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

Lady Gaga performing

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

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

Saddle Wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey feeding on ...

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

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

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

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

………hugmamma.  

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what’s in a name?…someone’s life, is all

Persephone Cnidus BM C483

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Visited the blog of a buddy from the UK, nuvofelt, earlier today. She had an interesting post about names given children by their parents. As I indicated in a comment to her, I’d not heard of any of the 10 she mentioned. And I wondered if weird names are dependent upon the countries in which we live. Cited in her post, http://chittlechattle.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/10-names-im-glad-i-didnt-give-to-my-children/ were names like Xenopad (too close to “xenophobia – an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of anything foreign” according to Webster’s), Zasparilla (sounding like sarsaparilla – a favorite soda pop in vintage America), Euginity (oops!…much too close to virginity…imagine the teasing), Endeavour (the last space shuttle launched by the U.S….either very intelligent-sounding…or a put-down waiting to happen), Manville (very British, I’m sure…although nowadays with man caves being one of real estate’s “must haves”…hmmm), Wimbush (wimpy, wimpy, wimpy…once part of a TV commercial), Timber (school kids yelling “Timber!!!… all the time…yikes!) Badlington (sounds like the bad guy in a Winnie the Pooh story) Scoop (again, school kids saying “Gimme a scoop of ice cream!” “Hey! What’s the latest scoop?”…kids can be murderous, especially when new kids try to trespass…and even when they don’t), Persephone (according to Greek mythology, she was the “bringer of destruction”…not a bad name…kind of a warning to one and all “Keep out of my way, or else!”…real security…would name another daughter that…in my next life…or maybe my daughter will consider it…hmmm…)

Nuvofelt’s post got me thinking about my own name, not the one I go by but the one my father left me as his only legacy. You see, he died when I was one. What was he thinking??? Saddling me with the name Mildred was like setting me up as the stereotypical librarian with thick, horn-rimmed glasses and a bun at the back of my head. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! To this day I cringe at the thought…or sight…or both. Perhaps in my revolt, I’ve taken to revolting against type all my life.

Poster for the film Thoroughly Modern Millie

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When I was a sophmore in high school, Julie Andrews‘s movie Thoroughly Modern Millie hit the theatres. Forever after seeing that film, I embodied all that I took away from it. I became the dancing fool, doing the “mashed potato” walking to and from classes, to and from the cafeteria, even standing in one place. Since I didn’t see myself as the cool and beautiful Mary Tyler Moore character, I became the funny, slap-happy, goof-ball that was Andrews’ character. Thanks to the role, I’ve been a standup comic ever since…in real life, not on some theatre stage. Although lately I’ve been toying with the idea…hmmm… 

My brother Ben told his son and daughter-in-law, after they’d met me a couple of years ago, that my zany behavior was owing to the fact that I’m an eccentric. Let’s see, Webster says that means I’m ” adj. 1. unconventional, as in behavior; odd. 2. not having the same center. 3. not situated in the center. 4. having the axis away from the center. 5. deviating from a circular form. -n. 6. an eccentric person. 7. a disk with an off-center axis of revolution that converts rotary motion to reciprocating motion.

Time Person of the Year: You.

I think I like the 7th definition about my so-called eccentricity. I don’t proceed as is expected in life, as others think I should. I generally prefer asymmetry to symmetry in the way I decorate, the way I dress, the way I view others, and life in general. I haven’t walked a treadmill in how my life has unfolded; I’ve taken detours, reassessing my choices depending upon previous outcomes. I often expect the unexpected, and try to manage my life accordingly. I guess my life has been a reciprocation of what’s been handed to me, and what I’ve dished back in response.

Mildred conjures up an image of staid behavior. I’m neither sedate nor solemn. Even in my solemnity I can be a whirling dervish, with whom you wouldn’t want to mess. Webster also defines “staid” as decorous. The only decorum I observe is in church…but even then my eyes and mind wander…everywhere. Even when I appear quiet and serene on the outside, my innards are bouncing about with a joy for life. There’s still so much to experience…and so little time to accomplish it all.

