being myself…

That’s what I love most about my husband.

He lets me be myself.

He loves my goofiness, my seriousness, my intelligent moments as well as my dumb ones.

He never defines me, instead letting who I am ring true.

He never for a moment considers if others might think ill of me. And if someone should, it has no influence whatsoever on his loving me.

To him, I’m perfect just as I am. Maybe not for anyone else, but for him there’s no one else.

 

Through my husband’s eyes I’ve come to realize I am “perfect,” just as I am. In moments of self doubt, and, of course, I still get them…I tell myself  that I am a good person. God has let me know that by gifting me with two of His most wonderful creations…my husband and my daughter.

My daughter. When I look into her eyes, I see total, unconditional love…for me. Nothing I do or say can alter that fact. In return, I never overstep my place in her life. Just as I know that I am a good person, I know that she is as well. So why would I need, or want, to trespass upon all that she is?

This morning the imp in me took over and I hid from my husband in the midst of fixing our bed. He had gotten an earlier start to the day, as is his usual routine. He’s an early bird riser. I’m a midnight owl who has no use for worms when I first wipe the sleep from my eyes. I could hear him walking all around in search of me…through the bedroom, adjoining library nook, walk-in closet, bathroom and nearby laundry room. He may even have peeked into the garage. As he strode past the bedroom, I jumped out of my hiding place and scared him. I really did scare him! He kind of froze in place. And then we both burst into uncontrollable laughter. Giggling like high school sweethearts…rather than the middle-aged seniors we really are…we hugged and laughed and laughed and laughed.

I’m lucky. Real lucky. My husband loves me…

…just as i am.

………hugmamma.

 

Co-dependent families and the roles we play in them

Written a few months ago, however it seemed appropriate to the holiday season when families can be a bit more sensitive to one another.

We all need to set aside our anxieties and…

…celebrate our true selves.

………hugmamma.

which is it?…giver?…or…taker?

Came across a post, givers or takers, at  http://dailymusing57.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/giver-or-taker/, which really resonated with me.

What makes some folks givers and others takers? Or are we a mixture of both, but with a greater tendency toward one?

Perhaps we learned the give and take of interacting with others as children…maybe with siblings…or with parents and playmates as an only child.

Do those needing approval to bolster their self esteem give themselves over completely to serving others?

Do those having self-confidence take advantage of those without, whether knowingly or unknowingly?

What are the inherent dangers of falling into one category or the other?

And is it ever too late to pull ourselves back from being lopsidedly one or the other…

a giver…or a taker?

Me?

I’ve had difficulty taking without feeling I always had to give back right away. Still do. Once a boss, who became a good friend, asked why it was I couldn’t accept his invitation to lunch without feeling I had to reciprocate the next time we dined out? I had no answer. Still don’t.

Although I have no difficulty giving to others, truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever felt worthy of taking without giving back. Is it because of my Catholic upbringing? Or because my mom told me mine had been an unwanted pregnancy.

I don’t dwell on why it is I’m a giver. It’s who I am. And while I still don’t take material things without feeling the need to return in kind, I’m always open to receiving the gift of love…from anyone. Although I must admit, I return the love immediately…in hugs and words.

Yesterday I met with Carlos for the first time. He had stopped by to give me an estimate on the hedges and trees my husband and I wanted pruned. From the minute we shook hands, our conversation was relaxed and easy. We spoke as though we’d known each other for more than a few minutes. By the time Carlos left for another appointment, we were muy simpatico…very sympathetic. We agreed that connecting with people is what enriches our lives. Material things are necessary, but the pleasure they bring is only temporary. Exchanging hugs, I shed a few hormonal tears and blessed Carlos for being a good man.

When we least expect it, we meet others who feel as we do.

I have learned to delight in taking from others, although such generosity still surprises me. It’s like when my husband proposed. I cried, exclaiming “Me? You want to marry me?” To which he replied “Who else? We’ve been dating for 3 years. Of course it’s you!”

Another lesson learned, albeit late, is to remove myself from the company of those who impact me negatively. Folks who don’t appreciate the full measure of what it is I am giving…

…my heart…for the taking.

