nurturing thursdays: a true friend likes who you are…and lets you know it

I’m certain my female readers can relate when I say…at the moment my “plate” is full to overflowing.

It may not seem that way to look at me, but keeping my mind from becoming unhinged is a daily exercise. At times it’s almost as strenuous as the weight resistance class I’ve begun doing 3 times a week. If I lost a few pounds I know it would lessen the load I have to push off the floor, just as I’m positive once my life is decluttered my mind will return to point balance once more.

Easier said than done…both…losing those last 10 pounds and ridding my brain of its overload. At least for the time being.

Enter…friends!

Just when you need to take the “edge off” the craziness in your life, a few good friends lend a hand…or an ear…or both.

I have three “go-to” girlfriends…Cindy, Mary, and Suzy.

We tend to weave in and out of one another’s lives with very little, if any, fanfare. We never apologize for lapsed time. We just pick up where we left off, even if many months have come and gone since we last got together.

Our friendships are casual. We’ll either email or text synopses of what’s going on at the moment, knowing we’ll expand further over coffee and a bagel, or salad and some pizza.

What I love best about these gals is their love of family, their upbeat attitude, their can-do resolve, and their easy laughter. And with each of them, I feel loved and valued for exactly who I am. 

There’s an unspoken acknowledgement with each of these ladies, that we’re good moms, hardworking wives, contributing citizens, and above all, compassionate people. 

What’s more we’re not inclined to pass judgment on one another. We don’t offer unsolicited advice. Instead, we compliment one another wholeheartedly and without hesitation. 

Good friends not only love one another…they truly like each other.

I like Cindy because she’s extremely humble, speaks thoughtfully, and exudes so little effort when she laughs with abandon.

Mary is a rock. I like that about her. Although the youngest of 7, you’d think she was the eldest the way she manages whatever dilemma befalls her extended family. I’m always amazed at her fortitude and no-nonsense demeanor. She gets things done…and moves on.

My friend Suzy use to be my neighbor before she moved out of the neighborhood. I’d see her mowing her lawn once-in-awhile, but she was up the hill so we never really spoke. And she worked full time, so I’m sure she had better things to do than while away her weekends in idle chatter. When she married a widowed neighbor whom I greatly admired, Suzy and I became fast friends. As retired “snowbirds,” the two go south to California for half the year, but when they’re here she and I fall back in sync so easily. She’s a friend who makes me feel very glad I’m alive.

I make friends easily because I genuinely like people. And I like letting them know how I feel. Most folks respond with grateful hearts. Only a few, like Cindy, Mary, and Suzy, know to cherish what I am offering…

…my heart on my sleeve.

………hugmamma.

 

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“walking a fine line”

Once in a while it’s good to step away from my own blog to visit others. There are so many on WordPress that are interesting and well written. And there are as many personalities as there are blogs. Each unique unto itself.

WordPress.com

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The Worpress community repesents a microcosm of the world at large since its members are from all over the globe. The conversations run the gamut from religious beliefs to political persuasions to everyday life. Sometimes a blog includes a range of topics, like mine; sometimes there’s a particular focus, like a journal of one’s daily activities. What’s valuable to the writer, is what drives the blog. Otherwise what’s the point?

What fascinates me about the blog world is that we all coexist, side by side, with true freedom of expression, except for what might be deemed inappropriate by “management.” Except for a short period where I was mistakenly being spammed from leaving comments a month or so ago, I’ve not otherwise seen evidence of suppression by WordPress. Heck, they’ve even allowed some spams to come through for my deletion. Although they have fortunately prohibited more than 26,000, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Just as in life, bloggers can rally with others who seem like-minded. Many do. I have. I guess that’s how we form relationships as human beings. It’s comforting; it’s secure; it’s familiar. But what’s nice about WordPress is that we can step outside our comfort zone to “test the waters” without being “seen.” We can read others’ opinions, get a feel for who they are, and decide whether or not to engage in conversation. That’s not always easy to do in real life, without “getting into it” from the get-go.

I think most of us want to be part of the larger community. I don’t imagine too many prefer isolation. I know I don’t. When I first began this blog in July of 2010, I was hell-bent on writing. But I learned in time that while I had readers, most were not really interactive. They came and they left without leaving their imprint. So I worked at making connections by getting out and about. Leaving comments on others blogs, brought them to mine where they reciprocated. I’ve formed strong bonds with a few based upon respect, compassion and positive support.  

