a role model?…more than

Most of you know of my dear friend Sylvia. From time to time she visits me on the internet, sharing some juicy tidbit sent by her UK network of friends and family. I first wrote of her in my post, “role models, aging gracefully,” dated 8-24-10.

My friend who’s 70ish is admirable not only because she’s such a fashion-plate, which she is, but also because she is laden with health issues that would bring a younger, stronger woman, like me, to my knees. I’m a wuss by comparison. Like an older sister, sometimes a mom, my girlfriend was a smoker for many years, but was finally able to kick the habit. Whether as a result of smoking or having had it beforehand, she continues to suffer with emphysema which is compounded by asthma. Weighing under 100 pounds she’s a lightweight, but she can be as “tough as nails” when debating her opinion. I’ve never tested her, and am not about to try. I’d rather have her in my corner. When a coughing fit overtakes her, she can easily bruise some ribs. As a last resort her doctor prescribes prednisone which eliminates the cough, but leaves my friend with side effects that linger. She has bouts of diverticulitis which has her curled up in great pain. Throughout our 13 years of friendship, she’s been poked, probed, xrayed, cat-scanned, MRI’d more than anyonelse I know. With the help of a physician who’s cared for her, REALLY CARED, my amazing friend always seems “as fit as a fiddle.” I forget her medical history until another episode occurs, and it always does.

I think I dress rather smartly, but when I’m out with my friend and her husband I know she’s outdone me. Not that I mind, for I am simply in awe of  her sense of style, wearing skirts and dresses that I never would, simply because they wouldn’t look as well on me. They’re not my “cup of tea,” but they suit my girlfriend to a tee. And the jewelry, she can wear several gold bangles, rings on several fingers, including on her toes, and of course, earrings. Stunning is the only word to describe her. Whether she’s lounging at home or stepping out, in my estimation, she’s always “dressed to the nines.”

You can continue to read more wonderful things about Sylvia, for there’s definitely more good things to be said about her, by going to the original post mentioned above. I just wanted to give you an inkling of who she is, before you read further. And you’ll want to read further, I guarantee you. Enjoy this little “gem” from Sylvia…

NO CHEATING!!!

I was really surprised to find out who my role was.

DON’T scroll down until you do the SIMPLE math below. It’s crazy how accurate this is!

NO PEEKING!

1) Pick your favorite number between 1-9
2) Multiply by 3, then
3) Add 3
4) Then again multiply by 3 (Go get the calculator…). You’ll get a 2 or 3 digit number
5) Add the digits together

Now scroll down…

With the last number, see who YOUR ROLE MODEL is from the following list:

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...

Image via Wikipedia

1)  Bill Clinton
2)  Oprah Winfrey
3)  Jessica Simpson
4)  Sarah Palin
5)  Laura Bush
6)  Hilary Clinton
7)  Ronald Reagan
8)  Ron De Roma
9)  my friend Sylvia
10) Barbara Walters

 

I know. I know. I just have that effect on people. One day, you too can be like me.

P.S. Stop picking different numbers! I AM YOUR ROLE MODEL! Deal with it!!!

now she’s your role model too…gotta love sylvia…i do…hugmamma.

“it’s a job,” oprah

Just finished reading Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley, an oversized tome, befitting a mega-watt personality. I wasn’t inclined to read it when it first appeared in bookstores. It was too pricey at $30, and what more could I learn about the woman whose presence is literally everywhere. I know her better than the Pope, and I’ve been a Catholic for 61 years. But browsing the biography section of my favorite “Half-Price Books,” I spied Kelley’s book for less than half its original price. That sold me. And I’m very glad I bought it. I think I can now “close the book” on what I think about the reigning queen of day time talk shows.

Throughout Kelley’s book I vacillated between throwing myself solidly in Oprah’s camp or remaining at arm’s length, a stance I’ve maintained for years. I can safely say that after reading her biography, Oprah is just living up to the job description she’s written for herself, and continues to rewrite every day. Suffice it to say, there’s no other like it, in the whole wide world. And with her lofty career comes a lot of stuff that lesser humans like me, couldn’t begin to fathom, not in a billion lifetimes. 

Kelley has unearthed 495 pages worth of facts, good and bad, about Oprah. At first these seemed to offset one another, leaving me in limbo as to how I felt about her. Oprah is better than the Great Oz, for she has been adept at keeping her true identity secure, despite having openly lived in front of the cameras these last 25 years. How does she do it? With Herculean strength I would offer. 

“Will the real Oprah Winfrey please stand up!” Remember the TV show What’s My Line? Even for a kid like me back in the days of black and white television, I was always fascinated by the give and take between the mystery person and the celebrity panel doing the questioning. As good as they were, their questioning did not always render successful endings. That’s how I felt about Kelley’s trying to discern the “real” woman behind the woman, Oprah.

Reading between the lines, I think Kitty Kelley feels Oprah presents herself as magnanimous, when in fact, she is not.