………hugmamma.

spanking…the case against

Pro football players are lightning rods these days for the physical abuse they are allegedly inflicting upon others. The latest case in the media spotlight is that of Adrian Peterson who spanked his 4 year-old son with a switch…”a slender, flexible shoot, rod, or twig.”

There’s much to be said about generational, as well as cultural, differences when it comes to discipline.

Spanking was the norm when I was a child growing up in the 50s and 60s. For my mom, it was probably all she knew to do as a native islander whose culture was founded upon force and brutality. That she was a young widow with children to raise could not have helped.

The same could be said for others who grew up…the way they grew up. Among them, Adrian Peterson.

I can’t judge my mom, Peterson, or anyone else.

What I can share are the scars left behind after the bruises have healed. Among them, a sense of disapproval that never diminishes.

How does a child who lacks the experience gained over time, ever explain why it is she was beaten by the one person whose love signifies the entire world? From that child’s perspective, she is to blame, she is unlovable, she is less than perfect.

Going through life as that individual is like piecing together a patchwork quilt. Gathering together bits and pieces of self esteem becomes a goal in itself. One which overshadows every other. One which dictates every relationship. One which begins and ends one’s life.

The seemingly simple act of spanking a child can evolve into an airing of parental grievances, if not reigned in quickly. Watching my mom beat a sibling once, I feared for his life. It was as though she was giving him the full measure of all that had gone wrong with her own life. Her subsequent tears and apologies did nothing to deflect the violent image which has remained with me forever.

I swore never to spank my own child knowing what I did…

…that it could become more about me than her…

………hugmamma.

 

nurturing thursdays: partnering for success

When my daughter broke off with her first beau, a brother-in-law with whom I’m very close told me …”She’ll be fine. They’ll both meet someone for whom they’re better suited.”Nashville 09-2010 00132

Those words have resonated with me ever since. 

Not only is the advice romance appropriate, I find it applicable to any relationship.

For some folks, like my husband, self confidence is a by-product of having been nurtured by great parents. Individuals whose love for one another was undeniable. And a love which blanketed their offspring, and all future generations…forever after.

On the other hand, the majority of people probably struggle with low self-esteem

I would suggest it better that these folks surround themselves with supporters, rather than detractors. Positive, not negative, personalities whose energy will help sustain and grow an otherwise wilting confidence.

However, just as my very wise and very beloved brother-in-law advised, everyone is suitable for someone. We just need to find the right one…

…be it a friend…or a lover…

………hugmamma.

"If you don't see your worth, you'll alwa...

 

nurturing thursdays: bullying

We’re all very familiar with the bullying that takes place among youngsters. These days it’s even taken to cyberspace…big time! Short of throwing the computer out the window, I’ve little advice to offer parents who are dealing with this recent phenomenon.

English: A graph showing where electronic aggr...

English: A graph showing where electronic aggression occurs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps if we backtracked a little however, we might do a little preventative work towards laying a better foundation to help alleviate bullying.

It amazes me when adults work themselves into a dither over children being bullied by other children. I often think…well, how about the bullying that goes on day in and day out among adults? Did we pass some kind of hazing threshold which now permits us to have at it? Or have the years worn us down so that we could care less if we overflow onto one another? Good manners be damned?

My own experiences with bullying have left me with an assortment of thoughts on the subject.

As the youngest I was an easy target for bullying by my older siblings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hide behind the Catholic church’s teachings commanding us to love one another. 

For some reason, society doesn’t point its collective finger at the family when it comes to bullying. We’ve come to accept that the older children are just naturally given to mistreating their younger brothers and sisters, if they’re so inclined. Perhaps it’s deemed a lesson in survival. Or it might be that parents are either too overwhelmed or too clueless to manage the ongoing spats of their offspring. Easier to let them settle things themselves.

Yes, lessons are good. However the downside of bullying within a family is that it often creates enmity. Loving one another is a given, especially when tragedy strikes. Liking one another is a whole other thing. And it’s the liking that allows us to coexist in harmony for more than a holiday dinner or a wedding celebration or attendance at a funeral.

Where do children learn the art of bullying? I would suggest that the primary source is the example their parents set. If a father bullies a mother or vice versa, such behavior goes a long way in convincing youngsters that bullying is okay. If parents didn’t engage in bullying and condemned such behavior in others, it would follow that children wouldn’t succumb to something of which their parents disapproved.