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

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There’s a fine line between “telling it like it is” and expressing one’s opinions, I think.  Walking the line between both is difficult at best. Refusing to walk that line can mean isolation, a lone voice in the desert. I don’t think we were built to live like islands unto ourselves. Where are we when Mother Nature upends our lives like Katrina or Japan? To whom do we turn if our loved ones are wiped out in a tsunami, and we’re left alone having isolated ourselves from others?

8 12 09 Bearman Cartoon Freedom of Speech

As I’ve indicated, it’s hard to be true to one’s own self, while coexisting with others who feel as strongly about their own true selves. It’s a matter of give-and-take, compromise really, just as in any relationship, even political ones and religious ones. It really does come down to compromise. Being correct can be isolating.

Research still points to the fact that Alzheimer’s might be in my future since my mom suffered its effects for years before she died. That is an isolating disease. I don’t care to self-impose more years of isolation…

by not being open to compromise…hugmamma. 

best gift…ever!

Twenty-five years ago today, my husband and I were blest with the perfect gift, our daughter. Without child for 16 years, we’ve counted our blessings every day since her miracle birth. Because of her we know the joy of celebrating holidays, especially Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Because of her we know what it means to love without conditions, and to sacrifice without expectations. Because of her we’ve come to accept who we are, with our own idiosyncrasies and human failings. And because of her, my husband and I have found a deeper love for one another.

Holy Family: Mary, Joseph and child Jesus

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Life isn’t perfect, it wasn’t meant to be. But being gifted with a child surely put us on a direct path to God, not always an easy one. On-the-job training, trial and error, challenges, compromises, and blending individual personalities into one smoothe-running household, was probably not even easy for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family. But look where they are. Sitting at the right-hand of God.

But I don’t need to look that far ahead to know that I wouldn’t trade being a mom for any other gift in the universe. My precious daughter has brought me to where I belong…to my own, true self. Twenty-five years ago, today, I began my journey “home”…

and i owe it all to my daughter…hugmamma.

postaday 2011 topic: best road trip

A couple of years ago I was part of a totally unexpected road trip with 3 strangers, all of us in the same “boat” when Southwest cancelled our connecting flights. All anxious to get to our destinations, mine being my daughter’s home, an hour away by air. Not one for hitch-hiking, but wanting to see her smiling face after a 5 hour flight, I threw caution to the wind. Telling my hubby, “I’m catching a ride with Larry. Talk to you later.” I happily drove off with my newfound companions, a woman, and 2 men.

God blessed our road trip because our personalities gelled. We were all soft-spoken, laughing quietly at each other’s jokes, commiserating about jobs and families. We stopped enroute for a quick bite, but hurriedly continued on our way.

Arriving at the airport where we should’ve landed, I tried to press $20 into Larry’s hand for having rented the car. He refused, saying our companionship was more than compensation on what would have been a long, solitary, 5 hour ride to his home. I hugged him, tears welling  in my eyes because I’d been helped by a truly Good Samaritan. I will never forget his kindness in helping me get to my daughter, who likened the trip to the mom in “Home Alone 2,” when she hitchiked with musicians to get home to her son, Kevin. 

good people happen when you least expect them…hugmamma. :)

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.

staaarrriiinnnggg…misha!!! (mocha, not so much)

Just like his ballerina “mom,” this little guy’s a natural in front of the camera. Thought I’d share more of Misha’s pictures. He just loves to strike a pose! What a HAM!!! A real cutie of a ham, that’s for sure Unlike his relatives here, who run the other way when they see me pull out my secret weapon, and point it at them. Mocha hightails it out of range, and out of earshot. No amount of cooing gets her to turn around and “smile for the camera.” If looks could kill, I’d have been dead multiple times.And Sitka? Well, he definitely scares us sometimes. My daughter’s remarked more than once, that one of his parents must’ve been a wildcat, of some kind. He’s got a face only “hugmamma” could love.  Actually everyone who gets to know him, loves how Sitka loves them, sucking the air directly from their nostrils. That’s how close he wants to get to whomever he focuses upon. He’s a lover, to be sure!

can’t help but love them for their own personalities…hugmamma.

coffee with friends, so much more than

If women were the world leaders of governments, corporations, learning institutions, medical facilities, courts of justice, sports teams, the entertainment and music industries, and any other body having great societal impact, they’d probably do their venting over coffee with girlfriends.

