…above and beyond…

‘Tis the season to be…the best mom I can possibly be.

If there’s one thing in my life I’m particularly proud of it’s that I’m a good mom. No. I’m a great mom!

Forgive me for tooting my own horn, or as is more appropriate nowadays…taking my own selfie and sharing it with all of you.

But even I have to admit that I might have gone a bit over the top in my latest venture as a great mom.

A few weeks ago my daughter was home for a long weekend. Misty Copeland, the first African-American ballerina recently promoted to the level of principal dancer with NYC’s American Ballet Theatre had asked my daughter to be part of a question-and-answer panel following the Seattle premiere of “A Ballerina’s Tale.” While only a short 3-day stay, my husband and I were thrilled to have our daughter with us. Unfortunately not many attended, but those who did enjoyed a lively discussion about women of color and muscular physique struggling to make a career in the elite world of ballet.

While she was here, I offered to help my daughter shop for Christmas gifts for her fiancé as well as her friends. Knowing how busy she is dancing, teaching and choreographing, I felt I could help relieve some of her stress during the days leading up to Christmas. Besides which we always have such a grand time shopping together. We laugh lots. We commiserate. We eat. We gossip. Our common adrenalin keeps us pumped and going strong. Although when it comes to shopping, I’ve more stamina than my daughter. She’s a wuss by comparison. And she’d be the first to agree.

So after my daughter returned home to her hectic life, I got busy wrapping, boxing and shipping packages. A few packages found their way to Las Vegas, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. These were to close friends of my daughter’s. The bulk, however, were postmarked to my daughter and her fiancé…gifts from her to him…and from us to both of them. There were a couple of items earmarked for the mother-daughter team who own the competition dance studio where my daughter teaches. In all there were exactly 7 boxes, mostly 12/12’s, but a couple 18/18’s. I hate to tell you what the costs were in wrapping paper, gift tags, ribbon, tissue AND airmail postage.

I told my husband…and my daughter…we’d send them on a cruise next year. She and …her husband of 6 months. (They wed next summer.) Of course I was being facetious.

Or was I? Hmmm…

Thankfully her dad weighed in by hauling the boxes to our local post office and paying for the shipping. I wouldn’t have had the energy, nor would I have been able to withstand the unwelcome stares by other customers, or the humorous comments by the postal workers. My husband has the skin of a rhinoceros when it comes to other folks and what they think. He could care less. Me? I’m still in training.

Mind you my daughter never asks for my help in such matters. She’ll always get around to doing what she can, when she can. She doesn’t stress like me that way. There’s just something about her that makes me want to be her mom…always. Helping her however and whenever I can. 

My 6 decades+ old body is telling me…very vehemently…that I cannot keep this up. I cannot burn the midnight oil doing extra work on top of what I already pile on top of myself in my own life, which includes my own antiques business.

Don’t feel overly sorry for me though. I do reward myself with little pleasures now and then…like dining out on Thanksgiving Day. A treat hubby and I will repeat when we partake of another sumptuous buffet at the same restaurant on Christmas Day. No cooking. No cleaning.

…just smiles and happy vibes all around.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

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six word story challenge: shopping

Keep Going. Just one more stop.

A bargain? Did you need it?

My talent? Shopping ’til I drop!

A Ripley’s first? Shopping in space!

Forget Christmas! I shop year round.

Exhausted and elated…shoppers in crime.March 2011A 00009IMG_1311IMG_2551

daily prompt challenge: the clothes (may) make the (wo)man

Clothes horses

I must admit to having been a “clothes horse” during my college years. Since I was on a couple of small scholarships and had to fund the rest of my tuition by working at the university bookstore, I had pittance left over for a wardrobe. Somehow I managed, although exactly how, I can’t remember. After all…that was over 4 decades ago.

When I got married, soon after graduating, I dabbled a bit in sewing my own clothes. I confess I was more of a seamstress in middle school and high school. I’d learned to sew while I was in elementary school, carrying my prized, portable sewing machine to and from the home of my Japanese teacher.

As a married lady with a heftier income, a combination of mine and my hubby’s, I began shopping for clothes at Liberty House. No longer around, it use to be THE place to purchase the latest fashions. Needless to say, they were pricey.

Liberty House and JM San Jose

But hey! We have to look fabulous to keep our men, don’t we? Or is it that we have to outshine our peers? Or is it a reflection of our insecurities about ourselves? Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three. Will we ever know for sure?

Does it really matter…in the grand scheme of things?

Throughout my career outside the home, I obsessed over clothes. I’m sure I was no different than most working women. Although I might have gone overboard because I’d grown up using hand-me-downs, and rejects from the orphanage where my mom worked. Not an excuse, mind you, just an explanation for my laser-like focus on buying new things to wear.

Gaining weight can be a deterrent to buying clothes, or it can be the impetus to go out and buy clothes that fit…until we can squeeze back into our smaller-sized duds once again. Been there; done that. Now in my 60s…I’ve donated most of what use to fit to Good Will.

English: Photo of Chico's in Hudson, Ohio

Chico’s has my patronage now that I fit into a size 2…1 1/2…and 1, depending on the piece. Did I forget to mention that Chico’s is very astute at marketing to more mature women. In other words, they’ve tricked us chubbier women into thinking we’re really smaller than the rest of the world thinks we are. The retailer has taken the standard sizes…4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18…and morphed them into 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 3. Pretty clever, huh? And women like me fell for the scam…hook, line, and sinker.

