nurturing thursdays: shine the light…on the devil

I’m getting ahead of myself publishing a post for next week’s Nurturing Thursdays. However something has occurred which I’d like to write about now, while it’s still fresh on my mind.

A young woman committed suicide.

Alone in a big city.

Illness.

Cancer.

Incurable.

Like a death knell, she took the news hard. She holed up, alone, in her apartment for a week. And then she threw herself out the window onto the sidewalk below. Barely missing a person who’d just walked by. Traumatic for that person; the end of life for another. 

Family and friends kept reaching out, trying to keep in touch. But having suffered depression before, the young woman was still caught in its stranglehold.

Depression is the devil. Not to be toyed with. Not to be entertained, even fleetingly. The devil doesn’t play games; neither does depression.

Don’t go there. 

Hang on for dear life, with all the strength you can muster.

Surround yourself with only positive influences. 

There’s no place in your life for negativity. 

Say “no” to negativity…that’s a positive step forward…and upward.

Bask in the sunshine…even if you have to switch on all the lights in the house. I do…

A high electrical bill is way better than a hospital bill…or a funeral.

Fight to live the one life you’ve been given.

Despite the darkness you encounter without…and within…the light is your friend.

Let it in…let it in…please, let it in.

…you matter…because i care…

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

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not for everyone…

Hugmamma’s Mind, Body, and Soul is where I share opinions, thoughts, feelings, helpful hints, recipes, life experiences…all meant to uplift, to give hope, to empathize, and above all, to entertain.

 Mine is not a political blog. Although I am oft-times moved by current affairs to write what I feel about something of particular concern to me. I don’t propose that others should subscribe to my way of thinking. We are, after all, a society of free thinkers with free will, are we not?

I respect that others can voice their own opinions. And I invite them to establish their own means of doing so.

 Hugmamma’s Mind, Body, and Soul is not the appropriate platform for others’ rants and raves, political or otherwise. So this is to advise that any such comments will not be read or published.

I appreciate your readership, but do not welcome conversations of a harsh nature. I will not engage in them for they only serve to stress and demoralize.

Argument for the sake of argument is definitely not my “cup of tea.” Life is too short…and too full of hope to dwell on negativity.

The internet overflows with sites that thrive upon doing verbal battle, until someone cries “uncle.” I heartily encourage those desirous of locking horns to search out others of the same ilk.

…in fact…i insist…

………hugmamma.

a tribute…to my mom’s legacy

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

In a couple of days we’ll be celebrating moms. What they mean to us; what they do for us. My mom has been gone a number of years now. But there’s never a day that passes, when I don’t remind myself that “because of my mom, I can endure this struggle.”

While she was alive it seemed my mom and I were always engaged in our own struggle. Up until Alzheimer’s completely overtook her mental capacities, she was forever willing me to do as she wished. Perhaps I was too much like her, for I had difficulty bending to her will, especially after becoming a wife and a mother. Although I was her youngest, I felt I deserved respect as an adult having to make my own way in life. I was footing my own bills now, and picking myself up after life smacked me a blow to the head. This became even more apparent when I moved away from family in the islands, to reside permanently on the mainland. I think I learned early in life that I needed to take care of myself…without whining.

So whether or not my mom intended to give me the strength to endure, I learned by osmosis. She did it, so I do it. And because I do it, my daughter does it. But I must admit she does it with a whole lot less…whining. I like to call it venting. I like to get things off my chest with good friends, including my daughter, and hubby, of course. Now that I’m blogging, you naturally hear some of it as well. But you’ve always the option of…tuning me out.

My daughter’s recent experiences have served as a reminder of the strength instilled in me by my mom, which I have obviously passed along. My daughter’s dance season began with a sabbatical during which she returned home here for medical treatment. After 2 months, she was able to rejoin her ballet company. Cast in a couple of wonderful roles, she was elated to be dancing again in February. As she geared up for the final performance of the season last weekend, my daughter broke her hand in a freakish accident during rehearsal. While stressful, physically and emotionally, she carried on as cheerfully as possible. The beginning of last week she learned her apartment was mildly infested with bed bugs.

