“it’s the daughta!”

That’s what my husband and I exclaim when our daughter calls on the telephone.

“It’s the daughta!” To which she replies “It’s the madda!” or “It’s the fadda!” Inside joke. And one which has us grinning like cheshire cats and laughing like madhatters.

What’s she been up to these days, for those of you wondering since our daughter left ballet for contemporary dance?

Well, her recent performance in Houston Grand Opera‘s AIDA went splendidly.

upper right corner..."the daughta!"

upper right corner…”the daughta!”

Our daughter was the dance lead which placed her front and center in Dominic Walsh‘s choreography. She was also honored to be only one of two dancers featured in the show’s glossy program, alongside the several, notable opera singers from around the world. The other dancer was the male lead.

Not one to be put off by funky costumes, our daughter relished her role as the Ethiopian witch doctor who battles the Egyptian warrior intent upon enslaving her people for his pharoah. I applauded her wild, frenetic moves in battling with her armed opponent.

I imagined our daughter following in the footsteps of her great aunt, my mom’s eldest sister, a kahuna…a native Hawaiian witch doctor. I never saw my aunt “in action,” although I’m sure she was just as formidable.

When not the wild and wooly witch doctor, our daughter joined the other female dancers as high priestesses and slave girls. Years of training and performing ballet continue to shine through our daughter’s seemingly effortless moves. Her solid foundation in technique will serve her well no matter where she lands in the dance world.

On the final day of the show the dancers were invited to audition for the opera’s spring engagement of CARMEN. The entire NYC production will take up residency for a month-and-a-half. Houston’s opera was asked to provide one male and one female dancer to “cover” or understudy the dancers being imported from the Big Apple

As she sat on a plane leaving Houston bound for Pittsburgh and her next gig, our daughter was notified by email that she was chosen for CARMEN. Talk about an ego booster!

While performing great roles is of course a dream come true, for our daughter the process is equally as important. 

Working with artists from whom she can learn and grow, and sharing in the camaraderie of fellow dancers with varied backgrounds and experiences is something our daughter relishes. She does not like to stagnate…as a dancer or as a person.

As she charts this the next course in her dance career, networking is absolutely vital. Hence working with the movers and shakers from the New York production staff of CARMEN will put our daughter in touch with folks she might not otherwise have gotten to meet. Already she was excited to work with the woman who put the dancers through their paces as she auditioned them for the opera. Our daughter looks forward to working with her again, as well as the director and his assistant who did not make it to Houston for the audition.

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

And here’s the thing. Dancers in operas CAN make more money than ballet dancers. For CARMEN our daughter’s salary will be nearly double what she made with the ballet company. After being with them for 6 years, mind you! I’m certain even some of the principals don’t make as much as she’ll be making. 

But then, of course, there’s the flip side to every coin. And that’s the fact that our daughter must pay her own way…from housing to health insurance…and everything in between. So life isn’t always…a bed of roses.

Nonetheless, our daughter is thrilled to be the one picking and choosing which roses she’d like to smell as she wanders down life’s path. And as far as we’re concerned, hubby and me…

our daughter is the most beautiful and fragrant of roses…

………hugmamma

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cut from the same cloth…

Someone paid me the nicest compliment early this morning and literally made my day.

The unexpected bouquet of fragrant words was sent me by a perfect stranger…Don.

After the slew of emails we recently exchanged, I can’t really call him a stranger. I can, however, call him perfect…a perfect host.

English: Times Square

English: Times Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our family has decided to spend some time in The Big Apple this summer.

Rather than pay exorbitant hotel prices, we’re renting Don’s vacation hideaway. The decision to do so was not lightly made. But then again I never, ever do anything…lightly.

I researched all the angles as though my life depended upon it, or at the very least, as though I were aiming for an A+ on a college term paper.

For every answer Don gave me, I had at least 3 more questions. We were burning up the internet, with me splitting hairs over every minute detail.

Don was either desperate for my business or Heaven help him…he actually liked me! And that’s when he let slip those priceless words.

“You remind me of my mother, and that’s not a bad thing.”

I adopted the man on the spot! Well…not until he admitted that he was younger than me…49 to my soon-to-be 64.

The moral of the story? Be yourself. Someone might just like you that way. And if not? It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s their perception that’s skewed. You’re fine…just the way you are.

…i know i am…my husband and daughter told me so…but even if they didn’t…

…i’m just fine…

………hugmamma.

new york cynicism

New York City

Image by kaysha via Flickr

At the risk of being called a cynic by my husband, and you, I must confess to being one. Can I at least blame it on having lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade?

Just before he went to bed, I spoke with my husband about my experience with Twitter today. Half asleep since it was almost midnight, I expected his eyes to grow bigger by the minute as my tale unfolded. Instead, tiny wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes. I’m sure he delighted in telling me that I’d made the mistake, and that the brouhaha of which I posted earlier was another one of my lapses into New York cynicism.

I’d forgotten that I’d opened my Twitter account using my husband’s email address. Why, I don’t recall and neither could he. No wonder my email address and password didn’t work. Duh?!? So there! I admit to my egregious mistake, and may Twitter and Helah Chester @helahcobtendy forgive my trespasses. Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

Thank goodness my husband and I have funny bones. We had a good laugh, albeit at my expense.

