…mirror mirror on the wall…

Reality shows, like biographies, fascinate me. They provide insight into real lives, real people. Fiction doesn’t captivate me the way non-fiction does.

English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter ...

I like to know what makes people, flesh-and-blood human beings like me, tick. Just as I don’t always know why I do what I do, it comforts me to know that I’m not the only one floundering around for answers.

Of course I can more readily identify with some reality show characters, and definitely not with others…like New Jersey housewife, Teresa Giudice. OMG! That woman needs to be locked up in a room with mirrored walls. She needs to take a long, hard look at herself. Maybe then she’ll find release from her permanent state of denial.

I’m more interested in author J.K. Rowlings than in her blockbuster series of books about HARRY POTTER. I can’t get past the fact that she was living in poverty while writing her mega-hit. God bless her!…is all I can say. God bless her! She deserves the life she now enjoys.

HGTV is one of my go-to channels, just as the FOOD Network is my daughter’s, and the HISTORY Channel is my husband’s. However, we have no problem sitting down to watch one another’s favorites. No problem at all. Thank goodness!

One reality show I happened upon while surfing the channels one day was home remodeling as a form of therapy. The designer/host is Jeff Lewis. He’s not my favorite TV personality because he’s pretty arrogant and condescending toward others. Unfortunately his attitude seems to be a huge defense mechanism. He looks as though he needs someone to give him a great big bear hug, and never, never let go. That’s how emotionally needy he seems to me. Although I’m certain he would never admit it.

How is it possible then that Jeff can dole out personal advice which gets homeowners out of the rut they’re in, so they can move on with their lives? I’m always amazed that his abrasive, “in-your-face,” hold nothing back, confrontational manner gets the right results…and the long-hoped for happy ending. EXCEPT. I repeat…EXCEPT that Jeff’s designs are always spot on.

It’s very likely that the new environment Jeff creates for his clients enables them to look at life with fresh eyes.

A recent example of Jeff’s success was with a couple who were most certainly headed to divorce court because of cats. Yes! Cats! Seven cats to be exact.

Our daughter's inherited my love of cats. Here she's with Sunkist who has since gone to join her sister Fudgie in heaven. We still think of them.

Our daughter’s inherited my love of cats. Here she’s with Sunkist who has since gone to join her sister Fudgie in heaven. We still think of them.

Now I love cats.  Always have. My husband, on the other hand, never grew up with pets. Probably because there were 12 children in his family…more than enough mouths to feed without adding a few furry ones to the mix. Four decades later, and more than a dozen cats adopted into our household during that time, our marriage has never come close to imploding because of our feline children. In fact, my husband now calls our dog…our daughter, our 2 cats…our boys, and our daughter’s cat,…our grandkitty. Actually, he calls them MY daughter, MY sons, and MY grandkitty. In turn, I call them HIS. Whatever! They’re ours.

...our grandkitty...

…our grandkitty…

Anyway, getting back to the reality show…

The reason the homeowners have 7 cats is that the wife has made it her mission in life to rescue abandoned cats. Those for whom she wasn’t able to find homes ended up in hers. According to her husband, his wife’s compassion for the poor animals was what he found attractive. That is until the cats took over their house, including the master bedroom…and the family’s life. The clincher for interior designer Jeff in his determination to right the wrong he saw in this situation, was that the couple’s infant son was allergic to the cats. Viewers witnessed the child’s breathing from an oxygen tank after an episodic reaction.

With the help of a rep from the local Humane Society and Jeff’s makeover in the garage where the cats would languish in the luxury of a space that was all their own, the wife was able to let go of her obsession and refocus her attention upon her human family.

Throughout the show I could see how, over time, a person’s obsession with something, could totally overtake his life…to the exclusion of everything and everyone. An intervention seems necessary to pull that person back from the brink of falling off the cliff, mentally and physically. What form that intervention takes needs to be confrontational AND rewarding. The person needs to be able to give up something to get something he wants even more.

Jeff was able to get his client to give up 3 of her cats, house the remainder in a comfortable environment for them and the family, and help her return to putting her son’s health, and her husband and 2 daughters…first.

…who said change was easy?…but it can be sooo worth it!

………hugmamma.

...time has its moments...cherish each and every one...

…time has its moments…cherish each and every one…

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tenant must pay for bed bug treatment…???

Adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius

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You read correctly. In the continuing struggle to rid her apartment of bed bugs my daughter was advised that of the $600 charged by All America Pest Control, she had to pay $400, the apartment management would pay $200. That was the proverbial “last straw” as far as we were concerned.

A cat at the Seattle Animal Shelter

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Trying to carry on with her life as best she could, my daughter attended the final performances of her ballet company, cheering on her fellow dancers from the wings. In addition to that she partook of their annual choreographic project, WIP (Works in Progress), in which she choreographed a solo upon one of the trainees. My daughter also helped with administrative details like marketing the show, coordinating photo sessions with the dancers involved, distributing advertising fliers, and making contact with the animal shelter for whom donations were being requested as entrance fee for the show. All this while battling bedbugs and sleeping with one eye open, or not going home to sleep at all. Oh yes, she still had use of only one hand. Luckily, she’s left-handed so she could still drive, and write, and eat, and bathe and dress herself, however awkwardly. Within days of honoring her final commitments, my daughter came home for some much needed R and R.

Having seen to it that All America Pest Control treated her furnishings first, albeit minimally, my daughter approved our emailing the apartment complex‘s assistant manager detailing our disdain for how the bedbug situation had been handled. To be told by her that there was no plan in place to combat the critters once discovered, that our daughter’s case was the first, was unbelievable. The problem with bedbugs had been covered by local and national broadcasts beginning a year ago. That management didn’t take preliminary steps to deal with them since infestations were being reported to occur weekly, if not daily, in hotels and other public places seemed irresponsible. A worst case, best case scenario should’ve been worked out with Orkin, rather than subjecting my daughter to being the test case, the guinea pig. But matters went from bad to worse when my daughter was told that bed bugs weren’t covered by Orkin’s treatment plan, that they were lumped in with “general insects” for which there was no coverage. And so my daughter was being charged for treatment decided upon by management, which was less than satisfactory when compared with what Orkin’s rep said her company would’ve done. And never mind that my daughtered’d already spent almost $300 in following Orkin’s instructions.

