for a ride. “Come Hell or high water” she was going home to her son. He’d been inadvertently left behind when his family set off on their vacation. Like her I was determined to see my daughter sooner, rather than later.

Moms will agree that we do whatever is necessary where our children are concerned, even putting ourselves in harm’s way. Instinct “kicks in” and reason “takes a hike.”

no regrets whatsoever…hugmamma

deadly dilemma

One of my favorite reads is The Wall Street Journal. “Whaaattt?” you ask. A middle-aged woman who’s been out of the work force for 24 years actually comprehends the white-collar worker’s “bible?” “No way!” you say.

I was a regular commuter to NYC for 11 years, first on the LIRR from Long Island, and then on Metro North from Connecticut. I trekked in and out with thousands of others, head down, nose to the grind. In the Big Apple I learned street smarts and corporate chicanery. I left the workforce as a paralegal for a major international airline for a better offer, motherhood. Best career move of my life. I happily set aside the Journal in favor of parenting books. More useful in my new job.

I don’t subscribe to magazines, newspapers and the like anymore. When I did, finding time to read them became another chore. Piles would accumulate, and so would my guilt. Hiding them away in cupboards and closets when company came only delayed the inevitable. Into the recycling bin they’d get tossed looking as fresh as when they were “hot off the press.”

Recently the Journal snuck into our house through the “back door”, my husband’s job. At first I thought he was bringing the office copy home to read. Eventually I noticed the paper appearing on the kitchen island when I awoke to make breakfast for myself. By then my husband had left for work. The Journal’s regular appearance made me suspicious so I confronted my husband. Not surprisingly, he assumed that I knew he had subscribed. What could I say when he explained that it was on his company’s “dime,” not ours.

Guess what? My guilt’s returned. A pile of newspapers is neatly stacked upon my desk awaiting my attention. Like I need to add to my household list of “Who Needs My Attention Now.” Does my spouse share my guilt? No. He’s perfectly content skimming the news summary on the first page. Well, it’s his loss. When I do get around to perusing the paper( in other words when I have the time), I always find little gems hidden away between the pages.

“Is There Life After Jim Thorpe For Jim Thorpe, Pa.?” is an intriguing story of 2 neighboring Pennsylvania towns bordering the Poconos, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. In 1953 the citizens promised Thorpe’s widow that they would merge, becoming a new town named “Jim Thorpe.” In exchange she had to allow his bones to be buried there.  A suitable monument would be built to honor him. 

The Chunkers (as the townsfolk are known) felt that Thorpe, the 1912 Olympic winner of both the decathlon and pentathlon for track and field, would boost their tourism. Besides, they honored him. It didn’t matter that he  had no connection to the area whatsoever, and probably never paid a visit either.

Last month, one of Thorpe’s sons filed suit to have the town “surrender his father’s body so that it can be buried with other family members near Shawnee, Okla.” The locals agree. They claim that visitors go white-water rafting, see the fall foliage, tour mansions once owned by railroad barons, among other things. But Jim Thorpe’s memorial site is not prominent among them. The situation remains unresolved.

The article started me thinking about my own burial plans, and not for the first time. Where would I want to be interred? Or would I prefer cremation? Should my remains stay put, right here where I’ve lived for the past 12 years; or should they be returned to my birthplace? Who would visit my gravesite there? Should I consider ease of visitation for my daughter or my husband, if he outlives me? Does all this really matter once I’m gone? I won’t know where I am or who’s visiting? It would be nice if someone would leave flowers for me once in a while, fragrant ones. I like them best.

I may not be famous like Jim Thorpe, but we have one thing in common. It’s uncertain where his final resting place will be, just as I’m uncertain about mine. However the difference, a biggie, is that I can choose; he can’t.

what do you think…hugmamma.