helicopters…

WikiWorld comic based on the article "Hel...

What do those whirlybirds in the sky have to do with parenting? Well, according to those in the know…evidently self-proscribed experts on the matter…helicopter parenting applies to those of us who forever hover over our children seemingly to fashion all their decisions about…well…everything.

Some who know me, and some who don’t, might think I’m a helicopter parent. As they say…”sticks and stones…” Although I must confess…I’m not completely immune to hurtful words. However as I said to my daughter when some other child would say something unkind…”It’s her problem, not yours. She’s trying to put her unhappiness onto you.”

Folks insecure in themselves tend to insist that their’s is the only way.

I can only speak for myself and offer my experiences as guidelines that others might choose to utilize. But I’m no expert on someone else’s life, that’s for sure. I don’t know where they came from…and I don’t know where they’re going. I’m only a pit stop along the way. And as we all know, there are various and sundry other pit stops from which we can gain sustenance and momentary reprieve.

I’m not familiar with any helicopter parents, probably because my daughter has been living on the opposite side of the country from us the last 11 years. It’s rather difficult to hover from 3,000 miles. I’m sure I’d have crash landed by now. 

Yes, my husband and I have offered our daughter advice on a whole host of topics…from drinking and driving…to being aware of her surroundings when she’s out alone at night. No, we haven’t told her who she should befriend or how she should spend her free time. We figure she’s learned by our example…and from what we’ve been saying since the day she could understand the English language. In other words…we’ve laid the foundation for what we hope is an upstanding citizen. Someone who cares about herself and others, and who shares her talents and abilities with her community.

I believe parents need to know who their children are, and toward that end need not be afraid to ask.

Bubbles.

 Having given birth to my child, I feel a basic responsibility for her well-being. No one else, other than her father, has that physical connection. Others may choose to be responsible for my daughter, but the obligation is mine and my husband’s. We brought this human being into the world, so we are charged with making sure she has a fighting chance at survival.

I cannot imprison my daughter in a bubble. I kid you not. Sometimes I wish it were that easy. I cannot physically safeguard her from the crazies of the world…the rapists…the kidnappers…the drunk-drivers…the manipulators…the screamers…the stupid boyfriends…and married men who hit on her. I wish I could pistol whip some of them! Not that I’d know how to hold a gun were I to get my hands on one.

Thankfully my daughter has grown very comfortably into her own skin. She listens very respectfully to what I might have to say…and does what feels organic for her. And I’m so grateful she does. As she’s aged she’s become the teacher…and I’ve become an unwitting…student. Funny, how the roles are often reversed between parents and children.

It might be said that my daughter is beginning to exhibit signs of a helicopter. She worries that if I fall at home…no one will hear me. So she’s thinking of getting me that device advertised on TV where the old woman who falls tells the person on the other end of the call…”Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

…a little whirrring…and worrying…is a good thing…

………hugmamma.IMG_4648

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family, “warts and all”

At last Sunday’s Mass, Father Bryan began his homily sharing some family drama between his younger brother and mom, nothing catastrophic, more like what we all experience with certain family members through the course of our lives. Probably the key ingredient to the prickly relationship is that Father’s family members are very much alike in personality. That, for sure, is something many of us have in common. It’s probably like having 2 pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that fit together in every way, save one. That difference will forever keep them at odds. But unlike a board game, familial relations can be sorted through, and the rough edges made smoother, if not perfect.

As Father pointed out, not even the Holy Family was perfect. An angel appeared to St. Joseph three times, dictating what he and his family should do. First, he was going to marry the Virgin Mary who would conceive a child of God. Second, he and Mary must leave their homes, families, and all that was familiar, to move to Egypt. And then finally, they were to return home to Nazareth where they would settle into daily living. Surely as human beings, father, mother, and son must have had their moments of frustration, which spilled over onto one another. How they weathered stormy times together, while maintaining love and respect for one another, is what’s important, and a valuable lesson for all of us.

After Mass, my daughter and I approached Father Bryan to express appreciation for his homily. In reply, he looked at me exclaiming that our family probably didn’t experience any of the normal angst he mentioned about most families, including his. Before I could respond, someone offered him words of thanksgiving. If we’d not been interrupted, I would’ve told Father that no family is exempt from “baggage.” But like the Holy Family, we forgive, and move forward with compassion for one another, as well as ourselves.