As fate would have it, our family had already decided to move my daughter into a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. Of course we were prepared to honor her lease at the old one which didn’t expire until the end of July. But with the bedbug incident occurring the beginning of May, and my daughter not occupying the premises because of the bugs, we requested the lease be terminated the end of June. We felt the situation had been mishandled from the start: no formal treatment plan in place, allowing the Orkin rep to speak for the apartment complex, and then not following through with what she’d outlined to my daughter as the course of action, effectively telling her she shouldn’t have spent the several hundred dollars she did in compliance. We also asked that management pay for treatment because of their failure to point out that erradicating bedbugs would be my daughter’s responsibility, at the time she signed the lease.

What recourse did we have if the apartment’s management didn’t honor our requests? Social media, of course. While I explained in our email that we were just seeking recompense for the wrong done my daughter and no more, I went on to say that if she was not recused from her lease a month early and if she had to pay for treatment, we would have no choice but to broadcast the injustice to the world via the internet, and consumer advocates on TV. Thankfully the outcome was predictable, but only because the regional manager realized their mistake in not having a management rep present when the Orkin woman met with my daughter. It became a case of “she said – she said.” As it turns out, Orkin’s rep denied her entire conversation with my daughter, giving a signed affidavit that she lied about everything. Can you imagine?!? Why she would put herself through hell moving everything into storage, first having to find and rent a unit at the last minute, buy and load up huge plastic bins into her car with a broken hand in a cast, and sleep on her couch, and then on an air mattress is beyond comprehension, except for the fact that she was obviously complying with the advice of an expert in erradicating bedbugs, the Orkin rep! Did I want to nail that woman’s hide to the wall? You betcha! It’s a good thing I live 3,000 miles away.

In her email response the regional manager of the apartment complex apologized profusely for the distress my daughter experienced, but faulted her with not speaking up about it earlier. My email reply explained that my daughter handled the situation in a very grown up, rational manner. It wasn’t until the treatment went from happening 3 days after her conversation with Orkin’s rep, to 2 weeks later, that my daughter became anxious. Who wouldn’t in an apartment completely torn apart, with furnishings in and out of storage, having to board her cat at the vet’s in anticipation of the bedbug treatment (costing another $200 because of the delay), sleeping on the couch and then an air mattress and on friends’ couches, all with a broken hand?!?

Having put all our family’s frustrations into writing was very therapeutic. And it got us what we asked for as a result. The regional manager bore the complete burden of fault since management didn’t accompany Orkin’s rep in her visit with my daughter. In compensation, she bore no responsibility for payment for the bedbug treatment; her account was credited with $750; and she was allowed to exit her lease whenever she chose. In response to the regional manager’s generosity, I refrained from publicly denigrating their facility and its management.

My daughter was able to secure her new apartment on May 3rd, a month earlier than originally intended. And she was allowed out of her lease on the old apartment, without penalty, and compensated for her out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the treatment of the bedbugs. Lessons learned? Before signing on the dotted line, ask if bedbug treatment is included in lease. Make sure someone from management is present when advised how to proceed by a pest control rep. Ask questions, register complaints, and seek retribution if warranted. But always remember…you get more with honey, than you do with vinegar. But if you don’t succeed, get out your cannons…and blast away!!!

One foot shown en pointe.

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the end? no way…the fun (ha!)only begins as the “saga of the bedbugs” continues…so stay tuned for the next episode…hugmamma.  😉 

proactive…against alzheimer’s

My friend Sylvia sent me a nice email which, among other things, expressed her concern that perhaps I dwell on the possibility of succumbing to Alzheimer’s more than I should. I’m certain the disease is not in her genes, for I’ve never heard her speak of either parent or any family member having died with it. Sylvia’s a decade older than me, and shows no signs of memory loss. Having done extensive reading about the disease, I know that she’s already got several factors in her favor for NOT developing Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia is a voracious knitter. Challenging herself with difficult patterns probably keeps her mind agile. She is a meticulous housekeeper and gardener. You could dine off her kitchen and dining room floors, and spread out luxuriously on her manicured lawn, while your eyes feast on the abundant clematis flowers that climb the nearby fence. The exercise involved is also good for the brain, not to mention the body. Finally, Sylvia relishes socializing. She and Jim traipse hither and yon to listen to the big band sounds of “Peach Tangerine.” She has belonged to the “Happy Hooker’s” knitting group for 20+ years, inviting the ladies to her home for an annual Christmas luncheon. And she goes above and beyond to help those in need, from family members to elderly neighbors in her retirement community. Sylvia’s got socializing down to a science which is great, because it’s a key ingredient in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia has taught me invaluable lessons on growing older gracefully…and keeping my mind healthy and happy. From what they’ve written, others have also given me useful information so that I can take a proactive role in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s or perhaps preventing it altogether. I regularly share this information in the hopes that it might encourage others to take action as well. I don’t do it as a plea for sympathy, or to sound my own horn. I truly feel this disease, like others, can and should be addressed as early as possible. If there’s any cause for which I am fully committed, rather than “burying my head in the sand,” the delay or prevention of Alzheimer’s is the mother lode of all causes for me. I take a stand not only on my own behalf, but also on behalf of those I love, and who love me.

Cover of

Cover of Preventing Alzheimer's

Leeza Gibbons, one-time TV personality writes in the “Foreword” for Preventing Alzheimer’s – Ways to Help Prevent, Delay, Detect, and Even Halt Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Memory Loss by William Rodman Shankle, M.S., M.D. and Daniel G. Amen, M.D.:

If you’ve picked up this book, you’re probably scared. Or if not afraid, at least interested in what causes Alzheimer’s disease and learning whether you are at risk.

The reality is that we’re all at risk of having this “terrorist-like thief” randomly break into our brains and begin to rewrite our life stories. As Baby Boomers beginning to face our mortality, Alzheimer’s is the unwelcome stranger that reminds us of our vulnerability.

The good news is that we don’t have to be defenseless.

My grandmother lost her life because of Alzheimer’s disease. We lose a little more of my mom everyday. Before Mom was fully trapped behind the fog, she asked me to promise that I would tell her story and use it to educate and inspire. I am, but doing so often brings more questions than answers. She looked into the face of her mother at my Granny’s funeral knowing what her fate would be. I looked at Mom and wondered…What about my children, and what about me? Am I next in line to have my memories stolen?

When my three children ask me if I will get “it” I tell them–truthfully–that I don’t know.

Thanks to Drs. William Rodman Shankle and Daniel Amen, what I do know is that perhaps I can effectively manage my risk of getting the disease, and you can, too. Whether or not you have a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia in your family, your goal is to keep your brain strong and healthy. …

We all know that the “age wave” is about to crash in our culture and yet we are not at all ready. Even in the wake of President Ronald Reagan‘s death, there is still so much shame and stigma surrounding memory disorders that many families try to compensate and deny until they are bankrupt–financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Alzheimer’s is a disease that depletes and depletes, and it is never satisfied with the diagnosed individual…it wants the entire family.

