giving thanks…for what is…

A recent conversation with a close friend reminded me how impossible sibling dynamics can be. Sometimes it’s like walking on eggshells. Tread lightly or there’ll be a ruckus or, at the very least, hard feelings simmering just below the surface.

Being the youngest of 9, I can only speak from my vantage point. I haven’t a clue as to what the others think. I can only surmise.

My husband’s the oldest of 12 so I can weigh in with my opinion, especially since I know him better than anyone else having been married to the man for more than four decades.

I think parents formulate the framework in which sibling interaction plays out. Great parents…better than average shot at the kids all getting along fairly well. Dysfunctional parenting…more than likely begets…sibling rivalry of some sort.

It’s really hard to see beyond the end of my own nose, so I can’t imagine what my siblings thought of one another, including me. I can only guess from our interactions that they might have felt I was spoiled being the last child. Perhaps I got away with things they didn’t. Perhaps I got a few more material things than they did. I say a few because being poor doesn’t go far no matter how hard we prayed for better days.

As the youngest I was in awe of my elder siblings. Except for the brother right above me in age, I really had no clue as to what the others were like. They were so much older. Besides which most of them were out of the house and living on their own before I was even in middle school. What I knew of them was through hearsay, mostly from my mother.

Growing older one tends to remember the “good old days” growing up as kids with one’s siblings. Not so for me. Aside from a few years with my brother and sister closest to me in age, I remember very little of my two oldest sisters and four oldest brothers.

No surprise then that even now at 65 I can only regard my siblings with distant regard and respect. Loving them is a given. As for liking them, I can only go as far as my memory serves me. And since we’ve lived at some distance from one another the past 37 years, my recollection of our times together are rather murky, to say the least.

What was interesting in talking with my girlfriend is my immediate ability to identify with how she felt when she said “I don’t encourage conversation because I don’t want to be told what to do.” Who can blame her? Now in her 50s, why should she have to do as her elder siblings bid? I’m sure they don’t see it that way. However that’s the problem.

Siblings don’t see things the same way. Each has his or her own “take” on what is happening. And as is usually the case, it’s very difficult to see another sibling’s point of view. I’d even go further to say that the youngest is the least likely to be taken seriously.

Another girlfriend, the youngest of seven, has the guts I will never have. She actually bosses her older siblings around. Her bossiness even extends to her in-laws, all older than her as well. My friend’s take-charge attitude seems to keep the families from getting mired in feuds and ruts. How she can withstand the disdain directed at her from some of them is unfathomable to me. She certainly has a strong back bone for which I have often commended her.

God bless the youngest sibling who can fight back and have no regrets about it. Although my girlfriend does grumble about the situation and her siblings and in-laws…a lot.

Because I rarely, if ever, see or speak with my siblings I have no complaints. I think they’re great with their families, from the little I’ve heard. And I only wish them the best always.

Life doesn’t always pan out the way we’d like, especially with familial relationships. Fretting and regretting doesn’t really serve any purpose. Stressing about what might have been is debilitating.

Being thankful for what is…and what I have…works for me.

I hope your family holiday celebrations are happy gatherings……with hugs all around.

…Happiest of Thanksgivings!!!

………hugmamma.

 

 

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thanksgivings past…

As the holidays approach…among the many feel-good stories are one or two that tell of human angst. You know, where a parent can’t forgive his child some youthful transgression. Or best girlfriends are still not speaking because one stole the other’s boyfriend years before. Or siblings who never got along still can’t sit down together for a Thanksgiving meal.

So much is expected of the holidays…cheer, merriment, good will toward all. Any negative vibes should be dismissed, or at least temporarily “swept under the rug.”

Have you looked under that rug lately? Pretty dusty, I’ll bet.

Thanksgiving Day is a mixed bag of feelings for me.

IMG_4944On the one hand, I’m happy to have my loved ones close at hand. Hubby home from work and relaxing. Our daughter home from wherever she’s been dancing. 

We’re always blest to sit down to a bounteous meal, whether of our own doing or that of some clever chef at a restaurant.

I count my blessings, every one, including our furry family of critters.

We’ve a comfortable home in which we dwell, and wonderful memories to keep us company the rest of our lives.

Family and friends are there when we need them. And even when we don’t.

Despite all the joys with which I’ve been blest, one memory of Thanksgiving past continues to haunt my thoughts.

It was my first Thanksgiving as a young, married 20-year-old.

Amid family and friends, I became increasingly saddened despite all the revelry happening around me. I felt I didn’t fit in. Perhaps it was because I wanted my brand new husband to fit in. His shyness seemed a hindrance, although I don’t think he felt it. Nonetheless, I felt for him, and in turn for myself.

Deciding to halt the charade that I wasn’t able to continue, I approached the hostess to say I wasn’t feeling well and that we would be leaving.

It was as though I’d removed my finger from the hole in a dam and let loose a tsunami of seismic proportions.