As to my name? Why would I want to be staid and stuffy Mildred, when I can be…

eccentric………standup comic……thoroughly modern millie?………hugmamma. 

never too late, “good manners”

The age of technology seems to have signaled an era where good manners have become extinct. Cell phone calls interrupt romantic dinners, cat naps on public transport, silence in a library. Text messaging is a never-ending, voiceless conversation. E-books and lap tops are all the companions some folks need. The latest gadgets and gizmos make it unnecessary for us to interact with one another.

Perhaps Mother Nature is encouraging us to get back to basics. Because in the final analysis, when all material things are washed away in a tsunami, or demolished in an earthquake, or engulfed in wildfires, people have to turn to each other for answers. We may do well to take a refresher course on good manners, on doing unto others as we would have them do unto us…before we find ourselves in need of their help.

The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., offers some good advice on being neighborly. Our memories just need a little jogging, and dusting off, to get us back on track toward being more human in an environment that’s becoming less and less so.

  1. Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the caller’s.
  2.  Don’t burn bridges.You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
  3. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per
    Mother Teresa

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    day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

  4. Rekindle old friendships.
  5. Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death-bed, “Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.”
  6.  Don’t be afraid to say: “I don’t know,” “I made a mistake,” I need help,” “I’m sorry.”
  7. Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
  8. Don’t rain on other people’s parades.
  9. Don’t interrupt.
  10. Never underestimate the power of words to heal and reconcile relationships.
  11. Be as friendly to the janitor as you are to the chairman of the board.
  12. Treat your employees with the same respect you give your clients.
  13. Remove your sunglasses when you talk to someone.
  14. Show extra respect for people whose jobs put dirt under their fingernails.
  15. Surprise an old friend with a phone call.
  16. Don’t be so concerned with your rights that you forget your manners.
  17. Act with courtesy and fairness regardless of how others treat you. Don’t let them determine your response.
  18. Spend your life lifting people up, not putting people down.
  19. Remember that everyone you meet wears an invisible sign. It reads, “Notice me. Make me feel important.”
  20. Encourage anyone who is trying to improve mentally, physically, or spiritually.
  21. Be especially courteous and patient with older people.
  22. Let your handshake be as binding as a signed contract.
  23. Love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  24. Regardless of the situation, react with class.
  25. Become the kind of person who brightens a room just by entering it.
  26. Remember that a kind word goes a long way.
  27. Spend twice as much time praising as you do criticizing.
  28. Offer hope.
  29. When you need to apologize to someone, do it in person.
  30. When a friend is in need, help him without his having to ask
  31. Never be too busy to meet someone new.
  32. If it’s not a beautiful morning, let your cheerfulness make it one.
  33. Remember that cruel words hurt deeply, and loving words quickly heal.
  34. Before criticizing a new employee, remember your first days at work.
  35. Never call anybody stupid, even if you’re kidding.
  36. Offer your place in line at the grocery checkout if the person behind you has only two or three items.
  37. This year, buy an extra box of Girl Scout cookies.
    Boxes of the two most popular Girl Scout cooki...

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  38. After someone apologizes to you, don’t lecture them.
  39. Carry a couple of inexpensive umbrellas in your car that you can give to people caught in the rain.
  40. When you really like someone, tell them. Sometimes you only get one chance.
  41. Take more pictures of people than of places.
  42. Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language.
  43. If you ask someone to do something for you, let them do it their way.
  44. Remember it’s not your job to get people to like you, it’s your job to like people.
  45. Write a thank-you note to your children’s teacher when you see your child learning new things.
  46. Never intentionally embarrass anyone.
  47. Don’t forget that your attitude is just as important as the facts.
  48. Remember that much truth is spoken in jest.
  49. Never resist a generous impulse.
  50. When in doubt, smile.