The holidays seem to bring added pressures to families, insisting everyone “get along,” whether that means squelching decades old animosities, jealousies and rivalries, or feigning affection for those we barely know. Because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and my feelings lie near the surface, I don’t squelch or feign very well. I can overlook and be fine. My mother use to want me to be other than who I was. Growing up I had no choice, but as an adult I can only be honest.

I don’t think we have to lie to get along, I believe we can be who we are and hope that others accept us for that, and not what they would like us to be. I don’t like to layer my expectations upon someonelse, nor do I want anyones’ expectations to rest upon me. Among the many things I took away from Dr. Amen’s book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” is that I want to live my best life. In order to do so I must dwell on the positive, not the negative. Of course it’s an ongoing effort not to get caught up in the daily grind of living, as witnessed on the news reports: wars, foreclosures, unemployment, natural disasters, a bad economy. While it may be impossible to control the macrocosm, I can manage the microcosm. And so I try to make my environment as positive and hopeful as I can.

Family are who they are. While liking them may be difficult at times, accepting them is not open for deliberation, in my opinion. Being with them, however, is another matter, again my opinion. No matter family or friends, people should respect one another in their dealings. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” is still a great way to live. One’s perspective may differ from another person’s, but respect for all viewpoints should be a given. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Rather than “beating ourselves up,” tying to force relationships to fit like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it might behoove some, like me, to do what I can do, and be contented with that much. Progress can be made bit by bit, it need not occur in one fell swoop. It can, but it needn’t.

I’ll take small moments of happiness as often as they occur, rather than pine and stress at never attaining the perfect family portrait. All those in our families are striving to live their best lives, given their particular circumstances. I love them all, and will always wish them life’s best, whether I’m physically in their lives or not. And I’m certain they wish the same for me and mine.

for all families who are nearly perfect…or far from perfect, huge hugs…hugmamma.

fathers cast “long shadows”

Never knowing my father, has surely influenced the course of my life, for better or worse. Not that I grew up dwelling on my loss, because I knew no better. Life with my mom was, what it was. However years of observing father-child relationships, including my husband’s and daughter’s, and being privy to others telling or writing, of their own experiences,  made me realize that being fatherless probably impacted my life in a major way. I’m certain I sought a replacement in every relationship thereafter, looking for the security and safe haven every father is thought to inherently possess. I’m positive I looked for him in every male I encountered. But I would have been just as happy, perhaps, if a woman filled the bill since my mom was preoccupied on so many fronts. My older siblings knew my father as children. So I can’t identify with their loss when he died, although I’m sure it was devastating. What we had in common, was being emotionally bereft of both parents.

As society’s traditional head of the household, a father seems to define a child’s psyche. If he’s present and a positive influence, the child flourishes. If he’s present and a negative influence, the child diminishes. If he’s “missing in action,” the child flounders, and “crashes,” or picks himself up by the proverbial “bootstraps,” and becomes a better man for having suffered. If a child is fatherless, he searches far and wide for his identity. These scenarios don’t preclude a child’s own life experiences with its accompanying peaks and valleys. However, how he celebrates or copes is affected by the presence or absence, positivism or negativism, of his father.

Does a father know the power he has over his children? Too concerned with providing material sustenance, I don’t think he ponders the question. If he did, he might run for the nearest “exit.” What man in his right mind would want the responsibility of playing God? Having to walk the fine line between “His Benevolence” and sergeant-major, while allowing his children the luxury of exercising their own free will in all matters. In my estimation, a man walks into fatherhood “blindfolded.” What he does when the blinders come off, determines whether he’s a good father, or one who sucks, on a scale from 1 to 10. I don’t think I know any 10’s. Even my fabulous husband, probably comes in at a 9 1/2, but my daughter might override me with a resounding “10!”She’d win; after all, he’s her father.       

So much has been said about Michael Jackson’s father who abused his sons, mentally and physically,  in attempting to garner a better life for his family. One oft told anecdote involved Tito playing his father’s guitar, something forbidden by Joseph.

