blogging, still mind-boggling

With our recent spate of inclement weather, blogging has not been smooth. My Comcast connection has been operating in “fits and starts.” Is that the right cliché? I can never nail those. One minute I’m typing away, churning out the words, then “poof,” I get kicked off the internet.

Lately I’ve been running between my laptop upstairs, and the household computer down here in the “bowels of the earth.” You’d think the exercise up and down stairs would’ve lost me a few pounds. But no luck, with the holidays comfortably ensconced upon me, there’s no let up in shoveling tasty morsels into my eager mouth throughout the day. Frustration only increases the number of times, and the portion sizes.

I’m writing to forewarn you about the regularity with which my posts may appear. I’m still here, but most of the time I seem to be blogging in isolation, that is until Comcast gets me back out into cyberspace. I do plan to call them today, and ask if there might be a problem. I wonder how many buttons I’ll have to press to get through their programmed customer service menu, to actually ask my question? I just wish the darned computer would work without any hitches. At times like this is when I feel like flinging it through the nearest window.

The other item I wanted to mention is the modification in my blog’s title. For regular readers who know that my site was known as “Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail,” you might have wondered “Whaaas up?” My lovely daughter and I put our pretty, little heads together is “whaaa happened.”

Maintaining a blog is an ongoing challenge, especially if I want to continue attracting readers. All bloggers face this dilemma. While remaining true to its core message, I must tweak my site every now and then, until it finally evolves into a product with which I’m fully satisfied.  I’m not there yet. Much of it is to do with my limited computer skills, like uploading photos and videos. Yes, I can learn; but no, I haven’t the patience. I simply want to write. So as soon as I established the basic platform from which to launch my passion, I stopped wanting to learn. And so it’s my fault that all the “neat stuff” still eludes me.

While I do congratulate myself for coming this far in 4 short months, I’m itching to go farther. Long story short, I felt that the previous title of my blog was not helping to get my “voice” further out into the internet community. The title needed words which were more likely to be “clicked on.” But I didn’t think too hard upon the subject, only mentioning it to my daughter in passing.

As if waving a magic wand, my daughter immediately proclaimed that the title of my blog should be “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul.” She explained, very eloquently, that my posts already fell under these 3 categories. Pet topics like Alzheimer’s and bananagrams involve the mind; food, and all its subcategories, as well as alternative health practices involve the body; and my travel commentaries and philosophical ramblings are “food” for the soul.

Like me, “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul,” continues to evolve. I hope you’ll stay with me as I continue sharing my thoughts and feelings about the minutiae of every day life, mine…and hopefully, yours. 

huge hugs as we head toward 2011, when we’ll all bloom…hugmamma.  

 

massage “therapy”

I’ve had an unusual last 6 months, with allergies and fibromyalgia taking its toll throughout the spring season. Luckily it was after I’d tended to my garden, preparing the beds for the growing season, weeding and laying bait to minimize the slug infestation. Summer was a busy time with travels to Venice, Italy and Irvine, California. And during the last couple of months I’ve criss-crossed the country to be with my daughter. So it was with great anticipation that I saw my massage therapist,  yesterday.

Under Jennifer’s very capable hands, I felt the knots in my neck and shoulder muscles begin to loosen and relax. I winced in pain when she worked one particular spot in the crook of my right neck area. I’d never done that before, so I knew I’d been in desperate need of a massage.

An “old soul” at 27 years of age, Jennifer is not only good for my aches and pains, but is also someone with whom I commisserate on just about everything. Like the rest of us, she has had to sort out her life. Married, with her own business, I think my massage therapist, and friend, should be congratulated for “making lemonade, out of lemons.”  

Jennifer is such a home body. Having had a bountiful garden this year, she’s been busy canning sugar pumpkins, and making apple butter and blackberry jam, and turning squash into homemade soup. And she was understandably proud of harvesting 20 ears of corn, for neither the deer nor the raccoons had ravaged the stalks. Contributing to their winter stockpile, Jennifer’s husband will soon be hunting elk with friends. She indicated that at least 500 pounds of meat can be had from one animal.

I’m amazed at the thrift and frugality in such a young couple. And yet it doesn’t seem to be founded only upon economic concerns. Jennifer chooses to live a simpler life in terms of material acquisitions. Her passions lie elsewhere, a horse with which she is training, and a determination to become a licensed practitioner of myofacscial-release. These do not come cheap. But they are meaningful and fulfilling goals, for which Jennifer is willing to make sacrifices.