It’s for this reason I created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation. Our family was numb and paralyzed with fear when Mom was diagnosed. It was almost impossible to find the help and support we needed. Answers were scarce. …

Leeza's Place

At Leeza’s Place, our mantra is early diagnosis. We believe in memory screenings to get a baseline reading, against which any decline can be measured. We believe in educating our guests about the latest in alternative treatments to complement traditional approaches. We believe in being proactive against this frightening force. We believe in support for both the recently diagnosed and those who care for them.

That’s why I am so impressed with Drs. Shankle and Amen and their work. They are well-respected scientists whose work is world-renowned, but I also know them as kind, compassionate men who not only focus on how to tackle this disease, but on connecting with families who arrive in their offices with their breath knocked out of them, looking for a miracle. These two doctors will never try to talk anyone out of expecting a good outcome…they have seen it happen too many times. They have been the guiding forces toward success stories that may offer real hope against a dark landscape of despair. …

You are perhaps doing nothing short of changing the course of your future, and possibly someone else’s, by reading this book. Can you think of anything more powerful or important? It’s a popular notion that we must gracefully surrender the things of youth. Yes, we will lose our firm muscles and unlined skin, but memories should be ours for keeps. They are what resonate at the end of a life, sweetened over time.

We must do what we can to bolt the door to our minds so that our treasured recollections of those we love, where we went, and what we felt will be kept forever as a sort of “soul print” of our time here on earth. This book suggests options that might have the potential to lock out Alzheimer’s disease in order to do just that.

This image shows a PiB-PET scan of a patient w...

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Under the heading “What the Brain Needs to Stay Healthy,” Drs. Shankle and Amen write:

Fuel
Just like any other living thing, a brain needs fuel to grow, function, and repair itself. Glucose and oxygen run the engine powered by your brain cells. Glucose is a simple six-carbon sugar. Unlike other cells in your body, your brain cells only know how to use glucose. Anything that impairs glucose delivery to brain cells is life-threatening. Oxygen is required to produce energy; without it your mitochondria will not produce enough energy to keep your brain alive. Because blood delivers glucose and oxygen to your brain, nothing must get in the way of blood flow if the brain is to stay healthy.

Stimulation
Although largely genetically programmed to turn on its functions at the right developmental age, the human brain also depends on proper stimulation to grow and develop throughout childhood and to maintain its functioning into old age. When you stimulate neurons in the right way, you make them more efficient; they function better, and you are more likely to have an active, learning brain throughout your life. …

The best sources of stimulation for the brain are physical exercise, mental exercise, and social bonding.

Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is important for brain health. Moderate exercise improves the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body and helps maintain healthy blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen and glucose delivery. Exercise also reduces damage to neurons from toxic substances from the environment, and it enhances insulin’s ability to prevent high blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. Physical exercise also helps protect the short-term memory structures in the temporal lobes (hippocampus and entorhinal cortex) from high-stress conditions, which produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol (20). …The Honolulu Study of Aging found that untreated high blood pressure during midlife (40 to 60 years old) greatly increases the risk for dementia. …This study emphasizes the importance of regular exercise and proper treatment of any medical conditions you may have. …

Mental Exercise
Physical exercise has a global effect on the brain, but mental exercise is equally important. By mental exercise, we mean acquiring new knowledge. It is possible to use your brain without learning anything new, which in the long run is not terribly helpful. For instance, Dr. Joe L. reads mammograms all day long–reads thousands of them a year–and although he is working his brain every day, he is not actually taking in new information. Whenever the brain does something over and over, it learns how to do that particular thing using less and less energy. New learning–such as learning a new medical technique, a new hobby, or new game–helps establish new connections, thus maintaining and improving the function of other less-often-used brain areas. …

Social Interaction
One common source of brain stimulation that is often overlooked is interacting with other people. Social interaction is the fuel the brain needs to develop the ability to negotiate, cooperate, and compromise with others, to know right from wrong, and to know when to respond and when to keep silent. These highly complex human abilities are largely controlled by the tips of the frontal lobes. They start to develop before two years old, such as when the infant starts saying no to the parents. These abilities continue to develop at least until 50 years old, according to studies of brain myelination, and perhaps longer.

Child neglect has been associated with many brain-based developmental difficulties such as personality and learning and behavioral problems. Likewise, adults deprived of the company of others experience a clear negative effect on cognitive abilities, memory, and social skills. In studies on social connectedness in the elderly, it has been shown that people who spend time with others on a regular basis are cognitively sharper. In addition, their emotions are more even. Psychiatrists have seen time and again that people who are isolated commit suicide dramatically more often than those who are active in society. Simple social interaction stimulates particular neuronal circuits. For instance, there is a self-awareness circuit at the very tip of the frontal lobe. If its capacity is diminished, the person can no longer judge her own abilities. Self-awareness is maintained, literally, by being aware of oneself, and that is aided significantly by feedback from other people. If the circuits in the crucial areas of the frontal lobe aren’t being used, they atrophy, and the person’s social skills suffer.

Page 71 of the book carries “The Shankle-Amen Early Dementia Detection Questionnaire.” Listed are 21 short questions to which the answers are either “yes” or “no.” In parentheses are numerical scores. Upon completion, one is asked to total the scores for the “yes” answers.

Interpretation
If the score is 0, 1, or 2, then you have low risk factors for developing ADRD.
If the score is 3, 4, 5 or 6, then you should annually screen (see Appendix A) after age 50.
If the score is greater than 6, then you should annually screen (see appendix A) after age 40.

Following are the questions for which I answered “yes.”

1._(3.5) One family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other cause of dementia

10._(2.1) High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)

Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United Stat...

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As you can see my score is 5.6 indicating that I should test for memory loss, which I will be doing. Coincidentally as I write this post, there’s a Larry King special on TV, “Unthinkable – Alzheimer’s Epidemic.” Among other guests speaking of their experiences with family members who had Alzheimer’s are Leeza Gibbons, Laura Bush, Angie Dickinson, Ron Reagan, and Maria Shriver. Contributing to the piece are the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, as well as doctors, scientists, and other experts in the field. Larry King underwent testing, including an MRI, to see if symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s could be detected. He came away with a clean bill of health as far as they were concerned.

β-amyloid fibrils.