But you know what? Chico’s nudged me out of my comfort zone with blacks, browns, greys, and blues…catapulting me into all the colors of the rainbow, and some. 

I didn’t only eat sherbert, I was wearing sherbert…colors.

As I’ve aged, I’ve toned my choices down a tad. No more teals and tangerines for me. However I have picked up some bling. I’m not over-the-top with it, just enough to turn a few heads, whether in admiration…or shock. Oh, well…

…vanity…thy name is (wo)man…

………hugmamma.

(p.s….did i mention i’m to blame for my daughter’s now being a “clothes horse?”…and needing more closet space?)

...dressing to the 9's...once-in-awhile is ok...

…dressing to the 9’s…once-in-awhile is ok…

the whole truth…and nothing but…

Photographs can sometimes lie. Or at the very least…they don’t always tell the whole truth.

Having secured a number of rentals over the last several years, whether for family vacations or for our daughter’s use while working, we’ve come to realize that photos don’t necessarily represent the total picture. 

Take for example the 1 bedroom condo we rented on Waikiki Beach last year when we returned to Honolulu for my mother-in-law’s funeral. 

The unit photographed beautifully, including the balcony with 2 chairs. IMG_4457What the photo did NOT capture, was the fact that we’d be sitting with our knees touching the rail. That’s if we could even squeeze our way onto the narrow balcony. What the picture also didn’t show was the view of the enormous parking lot surrounded by wall-to-wall high-rises. I’ll give the owner credit though for correctly identifying the peek-a-boo mountain view.IMG_4456

Then there was the rental my daughter and I recently occupied in San Fransisco‘s Mission District. It looked like a charming enough studio. There was a queen-sized bed towards the back of what seemed a somewhat spacious living area with a couch and television. I liked that one could watch TV while facing the balcony and the Zen-like garden beyond. Unfortunately any thought I might have had of spending time outside, disappeared upon arrival.

The area was a mess. A year’s worth of leaves had accumulated. Spider webs had taken hold. Plants were dying. Chairs were in disrepair. It was obvious that outdoor maintenance wasn’t a priority. Thank goodness a regular service handled the indoor cleaning. Or I’d have been out of there in a hot San Francisco minute.

Two other factors about the apartment were a little more disconcerting. One was that it shared a common wall with the owners’ garage. I sometimes wondered if we’d wake up under a car if one of the drivers stepped on the gas instead of the brake. The second was one of hygiene. The bath towels felt as though we were wiping ourselves with chenille bedspreads. You know, the kind grandma used on her beds. They were so thin. And sometimes we’d find strands of hair embedded in the dark fibers of the brown towels. Yuck! Yuck! And yuck!

I was reminded of these experiences after helping our daughter settle into her current digs this past weekend. She’s in Houston rehearsing the female dance lead in The Grand Opera‘s AIDA.

The best I can say about the apartment is that it’s spacious. It had been a detached garage in a former life. Now it’s a bungalow…living and bathroom/bedroom separated by a narrow breezeway-turned kitchen. Funky is the best way to describe the decor. I expected that from the online photos. What I didn’t expect was almost nonexistent lighting and dirt beneath the surface…not dust, but grease and grime.

My spirits nose-dived when we walked into the dimly lit living room. I could barely see the furnishings once we’d switched on the 2 over-sized, recessed ceiling lights. And it was only 6:30 in the evening! Some natural light shone from the kitchen windows, but not enough to make a difference. In fact, the overhead track lighting in the kitchen wasn’t the best light to prep and cook in either. The bathroom light was better, albeit haphazardly assembled. The light bulbs above the medicine cabinet were mismatched or missing, and only one of the mismatched lights that were part of the ceiling fan worked.

The bedroom lighting was a disaster.IMG_5094Light from an old-fashioned desk lamp shone like a spotlight on the wall next to the bed. With dark wood flooring and black bed covers, it was difficult to find comfort in that dingy room as well. The closet was an alcove to the left of the bed. There were enough shelves and hanging space for sure, and at least the ceiling bulb with pull string shone a good deal of light.IMG_5093 Fortunately there was an overhead light with ceiling fan in the bedroom, which lit up the space.

Family and close friends know I’m never deterred by less than desirable accommodations. I’m always up to the challenge of making things work, and I was determined to instill happiness in this apartment with a few dollars, and a whole lot of elbow grease and creativity.

Imagination is my middle name. Growing up poor in the good, old days meant having to dream up much of what I needed…whether it be play things or just pretty things. And at a very young age, I also learned the art of decorating. 

Charged with the task of cleaning and straightening our small upstairs rental each Saturday, I became extremely proficient at arranging and rearranging our thrift shop furniture. I took pride in making worn out furnishings look good. Over the years, first as a college student and then as a wife and mother, I have honed my talent such that I could do it in my sleep. Which, in fact, I often do…imagining how I would make over a room so that when day break arrives, I can “hit the ground running.” It also helps that my passion for hand-me-downs, in the form of antiques and vintage items, has only grown throughout the years. I’m now surrounded by what feels like…very dear, very old…friends.

So while our daughter followed her heart to the dance studio, her dad and I did a little sprucing up around the apartment.