New York City

Image by kaysha via Flickr

…you can stop laughing now…hugmamma. 

and the award goes to…

Comcast Corporate Customer Service!!! Yessir, they’ve done it again. Just as I’d done months ago (check my winter month archives), I sent an email off to my buddy Mark Casem at we_can_help@Comcast.com, this time asking for information regarding my daughter’s cable service. She was under the impression that because she was moving from one apartment to another, that there might be a promotion offering a discount of some sort. I wasn’t so certain. So she called her local Comcast, first as a current customer, and then, upon my husband’s advice, as a prospective one. In both cases, my daughter was treated as though she were engaged in the sidewalk scam, the shell game.” The guy shows you a pebble and directs you to watch it as he moves it from under one cup, to another, then another. After doing this a few times, the game ends with you selecting the  cup under which the pebble finally came to rest. Our family’s not the type to engage in mind games. We prefer to deal truthfully. Of course there are times when you’ve got to strategize. That’s code for confrontation…without being confrontational. Not my cup of tea. But hey! That’s life. If we have to…then bring it on.

Unable to decide whether she should simply transfer at the same rate she’d been paying, or disconnecting and trying for a better rate, my daughter pondered her options. With the clock ticking towards 6/28, tomorrow, when Comcast was scheduled to cut off her service, I told her I’d write headquarters to see if they were aware of anything that might help persuade my daughter one way or the other. My mantra continues to be “It never hurts to ask. All they can do is say no. It’s nothing personal, after all they don’t know me from Eve.” Of course I may not like their answer, but I can always opt out and go elsewhere. Not easy, for sure. But again, that’s life.

Mark Casem didn’t reply to my email, but a Michael Cardone did. He asked me to forward my daughter’s account number (telephone number) and her contact number, which I did. The next day my daughter received a confusing voice mail. Because I’d been one digit off in her account number, Comcast headquarters asked the local Comcast to call a Mr. Collins about his query. Of course my daughter felt the call had been misdirected, but when another voice mail was left, she decided to call the local rep back. 

Customer Service

Image by RW PhotoBug via Flickr

Happily, my daughter indicated the Comcast rep couldn’t have been nicer, and offered my daughter the same deal she received when she moved to her old apartment 4 1/2 years ago, $99/month for all three services, phone, internet and TV, for an entire year!!! Normally the package costs $160 monthly. Satisfied, my daughter decided to take the offer.

It’s been my experience that local Comcast stations aren’t as diligent about customer service as the corporate office. I suppose as with any operation, the further afield one gets from headquarters, the less “corporate” the mentality. Rules have a way of becoming more localized, perhaps to suit the surrounding population. Dealings with our local rep here are a whole lot better than when I lived with my daughter for a couple of years in Atlanta. Service there was “hit or miss.” My feeling now is if I can’t beat them at their own game, I’ll just call out the big guns…Comcast Corporate Customer Service.   

I will always be grateful for having lived and worked in NYC. I learned to speak up rather than always hold my tongue; try very hard not to take things personally; and celebrate the small things… for therein lie our biggest accomplishments. I think my daughter’s becoming New York savvy. 

Comcast Building

Image via Wikipedia

…another win…for david and his slingshot…hugmamma. 

 

honeymoon alone?…why not?

Absolutely loved this Traveler’s Tale by Jennifer Belle which appeared some time ago in the Wall Street Journal. How many new brides would go for the gusto and forge ahead with her honeymoon plans…alone? I don’t know that I’d have had the courage 40 some odd years ago. But then that was a different time, and I was an island girl. That’s my excuse for everything. Truth be told, I’m just a scaredy cat, always have been, always will be. My daughter’s a little more adventurous, in fact a lot more adventurous. She drives on freeways in any state without white-knuckled fear. Me? I’m still meandering back-roads, even in my hometown of 14 years. Now you know why this young Mrs. had me chuckling…and envious of her unbelievable hutzpah!

My Perfect Honeymoon
(That I Spent Alone)

Children's Valentine in somewhat questionable ...

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I met at a Valentine’s party, got in an agitating fight the next day and then became inseparable–that is, until our honeymoon.

Walking out the door to go to the airport, my husband went to get his passport from his desk. It was missing. I called our housekeeper but she hadn’t seen it. We searched the apartment. I called the Terrorist Investigation Unit of the FBI to report it stolen by the carpet cleaner. “We can’t go,” my husband said.

But my passport wasn’t missing. I had wedding money and an airplane ticket. So while he stayed home and called his mother to see if she had his birth certificate and made desperate plans to join me as soon as possible, I flew to Venice.

Gondolas in Venice

 

I took a water taxi to my hotel and the driver, a gorgeous man named Davide, insisted I take command of the boat, although I explained that I was from New York and didn’t even know how to drive a car. “I teach you,” he said and sort of slapped my butt and also touched my stomach while shifting gears. He gave me his number on a scrap of paper.

“I’m married,” I said for the first time. “I’m on my honeymoon.” He thought this was very charming and American and pretended to look overboard in the murky brown water for a groom. “Call me,” he said.

Harry's Bar interior. Venice Italy.