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The message of my post, and Larry King’s TV special, is to recognize and accept the potential for Alzheimer’s. But more importantly, it’s that we should be aggressively proactive in remaining out of its debilitating grasp for as long as we are able. For once its tentacles take hold, there’s no escape…ever.

preferring to be the aggressor…and not the victim…hugmamma.  

“anchors”…weighing in

 

Brian Williams at the Vanity Fair celebration ...

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Not sure if you watch the evening news. I tend to tune in most nights. Kind of set my clock by world news’ broadcasts. There’s TV before Brian Williams, and then TV after he’s done his schpeel. My internal clock probably kicks into overdrive thinking “okay, now I’ve only got 5 or 6 hours” to accomplish what wasn’t done during the rest of the 18 or 19 hours, well maybe 12 or 13 hours, allowing for the time I was still in bed.

Now that you know which anchor I favor, I wondered who yours might be? Or have you no preferences? I’ll tell you my reasons for faithfully tuning in to hear Brian Williams recap the news of the day. First and foremost, he reminds me of Peter Jennings, former anchor of ABC’s evening news. Yes, Williams rode the coattails of Jennings in gaining my viewership after the more seasoned newsman died of lung cancer.

Peter Jennings

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Jennings was attractive, with a winning smile. He was easier on the eyes than Tom Brokaw and the other famous anchor whose name escapes me. I was just drawn to whiling away the news hour with Jennings. But the moment which locked in my devotion was his coverage of the hijacking of a TWA flight in the 80’s or 90’s. At the time I was working for the airline. Needless to say, we employees were never far from the television set, at work and at home.

For me, Jennings came to represent the Walter Cronkite of my adult years. I felt comforted knowing that Jennings was there  guiding us through the ups and downs of national and global affairs. If he looked alright; I felt alright. So it was with sadness that I learned of his passing, as if he’d been a distant relative.

Walter Cronkite takes the helm of Constitution...

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When Charlie Gibson assumed the vacant seat as evening anchor, I stayed tune. He was different, but likeable nonetheless. Gibson felt like a big brother to whom I could turn, knowing he always had my back. There was no celebrity aura about him. He seemed what he was: A husband, a father, in a highly visible job, trying to put the best spin on life, even when the news didn’t warrant it. So when he announced his retirement, I was again a little dazed.

Not a huge fan of Diane Sawyer‘s, although that wasn’t always the case, and unfamiliar with Katie Couric, I started watching Brian Williams. The more I saw of him, the more reminiscent he was of Peter Jennings, a younger version, still a little “green” by comparison, from what I remembered of the former anchor. But time aged Williams in appearance and delivery. I found him more and more trustworthy as the years have passed. I now look to him, as I once did to Jennings and Gibson. But since I’ve also aged, where I used to look up to Jennings as a Cronkite, Gibson as a brother, I have a warm spot for Williams as a mother does for a son, or an aunt has for a favorite nephew.

Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter o...

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What turned me away from Diane Sawyer? Many of you know that I’m an admirer of Michael Jackson as a phenomenal entertainer. I also believed in his ill-fated marriage to Lisa Marie Presley. While a short-lived, rocky relationship of 2 mega-famous individuals, I subscribe to their having truly cared for one another. Having watched Sawyer’s interview of the couple during their marriage, and then of Lisa Marie after their divorce, I felt the anchor’s demeanor very condescending. She treated both like children, with brow constantly furrowed and lips curled into a near snarl, Sawyer seemed to badger them about their answers. Other than living their own lives, I didn’t think either deserved the treatment they received.

I never really took note of Katie Couric. Actually I preferred ABC’s Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer, until the latter’s aforementioned interview. As with the rest of the country, Couric got my attention when she asked Sarah Palin what kind of literary material she read. Watching that interview play non-stop throughout much of the presidential campaign, had me noticing the anchor more and more.

Cropped headshot of Katie Couric

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Since Couric and Williams broadcast the evening news back-to-back, not simultaneously, I now watch both if I’m able. As I observed Couric’s handling of disastrous news, like the mid-east uprisings, and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, I found her serious, yet compassionate and calm. By contrast I found Sawyer’s presentations agitated and discomforting. Her facial expressions always seem to register acrimony. I don’t get that from Couric or Williams, nor did I get the same feeling from Cronkite or Jennings.

Well, there you have it. I’m sure we all have reasons for watching whomever it is we watch. I’m a people-person, so I tend to focus upon the connection I have with people, as to whether I put my faith and trust in them. I’ve been meaning to voice my opinion about Jennings and Williams for some time. So now I can cross this off my lengthy “to do” list.

any thoughts?…hugmamma.

another “small” story, japan

I love retelling “small” stories of people going about the task of daily living, like you and me. Found another one about a Japanese family trying to do what they would do under normal circumstances, in today’s Wall Street Journal. Seems to me that’s human resilience at its best. But, truthfully, what else can survivors do…but live. To stop is to die. And why would they choose to do that, when they’ve been spared. Instead they’ve taken the gift of life and moved on, vowing to remember those who have fallen.

Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populou...

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A Tokyo Reunion
by Michael Judge

American Airlines flight 153 from Chicago to Tokyo was nearly full and pleasantly mundane–young mothers bounced infants in the aisles, businessmen worked in the glow of their laptops, elderly couples stretched their legs near the restrooms. In the wake of the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, with the number of dead or missing surpassing more than 20,000, the ordinariness of the 13-hour flight was a comfort.

Given the fear of aftershocks and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, my wife Masae and I had joked that we’d be the only ones on the Saturday flight. Shortly before take-off, the Associated Press ran a banner on their mobile site saying that traces of “radioactive iodine” had been detected in Tokyo’s drinking water. Spinach and milk were also “tainted.” Foreigners were already leaving in droves–a mass exodus from the world’s densest metropolis was feared.

Indeed, when we told friends and acquaintances we were planning to return to Tokyo, my wife’s hometown and the city where we met 17 years ago this spring, some treated us like characters from Albert Camus‘s “The Plague.” Didn’t we understand the risks involved? Why subject ourselves to possible contamination if it could be avoided? Many governments were sending planes to evacuate overseas nationals. Washington warned against all “nonessential” travel to Tokyo.

Nonessential–a strange word. Was it nonessential to attend a family wedding we’d been looking forward to for months? When the wedding was eventually cancelled, was it nonessential to be near loved ones at a time when so many had lost theirs? My wife and I had chosen to live in America–we hadn’t chosen to abandon our family in Japan.