As everyone gathered around, I was given a thorough dressing down like I’d never experienced before, or since. As tears ran uncontrollably down my cheeks, I was told my husband and I were immature for playing with the youngsters, and not drinking with the adults.

The remaining tirade is now a fog, but at the time every word was like an arrow that found its mark. I was devastated. Some of the men tried to run interference, but the tongue lashing continued until I was mush.

The final blow that took me down was being told that if I left early, I would never be able to step foot in the house again. To appease others, I sat through dinner, head bent, self esteem shattered.

We never returned for Thanksgiving Dinner.

As is always the case, forgiving occurs…long before you forget.

There have been get-togethers, far and few between. None have ever bridged the gap that grew ever-wider because of distance and time. 

But as the years pass, I’ll always wonder what initiated the vendetta. And why was it aimed at me?

An apology was never extended. I figured because I was probably culpable in the perpetrator’s mind. That it was ever open to discussion never occurred to me. With her, it was…what it was. Case closed.

So if I’m gun-shy around Thanksgiving celebrations…it is…what it is.

Some have told me that I’m too sensitive. I’ve recently read it can be the result of having fibromyalgia.

Whether it’s because of an incident long ago or an illness that’s currently got me in its grips, my holiday story is one of reflection.

…thanksgiving is not a one-size-fits-all celebration… 

………hugmamma.

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   

an early thanksgiving…

(Written yesterday…)

I’m celebrating a couple of days before everyone else, as my daughter makes her way home from Pittsburgh, and before that Houston.

Hubby and I finished off decorating her bedroom after having it recently remodeled…stripped the 70s “popcorn” from the ceiling…replaced that yucky white-turned-dirty-beige carpet

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…relocated  the closet across the room, and enlarged it. Before, the side of it greeted you as you entered the room. It was difficult getting large furniture in and out.

Now I’m in the kitchen cooking up a pot of stew. Portuguese bean soup to be exact. 

My daughter’s looking forward to returning to hearth and home after a couple of months of…eating on the run in Houston…and bunking on an air mattress in Pittsburgh. Mind you, she loved it since she got to do what she loves best…dance!

However, my daughter’s no shrinking violet when it comes to mom’s good-old-fashioned, home cooked meals. She gobbles them right up. (Holiday pun.)

The other thing she’ll be doing is catching up on some much needed shut-eye. Rehearsing and performing for shows, not to mention the daily dance classes to warm up, are wearing on the body. 

Eat. Sleep. Watch old movies on TV with mom. And play Bananagrams with her old fogey parents, will fill my daughter’s calendar…at least for a few days. After that, back to exercise and keeping in tip top shape in order to dance.IMG_4296

And who knows where the wind will blow her next. My daughter plans to audition for contemporary dance companies here and abroad. 

So as long as we’re blest to have her in our midst, her dad and I will make the most of the time we have with the daughter who is…

…our sunshine…and our moon...

………hugmamma.IMG_5171

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP…yummy in your tummy! (ham hocks, short ribs, smoked sausage, kidney beans, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, watercress, onions, and papaya)

daily prompt: mid-season replacement

I’m sitting in the midst of a mess, because my daughter’s bedroom underwent a remodel. 

Meanwhile, outside the skies grow darker earlier, and remain that way until later the next morning.

I’ve started turning up the heat to stave off the chill indoors. And when walking the dog…I’m all bundled up.

I don’t think I’d want to go backwards to the sunny days of summer. 

That’d only delay the onset of winter…and beyond…the sweetness of spring.

I might have felt differently had this mess not occurred. 

Now that the remodel is done…I’m excited…

…to have friends over for the holidays!…

………hugmamma.

 

…before it’s too late

English: Death scene of Anna Dandolo painted o...

People always say that…”before it’s too late”…when they want you to reconcile with loved ones…long lost…or never found. It’s like turning a screw that’s in place, but wobbly for whatever reason. Some folks like to tighten things up before…the end. 

I’m not one for artificiality. I don’t do things…just because. It has to feel organic…for me.

In the good old days families did everything together. They witnessed the births of newborn kin…and in the Catholic faith, the one to which I subscribe…there were First Communions and Confirmations. Graduations and Weddings were a cause for great celebration. And holidays were when extended family came together to catch up.

These days it’s a rarity that one is on hand for all the births, graduations and weddings that occur in a family. Modern day families have wandered far and wide in search of the proverbial “pot of gold.” Trying to make it back to the family homestead, if it even still exists, can cost a small fortune. It’s been a long time since we’ve traveled by horse and buggyHave you noticed?

If you were lucky, or not…as the case might be…to have parents and siblings nearby when you started your own family, then your children grew up with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Family connectivity remained intact. Everyone knew everything there was to know about one another. It was either a good thing…or a bad thing. Whatever the case, there was an attachment of sorts.

Thanksgiving with family.

When you haven’t lived in the vicinity of family members for years at a time, the only attachment that remains for many…is blood. And while a pint or two of blood can save a life, it’s not enough to reconstruct those lost years. The most you can do with what’s left is accept the fact that things are…just fine.