I understand that raising children not to bully is complicated by outside forces over which we have little or no control. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be a good beginning to lay down some ground rules within the family so that bullying might not find fertile ground upon which to take hold, grow, thrive, and spread?

Paralleling the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God, family members might be commanded to…

  1. Love one another as you love your own self.
  2. Treat one another as you would want to be treated.
  3. Before lashing out with unkind words or gestures, have a discussion with yourself to weigh the pros and cons. Seek guidance from someone whose counsel you respect.
  4. If #3 doesn’t work for you…count to 100…or 1,000…or 5,000…whatever it takes to calm yourself down.
  5. If neither #3 or #4 work, go for a walk in the great outdoors where the sights, sounds, and smells might have a calming effect upon you.
  6. Get to know one another…your likes…your dislikes…your vulnerabilities…your passions. You do this with friends. Why not with siblings? Are they that alien to you?
  7. Put yourself in one another’s shoes, figuratively-speaking. What’s it like to be dad with his financial worries? Or mom who’s always stressed with so much to do? What’s it like to be the eldest missing the attention once reserved only for him or her? Or the youngest who feels left out, left behind? Is it true that middle children feel as though they’re invisible?
  8. Compliment one another. If doing so makes a complete stranger’s day, like the waiter or the barista, think what it can do for your own family member? Tell mom she’s a great cook…often! Congratulate your sister on her excellent grades. 
  9. Tell one another “I love you” every day. You never know if it’ll be the last time you get to say it.
  10. Respect one another…and yourself. If you have a legitimate gripe, speak up. And be sure you allow others to have their say as well. 

I would offer one more suggestion. 

Families should refrain from gossiping about one another…to one another. Doing so only breeds ill-will. I know. It happened in my own family, creating untold and unresolved disruptions to relationships that will probably never be rectified. Better to vent to good friends who have no personal stake in the matter, and who are committed to supporting you regardless.

Bullying can take on a life of its own, having far-reaching effects which often span a person’s entire lifetime.English: Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, th...

The one given to bullying can wind up behind bars because he injured another driver in a road rage incident. Someone who’s often the focus of bullying can finally snap, shooting and killing innocent victims in an attempt to assuage his torment.

Short of such drastic true-to-life scenarios, however, are the day-to-day consequences many of us face as a result of bullying. 

I hate confrontations because I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, even when a wrong has been done to me.  When I have had to say something hurtful to put someone in his or her place, I feel guilty forever after. Thankfully, I’ve learned to forgive myself and move on.

Low self-esteem can be a side product of being bullied. Recovering one’s confidence can be a lifetime job. 

Loss of trust is another factor when bullied. The victim forever doubts what’s said going forward. Only after what seems a lifetime of reassurances can trust be reinvested, if it’s even possible.

Bullies probably never think of themselves as such. Perhaps we should all ask ourselves…

…am i a bully?…

………hugmamma.

English: A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Be...

 

nurturing thursdays…push back!

A visit to The Lady in the House at http://ladyinthehouse.net had me thinking about…nurturing thursdays.

English: Pumpkin spider, Araneus trifolium and...

In a piece entitled The Brilliance Behind Passive Agression, the writer expounds at length on the relationship between….in her imagery…the spider and the fly. The fly who is unwittingly caught in the web spun by the insidious spider.

Have you ever suffered the fate of the fly? Or have you been the one who masterfully lured it into your spidery world?

Neither image solicits a willingness to admit to being one or the other, or worse…both. Who wants to be seen as a dolt unable of detecting a death trap? And what woman would be the first to admit that she is a conniving arachnid?

It may be that The Lady in the House finds herself in just such a predicament. Having been an unsuspecting fly myself…more than once,…I can detect another victim in the offing.

Webster’s Dictionary defines passive as…2. submitting without resistance, and aggressive as…1. tending toward aggression. The latter being defined as…1. an unprovoked attack.

In other words, a passive-aggressive person cleverly adopts a laid-back stance so as to draw the unsuspecting object of her attention ever closer.

It may be that the spider, or the passive-aggressor, would defend her actions as a natural instinct to take a lesser creature…the fly…into her lair…for safekeeping. You know, sort of as a protector. There’s an assumption here that the fly needs protecting. Perhaps from herself.