Nippon Professional Baseball

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Friends in and around Tokyo assured us that life here was continuing as close to normal as possible. To save electricity, trains ran less frequently and some businesses closed earlier. There were long but orderly lines at gas stations. After much debate, opening day of Nippon Professional Baseball, the equivalent of Major League Baseball, was delayed–by four days.

Still, on the train into the city on Sunday, we were relieved to see kids playing baseball and soccer in the parks. Laundry hung from clotheslines outside apartment buildings. Restaurants and cafes were busy outside the Nippori train station. Tokyo was full of life and open for business–even as cities as far away as Los Angeles sold out of potassium-iodine pills over fears of trans-Pacific traces of radiation.

Puburiba, the public bath run by my wife’s parents, was bustling late Sunday afternoon: Elderly men and women and families of all sizes and ages sought out the communal comfort only a sento can provide. But before we could settle in, we jumped into my father-in-law’s car and drove across town to dine with our nephew Tomo and his fiancee Yurie. They’d decided to postpone their March 26 wedding plans until September, but they remained in high spirits. Over ice-cold beer and the best Korean barbeque I’ve ever had, Tomo, Yurie and a handful of relatives and friends gave thanks for our being together, no matter the occasion.

Ryounkaku before and after Great Kanto earthquake

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On Wednesday we plan to visit the grave of my wife’s maternal grandmother, Makino, in the town of Noto on the Japanese Sea. She died last year at the age of 100. She was 13 when the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 struck, leveling Tokyo and surrounding cities and killing between 100,000 and 140,000 people. My wife’s paternal grandmother, Kaneyo, and her two youngest children died after fleeing the firebombing of Tokyo. The bombing commenced on Nov. 17, 1944, and didn’t stop until Aug. 15, 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender. More than 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, nearly all civilians, died in those nine months.

But the three didn’t die in Tokyo: They died in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture, 220 miles north of the capital. Weakened by the journey, illness and starvation, they couldn’t digest the rice they were finally given in Yamagata, and they died of “burst stomachs,” according to my father-in-law, Yasumasa. Miraculously, he was the only survivor.

Nakamise-dōri

Image by midwinterphoto via Flickr

Yesterday, while we were shopping at a crowded Ikebukuro department store, news came that gray smoke was rising from two of the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, forcing workers to pull back momentarily. Shopping continued apace. News that an 8-year-old woman from Miyagi Prefecture and her 16-year-old grandson had survived for nine days in the wreckage of their home–which had been moved one kilometer by the force of the tsunami–filled the television, and was on everyone’s lips.

Mr. Judge writes about culture and the arts for the Journal.

“small” stories…big impact…hugmamma.

“lemon tree,” a folk song

While puttering around, I listened to folk songs on the PBS station on TV.  Wow! Did that bring back some great memories. Had me humming along in some cases. Here’s one song that got me reminiscing. You don’t have to hum though, I’ve added the lyrics below the video. “Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” La, la, la, la la la la…

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day beneath the lemon tree, my love and I did lie
A girl so sweet that when she smiled the stars rose in the sky.
We passed that summer lost in love beneath the lemon tree
The music of her laughter hid my father’s words from me:

Lemon tree flower in Vietnam

Image via Wikipedia

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day she left without a word. She took away the sun.
And in the dark she left behind, I knew what she had done.
She’d left me for another, it’s a common tale but true.
A sadder man but wiser now I sing these words to you:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

did you sing along?…hugmamma.

getting back into the “game”

Returned to exercise class at the community center on Wednesday; went again today. While my upper body, including my arms, neck and head acclimated to the strenous movement, my lower extremity went into shock. After all, it’s been 3 months since I’ve dragged body and soul out of bed at 6:45 a.m. to make it there by 8:15. Somehow climbing into bed after midnight doesn’t quite jive with getting up again in 5 hours, especially if I expect my body to rock-and-roll at such an ungodly hour. Having left the work force 25 years ago, this month, early morning risings are ancient history, especially when I’m feeling ancient.

Besides missing the release of endorphins, I missed the camaraderie of my fellow exercisers who, like me, are not in it for vanity. We all figure if we don’t keep moving, we won’t be moving! Exercise keeps the joints limber and the muscles taut. They, in turn, ensure quality of life as long as we’re on God‘s earth. When we retreat to His heaven, well then maybe, just maybe we’ll be able to coast on our good looks. ha, ha.

Postcard:

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday being St. Patty’s day, Kristina, our instructor decided we’d celebrate the holiday today, with Irish music. Although I’m more inclined to bump and grind to Michael Jacksons‘s beat, I’ll dance to anything, even church music if need be. After finishing our usual aerobics routine, we turned to some fancy Irish footwork, including a touch of Riverdance, and a couple of jigs. You’d think I’d have these routines memorized, since Kristina has had us do them for as long as I’ve been going, which is about 5 years. But, of course, older age and a corresponding decrease in coordination, sabotage my efforts at remembering. No matter. All of us laugh at each other’s failed attempts to get the moves right. In some instances, even Kristina forgets.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones in the ea...

Image via Wikipedia

As a bonus for dragging myself to exercise class, I sometimes join a couple of the ladies for coffee afterwards. Today Kristina, Mary and I gathered at one of our favorite watering holes, Starbuck’s. Conversation is always so varied and, therefore, really interesting. Today was no exception. Discussion flowed from gay relatives, to attending a wedding where the bride’s family are all “gushers,” to biographies of Keith Richards and Meredith Baxter, to husband’s and their peculiarities. Whether sharing like-minded ideas or venting about personal gripes, we ladies are on the “same page.” We’re there for one another, or as my daughter and I are wont to say, “We’ve got each other’s backs.”

An interesting question was raised when we were chatting about Baxter’s recent “outing”  as a lesbian. It was obvious from reading her autobiography that she’d been through 3 heterosexual marriages that failed. I believe she was married to the wrong men. Baxter was the “bread winner” each time, although her husbands dictated their lives, each in his own way. She allowed their abuse, mentally, emotionally and in David Birney‘s case, physically. Faulting her mother’s total lack of involvement in her life from a young age, Baxter leaned towards “invisibility” in her relationships. Only when she finally fell into gay relationships did she feel an equal partner. So I posited the idea to my coffee-drinking buddies, that perhaps Baxter wouldn’t have gone Lesbian, if she’d met a man who treated her more like an equal, than like a doormat. My friends nodded their heads, but didn’t look quite convinced.