My brother Ed and I were the last born in my family. Having spent more time with him than any other of my 8 siblings, I know him best. I experienced good times, and bad, with him and my mom, a widow. He and I also spent some time together when I moved to the mainland after we were both married. We lived in distant states, so our families only saw each other every now and then.

The thing that will always connect me to Ed is that we had some really great times. We cried together; we laughed together. We respected each other, never dictating what either of us should or shouldn’t do. I never felt he was less for not having gone to college. In fact, I admire his having learned the computer trade by apprenticing with those willing to teach him. But then he soared to higher levels on his own initiative. 

I miss joking around with Ed. He lives on the other side of the continent, some 3,000 miles away. I may never see my brother again, for life has a way of…getting in the way. Nonetheless, the times we shared remain fixed in my memory. And isn’t that what we should cherish the most?

Forcing change is not my style. I wouldn’t expect others to make room for me in their lives just because death is at hand. Rather, I would prefer they live happily with those who have helped create lasting memories over all the years they were blest to be together. To my way of thinking…

…death is just another day in the life…we’ve created for ourselves all along…IMG_1997

………hugmamma.

in loving memory…of lives lived…not lost…

 

Life…and death…have a way of slowing down the rat race.

When we seem certain that the nuts and bolts in our daily lives are running smoothly, the machinery in our little world…our microcosm…chugging along quite nicely, producing the results we’d hoped for, striven for…fate intervenes, upending our…house of cards.

I spent a few moments this morning perusing the most recent posts written by friend and fellow blogger, Christine at http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d'Al...

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d’Alzheimer – Accompagnez votre proche au quotidien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My original connection with her was that her dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s. You see…my mom also suffered its debilitating effects before finally succumbing a number of years ago.

As a result, I was on the path to doing what I could to deter or slow the progression of that dreadful disease…in myself.

Sadly, Christine recently lost…both parents.

Her mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer, not too long before she died. Christine’s dad followed soon after.

A few years ago, before I began following Christine’s blog, she suffered the loss of a beloved sister who had been retarded.

I’ve admired Christine’s strength throughout the turmoil she endured caring for her parents. And the love she shared with them…and the sister who had gone before.

Christine’s compelling story was like…a dip in the icy cold glacial waters off the coast of Alaska.

When we think life is so unfair…it seems best to remember the advantages we do enjoy.

I’ve been given a chance to live…

…to love…and be loved…

…to explore my talents…and forgive my weaknesses…

…to know others…and have them know me…

…to see with my eyes…the beauty of all I see…

…to hear with my ears…the sounds of life beckoning me forward…

…to sample with my own taste buds…all the gastronomical delights that others create…and the humble offerings that emanate from my own two hands…

…to walk and jump and climb and crawl and wriggle and stretch.

Above all…

I can think and remember and express and give voice and cry and laugh and complain and argue and be thankful…

…and I can pray…

…for myself and for others…

LIFE AFFORDS ME ALL THIS…

AND SO MUCH MORE.

Death cannot take away all the life that I have lived thus far.

Only I can do that…if I fail to crowd every nook and cranny of my life with the sights, sounds, smells…and all the amazing moments that present themselves.

Christine’s story reminded me to…enjoy the ride of a lifetime…

…every single moment…of every single day!!! croppedphoto

counting my blessings

On my recent flight home, I overheard a fellow passenger remark “It’s good to get away, but it’s always good to come home…sleep in my own bed.” Amen! Again I say, Amen! So this seems as good a time as any to reflect upon that for which I’m very thankful, beginning with…

  • The memory foam mattress that snuggles up against all the contours of my body, as though I was sleeping on a cloud. Now if only I could lay my brain beside me, so it too could get a good night’s rest. Maybe then I’d slumber peacefully, rather than thinking what next to write.
  • My husband’s affection pulling me into a huge bear hug. Just where I belong, until death do us part…not even then.
  • Crouching down beside Mocha, the doggie “love of my life,” to whisper “sweet nothings” in her ear. 
  • Lovingly stroking the length of Sitka, Juneau and Sunkist, as they stretch up to share their hearts with me.
  • Laying my weary head on my daughter’s shoulder, as she embraces me into the bosom of her “old soul.”
  • Letting my home, still decorated for Christmas, nourish my soul with childhood delights.
  • Reading emails from friends and family, sharing memories, newfound discoveries, and always love and concern.
  • Writing and blogging, journaling my thoughts and feelings, wary of the day when I might not, but thankful for the precious moments of the present.
  • Knowing that I’ve a network of online readers with whom to share my journey is mind-boggling, but a blessing I wholeheartedly welcome.
  • My health, such as it is, keeps me ever mindful that quality of life is fragile, and shouldn’t be compromised by poor choices.
  • The Maui of my childhood, where innocence and naivete abounded, ingrained forever in my moral fiber.
  • My Aloha spirit, my compassion for others, a legacy from my mom and those who came before.
  • The 2 angels who have gently guarded my well-being these last decades of my life, continuing to do so, my husband of 40 years and my daughter of 24.
  • And God above all, who gifted me with life, ensuring my best, knowing He is always with me…ALWAYS.