Rolling up our sleeves, I scrubbed surfaces that looked like they’d not seen a sponge and disinfectant for some time, while hubby worked his magic on the laminate floors with a Swiffer mop. He went through half a box of replacement sheets, before we felt we could walk around the place with bare feet.

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…air mattress in living room for company…$1 pumpkin with gift tissue for hair…cheap place mats for dining…standing lamp brightens up a once dark room…colorful throws bought on sale, add cheer and coziness…

Once we sanitized the place, I proceeded to give it a face lift with bargains gleaned from a nearby TARGET. Thank God for TARGET! In no time the apartment looked more upbeat, cheerful, and cozy. The transformation brightened not only the apartment, but our spirits as well. 

With a little imagination such items as greeting cards, gift bags, colorful throws, bargain bowls, bag clips, rag rugs and towels, can turn any eye-sore into a warm and inviting space. Add to that a fresh set of linens complete with pillowcases, shams, sheets and comforter for $40, and a set of 2 table lamps and one standing lamp for $49…and our daughter was home…at last.

Returning home to the comfort of cozy surroundings has always been a priority in my life. It’s been a haven wherein my family and I can rest, recuperate, and re-energize for the next day’s adventures. And regardless of where my daughter’s career has taken her, I’ve always wanted the same for her…a home reminiscent of the one in which she’s grown up.

Memories are made no matter where we are…

IMG_5082

…child’s bed linen set at 30% off amps up this once spiritless bedroom…gift bags as wall art for under $5…bedside table lamp sets the right tone for winding down…

………hugmamma.

IMG_5065

…charming halloween cards and a pumpkin welcome our daughter home…and invites visitors to join her for conversation and comfort…

IMG_5054

…bowls add color while offering function…as do the magnet/hooks…

IMG_5136

happy daughter…happy, happy, happy…hugmamma…

holiday compassion…

Felt better after another chiropractic adjustment today. (Issaquah Family Chiropractic)

Could turn over from my stomach onto my back without grimacing in response to a knife-like pain that had accompanied such movement only a couple of days ago. Even raising myself into a sitting position, I was beginning to feel like my old self. My chiropractor agreed. One more appointment on Monday, and I’ll be headed for physical therapy for back strengthening treatment. Looking forward to it. Maybe then I’ll be able to return to exercising with the gals.

As I exited the chiropractor’s, I even exclaimed to no one in particular “Wow! I feel good.” I heard the receptionist chuckle as the door slowly closed behind me.

I felt well enough to visit my favorite, local gift shop LOOKS. I’d not been by since their Christmas decor went up. It didn’t seem as full as in years past. Perhaps holiday shoppers have already done some damage…all for the good. Or maybe the economy has limited the owner’s purchasing power. Whatever the case, I’m never disappointed with what I see.

To my great pleasure holiday vintage seemed to be the shop’s general theme. In particular, Victorian Christmas trees, santas, village pieces and ornaments lined a number of shelves. Mercury glass candle holders with jewels affixed to their fronts were displayed in an array of silvers, golds, as well as a few blues, greens and purples. (Lunabazaar.com)

LOOKS never fails to get me into the holiday spirit. It’s a delightful destination in and of itself.

One of my favorite lady friends was on hand to welcome me with a warm hug. After relaying what I’d been up to in recent weeks, she informed me of her debilitating bout of diverticulitis. She’d experienced a similar bout a few years ago which was resolved with anitibiotics. She’s not been so lucky this time around, and is consulting a surgeon to explore her options. We both agreed that it sucks to grow old.

A hug, a shoulder, an ear, a few words…shared in compassion…goes a long way in healing the spirit…of someone in need. The holidays seem to bring out the worst of times..and often the best…of human kindness…

…huge hugs………hugmamma.  🙂

swedish hospital…a 5-star resort?

Hubby and I had a date Saturday…touring the brand, spanking new Swedish Hospital in the Issaquah Highlands. We thought we’d make a quick stop, check it out, and be on our way to our real destination…Molbak’s Nursery, gift shop and cafe in Woodinville. Well, we never made it to see the flowers, plants and knick-knacks, or lunch among the lush foliage. Instead we wandered around the new hospital with thousands of other curious tourists to what seemed like a resort, not a place where the sick and maimed go to be cured and put back together again. I’m sure I wandered around, my mouth agape the whole time. We were all like children in a new candy shop, sampling everything with our eyes. I wasn’t the only one who was bug-eyed either.

Walking through glass doors which parted without hesitation, I immediately saw a Starbuck’s to my right…already with a line of people. No small wonder there. Tucked in the corner between the cafe and the front door was the restaurant. Visiting it later, I saw that it was on the caliber of any good dining destination in the community at large. Viewing the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest through the surrounding glass walls would also be a treat…a very calming one for sure.

Wandering further inside through what felt like a grand foyer, a reception desk sat to the left, and next to it a staircase leading to the second floor. Straight ahead was the bank of elevators, and to the right, past Starbuck’s was a gift shop. Rather, I should say, a mall of shops. After touring the floors above, I spent some time wandering in and out of the several stores. This is probably when I most felt like I was not in a hospital.