Oprah became so accustomed to rapturous audiences that she reacted negatively if she saw someone not standing to applaud her. “One time she spotted a young black man who just sat there,” said the publishing executive. “She began heckling him. ‘I see someone here who is very brave.’ She began shuckin’ and jivin’: ‘Oh no. I don’t have to stand up and cheer for Oprah. No, sir. Not me. I’m the man. I won’t bow to Oprah.’ She did her whole ghetto shtick. It was ugly, very ugly for about four or five minutes while the poor guy just sat there as she mocked him. She wouldn’t let up….She was pissed that he was not giving her the adoring routine that the rest of the audience was….Turned out the young man was mentally challenged and severely disabled.”

On September 13, 2004, Oprah proclaimed the year her best, except for the year she started her talk show. The reason for her elation was that “she opened the season by giving away 276 brand-new Pontiac G6s, worth more than $28,000 apiece, for a collective total of $7.8 million.” Unfortunately the recipients, “Teachers and ministers and nurses and caregivers who had been walking to work for years or taking buses and having to transfer three times…,” were ill-prepared to pay $7,000 in taxes for the prizes, as the cars were deemed. In answer to their request for assistance from Oprah, her publicist “said they had three options: They could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profit, or forfeit the car. There was no other option from Oprah, and Pontiac already had donated the cars and paid the sales tax and licensing fees.”

Author Kelley highlights a particular show where Oprah “was barely civil to Hazel Bryan Massery, who as a young white student had yelled at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated Central high School in 1957 after President Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas. ” Probably unbeknownst to the public, including me, Massery had apologized to Eckford “for her hateful rants,” the two becoming very close friends. When they were invited to appear on Oprah’s show, the talk show host was “highly skeptical of their friendship and would not accept that Hazel’s remorse had led to reconciliation.”

“They are friends,” Oprah told her audience in disbelief. “They…are…friends,” she repeated with obvious distaste. She then showed a massive blowup of the photograph taken that historic day, showing Elizabeth, silent and dignified, carrying her books into school as a crowd of screaming white students taunted her, the most menacing being Hazel. Oprah was icy as she asked Eckford why that photo still upset her so many years later.

“She (Oprah) was as cold as she could be, ” Eckford told David Margolick of  Vanity Fair.  “She went out of her way to be hateful.”

Margolick, who spent time with Eckford and Massery to write their story, added, “Characteristically, though, Elizabeth felt sorrier for Hazel. She was treated even more brusquely (by Oprah).

Oprah has openly spoken about being sexually abused as a youngster, beginning with her experience at 9 years old with a 19-year-old cousin by marriage. According to Kelley,

Oprah appeared to be so open with revelations about her intimacies on television that no one suspected she might be hiding secrets. Like comedians who cover their darkness with humor, she had learned to joke away her pain, and keep what hurt the most stuffed deep inside. She knew how to give just enough information to be amusing and to deflect further inquiry, which is one reason she insisted on taking control of her own public relations when her show went national. While she looked like she was telling the world everything about herself, she was actually keeping locked within more than she would share on television. She felt she needed to present herself as open, warm, and cozy on the air, and conceal the part of her that was cold, closed, and calculating. She was afraid she wouldn’t be liked if people saw a more complex dimension to the winning persona she chose to present. “Pleasing people is what I do,” she said. “I need to be liked…even by people I dislike.”

While Oprah has bestowed a good life upon her mom, Vernita Lee, buying her “a fur coat, a new car, a new house, no bills,” doubling her salary in retirement, and even gifting her with $100,000 one Mother’s Day, ” Oprah “really didn’t like her mother at all.”

…she was still bitter toward Vernita for “giving me away,” and she ricocheted from resentment to gratitude over those motherless years. She understood that the lack of her mother’s unconditional love drove her to develop skills to get praise from others, but she also saw that she tried to fill her motherless hole with food as a substitute for love and comfort and security. It would be many years before she reckoned with the depth of her psychological damage. …

Oprah goes on to say:

I don’t feel I owe anybody anything but my mother feels I do….She says, ‘There are dues to pay.’ I barely knew her (when I was little)….That’s why it’s so hard now. My mother wants this whole wonderful relationship. She has another daughter and a son. And everyone now wants this close family relationship….They want to pretend as though our past did not happen.”

Because she feels far removed from her birth family, several close friends are Oprah’s family of choice. Among them are poet and author Maya Angelou, of whom Oprah has said she ” ‘…was my mother in another life…I love her deeply. Something is there between us. So fallopian tubes and ovaries do not a mother make.’…Oprah carried Maya’s monthly itinerary in her purse at all times so she could reach her morning, noon, and night.”

“Once Oprah met Sidney Poitier, she bound him to her like a kind and loving father. ‘I call Sidney every Sunday and…we talk about life, we talk about reincarnation, we talk about the cosmos, we talk about the stars, we talk about the planets, we talk about energy. We talk about everything.’ “

Quincy Jones is a beloved uncle, in Oprah’s mind. ” ‘I truly learned how to love as a result of this man…I unconditionally love him and…I would slap the living shit out of somebody who said anything bad about Quincy.’ ” And Gayle King was the adoring sister, and John Travolta the brother, whom Oprah didn’t realize in her own kin, her siblings by birth.

” ‘…My friends are my family.’ Oprah frequently mentioned on her show how disgusted she was with all the beggars in her life. ‘I’m hearing from so many people now who want me to give them money, or lend them money. I say, “I’ll give you the shirt off my back, as long as you don’t ask for it.” ‘ “

We’ve all got “baggage” that we cart around throughout our lives. When and how we acquired it, with how much we’re saddled, and how we deal with our lives because of it, are questions only we can answer for ourselves. I’ve set my course in life based upon my own personal deprivations and disappointments, as well as my accomplishments and joys. I think laying expectations upon one another has the potential of backfiring. If people don’t measure up, our perceptions of them are muddied. But worse, I think we are hurt because of our emotional investment.

I’ve not felt inclined to invest in Oprah, because I was too busy investing in myself. I tend not to follow other’s advice, unless I can own it for myself. It amazes me that someone, like Oprah, can convince legions of people to hang upon her every word. But she has a gift, she’s even said so. What more telling event than her influence to get Obama crowned President.

With tears streaming down her face she rejoiced, standing on the right side of history and knowing that she just may have had a role in shaping it.

“My job was to make people, or allow people, to be introduced to Obama who might not have been at the time,” she said. “I wanted him elected, and I think I did that.”

I’ve decided that Oprah is doing a job for which she is well suited. She has positioned herself as Chairman of the Board/CEO and President of all she surveys. She’s paid her dues, and continues to do so. I say let her do with her life what she will. I had nothing to do with its creation; I have nothing to say about its evolution. She will answer to her Maker, as we all must. It’s between the 2 of them, and perhaps all those who have placed Oprah upon a pedestal. After all, they have a great deal to do with the billionaire she has become.

until you walk in someone’s shoes…hugmamma.

“free at last, free at last,…we are free at last!!!”

Another place, another time, Martin Luther King proclaimed the freedom of African-Americans from slavery’s lynch-hold.

Today Egyptians have realized the decimation of Hosnei Mubarack’s stranglehold on their lives. But while King and his followers protested nonviolently with as much support as they could muster, the cause to free the Egyptian people from their leader’s tyranny was embraced by millions via the internet. 

Thirty-eight-year-old Wael Ghonim, marketing director for technology giant Google, spearheaded the campaign to free his countrymen from 30 years of suppression and hopelessness. No longer able to distance himself from their plight, Ghonim felt compelled to help, even risking his own security and comfort, and that of his wife and kids. Instant viewing of global images on YouTube these days seems to uphold the truism, that there’s “safety in numbers.” So perhaps Ghonim knew that the rewards reaped would far outweigh the risk in which he was willing to engage. 

“A digital revolution,” as one news pundit explained of Mubarak’s removal by his people. The internet has leveled the playing field, allowing the “Davids” of the world to successfully take aim and bring down the “Goliaths.” My earlier post “give up the internet?” published on 2/7/11, pondered the inevitable loss of a simpler life, when technology came to dominate.  

These last 18 days have shown the internet to be a weapon in the hands of the masses. Egypt‘s next generation, fed up with a government they didn’t countenance, and armed with useless college degrees, expressed their contempt for the status quo. They voiced their vehemence on Facebook, the online social networking system. From this global vantage point a phenomenal movement grew. As a result, President Mubarak is history.

“Aided and abetted” by technology, Oprah Winfrey, a black woman, garnered unimaginable power from the masses who identified with her. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Tea Party Movement born out of the disenchantment of Americans for their government, has the power to make and break political careers. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Egyptians gathered millions together in protest, making their collective voice heard and their will known, successfully bringing down the enemy. 

I’ve always felt that the “have nots” live with faces pressed against the glass, envying the lives of the “haves.” If those who “have” don’t freely share of their material wealth, then the “have nots” will wrestle away whatever they can. Deserving or not, it doesn’t matter. All “have nots” probably feel it’s their moral right to live in equality with their fellow “haves.”

who could argue… with the “have nots” in egypt…hugmamma.

10,001, and counting!!!

You’ve done it!!! Just the beginning of February, and you’ve registered over 10,000 viewings, better known as “hits.” And I’m 54 posts away from my goal of 365. So I’ll keep churning them out, hoping you’ll keep riding my catamaran…off into the tropical sunset. Wish I could take you all on a cruise to Hawaii. Maybe in the next life when I return as Maui’s answer to Oprah Winfrey. Never can tell. Anway I can fantasize, I’m great at that!

You can track the number of posts I’ve written, and the “hits” to my blog. Both figures are given in the sidebar, along the right side of my postings. The “hits” are further down, above the “comments” list.

congrats to you…and heartfelt thanks too!…hugmamma.

a hand-up, our military defenders and their loved ones

  

 

Armed services personnel and their families were the focus of today’s Oprah. Guests included 2 servicemen, one wounded in war, and their families, a mother whose soldier son was killed in action, retired TV anchor Tom Brokaw, renowned journalist Bob Woodward, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Brokaw brokered the deal with Oprah to produce the show. He asked that recognition be shown those, a meager one percent of the American population, upon whom the rest of us depend for protection. Those who appeared with Brokaw agreed that the men and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those continuing to do so, along with their loved ones who remain behind managing their lives as best they can, MUST register more substantively within the American psyche. They cannot be dismissed as statistics on the news, or given a pat on the back in the airport and forgotten.

Oprah admitted that she too was ignorant about the extent to which the current wars have impacted those serving, and their families. Until yesterday she, and very likely most of her viewing audience, in studio and at home, couldn’t put faces to those defending our freedom. In fact, Oprah indicated that she knew no one serving in the military. Nonetheless that doesn’t excuse us from reaching out to those who put themselves in harm’s way for our sakes, and their families who are without their loved ones, struggling to make ends meet, or feeling alone and isolated.

It’s obvious from what I’ve witnessed firsthand as well as on TV, that military households maintain the same attitude as those who serve. Wives and children “keep a stiff upper lip,
 and keep on going. Many of them, unaware as to when their family member might be returning home. And probably most of them dreading the possibility that person may not make it back to them. How they wrap their minds around the ever present “what if” that must occupy the furthest corners of their minds, I don’t know.

One of my nieces, Danielle, is a military wife caring for several young children, 4 or 5 of them, if my memory serves me correctly. Her husband is a career soldier, having seen 3 tours, beginning in Iraq and ending in Afghanistan. Loretto evidently demonstrated great leadership skills for he is now teaching at West Point Military Academy in upstate New York. From what I know, he has willingly gone to war, while my niece has handled life at home. But not only has she done fine, she seems to have thrived.

Leaving Hawaii and an extended close knit family to live on the mainland, didn’t seem to upset Danielle. In fact she loved the independence she acquired. Raising her children without the safety net of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, did not deter her from creating a community among new friends. She shared babysitting services with others, gathered with them socially over home-cooked meals and outdoor barbecues. When the family returned to Hawaii for a few years, Danielle got her nursing degree. Upon moving yet again for her husband’s West Point appointment, she found work as a pediatric nurse while her children are in school. God bless my niece’s stamina for tackling the unknown with a young brood, and her obvious resilience in making a home for all of them, regardless where that might be. I would wish the same for all wives and moms, military and non-military alike.

Having raised our awareness of the plight of military families, Mrs. Obama recommends that Americans can reach out to them in big and small ways. Educators can seek out and offer support to those students who have parents serving. Health practitioners can offer affordable care to returning vets in need of counseling, or physical healing. My chiropractor, for example, displays a notice in her window inviting vets in for a free session. How cool is that?! Neighbors can help military moms by giving them a break from children, meal preparation, or an invitation to coffee and an opportunity to vent. When Danielle happened to be living in the same city where I lived with my daughter while she was training for her ballet career, we prepared a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. Memories of that day remain vividly etched in our minds and hearts. It was a loving, family celebration.

In a post from 12/6/10, “good samaritan #8” Michael Reagan has found a way to “give back.”

The website, www.fallenheroesproject.org puts those wishing to “bring a loved one home,” in touch with the artist. It also allows those touched by Michael Reagan’s humanitarian service, to make donations toward his singular effort. Besides donating his labor, Reagan also makes a gift of the materials. I’m certain he’s  also included the silent tears he’s shed, as a bonus.

In trying to do my small part in the effort to reach out, I would like to offer words of solace to those in need of comfort. I understand that I might have a gift for writing, so if you know of anyone suffering emotional scars as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, or their family members, I would welcome the opportunity to email brief notes that might provide respite from their pain.

we can all do something…however small…hugmamma. 

 

a child’s “truth,” a lesson for all

It’s unusual that I write back-to-back posts about Oprah segments. But I’ll venture away from the norm because today’s show spoke of her relentless efforts to educate her viewers, numbering in the millions, to the gay and lesbian dilemma. If I remember correctly, Oprah has dedicated more than 100 segments of her talk show to the cause. Her goal has been to encourage gays and lesbians to own their truth, reveal themselves and live their best lives.

Among many who have spoken their truth about homosexuality, sitting alongside Oprah on her show, were Olympic gold medalist diver Greg Louganis,

Latin singer Ricky Martin,

and more recently country singer Chely Wright. Today’s segment also spotlighted viewers who had “come out” in their own lives to family and friends, as a result of seeing celebrities do so on Oprah’s talk show. Perhaps the most unusual guest was an Indian prince who’d announced his homosexuality to the world, including his parents, several years ago as a guest on the show. He returned today to say that Oprah’s public support, especially in view of her own heterosexuality, did much to loosen the once hostile attitude toward him and others like him.

A gay daughter and her mom made the greatest impression upon me. They had visited the show before, when the daughter’s rebelliousness and the mom’s refusal to accept the truth were obstacles in their relationship, going forward. After that show’s conclusion, Oprah introduced the two to her chief of staff, Libby, a lesbian. She spent 2 hours explaining her own experience. Hearing of the woman’s struggles to accept her truth, the support of her family when she revealed her homosexuality, and the tremendous strides she made in her own life since, convinced the girl’s mom to finally learn to let her own daughter be who she is. That was a “lightbulb” moment for me!

I realized that whomever my daughter decides is her soul mate will be her choice. Even as a heterosexual, she will know who makes her happy and who fulfills her life. Parents of straight children are also guilty of thinking we know best. We forget that we’re thinking what’s best in our estimation, not theirs. It’s not easy relinquishing control over the course of our children’s lives, but we’re not exempt from dying, so we’d better let them get on with living, now.

a lesson learned, hugs for…hugmamma.

oprah’s half-sister, patricia

Now that Oprah’s leaving her talk show after 25 years, I’ve become more of a regular viewer than in all the years past. Never a fan of shows that sensationalize the problems of others, I pretty much stayed away from all day time talk shows. Oprah has definitely evolved from her early days as TV talk host, making her show more varied, with professional as well as amateur, singers and dancers gracing the stage from time to time. Again, however, I was still selective. Too, I wasn’t one to sit in front of the flat screen panel for hours on end.

Now that Oprah is nearing the end of her run on NBC, I’ve managed to catch some of her shows, especially since I’ve finally registered that it’s always on at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. One of my favorite segments to date, after Oprah’s interviews with Lisa Marie Presley and Katherine Jackson, was yesterday’s when it was revealed that the talk show hostess has a half-sister.

What moved me, yes to tears, was the obvious connection between siblings who have only recently found one another. Patricia, the younger of the 2, was given up for adoption in the hospital, immediately after birth. Her life thereafter was spent in and out of many foster homes, some good, some bad. Many years later she decided to search for her birth mother. When she contacted the Milwaukee Social Services Department she learned she had siblings. She saw their names and birth dates on records sent to her by the department, but her mother’s name was withheld.

While watching Oprah’s show one day, Patricia saw Oprah’s mom who revealed details about her other children. Patricia called her own daughter to join in watching the program. It became clear to both, that Oprah’s siblings were, in fact, Patricia’s as well, according to her birth documents.

Since that time in 2007, Patricia tried to make contact with Oprah, without success. Even Patricia’s pastor communicated with Oprah’s pastor to no avail. When Oprah learned that something was afoot, she confronted the executive producer of her show who confirmed that she might indeed have a sibling of whom Oprah wasn’t aware.

Yesterday’s show included a home video of this past Thanksgiving Day when Oprah met Patricia for the first time in her humble home, over dinner. Both looked joyful beyond words to have found one another. And in closing her show, Oprah expressed her gratitude to her half-sister for not having sold her story to the media long before now. That, Oprah felt, was a sign of Patricia’s true character. And what did she get from all this, Oprah asked Patricia? “Family! I got family, nieces and nephews…and you, Oprah.” In that moment, I felt, and Oprah probably did as well, that Patricia had given her sister the greatest gift anyone could ever give billionaire Oprah Winfrey: pure, unadulterated love. As a bonus, Patricia gave her 2 grown children, family, which they hadn’t had before.

Oprah has everything money can buy, and some. It warms my heart to see her in the company of simple people, like us. Celebrities are fine, but they’re not like us. So when Oprah is in their company, she seems unavailable to “normal” folk. While she certainly enjoys the friendship of the elite, she seems to relish time with those from whom she came. Oprah’s roots run deep. Every so often, her roots are “uncovered.” That’s the Oprah Winfrey I enjoy seeing.

hugs for patricia, who never gave up on herself, and Oprah…hugmamma.

reality vs. freedom and hope, dr. william petit

How does one wrap one’s brain around the horrific murder of a mom and two, untainted, beautiful, young daughters, one 17 and the other 11? Where do you begin to unravel the tightly wound “spool” that commingled the thread of 6 lives? How did they become entwined? Was it perchance, or was it fate? Where was God when this crime against humanity, against Him, occurred?

Apart from hearing of the Petit murders sensationally broadcast all over TV when they happened in 2007, I didn’t care to delve deeper into the crimes. Certain acts, like these, register too close to home to want to acknowledge them head on. It’s easier to turn away, so that your brain doesn’t absorb all the evil details, so that your imagination doesn’t prohibit you from living without fear.

 The Petit family may have lived a privileged life by virtue of Bill’s being a physician. Maybe that sealed their fate that day. But when one of the co-conspirators, Joshua Komisarjevsky, randomly selected Jennifer Petit and her daughter Michaela in a local supermarket as possible victims, he didn’t know that they were of above average means. Not until he and his partner, Steven Hayes, were well on their way to committing the heinous crime, did they establish how much money, $15,000, they could abscond. So the Petits were stand-ins for any number of American families. The configuration of victims and dollar amount might have differed, but the crime would have played out somewhere, according to the whims of the 2 men who decided to play God.

Dr. William Petit spoke with Oprah, allowing us insight into a victim’s agonizing recovery. Looking at him, only a “shell” remained. He has reconciled himself to living, deciding that suicide would remove any possibility that he could rejoin his loved ones in the after-life. Slumped on the formal sofa, eyes squinting from behind eye glasses, Bill’s voice barely resonated. Oprah seemed to infuse life into him with her gentle probing. Perhaps the interview was cathartic to the doctor’s healing process. It’s obvious he’s in need of a spiritual transfusion.

Having lost his family and his home, which the criminals burned to destroy the evidence, Petit has lost the essence of his identity. He was Jennifer’s husband, and father to Hayley and Michaela. Without them, it’s difficult to heed well-meaning advice from those who tell him to “live in the moment.” His past gone, and his dreams of the future destroyed, he feels disconnected from the present. Upon leaving the cemetery with his sister one day, he asked her “Who am I? Whose clothes are these?” No longer the same person, Bill is unconvinced that he will find happiness, or love once again. Because he suffers post traumatic stress, he gave up his medical practice, something he says Jennifer would want him to resume. He claims to have “good” days, and “bad” days. His sister is saddened on the days when her brother is unable to get out of bed, or when he shuts himself in a room, away from life.

“What is it called when you lose a child?” Petit asks Oprah. He explains that when a husband loses his wife, he’s called a widower; when a wife loses her husband, she’s a widow. The talk show hostess suggests that it’s unnatural for a child to die before its parent, so there is no word to describe his position after the loss. Petit agrees. When asked if he can forgive those who took the lives of his loved ones, Bill first lists crimes which could be forgiven, a car accident, a theft, verbal diatribes. But, he says, “it’s inappropriate to forgive the essence of evil.”

Talk of his daughters momentarily lights up Bill Petit’s eyes which twinkle, a smile creeping across his face. He had a special relationship with the eldest, Hayley, whom he nicknamed “KK Rosebud.” Her favorite saying had been “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Smart and athletic, Hayley was bound for Dartmouth where she would continue to participate in sports as she had in high school. Had she known first love? According to her father, Hayley was in love with someone a year younger in school, for whom she would interrupt her studies to shoot hoops. Petit wished his daughter had experienced true love, before her life was snuffed out.

Michaela, the youngest, liked gardening, but loved cooking more. She cooked the family’s last meal together. Petit remembered it as being a very good meal.

Jennifer, Petit’s wife and partner in managing their lives, was a nurse and surrogate mom to the students in the boarding school where she worked. Amazingly, she also suffered with multiple-sclerosis, though she never complained about it, according to those who knew Jennifer. Daughter Hayley had started a foundation to support MS research in the hopes of saving her mom from the disease. After their deaths, Precious Petits continued the cause. Bill Petit sees the foundation’s purpose as three-fold. First, to fund educational programs, such as those in the sciences, especially to benefit young women; second, to fund MS research; and third, to help victims of violent crime.

Helping others has eased Petit’s heartache, as has knowing that the world is filled with many good people, like those who have contributed to the foundation. He knows too that Hayley and Michaela would want him to be happy. God isn’t to blame, instead they’re at a standoff, says Bill, a Christian. “He has nothing to do with what happens on earth.” Petit’s probably right.

Seems to me we’ve been given all we need to live our lives, including making our own decisions, correctly or incorrectly. There are cultures which see God manipulating their lives; that’s not our culture. Americans believe in freedom, for everyone. We also believe in hope, that we will live our lives without violence. But we know that reality is ultimately, an uncertainty. We can’t control what lies beyond our reach. So we enjoy our freedom, and hope, in silence, that our lives will be harmonious. That was Bill Petit’s expectation of his family’s life in suburban Connecticut.

But what reality subtracts from our lives, hope and freedom restores. Life is change, in small ways, as well as sizeable ones. These “detours” are the sum total of who we are, at the end of our lives. Bill Petit has just taken a detour on his journey through life, and he’s decided to go the distance. Somehow we all dig deep for the courage to go forward. What’s the alternative? Quitting? I think we’re too curious a species, not to want to know what might be just around the corner, or behind door #2, or awaiting us with the dawn of a new day. Who knows? The grandest of all gifts might still be waiting on the horizon.

Reality is, what is. Freedom and hope are what can be.

for Bill Petit as he discovers “what can be,” huge hugs…hugmamma.

 

“mirroring life,” ballet

Since my daughter’s been home on leave, she’s continued with an exercise regimen that includes ballet class 2-3 times a week at Pacific Northwest Ballet’s suburban campus, and Seattle studios. To our pleasant surprise, a couple of the instructors are former teachers from the conservatory high school my daughter had attended. Elaine Bauer and Marissa Albee are two of the best instructors I’ve seen, in all the years I’ve traveled with my daughter. 

Ever since she was a youngster, I’ve enjoyed watching my daughter’s dance classes.  It’s common practice at most dance schools to allow parents into the studios for viewing, 2 or 3 times a year. Otherwise, it’s looking through windows, unless the curtains are drawn. Oftentimes, there are no windows to look through.

Probably because of my own longstanding passion for dance, I find it very gratifying to observe my daughter as she trains. I have seen her evolve into the beautiful dancer she is today. The path has been long and arduous. From age 11 when she began seriously training here in the Seattle area, until she made member in a ballet company at age 23, my daughter has had to work hard to make each step near perfect, if not perfect. Where she, like most dancers, may not feel she’s  achieved perfection, to my lay person’s eyes, she’s sheer perfection. Yes, I’m her mom, but I’m also a dance aficionado which means I’m extremely attentive to the details. (This blog’s title must’ve given you some inkling.)

I was delighted when Marissa invited me to sit in on the open adult class she teaches. While my daughter stands apart as a professional, I’m very impressed with the women who participate in the intermediate/advance level class. The number of students probably hovers around 10, give or take a few on any given day. Their ages range from early 20’s to 50’s; their body shapes vary, but tend toward the slender. What amazes me is their ability to keep up with the group, since all the steps are given in French: tendu, releve, esemble, pirouette, grande battemente, and so forth. The ladies take instruction seriously, viewing themselves in the wall of mirrors without flinching. They are neither shy, nor embarrassed. Though they may be amateurs, looking for a great workout, or exorcising their frustrations at never having danced professionally, the women commit themselves fully during the hour-and-a-half class.

My daughter has sought to convince me to join the class, or at least enroll in a beginner’s class. I must admit to laughing in her face. While I admit that ballet is an excellent form of exercise, I prefer to bound across the floor during my community center “Every Way Fitness” classes, with Kristina at the helm. “Be-bopping” is more my speed, ballet, not so much. Furthermore, I don’t fancy staring at myself in the mirror during ballet class. I like imagining what I look like while I’m dancing to pop music. I would find it impossible to stop laughing if I were to view the real thing, my mirrored reflection. So I was speechless when Marissa also voiced my daughter’s opinion that I join the class. In reply, I mumbled  that while I had great admiration for her students, I couldn’t possibly do what they were doing. With a twinkle in her eye, Marissa turned back toward the group who were smiling. She indicated that she’d tried to get me to join them. “Oh,oh,” I thought, “my days of sitting in her class might be numbered. Marissa  might not let up on nudging me to join the others.” Hmmm, I’d better play deaf and dumb.

Just returned from Seattle where my daughter took a dance class taught by former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal, Julie Tobiason. The adult students probably numbered around 20, of which 4 were men. Three of them were familiar faces from previous times, when my daughter’s dropped into these open classes . None of the women were immediately recognizable, although I’m sure my daughter’s seen a couple of them before as well. 

Again I was amazed as I watched the Saturday morning class, at how readily the 25 or so adults executed the ballet steps. They seemed better able to do the combinations at barre, while dancing in center without support was a little shakier. But hey! There’s no way I’m going to find fault with any of them. I could only hope to muddle through the hour-and-a-half class without totally embarrassing myself. So as far as I’m concerned, they all got A’s.

Watching these classes, it struck me that there was a life lesson to be learned from ballet dancers. They are passionate about their art form, for which they’ll sacrifice much, including financial security. Many work second jobs; some work three. Their work ethic is beyond belief, enduring hours of physical and mental exercise. They rarely, if ever, take sick leave, preferring to sit on the side-lines during rehearsal, continuing to learn their roles.  There are frustrations, for sure, with themselves, with the roles they dance, with company “politics.” But their love of dance motivates these dancers to seek answers, rather than quit. They never quit! They’ll take alternate paths, “detours” if you will, whether it’s dancing elsewhere, or transitioning into another career, or getting a college degree. And because they have disciplined themselves to work unwaveringly towards a goal, they succeed at whatever else they decide to do with their lives.

The adults who take ballet classes for “fun,” involve themselves just as wholeheartedly as the professionals I’ve seen. Giving up isn’t an option; they persevere, even asking questions, wanting to get the steps right. The rest of their lives as moms, businessmen, teachers, seems to “fall away,” in class. But I’m sure they take what they’ve learned, applying it to their daily routines, whether consciously or unconsciously.

It’s for sure I’ve learned much from my ballerina daughter; applying all of it can still be a struggle. But I continue to try. Most importantly, she’s taught me not to quit… life. Happiness, after all, is found in the small things we accomplish every day. The big things are only the “icing, on an already delicious cake.” Make mine Red Velvet, please!!!

Oprah’s last “giveaway” show was today, “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” All the goodies the audience members received represented her gift for hope. Hope that, yes, miracles do happen when you least expect them. 

Ballet dancers live their lives, always full of hope.

hugs for emulating artists, motivated by their passion…hugmamma.     