I’ve fallen prey to folks who have seemingly had my best interests at heart…or so it seemed at first. I did notice the eye-rolling and the exasperated sighs and the words tinged with sarcasm, but I chalked them up to my imagination. After all, I was trying not to “take it personally.” 

Fully invested, like the fly glued to the web, I became aware of more “red flags.” Until finally a zinger let loose, like “I care about you…BUT…” 

When a so-called loved one tells you on one hand that they approve of you, BUT on the other hand you could use some improvement…RUN FOR THE HILLS…spider web or not. You’ll never, ever measure up. There’ll always be a teensy-weensy something that needs adjusting to bring you up to their standards.

And before you realize it, there goes your self-esteem…out the window!

Whether you learn to stand your ground or take your leave when it comes to folks who are passive agressive, just break the ties that bind…

…and push back!…push back hard!!!…

………hugmamma.

Passive-Aggressive

guilty…as judged?

I visited a new blogger friend today, Jennifer at http://enjoylifeforonce.com

Judgment!

Judgment! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A post she’d written, 32 Flavors of Judgment, got me thinking about the ease with which we seem to judge ourselves…and others.

Why is that do you suppose?

Might it be that knee-jerk reaction to throw the first punch…at ourselves…or others?

Over coffee with a friend today, we commiserated at feeling the need to explain our actions to others. Especially in light of the fact that we’re both middle-aged mothers of adult children.

Why is it that we dictate to others…or allow others to dictate to us?

Having spent years digging out from under low self-esteem, I’ve never been inclined to tell others what to do. After all, I might be wrong.

In any given situation, however, our reactions can differ. Chalk it up to individual DNA.

When you come right down to it we’re all in the same boat…striving to validate our own existence.

It’s a struggle to command the spotlight…to be heard above the din…to distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

We’d all like to feel good about who we are…what we’ve become…what we’ve done. But surely it needn’t be at anyone’s expense…our own…or someone else’s…

Jennifer’s explanation was thought-provoking…in a wonderfully delicious…Baskin Robbins, banana split sundae sort of way.

32 Flavors Of Judgment…

If I judge myself based on the eyes of society, I fail because there are too many opinions.
If I judge myself based on my own criteria, I still fail because my mind changes moment to moment.
But if I learn to identify and recognize the particularly sour flavor of ‘judgement’ as it arises, I can spit it out and take a sip of water, savoring the complicated colorful glorious mess of perfection that takes judgement’s place. And then maybe I can do something from the heart.

Banana split

Banana split (Photo credit: jumbledpile)

Banana Split

Banana Split (Photo credit: amanky)

Birthplace of the Banana Split

Birthplace of the Banana Split (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

Wouldn’t you rather wallow in confectionery goo up to your eyeballs…than in opinions that don’t really matter in the end?

………hugmamma.

2012 resolution…#2

The Dana Owens Album

Image via Wikipedia

Found a few common sense resolutions from an actress who strikes me as having…common sense, Queen Latifah.

USA Weekend ran an article about the 5’10, full figured, Cover Girl singer-actress-comedienne. Having seen the beauty in a few films convinced me that she was the real deal, a nobody who became a somebody. Latifah’s star was finally launched when she received an Oscar nomination for her role as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago. She was cast alongside Renee Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones who walked away with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar

Latifah, a young 41 (from my perspective, anyway), is comfortable in her own skin. ” ‘I accept that I’m me…I don’t have a choice! From the time I really accepted myself, everything got brighter. People were attracted to me for me.’ “ I don’t think I’d find her as charming, if she were a complainer. I like her because she’s a striking woman, cut from a different mold, who’s funny, can laugh at herself, but still takes herself seriously…and is nobody’s fool.

Persona (Queen Latifah album)

Image via Wikipedia

My admiration for her jumped a few notches since learning that Latifah is also disciplined when it comes to taking care of her physical, and mental, well-being.
     ” ‘The first thing [I do] is to get on the treadmill for a mile,’ says Latifah, who has used a personal trainer for years. ‘Then it could be circuit training. Sometimes we’ll walk 3 or 4 miles outside, come in and do strength training. Sometimes it’s just yoga. Yoga’s great for calming your mind, loosening up, stretching and strengthening. And allowing you to feel pain and move through it. All things you need in life.’ “

Latifah is not without sin. Her favorite? Mac and cheese. “I know what to eat and what not to eat. But I just like doing what I want, you know? I’m rebellious like that!’ “ I also like that about her…a streak of the rebel.

