what i did this summer…

Remember those essays we had to write the first day back to school?

How I spent my summer vacation.

I probably wrote that I played with friends and helped my mom around the house. Apart from that I went to an occasional movie with my best friend, gratis her awesome dad who’d pay the price of my admission…a quarter. Yep. A quarter. Back then…the 50’s and early 60’s…we could see a news reel, a cartoon, and a feature film for twenty-five pennies. On Maui, at least. Not sure what mainland theaters were charging.

Our family wasn’t rolling in dough so there were no trips to California, New York, or Europe. Those places weren’t even on my radar. The most I could hope for was a short trip to nearby Honolulu on a propeller plane. That’s if my older sister paid for my round trip ticket, inviting me to visit for the summer.

It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out that my world view was pretty narrow…that of an island girl out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, that all changed when I got married.

My husband’s first job was with Pan American World Airways, so we honeymooned in Tahiti. His second job was with American Express, with whom he got a promotion which moved us to New York. A short couple of years later he joined Norwegian American Cruises…and the rest is travel history.

Our first trip to Europe was in the 80’s. This time it was on me, since I was working with TWA in New York. It included a quick 2-day glimpse of Paris. Years later when our daughter was a teen, I dreamed of returning to that glamorous city with her in tow. I knew she’d never be able to afford it on her dancer’s salary.

This summer my dream trip to Paris came true. Except that my daughter had to work. No whisking her off to Europe. So instead it became…a second honeymoon for hubby and me.

While not the romantic scenario acted out in movies by the likes of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, hubby and I managed just fine for a middle-aged couple. We held hands. We looked lovingly into one another’s eyes. We teased and bantered, sharing intimate jokes at which only the two of us could smile and chuckle.

And yes, there were moments of frustration. When we got on each other’s last nerve.

Like when we went in search of Rodin’s Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb, and instead found ourselves wandering the streets in an isolated industrial neighborhood, while my poor aching feet screamed…”Get off of me! You’re killing me!” And when we had to go in search of the nearest “toilette,” so I could pee for the hundredth time.

Dead tired from scouring every corner of Paris we would fall into bed early. No evening soirees for us. No moonlit boat rides on the Seine . No gazing into each others’ eyes while dining on squab and chocolate souffles. We were content with a simple meal, an I Love Lucy video we’d brought from home, and finally snuggling side by side, snoring contentedly beneath a fluffy, white duvet…the nearby Eiffel Tower keeping watch over all, and lighting the skies above.

Funny what rocks your world when you’re old.

My favorite tour was wandering amidst miles and miles of tombstones at the Pere La Chaise Cemetery.

(Photo courtesy of…ohbythewayblog.blogspot.com)

Morbid? Just the opposite! It was other-worldly. Seeing row upon row of oft-times centuries-old graves. It was as though, those poor, deceased souls were sneaking glimpses of us…as we were having a peek in on them. With my cell phone I snapped photos of such notables’ tombs as Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, and Gertrude Stein. Even Jim Morrison of the rock group, The Doors, was interned there. I was especially delighted to see the simple graves of actors Yves Montand and wife Simone Signoret. They had been larger than life on the big screen. Now they lay like common folk beneath the hard earth.

Especially sobering were the graves of those who had suffered under Hitler’s demonic regime. I could still feel their wretched agony, pulsating beneath the stone.

 

(Photo courtesy of…cemetery explorers. blogspot.com)

I could hear my mom lecturing from her grave…”Don’t be taking pictures of the dead. They’ll haunt you. Wait and see.” Dismissing such thoughts, as best I could, I’d remark to myself…and yet loud enough so the dead could hear…”You’re a good person. I’m just honoring you, your memory.” Of course I didn’t wait for a response as I quickened my pace.

One particular tombstone stopped me dead…pardon the pun…in my tracks.