 

counted your blessings lately?…hugmamma.

popularity contest?, social networking

Yikes! I definitely feel like a “babe in the woods,” a “green horn,” a total novice after reading an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. Yes, that’s how far behind I am with my Journal reading. One of my very first posts, “deadly dilemma,” published on 7/22/10, mentioned my not wanting to subscribe to newspapers which go unread, day after day. Guess what? There’s a pile of papers sitting on my bedroom floor. I’m a pack rat, albeit an organized one. I cannot trash something until I make a conscious determination to do so. And I’m positive there are “gems” hiding among the pages of those, as yet to be read, newspapers. The article which is the subject of this post is a case in point.

“Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers,” subtitled “Sites Use Secret Formulas to Rank Users’ Online ‘Influence’ From 1 to 100; ‘It’s an Ego Thing’,” pulls the curtain from around the Great Oz. Just as that book and film character worked the control panel to manipulate the lives of those living within his empire, so too it seems the internet wizards decide who among us will have the last word. Double yikes!!

I guess it would be naive to say I’d like to return to the good, old days when everyone “played fair.” Yeah right. When was that ever the case in the history of mankind? Even the serpent manipulated Eve into coaxing Adam to take a bite from the forbidden apple. So I guess we were doomed from the minute our first ancestors drew breath. I know it’s a fable written to nurture man’s superstitious nature, but the author had to get the idea from somewhere, probably from closely observing the society in which he lived.

Katie Miller, a 25-year-old public relations account exec and avid tweeter, was invited to a $30,000 “swanky holiday party on Manhattan’s West Side.” The invitation explained that she’d been “singled out as a ‘high-level influencer’ by the event’s sponsors, including the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas, and a tech company called Klout, “which ranks people based on their influence in social-media circles.” And how did she make the Las Vegas connection? “When Katie Miller went to Las Vegas this Thanksgiving, she tweeted about the lavish buffets and posted pictures of her seats at the aquatic spectacle ‘Le Reve’ at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel.”

To my senior friends who are skeptical about the value of the internet, I’d say “There’s gold in them thar hills!” So go enroll in adult education classes and start reaping the rewards of Facebooking and twittering. For according to the Journal article, “ordinary folks can become ‘influential’ overnight depending on the number and kinds of people who follow them on Twitter or comment on their Facebook pages.” Realize though that this generation is light years ahead in “gaming the system.”

Casie Stewart, a 28-year-old-social-media consultant from Toronto, has earned a free Virgin America flight, a shopping splurge at Mark’s Work Wearhouse and an all-expenses-paid trip to New Zealand fashion week thanks to her prolific tweeting and blogging about her life.

“Just got shot by fashion photographer @raphaelmazzucco in the Diesel Lounge,” she tweeted recently.

Klout dubbed Ms. Stewart a “networker” and awarded her a score of 74 (out of 100). As her score climbed, she gained the attention of a range of brands and public-relations firms who hooked her up with prizes, says Ms. Stewart, who has more than 5,000 Twitter followers. She says she tweets to build her “personal brand,” and getting perks from companies to tweet or blog about helps: “I always wanted to be well-known for being really good at something.”

Then there’s 25-year-old consultant Zach Bussey who wanted to improve his “social-media mojo last year.” He claims it’s an “ego thing,” and that he’s a social-media ” ‘passionisto.’ ” Among other services Bussey used,  was one called TweetLevel, the creation of public-relations firm Edelman. “It grades users’ influence, popularity, trust and ‘engagement’ on a scale of 1 to 100.” Obviously tech savvy, Bussey “gamed the system.”

He decided to try to improve his score by boosting the ratio of people who follow him to the number he follows. So he halved the number of people he was following to 4,000. His TweetLevel score rose about 5 points and his Klout score jumped from a 51 to a 60.

“The change gave me more legitimacy,” he says. But, he warns, you can’t get lazy: “If you go on vacation for a week and can’t tweet every hour of the day, you better be prepared to see your scores drop.”

Crazy, right?!? I’m not so sure. All kinds of people are trying to win the social networking popularity contest. Even high-profile tweeters look to tech companies like Klout for their numbers. Among influential politicians, President Obama ranks at 90 out of 100, John Boehner 75, of young pop stars Justin Bieber ranks at 100, Lady Gaga 90, of talk show hosts Conan O’Brien ranks at 90, Jay Leno 65, and of business executives Bill Gates ranks at 76, Eric Schmidt 75.