While my body is grateful for my massage therapist’s skill, my soul is graced by her youthful wisdom.

for Jennifer, hugs…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

a prayer for Shelbi… and Staci

At my dentist’s office today, I learned that the insurance expert Staci, had a baby girl a few weeks ago. Sadly, she only lived for 12 hours. Her lungs did not fully develop.  As I shared in previous posts (“facing death,and living” and “a godsend, so cherish),” the death of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. I could not imagine what the parents of a newborn must feel, having gone through 9 months of waiting to hold their infant, whose life is then cut short.  And this wasn’t Staci’s first loss; she’d had another child who died.

I thought it amazing that Staci looked as peaceful as she did, so soon after her baby’s passing. Perhaps the hardest days are behind her, although I’m not so sure the loss of a child can be easily relegated to the past. It was a blessing that Staci’s sorrow was cushioned somewhat, by the compassion and support of Dr. Quickstad and the others. With their help she is moving forward, with a smile on her face.

As I left, Staci handed me a slip of paper about Shelbi Sue Ray’s passing on July 26. It read, in part, “Sadly her time here with us was brief, but we are grateful for the time we had with her. In her short life, she touched many hearts and no one will ever look at life the same way again. She was so beautiful and her pure soul was encompassing. She is now with God, where she will never feel pain again and she will remain forever young. …Shelbi was preceded in death by her infant sister, Hunter Jean Ray.”

from my lips to God’s ears, a prayer…hugmamma.

facing death, and living

A thin paperback, only 237 pages, Elizabeth Edwards’ “Resilience” was not a book I could breeze through easily. It was written as though she were talking to me, but not seeing me. I might have been a tape recorder capturing her innermost thoughts and feelings, as if their release might ease her chronic pain, more emotional and mental than physical.

Chapters 1 through 6 explored the anguish she endured from the loss of her 16-year-old son Wade to a car accident, whose cause might have been considered “an act of God.” “Wade was driving to the beach when he died. The invisible wind crossed the eastern North Carolina fields and pushed his car off the road, and he could not right it and it flipped and, crushed, it fell in upon Wade, and he died. The invisible wind. The hand of God? The hand of Satan that God has loosened on Job? Is his death a response to his or our failings, or is it a test of God? How can I lean on a God who had taken this righteous boy, or even on one who had allowed him to be taken?” After much soul-searching, Edwards decides that the God about whom she was taught is not the God of whom she has now gained a better understanding.

“God…does not promise us protection and intervention. He promises only salvation and enlightenment. This is our world, a gift from God, and we make it what it is. If it is unjust, we have made it so. If there is boundless misery, we have permitted it. If there is suffering, it came from man’s own action or inaction. Cain killed Abel; God did not. Wade’s death didn’t belong to God. It belonged to this earth. I could still pray for Wade’s eternal soul because I no longer had to blame that same God to whom I prayed unsuccessfully for his return to life.”  

While she continues to reference her son’s death through the remainder of the book, Edwards also speaks at length of her bout with incurable breast cancer. In the midst of John Edwards 2004 vice presidential campaign, Elizabeth learned she had breast cancer. It seemed that in 2005 she’d been cured. But 2007 saw its return. Among other things, she discusses her struggle in coming to terms with death. On one hand it is not totally unacceptable, for “Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief. The splendid author Mark Helprin wrote, in the introduction to “Almost Spring” by Gordon Livingston, ‘If you were on a ship battered by immense waves (and, believe me you are) that swept your child from your arms would you not (given that you had no others for whom to remain) throw yourself into the deep, hoping for the chance that in the vast black ocean you might grab onto him? Comforted just to know that you would suffer the same fate? And if you had to remain, to protect others, would you not dream all your life of the day when, your responsibilities over, you would finally get to the sea?’ It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer.” But Edwards concludes that her son’s death is a reminder not to take the gift of life for granted.

“I knew that I have to get ready to die. There is still no prognosis on which I can rely. All I know is that it will be at my door more quickly than I want. I don’t think, as it comes, I will have my father’s grace. Now, despite my words that I have a reason why death would not be so terrible, I want to live. I admit that I spend a great deal of time pretending that I would be fantastically lucky to live a decade, that I would be happy to have another decade when I know I want much more. But just as there is more than a decade, there is also less. There are moments when I believe death is only a whisper away. I try to get the teeter-totter to balance somewhere in the middle; it is rarely possible. When my mind teeters to death, I push off as hard as I can, trying to land on life. Mostly I can do that.”