The image of a young man from the Victorian era…captured in bronze, dressed as though he’d been out and about, leather gloves and all…lay full length across his grave. He looked to be 6 feet tall. I kept staring in disbelief at the gorgeous hunk of cast stone. My eyes scoured every inch of him, hesitating where his crotch bulged…the only part not green from oxidation. Curious…

(Photo courtesy of…canvasoflight.com)

I was certain mine weren’t the only eyes bewildered by what lay before me. I’d had to wait my turn while a couple of men gazed down at what seemed a very unexpected and highly unusual tombstone. I admit I was afraid of taking a photo of the dead man’s likeness. Looking at him through the lens, I thought he’d wink…or frown…or sit up and smack me. I admit, I was a tiny bit scared. Calming my fears, I turned to the inscription and quickly snapped a shot.

That night in the comfort of our rented apartment, I looked through the photos I’d taken. I paused at the image of the young man made of bronze. He continued to fascinate me. When I moved on to the snapshot of the inscription, I held my breath. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? How could the inscription be upside down? I was positive I’d not turned my cell phone around to take the picture. That would’ve been awkward. There must have been a good explanation, although neither my husband nor I could come up with one.

I was spooked. I could not look at the picture of the inscription again, without feeling as though a ghostly urchin was having fun at my expense. I almost believed my mom’s scolding that I would pay for disrespecting the dead. Almost. I finally convinced myself that whoever had commissioned the sculpture deliberately requested that the inscription…in French…be written upside down. After all, it seemed in keeping with the provocative tomb. Perhaps it was done so the deceased could read what it said without too much effort on his part. He could just…sit up.

Aaahhh, Paris…all of its sights and smells, large and small, grandiose and humble…captures the essence of European culture. Refined and earthy all at once. Grounded in centuries of history, yet comfortable in its modernity..

I left with a deep respect for people different from me. Folks at ease in their daily lives. In fact, I marveled at how easily Parisians worked and relaxed throughout the day. They don’t seem to subscribe to our American need to work 60-hour weeks, playing only on weekends, if even that. As we toured the city, we saw, and heard, many a Parisian bicycling, and lunching, along the Seine. They sat at nearby cafe tables, sipping wine and conversing as tour buses and motorcycles whizzed by.

Yet I was glad to be home, settling back into our normal life…resuming our normal routines…comforted by our cozy, familiar surroundings.

We’re no different from Dorothy, who preferred Kansas to Oz…

…there really is…no place like home.

………hugmamma.

(Note: I will post my own photos of Paris…as soon as I figure out how to upload them from my cell phone. I couldn’t wait until then to write about it. Something I already know how to do.)

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superstitious…in this day and age?

It was with uncharacteristic smugness that I read “Snow Job: Ski Resorts Call on Higher Authorities to Save Season…After a Native American Ceremony, Vail Gets Blanketed; ‘Pray to Ullr’.” It wasn’t so much a chest popping moment for myself as it was an “aha” moment for all indigents whose cultures have been trampled by white settlers…here on the mainland…and in Hawaii, my ancestral home and place of birth.

Native American Indians and Hawaiians have regained considerable pride in their ethnicity, owing in part to tourism and government intervention on their behalves. What amazes me is the respect assigned cultural superstitions in modern society.

English: Photograph of an Old Hawaiian woman b...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a long-standing practice in Hawaii, that a new construction site is blest by a religious minister as well as a representative of native beliefs. The latter is especially required if the land is known to have been a Hawaiian burial site, or a heiau. The tenants of the building would not want to co-habit with island ghosts. Take my word as a native Hawaiian…you wouldn’t want to see one of my ancestors coming at you in the dark. Imagine your worst nightmare…it’d be even more hair-raising than that. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes…and I’m one of their own.

According to the article, written by Ben Cohen, Vail Resorts invited Eddie Box Jr to “perform a snow dance.” A member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe of Colorado, 66-year-old Mr. Box hasn’t skied in 40 years. Since his intervention on January 7, Vail Mountain back bowls have had 25 inches of snow.

