nurturing thursdays: celebrating the goodness of people…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so I count my blessings…

…as often as i can.

………hugmamma.

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

 

 

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nurturing thursdays: take care…it’s important!

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Gandhi

Around 9:30 a.m. this morning when I was preparing for my appointment with the naturopath, I looked at my cell phone for messages.

I was totally surprised at the flurry of texts back and forth between members of my husband’s family in Hawaii. Realizing it was a group text which included me, I quickly scrolled up looking for the one that had instigated the others.

I’m sure I gasped when I read that one of my brother-in-laws, a sister-in-law’s husband, had suffered a stroke in the early morning hours.

The other messages were probably all from other sisters-in-law inquiring into the specifics, as well as asking how my brother-in-law was doing.

I quickly text my daughter on the east coast, and a nephew who lives about 20 minutes from my husband and me. Both messaged back glad that I had told them.

Throughout the day, as I went about my errands, I continued to check my text messages for any updates.

By early afternoon word came that my brother-in-law was in ICU, and had been given medication which was causing him to feel some dizziness and nausea. He could talk, although his speech was a little slurred. An MRI of his brain would be taken later in the day. Evidently, the stroke had been caused by atrial fibrilation.

Upon returning home after dining out, my husband and I listened to two phone messages from my sister-in-law. Both said pretty much the same thing. However in the first message she sounded somber and unsure. Thankfully, in the second one she sounded a little more upbeat.

My sister-in-law and her husband have been married many years, probably more than 30. As with my husband and me, they are best friends…in sync in every way. They had just returned from spending time with their son and his family on the Big Island of Hawaii. They are extremely loving parents and grandparents, giving of themselves so selflessly. Their generosity extends to all who are blest to know them, family, friends, coworkers…even strangers.

What happened today will surely remind them, and the rest of the Ohana…Hawaiian for “family”…that the time we spend with loved ones is extremely precious indeed.

It also reminds us that we should do what we can to ensure we’re around to enjoy our loved ones…

…for a very, very long time.

…prayers and loving thoughts go out to…Dennis, Julie, and their beloved family.

………hugmamma.

(Enjoy other inspirational words at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/nurt-thurs-live-fully/

 

 

living her best life…#21: the big 50

It’s been a decade and a half since I was there…the Big 50. 

Can’t even remember that it was more special than any other birthday. Other than going out for a nice dinner, birthdays have just been another day for which I’m glad to be alive.

Now if I’d been surrounded by special friends with whom I’d shared a history for decades, I might have done as Pat did. She celebrated the Big 50 …a few times. Not that she stopped aging at that point, like some choose to do when they’re 29.

Better than that. Pat rung in the Big 50…with girlfriends she’s known since the 4th and 6th grades. A truly amazing accomplishment!

 

Carla got the party started in March. Her husband and kids had a beautiful, intimate birthday party, with family and a few girlfriends. Sadly, her mom was in the hospital. Conflicted about that, her family assured her it was okay and they needed to celebrate. The party was at Miyako…a Japanese restaurant at the New Otani Hotel in Waikiki. At the Diamond Head end near the Natatorium, it was away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the strip. Wine flowed while the sun was setting. Picture postcard perfect. We had personalized menus from which to choose our entrees. The food, service, atmosphere and company were incredible. We even got grown-up “goody bags”…as though we were still kids…filled with a few of Carla’s favorite things, including cookies and wine.

As the night was winding down, Lei was already thinking…”Hmmm…I’m next…what can my husband do for my 50th???”

I looked at Jeri…pretty sure she and I were thinking the same thing…and asked “Were you planning a party for yourself?” Her reply “No. You?” “No.” We agreed Carla’s husband, Steve, had set the standard…and set it high. Damn him!

So Lei was next…in May. It was the four of us…Lei, Carla, Jeri and me…and Lei’s husband and son. We had a very nice dinner at Stage Restaurant in the Honolulu Design Center…part of the INspiration furniture store. The decor is funky, eclectic and just cool. Kinda like Lei. Each table was different. The chairs were different as were the lighting fixtures over each table. It was as though we were dining at tables staged for selling. (OK. As I was writing that I realized it was probably the idea for the restaurant…a little slow on the uptake here.) It also just struck me that while the restaurant was uber-modern…I ordered meatloaf! Seems “oxymoronic!” (Is that even a word?) Like Carla, Lei had gifts for us, including small cacti in porcelain bowls and blinged-out “Happy Pills” pill containers. What Lei said that night changed my attitude about turning 50. Not only was she celebrating her 50th, but she was also celebrating the fact that she made it to 50. You see, Lei is a cancer survivor. (She had worn a wig when she was one of my bridesmaids more than 20 years ago.)