This list should keep us all busy for some time. In fact, just pondering them will probably occupy more than a few minutes. But we can take our time, for we’ve lots of time. Or have we?

practicing just one a day…will get us somewhere better than where we already are…hugmamma.

valentine sentiments, a lifelong romance

After nearly 41 years of marriage, what can my husband do that still “makes my heart sing?” The quick answer is “give me a musical greeting card that plays ‘WILD THING, you make my heart sing, you make everything…groovy!’ “ Normally conservative, he’s a man of few words. As college valedictorian my husband’s speech consisted of 3 words, “Silence is golden.” As you can see, my husband has a “funny bone.” His humor can be sweet as well. Oh he can tease me endlessly, after all he’s the eldest of 12 and I’m the youngest of 9. But in unexpected moments, he surprises me with the smallest gesture that melts my heart and makes me giggle, like the young woman I was when we first met 44 years ago.

A lifetime of shared memories, of valleys and peaks, of maturing from 17-year-olds with “butterflies in our stomachs,” to seniors purchasing discount tickets and munching popcorn from a shared bag at Regal Cinema. How did we continue holding tight to one another’s hands, so certain we were a good match? I don’t think we knew for sure. Who does? 

It’s always amazed me how complete strangers, foreign to each other in every way, including the blood coursing through their veins, can cleave to one another as is expected when they are pronounced man and wife. That has got to be the one overriding “APT,” or “automatic positive thought” they must fight to keep for the rest of their lives. I can only imagine the civil wars that are waged within marriages between that one “APT” and the overwhelming army of  “ANTS” or “automatic negative thoughts” that bombard married persons every day.

I can only answer for myself that 41 years together has made my husband and me believers in the same faith, if you will. Yes, we are both Catholics, but our faith in each other is more profound than religion. I’ve heard it said, where I don’t remember, those whom we love most and who favor us with the same, affirm who we are. They are the passports for our earthly existence, and we for theirs. In an episode of  “I Love Lucy,” the Ricardos and the Mertzes satisfied the Passport Bureau requirement when they all acknowledged knowing one another, thus enabling them to travel abroad. If not for those who testify to our existence in their lives, we might only be murky shadows, in others’ collective memories. Vague memories which might include “Oh yeah, I remember her. Wasn’t she in our graduating class?” or “He was such a loner. Did he ever date? Did he marry?”

Looking into my husband’s eyes all these years, I’ve seen a “diamond in the rough” looking back at me. His love and unwavering commitment has helped me slowly evolve into the brilliant gem I am today. Light may not bounce off gray hairs, as it once did when it shimmered against dark locks, long ago. But the heart that beats within, remains the same. It still skips a beat when my husband walks through the door, after a long day’s work. Just as it did when I saw the boyfriend who resembled a young Elvis, stride through the front doors of my college residence, coming to collect me for a date.

Maybe my husband heard my beating heart when we were young. These days I might have to amplify the sound slightly. We’re both growing older, together. A funny card and a box of old-fashion candy hearts inscribed with sayings, reminds me that our romance is ageless. While the inscriptions are not as endearing as they once were, I selected a few which held special meaning…”call me, hold hands, soul mate,” representative of our good “young” days. “Shake it, boogie, oxox” are my hope for our lives going forward. One very special candy heart is inscribed “angel.” Our daughter was a gift after 16 childless years. I’m sure God sent us one of his own… to complete our marriage.

treasuring reminders… of priceless sentiments…hugmamma.         

surrogate fathers

Reflecting back to my fatherless childhood, I was one when my father died, I probably pined for a male figure to parent me alongside my mom. But I don’t remember obsessing about it, although there were times when certain individuals were present in my life who I wished were my father.

My earliest recognition of just such a man was Uncle Lot. I adored him even though he was not really an uncle; “calabash” relatives were commonplace in extended Hawaiian families. Bronzed by the sun, silver white hair framing a handsome face, I imagined he loved me like a precious daughter. He and our Aunt Miriam, spinster brother and sister,  lived next door to the first home I ever knew, conveniently located across the road from the beach. When not frolicking on the sand or swimming in the warm waters, we’d be playing with Melabee, a German Shepherd belonging to auntie and uncle. We were always invited into their antique-filled home where we snacked on little sandwiches or small, scrumptious desserts. I always loved curling up in Uncle Lot’s lap, burrowing my sleepy head into his chest heavily scented with cologne. I’d rest there while he, auntie and my mom chatted amiably among themselves. I never wanted to leave when it was time to return to our house.  Their home was so much grander, filled with beautiful things, and food more delicious than was our usual fare. As a child I never understood aunty and uncle’s relationship. They were related, but they seemed so comfortable in each other’s shadow, like husband and wife. But they weren’t married, so I wanted Uncle Lot to marry my mom. Of course it was a child’s fantasy, and there it remained.