Uintah Ute couple, northwestern Utah, 1874

Image via Wikipedia

As a result of Vail’s success, other resorts followed suit. Park City Mountain Resort in Utah “invited 30 Northern Utes to a plaza near its base for a mountain blessing at high noon. Park City had reached out to them around Christmas. ‘We felt like it was time for Mother Nature to kick in,’ said Park City marketing director Krista Parry, as she watched five inches of snow drop outside her window Wednesday.”

Lake Tahoe skiing areas expect “enough snow to salvage the season’s dismal opening,” after a snow dance was performed by descendants of several Native American tribes at a nearby state park.

North side of Vail Mountain, and Vail Valley.

Image via Wikipedia

So what exactly does a snow dance entail? Read on

     In Colorado, conditions on New Year’s Day were the driest since 2002, according to the National Resources Conservation Service. Mr. Box received an email from Vail on Jan. 2. The Southern Utes had been to Vail before, including in 1999, the year the mountain hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships.
     “We would love to celebrate the Native history of the area, and hopefully help put an end to our ongoing drought of snow,” the email read. Mr. Box chose Jan. 7. The weekly forecast then called for more dry weather. Immediately he incorporated requests for precipitation into his daily prayers and sweat-lodge ceremonies.
     In Vail, he began the ritual at 8:30 a.m. Snow showers already swirled around a few hundred spectators. In the colorful regalia he might wear to a powwow, Mr. Box danced to the rhythm of hums, drums and an eagle-bone whistle. He also led what he called a “friendship dance,” in which skiers and onlookers joined hands and moved in a circle.
     Vail promoted the event using Twitter and Facebook, but not through advertisements or media invitations. The resort covered Mr. Box’s expenses and lodging while he was in town. Mr. Box says he doesn’t accept money for snow dances.
     Before closing, Mr. Box presented Mr. Jarnot, the COO, with a package of tobacco and asked that he find a special place on the mountain and sprinkle it in all four directions.
     Mr. Jarnot and three others rode up to a run that overlooks the back bowls. They skied down a trail, clicked out of their skis and hiked five minutes to a secluded location. “We took a little moment to make our offering and show respect,” Mr. Jarnot said. “Then we snapped our skis back on and skied down.”
    It was snowing so fiercely by then that Mr. Box’s wife, Betty, had convinced him to drive home to beat the storm. “My honey said, ‘We have to get out of here before it gets really bad,’ ” Mr. Box recalled. “We had to four-wheel it.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all cultures could reach out to one another as easily as the skiers and the Indians did earlier this month. One of the finer moments of our capitalistic society, I think. The rich looking to sustain their wealth by asking the not-so-rich for a little help. And the not-so-rich offering it for room and board…and nothing else. Except perhaps…respect for their heritage…

English: Neris Juliao And Native American Indi...

Image via Wikipedia

…and that’s priceless…don’t you agree?…

………hugmamma.  😉 

“hocus pocus!” real estate for sale!

When we moved from the east coast 13 years ago, we practiced a little “hocus pocus” when selling our home in Redding, Connecticut. One of the smallest houses in town, our 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse, at 1,500 square feet, was about half the size of our current one. While it lacked an abundance of living space, our 3 bedroom, 1 bath home was full to overflowing with charm. It provided the perfect backdrop for my collection of antiques and memorabilia. But when it was time to sell, we weren’t sure prospective buyers would love our one-of-a-kind, vintage home.

My husband left my young daughter and me before Christmas, to begin his new job here in the Pacific Northwest. I was anxious to sell quickly so that we could all be reunited. Just before he returned to spend the holiday with us, I learned from a friend that a neighbor and friend of hers had just died of a heart attack at age 42. The loss was especially devastating because she left behind two very young daughters, the littler of whom wore a helmet because she suffered some neurological disorder. The husband owned a local ice cream shop in a town next door to ours. Evidently their marriage had been strained because he was very controlling of his wife’s time, and her friendships.