Even bloggers are not immune to “gaming the system.” Don’t look at me. I can’t even put the “Rolling Blog 2011 badge” on my blog because I’m clueless as to its URL. (Check out the small, red “x” framed by an empty, white space in the sidebar.) And I don’t even know what URL stands for. I’m a writer, remember? I’ve figured out the bare necessities and a little extra. I’m no computer genius by any stretch. On the other hand fellow Washingtonian, Gabriel Elliott of Vancouver, attempting to drive more traffic to his marketing blog, “The Internet Vision,” sought to “dissect Twitalyzer, which provides users with a suite of scores free. It also sells packages for as much as $99.99 a month with extras like daily email alerts that track scores over time.”

Mr. Elliott tried to manipulate individual variables, tweaking his frequency of tweeting, while keeping other things, like his rate of retweeting-or tweeting others’ tweets and giving them credit–constant. He determined that the biggest overall contributors to his score were retweeting and mentioning other users in his tweets. He raised his scores in both areas from 5 to 25 and gained about 1,500 followers over the next two months. “It took burning both ends of the candle,” he says.

“The arbiters of the new social hierarchy,” like Klout, Twitalyzer and PeerIndex work the numbers by feeding “public data, mostly from Twitter…LinkedIn and Facebook, into secret formulas and then generate scores that gauge users’ influence. Think of it as the credit score of friendship, or as PeerIndex calls it, ‘ the S&P of social relationships.’ ” Sounds very much like the credit reporting agencies who can make or break our financial standing. So now we’re saddled with social reporting agencies who can make or break our popularity.

The companies say their aim is to provide benchmarks to help people figure out whom to trust online and a way for marketers to spot people eager to evangelize their brands. Their efforts have ignited a race among social-media junkies who, eager for perks and bragging rights, are working hard to game the system and boost their scores.

Better we let our gut instincts determine our beliefs than companies who, despite what they say, have their own agendas like monetary gain through subscriptions for their services. And who are they telling us to believe in? Social wannabees! Those wanting fame and celebrity, and all the free stuff they can’t buy for themselves.

Granted there are those who “back into” the good life, like Katie Miller. Those doing what they would normally do without forethought of the “riches” they might garner, should continue merrily on their way. But I would suggest that those whose focus is to rack up points in their favor, “get a life!” Take it from a senior citizen, life’s too short to be messing around with numbers. Get out there and live your life. There’s more to life than a keyboard, a computer screen, and ratings.

By the way, beware of “one-night stands.” While tech companies have no problem with users maximizing their scores, they don’t take lightly to unsportsmanlike conduct.

Klout employees recently neutralized a tactic they dubbed “the one-night stand,” in which people follow lots of people on Twitter, hoping they’ll follow them back, then dump them a day later. “Users are a crafty bunch,”…

I know they’re not talking about moi. Blogging provides me with the opportunity to write, as well as readers who might be interested in what I have to say. Yes, it’s heady stuff knowing that I might influence some, but whether or not I do, I want to continue writing what I feel, first and foremost. I can’t write just to rack up ratings.

but my way’s not the only way…hugmamma.

inhale…exhale…2011

Not sure what the holidays have been like for you, but they seemed like a whirlwind to me. I finally feel I can breathe again, deep breaths that is, not short, gasping-for-air breaths. While I got a tremendous head start on decorating for the season, completed a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving, my life seemed to move in slow motion after that. Not that everything around me did likewise. No. It was as though I was in the audience, watching my life unfold on a theatre screen. Much of it was a blur, like going through the motions, mindlessly. Many decisions, big and small, were probably made half, not wholeheartedly. But I made it through the “speed boat ride,” enjoying the scenery that sailed by me as best I could.

Since my daughter returned home in October to recover from health issues, I’ve set my life aside. Moms do that. Nothing seems more important at the time than seeing one’s child happy and healthy again, nothing. Tears come easily when my daughter’s life has gone awry, for whatever reason. While it’s natural to advise her that things will get better, that life experiences build character, that everyone faces challenges, it seems like a never-ending repertoire of blah, blah, blah that moms access so readily. So after two-and-a-half months of it, I’m worn to the bone.

The great news is that my daughter’s feeling great, so great, that she’s returning to work on Monday, a month earlier than expected. So her support system here at home worked fabulously, from doctors and their staff, to family and friends. Even her bosses and coworkers rallied around. It was like circling the wagons in the days of the Wild West, to better fight off the attacking Indians. Well it took a “village” to successfully battle my daughter’s “Indians.”

So our family is counting its blessings as the New Year begins. My husband and I have already begun our healthful regimen, eliminating unnecessary calories and saturated fats, and exercising at least half-an-hour daily. This is not new to 2011.  It’s actually a “renewal,” since we always lose sight of our resolve throughout the old year. Life has its ups and downs, as do our eating habits. But we remain positive, and hopeful.

Recent news from a fellow dancer left our daughter elated. Upon returning to work, she will be learning the soloist’s role in a contemporary piece being staged upon her ballet company by an internationally renowned choreographer. For a dancer, that’s like taking home Olympic Gold. For our daughter, recovering from a health setback, being given the role is tremendous recognition for a decade of passion, hard work, sacrifice, and always smiling while “picking herself up and dusting herself off.”