No matter if the conversation turns toward more serious topics, my companions and I always find ourselves caught up in fits of laughter, sometimes even hysterics. I guess we middle-aged women tend to laugh at our own jokes. Whatever?!? We have a lot of fun…and the pain of exercising seems a million miles away.

as they say…no pain, no gain…hugmamma.

one family’s story, japan

TV news reports are jam-packed with videos of the destruction in Japan, including snippets of interviews with those in the midst of it all. Somehow viewing the catastrophe on such a large-scale makes it impersonal, like it’s happening over there, not here. We breathe a collective sigh of relief, and go about our business. I pause every now and then unable to wrap my brain around the fact that under the same blue sky, someone in Japan is desperately trying to hang onto any visible shred of hope that she, and her family, will once again live a normal life, and here I am, living a normal life. “There but for the grace of God…”

Rather than try to retell the story of Hideo Higuchi and his family, I’m giving writer Eric Bellman that privilege since he authored “Winding Road to Reunion Bridges Three Generations,” which appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal

Ishinomaki city miyagi pref

Image via Wikipedia

ISHINOMAKI, Japan–Hideo Higuchi and his wife sat in their truck, staring at the long lake in front of them. Beneath was the road to their daughter’s home.

The Higuchi’s hadn’t heard from her since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Water and debris had blocked the road into town. Phone networks remained down. So when floodwaters receded enough Tuesday to let them through, the couple rushed to Ishinomaki on Japan’s devastated eastern coast, where their daughter lived with her husband and three sons.

“I am not from here,” said the 70-year-old rice farmer, as his bloodshot eyes tried to measure whether his boxy white truck could make it through the knee-deep water. “I don’t know any other way around.”

Flag of Ishinomaki, Miyagi

Image via Wikipedia

“What is the damage like in Ishinomaki?” his wife, Sayono, 68, anxiously asked a stranger. The Higuchis live 15 miles inland from Ishinomaki, in a small city shaken by the earthquake but unaffected by the tsunami.

The Higuchis turned their truck around. The bed of the Isuzu, emptied of the usual farming equipment, held a cardboard box of food and drinks. They were for their daughter’s family, if the family could be found.

The couple decided to try to find the primary school of their three grandsons–Ryo, 12, and the 10-year-old twins, Chihiro and Masaki. In many small towns like this one, schools are often the tallest buildings and likeliest emergency shelters.

But the Higuchis weren’t sure of the school’s name. Pointing to a map, Mr. Higuchi asked people on the street. “Is there a grade school around here? Is it an evacuation center?”

Port ishinomaki miyagi pref

Image via Wikipedia

They wound through the narrow back streets of Ishinomaki, a town of 164,000 people. On the roadsides were sights rarely seen in Japan: men in military fatigues directing traffic, girls with plastic bags taped over their sneakers, old men grilling a fish over a fire in an oil can. A middle-aged woman, bowing with a particularly Japanese shame at the thought of inconveniencing a stranger, held a sign: “Please give me a ride to Watanoha.”

Mr. Higuchi stepped out of his truck and adjusted his baseball cap as he talked to some neighborhood boys. The grade school was underwater, the boys said. People there might have been taken out by helicopter.

The couple found the middle school. To search the four floors of evacuees, they split up. Each room had a roster pinned outside the door, naming the people who slept there and their age. Mr. Higuchi, with thick glasses and poor eyesight, went through more than 10 rosters.

“Oikawa…Oikawa…Oikawa,” he said repeating the married name of his daughter, Miyuki. There are a lot of Oikawas here, so his crooked fingers paused often as he went down the lists.

When Mr. Higuchi asked a cluster of kids sitting near a third-floor window if there was a grade school nearby, they answered obediently. “See that yellow building with a green roof? It’s behind there,” one boy said.

Children in Kimono, circa 1960s. In Ishinomaki...

Image via Wikipedia

Beyond the yellow building was the grade school. It wasn’t underwater. It was eerily quiet. There were evacuees on the third floor, the Higuchis were told. The couple quickly walked up the steps, moving faster than they had all day. Before she finished sliding open the first classroom door, Ms. Higuchi gasped. “Ryo!” She waved her hand, apparently reluctant to enter the room. “Ryo, come here.”

It was her grandson. In the room, also, were their son-in-law’s parents. “You’re all right!” they shouted at the Higuchis.

Three adults, in a display of emotion seldom seen in Japan, jumped up and down holding hands, hugged and cried. The three grandsons were then dragged into the group hugs.

The Higuchis learned their daughter’s home had been ruined by the tsunami shortly after their daughter, the only one home at the time of the earthquake, evacuated and met the rest of her family at the school. The daughter and her husband were there now, seeing if any of their belongings were salvageable. “Thank God, thank God,” the four grandparents repeated, wiping away tears and smiling.

Mr. Higuchi brought his eldest grandson down to the truck to give him one of his favorite drinks. Ryo, wearing the bright blue gym uniform he was wearing when the earthquake hit Friday, started to sip.

“We will go meet our daughter now,” said Mr. Higuchi. Asked if he knew the way, he said, “I’m OK now. My grandson is here.”

japan, an editorial opinion

As if reading my mind, the following editorial opinion “Sturdy Japanwas in today’sWall Street Journal. I’ve reprinted it here in its entirety.

No nation escapes unscathed from an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Japan yesterday. At least 1,000 people have died. For all that damage, it is remarkable how well this island nation of more than 126 million people has withstood the fifth largest earthquake since 1900. Registering a stunning 8.9, the earthquake near Sendai produced a 30-foot high tsunami that hurtled toward some 53 countries.

Despite these powerful forces, one cannot help but note how relatively well prepared the Japanese were to survive such an assault from mother Earth. Japan stands, literally, as a testament to how human planning and industrialized society can cope with natural disasters.

A country that experiences hundreds of subterranean vibrations annually, Japan has been earthquake-proofing its buildings since an 8.4 earthquake in 1891. Until 1965, Japan limited the height of buildings to a little over 100 feet, but with the pressure of urban populations, the height limit was lifted. Japan’s wood residential houses were vulnerable to a tsunami on the coast, but its tall buildings seem to have held up well against the quake.

Minatomirai, Yokohama Japan See where this pic...

Image via Wikipedia

In 1993, the Yokohama Landmark Tower was completed at 971 feet tall, a remarkable height in a country prone to serious earthquakes. It was only possible to erect such a building if one had the skills and wealth to access the most sophisticated techniques of modeling and engineering.

In late 2007, the Japanese completed the world’s most sophisticated early warning system for earthquakes, which was credited Friday with signaling Tokyo’s residents–via TV, radio and cellphone–that a quake was coming. The warning system gives industrial, energy and transportation facilities time to shut down before a quake hits. The biggest concern as we went to press was the ability to cool the reactor cores at nuclear power plants that were shut down automatically as the earthquake hit. The U.S. is sending some coolant materials.

阪神淡路大震災(東急ハンズあたり)

Image via Wikipedia

Japan now faces significant rebuilding, but less than could have been expected after enduring its strongest tremblor in 300 years. We’d now expect that similar warning systems would be developed and installed in the rest of the world’s quake-prone nations.

Contrast this preparation with poor Haiti or the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, which killed some 70,000 people. Haiti has the excuse of abject poverty caused by decades of misrule. China has wealth but a government answerable only to itself. Sometimes the hard phrase, invidious comparison, is apt. After its disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995, Japan instituted a multitude of reforms.

Japan itself has experienced some bad press of late. Its economic growth is stagnant, and its inept political class has become an embarrassment to its great population of productive citizens. But make no mistake. Japan remains a great industrial power. Despite the destructive effects of yesterday’s quake, the self-protective benefits of Japan’s achievement as a modern nation was hard not to notice.

supports my theory that the japanese work hard to sustain themselves…through good times…and bad…hugmamma.

inspiration, where from?

From where do we get our inspiration? Books, newspapers, magazines, church sermons, college courses, conversations, passersby, strangers, politicians, news pundits, family,  friends, are the usual sources. How are we inspired? From the outside in, or the inside out? Is it during life’s peaks, or life’s lows? Is it a slow process, or an instantaneous revelation? What do we do with inspiration? Do we take it to heart and act upon it, or do we deny its importance, its significance? Do we shelve it…for tomorrow? What if tomorrow never comes? Remember…

life has an expiration date…hugmamma.

   

“real” reality tv

Glee

flooding “down under”

Super Bowl Sunday

egyptian citizens protesting economic deprivation

Angelina Jolie, “Cleopatra”

mother nature reeks winter havoc

Oscars

mubarak thugs descend upon unsuspecting protestors

Oprah celebrates birthday

initiative to continue funding educational programs

Justin Bieber, “Never Say Never”

monroe prison guard killed

Crystal Mountain Ski Lodge, gondola, weddings, Summit restaurant

revolution spreading as i type

that’s how it is on “real” reality tv

are you getting the picture?…hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

“got my groove back,” hugmamma

THANK YOU COMCAST, for removing the Grinch and giving me back Christmas!!! The technician came at the appointed hour this morning, replacing wires, boxes, modems and what not. Not sure if it would be considered an overhaul, or a remodel. Whatever it’s called, our internet connection is again working. I’m sure you can tell from the vivid pictures gracing my previous post about holiday decorating. I’m back on my own laptop, where I can enhance my writing with pictures from my “library.” Yehhh!!! It’s almost like going from “black and white TV,” to color.

This time we’re ALMOST certain that Comcast’s technician fixed the problem. Since my husband’s more savvy about gadgetry, he understands the repair process better than I. Gut instinct is my trusty barometer. Let’s hope it’s still dependable, and that the same is true about Comcast.

Meanwhile customer service rep, Amanda Kennedy, promised we’d be given one month’s internet service free, for our frustrations. That’s in addition to the $20 credit we received for the first appointment, because the technician arrived after the 4 hour frame period. So while Comcast is a big player in internet service, they provided us customer service of the small town variety. Mistakes happen; things can go awry. We can be understanding, even patient, as long as there’s communication and genuine compassion for our plight.

So I continue to recommend using “honey,” and not “vinegar,” to resolve a situation. It’s less stressful for you, and may garner side benefits, such as I’ve described above. But go the distance, talking with whomever is necessary, rationally stating all the facts. Don’t hesitate to ascend the “ladder,” talking to the boss, if necessary. The most important thing, however, is not letting your blood pressure boil over. Your health is too important. So remember to take some deep breaths…

in the groove again, blogging…hugmamma.

“a sweetie,” but

I totally agree with the author of the following article, Taylor Swift is a sweetheart, but I think her time has passed. And she really can’t sing, especially in person, without the help of technology, without backup. I applaud all the accolades she has garnered at such a young age. She was surely in the right place, at the right time, when all the stars in heaven were perfectly aligned. Again, good for her, her song-writing ability, her fashion style, her self-confidence, her down-home personality. But fantastic songstress, she is not. I like her, but…

In Awe of Taylor Swift–But Enough! by Joe Queenan

Like everybody else in America, I am in awe of Taylor Swift. Complete and utter awe. Even when she sings off-key with Stevie Nicks. She writes catchy tunes, makes clever, self-deprecating videos, and has an elegance rarely found among country & western artists. I really admire the way she handled that nasty incident with Kanye West at the 2009 MTV Music Video awards, and I love the way she uses her songs to turn her ever-growing pile of ex-boyfriends into chum.

And even if some of her songs seem a tad derivative–“You Belong With Me” sounds like Liz Phair channeling Suzanne Vega reworking the Bangles songbook–what’s the big deal? All New Country sounds like that Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The only thing I don’t like about Taylor Swift is that she has now become remorselessly ubiquitous. In the past few months, Ms. Swift has achieved the sort of global media saturation that was once associated with Madonna and, more recently, Lady Gaga. If you turn on the television, Taylor Swift is there, receiving yet another award. If you turn on the radio, she is there, crooning about yet another fallen swain. If you open a tabloid, she is there, the gorgeous ingenue, posing disingenuously for the paparazzi. If you pass a newsstand, she is beaming out at you from the cover of People, US Weekly, OK, Seventeen. As Entertainment Weekly, whose cover she currently graces, puts it: “Congratulations, Taylor Swift on achieving total world domination…in just 12 short months.”

When a star achieves this kind of overnight intergalactic suzerainty, the rest of us end up knowing things about them that we do not really need to know. This occurs through the process of supernoval osmosis, whereby people who haven’t the slightest interest in a famous person, and who only watch PBS and the Sundance Channel, nevertheless know that Danny Bonaduce just got married for the third time. I myself only watch sports and TV shows where people get shot or stabbed, and I only listen to radio stations that play Bela Bartok or Miles Davis, yet by paging through magazines in checkout lines and reading tabloids strewn around the diner and just generally being a sentient human being on this planet in the year 2010, I have come into possession of all sorts of minutiae regarding Taylor Swift’s daily life.

I know that she has moved out of her parents’ Nashville home. I know that her fling with Taylor Lautner ended amicably. I know that she plays Taylor guitars. I know that not everyone is crazy about her new hair style. I know that she sometimes changes outfits four times a day.