Bedbug

Image via Wikipedia

Advised to strip the place of everything except the furniture in preparation for treatment she, with a broken hand, but with the help of a friend, did just that. Renting a storage unit in which she placed bins and trash bags full of her belongings, and boarding her cat at the vet, my daughter has now been waiting almost 2 weeks for her apartment to be treated.

Management is dickering with 2 pest control companies about the price. Meanwhile my daughter is boarding here and there with friends because she doesn’t like the thought of being live bait. The rep from the second company consulted, suggested my daughter sleep in the bed where a couple of bug larvae were found so that the infestation would not spread to other areas, since the bugs would go in search of her blood. You can imagine her reaction! He went on to say that she needn’t have emptied her apartment of its decor and her clothing. Caught in the middle of 2 supposed experts saying opposing things, who should she believe?

Unfortunately management of the apartment complex is in the same quandary, and my daughter is the guinea pig in its efforts to devise a game plan going forward. With bed bug infestations throughout the country being widely broadcast in the media, I wonder why there was no best case/worst case scenario in place with the apartment complex‘s regular vendor of pest control?

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.....

Image by Daisy.Sue via Flickr

With a broken hand, and living like a nomad, my daughter maintains an upbeat attitude about her life. She’s rehearsing a piece she’s choreographed for this weekend’s show with trainees of the company; she’s been a model in a photo shoot for the company, albeit minus the hand splint which she’s now sporting; and she happily accepts invitations out with friends which often includes a place to bunk for the night. As a beacon of light on the horizon, my daughter will soon be reunited with my husband and me for some much-needed R and R. I promised that she and I would “tie one on” when she got home.

Mother & Child, Coc Ly Market

Image by Hanoi Mark via Flickr

Any mom who cherishes her child can appreciate that what my daughter has been through makes my spirit go limp. At my age, I don’t even have the fire to take on the adversaries anymore, at least not as I did in earlier decades. I have my husband to thank for that. In our household wiser heads now rule, for which I’m eternally grateful. For it has meant that, unlike my mom, these, my later years are free of the kind of stress she inflicted upon herself through negativity. And that I truly believe, is a key component of Alzheimer’s. I may still not escape its grasp, but I maintain control over the number of factors that might contribute to eventually being overcome by the disease. So while I still have my wits about me, I’ll continue to fight the good fight. That’s something else with which I can gift my daughter.

giving thanks…for what my mom has given me…and what i’ve been able to give my daughter…and for the legacy that will most certainly… live on…hugmamma.

Wild Roses Mother's Day Card

Image by Flora Powell via Flickr

the “power of words,” beware

Spent the night tossing and turning as negative thoughts about this, that, and the other, crept into my overactive brain. As I fought to regain control of my positive self by repeating good thoughts, I finally felt as though an invisible hand reached in yanking me from the fray. I’m sure you’ve had such moments, perhaps not as I’ve described. But I’m a writer so I tend to dramatize.

The “invisible hand” was the realization that Kitty Kelley, via Oprah: A Biography, had inadvertently infiltrated my spirit with negativity. It may be that all she says is true, as told by those she interviewed. Of course it’s their perception of events and occurrences to do with Oprah. Meanwhile, the woman herself did not speak on her behalf. So we must take the words written about her with the proverbial “grain of salt,” in this case a whole shaker full.

I don’t question others’ perceptions; I do question the author’s need to slant her “tell all” with overwhelming negativity. As a biographer, Kelley feels compelled to delve deep. But the truth she reveals can be edited to corroborate what will drive readership and therefore, sales. Just as Oprah may not be the altruist everyone perceives, Kelley may not be the diligent author she presents herself to be.

Other than financial gain, why would Kelley choose to decimate Oprah’s visage as the great humanitarian? In speaking of the failed attempt by Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu to get Oprah nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Kelley writes:

I started the Nobel movement after Oprah appeared at the Dream Academy Dinner (May 24, 2005) to raise money for at-risk children whose parents are in prison,” said Washington, D.C., publicist Rocky Twyman. “When she stood up, praised God, opened her purse, and gave that Dream Academy a million dollars, I wanted to get her the Nobel Peace Prize…but the Nobel committee did not want to give it to a celebrity. So I formed a committee, and we talked to Dorothy Height (president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women), who was all for Oprah because Oprah had given Dr. Height two-point-five million in 2002 to pay off the mortgage on the NCNW headquarters….Dr. Height contacted Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu, and we set out to get publicity to collect a hundred thousand signatures for Oprah’s nomination to present to the Nobel committee….