…one day Tito broke a string on the guitar. ‘I knew I was in trouble,’ Tito recalled. ‘We were all in trouble. Our father was strict and we were scared of him. So I put the guitar back in the closet and hoped he wouldn’t figure out what had happened. But he did, and he whooped me. Even though my mother lied and said she had given me permission to play the guitar, he tore me up.’ When Tito tells the story, his words tumble out and he gets tongue-tied. So many years later, one can still sense his anxiety about it. ‘She just didn’t want to see me get whipped,’ he said, sadly. ‘Not again.

J. Randy Taraborelli also writes the following in his biography Michael Jackson – The Magic, the Madness, The Whole Story.

Joseph believed in the value and impact of brute force as a disciplinary tool. ‘Either you’re a winner in this life, or a loser,’ he liked to say. ‘And none of my kids are gonna be losers.’ To be sure of that, he would smack his kids without giving it a second thought in order to keep them on the right track to being ‘winners’. Shoving them into walls was not unusual behaviour for him, especially the boys. Michael, however, was the one boy in the family who would attempt to fight back when provoked by his father. Once, when he was just three, Joseph spanked him for something he had done. Crying, Michael then took off one of his shoes and hurled it at his father. Joseph ducked; the shoe missed him.

‘Are you crazy?’ Joseph screamed at him. ‘Boy you just signed your own death warrant. Get over here.’

Infuriated, Joseph grabbed Michael and, according to Marlon, held him upside down by one leg, and pummelled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks. Soon, Michael was crying and screaming so loudly it seemed as if he was trying to summon the entire neighborhood to his aid.

‘Put him down, Joseph,’ Katherine hollered. ‘You’re gonna kill him! You’re gonna kill him!

When Joseph released the boy, he ran to his room, sobbing, ‘I hate you.’ Those were fighting words for Joseph. He followed Michael into the bedroom, slammed the door and then let him have it.

‘Joseph once locked Michael in a closet for hours,’ said a friend of the Jackson family’s. ‘That was traumatizing, horrible for him.’

 Suzanne Finstad’s Child Bride – The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, reveals that she  inadvertently discovered her mother’s closely guarded secret of Priscilla’s real father’s identity.   

Priscilla nearly collapsed under the strain of her sacred pact of silence with her mother. Ann Beaulieu had placed an enormous burden on a thirteen-year-old child by asking her daughter to keep her paternity a secret, even from her siblings and from the man she now knew was not her real father. 

…She  told no one about the discovery of her true identity, not even Pam. As time passed, she became conflicted about wearing the locket containing the picture of her real father. ‘I felt guilty, because I felt now that I was betraying my stepfather, who was so good to me. Because now it’s like I was hiding something from him.’

The trauma of her mother’s betrayal and her own suppression of the truth affected Priscilla’s behavior. Her grades dropped, eliminating her from eigth-grade cheerleading tryouts, ‘and it was a big blow to her,’ …’She went through a real change of personality,’…

Knowing nothing about him, Priscilla fantasized that her long-lost father died a great war hero. ‘In times of emotional pain and loneliness,’ she said, ‘he would become my guardian angel.’

Finstad’s book also sheds light upon the father-daughter relationship between Elvis and his daughter with Priscilla, Lisa Marie Presley.

Lisa’s self-image as the princess of rock, spoiled utterly by a superstar father, with a staff at Graceland at her command at the age of six, continued even after Elvis died. She was imperious even with Dana, the one close friend she had. ‘It was always very clear that whatever Lisa wanted to do,…she had to have her way.’ In later years, Dana attributed this trait to Lisa’s unexpressed anger over losing her father.

Lisa’s marriage to Michael Jackson, continues the author, may have been deeply rooted in the unconditional love she and Elvis shared.  His sudden death left her feeling helpless, since at age 6, Lisa was incapable of saving him from a self-destructive lifestyle.

Lisa had wed, by an obvious Freudian motive, the nineties equivalent of her staggeringly successful superstar father. Elvis was the King of Rock; Michael was the King of Pop. Both singers, oddly, had pet chimpanzees at one time; both shared an interest in UFOs. Elvis lived in semiseclusion at an estate called Graceland. Michael lived a reclusive life at Neverland. Elvis often rented amusement parks, one of his favorite forms of entertainment; Michael had re-created Disneyland on the grounds of his estate and took Lisa, incognito, to the California theme park on their honeymoon. Both men had married to avoid scandal in their careers: Elvis to erase the stigma of his live-in relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl, or to avoid the Beaulieus’ revelation of their illicit arrangement for Priscilla; Michael to rehabilitate his shattered image following the molestation charges. Michael and Elvis entertained small groups of fourteen-year-olds in their bedrooms for slumber parties. The two music legends were notorious eccentrics trapped in an arrested adolescence, existing on unorthodox diets.

Lisa, some of her friends surmised, had married Michael–on a subconscious level at least–to ‘save’ the father she had loved and lost. By restoring Michael to his former position of glory, by elevating him from the ruin of his molestation scandal, she might, in her mind, redeem and perhaps resurrect her father.

I’m currently reading In My Father’s Shadow – A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles by Chris Welles Feder. A third of the way into it, I’ve felt a pervasive sadness throughout. Despite her unquenchable longing to always be with her father, Christopher, the name chosen by her dad, joyously celebrated what precious little time she shared with him. And in her own words, she explained that while her new stepfather successfully brainwashed her mother in behavior becoming the proper wife of a British Major, Orson Welles’ daughter would never succumb.

During our first year in South Africa, my mother changed from the open-minded American woman who had treated African-Americans as her equals, the woman who had loudly cheered and danced around the living room with Charlie Lederer (her second husband) when we heard on the radio that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to a fourth term. She became a female clone of Jack Pringle, and the two of them teamed up against me, because I refused to change my essential self and blend in seamlessly with my surroundings. I was not a chameleon like my mother. And, strangely, the absence of my father made me realize how much he had already shaped me and that his power did not depend on his presence. I was Orson’s kid–not Virginia’s and certainly not Jackie’s–now and forever.

Thinking that Orson had forgotten her twelfth birthday, Chrissie, aka Christopher, complained to her mother, who responded ‘Instead of sitting there feeling so sorry for yourself, why don’t you think about all the birthdays he did remember?’ After a brief pout, Chrissie contemplated what her mother had said “Then, as though she had flung open the doors of an old toy cupboard, I suddenly saw the doll my father had given me on my fifth birthday–the most beautiful doll…pretty blue eyes that opened and closed when I rocked her in my arms. …the stack of Land of Oz books; the recordings of Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker Suite,…the fluffy, pink bedroom slippers… One by one, they came back in a joyful parade, all the birthday gifts from my father. Gifts that were always exactly what I wanted.” But the gift that left its greatest impression upon Orson’s daughter was the one he bestowed on her seventh birthday. During his half-hour radio evening program, This Is My Best series, he announced ” ‘Good evening, this is Orson Welles. …My eldest daughter, Christopher, is seven years old today, and like most ladies and gentlemen of her age, Christopher likes her father to tell her a story. Well, I don’t know of a better one than ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ …” Orson’s 7-year-old was overjoyed that Orson remembered her favorite story. Reflecting back, Chrissie speaks of that special occasion.

For a long time after the program ended, I had sat by the radio, lost in a magic world of poisoned apples and happy endings. Five years had elapsed since then, but no one–not even Jack Pringle–could take that memory away from me.

So now I knew what I had to do. Whenever being without my father began to hurt too much,  I would come and sit quietly in my room, close my eyes and remember.

My daughter remembers that in the very early years of her childhood, she wished she could have seen more of my husband. He commuted to work in NYC from Connecticut, a 4 hour round trip which he gladly made, so that we could raise our only child in the idyllic town of Redding. The only concession he asked was that her curfew be 9:30 p.m. He wanted time to play with our daughter each evening, and read her a bedtime story. This was a small request for the sacrifice of time and energy my husband made, so she could be nurtured in the small town environment which we favored.

The better part of our daughter’s memory is filled with wonderful remembrances of a father who was actively present in her life. Unlike childhood friends whose fathers only exacted discipline, or were absent from mealtimes, or dancer friends whose fathers are never seen at performances. My husband has allowed his toddler daughter to dress him in hat, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and fur boa when they played her favorite game, “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” Against his natural instincts that she attend college, he allowed his 16-year-old aspiring ballerina to move to another state in pursuit of a dance career. And after a summer caring for her cat while our daughter was away dancing, her father escorted Misha back to his “mom” en route to a business trip in a nearby state. It was a supreme act of love, since my husband has been on meds for years, as an asthmatic with allergies. Going through airport security, he wore gloves when removing the cat from his crate which went through the scanner, while Misha and “grampy” walked through the screening gate.