My daughter’s journey is proof positive that a commitment to hope can have great results. But my advice to her has always been that she should enjoy the process, for even if the end result is not what she hoped for, she will have fully lived each moment along the way. And true happiness is knowing who she is every day of her life, and having no regrets about any of it, including the not-so-good moments.

And so I have no regrets about the last few months, for I did what I do best…mother. Now I must “pick myself up, dust myself off,” and return to nurturing my mind, body and soul, and that of my husband’s. As the old adage goes,“There’s no greater love than that we lay down our lives, one for another.” Doing so for my child is a no-brainer.

take a deep, luxurious breath…and dive into 2011…huge hugs…hugmamma.      

our christmas “explosion”

My daughter’s favorite description of what our home looks like right now is that “Christmas exploded!”  We literally can’t walk an inch without brushing up against a tree branch, heavily laden with ornaments, or having our eyes come to rest upon any surface not awash in Christmas.

Because we didn’t need to make our usual holiday trek to our daughter’s home for Thanksgiving this year, I found the energy to begin the gargantuan task of decorating for the holidays. I figured if I started ahead of time, unlike last year, I’d be okay removing it all some time in January. Last year’s decor didn’t get taken down until April, about 7 months ago. In fact, when we began the ritual of bringing bins in from the garage, my husband said “Didn’t we just put these away?”

I incorporate Christmas in with my everyday furnishings, antiques, and vintage collections, so it’s a monstrous task piecing together what is literally a household puzzle. Every item finds a new home, somewhere. My brain is agog with a choreography of minutiae. Somehow everything comes together for the holidays. And I try not to repeat the same scenario from year to year. In recent years I’ve used 5 or 6 artificial trees of varying widths, heights, shapes, and styles. Their adornments are changed each Christmas, because I couldn’t possibly remember their exact configuration, even if I wanted.

Holiday vignettes are everywhere, adorning the tops of an antique dresser and an immigrant’s chest, several painted cupboards and a pie safe, lining the shelves of a green bookcase, and an assortment of tables. Open shelving which frames the kitchen window showcase my santa collection, the overflow keeping my husband company in his office. Meanwhile the snowmen are gathered together in a cozy corner of my daughter’s bedroom. Vintage toys rest along the mantle, and before the fireplace. While Christmas stockings line the staircase bannister leading to the front door

I’ve always transformed our home into a magical place for the holidays, whether it’s Easter, Halloween or Christmas. And it was always for my daughter’s benefit. The delight in her eyes, the smile that lit up her face, the love she shared in thanking us, made the time and energy it took, so worth it. No matter that she’s now 24, I still work my magic, and she continues to be delighted, and gratefully loving. Its still so worth it!

sending you hugs for a holiday full of hope, and love…hugmmamma.

“easy overnight turkey,” the hard way

Decided to try a different turkey recipe than the one I’ve used for the past several years. The following recipe enticed me away from my tried and true. Choosing recipes entails using my vivid imagination and attention for details. As I peruse the ingredients, I can imagine the look and taste of the finished product. Hope I never lose this ability. It’s always served me well, for I’m inclined to try new recipes on guests. Talk about being fearless!

Looking through the brief instructions for the recipe I used, I could taste its magnificence, glazed to perfection, and succulent. I couldn’t resist replacing my usual way of cooking turkey, for this seemingly, old-fashioned, grandma-tested version. I’ve reprinted it below. See what you think.

EASY OVERNIGHT TURKEY  (Easy for who? Zombies? I sure felt like one on Thanksgiving Day.)

1  20-pound hen turkey (Costco only had “toms,” so I went with that. Wasn’t about to drive around on icy roads, trying to chase down a “hen.”)

1/2 stick butter

1  large clove garlic, slivered

1  large peeled onion, quartered

l large unpeeled apple, quartered

Rinse turkey and wipe dry. Rub inside and out with half the butter. Place remaining butter inside cavity. Place garlic, onion and apple in cavity. Do not salt or pepper the bird. Place breast-side down on rack in roaster. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Turn bird on back and reduce heat to 200 degrees. Bake, uncovered, without opening oven, for 10 to 12 hours. Serves 12.

(Stopped to give my fat cat, Juneau, a bear hug, so he’d stop nudging my hand as my fingers flew over the keys.)

I guess chefs follow recipes to the letter, at least the first time they try a new recipe. I’ m not a professional, just a basic cook. After 40 years of preparing meals, 3 times a day, 365 days a year, I tend to “wing it.” Unlike the early years of wedded bliss, when I cooked an entire meal before guests arrived, and reheated everything in the oven before serving them up. Talk about dried out food. Yikes!