     

   

president bush, “citizen”

Was pleasantly surprised to see the human side of President George W. Bush on Oprah’s talk show yesterday. I didn’t follow his comings and goings while he lived in the White House, so I can’t say I had any inkling what he was really like, personally. Professionally, I saw what the mainstream media offered 24/7. As we all know, much is taken out of context, to support whatever viewpoint is being touted. And, of course, he wasn’t “my man,” although I did vote him into office (like others who thought he might do a good job…hmmm), so I wasn’t inclined to follow George W.’s every move.

Relaxed, congenial, smiling broadly and freely, citizen Bush looked like someone I’d vote for all over again. (Except now I know better.) I guess all Presidents stop aging at lightning speed, once their terms are over. Then they seem to drop 5-10 years off their appearances. Yes, even Clinton, with his full head of white hair. Maybe it’s the strict diet he’s been on, no meat, no dairy, only grains, fruits, and a little fish.

Both Clinton and George W. had their “moments,” which will be a major part of their political legacies, Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq War which contributed to a near-Depression. As the years advance, such remembrances recede into the corners of our minds, where “cobwebs” form and other memories replace them. That is until some incident stirs up the media, causing them to troll the “archives,” digging up the dirt once more, causing another frenzy. That seems to be the way of the world, our human world.

Life has a way of moving forward, even after major strife, President Clinton faced impeachment proceedings, and in the aftermath of Katrina, President Bush faced unfavorable rhetoric for his failure to respond quickly. Now that both are “ordinary” citizens, we celebrate personal events with them, Chelsea’s recent marriage, and the familial love of the Bush family, as seen on video during Oprah’s interview.

In the “heat of the moment,” I too was angry with these Presidents for their failure to perform their jobs as I, and others, expected. But now I can appreciate them as men with loved ones, subject to human frailties, having done their best with what talents, and shortcomings they brought to the Presidency, Clinton’s womanizing and his stepfather’s alcoholism, and Bush’s alcoholic past. Perhaps we’ll be as generous, when we reflect upon President Obama’s time in office. I’m getting a head start, I already am.

bush gave oprah a huge hug; i do the same for him, and other presidents, past and present, huge hugs for their service…hugmamma.

“living la vida gay,” ricky martin

In his “heyday” Ricky Martin was hot, hot, hot! Then he disappeared. What was that all about? Years passed, and I forgot all about him. Seems he had a lot to figure out in his personal life. He’s gay. Now I understand. “Living la vida loca,” with guys might not sell records to straight audiences, or so he thought. It might have made me think “aw shucks,” but a singer who’s got great vocals and a ripped body, and moves as Martin does, needn’t have worried about me liking him as an entertainer. I move to the beat, regardless of someone’s sexual preference.

Upset that Barbara Walters asked if he was gay on national television the night of the Academy Awards, Ricky Martin sidestepped the question. He wasn’t “ready” to deal with the unrelenting attention the mass media would heap upon him if he “came out.” He chose to pick the moment, when he was ready to reveal the truth. Martin was still evolving into the gay man he has proudly proclaimed himself to be, today. When his mom hugged him after only taking a minute to digest his news, he knew it was time to tell everyonelse. So he wrote his memoirs.

“Ricky Martin: ME” was the platform from which Oprah interviewed him on her talk show today. In his autobiography, he told all, including his having been bisexual before determining that, in fact, he was gay. He’d had passionate romances with women, but one serious relationship with a man, for whom he would have sacrificed everything, convinced him he was gay. Older, perhaps wiser, the man refused to let Martin give up what he was obviously meant to do, entertain crowds who loved him. The singer decided his partner was not as enamored of him, as he was of the man. At the time Martin was 22.

His new love these days? Actually there are two. A surrogate was engaged to give Ricky Martin children, twin boys, as it turned out. Watching him parent the youngsters on a video, probably had women in the audience, and viewers on TV, wishing he were straight. There was no mistaking that Martin is an awesome, “hands-on” father. He changed diapers, he played “pat-a-cake,” he served up breakfast, he rode a bike, carting the twins behind in a special contraption, and he’s teaching his boys to speak Spanish. The luckiest woman in Martin’s world right now? His mom, for she’s got his heart, and the hearts of 2 precious grandsons.

Evidently, Ricky Martin’s celebrity status was a powerful catalyst in moving ordinary men to “own” their gay-ness. A man flown in by Oprah to be part of the audience, explained how the revelation convinced his own Hispanic mom to ask her son questions about his lifestyle, something she hadn’t done when first learning that he was gay. Standing at his side, for all the world to see, she shared a hug, and kiss on the cheek with her son.

While Martin is a proponent of gays professing themselves to the public in their own time, Oprah supports all gays stepping out together in a powerful show of support for one another. Admirable of her to suggest it, another thing for those affected, to do so, and face retaliation, each on his own turf, in his home, in his school, in his office, in his church, in the military, in sports, among his friends, in society.

What do you think?

hugs for ricky martin…still hot!…hugmamma.