Image via Wikipedia

At the Hotel La Fenice et des Artistes, beside the burned-down opera house, I checked into the honeymoon suite. I had cannelloni and bellinis at Harry’s Bar on Calle Vallaresso, and stopped to listen to, of all things, Hava Nagila, played by a band in San Marco. The next day I bought five hand-tooled leather journals from a bookbinder named Ustino and began writing in one of them at Locanda Cipriani, a restaurant in a quince orchard on a tiny island called Torcello. I ordered cannelloni again and wrote, “I’m eating cannelloni all aloni.” I wandered that night over bridges and bought a silk jacket with rats painted on it for $500.

Channel in Burano, Venice, Italy

Image via Wikipedia

The next day I got my period on the island of Burano and found one drugstore among all the lace shops. There was so much lace everywhere, when I opened the new box of Tampax, I was surprised they weren’t lace too. I had dinner that night at Vino Vino on Calle de la Rotonda where you order from three dishes at the counter. It would have been perfect except for the waitress ignoring me during my lemon cake–and oh yeah, I remembered, my husband not being there.

Gondolas in a canal in Venice, Italy

Image via Wikipedia

Waiting for him, I took gondola rides and drank wine with beautiful men. I soaked my feet in the bidet, listening on the phone to my husband complain about how he’d taken Metro-North to the county clerk’s office in White Plains to get his birth certificate. I went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia, lounged on my king-sized bed, got chocolate on my trousseau. “Your honeymoon, she is ruined!” the hotel clerk fretted. But she was perfect.

Honeymooning alone, I discovered what it was to be married. I experienced it more fully, had a chance to get used to it. Without him there to interfere, I could be my most romantic. We were star-crossed; he was struggling to get to me. Every bride should be alone after the stress of a wedding. I felt sorry for anyone with a groom to deal with. “Husband is my favorite word,” I wrote in my hand-bound diary. Believe me–I have never written anything like that since.

Four days after my arrival at Marco Polo airport I went back to pick up my husband. He turned out to be allergic to Venice and couldn’t stop sneezing, so we went on to Rome and then the Amalfi Coast.

Almalfi Coast (10/10/2007)

Image via Wikipedia

 

When we got home our housekeeper brought me the slim Citibank check box from the desk and opened it proudly to reveal the safe place she’d hidden my husband’s passport. I’d moved that box a hundred times during my search, but hadn’t thought to look inside.

The scrap of paper with Davide’s phone number on it is still on my refrigerator. In case I ever want a second honeymoon.

(Ms. Belle’s novels include “High Maintenance” and “The Seven Year Bitch.” She remains happily married.)

my kind of woman…for sure…hugmamma. 😉

coming “full circle,” my passion for writing

Bear with me as I share one reader’s comments. I am grateful for all those left on my blog. This one in particular resonated, because it’s from a New York lawyer who acknowledged my writing skills. Having gained my passion for writing and the accompanying tools as a labor relations paralegal in NYC, made me feel I’d come full-circle in the words of this lawyer, who works where I once worked, and where I learned to write. 

 Divorce Lawyer New York says:

I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

Reply

  • hugmamma says:

    Thanks for the generous words of support. It might interest you to know that I credit my writing skills with having been a paralegal for TWA in NYC many years ago. Writing briefs teaches great skills, not the least of which are organization and support for one’s assertions. So your comment is especially appreciated since you’re a New York lawyer.

    My theme is one of many offered for free in wordpress.com’s inventory. I did modify it with my own photographs, which gives me an added bonus of having fun snapping pictures and displaying them in my blog.

    Writing is my passion, the words flowing without pause from my fingertips, to the keyboard, onto the “page.” Your comment validates my gift of expression…

    hugs from the heart…hugmamma.

vegetarian, “mission impossible?”

In keeping with my previous post, I’m forced to seriously consider the  health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. If you’ve been with me since the early days of my blog, you’ll know this isn’t a decision I make lightly. Having grown up in a household with many mouths to feed, and a widowed mom as the sole breadwinner, meat was a luxury to be sure. So as an adult who’s been able to afford better fare, all forms of meat, especially red, has been a staple the last 40 years. While my family has cut back considerably on feasting on steak, ground beef still shows up in a variety of favorite dishes, like chili, spaghetti, Salisbury steak, teriyaki meatballs. But my recent spate of digestive issues has me rethinking what I put in my mouth. It’s probably lucky for me that my body has always known when to “hit the brakes”, even when I don’t.

As a child I would frequently suffer what my mom called “bush.” She said that was what the Portuguese called a “turned ” stomach. After asking if I’d fallen down to determine the cause of my pain, she’d set about “turning” my stomach so that it would be right side up again. I wasn’t one to question when I was in agony, so I submitted to her superstitious remedies. Lying on my back, my mom would massage my stomach with rubbing alcohol. Beside myself with moaning, tears streaming down my face, it seemed to me that after a bit my stomach ache was, in fact, better. Of course I was told to rest, my mom cooing me to sleep.