With her signature, hearty laugh, Latifah confirms that her secret to a healthy body is…doing cardio…eating smaller potions…lots of water…no food 3 hours before bedtime…and lots of exercise. I’m also grateful that she has no use for plastic surgery. ” ‘What do you need to Botox your face for at age 25? Really? If you’re doing that at 25, what are you going to do at 50?’ “ Latifah only subscribed to having breast reduction surgery in 2003 to alleviate back pain. I can relate to that. Back pain, I mean. Not big boobs. 

In Latifah’s own words…

English: Dress worn by singer Queen Latifah in...

Image via Wikipedia

Queenly tips for living the good life

Break bad habits: Latifah started smoking at 14 and has ‘fought against it my whole life.’ She has quit ‘several times,’ sometimes for years, only to light up again. Her mantra? ‘Be honest. Be aware. And absolutely try again. Don’t beat yourself up.’

Attract love: ‘You have to not seek it. You have to be it. Love yourself first. It will come to you naturally. You don’t have to fake it. You don’t have to be needy. Be open. And don’t judge the package it comes in.’

Do what you love: ‘If you’re passionate about it and it’s realistic, then you have to do it. Why wait? As long as you are breathing, you’ve got a chance to do something different.’

Embrace your age: Getting older is ‘a blessing. It means you’re still alive.’

Be realistic: ‘You gotta be honest with yourself, No. 1. If you like to eat sweets at night, then you’ve got to prepare for it. You have to plan. Instead of eating the whole thing, just eat some of it.’

Give back: ‘So many people need help. Sponsor a child instead of giving a gift, or donate to an organization on someone’s behalf. Or take your [old] clothes to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. When you give, you can’t imagine how it’s going to come back to you. It always does.’

I think I’ll be following some womanly advice throughout this next year…

…and all the years thereafter…

………hugmamma.  😉 

the war…within

 
Aquaman along with the other prominent charact...

Image via Wikipedia

After exercise class one day I had the pleasure of visiting the home of one of my friends and fellow exercisers, Laura. She’d recently done extensive remodeling which I’d wanted to see. It would help me decide whether or not to use her contractor. What I saw of his handiwork proved to be favorable…if we can afford his price, that is. We’ll see. More importantly for me, however, was the conversation Laura and I had as I was about to leave.

Laura’s a writer. Though I’ve not read anything she’s written, I’d imagine her to be an author of depth and compassion. When she speaks of her travels and experiences everyone is apt to listen. She may be soft-spoken but her words are those of one who invests in living what she believes.

One thing struck me as personally significant in what Laura said that day. She spoke of 2 inner voices residing within us…that of the ego…and that of the soul. The first is loud, clamoring to be heard…and succeeding most of the time. The second is quiet, struggling for its voice amid the din caused by the ego. I would call it gut instinct.

Ego (Beyoncé Knowles song)

Image via Wikipedia

The ego is in constant search of stroking…of approval. Its appetite is insatiable. Enough is never enough. “Just one more” it asks…”Just tell me you like me…love me…one more time.”

All About Soul

Image via Wikipedia

The soul, or gut instinct, tries to intervene on behalf of our own self-preservation…gently reminding that it is we who control our own destiny…not others. But we are never prodded, or goaded, or shoved into acquiescence. If we could only be still for a moment or two, we might hear our softer voice reminding us that we are valuable…we needn’t abandon ourselves in aspiring to be what we think others want.

If only we could be our own best friends…and not our own worst enemies. Ego is good if given boundaries. As my daughter laughingly tells me when I hug her without letup, “Bubble! Bubble!” The ego should be kept in a bubble…with just enough space for it to roam and be appreciated. Meanwhile the soul should be given free reign to exercise its muscle, and strengthen its influence.

CG depiction of Gollum created by Weta Digital...

