living her best life…#23

Several days ago, Pat emailed me the following which was indeed heartwarming. I’m sure you’ll agree…

A BEAUTIFUL GAME, FOOTBALL…

That’s what they call soccer. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s because football is the universal language of sports, played passionately around the world.

Soccer can be brutal just like other sports. However it can also lessen cultural and religious differences since the referee’s call is pretty much absolute.

The other day my sister Mary text me  to say she’d been talking about me with a co-worker. When Mary mentioned that I had multiple myeloma and amyloidosis, the woman said that her son’s soccer team had just been told about someone with the same diagnosis. Upon hearing this the team decided to dedicate its upcoming game, as well as the rest of its season to that person. Thinking it was just too coincidental, Mary asked the person’s name.

Turns out it was me.

The MPI soccer boys wore white armbands in my honor and won the game 9-0!

I don’t know Mary’s co-worker personally. Her son must have moved up to Varsity after my son Aiden graduated. When I heard what the team did, I was so touched. I didn’t know what to say. 

It’s difficult to put into words how thankful I am for all the people…the different circles of friends who are praying for me and my family, and offering to help in any way they can.

The last two years Aiden was in high school, I had been a team parent. Because of that I came to know a lot of other parents really well. It came with the territory. They helped with fundraising, traveling, potlucks and other events, as well as providing drinks and snacks after every scrimmage and every game. And they ALWAYS came through…BEAUTIFULLY!

Because of the parents…the coaches could coach…and the boys could compete. As a result the team won the Division II State Title last year, and have a REALLY good shot at it again this year!

So long as I’m feeling well, my family and I plan to watch the team compete in the state tournament next month. Before then, we might even be able to attend one of their last games.

I’m truly blessed to know all of them…the players…coaches…and especially, the parents who have become such wonderful friends. They are coming through for me again!!!

And to think it all started because our sons played soccer together…

…a game spilling over into real life…

…beautiful indeed!

………pat…and hugmamma.

 

“preparedness,” japan’s lesson

Salmon Days

Image by Jeff Youngstrom via Flickr

People in our community volunteer. This is tremendously apparent during the annual Salmon Days Celebration which happens the first weekend in October. And with the increase in floods in recent years, neighbors have been helping neighbors stave off damage, or dig out from under. So it was no surprise when the town established a program where hundreds of citizens were trained to assist “nine firefighters and a handful of police officers and some public works people,” according to the local newspaper.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) i...

Image via Wikipedia

Our town is very forward-looking, especially in terms of preparing for natural disasters. Besides CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, where members “give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, help suppress small fires and perform light search and rescue,” our city “has spearheaded lessons in Map Your Neighborhood–a program to coordinate disaster recovery on a block-by-block basis and identify special skills, such as medical training, among residents–for dozens of neighborhoods…” With assistance from CERT and Map Your Neighborhood, catastrophic recovery is enhanced. Japan is considered “the most-prepared country with the most-prepared citizenry, and despite that fact, the government can’t reach everyone…”

JogjaEarthquake27Mei2006-4

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Mental preparedness is as crucial as being physically ready, according to the experts.

Stockpiling supplies is crucial, planners said, but residents should also create a plan to reach family members and know the steps to follow if a disaster strikes.

“You can have all of the supplies that you want, but you do need to be mentally prepared for the unexpected…You can get paralyzed if you don’t know what to do at first…So, if you have that plan in place that says,…the first thing I’m going to do is…then you do that…”

 Information regarding a complete emergency kit checklist is available at www.3days3ways.org. General consensus among experts is that the best thing to do to “reduce injury and death during earthquakes” is to “drop, cover and hold.” They find  alternate methods of “standing in a doorway, running outside, and searching for a potential ‘triangle of life‘–as dangerous and not to be recommended.”

Preparing is as easy as 1-2-3 

1. Make a plan – establish an out-of-state contact for all family members to call. Texting can help. Establish meeting place if home is unsafe.

2. Build a kit – 3 day supply of: ready-to-eat food, water (a gallon per person per day), medications and personal hygiene, radio (battery or hand-crank), extra batteries, sturdy shoes and warm clothing, blankets, flashlight, whistle, dust mask

3. Get involved – get to know neighbors. Give key to trusted, nearby friend to watch your property, care for children and/or pets in your absence.

4. Learn CPR.

5. Volunteer in community efforts.

Mt. St. Helen's Eruption 2005

wishing safety in emergencies…hugmamma.

a “human” cougar

 

Kami-Daigo in Kyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Events in Japan have put me in a thoughtful mood of late. Decided to lift my own spirits, and perhaps yours, by reprinting the story of Nashi, an elder statesman, who recently passed away. A long-time resident of a local zoo, he seemed to be viewed as one of them, by his human caretakers. Needless to say they mourned him as they would a member of their families. The following tribute ran in today’s local newspaper.