Coffee with the women means, friends gathering together to vent about anything, and everything. Surely centuries old, this female ritual has probably saved countless marriages, and kept our prison population from overflowing. Our ancestors, cave women, must have wanted to crack a few skulls. Being dragged around by the hair would not have been an endearing prospect. Native American women didn’t drink coffee (or did they?) but using smoke signals to communicate their marital woes was, perhaps, the start of environmental pollution. A frontier wife might have envied Annie Oakley her skills with a gun, when her cowboy came through the door smelling of whiskey and women. And a Victorian lady must’ve ripped off her corset and took a swig, when she was in a snit. Would Sonny and Cher have continued as a duo, if she’d had regularly done coffee with the women? “And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on. La, de, da, de, do, la, de, da, de, day…”

Women, coffee and conversation are like a game of Ouija. One speaks, another interrupts, the first resumes speaking, and the ebb and flow of conversation continues. The chatter is spirited, peals of laughter ring out, continuing to ripple through the group. Then voices quiet into whispers, while knowing glances and nodding heads silently agree that “it’s so frustrating…” whether it’s talk of jobs, husbands, children, mothers, even mother-in-laws. All agree that these sessions are more productive than paying for psychotherapy and a lot more fun as well.

The best coffee gatherings are among women whose personalities are in accord. Allowing one another time to speak, rather than hogging the conversation is also important. Egos are stroked, each feeling uplifted knowing others care, so that they needn’t continue shouldering their burdens alone. Coffee (for me) with a good friend (tea for her) became an important “life-line” when I moved with my, then 16-year-old, daughter to Atlanta. For two-and-a-half years I chaperoned her while she journeyed toward a career in ballet. My husband, our financial support, remained behind.

When my daughter was invited to train with the professional company where we relocated, our family consented without hesitation. Rushing forward without thought, we moved into an apartment with my husband’s help. The day he departed for home, we breakfasted at a pancake house. It was then that the finality of our decision hit me like a “ton of bricks.” I burst into tears. Ever the pragmatic one, my husband assured me he’d visit in a month or so. That seemed like an eternity to be without my best friend of so many years. But as moms have always done, I “placed one foot in front of the other,” and carried on.

It’s been about 5 years since I returned home to my husband. Having apprenticed with a ballet company in another state, my daughter was promoted to full member a year ago. She begins her second season this fall. Through hard work and maturity beyond her years, she has accomplished every young ballerina’s dream. There were peaks and valleys to be sure, but my daughter weathered them with our help, and the encouragement and prayers of many who have loved and supported her through the years.

Offering me a shoulder upon which to lean, or cry, was a woman who became, and remains, a very dear friend. It wasn’t unusual for Becky and I to linger over a cup of coffee, or tea, for hours, kibbitzing about her son and my daughter. Both aspired to being professional ballet dancers. We’d compare “war” stories about people with whom we had dealings, who seemed insensitive to the difficulties our children encountered. Very little was ever resolved, but reinvigorated, we could return to parenting, knowing a friend was nearby.

I was able to offer Becky some advice, since I was already in the midst of helping my daughter wend her way through the maze of becoming a career ballerina. It is such a singular path, not like being in college with thousands of like-minded youngsters. How one dancer succeeds is not a ready prescription for another’s success. But from my observations, certain facts seemed applicable to every wannabe professional.

Success seems dependent upon 50% talent and 50% other factors like a solid work ethic, quickness at learning choreography, resiliency to criticism, continuing good health, and a lot of luck. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be “in the right place, at the right time.” When it comes to casting, being a favorite of resident and visiting choreographers is a plus. Less tangible is having “the look” that an artistic director wants for a role or for the company in general. This alone can force a dancer to audition wherever there may be openings, in the hopes of a perfect match. With much effort and good fortune, a job is found, if not, the dream will likely end.

Deciding to go the college route, Becky’s son graduated with a Fine Arts Degree in Dance. To his credit and due diligence, he is in his second year apprenticing with a ballet company. This is no small feat in the current economy when the arts are suffering the loss of patronage.

Belonging to a rare breed of women, moms of professional ballet dancers, Becky and I continue to enjoy a mutually supportive friendship. Circumstances may prevent us from meeting as we once did, but given the ease of travel these days, it’s not too far-fetched to assume we’ll be meeting for coffee, tea and friendly conversation somewhere, some time… 

it’ll be like old times, only better…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