The pressure was on. Jeri’s birthday was coming up in August and we had to celebrate it! Her birthday dinner was comfortable and casual, just like her. She invited just the three of us…no husband, no kids…to dinner at Assagio Bistro in Kahala. It serves really good Italian food in a nice setting, where you can choose to dress up or not. Pasta…bread…seafood…bread…wine…and more bread. Can you tell? I really liked the bread! I’m sure we had dessert. We always do. I just can’t remember what it was. Like Carla and Lei, Jeri gave each of us a gift…Godiva chocolates! One of her favorite things.

September rolled around and now it was my turn. I wanted to go somewhere nice, but not too fancy. I didn’t want to hassle with traffic or parking. So I invited my girlfriends to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Bistro, in Niu Valley. Again, it was just the four of us. I had half-heartedly invited Brad and Ethan realizing they wouldn’t want to join the girls. (Do you remember this place? That’s where we had dinner the last time you and your family were visiting. Remember how it was elegant, yet casual…with the waiters wearing jeans and white shirts?) I don’t remember what I ate other than induging in the foie gras…as I had when we dined there. I do know whatever I ate was delicious…it always is. The waiters served us complimentary birthday creme brulee and sang “Happy Birthday” to me. My gifts to my friends was a box of chocolate dipped strawberries and apples. Yummmmm…

In early December, I thought it was too bad Lesly wasn’t here to celebrate her birthday. She lives in Sacramento. Then I decided that we could celebrate for her. So we did! It was pretty last minute so it was just three of us…Jeri, Lei and me. Carla wasn’t able to join us. We told Lesly what we were doing and that we would call her. Since she was going to be at a function with her husband that night, we text her and sent pics instead. We raised our wine glasses, toasting Lesly’s 50th at Roy’s in Hawaii Kai. I remember I had fish (sea bass?) As much as I wanted to savor every morsel I had difficulty eating it because of my swollen tongue. Ethan got most of it in a “doggy bag.” I did manage dessert, however! We ordered not one, but two, melting, dark chocolate souffles with vanilla ice cream. One would not have sufficed for the three of us. Our waitress was great. She had the pastry chef write “Happy Birthday, Lesly” in chocolate on the plate. There was even a party hat on the table. Can’t remember who brought it along. (Was it there? Or did Jeri bring it?) Anyway, we took pictures of everything and texted our best wishes to Lesly all the way in Sacramento.

…good friends are like family…pat, carla, jeri, lei, lesly…

This piece is kinda long and personal…meaning no one else will really care…so I don’t know if you’ll blog about it. I wrote it because I don’t want to forget what happened. I’m sending it to you since you are the “keeper of my musings.” I also sent it to my girlfriends because it’s about them. I’ve known them all since either the 4th or 6th grade. These are the friends I include in updates I send to the family…because that’s what they are to me.

…ohana…the aloha spirit in action.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

journeying towards her best life…#2

Pat’s story, as told to hugmamma…

In the beginning I remained silent. Not knowing meant not saying anything…to anyone. Perhaps not even to myself.

About a year ago I had carpal tunnel surgery in my right wrist. I wondered why it was I’d gotten carpal tunnel in the first place since I wasn’t its typical candidate. I didn’t craft, and I wasn’t on the computer 24/7. Imagine my surprise when I was told I might need the same surgery on my left wrist.

Strange. Very strange.

Right on the heels of this phenomenon, another occurred. Even weirder.

My tongue swelled…like a balloon fish. One minute it’s flat, the next minute it’s all pouffy.

Not one to panic, I figured I would soon be my old self again. Although when eating became a hazard, I decided it was either me or my tongue. No way I was going to give up eating for the rest of my life. So I sought professional advice.

Figuring anything to do with my mouth involved my teeth, I went to the dentist. He found nothing wrong so I left and went merrily on my way.

Not so merry though, when I couldn’t eat all the usual “ono” food. (Hawaiian for ooh-la-la delicious!!!)

A good friend and co-worker, someone whose friendship I’ll treasure for life, shares my love of food and laughter. 

Mel would bring a cupcake or a brownie which we would split. Not just the common, everyday kind, but the ones that had us drooling because they were so cleverly decorated and scrumptiously flavorful…and terribly sinful. We agreed it was okay though since halving them meant we were each only eating half the calories. Made sense to us.

Now, those days of carefree eating are gone. Replaced by smoothies Mel concocts from fruits and veggies that are brimming with all kinds of good-for-me nutrients.

Because my tongue is swollen my teeth are not aligned. This, in turn, has negatively impacted my ability to chew food. The upside is yyyeeeaaayyy!!!…I’ve lost 20 pounds. The downside? I could eat an entire roasted pig in one sitting! Gumming it if I have to. In fact, if I’m desperate I’ll gum all the flavor out of a favorite food and spit out the remnants. Not very lady-like. But hey! I’m making the most of a bad situation.

One day Mel asked if I wanted to share…a brownie?…a cookie?…chips?…popcorn?…chocolate? Sadly, I declined each and every tempting offer. Her reaction was hilarious, and caught me totally off-guard.  

“I miss Fat Pat. Bring back Fatty Patty!” 

My eyes glistened with tears of happiness. I could laugh in spite of all that lay ahead. 

I’m blest to be supported and comforted by an extended, loving “ohana”…a community of family and good friends. And the Hawaiian music playing in the background reminds me that I’m indeed lucky to be living where the sun shines and the sea is blue and the feeling of Aloha still warms my spirit.

Until next time…Pat.

 

 

365 photo challenge: culture

Although I’ve not lived in the islands since 1977, my heart will always be Hawaiian-bred. The spirit of Aloha with which I was raised is forever ingrained in my moral fiber. My penchant for compassion, hope, and sending forth positive energy in an ever-increasing environment of me-ism and profit above all else, are owing to my Hawaiian roots where harmony within ourselves and with others is always something for which we must strive.

….and so i celebrate…………………………..ohana (family)………………………………

…the best example………….of my hawaiian culture………………….hugmamma.

“shaka, bra…”

Sunset from Ka'annapali, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

That’s Hawaiian speak for “it’s easy,” “no worries,” “right on.” At least that’s what I’ve thought it to mean when I lived and played in the islands, decades ago. I’m sure over time it’s come to mean more things to more people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following email from kamaainas (non-locals who become locals by virtue of moving to Hawaii or owning property there). I don’t know them personally, but feel I do through their intermittent communication. Hope you enjoy this mini “pigeon-english” lesson. Never know, it might come in handy on a future visit to my native island paradise.

Aloha!
The “shaka” sign has meant many things over the years and is a definite part of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit that is always present in Hawai’i. Today, it can mean many things, including “Howzit?” (How’s it going?), “No worries!”, “Thanks!” and much more. It is by far the most well-known and used gesture by Hawai’i locals and islanders, men, women, and keiki (children) alike. It’s used as a gesture of friendship, to greet, and to say goodbye. It’s how local people wave at others. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the “shaka” sign is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. “Shaka” represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is all right.

Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

The “shaka” sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawai’i. A guest expressed it this way: “We remember when we got our first “shaka” in Hawai’i. We were enjoying the drive on the road to Hana. We looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck following behind us. We assumed the folks in the truck were local residents and weren’t on a sightseeing mission as we were, so at our first opportunity, we pulled over to let the truck pass by us. As the truck passed, the passenger gave us a ‘shaka’.” (By the way, local residents will always appreciate your pulling over to allow them to pass if you are driving slowly.)

Edited photo of

Image via Wikipedia

To make a “shaka,” extend your thumb and pinkie while curling in the index and middle fingers. You can rotate your wrist too.

The “shaka” is a simple, yet powerful, way to remind locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other on the Islands, and strive to spread aloha day in, and day out, in keeping with the Hawaiian principle of “malama i kekahi i kekahi,”…”take care of one, take care of all.”

If you’re new to the islands, don’t be shy about throwing up “shakas.” Just make sure you’ve got the hand gesture down first!

road to hana

A hui hou…
Anne & Wes

 
 

 

 

siblings

Most of us are born into families with other children. Siblings are a complicated group. They needn’t be, but most often they are. Finding our niches within the hierarchical order is tricky business. There is usually a pecking order. And it normally runs oldest to youngest, with the latter having no one to peck on, so to speak.

Perceptions of life are affected by our own lives, so they’re necessarily skewed by what our brain interprets of the goings on around us. Obviously these interpretations are our truths, not necessarily lining up with those of others. This isn’t to say they’re not valid, for to us they are.

One of the truisms in life, I think, is that we should listen, really listen, to what someone is saying. We tend to hear what we want to hear. I wonder why that is? It’s almost as though we’re only using one ear. This is definitely the case in most marriages, mine included. But I guess when 2 strangers get together, there’s a lot to sort out, and for marriages to survive there needs to be give-and-take, a lot of it.

Give-and-take among siblings is another matter. When they live under the same roof it’s probably essential, to minimize the bloodshed. But when they’ve left the roost to find their own way in the world, coming together again can be, as I said, tricky.

I’m 61 and the youngest of 9. It’s not easy to throw off the mantel of “kid sister.” I don’t often see my siblings, so the issue rarely comes up. Nonetheless, it’s not an easy position to occupy, especially when I’ve successfully led my life outside the hierarchy. I’ve never been able to say to any of my siblings “I think you should do this.” Not that I would want to do so. I think they’re all just fine as they are. Just as I couldn’t tell a stranger how to live her life, I couldn’t do so with family. I could only offer advice and support, if asked.

I have great admiration for my husband and his siblings, always have. I’ve known them for nearly 41 years, having interacted with them  much more when he and I were dating. The last 30 years or so we’ve lived on the mainland, away from the rest of them. There was obviously a hierarchy among the 12 siblings, but it wasn’t overtly apparent to me. The camaraderie among them was palpable, still is. The banter back and forth among sisters and brothers is light, fun, loving. There’s no heavy talk about setting and achieving goals, working at better jobs, pressure to attend college. Not that these aren’t important. But I think my husband and his siblings set examples for one another. They led the way, they didn’t point in the direction and say “Go do it.” They just did it.

The pattern of showing by example has filtered down to all our nieces and nephews. Many have graduated from colleges on the mainland, and some have traveled outside the country, even as far away as Australia, one nephew living in Mongolia as a Mormon missionary for a couple of years. There is excitement within the family whenever we gather, catching up with one another, getting better acquainted with newborns, or children who’ve grown up in our absence. No matter the lives they lead, there is equality among my husband and his siblings, and their children and their cousins. And it’s for certain, they’ve all “got each other’s backs,” that’s OHANA, Hawaiian for family.

My mother-and-father-inlaw, and their marriage of 40 + years before he died, are to be credited for their successful, love-by-example raising of 12 children. A legacy they have surely left to all who come after. I’m very fortunate to have found love and comfort under the shelter of my in-laws welcoming “umbrella” these many years.

for everyone coming in out of the “rain”…hugs…hugmamma.  

hugging is “aloha”

You know how I can tell that President Obama is Hawaiian? He hugs, a lot.

And by osmosis, Michelle’s Hawaiian too. She hugs as much as her husband, but hangs onto the recipient a bit longer.

I’ve noticed this before, but while watching one newscast of the Tucson memorial for victims of the recent shooting, I carefully observed Obama and his wife as they made their way through the throngs of well-wishers. Their hugs were infused with the “aloha” of the islands.

Growing up Hawaiian, hugging a person as a welcoming gesture, or a parting one, was like drawing breath. Moving forward into someone’s space is akin to bringing him or her into mine. The sensation of bodies touching in “aloha” is pleasant, heart-warming. My guard is down, my mind is open. I want to share the best of me, my “better angels,” as coined by Lincoln in his first inaugural address in 1861. I wish I could rattle off a Hawaiian phrase that would capture the essence of what I mean. Could it be “hoomalemale?” I’m not sure. My mom would have uttered a paragraph of native speak by now. I’ll have to google my ancestral tongue. Come to think of it, I’ve a Hawaiian dictionary somewhere in my house. I’ll post a blog in Hawaiian when I find the book. (Just don’t hold your breath.)

Perhaps because my mom was a native Hawaiian, full-blooded, she came by hugging naturally. And because of her, so did I. Unless I feel a strong vibe from someone, I automatically pull them into a huge hug. Friend or stranger, peon or dignitary, working stiff or corporate CEO, my hugs are the same. I connect on the most basic of human levels, one person reaching out to touch another’s soul in compassion. If I was asked what I liked best about myself, my propensity to hug, everyone, would be my answer.

Until my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack more than two decades ago, my husband and his family weren’t publicly affectionate. They’ve always been the model of Christian generosity, sharing their home with everyone, making all feel like “ohana,” family. But huggers, not so much. All that seemed to change after my father-in-law was stricken. Not only were hugs given more freely, but saying “I love you” to one another before hanging up the phone has become commonplace. That’s always their reply to me, when I tell them “I love you.”

I’ve even taken to telling friends “I love you.” I think it’s taken them aback. Not all reply in kind. No matter, if I feel like saying it, I say it. I understand that there are differences in culture, and in upbringing. My Brit friend, Sylvia, however, always tells me “I love you” back. I think that’s because she thinks of me like a daughter. Something she once told me. So I make sure I tell her that I love her, like a daughter. One can never have too many mothers, or daughters.

My husband’s definitely grown in displays of affection over the 40 years we’ve been married. He’s had no choice. I’m a relentless hugger, and “masher.” That’s another thing my mom taught me, how to “mash.” She’d smother me with hugs and kisses before I was even awake to appreciate them. At the time, I found her “mashing” a nuisance. I’m sure that’s what my husband and daughter felt at the beginning. Now, they’re resigned to it. But as I’ve aged, I’ve cooled it some. I think good “mashing” requires energy, the kind I still had through the early part of my 50s. Now, I just hug a lot. And I’m so blessed that my daughter’s a big hugger too! That’s my legacy to her, and to future generations of our family.

Maybe we should become a nation of huggers. It’s impossible to hate someone you hug. Hugging slips the switch from distrust, to possibility. Hugging opens you up to listening. Hugging is positive, not negative, energy. Hugging welcomes you like “ohana.” And in God’s eyes, aren’t we all family? We should be, let’s all hug…

sending huge hugs to all of you, my global “ohana”…hugmamma.