I was so saddened for the little girls who were now without a mom, that the sale of our house seemed inconsequential. Instead of praying for our family’s reunion, I prayed hard that the children would be okay. I cried that they would be okay.

When my thoughts returned to the sale of our home, a dear friend, Carol, offered some unusual advice. While it seemed like religious superstition, we were open to anything after 2 months without a firm offer. In the dead of winter, we buried a small statue of St.  Joseph, head first, facing the street, in the dirt in front of our house. Needless to say my husband had a difficult time digging a hole in the frozen ground. But he did. And guess what? Our home went into contract later that week! We had bought it 14 or 15 years earlier for $115,000, and sold it for $245,000. When we moved, St. Joseph traveled with us. We had to dig up his statue and honor him with a place in our new home, which we have. He stands among my collectible dishware in a red, painted cupboard.

With foreclosures on the rise recently, sellers and buyers “are turning to witches, psychics, priests and feng shui consultants, among others, to bless or exorcise dwellings,” or “to help move…property stuck  on the market.” The Wall Street Journal’s “The Housing Slump Has Salem  On a Witch Hunt Again,” indicates that the ancient tradition of housecleansing is making a comeback. Tony Barletta bought a foreclosed home in disrepair at 31 Arbella St. Because of its bad vibes, he invited 70-year-old witch, Lori Bruno, who claims to be descended from 16th century Italian witches, and warlock Christian Day to process through the house casting out the negativity. “They clanged bells and sprayed holy water, poured kosher salt on doorways and raised iron swords at windows.” Then Ms. Bruno chanted ” ‘Residue, residue, residue is in this house. It has to come out,” and “Lord of fire, lord flame, blessed be thy holy name…All negativity must be gone!’ ” The bell ringing is to break up the negativity, while the iron sword keeps evil spirits at bay, according to Bruno and Day.

Historically, Catholics and Hindus call upon priests to bless a new home before occupying it. Chinese believe in cleansing a home of any accumulated bad luck before the start of their New Year. Julie Belmont, a so-called “intuitive,” working in Orange County, California, explains that with foreclosures, ” ‘It’s not dealing with entities or ghosts…anymore…a lot of it is energy imprints from past discussions, arguments, money problems. All of that is absorbed by the house.’ “

But while Ms. Bruno and fellow Salem witch Lillee Allee perform house blessings for free because they “don’t want to live off people’s sadness,” others see it as a real business opportunity. “Austin, Texas-based feng shui consultant Logynn B. Northrip is teaming up with Scottsdale, Ariz., real-estate agent Jason Goldberg to offer a package of services to create better vibes in a home, either before sale or after purchase. The two met at a yoga retreat.” Sacramento, California realtor Tamara Dorris used feng shui to help sell a home that had sat on the market for more than a year. Having placed “a jade plant, believed to bring financial good luck, in a ‘prosperity corner’,” the home received 2 offers of purchase within two weeks.

Seems to me like St. Joseph is a more budget-friendly investment, and reeks less of superstitious mumbo-jumbo. But as far as I’m concerned, hey, whatever works!

never know…might try some of it the next go-round…hugmamma.

a sign of things to come?

A close friend sent me the following in an email. She introduced it with the words “This is  weird!” It is a coincidence, but eerie nonetheless. How the latter part of the message works, “Go figure!” as she said. Any ideas?

OMG…”This year we will experience 4 unusual dates…1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11…NOW go figure this out…take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it will EQUAL, 111.”

doodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoo…hugmamma.

vegetarian, “mission impossible?”