“Unfortunately, we only got forty thousand signatures…because a lot of men, black and white, refused to sign…and a lot of religious people would not sign because they said Oprah was not married to Stedman and she gave a bad example to our young people by her lifestyle. I believe we all sin and come short of the glory of God, but these folks, mostly from black churches, and all conservative and law-abiding, felt very strongly that Oprah had put herself above the laws of God. I was stunned, but I’m afraid there are strong feelings against her in our (African-American) community….Of the forty thousand signatures we were able to get, most were white, not black. We got a lot of publicity and raised awareness for her getting the prize, but in the end I guess God did not want it to happen.”

Good read, but essential? Only in a gossipy tell-all book, trying to leach off the wealth and celebrity of another. I got sucked in, yes, but most biographies I’ve read have a thread of compassion running through them. When I turn the last page, I’m usually filled with sadness that once again fame and wealth has destroyed, rather than helped, someone’s life. By comparison, Oprah: A Biography, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. All the negativity consolidated in one place by the author’s self-serving manipulation of the facts, goes against my beliefs.

My gut instincts now tell me to be wary of silver-tongued writers. Readers with a stronger stomach and a less-sensitive constitution may be unaffected. I take what others say, to heart. Living and working in New York City left its mark, for I am cynical. But my island roots run deep, and my Aloha spirit makes me more empathetic, especially when Oprah’s childhood was not one of happiness and privilege. I may not condone all she does, but I take the good with the bad. She’s human like the rest of us, no matter what she and her fans might think, and say.

the power of words…be wary of their effect…hugmamma.  

“juxtaposition,” the holiday and the preparation

As we prepare for the holiday season, we were reminded in Mass yesterday that we are embarking upon the journey towards Christ’s birth, Christmas. As is Father Bryan’s custom, he related a personal anecdote that brought the message home.

As a seminarian, Father and others, were given the task of removing the stump of a huge, old tree that had been cut down because it was diseased. An all day job, they labored mightily to extricate every bit of remnant that remained. That included the use of crowbars, and burning the core of the stump, attempting to soften it. As he said, their voices reached skyward in prayer, as they undertook the painstaking chore. Was that his subtle way of saying that if they could swear, they might have? I’m positive most men, and women, would’ve mumbled a few choice words, and not necessarily “under their breath.” Ahhh..but Father Bryan’s on the path to sainthood, so he must mind his p’s and q’s.

The following morning, Father wandered through a garden on the property, sipping his tea, and enjoying the beautifully maintained haven. When his gaze fell upon the hole where the stump once was, and the surrounding unkempt area, he reflected upon the juxtaposition of what was lovely, and what was ugly.

During the weeks before and during Advent, we must rout out all that remains of “the ugly stump,” so that we can fully enjoy the beautiful “garden,” Christ’s birth. Father’s metaphor is probably one of the most vivid I’ve ever encountered, so that it’s imagery will probably remain with me as I prepare myself for the holidays.

Another part of the homily which was an “aha” moment, was Father Bryan’s affirmation of something to which I already subscribe. The minutiae of our daily lives is who we are, and upon them we should focus our efforts and energies. We may not always enjoy what we’re doing, but we should do them nonetheless.  I’m sure he was referring to having to remove the tree stump. 

What we do, day in and day out, as a matter of course, is the source of our happiness. Singular events come and go. They may give us a temporary boost, helping us to soar momentarily. But we always return to the mundane, the every day, the minutiae. It’s best if those things are uplifting, and positive, so that they help us move forward, living our best lives. Disapproval and negativity encourages fretful, less fulfilling lives.

preparing for the holiday season, hugs…hugmamma.