100 px

Image via Wikipedia

The community is invited to Cougar Mountain Zoo to honor the life of Nashi, a cougar transplanted from the woods of Minnesota to the zoo more than 17 years ago.

Nashi died from old age Feb 24. Though he had been showing signs of slowing down for the past several months, the loss was still devastating to staff, volunteers and zoo visitors. Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said.

“He was a fantastic cougar. He had a lot of spunk in him,” she said. “He enjoyed talking with the visitors every day.”

The Nashi Memorial Celebration will be at March 26 at the zoo. Instead of holding its traditional cougar lecture, the zoo will open the stage for people to talk about Nashi. Staff members who raised and worked with him will talk about his life.

Cougar“I used to joke around that he’s a rock star, because he is,” Barfoot said. At the zoo, Nashi would model for product labels, television shows and nature documentaries. “He actually sat in the mayor’s chair when he was a cub,” she said. “He definitely made the rounds and left a mark on many people.”

Volunteers and zoo visitors are also encouraged to share their Nashi stories, talking about how he made them feel when he chirped or purred in their presence.

“His purrs were really unique,” Barfoot said. “He had a low guttural purr and he would stick his tongue out. If you got a purr from Nashi, your day was pretty darn perfect.”

A Blackfoot indian on horseback

Image via Wikipedia

Nashi came to the zoo as a cub after he was found orphaned in Minnesota. His full name, Nashidoita, is Blackfoot Indian for Spirit of the Mountains.

“He was a great cat and everyone who worked at the zoo had a relationship with him, not just the people who worked directly with him,” Barfoot said.

My family and I were fortunate to watch Nashi prowl the confines of his Cougar Mountain Zoo hideaway. He looked every bit the master of all he surveyed. And obviously he was.

hugs for cats…big and small…wild and not-so-wild…hugmamma.

david chow, “real change”

In my previous post I spoke of “Real Change,” the “homeless” newspaper. Actually it’s mission is

to create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty.

and

The Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Real Change is a member of the North American Street Newspaper Association, the International Network of Street Papers, and the Greater Seattle Business Association.

Real Change has an 11-member Board of Directors headed by President Stephan Fjelstad, President. There is a bare-bones office staff of 11, with Executive Director Timothy Harris at the helm. Five interns flesh out the administrative labor force.

A total of 48 volunteers abound on the Editorial Committee, and in the pool of Contributing Writers and Photographers and Graphic Artists. Two copy editors and a bookkeeper also volunteer their time and services. Then of course there are more volunteers for all sorts of other things. I counted 29 of them.

Ending the list of people involved with the organization is an Advisory Board of 38 citizens from poet, to filmmaker, to media consultant, to author, to journalist, as well as those affiliated with various organizations like Children’s Alliance, Racial Disparity Project, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, Economic Opportunity Institute, Colors NW, United Way of King County, and educational institutions such as Seattle University and the University of Washington.

A grand total of 145 people at Real Change give of themselves to strive to make life better for the less fortunate, people like David Chow.

Outside the Kirkland PCC on a rainy afternoon, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was the perfect occasion to meet with this Vendor of the Week, David Chow. As we talked about David’s experience as a Real Change vendor, it was immediately evident that King was an inspiration and an example of true service to mankind that David had tried to exemplify in every part of his life. David refers to his work as a vendor as a real blessing in his life, and he said that to have such a supportive environment and loyal customers at PCC adds to his ability to be of service to his customers, and to be an example to other young men of color. David sees his work as a sacred responsibility to challenge the subtle and not-so-subtle biases that seem to dominate much of public opinion.

David is truly a Northwest guy. Born in Seattle, he spent much of his youth here and in Salem, Ore. As a child David started working out in public by selling candy door-to-door, where he was mentored by his uncle. He learned how to work hard for what he wanted, to be responsible for his own efforts and most of all how to be courteous, helpful, and sensitive to the people who became his customers, he said. That experience has given David a rock-solid confidence in himself, which he radiates as he sells the newspaper. He speaks with assurance when greeting his customers, many of whom he knows by name. Currently he says, “Happy Holiday” to everyone, and when they ask which holiday it is, he is able to say, “This is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday,” which is often an opportunity to start a conversation, and a chance to encourage his customers to check out the Real Change website.