Since I was prepping all the side dishes for overnight refrigeration, to be cooked after the turkey exited the oven the following day, I left “Tom” turkey to my husband. He attacked that bird with gusto! He even lay on the living room couch  through the night, babysitting it as it baked. Funny thing, unlike me, my husband didn’t look like a zombie Thanksgiving Day.

The recipe indicated that the turkey should cook from 10-12 hours. Not having baked a 20-pounder before, we opted for the maximum amount of time. Not having a traditional roasting pan, the large oval ones specifically manufactured for the occasion, my husband made do with the pan that is usually part of a stove purchase. You know, it’s a combo square catch pan with a top that has slits in it. Food’s broiled on top, and the drippings seep through to the pan beneath. Anyway, the turkey fit in the catch pan, so we were good to go.

As we peered through the glass oven door, we beheld a glorious sight, a beautifully, browning turkey. We oohed and ahhed many times over the course of 12 hours. At some point, I wondered if we might recommit to a different cook time, maybe 10 1/2 or 11 or 11 1/2 hours. As the bird continued to deepen in color, I thought it might also be drying out. But, of course, not knowing what the pros know, we stayed our course.

About half-an-hour before dinner, my husband brought out the amazing cooked specimen, setting it atop the counter to “rest.” Then, while I finished baking the remaining dishes, he carved the turkey. It was more like a massacre. Poor, golden, sacrificial bird, it was chopped into smithereens. There were square chunks, rectangular slabs, strips of flesh, everything but nice, thin slices of meat. I was moved enough to vow that I’d carve next Thanksgiving. I hope my brain retains the slaughtered image until then.

So how did it taste? As dry as all those reheated meals I use to serve up in my 20’s. I cautioned our dinner guests to drown the meat in Costco’s delicious gravy. For those who didn’t, I’m not sure how they managed to swallow.

Next time we tackle this recipe, and believe me there’ll be a next time, I’ll try to find a hen turkey, bake it less than 12 hours, and carve it up myself. Oh, and we’ll buy a proper roasting pan, so we don’t wind up cleaning the oven again, because of overflowing juices. I’ll still let my husband help, prep the bird and babysit the thing overnight. We’ll do it just like the pros next time.

I’m open to suggestions, especially if you try this recipe and the results are scrumptious.

Bon appetite!!!…hugmamma.

coconut cream cake

My family raved about the dessert I made for Thanksgiving dinner, so I thought I’d pass it along to you. Neither my husband nor my daughter are as crazy about coconut based recipes as I am, so it’s saying something when both have second helpings, the day after. Rolling her eyes and grinning from ear to ear, my daughter lauded the moistness and moderate sweetness of the Coconut Cream Cake. My husband chimed in with an approving nod. So I knew I needed to get your opinion, once you bake it, that is. Sorry I can’t do that for you.

Hope you have a reason to whip up this delicacy, or maybe you just want to treat yourself. Either way, bon appetite!!!

COCONUT CREAM CAKE 

1 18 ½ oz package regular white cake mix (not pudding type)

1  3 ½ oz can flaked coconut

1 ½ cups water

2 egg whites

1 8 ½  oz can cream of coconut

1  12 oz carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

Combine cake mix, 1 cup coconut, water and egg whites. Beat for 2 minutes at highest speed of electric mixer. Reduce speed to low, beat for 1 minute. Pour batter into a greased 12x9x2 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until pick comes from center clean. Cook cake for 10 minutes.

Punch holes in the top of cake with toothpick. Pour cream of coconut over cake while still warm. Spread whipped topping over cake. Sprinkle with remaining coconut. Cover and chill at least 4 hours. Cut into squares to serve. Serves 15-16.

BEING an amateur cook, as I think most of you are, I had a moment’s hesitation in the preparation process. Unable to find an 8 ½ oz can cream of coconut, I bought a 15 oz can intending to use little more than half of it. Upon opening the can, I was surprised to see a dense, white, glistening mass. Spooning a couple of big chunks into a bowl, I soon hit oily liquid which I poured into the bowl. Scooping the remaining white gunk into the bowl, I mixed the contents until they formed a liquid. To my amazement, the resulting combination only amounted to 8 ounces of liquid. I’m sure a smarter person than I could explain how ingredients listed on the can label as 15 ounces, turned out to really be only 8 ounces.

I was concerned as I slowly poured the entire bowl of liquid over the cake. I kept wondering if I should stop, as the coconut cream crept up the sides of the pan. I wondered if the resulting cake would be too rich, too sweet. But when the last dregs of liquid streamed from the bowl, I knew I’d have to wait and see. And the rest is history…yummy, yummy in my tum, tum, tummy!  

for all things coconut, and my mom from whom i inherited my love of the fruit, huge hugs…hugmamma

“north pole” interference

Just wanted to let you know I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth. Am under a blanket of snow, yard, gardens, and decks are probably ankle deep in the white stuff. Had to cancel appointments. Not venturing out, preferring to enjoy the scenery from this side of the wall-to-wall picture windows. Mocha’s impatiently pacing, hoping to get out and play. Thankfully, my daughter’s up for some frolicking. Didn’t do it when she was a toddler and I was in my 40’s, am not about to start now when she’s in her 20’s and I’m in my 60’s. Nuh, uh. I don’t think so. Those are specifically daughter-father bonding moments. I’m fine helping them out of wet coats, hats and gloves, and serving up mugs of hot chocolate. I’ll also get down on my knees to towel off my dog’s soaking wet, grimy, matted fur. Being Hawaiian through to the bone, I am perfectly happy inside where the temp hovers around 70.