Image via Wikipedia

The ego and the soul need balance, the former carrying less weight than the latter in my estimation. Harnessing the ego seems to me more difficult than giving free reign to the soul. I compare the ego to Gollum, the creature in “The Hobbit” who covets the precious ring belonging to Bilbo, the book’s hero. The ego is not bad unless it obsesses, leaving the soul with the difficult task of returning us to our core…to who we are…and should remain. 

So I’ve resolved, along with losing a few pounds, to listen hard as my soul tries to speak up for me…and keep my ego in check as it strains for the approval of others. Both are inevitable and essential. How they play out their roles is managed by the director…

…me…and you………hugmamma.  😉 

daily post challenge #262: what wouldn’t i tell my best friend

Lady Gaga performing

Image via Wikipedia

The first and only thing that comes to mind is that I wouldn’t want to tell her anything hurtful. But by the same token, I wouldn’t want to be the recipient of a barb as well.

The media is rife with coverage of bullying these days. Lady Gaga has interjected herself into the milieu in support of a young fan who was a victim, who decided suicide was preferable to the ongoing hatefulness of others.

Saddle Wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey feeding on ...

Image via Wikipedia

Teasing has always been a sore spot for me. The youngest of 9, I  was always the butt of sibling pranks. I most detested being chased the length of a sandy beach, my brother and sister threatening to throw a slimy sea urchin at me. They laughed hysterically. I wailed for my mom to stop them. She did. I so often solicited her aid, that my siblings taunted me with “You’re a spoiled brat!” “You’re a big baby!” They didn’t think it unfair that they were two, to my one. I had to bring in the big guns to even the playing field. But of course, my mom was more like a cannon.

It took me some time to convince my husband, the eldest of 12, that teasing is hurtful. For those who tease it may not seem so. They make a remark in the moment, tossing it out there like a discard. What they don’t realize is that the recipient may not be cut from the same cloth. Because of his or her own life experiences, “personal baggage” like low self-esteem, such teasing is like a lash of the whip. It stings, and often leaves scars. Those are a constant reminder of the hurt felt in the moment. And that hurt can last a lifetime…I know.

As my wise mother-in-law has said on more than one occasion, “Be careful what you say, for you can never take it back.” I heed her advice as best I can. More times than not I walk away from someone’s ill-placed statement. But it’s difficult to do so with someone I consider a loved one, a good friend, a confidante. It’s then I’m inclined to have my say, and make a clean breast of what bothers me. And it’s then, and only then, I say something I wouldn’t ordinarily say…to my best friend.

defense mechanisms…not something i use…or enjoy using…unless i have to…

………hugmamma.  

something in common…an uncommon love affair

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in the process of reading I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, and I must admit to loving it. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be interested in their relationship. Mostly because I have never, ever been a fan of hers. Silly reason being I always thought her head was too large for her body. Seeing the couple side-by-side only confirmed my opinion. I was always gaga about Reagan’s Greek god, good looks. As an actress, Nancy Davis had a pretty face in a plain sort of way, but it was larger than his, larger than anyone’s. But my opinion softened the more I glimpsed of her as First Lady. I’m certain her hairstyle did much to downplay the size of her head. In fact I thought she was very attractive while living in the White House. And now I know why. Nancy was radiant because of her all-consuming love for her husband.

Looking back now, I still can’t define what it was about Ronnie that made him seem so very perfect to me. I think we were just right for each other. And as the evening went on, I was more and more convinced. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t like any other actor I knew–or anybody else in the movie business. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk about his movies. He talked about lots of things, but not about “my next picture, my last picture…” He was a Civil War buff, loved horses, and knew a lot about wine. In fact, he had a broad knowledge of a lot of different things. I loved to listen to him talk. I loved his sense of humor. I saw it clearly that very first night: He was everything that I wanted.

 Oddly enough I can relate to how Nancy Reagan felt. I met my husband when I was 17, and he was 18. I think it was “love at first sight” for both of us. Or maybe it was passion. Whatever the case, it seemed we were both hit by lightning when our eyes met.

I was a second semester freshman at the University of Hawaii, while my future husband was attending a small Catholic college nearby. Having returned from San Francisco a week earlier where he had been in a seminary, studying to be a priest, he was now one of many available “fish” in the sea. We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. She and I shared a class at the University; he’d known her in elementary school. The party was in full swing when he rang the doorbell. When the hostess opened the door, all eyes were riveted upon the tall, dark, handsome guy standing there. If I’d have been a fly on the wall, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed all the girls eyes pop out of their sockets, and their mouths drop down to their chests, including mine! A huge Elvis fan, to me the guy in the doorway could’ve passed as a double.

I was introduced, as were all the other girls. But unlike most of them I was certain I didn’t stand a chance. Why? I’ve always had this perception that part-White, part-Asian girls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still do. My husband is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese. So of course he represented my viewpoint as it pertains to men. Naturally I assumed he and the girls with similar pedigree would go off and make beautiful music together. You can imagine my shock, and delight, when it was me he pursued! My best friend at the time watched with me, as he made his way from bar stool to bar stool to bar stool, until he was sitting right alongside me. The sizzles went right through me! I’m certain I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, and I know I must’ve been grinning from ear to ear. I had only thought to make him comfortable when we first met, with my unflinching gift for blah, blah, blah. Well it seems I charmed the pants off my future husband from the get-go. And the rest is history, as they say.

Who would’ve thought that Nancy Reagan and I were sisters beneath the skin? Or in matters of the heart? Even as it applied to outsiders who seemed intent upon coming between her and her man. While we dated, and throughout our marriage, women seemed attracted to my husband. I could only wonder when a realtor asked me how it was he married me, or when a friend let me know that she was next in line for him, or when a sister-in-law teased that if she’d met him first, my husband would’ve married her. Then there were the sales women who lined up to kiss him on his birthday when he was in his early 20s, and a woman who offered her phone number should he ever visit her hometown, Chicago.

While in the White House, Nancy Reagan was unattractively depicted as being overly protective of the President. At the time I was probably swayed by the media to agree. But in light of what I’ve read, I give her credit for having the confidence and obvious self-esteem to stand up to the criticism, or ignore it altogether. I had neither, and so I felt like a doormat as women left their off-putting remarks and actions imprinted upon my fragile psyche. But like the Reagans, my husband and I have weathered the years like 2 buoys bobbing up and down in rough seas, or like 2 seagulls sitting atop the glassy surface of calm waters.

Of course none of us are saints, even though I called my husband one during one of our first arguments as a married couple.  With tears still glistening in his eyes he told me how hurt he felt when I had yelled “Do you know how hard it is living with a saint?” I promised never to say such a thing again. But I’m sure I failed to honor my word, at least once or twice thereafter. Any woman who’s lived with an ex-seminarian knows what I mean. When we’d argue, I’d be on both sides of the fence. I’d be just as vociferous about his inability to comprehend my woman’s needs, as I was about fighting for my rights as an equal partner. The nuns did a great job instilling guilt into my moral fiber. I’m still picking off the leftover lint to this day.

It came as no surprise that the Reagans were like other married folk. They didn’t always sail the ocean blue without so much as a white cap.

Like any other couple, we didn’t agree on everything, of course. But we never really argued. We worked on things. And I think that’s why, beyond our love for each other, our marriage has always been so happy. What we felt was right out there, just as it is the letters.

In response to a letter from a bride asking for tips towards succeeding in her marriage, Nancy wrote:

I’ve been very lucky. However, I don’t ever remember once sitting down and mapping out a blueprint. It just became “we” instead of “I” very naturally and easily. And you live as you never have before, despite problems, separations and conflicts. I suppose mainly you have to be willing to want to give.

It’s not always 50-50. Sometimes one partner gives 90 percent but then sometimes the other one does, so it all evens out. It’s not always easy, it’s something you have to work at, and I don’t think many young people realize that today. But the rewards are great. I can’t remember what my life was like before, and I can’t imagine not being married to Ronnie. When two people really love each other they help each other stay alive and grow. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to become a complete person for the first time. I suppose it boils down to being willing to try to understand, to give of yourself, to be supportive and not to let the sun go down on an argument.

I hope that yours will be a happy road ahead. I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit, and of course, I can only speak for myself. However, when I married, my life took on an added meaning and depth and truly began. I’m sure yours will too.

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself. And like Nancy to this day I dread my husband’s business trips. In my 20s I would cry the entire week before he left. I no longer succumb to youthful self-pity, but I miss my husband’s presence. He likewise confesses to being unable to sleep when he’s not nestled comfortably in his own bed, with me by his side.

When Ronnie traveled now, I missed the little things most of all–the ways he loved and cared for me, how he would cover my shoulder with the blanket every night before we went to sleep, how we always slept on the same sides of the bed–him on the left, and me on the right–how we had breakfast on trays in bed together on weekends, which we started doing in our new house in the Palisades. I hated it even more then, when he went away. No matter how necessary it was for his work and the family, I never got used to it.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s. Those of you who’ve been reading hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul since the beginning of time, know that I’m proactive in my efforts to battle the disease which had my mom in its iron grips for nearly a decade before she died. Knowing of the Reagan’s devotion to one another over the course of 50 some years, I have great empathy for the loss she suffered when Alzheimer’s made off with her husband. All who have become one in body and spirit with their partner, would feel similarly. But thanks to Ronald Reagan’s propensity for writing, his presence lingered on in his love letters to Nancy.

President Ronald Reagan cutting in on Nancy Re...

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When Ronnie and I were married, on March 4, 1952, I had of course no idea what the future would hold for us. I only knew that I loved Ronald Reagan, and being his wife was then, as it is today, the most important thing in the world for me. “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan,” I said some years ago, and I also said, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” Those statements, for which I was criticized back then are just as true for me today as they were five decades ago–despite Alzheimer’s, aging, and all the things that have happened to us. As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more. In fact, they are a kind of lifeline–preserving the past, Ronnie’s wonderful voice and humor, his character, and his special way of seeing things and expressing himself. As they bring back Ronnie in his own words they help me go on into the future. Many people have said to me after reading I Love You, Ronnie , “I had no idea Ronald Reagan was like that.” But I of course always knew, and I treasure these letters especially because they bring back the Ronnie I have always loved.

The inevitable, final parting awaits all of us. Perhaps it need not be without its own happy ending, “a la” Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

…as I reflect some more on the life Ronnie and I have shared, I would add that saying how much you love each other–to each other and also in letters that can be saved, read, and reread over the years–is a wonderful way to stay close. It is especially important in our busy lives to keep alive what really matters most: love, caring for each other, finding concrete ways to say it and show it, every day and in every way you can. It’s what endures, after all, and what we retain and hold on to, especially in our hearts.

…Ronnie’s letters move me to this day. They are his gift to me across the years, and throughout the decades of love.

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady ...

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…an uncommon love affair that continues to endure…

…like mine…hugmamma.

 

 

 

“true you,” more than enough

Almost done reading True You: A Journey To Finding And Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson. Yes, she’s “the” Janet Jackson, sister of Michael Jackson. But I wouldn’t have read it for that reason alone. Interviews of her by Meredith Vieira, and then by Piers Morgan, piqued my interest. Prior to that, I really wasn’t motivated to know more about Janet. Other than her videos, songs and a couple of films, she wasn’t in the media, unless it was to do with her more famous sibling. The youngest Jackson, and second most celebrated, Janet favored living her personal life in the shadows. The reason, as revealed in her book, is that she has suffered low self-esteem her entire life.

True You is probably one of the best biographies I’ve read to date, although Janet doesn’t refer to it as such. She prefers to think of it as a spiritual and physical journey towards accepting and loving, one’s true self. The unique element about her story is its compassion throughout. There’s nothing narcissitic about the book, although the focus is obviously upon her. Janet bares her soul, but does so in relation to her commonality with all of us. We can all relate to her experiences. She’s one of us. And that’s where she seems most comfortable. She appreciates and is grateful for her position and wealth, but not at all like the other so-called “rich and famous.” While Michael remains my favorite performer, Janet is definitely my choice for BFF, that is if I had a choice.

One of the things I enjoy most is how Janet weaves anecdotes shared with her by others, whether personal acquaintances, or strangers who have written letters. Their stories are as poignant as hers, and she generously acknowledges this by featuring them throughout the pages of her book. I like that about Janet, her generosity and her humility too. Wish Michael could have been as balanced in his personal life. But his sister admits that it has taken all of her 40+ years to get where she’s at, and she’s still not done yet.

a lesson for all of us…True You …hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.