manipulation, the fine art of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

roses, with thorns

Was just thinking that my blog might be mistaken as portraying a life lived in a garden of fragrant roses, devoid of any thorns. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Living an impoverished life, the youngest of 9, raised by a widowed 30 year old, native Hawaiian, whose only source of income was as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, was not without physical pain or mental anguish. At our best, we were a dysfunctional family, at our worst, we were individuals trying to survive, until we were old enough to get out of the house. I’m sure our story is replicated the world over. Rather than remain the victim of circumstances, and take my “mountain of pain” to even greater heights, I prefer to dismantle it altogether. At 61 I don’t have decades left in which to experiment, to learn by trial and error. I’ve dabbled sufficiently in life’s “ups and downs,” to know that, going forward, I’d like to live with a positive frame of mind. I don’t wish to allow negativity to take control of my life, the only one I have. What example would I be setting for my daughter, who puts great stock in the examples set by my husband and me? She’s worth more to me than any pain I suffered as a result of the personal baggage I dragged around, like a ball and chain. Better to sever the shackles that bind, and be rid of the accompanying stress forever. I’ve come a long way, but I’m far from done.

still a work in progress…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.

the past, only a reference point

I don’t think it’s possible to escape one’s past. From what I’ve observed first-hand and with others, childhood experiences, good and bad, establish the paths our lives take. Where improvements are possible, we should make them for our own sake, and for the sake of our children. As parents we are empowered to discontinue the cycle of negativity.

Remembering back to when our daughter was to begin kindergarten, one specific memory stays with me. An evaluation was required to familiarize the staff with, among other things, her likes, her needs, her trepidations, as well as our own. On the appointed day, I met with the school psychologist. As I approached her I was nervous, as though I was the kindergartener. In reviewing the form with her, I lingered over a particular answer. The question had asked what qualities we would like in a teacher. It was amazing to think we had a choice. I replied that our daughter was with me most of the day and I was the disciplinarian. Therefore I would prefer that her teacher be more fun-loving like my husband, who enjoyed play time with our daughter. As I spoke, tears welled in my eyes and my voice choked. When I confessed to my guilt at not being more playful, the psychologist assured me that my husband and I were each performing very crucial tasks in our daughter’s upbringing. My equilibrium restored, I left feeling we were on the right path to being good parents.

As a child I wasn’t allowed to play until all my chores were done. Though not unique, it probably influenced the direction my life took. Because my mom was a single parent, working much of the time, it fell to us children to keep our home in order. Once a week I had to clean my room, dust, sweep and mop the living room, weed the small patch of garden at the front of our house, and help my siblings wash the car. Daily chores included setting the table for meals, as well as clearing it off afterwards, and watering the greenhouse plants. When I was older I also had to hand-wash clothes in the water-filled tub; hang them to dry on the clothesline; and hand starch and iron dressy-wear. Then there was homework to be done which, of course, took precedence over everything else. For a number of years, nap time was always part of the mix. So when I was allowed out to play, for I had to ask permission, I enjoyed every precious second, staying out until the sun set if possible. Summers spent with older sisters in Honolulu meant fun, fun, fun. Even though I still had chores to do, there were less of them, and no school meant no homework!

For the most part, doing chores before playing remains my life’s routine. Being 61 and married 40 years has given me license to cut myself some slack. So now I blog before I clean the bathroom. But keeping a clean and orderly home will never be wiped from my DNA, it is too deeply ingrained from a lifetime of repetition, beginning as a child. Just as allowing myself to “play” will never be without a sense of guilt for which I will always apologize, looking for a “pass” from my husband. Raised as 1 of 5 sons, with 7 sisters, he was not as burdened with chores as a youngster. So a clean house is not a must for him, but it is for me. The obsession can also extend to the orderly functioning of my mind as well. If my surroundings are in disarray, my brain seems overwhelmed by what it sees, becoming immobilized. That alone motivates me to straighten and vacuum. Since the presence of dust is only in the eye of the beholder, my mother-in-law living too far away to perform the “glove test,” dusting is one chore which is left for tomorrow, or the day after, or…

I did not insist that my daughter do a list of chores growing up. The cycle was broken with her. I enjoyed keeping house, having youthful energy on my side then. Being a mom was preferential to commuting into NYC to sit at a desk, watching the clock. But perhaps while I was doing what I knew best, keeping house, I allowed our child to have a different life. She was able to find her own passion, not one imposed by circumstances. I like to think that’s why she’s a career ballerina. And, she has proven to be a good housekeeper too. Having lived in an orderly home probably became part of her DNA. Fortunately she tends to play without first having to do all her chores. Thank God!

we are who we are, making the best of it…hugmamma.