I know that the breakup call she received from one of the Jonas Brothers only lasted 27 seconds, even though I can never remember which of the Jonas Brothers made it, or why she timed it. And while I have no idea where most of my friends spent Thanksgiving, I know that Ms. Swift flew to Brooklyn to be with her new boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal. And I have it on the highest authority that while visiting Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, Ms. Swift giggled while sipping a maple latte. Jake’s maple latte.

I do not begrudge Ms. Swift her wealth, her fame, her utter hegemony over every medium known to man, her maple latte. I simply wish that she would occasionally give the rest of us a day off.

Apparently that is not going to happen. Last week I locked myself away to see if I could get through a single day without having Taylor Swift infiltrate my consciousness. I didn’t read the papers, or watch TV, or turn on the radio, or log onto the Internet. By nine o’clock I seemed to have this thing pretty well under control. Then I called a close friend and asked if his daughter-in-law had delivered her baby, and he replied: “Yes. They named her Ashlee Taylor. They picked ‘Taylor’ because…”

Don’t tell me. I know.

Wall Street Journal, Saturday-Sunday,December 11-12, 2010

I actually feel similarly about the Kardashian sisters. They’re beautiful, but…

in small doses, maybe…hugmamma.

“this time’s for me,” blogging

A couple of days ago, views of HUGMAMMA’S MIND, BODY AND SOUL passed 6,000! In five months time, I’ve written and published more than 200 posts. I guess that might be the equivalent of a very small book. The benefit of writing a blog, as I’ve acknowledged before, is being read “in the moment.” Middleman, wordpress.com, has been highly instrumental in taking my words from “draft” to “published.” I’m very grateful for the ease with which they make it happen, and appreciative of you, who continue to read my blog.

Writing for me is like a job. I awake, ideas percolating in my brain, before I’ve even washed my face and brushed my teeth. But I get myself ready, hair coiffed and makeup on, oatmeal, green tea and fruit downed, before I plop myself in front of the computer. This is one job for which I need no motivation other than my own. I don’t get paid. I don’t have to answer to a boss, other than myself. But even this boss doesn’t need to kick me in the butt to get going. I’m off and running at the speed of lightning, each and every day. Topics??? They’re in my brain all the time; they’re at my fingertips, in stacks of unread Wall Street Journal papers, in stacks of recipes in a huge drawer. Topics also present themselves on TV, in exercise class, in church, at functions. And of course, mothering is a lifetime of blog posts in itself.

A friend recommended I look into blogging for compensation, in a variety of forms. Looking into it, I was caught up in the whirlwind of gains that could be made from connecting with companies that use bloggers to market their products. Flying hither and yon to attend conferences, visit corporate headquarters, be recognized beyond my own little hovel is exciting stuff. But then I remembered, “Been there, done that.”

I’ve worked for corporations, traveling to headquarters in other states, schmoozing with management, basked in the limelight for programs I’d overseen to fruition. And I got paid to do all this, not enough to be sure, never enough. But while my body went through all the motions, doing all the necessary things to stay in the “rat race,” my brain was lying somewhere in a hammock, bathing in the warmth of tropical sunshine of my own imagination’s creation. Sunday afternoons and Mondays were always the worst for me, knowing I had to get up out of my “hammock,” and get back in the “rat race.”

So for now, I prefer to be the Hobbit, snug and warm in my “hole in the ground,” writing whatever I want, whenever I want, for readers who like reading what I write. It’s like hitting “pay dirt,” every time someone views my blog. So in a way, you’re my boss, but ultimately I’m still my own boss. I can always “pull the plug” on this job. But for now I’ll keep my day job and, of course, the ones I’ve enjoyed for 40 years, housewife, and 24 years, mom.

this time’s for me…hugmamma.

“living la vida gay,” ricky martin

In his “heyday” Ricky Martin was hot, hot, hot! Then he disappeared. What was that all about? Years passed, and I forgot all about him. Seems he had a lot to figure out in his personal life. He’s gay. Now I understand. “Living la vida loca,” with guys might not sell records to straight audiences, or so he thought. It might have made me think “aw shucks,” but a singer who’s got great vocals and a ripped body, and moves as Martin does, needn’t have worried about me liking him as an entertainer. I move to the beat, regardless of someone’s sexual preference.

Upset that Barbara Walters asked if he was gay on national television the night of the Academy Awards, Ricky Martin sidestepped the question. He wasn’t “ready” to deal with the unrelenting attention the mass media would heap upon him if he “came out.” He chose to pick the moment, when he was ready to reveal the truth. Martin was still evolving into the gay man he has proudly proclaimed himself to be, today. When his mom hugged him after only taking a minute to digest his news, he knew it was time to tell everyonelse. So he wrote his memoirs.

“Ricky Martin: ME” was the platform from which Oprah interviewed him on her talk show today. In his autobiography, he told all, including his having been bisexual before determining that, in fact, he was gay. He’d had passionate romances with women, but one serious relationship with a man, for whom he would have sacrificed everything, convinced him he was gay. Older, perhaps wiser, the man refused to let Martin give up what he was obviously meant to do, entertain crowds who loved him. The singer decided his partner was not as enamored of him, as he was of the man. At the time Martin was 22.

His new love these days? Actually there are two. A surrogate was engaged to give Ricky Martin children, twin boys, as it turned out. Watching him parent the youngsters on a video, probably had women in the audience, and viewers on TV, wishing he were straight. There was no mistaking that Martin is an awesome, “hands-on” father. He changed diapers, he played “pat-a-cake,” he served up breakfast, he rode a bike, carting the twins behind in a special contraption, and he’s teaching his boys to speak Spanish. The luckiest woman in Martin’s world right now? His mom, for she’s got his heart, and the hearts of 2 precious grandsons.

Evidently, Ricky Martin’s celebrity status was a powerful catalyst in moving ordinary men to “own” their gay-ness. A man flown in by Oprah to be part of the audience, explained how the revelation convinced his own Hispanic mom to ask her son questions about his lifestyle, something she hadn’t done when first learning that he was gay. Standing at his side, for all the world to see, she shared a hug, and kiss on the cheek with her son.

While Martin is a proponent of gays professing themselves to the public in their own time, Oprah supports all gays stepping out together in a powerful show of support for one another. Admirable of her to suggest it, another thing for those affected, to do so, and face retaliation, each on his own turf, in his home, in his school, in his office, in his church, in the military, in sports, among his friends, in society.

What do you think?

hugs for ricky martin…still hot!…hugmamma.