As a kindergartener I remember we were in a different home, one that I would live in until I moved away to college. Our Chinese landlord lived next door. At first it was “Popo” (grandmother) to whom we paid rent, but upon her death, her son Ah Sing assumed the responsibility. I became long-lasting, best friends with his daughter, an only child for many years. A brother was born into the family when my friend was in high school.

Ah Sing took pity upon my situation, a fatherless child with a mother struggling to support her young family. He would include me on outings with his daughter. One vivid memory is of a visit onboard a navy submarine docked  in the harbor. I still have a small, black and white photograph somewhere, of me perched on a metal seat on an outer deck, long, black hair caught up in the breeze, a furtive smile on my lips, a shy glance directed at the camera. My girlfriend’s mom was not as receptive toward me however, perhaps because I wasn’t a fit companion, being poor. No matter, I became a fixture at their home because I was like a sibling my friend wanted, and another daughter Ah Sing cherished.

The only physician I recall visiting as a child was Dr. James Fleming. His shoulders seemed broad, as though he could carry the weight of the world on them, well… at least that of the sick who visited his office. His hair was a sandy blonde, he wore spectacles and he always had a smile on his face. His bedside manner was comforting, especially to a child who rarely saw a doctor because it was an expense my mom couldn’t regularly afford. But like other generous people in our lives, Dr. Fleming discounted  our fees and never pressured my mom for payment. Receiving a lollipop or large, orange gumdrop was one reason I behaved during an appointment, but more importantly, Dr. Fleming felt like a father if only for the time I spent with him. When I was much older, my mom told me that he had offered to adopt me since he had no daughters, only 3 sons. You can imagine how elated I felt, and disappointed, that I never got to live the fairy-tale life of the Lahaina Flemings. But more than anything, I would have liked to have felt the love of a father like Dr. Fleming wash over me.

My father-in-law, now deceased some 20 years or so, treated me like a daughter. When I first spent time with my husband’s family, I thought my father-in-law didn’t like me. I always seemed the butt of his ribbing. Teasing was something I grew up with as the youngest, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. I never had the wherewithal to fight back, and felt I must not be loved, or liked. Increasingly, as I was around him more, it became obvious that I was a favorite of my father-in-law’s. I guess I was a combination, pretty Hawaiian girl like his wife, Catholic raised and educated, attending college, with lofty ambitions that might rub off on his eldest son. But best of all I could out-talk the “Portugees,” as he would love to tell me, himself being Portuguese. We could banter back and forth endlessly. My father-in-law, looking much like and behaving very much like my husband, was the closest I ever came to having a father. So it saddened me to see his body, and spirit, deteriorate through the 8 years he survived after a massive heart attack which destroyed 50% of his heart.

And then there’s my husband. A Catholic seminarian a week prior to our first meeting, he had changed his mind about being called to the priesthood. Having left home after completion of 8th grade, he had spent the next 4 1/2 years studying theology. I’ve often joked that God was preparing him for an even greater task than leading the faithful, and that was keeping me on the “straight and narrow,” which he has successfully done for 40 years.

Because I was fatherless as a child, it was imminent that my daughter bond with her dad immediately. So I didn’t look to either my mom or mother-in-law for help when our baby was born. I wanted my husband, myself and our daughter to forge a strong and loving union which would survive the ups and downs of whatever lay ahead. And to this day, our strength as a family continues to thrive upon the foundation upon which it was built. We enable one another to follow our passions, knowing that our love and support is always available 24/7.

So while I may not have had a father of my own to nurture and guide me, there were those to whom I could look for the wonderful qualities that I would one day find in a husband. So I thank my “fathers”, of whom only Ah Sing survives, on my lovely, island, childhood home of Maui.

 very fortunate to have had surrogate fathers, love me…hugmamma.