Over the years, I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices for digestive problems, having even seen a gastroenterologist in my late 20s. While the problem wasn’t in my mind, its resolution was always nebulous. The only solid fact told me by one New York physician, that took me many years to finally accept, is that I’m lactose-intolerant. How did I decide he was probably right? After gorging on ice cream, I’d get a mean belly ache, that’s how. But testing his theory once wasn’t enough. I had to re-enact that scenario again and again, until duh, I got that “light-bulb” moment. So it’s not that I’ve permanently banished jamocha almond fudge or coconut ice cream from my palate. I just satisfy myself with a taste, a kid’s size cup or cone does the trick. And therein probably lies the secret to a healthy diet, A TASTE, not a bowlful or a plateful of anything. Except if you’re like me, a taste can lead to another, and another, and before I know it, I’m in trouble.

Last night on PBS, Dr. Daniel Amen was giving a lecture on “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body,” another of his books. He said something about himself that struck a chord with me. He noticed that certain foods triggered something in his brain which made him crave “bad” foods. Sugar and salt are 2 triggers which have me running like a hamster round and round in its wheel. I noticed a long time ago, probably when I was doing Weight Watchers, that after eating a cookie, I needed to eat chips, or vice versa. As we all do, I kept myself in check for a little while. But as memory fades, so does resolve. That’s why I’m probably lucky that my metabolism goes haywire before I get myself into really dire straits.

Veggies were not a mainstay of family meals in the Hawaiian homes I visited growing up. Since everything had to be shipped into the islands at great expense, fresh produce wasn’t always affordable for lower-income households. I can remember having potatoes, carrots, and onions in stew, with very little meat. But having a separate serving of vegetables on the dinner plate is not something I remember seeing regularly. And I can’t remember that we were heavily into growing our own either. I mention all this as an excuse for not having grown up eating fruits and veggies, as we now know we all should be doing. But wasn’t the old version of the FDA’s food pyramid also to blame? I think carbs, dairy and protein were ranked higher in the old days. But no matter, this is 2011, and I’m 61.

Fruits, veggies, and grains are definitely what my body now needs to maintain my life going forward. My digestive system can no longer process refined foods, dairy products, and meats like it did in the good old days. Wish we could all learn this lesson sooner, rather than later. But the best we can do is continually remind ourselves, and hope that the message finally takes hold nationwide so that future generations will live more healthfully. We seem to be living longer thanks to scientific research, but our quality of life falls far short. Do we really want to extend the number of years we suffer from physical ailments, because we gorged on toxic food?

I sometimes wonder what my mom’s quality of life would have been like, had she the benefit of more education, not just about food, but about everything. She had to leave school after 6th grade. Thereafter, her life was just about survival. What she ate was probably not her biggest concern, but that she ate at all, and that we her children had food on our plates as well.

i have a college degree, i should know better…but i’m still human…and there are so many temptations…hugmamma.

“stuffed” full of food, memories, and feeling old

Had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration! Hope you did as well. Am sure we had a lot in common, turkey and all the fixings, family and friends gathered around the table, laughter, small talk, and oh-so- full bellies. What we may, or may not, have shared in experience was feeling, for the very first time, like senior citizens.

Original plans were that my husband and I would have been the middle-aged folk since friends, a couple in their early and mid-70’s, were set to join us for our holiday meal. Of course our daughter was always to be the young chickadee, at 24 years. A call from our nephew who lives and works in Seattle, altered the dynamics. Because of the snowstorm that blew our way, his plan to spend Thanksgiving with his mom’s relatives were canceled due to icy roads. We expected that Kanoa and his girlfriend Erica would dine with us, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that his brother, Sam, would be in town as well. We’d not seen this nephew since he was 11 or so. Now he’s an aerospace engineer, with a degree in aeronautics. Another welcome addition to our cozy home was Kanoa’s roommate, Darnelle. As it turned out, our first guests, Sylvia and Jim, cancelled because of icy weather conditions between their town and ours. So my husband and I quickly moved up, or down, depending on your viewpoint, the age ladder.

My gourmet feast was a hit! Conversation was lively! After some expected “hiccups,” that is. I mean, 30+ years difference in age does require some fancy footwork. I love dancing, and talking, but even my brain was working overtime trying to “connect the dots” in our conversation. I did miss a couple, “dots” that is, like the time Sam told a joke about an antelope in rut who ran into a stopped SUV. The animal was chasing potential mates, who’d smartly sidestepped the vehicle. I got that part because it’s a known fact that females are smarter. Ahem. What I didn’t get, is that the story was a joke. I thought the anecdote was a true story about a friend whose car was hit by a stupid animal. So what began as laughter at the joke, evolved into hysteria when I asked in disbelief, “Was that a joke?” Thank God they thought I was a cute, little, old aunty. Hey, I don’t deny it. I embrace it, especially when I ponder the alternative.

Decades old memories with a Long Island friend and her family, is one that remains with me. Even many years after having lost touch, I can still picture sitting around the dinner table with as many as 10 guests. The food was the best Italian fare I’ve ever tasted, all homemade and exquisitely delicious. The manicotti with delicately, thin pasta shells and the large, flavorful meatballs topping handmade spaghetti drenched in Carmella’s mom’s marinara sauce, were two of my favorite dishes. Even more memorable was to be enveloped into the loving warmth of an Italian family. So like Hawaiians who embrace one and all. I loved them dearly, Carmella, Vito and mom and pop Adamo. Still do, though the parents have long since gone to Heaven, and we’ve lost touch with sister and brother who moved to other states. Even Christmas cards have stopped arriving. But no matter, I will always remember them with fondness and love.