Elizabeth Edwards comes to terms with her life, as it is. She has adopted lines from “Anthem,” a song by Leonard Cohen, as her anthem. She has had them inscribed high up on her kitchen wall as “…a reminder that the pain, the loneliness, the fear are all part of the living. There is no such thing as perfection, and we have a choice about how we integrate the imperfect into our lives.” Her anthem reads “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

A stranger who happened to be in the audience during Edward’s speech at the Cleveland City Club in March, 2007, inspired her to work harder in her efforts to bring affordable health care to the unlucky among us who go without. After the luncheon speech, the stranger whispered in Elizabeth’s ear “…I am afraid for my children. I have a lump in my breast, but I cannot get it checked. I have no insurance.” When she went in search of someone who could help, the stranger disappeared into the crowd. And so it was that Elizabeth felt the woman believed “…that we live in a country where things can change if we just whisper in the right person’s ear.”

I share “Resilience” with you because there might be a lesson in it for all of us, for we begin to die the minute we are born. Facing imminent death, Elizabeth Edward focuses on living…

a new day always dawns…hugmamma.

new album

Not sure if there are any Michael Jackson fans reading my blog. If there are…good news! A new album of 10 unreleased, new songs should be in stores in November. Evidently someone found a hard-drive with hundreds of songs sung by MJ. Among them, was “Hot Time In The Summer Sun” by Sly and The Family Stone. In my mind, I could see and hear Michael singing the lyrics to the rhythmic tune. Head bobbing up and down, back and forth, while he sat moving to the beat. Happily doing what he loved to do, what he was obviously born to do. That’s how he should be remembered, how I’ll remember him.

My favorite memories of MJ are captured on a DVD of his live concert in Yokohama, Japan. He was in his late 20’s at the time. He cut a lean, mean, “dancing machine” figure. Belting out song after song, gliding and spinning across the stage, he owned it. The ultimate performer, MJ gave himself totally to the act, to the fans. Therein lay his Achille’s heel.

Jackson grew up in front of his fans; realized his full artistic potential because of them; he earned hundreds of millions of dollars because they bought his music, attended his concerts; and he felt completely engulfed by their love. On the flip side, Michael didn’t enjoy a normal childhood; he didn’t grow in other areas which might have given balance to his life; he spent money as fast as he made it, knowing he could always make more; and he kept many individuals who knew him and loved him, at arm’s length. He dedicated his life to his fans, the only ones he seemed to trust as being loyal and truthful to him. He lived in a fantasy, peopled only by himself, his fans and a select few, very few.

In his naiveté, MJ’s total trust in his fans was his final undoing. Inviting those who seemingly adored him to take shelter under his roof cost him dearly. While he went about the daily routine of his life, the free-loaders dug in their heels aiming to stay on the payroll for as long as they could. When MJ’s attention and devotion strayed from them, mother and children resorted to “bringing him down.” And they did.

Michael fled Neverland, a land of fantasies and wild imaginings, where all his dreams, and nightmares, came true. Living abroad with his 3 children, MJ tried to heal his life, himself. Their love, an innocent one, nourished his soul, bringing him back to a shadow of his former self. But at least he was alive, focusing upon them, and not his audience, his fans. But at 50, he contemplated a comeback, a personal performance for his children now old enough to understand and appreciate his talent. But in the bigger picture, Jackson owed millions in unpaid debts. Creditors were clamoring for their money. So “This Is It” was an answer to so many prayers.

Performing 50 live concerts was probably not in the realm of possibilities for Michael Jackson. In older age, he was not what he had been as a dancer, or even as a singer in his earlier years. But he was still amazing. My daughter and a couple of dancer friends were dumbfounded when they saw the film showing what might have been “the greatest show on earth,” for this generation. In their 20’s they could not believe MJ could belt out tunes and “shake his body” alongside younger dancers. They sat in the darkened theatre until the credits were done and the last strains of his voice were heard. I think they felt humbled by Michael’s huge talent.

Sad that MJ is gone, but like Elvis and others before him, such a predictable end to a glorious, but unreal life. Too much too soon, too fast to slow down, and fans always wanting more, expecting more. And their icons always aimed to please.

who controlled whom?…hugmamma