In keeping with my previous post, I’m forced to seriously consider the  health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. If you’ve been with me since the early days of my blog, you’ll know this isn’t a decision I make lightly. Having grown up in a household with many mouths to feed, and a widowed mom as the sole breadwinner, meat was a luxury to be sure. So as an adult who’s been able to afford better fare, all forms of meat, especially red, has been a staple the last 40 years. While my family has cut back considerably on feasting on steak, ground beef still shows up in a variety of favorite dishes, like chili, spaghetti, Salisbury steak, teriyaki meatballs. But my recent spate of digestive issues has me rethinking what I put in my mouth. It’s probably lucky for me that my body has always known when to “hit the brakes”, even when I don’t.

As a child I would frequently suffer what my mom called “bush.” She said that was what the Portuguese called a “turned ” stomach. After asking if I’d fallen down to determine the cause of my pain, she’d set about “turning” my stomach so that it would be right side up again. I wasn’t one to question when I was in agony, so I submitted to her superstitious remedies. Lying on my back, my mom would massage my stomach with rubbing alcohol. Beside myself with moaning, tears streaming down my face, it seemed to me that after a bit my stomach ache was, in fact, better. Of course I was told to rest, my mom cooing me to sleep.

Over the years, I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices for digestive problems, having even seen a gastroenterologist in my late 20s. While the problem wasn’t in my mind, its resolution was always nebulous. The only solid fact told me by one New York physician, that took me many years to finally accept, is that I’m lactose-intolerant. How did I decide he was probably right? After gorging on ice cream, I’d get a mean belly ache, that’s how. But testing his theory once wasn’t enough. I had to re-enact that scenario again and again, until duh, I got that “light-bulb” moment. So it’s not that I’ve permanently banished jamocha almond fudge or coconut ice cream from my palate. I just satisfy myself with a taste, a kid’s size cup or cone does the trick. And therein probably lies the secret to a healthy diet, A TASTE, not a bowlful or a plateful of anything. Except if you’re like me, a taste can lead to another, and another, and before I know it, I’m in trouble.

Last night on PBS, Dr. Daniel Amen was giving a lecture on “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body,” another of his books. He said something about himself that struck a chord with me. He noticed that certain foods triggered something in his brain which made him crave “bad” foods. Sugar and salt are 2 triggers which have me running like a hamster round and round in its wheel. I noticed a long time ago, probably when I was doing Weight Watchers, that after eating a cookie, I needed to eat chips, or vice versa. As we all do, I kept myself in check for a little while. But as memory fades, so does resolve. That’s why I’m probably lucky that my metabolism goes haywire before I get myself into really dire straits.

Veggies were not a mainstay of family meals in the Hawaiian homes I visited growing up. Since everything had to be shipped into the islands at great expense, fresh produce wasn’t always affordable for lower-income households. I can remember having potatoes, carrots, and onions in stew, with very little meat. But having a separate serving of vegetables on the dinner plate is not something I remember seeing regularly. And I can’t remember that we were heavily into growing our own either. I mention all this as an excuse for not having grown up eating fruits and veggies, as we now know we all should be doing. But wasn’t the old version of the FDA’s food pyramid also to blame? I think carbs, dairy and protein were ranked higher in the old days. But no matter, this is 2011, and I’m 61.

Fruits, veggies, and grains are definitely what my body now needs to maintain my life going forward. My digestive system can no longer process refined foods, dairy products, and meats like it did in the good old days. Wish we could all learn this lesson sooner, rather than later. But the best we can do is continually remind ourselves, and hope that the message finally takes hold nationwide so that future generations will live more healthfully. We seem to be living longer thanks to scientific research, but our quality of life falls far short. Do we really want to extend the number of years we suffer from physical ailments, because we gorged on toxic food?

I sometimes wonder what my mom’s quality of life would have been like, had she the benefit of more education, not just about food, but about everything. She had to leave school after 6th grade. Thereafter, her life was just about survival. What she ate was probably not her biggest concern, but that she ate at all, and that we her children had food on our plates as well.

i have a college degree, i should know better…but i’m still human…and there are so many temptations…hugmamma.