As I sat listening to our young dinner guests last night, I was reminded of pop Adamo. When we first met, he was virile, engaging, witty, and “in command.” Though small in stature, pop was the “man of the house,” though his daughter and son hovered above him like giants, and even his wife stood a half-a-head taller. It’s true, Italian men rule the roost. They might be small, like pop, but his “presence” was large. Vito was taller than 6 feet, but “shrank” when pop barked. When they wanted to convince pop of something, son, daughter and wife would have to cajole him, sometimes for days or weeks. It usually endured for some amount of time, so I can’t remember if they succeeded more times, than not. I do know that I always tried to remain on pop’s good side. He did have a small, soft spot in his heart for this island girl.

I’m not certain when I first noticed that pop was no longer “himself.” Was it before, or after Carmela told us he had Alzheimer’s? Or was it when his voice no longer reverberated through the house, or when he sat in silence after we said our first hellos. But the image foremost in my mind is of pop sitting in his usual chair at the head of the dining table, looking “lost.” It saddened me that he was unable to participate in conversations, where before his witticisms were part of the social gatherings. While his body sat, his spirit seemed elsewhere, perhaps floating overhead, disengaged. In time, pop became permanently wedded to the dreaded disease.

Alzheimer’s assumed a stranglehold on the Adamos, and their home was never the same again. Somehow the family evolved, as we all do, moving forward to become newer, updated versions of their former selves. Carmela married a wonderful man, Steve, and they were blest with an only child, daughter Christine. Last we heard Vito had moved to Las Vegas where he enjoyed the many pleasures of “sin city.” I’m sure pop rolled over in his grave. Mom grew more frail as the years passed, finally succumbing to eternal peace. I’ll always remember her charitableness, especially for those who sat at her bountiful table. We celebrated Thanksgiving every time we sat down to dinner with this loving family.

Last night I caught a glimpse of my own “evolution.” Aging is inevitable, as is change. Resisting either, or both, is probably unwise, and unhealthy. Granted, I am who I am because of 61 years of accumulated experiences, memories, and “self-diagnosis.” There’ve certainly been “detours” along the way, which meant tweaking my life, here and there. But true happiness, I think, is the “thread” that courses through our lives as we evolve, from birth to death. Standing still, inflexible and unchanging, would probably cut, or at least thin, the flow of happiness. Though I may be goofy at times, acting “abynormal,” as my daughter and I label my zany behavior, I am normal in wanting, like others, to know happiness in my daily life.

So I owe much to the young folk who sat around our dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. They “stretched” my brain cells with their chatter about X-Box games, reasons for disliking Windows 7, multi-tasking on 3 computers simultaneously, all while checking their cellphones intermittently. I did hold my own, however, when relating stories about life experiences. They seemed to enjoy my fear of bear anecdotes, and my general “c’est la vie” attitude.

Thanks Kanoa, Sam, Erica and Darlene! You added to the cozy evening, with your youthful gaiety, “geeky” conversation, and contribution of  “ono” food, the lomi salmon, poki tako, kalua pig and pumpkin cheesecake. More than anything, you added to our family’s Thanksgiving memories, about which we’ll be reminiscing for a long time.

are you as “stuffed?’…hugmamma..

loves “tchotchkes,” jonathan adler

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “The Anti-Depressive  Apartment,” about designer Jonathan Adler’s “kaleidoscopic New York digs…” Being an amateur, a “wannabee” decorator, the colored photos stopped me from immediately turning the page. Studying the details in each picture, reading the accompanying captions, and finally viewing each in its entirety, I decided Adler’s design was “over the top,” too much for my taste. I love eclectic furnishings, which he seems to as well. But we definitely differ in what we mix and match. 

A potter, Jonathan Adler’s home is filled with “tchotchkes:” a large, black  rhinoceros sits alongside a coffee table, atop which stands a pair of white ceramic dog sculptures, facing one another. On the other side of the coffee table, is an orange sofa. Resting on matching, white end tables on either side of the sofa, are a pair of lamps whose bases are busts of gold horse heads. A white, ceramic squirrel keeps company with books, on one of two bookcases against the back wall. On the top shelf are a pair of charcoal color, Egyptian-looking goat heads. The other bookcase sports a white, ceramic, duck, simple in its lines.

Decorator pillows complete the kitschy style. Matching, red with black stripe armchairs hold round pillows, one orange, the other teal blue. Both are inscribed with the word “pill.” Across the floor, on the other side of the coffee table is a black, heavy plastic chair with a tall back and plexiglass legs. A red, square pillow, a forearm with closed fist on its front, is outlined in black. On the sofa are two, rectangular, white pillows, trimmed in black with hands, finger pointing, as if toward one another. Between them sits a square, teal blue pillow, a peace sign emblazoned on the front in a dark-grey outline.

Other rooms in the decorator’s home are just as kooky. What’s beguiling is that Jonathan Adler’s career, as a highly sought-after interior designer, was one of happenstance.  

SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER SELLING a cache of striped pots to his first retail account in 1993, Jonathan Adler wondered why he never got paid–until, that is, the buyer informed him that he never sent in an invoice. Mr. Adler’s response: ‘What’s an invoice?’

Now founder and creative director of an eponymous home-decor empire, Mr. Adler, 44 years old, refers to himself as an ‘accidental entrepreneur.’ His privately held company now has 12 boutiques and expects to see a 50% increase in revenue this year. ‘It is all completely unexpected and it took a lot of work,’ he says.

 My take on Adler’s success? “Wha? Wha? Wha?” It boggles my mind how some people “hit it big,” and the rest of us are still trying to turn rocks into pearls, not even diamonds. I’m not even challenging his taste. After all everyone’s entitled, and he’s obviously acquired quite a following, which got him 12 boutiques, and full-page coverage in the WSJ. So who am I to talk? God bless him. No envy here, just wondering. At 61, I don’t have the energy to “hit it big.”

Watching the video below did not convert me to Adler’s decorating “genius.” On the other hand, it did make me a fan of his partner’s style. Simon Doonan, creative director of Barney’s New York, also uses eclecticism in assembling vignettes for the store’s windows. The look, which appeals to me, is edgier. I like edgy, kitschy, not so much.

Adler and Doonan make a great couple. A decade apart in their ages, they’re alike in their serious work ethic, their kooky tastes, and their unpredictability. They abhor “boring beige.” They’re both anal in their attention to detail. Adler indicating that getting the handle perfect on a teapot, can be tortuous; Doonan explaining that he edits and re-edits a column he writes, trying to get it exactly right. Completing their family is an adorable Norwich Terrier named Liberace.

I identify with these gay men, their eccentricities, their zaniness, their “joie de vivre,” their obsession to details, their need to “get it right.” And then there’s Liberace. A pet whose soulful eyes remind me of my Mocha. 

I may not see “eye-to-eye” with Adler as regards to interior design, but I do understand his anger with California’s change of heart in recognizing gay marriages. Doonan, his spouse, is more philosophical saying that they need to “suck it up,” and continue to “fight the fight,” keeping their eye “on the prize,” and maintain their resilience. I’m sure their attitudes reflect many in the gay community. As with couples who are straight, conversation should begin and end with who gays and lesbians are as people, not what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

hugs for a couple trying to live their best lives…hugmamma.





“texas rangers, all the way!” or “angels in the outfield!”

I’m not a baseball fan. It’s too slow a game, causing my mind to wander, more so than at Sunday Mass, I might add. But after reading about 2 devout fans in a Wall Street Journal article, I’m rooting for the Texas Rangers, sight unseen. Let’s say I have a soft spot in my heart for the 2 women who’ve been rooting their team on since 1972, when they played their first game in Arlington.

Season ticket holders since forever, Maggie Hession, an 82-year-old Catholic nun, and her companion “in crime,” Frances Evans, 84 years-old, would make anyone proud to call them fans. These two have dedicated themselves to supporting their favorite baseball players just as, it seems, they have dedicated themselves to serving God. 

The nuns have faithfully attended Rangers games for 39 years, “listening to the play-by-play on their transistor radios and beating a drum they inherited from another fan.” They accompanied the team to New York for the playoff series in ’96, ’98 and ’99. Staying at the same hotel, the nuns rode the team’s bus to Yankee Stadium, sitting in the dugout during one game. Every day the devoted fans visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan to pray; unfortunately, the team still lost.

Occupying an area of their shared duplex, is a shrine erected by Hession and Evans, “decorated with religious figurines, crosses, refrigerator magnets of past players and three dozen signed baseballs, each enclosed in plexiglass. …There is also a framed portrait of the sisters in Rangers uniforms, taken when they attended Texas Rangers Baseball Fantasy Camp in the early ’90s.” During camp, Sister Frances, a self-described “ornery renegade,” broke her thumb when she was hit by a ball. Nonetheless, both she and Sister Maggie were thrilled when they hit the ball, and ran to first base.

Aside from the special attention bestowed on them by the Rangers, the nuns also received other perks. “The first season, they saved their money for tickets, but, after that, benefactors, including past Rangers owners and local businessmen, picked up the tab. ‘We like to say, “God provides,” ‘ Sister Maggie says.” At the stadium, they have parking space No. 1. And for many years, they flew to spring training in Florida, gratis the generosity of friends they’d made.

Having been schooled by Catholic nuns for 12 years, I know for a fact that they’re not the least bit shy about offering advice, requested or not. Hession and Evans were no different. They told Tom Schieffer, president of the Rangers, from 1991 to 1999, how to run the team, including “which player ‘needed to pay attention to his personal life.’ ” Sister Frances was displeased with former owner Tom Hicks, who signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million dollar contract, which forced Hicks to sell the team in bankruptcy court this past summer. Hicks agrees with her about Rodriguez saying, ” ‘I do hope Sister Frances understands that I know I made errors, but they were all done because I was trying to deliver a winning team to Rangers fans,…Prayerfully, I hope Sister Frances can forgive and forget my past errors, especially as she is watching the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.’ ”