All fathers are human, bringing personal “baggage” to the job. Most intend to do well by their offspring, whether they have a plan or “fly by the seat of their pants.” Gazing upon the innocent faces in the pediatric ward, new dads quickly pledge the “moon” to these tiny infants. They never question their ability to “deliver.” That comes later, as reality and responsibility seep into their overtaxed brains. Some walk away; some commit long-term; others remain undecided, going through the motions, until something triggers a decision one way or the other.

A parent is expected to multi-task. Raising children is added to the “to do” list of chores, walk the dog, empty the trash, gas and wash the car, mow the lawn, clean the gutters, power-wash the driveway and roof, refill the bird feeders. Of course children should be top priority, but sometimes life can overwhelm, especially when an unexpected glitch occurs disrupting the fine balance. A parent loses a job, is diagnosed with cancer, is divorced, must care for a parent with Alzheimer’s, suffers the irreparable loss of a child. Where does a parent seek relief? It’s not inconceivable that duty to one’s child slips, eventually occupying the lowermost rung on life’s ladder. In that eventuality, I don’t know a parent who wouldn’t feel like shit. Sorry, but I know that’s exactly how I’d feel. 

Parents don’t get a reprieve. We don’t get to pick and choose which jobs we want to relinquish to someonelse, while we tend to our children. We’re expected to do it all simultaneously. We should show ourselves compassion for trying to do it all, remembering, however, that children are not a commodity, but rather smaller versions of ourselves. They deserve the same respect we desire for ourselves.

Fathers cast “long shadows” over the lives of their children. Their influence is long-lasting, if not permanent. Dads are imbued with the power of “life and death,” physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are the kings of their castles. Succession to their “thrones” is dependent upon how thoughtfully they rule over the lives of their children.

for all fathers, huge hugs…hugmamma.

it’s a good morning, there’s always hope

We all have moments of “why me?” I had one all day yesterday. Always wanting to “fix” things, it’s frustrating to sit around waiting for someonelse to do the “fixing.” I’m a professional wife and mom, an amateur decorator, an amateur Julia Child, an amateur antique dealer, an amateur psychologist, an amateur writer and blogger, an amateur exercising fanatic (since I’ve not been consistent lately), an amateur, self-diagnosing “m.d.” Don’t all these amateur positions qualify me as an amateur “fixer-upper?” Forgive the rambling, one day I’ll clarify. For now, trust me when I say “I’m having one of those moments,” going forward. At this moment, the end is not yet in sight. Just keep me in your thoughts, along with whomever else it is you wish good karma.

But the point of this is to say it’s a “good morning.” Every new day is a good morning, an opportunity to right what’s wrong. I am blest and fortunate to feel hopeful that I can fix whatever needs fixing. Without hope, where would we be, any of us? Maybe not here, but that’s not a viable option. Because we do have hope. That was our legacy from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. If we favor reading fanciful tales to our children to instill hope, why can’t we adults do the same for ourselves? We’re all of us just over-sized children, or should think of ourselves that way. Children always have hope, no matter their circumstances. We can learn a lot from them; I’m learning phenomenal things from my amazing daughter, who has the youthful beauty of a ballerina and the old soul of a wizened Merlin.

If we could all learn to listen to our children, that’s my hope. Isn’t that what we wished for when we were children? That our parents might have listened to us? But we can’t turn back the clock, so let’s all revel in a new day of renewed hope, of compassion for ourselves and others, and for a more positive environment, politically, religiously, and personally.

with a new day, there’s always hope…hugmamma.

in-laws, like siblings

Unlike my own siblings who were older and not living at home during my childhood years, my husband’s 11 brothers and sisters were very much present during the 3 years we dated, and the early years of our marriage. Because my husband was the eldest and we were a couple, it seemed as though his siblings were mine also. And the respect and admiration they had for him, was extended to me by virtue of our relationship. That was different from being the youngest in my family, where I had to mind the wishes of my brothers and sisters. I reveled in the role of  “big sister,” and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, loving, fun brood of in-laws.

  • My age, Michael was the bronzed, Greek god of myths, who surfed and dated Miss Hawaii’s, one being the niece of Hawaii’s governor at the time. Glad I was never competing for his attention, I relished the position of future sister-in-law instead. But through the years, my brother-in-law has aged into a soft-spoken, humble man of spiritual substance, happily married for many years.
  • A year younger than me, Kathy was a beauty who turned heads. While the details are fuzzy, I do remember having driven her in my car to a rendezvous with a young man, after she climbed out of her bedroom window, unbeknownst to her parents. I don’t think they ever found out, until after I was safely married to their son.
  • Twins John and Mary were usually out with friends, so that I was less familiar with them. Both attractive, they seemed ensconced in a world of beautiful, fun-loving, party people. At the time, I felt they were so totally out of my league. Thank goodness middle-age levels the playing field.
  • Homemaker Julie has always been the surrogate mom. Even at a young age, she seemed to relish cooking, cleaning, supervising, counseling. She always did it from love, never out of obligation or for mercenary reasons. So it didn’t surprise me when she rose to Director of Revenue Services at a renowned, boutique hotel on Waikiki Beach. 
  • Dan is a man with a big heart for his wife and 4 daughters. Nothing is too much for his bevy of lovely women. In his younger years, I saw little of him, since he was a teenager who kept to himself, as most young men that age do.
  • Cindy has always been a sweetheart, with a smile as big and open as her generous personality. Things may have frazzled her from time to time, but I never noticed. Her husband knows he’s a very lucky man for having won, and kept, her heart these many years.
  • I don’t remember Louise’s younger years, except that I was told she looked most like my husband when he was young. But in recent years we’ve enjoyed a great camaraderie with she and her husband, one based upon good-natured teasing and laughter.
  • A handsome, little boy Richard captured my heart with his sweetness and adulation. He seemed to treasure the times my husband and I involved the youngest siblings in crafts we would make as Christmas gifts, or goodies we would bake for the family, or on outings where we would take them along. He was like a little brother who always wanted to be at our side.
  • Rambunctious Lily was always heard AND seen. Her wide eyes and large smile readily admitted to mischievousness. She had no patience for fools; she still doesn’t. She and her husband have made life fun for their 3 sons and 1 daughter, all beautifully raised to be respectful of their elders. My husband and I always enjoy hilarious times when we visit with Lily and her family, no matter how infrequently it may be.
  • The youngest, Pat, will always have a special place in my heart because she and I share the last rung on the family “ladder.” My husband is glad that he’s becoming better acquainted with his youngest sibling, 13 years his junior. Again, it’s nice when older age “levels the playing field.” My most vivid memory of Pat as a child of 2, was when she climbed onto my lap upon our first meeting. While I chatted with others in the family, getting to know them better, she kept trying to put her hand inside the front of my shirt. I’m sure I was blushing, as I kept trying to stop her. I think my husband finally came to my rescue, taking his sister into his arms. I thought she was cute then, I still think she is now.

my in-laws have always been generous, and loving…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.

a football player, and more

Read an amazing article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Meet the NFL”s Most Interesting Man.” In part, it reads “The wonderfully named Zoltan Mesko speaks five languages and grew up dreaming of being an aerospace engineer before graduating from Michigan with a business degree and a master’s in sports management. He got lured into football only after he smashed a ceiling light with a kick ball in his Twinsburg, Ohio, junior-high-school gym.”

Romanian by birth, Mesko moved to America in 1997, when he was 10. Having left behind a war-torn country, his parents, both engineers, found living in a New York City apartment not much better. “It was expensive, dirty and cramped-even for three people–so they moved to Twinsburg, a Cleveland suburb with a large Eastern European community.”

In high-school Mesko discovered he could earn a college scholarship as a punter. “When he told his parents, they didn’t believe him. But Mr. Mesko knew they couldn’t pay for college, so he devoted himself to the singular skill of kicking a football as high as he could.” With the help of his father who “sent VHS tapes of Zoltan’s highlights to 86 colleges,” and his mother who researched school rankings according to their academics, he was the nation’s top punting prospect before his senior year. He was offered a scholarship to Indiana, and thereafter, admission to every Ivy League school. Wanting the best of both worlds, Ohio State and Columbia University, Mesko enrolled at Michigan State University.

“In 2009, he set Michigan’s records for gross yards per punt, at 44.5, and net yards per punt (gross minus the return), at 41. He was also named an Academic All-American and became the first specialist in 130 years of Michigan football to be named a captain. ‘That’s one I’m proudest of,’ he says.”

On July 16, the 24 year-old, 6-foot-4 punter signed with the New England Patriots. At the NFL’s minimum wage salary of $325,000 a year (we should all try out at that rate), plus a team bonus of $187,250 Mesko “might be among the poorest players in the NFL but is probably the richest kid from Timisoara, Romania.”

a football player, and more…hugmamma.

a friendly place

Getting up for 8:15 Mass is a struggle. I’m not a morning person, as I’ve said in previous posts. So making it to exercise and church services is a labor of love, or else insanity, maybe both. The “drawing card” for me are the teachers, Kristina at the gym, and Father Brian at St. Joseph’s. Their common denominator is their compassionate, warm, “open” personalities. Neither basks in the limelight, rather they are humbly passionate about spreading their messages, Kristina “speaks” to exercise as essential for our well-being; Father Brian shares the gospel that God loves and cares for all of us.

Probably the youngest priest I’ve ever encountered as pastor of a parish, Father Brian, is a natural-born “shepherd.” He gathers his parishioners, his “sheep,” about him, with concern for our safe deliverance into the hands of God, our Maker. He doesn’t prod us with pokers, rather he relates stories, personal or biblical, which encourages us to think and to decide by what values we should live. The church fills with laughter when Father Brian tells a joke or humorous anecdote. He’s not even above pointing a finger at himself, whether in fun or to confirm that he too is human. His manner is easy, his smiles always forthcoming. He is accepting of ways that are different from his. If there are rules, and there must be, by which the parish operates, they do not seem “set in stone.” Perhaps his youthfulness and relative newness to pastoral duties has him proceeding with caution, allowing himself to blend into the congregation’s routine, to become one with, not one above, us.

Today my ears were extra perked when listening to Father’ sermon. He spoke of our need to focus upon the “small things” in our lives. These, he said, are the building blocks of the kingdom of Heaven. God does not reward us for “flash”, but rather for what we do “behind the scenes.” As stewards of God’s gifts, our services toward and on behalf of one another will be rewarded. Our faithfulness will be recognized. Romans 12:6-8 from The New Testament testifies to this:

“We each have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” 

As an introduction to his homily, Father Brian spoke of witnessing small, but meaningful, human gestures that “built up the Kingdom of God.” Friends from out-of-town were visiting with him. A couple and their 2 daughters visited the popular tourist attractions. In their comings and goings, Father witnessed the loving care bestowed upon the littlest child by her sister and her parents.

On a recent visit with his elderly grandparents at their assisted living facility, Father celebrated the Mass in their apartment, the 3 huddling together. At the “kiss of peace”, his grandparents turned and pecked each other on the cheek, mouthing the words “I love you” to one another. This demonstration of their affection spoke volumes of their 67 year-long marriage.

After weekday Mass one morning, Father Brian noticed a lone woman moving through the pews, collecting congregation booklets, which she would then return to their housing. On another occasion, a parishioner asked Father if she could bring flowers from her garden to place around the altar. Walking over to it, he fingered one of the daisies, lovingly displayed in a vase. Matching arrangements were staged prominently in other areas.

It is obvious that Father Brian is like family to his parishioners. He freely speaks to us of his mother, other relatives, his friends, his love of basketball, his personal impressions of a recent visit to the Vatican, and his own faith journey. And he eagerly awaits us outside after Mass, shaking hands and smiling broadly. He always remembers our daughter, though she’s not a regular. Because he attracts everyone with his charismatic style, I said to Father Brian one day “You could be a rock star!” To which he replied, after letting out a belly laugh, “Jesus is the rock star!”

no “Hell, fire and brimstone” here, only warmth…hugmamma