What appeared to be the main gift shop was lit up with a beautifully handrafted chandelier made by a local artist. Directly beneath was a table also crafted by another homegrown talent. In fact, most of the items in the shop were made here in the Pacific Northwest according to the shop’s lovely manager. She spent a few moments of her time talking with me, smiling all the while. A definite asset to what could be an intimidating environment for some. After all, this was still a hospital.

Walking through an oversized open doorway into the next shop, I delighted in seeing all manner of gifts for newborns and toddlers. Some items I’d never seen elsewhere. Across the way was another, very large, retailer selling exercise clothes, lingerie, and if I’m not mistaken, some maternity items for expectant mothers. One fun gift for you or someone else was a “snap” watch for around $16. The salesclerk kindly showed me how it operated. She stretched out the watchband, snapped it across her wrist, and “voile!” the watchband wrapped itself securely in place. What don’t people invent these days?!?

Down the hallway, next door to the shop with baby gifts, was a small studio for yoga classes. The nice volunteer offered information on how I could sign up for classes. Of course, it involved the internet. What doesn’t these days? Evidently I can check out the schedule for times and styles of yoga on the Swedish Hospital website. I might have to do that. I’ve always wanted to take a yoga class on a regular basis. Good for the body…and mind.

There were doctors, nurses, and technicians milling about to answer any questions. It was amazing to see so many of the staff smiling and relaxed. I’ve usually only seen them hurrying off to tend to patients. And I mean hurrying! Hopefully they’ll continue to smile once they get back to business as usual. I like smiling medical staff. They calm my nerves. Wouldn’t they make you feel more comfortable? They would me.

In October I’ll be having a colonoscopy and endoscopy done by Dr. David Patterson, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Swedish. I met up with him again at the open house, after having talked with him a month or so ago at our initial consultation. Originally from New Zealand, he retains very little of his accent. Having lived here in the States for 35 years, I can understand why. Dr. Patterson’s ready smile and easy “bedside” manner goes far in steadying my nerves for the impending procedures. Knowing he sees many people in the course of his practice, and having met me only once, I was amazed that he could recall who I was as throngs of people were milling all around us. The key to unlocking his memory about me was that my daughter was a ballerina. We’d discussed it at our first meeting when he asked if I had children. Of course, ask a mom about her offspring…and you’ve got a friend for life. Well, let’s see what I think after the doc goes to work on me in the Fall. I’ll let you know then…

Meanwhile I’ve only good things to say about the new Swedish Hospital and their staff. They’ve served me well for more than a decade, the doctors and nurses, that is. Oh, and the ER team at the old facility. Between my husband and me, we’ve seen them a few times over the years, for various and sundry minor crises, which seemed somewhat major at the time…episodes of asthma, pains mimicking a heart attack. You know, the usual.

The new Emergency Room check-in looked like that in any 5-star hotel. But that’s as far as we went. I’m hoping we won’t have to see the rest of the ER anytime soon. Unfortunately we didn’t do any of the tours offered. The one to see the surgical facility had a line of people the length of the hallway. Since hubby and I were on a “date,” and we’d already spent a couple of hours sightseeing, we decided we’d seen enough to convince us that the hospital was pretty much just what the hype was all about.

it’s what the doctor ordered…and it’s just fine by me…hugmamma.

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getting my mojo back…with love letters

It doesn’t take long to settle into the rut that is my life. I say that with my usual tongue-in-cheek humor. But after the last few weeks of unexpected twists and turns, I’m glad to be doing the same old, same old. There’s comfort and bountiful pleasure in just being able to muddle along…contentedly. Small things mean a lot at this stage of my life.

Cover of

Cover of Elvis in the Twilight of Memory

Half-Price Books at Crossroads Mall is where my eyeballs become the size of saucers. You know, cups and saucers. The biography section being my favorite. It’s always inevitable that a title or two or three will beckon me to buy, and I usually do. Books about celebs from the Golden Age of Hollywood, or singers whose songs got my foot tapping or my heart beating, or historical figures who let their guard down, always get my attention. Skimming the jacket covers I decide if, in fact, they’re worth my time and money. The titles I brought home tonight? Herbert G. Goldman’s Fanny Brice – The Original Funny Girl, Paul Alexander’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams – The Life, Times, and legend of James Dean, Elvis – in the twilight of memory by teenage girlfriend June Juanico, The Bluebird Cafe Scrapbook – Music & Memories from Nashville’s Legendary Singer-Songwriter Showcase edited by Amy Kurland, Mark Benner & Neil Fagan, and I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

If you’re a regular to hugmamma’s mind, body and soul, you already know you’ll probably be reading a review of one or more of the above-mentioned books. But the one that most impressed me tonight was the slim paperback containing Reagan’s love letters to his wife, Nancy.

Unlike most of America it seems, I was more enthralled with Ronald Reagan the actor than Ronald Reagan the president. Not that I didn’t think he was fine, but after all he was a Republican, not necessarily my brand of politician, although I might’ve voted for him. Neither was I a huge fan of Nancy Davis, preferring Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Reagan. But all this is ancient history, as they say. What was obvious then, and now, is how devoted the Reagans were to one another. That’s why I was intrigued by the book of letters. Following are 3 of the many contained therein.

July 13 (1954)…a.m.

My Darling
     The first day of shooting and like all first days I can’t tell you good bad or indifferent. Everything is hectic and upset what with the truck caravan arriving from L.A. in the dark last night. Most of the morning was spent getting the trucks unloaded and the equipment straightened out. Ben. B. is on hand so things can really get buggered up. I think Alan D. is trying to get some of the story holes plugged and this morning changed one scene “a la” a suggestion from “guess who.” However, our opposition is B.B. himself so I only whisper in an off-ear and let them fight it out. So far “Lady S.” is no help–taking the attitude of “who cares in these kinds of pictures.”
     However there is one golden glow warming my soul in this first sunset–I’m twenty-four hours closer to you. Last night was another one of those nights–just too beautiful to stand. So tonight I’ll probably be looking at the Moon which means I’ll be looking at you–literally and figuratively because it lays far to the South of this mountain top and that’s where you are. That takes care of the “literal” part–the “figurative” part requires no direction, I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.
     Please be careful and don’t get too good at covering your own shoulder at night–I’d miss doing it. Be careful in every other way too–nothing would have meaning without you.
     Now if two “Muffins” I know will exchange a kiss for me–my good night will have been said.

I love you
Ronnie

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952

Image via Wikipedia

Feb. 14 (1960)

Darling Mommie Poo
     Feb. 14 may be the date they observe and call Valentine’s Day but that is for people of only ordinary luck.
     I happen to have a “Valentine Life” which started on March 4 1952 and will continue as long as I have you.
     Therefore realizing the importance of this to me, will you be my Valentine from now on and for ever and ever? You see my choice is limited, a Valentine Life or no life because I love you very much.

Poppa

According to Nancy Reagan “The assassination attempt made us realize how very precious our lives were. It made us all the more devoted to each other. I think this comes through very strongly in Ronnie’s Christmas letter of 1981, written nine months after the shooting.”

The White House
Washington

Dec. 25 1981

Nancy Reagan says her last goodbyes to the pre...

Image via Wikipedia

Mrs. Reagan 2

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Mrs. R.
     I still don’t feel right about your opening an envelope instead of a gift package.
     There are several much beloved women in my life and on Christmas I should be giving them gold, precious stones, perfume, furs and lace. I know that even the best of these would still fall far short of expressing how much these several women mean to me and how empty my life would be without them.
     There is of course my “First Lady.” She brings so much grace and charm to whatever she does that even stuffy, formal functions sparkle and turn into fun times. Everything is done with class. All I have to do is wash up and show up.
     There is another woman in my life who does things I don’t always get to see but I hear about them and sometimes see photos of her doing them. She takes an abandoned child in her arms on a hospital visit. The look on her face only the Madonna could match. The look on the child’s face is one of adoration. I know because I adore her too.
     She bends over a wheelchair or bed to touch an elderly invalid with tenderness and compassion just as she fills my life with warmth and love.
     There is another gal I love who is a nest builder. If she were stuck three days in a hotel room she’d manage to make it home sweet home. She moves things around–looks at it–straightens this and that and you wonder why it wasn’t that way in the first place.
     I’m also crazy about the girl who goes to the ranch with me. If we’re tidying up the woods she’s a peewee power house at pushing over dead trees. She’s a wonderful person to sit by the fire with, or to ride with or just to be with when the sun goes down or the stars come out. If she ever stopped going to the ranch I’d stop too because I’d see her in every beauty spot there is and I couldn’t stand that.
     Then there is a sentimental lady I love whose eyes fill up so easily. On the other hand she loves to laugh and her laugh is like tinkling bells. I hear those bells and feel good all over even if I tell a joke she’s heard before.
     Fortunately all these women in my life are you–fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you. Browning asked; “How do I love thee–let me count the ways?” For me there is no way to count. I love the whole gang of you–Mommie, first lady, the sentimental you, the fun you and the peewee power house you.
     And oh yes, one other very special you–the little girl who takes a “nana” to bed in case she gets hungry in the night. I couldn’t & don’t sleep well if she isn’t there–so please always be there.

     Merry Christmas you all–with all my love.

Lucky me.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

 I Love You, Ronnie should be required reading for men and boys everywhere. Maybe then both sexes would be from the same planet…Venus. Now I “get” the passion between Nancy and her Ronnie. Perhaps if this book had been published at the time he was president, onlookers wouldn’t have been so disparaging of her. But then again the naysayers would have probably faulted her for self-promotion had she made the letters known back then. Or worse, the couple might’ve been ridiculed for being more absorbed with one another than they were already viewed as being. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad Nancy Reagan gave us a peek inside her love affair with Ronald Reagan.

…always room for one more pair of star-crossed lovers…another Romeo and his Juliet…hugmamma.

honeymoon alone?…why not?

Absolutely loved this Traveler’s Tale by Jennifer Belle which appeared some time ago in the Wall Street Journal. How many new brides would go for the gusto and forge ahead with her honeymoon plans…alone? I don’t know that I’d have had the courage 40 some odd years ago. But then that was a different time, and I was an island girl. That’s my excuse for everything. Truth be told, I’m just a scaredy cat, always have been, always will be. My daughter’s a little more adventurous, in fact a lot more adventurous. She drives on freeways in any state without white-knuckled fear. Me? I’m still meandering back-roads, even in my hometown of 14 years. Now you know why this young Mrs. had me chuckling…and envious of her unbelievable hutzpah!

My Perfect Honeymoon
(That I Spent Alone)

Children's Valentine in somewhat questionable ...

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I met at a Valentine’s party, got in an agitating fight the next day and then became inseparable–that is, until our honeymoon.

Walking out the door to go to the airport, my husband went to get his passport from his desk. It was missing. I called our housekeeper but she hadn’t seen it. We searched the apartment. I called the Terrorist Investigation Unit of the FBI to report it stolen by the carpet cleaner. “We can’t go,” my husband said.

But my passport wasn’t missing. I had wedding money and an airplane ticket. So while he stayed home and called his mother to see if she had his birth certificate and made desperate plans to join me as soon as possible, I flew to Venice.

Gondolas in Venice

 

I took a water taxi to my hotel and the driver, a gorgeous man named Davide, insisted I take command of the boat, although I explained that I was from New York and didn’t even know how to drive a car. “I teach you,” he said and sort of slapped my butt and also touched my stomach while shifting gears. He gave me his number on a scrap of paper.

“I’m married,” I said for the first time. “I’m on my honeymoon.” He thought this was very charming and American and pretended to look overboard in the murky brown water for a groom. “Call me,” he said.

Harry's Bar interior. Venice Italy.

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At the Hotel La Fenice et des Artistes, beside the burned-down opera house, I checked into the honeymoon suite. I had cannelloni and bellinis at Harry’s Bar on Calle Vallaresso, and stopped to listen to, of all things, Hava Nagila, played by a band in San Marco. The next day I bought five hand-tooled leather journals from a bookbinder named Ustino and began writing in one of them at Locanda Cipriani, a restaurant in a quince orchard on a tiny island called Torcello. I ordered cannelloni again and wrote, “I’m eating cannelloni all aloni.” I wandered that night over bridges and bought a silk jacket with rats painted on it for $500.

Channel in Burano, Venice, Italy

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The next day I got my period on the island of Burano and found one drugstore among all the lace shops. There was so much lace everywhere, when I opened the new box of Tampax, I was surprised they weren’t lace too. I had dinner that night at Vino Vino on Calle de la Rotonda where you order from three dishes at the counter. It would have been perfect except for the waitress ignoring me during my lemon cake–and oh yeah, I remembered, my husband not being there.

Gondolas in a canal in Venice, Italy

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Waiting for him, I took gondola rides and drank wine with beautiful men. I soaked my feet in the bidet, listening on the phone to my husband complain about how he’d taken Metro-North to the county clerk’s office in White Plains to get his birth certificate. I went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia, lounged on my king-sized bed, got chocolate on my trousseau. “Your honeymoon, she is ruined!” the hotel clerk fretted. But she was perfect.

Honeymooning alone, I discovered what it was to be married. I experienced it more fully, had a chance to get used to it. Without him there to interfere, I could be my most romantic. We were star-crossed; he was struggling to get to me. Every bride should be alone after the stress of a wedding. I felt sorry for anyone with a groom to deal with. “Husband is my favorite word,” I wrote in my hand-bound diary. Believe me–I have never written anything like that since.

Four days after my arrival at Marco Polo airport I went back to pick up my husband. He turned out to be allergic to Venice and couldn’t stop sneezing, so we went on to Rome and then the Amalfi Coast.

Almalfi Coast (10/10/2007)

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When we got home our housekeeper brought me the slim Citibank check box from the desk and opened it proudly to reveal the safe place she’d hidden my husband’s passport. I’d moved that box a hundred times during my search, but hadn’t thought to look inside.

The scrap of paper with Davide’s phone number on it is still on my refrigerator. In case I ever want a second honeymoon.

(Ms. Belle’s novels include “High Maintenance” and “The Seven Year Bitch.” She remains happily married.)

my kind of woman…for sure…hugmamma. 😉

“point, and shoot!”

Had a great “date day” with my hubby. After a 20-25 minute drive to a massage appointment that turned out not to be until next weekend, we headed into Seattle.

Recent events of the last several weeks had me rescheduling appointments. Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes where they counted, on my calendar. Seniors know we have to write everything down. I forgot to do that, so we were surprised when a note on my massage therapist’s door said “Closed. Returning at 1 p.m.” Like a scrabble game, my brain started rearranging my thoughts and came up with “OMG! What date is this?” After being told, by my husband, that it was March 5th, we burst into laughter at my senior moment. “Oh well,” I said, “the ride through the countryside was beautiful. Now we’ll be able to enjoy the urban jungle of the city.” And off we went.

The primary purpose of our trip was to see about getting tickets for the musical, “Billy Elliott.” Online tickets were pricey, and the available seats didn’t look good. As always the “doubting Thomas,” I wanted to stand at the box-office window, ask the person sitting there for the prices, and look at the seating chart. I also wanted to query her as to her thoughts about the location of the seats. Which seats are better, these or those? I prefer the human touch, over the computer “clicks.” Call me old-fashioned, or old-school, or just old. It’s a generational thing, whatever you call it.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

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After finding out that the box-office was only open Mondays through Fridays, we cheerily wandered down the street toward Pike Place Market. My hubby will return and check out the ticket situation. If we see “Billy Elliott,” fine. If not, the movie version of several years ago suffices.

As we wandered down sidewalks overflowing with Saturday shoppers, I decided to capture images with my camera. I was fascinated with shops along the way. At Barney’s New York, I stopped to take photos of words boldly written across their over-sized windows. They spoke of backstage happenings. Of course I was captivated.

My daughter’s often spoken of things that occur behind the scenes at ballet performances. One particular incident involved a fellow, male dancer carrying her from the stage “wings” where she was crouching in pain, backstage to the physical therapist’s station, where the “charley-horse” in her calve muscle could be checked out. This prevented my daughter from dancing in the finale. With the help of female dancers gathered around, her costume was quickly removed, and her understudy was just as quickly shoved into it. And as the saying goes, it was “on with the show.”

The sun’s warmth felt glorious! My husband kept up with me as I wend my way in and out of the crowd, stopping to snap pictures of Macy’s windows with mannequins in funky

outfits, a boutique window with artsy graphics, a “Chocolate” shop I’d never noticed on previous visits.

Everything looks delicious when I don’t have to dodge raindrops. I lingered everywhere, on curbsides, in the cozy courtyard of a small hotel near Pike Place Market, and then, of course, the market itself.

People were everywhere, soaking up the unique sights, smells and sounds of food booths, craft booths, flower booths, produce stalls, fish stalls. My absolute favorite is the vendor who sells fresh-roasted nuts. I never leave without a pound of her cashew nuts. Today, I also purchased a pound of toffee-covered nuts for my husband’s “sweet-sour tooth,” a mixture of peanuts and hazelnuts. These nuts are never a disappointment! And I’m a nut aficionado. I love cashew chicken, goobers, “turtles,” chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, almond rocha, almond joy, and on and on.

Making our way back from where we came, the downtown area, I turned my camera on passersby. People fascinate me, all kinds. I wanted to capture Seattlites, although I’m sure they weren’t all city-dwellers. Nonetheless, when I asked if I could photograph them, I said it was to let readers of my blog see the people of Seattle. All but one responded with smiles and nods of agreement.

I’m sure I startled those on the other side of window fronts, a chef preparing ingredients, a couple of guys eating lunch,  and a Sephora makeup artist doing her thing. Caught up in playing amateur photographer, I approached a mother and daughter, a woman waiting outside a shop with her luggage, sales people in the coolest, new clothing store, “All Saints…,” and a street musician.

I was delighted to buy the street newspaper, “Real Change,” from an amiable homeless man. But another homeless person, an elderly woman, stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d never seen a woman who looked like a school teacher, or a librarian, or an office worker, leaning up against a lamp-post, plastic bags gathered around, dressed in an oversized, yellow, rubber raincoat with a long, green scarf snuggly wrapped about her head, cup in hand, begging. Wanting to “tell” her story, I asked if I could take a picture of her. Eyeglasses cast a shadow, while a small smile softened the blow of her emphatic “no,” in response. As we stood, a guy who looked to be in his late 20s, early 30s, pressed a plastic bag containing a boxed lunch into the woman’s grateful hands. He was on his way, before she fully mouthed her words of thanks. Oblivious to my presence, she hungrily removed the bag’s contents, murmuring how she really needed the food. As I pressed a $5 bill into her free hand, her eyes widened in disbelief. I can only imagine that she felt today was a good day. But as I walked away, I wondered about her tomorrows.

My husband said it best when he declared of me…”You dance to the beat of a different drummer.”

he’s right…i come up with my own “choreography”…hugmamma.

decorating tip, “change it up”

Growing up, our family never bought a stick of furniture. Everything was a hand-me-down, or a thrift shop leftover. Needless to say nothing matched. Since one of my Saturday chores was housecleaning, I taught myself to meld what most might consider junk. I didn’t know it then, but my passion for antiques and vintage collectibles probably grew out of necessity. Overstuffed armchairs, a long sofa with missing springs, a vintage, stand-alone radio whose flat top displayed religious articles, along with an assortment of odd pieces was my introduction to decorating. Each time I swept and dusted, I also rearranged the furnishings, even if it was just a nudge here and there. I continued this practice during my stint in retailing, during and after college. As a sales clerk and then a department manager, I was advised to “change things up” regularly. Customers would perceive that the store was constantly bringing in new merchandise, when in fact it wasn’t. To this day I redo my rented space in an antique mall, which always derives compliments from management and customers alike. Reworking the space freshens the look, and casts each item in a new light. It also helps with the “bottom line,” sales.

My house undergoes the same rearranging, more so in the past than now. Older age brings contentment with the status quo. Forty years of housekeeping will do that. “Been there, done that!” However friends and family will attest to the fact that the holidays consume my time and energy as I transform my home into a wonderland. For Halloween and Christmas my stored treasures are retrieved from the garage and incorporated into my furnishings. As in bygone days I have fun blending furnishings, with seasonal decor. Rather than relegate normal household items to the bins from whence the ornaments, wreaths, and garlands came, I intermingle all to enhance every room, including the bathrooms. I usually “pull out all the stops” for the holidays, because it always gets a jaw-dropping reaction. There are drawbacks, however.

It usually takes me 2 weeks of cleaning and decorating, to dress 5 or 6 medium-sized trees for display in various rooms, to hang garlands with ornaments atop cupboards, to create elaborate centerpieces for the kitchen island and dining room table, to configure a unique vintage vignette across the fireplace mantel. And that’s only a sampling of the holiday facelift. THEN there’s the dismantling, not done until April the last couple of years. Having taken so long to arrange, I’m in no hurry to destroy my masterpiece. Luckily my husband enjoys my creativity, or else he’s a saint for humoring my eccentricities. Probably a little of both. Friends don’t mind either. They enjoy a prolonged Christmas, especially when it’s in my house, not theirs.

So while visiting with my daughter, it’s fun for me to redo her apartment. Physically and mentally spent at day’s end,  learning and dancing new choreography, she is only too happy to let me “have at it.” She enjoys her mismatched furnishings, bistro table and chairs from Pier 1, ottoman from Bed, Bath and Beyond, long, antique dresser serving as a side table, antique Queen Anne side chair in need of reupholstering, vintage corner cupboard in a pretty, muted yellow. My daughter has grown up with my eclectic taste, and passion for vintage and antique furnishings. And we both love a good bargain, so Target is always one of  the stops when we’re out shopping for something new.

Well I’m off to perform some “magic” on my daughter’s apartment. Will chat again later. Enjoy all the moments of your day…

hugs of energy, as you go about your day…hugmamma.

european getaway, holland america line

As a not-so-frequent world traveler,  I wanted to share some Holland America Line information, in particular cruises which I can vouch for, since I’ve “been there, done that.” Cruising is like taking your hotel everywhere you travel. There’s no need to pack , unpack and repack. You needn’t fret about transporting yourself from city to city. All meals are included, selections ranging from Asian to Italian to American to Continental to everything-in-between. And contrary to popular belief, you needn’t stuff yourself to overflowing. But if you do, exercise opportunities abound. There are spin classes, elliptical machines, decks to walk, and pools to swim. I can attest to the fabulous shopping, especially in the jewelry shops. Some of my favorite pieces, real and costume, were shipboard “gems.”  Nightly entertainment rivals Las Vegas and Broadway. Then there’s the casino for gamblers, the lounges for dancers, and the amusement arcade for the younger set. A theatre features current films, special cooking classes satisfy the gourmands among us, non-denominational services gathers the religious together. Finally, the ports-of-call are yours for exploring, if you so desire. Our family chose walking tours, so we killed the proverbial “two birds with one stone.” We could eat very well onboard ship, and rid ourselves of excess calories on the shore excursions.

Cruising is my idea of a REAL vacation, no making up the beds, no straightening and vacuuming, no cleaning the bathroom, no cooking and serving, no clearing away the table and stacking the dishwasher. I can rise early or late, eat whenever, nap if I like, finish a book I’ve only read for 5 minutes before falling asleep at night. Time to myself with no chores to do before I’m allowed to play, is my favorite part of being on a ship away from land, hearth and home, at least for a week-and-a-half or two. That’s enough to get me back into the swing of living the life I love.

A brochure recently sent in the mail was like a siren’s call to passing ships “Welcome to Europe, the place we call home, where priceless works of art meet compelling natural landscapes. Let us offer you a firsthand perspective of our heritage. Only here will you bike through Barcelona’s historic squares or live the life of a Viking as you cruise through Norwegian fjords. Readers of Travel Weekly named Holland America Line ‘Best Cruise Line, Europe.’ Cruise with us and you’ll understand why.”  A friend from exercise class, swears this is true, having cruised with HAL for the first time to Australia with her husband during Christmas, and most recently to Alaska, treating family members. Like me, she also did a 10 day Mediterranean cruise, thoroughly enjoying the included ports-of-call.

In Livorno, we saw the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa, snapping photos to our hearts content. Stopping in Monte Carlo, we took a side trip to Nice and Eze where we walked charming streets, shopping in small boutiques. A self-guided tour of Barcelona’s old district was my husband’s idea of a great time, while my daughter and I gawked at the modernistic architecture and spent euros on the latest European fashions. Driving into the hilly countryside of Palma de Mallorca, we understood why celebrities Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones chose to make their home on that breathtaking island. The white stone homes with painted blue doors of La Goulette were as mesmerizing, as the camels we rode near the docked ship were cause for nonstop giggles. Palermo offered us a chance to dine seaside in a local cafe among natives, our eyes soaking in the blue-green Mediterranean waters. In Naples we toured the beautiful Amalfi Coast, where we lunched, and shopped. But the “piece de resistance” was walking the streets of Pompeii, or what was left after its demolition by nearby Mt. Vesuvius. The cobbled roads, structural foundations, and preserved archaeological finds put us in awe of the Italians who built this city. Surrounded by the stillness and quiet, hot sun beating down on us, it was easy to imagine its citizens walking among us, going about their daily affairs.   

  • 20-Day Mediterranean Adventure Collectors’ Voyage – Roundtrip Civitavecchia (Rome)

Leaving Rome, the ms Noordam sails to Messina, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Kusadasi (Ehesus), Piraeus (Athens), Rome, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Monte Carlo, Barcelona (overnight on board), Palma de Mallorca, La Goulette (Tunis and Carthage), Palermo, Naples, returning to Rome.

Dates include:  5/21, 31; June 10, 20, 30; Jul 10; Aug 6, 16, 26; Sep 5, 15, 25; Oct 5, 2011

Also available are 10 day cruises which feature some of the aforementioned ports. For this and other information, call your travel agent or 1-877-SAIL HAL (1-877-724-5425), or visit www.hollandamerica.com. Inquire about special promotions; it never hurts to ask.

tell them i sent you, with hugs…hugmamma.