The nuns are delighted with the new president and part-owner, former, Ranger, star pitcher Nolan Ryan. When he saw a specialist for a hand problem, they were in the waiting room praying for him. Sister Frances had been encouraging Ryan to buy the team for years. She leaves him messages with coaching tips, like ” ‘If those guys would stay loose and have fun playing the game, they will play well.’ ”

The Rangers’ most religious fans, Sisters Frances and Maggie, will be at every home game against the San Francisco Giants, sitting in their 14th-row seats behind home plate. As for the away games, they’ll watch them on TV with the sound off, and the radio on, listening to the play-by-play calls. ” ‘You hear a lot of tidbits you don’t get from those TV announcers,’ Sister Frances says.” Despite losing the first two games of the Series, the nuns still feel the Rangers can win it. According to Sister Frances, ” ‘God’s time frame and mine are never the same,…but I really believe this is the year, this is the team.’ ”

from her lips to God’s ears…hugmamma.

“witch doctors,” do you believe?

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m reminded of something that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m in the midst of reading Orson Welles-A Biography” by Barbara Leaming. Written with his complete cooperation, it really is “a dazzling, intimate portrait of a legend.” Never one of my favorite actors, I must admit that I’ve altered my opinion after reading 396 pages of the 630 page book. Welles was really the genius he was touted to be! Unfortunately his diverse talents overextended him physically and mentally, so that his failures were as huge as his successes, both personally and professionally. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Through a series of fortuitous events, 20-year-old, recently married Orson Welles made his New York directorial debut in the midst of this country’s Great Depression. In 1935, Hallie Flanagan, head of Vassar College’s Experimental Theatre Workshop, was appointed as national director of the Federal Theatre  project. As part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration, the FT was charged with providing work for the nation’s unemployed theatrical professionals. Because Flanagan “was not a member of the Broadway commercial establishment, but an academic with a taste for experimental and regional theater,” and because, by rule, 10% of actors, musicians, playwrights and technicians “could consist of theater people who had not been receiving relief, thereby ensuring the presence of expert professional talent to counterbalance the inevitable amateurs who found working in the theater more appealing than a government construction project,” Orson found himself among this elite class of professionals.

Charged with mounting a classical production, Welles, upon his wife Virginia’s suggestion, chose to stage   “an all-black Macbeth by transposing its action from Scotland to Haiti, a startlingly new setting with important artistic advantages, not the least of them the rich possibilities for music and decor. … Preferring not to anchor the action too firmly in Haiti he had in mind a mythic island more like the fantasy setting of The Tempest than any actual place. But as Orson saw it, there was a significant gain in realism as well: by alluding to Haitian voodooism the production could make credible the role of the witches that modern audiences of Macbeth often have trouble accepting.”

At Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre,  Orson’s Macbeth opened to a mixture of  gang members, respectable black bourgeoisie, and Manhattan’s chic downtown crowd. When the curtain rose on “the intricate jungle settings, piquant costumes, and sensuous lighting,” the audience broke into “wild applause and gasps of pleasure.” And the critics’ reviews were just as ebullient. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote with enthusiasm  ” ‘As an experiment in Afro-American showmanship the Macbeth fairly rocked the Lafayette Theatre, …If it is witches you want, Harlem knows how to overwhelm you with their fury and phantom splendor.’ ” The New York Daily News’ Burns Mantle hailed Macbeth as ” ‘a spectacular theatre experience. …the most colorful, certainly the most startling, of any performance that gory tragedy has ever been given on this continent.’ ”

In contrast, Percy Hammond of the Herald Tribune wrote ” ‘What surprised me last night was the inability of so melodious a race to sing the music of Shakespeare,…The actors sounded the notes with a muffled timidity that was often unintelligible. They seemed to be afraid of the Bard, though they were playing him on their home grounds.’ ” One of the African drummers, who accompanied the ranting of the three witches, made a voodoo doll in the critic’s likeness, hanging it in effigy and sticking it with pins. When told by the lighting director that Hammond was entitled to his opinion, the African replied ” ‘He’s bad man.’ ” Humoring the man over beer and pretzels at a local bar, Orson agreed to his drinking companion’s decision to put a curse on the critic.

“The African made one stipulation: the responsibility for Hammond’s death would be Orson’s alone. As a pretzel disappeared into his mouth, Orson nodded agreement. The rest of the company, Orson among them, watched with amusement as the voodoo practitioners blessed their drums before pounding on them backstage for several days. He barely gave it another thought until, shortly thereafter, he gasped to learn that Percy Hammond had just died.”

One of these times I’ll tell you about my “big-aunt,” who was a “Kahuna,” a Hawaiian witch doctor.

makes you wonder…hugmamma.

“gays,” a rabbi’s viewpoint

Once again I’m reprinting the opinion of another author in my blog. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach interjects a very interesting and compelling argument in support of gays. None of us are experts, but those so inclined can try to infuse some logic and reason to level the playing field for those among us who have been relegated to society’s periphery.

I am familiar with the writings of Rabbi Boteach; I read his book The Michael Jackson Tapes – A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation. A compassionate man, the Rabbi felt he could help Jackson devote his talents to a greater cause than self-aggrandizement, in the hopes that his life would be more personally satisfying. Unfortunately, the two men went their separate ways, as it was difficult for the entertainer to relinquish his life in the spotlight. He returned to his fans, whose adulation forever defined who he was, even beyond death.