Am making this a short post because previous efforts have run into intereference from cable connection. Have a nunber of posts in the draft stage, awaiting completion, and publication. So I’m hoping it’s dry and warm where you are, and you’ll check back for updates regularly. There might be a barage of posts when next you look. 

Thanks for your patience, and hope your Thanksgiving is a cornucopia of blessings for you and your loved ones!!!

huge hugs for all…hugmamma.  

“thanks,” readers

I hadn’t intentionally set out to write numerous posts on giving thanks. But they seem appropriate, since Thanksgiving is almost upon us. While my previous post of thanks for your faithful readership was celebratory, this one is more low-key.

Many in our society are suffering, unable to look forward to the holiday season with joy, and traditional good will toward all. I’d like to think I contribute some small measure of hope, in an overwhelmingly negative environment. The 5,003 viewings my blog has received to date, leads me to think that I’m able to touch some with my words.

Sincere thanks for continuing to read what I write. With the immense inventory of material from which to make your selections, I’m grateful you’ve chosen to make mine one of them. While other blogs may number their readers in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, I consider myself lucky to have the faithful following I do.

wishing you a thanksgiving spent with those you hold dearest…hugmamma.

“thanks,” northwest harvest

Arriving in the mail today, was a newsletter from Northwest Harvest. I thought it a perfect time to share its contents, as I’m sure it reflects what’s occurring in most of the country these days. What better time to give thanks to an organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate survive, than during the month of Thanksgiving. Entitled “Where We Stand,” it’s written by Executive Director, Shelley Rotondo.

Northwest Harvest has seen Washington suffer more than one economic crisis during our 43-year fight against hunger. Many more people are now hungry and in need, pushed over the edge by the recent recession. If any good has come from these troubled times, it is that every community has gained a heightened awareness of hunger. Sadly, for far too many people, this new understanding is informed by firsthand experience.

News that the recession ended months ago makes little difference to those who still face the daily stress of struggling to provide for their families. Many of our clients and their families are newcomers to food banks, or former donors now turning to us for food. Across the state, people have lost their jobs or had their hours or benefits reduced. And we see so many young people unable to compete for work in a state where unemployment currently hovers around 9 percent.

Statewide, Northwest Harvest and the partners of our network are now providing over 634,000 services every month–a 35 percent increase since the start of the recession. A recent U.S. Census Report showed that 43.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009. This number, which includes over 800,000 Washingtonians, is the largest in the 51 years that estimates have been published.

More than half of those served by Northwest Harvest and our partners are children and the elderly. They are the most susceptible to health problems related to hunger and malnutrition, and have the least control over their circumstances. Children make up only 25 percent of the U.S. population, but 36 percent of those living in poverty. More than 224,000 of Washington’s children live below the federal poverty level, and roughly half of Washington infants are recipients of WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children).

Nearly all state basic service agencies have faced severe budget cuts and expect their resources to dwindle further in the coming year. With more than 1 in 7 Washingtonians relying on food stamps–a 21 percent increase from just one year ago–we know that deeper service reductions could have a devastating impact our clients. As the only Washington-based food bank distributor operating statewide, we are being called on more than ever before and in all corners of the state.

For all of these reasons, Northwest Harvest has grown rapidly, securing more than 24 million pounds of food for both of the last two years, a 33 percent increase over years before the recession. We can feed a family of three a nutritious meal for 67 cents, and as the state’s first food bank distributor to focus on nutrition, we have decades of experience promoting health while fighting hunger. Additionally, 93 cents of every dollar donated to Northwest Harvest goes directly to help those we serve.

But we need your help more than ever. In the first three months of our fiscal year, we did not meet budget goals for food or fund-raising. Meanwhile, many of the underlying causes of hunger are getting worse, bringing more and more people to their community hunger programs.

Northwest Harvest was founded because of those who would not stand idly by while their neighbors suffered. We have been able to continue expanding our services in response to the growing need because of the support of communities all across the state.

We are grateful to all who support us with gifts of any size. Whether you can give money, food or volunteer time, you are strengthening the safety net so many of our neighbors now need.

Thank you.

Among the many who donate their time, Holland America Lines provides its employees bus transportation to Northwest Harvest’s  warehouse,  to volunteer a few hours during their workday. It’s an annual event, occurring over 4 or 5 days. Family members are invited to join in the donation of time and effort.

for humanitarian efforts, huge hugs…hugmamma.