David is currently attending Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore. where he is taking classes in political science, history, and writing. His ambition is to complete his associate’s degree and then move on to a university and get a bachelor’s degree.

David encountered Real Change when he was trying to start a non-profit called D.O.P. (Doing Our Part) which he envisioned as a service organization giving young people an alternative to the prevailing lifestyle. He was seeking donations in front of a local Trader Joe’s where a Real Change vendor was working and through conversation and with the encouragement of that vendor, he started selling Real Change. He has continued selling the paper for about the last four years, but really started to put more effort into the endeavor in the last year. David sells mostly on the weekends because he takes classes during the week in Salem. He drives to Seattle every week to see his daughter and to sell Real Change at the Kirkland PCC. ” ‘I am grateful every day for the opportunity Real Change has given me,’ he said, ‘and I want to thank all my customers who have been so generous to me.’ “

Entitled “Vendor of the Week,” this story was written by Joe Chitty.

change happens…one person at a time…hugmamma.    

a homeless face

The Issaquah Reporter ran an article recently on sheltering the homeless. “When help means life–or death” addresses the fact that Seattle’s Eastside suburbs are working diligently to secure permanent housing for the homeless. Prominently featured in the accompanying photo is Vincent Flint.In business for himself as a finish carpenter for 36 years, a bad shoulder and the economic downturn changed his life forever.

Four years ago his body was too torn up to work and the housing market began to halt, he lost his job and he was on the streets.

For the first few years he slept in his car in front of the Crossroads Top Foods. Then he began camping.

Flint uses his YMCA membership to keep clean, does laundry at a friend’s home and doesn’t do drugs or drink.

Jobless, he decided to teach himself a new trade, 3D design. He stays warm at the Crossroads Bellevue Shopping Center during the day and, with laptop in hand, doesn’t stand out as anything other than someone taking advantage of free Wi-Fi.

Battling Hepatitis C since April, Flint says the mile walk from his camp to the shelter at the Crossroads Community Center is almost impossible; a $5 bus ride to Redmond and back too costly.

“I’m not walking a tight rope,” he said. “I’m walking a razor blade.”

“Even if the cities pull together and get a permanent shelter open all winter long, there is still a transportation problem. Buses aren’t cheap to those who have nothing, and a recent gubernatorial budget promises deep cuts into government handouts and food stamps.”

Support the shelter The Eastside shelter’s greatest needs are one-time donations of washable blankets and money for operational support.

Contact Colleen Kelly at the City of Redmond to make donations, 425-556-2423 or ckelly@redmond.gov.

join me in helping vincent flint…and others like him…hugmamma.

giving thanks to our vets

It’s a good thing we’re annually reminded to pay homage to those who serve our country. It’s like Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. If we were left to our own preoccupied lives, we would probably procrastinate, or forget completely. Of course we don’t mean to disrespect soldiers, moms or dads, it’s just that life happens, or so we say.

I’m a mom; I like all the accolades that come my way on one pre-designated day. I’m sure I’m not the only one. And hey, I can take the day off if I like. But that never happens, unless I’m sick in bed. Otherwise, I’m FIXING the bed, feeding and walking pets, preparing a meal or two, with the accompanying prep work and cleanup. Then there’s the never-ending-picking-up-after.

Nonetheless, I get to be remembered for all that I do, on ONE particular day. I think that makes the remaining 364 days bearable, almost. After 40 years of marriage, I have to give it some thought. The secret is, I’ve learned to “cut corners,” lots of them. But I digress.

So while the 22 million veterans in our country would love to be thought of more often than once a year, I’m certain they’re happy to take a “collective bow” on Veteran’s Day. Several stories came to my attention, which told of individuals, or communities, who found ways to thank vets. They reminded me of the time I flew to visit my daughter.

On the flight were several soldiers. One in particular caught my attention. He was without a leg, and he was traveling with his wife. They looked to be my daughter’s age, early 20’s. Not knowing their story, I could only imagine what lay ahead of them. I don’t think they were ever far from my thoughts, throughout the entire flight. 

How do you thank these stoic men and women? They never look directly into your eyes, keeping to themselves as they are surely in the habit of doing, unless with their comrades in arms. More than humble, soldiers seem to be “invisible,” unless performing their duty. If they speak, their words are barely audible. They rarely seem to smile. Their minds appear to be elsewhere. But where? Are they imagining themselves at home with loved ones, or in a remote area of Afghanistan, bullets flying all around them? How do you pierce that impenetrable veneer to offer thanks? I tried.

As the couple ambled along in front of me, enroute to baggage claim, I rummaged through my wallet. Pulling out $60, I ran ahead to catch up with the young soldier and his wife. Stopping, they turned toward me, their faces, question marks. Smiling, I expressed my gratitude for his service, while my hand reached out offering the money, inviting them to have a meal at my expense. Without hesitation, he, and his wife, in their soft-spoken, Southern drawls, refused my gift. I think he mumbled something like, “It’s my job, ma’am.” The memory of that moment, even now, fills my eyes with tears. Although the young soldier looked vulnerable in his wheelchair,  his resolute manner spoke volumes about his pride in his uniform, and in his duty to his country, my country, our country. They thanked me, and quietly moved along, to pick up the pieces of their lives.

I received an email telling of a similar circumstance, where a passenger was on a flight with a group of soldiers. As the flight attendant walked through coach class taking meal orders, the man overheard one soldier ask another if he was buying the sandwich offered. Both decided, while they were hungry, they couldn’t afford the expense. Looking around at the others in the group, the passenger noticed none of the other soldiers were buying meals. The man went in search of the flight attendant, offering her $50 for the soldiers’ meals. She thanked him profusely. Other travelers who noticed what the man had done, offered him cash as their contribution. When the flight landed he gave the $75 he’d received, to the soldiers, to buy more sandwiches as they awaited their connection.

On the evening news was a story of vets helping vets in Milwaukee. “Guitars for Vets” teaches guitar lessons for free. Upon completion of 6 lessons, a student receives a donated guitar, or can purchase one at a discounted price. Eight hundred guitars have been distributed thus far. Begun by a vet, turned teacher, the program has literally been the “sound of healing,” for its participants. “A new band of brothers,” these former soldiers are finding therapeutic help in their interactions with one another.

On the local news, the incredulous story was told of a soldier who returned from service in Afghanistan, to find that his home had burned to the ground, his relatives having died in the fire. Amazing support from his community brought forth volunteers who rebuilt the home, with $40,000 donated in materials and labor.

Also on the news, two young boys were shown speaking to their military father via “Skype.” They were totally surprised when he appeared behind them, in the classroom. Crawling all over their dad, as he crouched down to embrace them in a bear hug, it was apparent that the youngsters had made as enormous a sacrifice as their soldier dad.

Vets, and their families, teach us to sacrifice, gracefully, in service to others. And so I’d like to take this opportunity to honor my own relatives, a brother who served in the Korean War, and another who fought in Vietnam, a nephew who served several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who now teaches at West Point, and another nephew who serves in the navy on the aircraft carrier, The USS Abraham Lincoln.

for all who serve unselfishly, and their loved ones, huge hugs…hugmamma.

“blessed are the children”

Fr. Bryan was his usual, charismatic self. At 38 years old, he’s got the talent and ability to run a business, so the Catholic church is lucky to have him, especially at the salary they must pay him. I’m betting it’s less than $20,000 a year. Today’s homily was proof of his capability to manage the “firm.”

Our parish must submit a 20 year plan for its projected growth. Father indicated that we are a suburban congregation on an urban plot of land. Physical expansion is nearly maxed out. To assist in his plan, Father conducted paper surveys during masses, over the course of 2 weekends. The first dealt with the demographics of the churchgoers; today’s asked which of 4 options we favored. Should we maintain the status quo? Should we stay put, expanding to the max, including constructing a parking garage? Should we consolidate the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus? Should we consolidate all of the church buildings, and the schools onto one compound? Of course, the price tag escalates with each option, from half-a-million dollars to $18 million. 

Father explained that when parishioners asked how soon various and sundry items would be fixed or initiated, he would tell them “We need to come up with a plan.” Interestingly enough he made more sense than my husband who tells me to show him a business plan, when I’ve expressed the desire to open an antique/gift shop. Another question often asked of Father is how long he’ll continue to be our pastor. He told us today that his 3 year contract is up in the spring. We’ll know then whether or not he’ll be renewed for another 6 years. 

Maybe parishioners are wondering  whether or not they want to commit millions of dollars, if Father Bryan is not around to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. That’s what happened with the parish’s last major church remodel, about 10 years ago. Father Clark accomplished the task with a league of faithful volunteers. He was soon reassigned, and when another priest took his place, many left because the new pastor was not blest with people skills. Even my patient, long-suffering husband experienced moments of frustration. And that’s saying something.

While Father Bryan was speaking about our parish’s “mission,” since today was Mission Sunday, I was admiring the loving relationship of adoptive Caucasian parents for their Hispanic, 7 or 8-year-old son. Sitting in the pew in front of us, I first noticed the husband rubbing the small of his wife’s back in a very loving way. Initially I thought they might have had a little spat, and he was trying to get back into her good graces. But then I noticed the youngster between them, arms wrapped around his father’s waist. For a few minutes, I was distracted by something Father said. When my eyes returned to watching the family, the boy had his arms around his father’s leg. The man looked to be a little over 6 feet tall. Later, mother and son had their arms around one another, she stroking the arm he held across her tummy.

If ever I felt a child belonged to his parents, he was standing right in front of me. The aura emanating from that family was so organic, their love so natural. The difference in their ethnicities meant nothing to them, and yet it spoke volumes about them. I couldn’t help but lean forward, touching the mother on her shoulder, and telling her “I love how you love your son.” She smiled her thanks, sidling over to her son, both of them moving closer to her husband, his father. Tears welled in my eyes, which I had to quell before they trickled down my cheeks. My daughter put her arm around my waist, love in her eyes. She too smiled upon the family, and understood what a blessing they were, especially for those who beheld them.

While I listened to the wisdom of one mother’s son, I beheld another who was so loved by his parents. God touches us, when we least expect it.

all God’s children, hugs for…hugmamma.

discipline and community

My mind may wander during Mass, I may glance around looking for familiar faces among the congregation, smile when a friend recognizes me, admire Father Brian’s recently purchased vestments, puzzle over the types of flowers arranged in vases around the altar. But when we sit and Father begins the homily, he has my undivided attention. My husband agrees that our pastor has a gift for public speaking.

I’m sorry to say I’ve no idea what the Gospel was about. I was lost in thought attempting to make sense of the previous reading, the Epistle. The woman seemed not to understand what she was reading so she stumbled over the words, saying “disciple” instead of “discipline.” I’m always impressed by these volunteers who must appear to understand the words set in front of them, even though they may not grasp their full meaning. Some may take a few minutes before Mass to familiarize themselves with their task, but it’s not always possible to do so, I’m sure. So while Father was reading the Gospel, I was probably feeling sorry for the previous speaker, and thanking God that I had not been in her shoes. Unlike her, I would have been blushing to my white roots.

My ears perk up when I hear Father speaking “regular” English for it makes comprehending simpler; narratives in the Bible require that I focus. And as I’ve said, my mind is multi-tasking. When Father begins with some personal anecdote everyone seems to straighten up, and tune in to what he’s saying.

Father spoke of his early days as a seminarian, and how difficult it was to learn discipline. He did not relate well with the first person charged with instructing the novices. He did better with the next person, the “student master,” who would explain the reason for leveling discipline upon those in his care. When students at the UofW Newman Center asked Father Brian to join them for a weekend retreat, the ‘student master” denied the request. When Father asked if he might attend the wedding of friends elsewhere, he was again denied. The explanation given for the denials was that he needed to focus on the vocation he had chosen, and the community in which he lived. He needed to learn discipline, understanding that he could not have his way in everything. As Father’s words washed over me, I pondered their meaning for me.

Over breakfast my husband and I discussed the homily.  I explained that as Father spoke, I could feel myself turning inward, humbling myself as Catholics of my era are wont to do. Talk about “glass ceilings,” I think Catholicism cornered the market on that centuries before it ever occurred to feminists trying to work their way up the corporate ladder.  Throughout the 12 years I was schooled by nuns from Boston, we students were constantly reminded about our need for humility. So I wondered if I was confusing the need for discipline with the need to be humble, as taught by my religion. 

I was interested in my husband’s perspective since, having been a seminarian, I assumed he’d had more theology than me. Ever the pragmatist he replied that his theological schooling had not exceeded mine and furthermore, every person needed discipline within himself, that it had nothing to do with religion. He was right.

Without self-discipline, we usurp the rights of others, including other species which share our natural resources. Without self-discipline, personal happiness eludes us because we are never satisfied unless we have more. Without self-discipline, we set ourselves apart from our community. Without self-discipline, we are unable to teach our children the values necessary for their evolution as good citizens. 

I think having humility might make it easier to learn self-discipline; but having self-discipline doesn’t guarantee humility. Being a Catholic raised in the 50’s and 60’s, I have to be careful not to mistake being humble with self-reproachment. Catholics of my generation bought into the guilt trip, “hook, line and sinker.” So while I humbly acknowledge my gift for writing, I realize that with it comes the need for discipline, knowing that I have a responsibility to my readers in what I say, and how I say it. I think all writers have that responsibility, though some may not think so.

While I paid no heed to God’s gospel, I think I got Father Brian’s homily. I think I’ll need him as a middle-man to gain entrance to Heaven. Father speaks my language, “regular” English.

pray for me…hugmamma.