And so I commiserate with Rabbi Boteach’s empathy for gays. They should thrive as we do, for they are also the children of God.

My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality

Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, sparked controversy this week by declaring in a speech at an Orthodox synagogue that children shouldn’t be ‘brainwashed’ into considering homosexuality acceptable. He later apologized, saying that he supports gay rights but opposes gay marriage. The Rabbi who hosted Mr. Paladino’s speech then retracted his endorsement of the candidate.

Some people of faith insist that homosexuality is gravely sinful because the Bible calls it an ‘abomination.’ But that word appears approximately 122 times in the Bible. Eating nonkosher food is an ‘abomination’ (Deuteronomy 14:3). A woman returning to her first husband after being married in the interim is an ‘abomination (Deuteronomy 24:4). Bringing a blemished sacrifice on God’s altar is an abomination (Deuteronomy 17:1). Proverbs goes so far as to label envy, lying and gossip ‘an abomination to (the Lord)’ (3:32, 16:22).

As an orthodox Rabbi, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex and are desperately alone, I tell them, ‘You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your meals with many guests. Pray to God three times a day for you are his beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.’

I once asked Pat Robertson, ‘Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to Church. Whatever relationship you’re in, God wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a godly life.’ He answered to the effect that homosexuality is too important to overlook, as it is the greatest threat to marriage and the family. Other evangelical leaders have told me the same.

But with one of every two heterosexual marriages failing, much of the Internet dedicated to degrading women through pornography, and a culture that is materially insatiable while all-too spiritually content, can we straight people really say that gays are ruining our families? We’ve done a mighty fine job of it ourselves, thank you very much.

The excessive concern about homosexuality that is found among many of my religious brothers and sisters–in many Muslim countries being gay is basically a death sentence–stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of sin. The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to connote two different kinds of transgression: religious and moral. The first tablet discussed religious transgressions between God and man, such as the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy and desecration of the Sabbath. The second tablet contained moral sins between man and his fellow man, like adultery, theft and murder.

Homosexuality is a religious, not a moral sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. Who is harmed when two unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Homosexuality is akin to the prohibition against lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover; there is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.

I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage. But gay marriage doesn’t represent the end of Western civilization. The real killer is the tsunami of divorce and the untold disruption to children who become yo-yos going from house to house on weekends.

I have countless gay friends whose greatest fear, like that of so many straight people, is to end up alone. Should we just throw the book at these people? The Bible says, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ All I ask from my religious brethren is this: Even as you oppose gay relationships because of your beliefs, please be tortured by your opposition. Understand that when our most deeply held beliefs conflicts with our basic humanity, we should feel the tragedy of the conflict, not find convenient scapegoats upon whom to blame America’s ills.

Wall Street Journal, 10/15/10 (Rabbi Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network, a national organization that promotes universal Jewish values to heal America. His latest book is ‘Renewal: A Guide To The Values-Filled Life’ (Basic Books, 2010).)

 hugs for the rabbi…hugmamma.

“getting to happy”

One of Oprah’s guests today was author Terry McMillan who had written the book “Waiting to Exhale.” I remember having seen the movie it spawned, enjoying the 4 black actresses who portrayed the story’s main characters. I can’t recite what it was about, only that it dealt with the all too familiar romantic difficulties between men and women. McMillan’s newest book, “Getting to Happy,” brings the 4 women full circle. Maybe I’ll read this, her second book, or wait until the movie is made. I’m not overly fond of reading fiction, preferring non-fiction instead.

While I missed most of the interview, I was present when McMillan’s ex-husband was speaking of the hellish 5 years following their divorce. Feeling betrayed when he cheated on her with a gay partner, McMillan sought revenge by suing her husband and his attorney for $40 million. To his relief, she eventually dropped the suit. In her explanation to Oprah, the author explained that while she harboured resentment against her husband, she continued to suffer, because she’d hung onto the hurt. Once she released the pain and rescinded the lawsuit, McMillan was on her way, “getting to happy.” Sitting side by side, she and her ex teased and laughed, sharing the friendship they’d once had.

Interjecting an anecdote of her own life experience, Oprah told of a long-held grudge against someone she happened to observe one day at a distance, walking into Tiffany’s, laughing.  The woman looked like she’d carried on with her life, while Oprah had dwelt upon the rift between them. How could that woman not continue to be as agitated as Oprah over the incident? This was the question she asked the audience in total disbelief. I understood the look on her face.

When I lived in New York, I had worked for a black manager who involved me in his ongoing battle with his boss, the department’s director and her close friend, the vice president, both white females. I would return home each evening, upset and crying to my husband about the grief I was experiencing. Something he said finally sank in, shutting me up once and for all. “While you’re spending all your nights bemoaning something Tony’s done or said, he’s probably enjoying himself with friends, and a glass of wine.” Picturing him relaxed and laughing, angered me. I decided not to let my boss have one more minute of my day. “Out of sight, out of mind,” has become my motto when dealing with aggravating people. That’s not to say I always succeed, but I never stop trying.

of course Oprah learned the same lesson, long ago…hugmamma.

redding ct, like the maui of old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma