ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

beware of “mama grizzlies”

Regular visitors to my blog are well aware of my fear of bears, especially the ones roaming around my community looking for food. Fortunately these are black bears foraging for berries and garbage scraps, not people. I’m told, thankfully, that grizzlies don’t inhabit our area. I hope this behavior is not altered by future environmental changes, or I might have to move back to Hawaii, where bears are behind bars, in zoos. So why on earth would I be drawn to a “mama grizzly,” unless I was a baby grizzly hungry to be fed? 

Where I might have found Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell “curiosities,” now my gut instinct is to slowly back away from them, eyes lowered so as not to encourage their wrath. According to Lisa Miller in her recent Newsweek article “Hear Them Growl,” “A mama grizzly is a conservative woman with ‘common sense,’ as Sarah Palin puts it, someone who ‘rises up’ to protect her children when she sees them endangered by bad policies in Washington. She is fearless, and that, in combination with her femaleness, makes her scary–a new kind of political predator. She will take on any foe and, the implication is, rip him or her to shreds.” On her Facebook page, Palin asserts ‘Mama bears not only (forage) for themselves to prepare for winter, they (work) twice as hard to slay salmon for their cubs, too.’

There’s a pervading sense of “me-ism” in grass-roots politics, Palin’s brand of governing, best expressed by Nevada’s Senate candidate, Sharron Angle in June’s National Review, ‘ Don’t get between me and my cubs, or you’ve got trouble.’ On its face, the sentiment is commendable, but it seems to reflect a deeper philosophy that there is nothing Angle won’t do to preserve her family unit. The implication is that all American mothers should feel likewise. My concern is for those mothers who are “broken” financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, like my mom was. Who helps these mothers? Who helps them help their families?

It would be nice if every community had an orphanage run by Maryknoll nuns, making donations of used clothing and a surplus of powdered eggs and milk, to single mothers raising their families. My impoverished mom was fortunate to have these “angels” hovering around, helping her care for her 9 children. But these days the Catholic Church has its hands full, defending itself against allegations of pedophilia among its rank and file. And for the most part, nuns are now figments of our imagination, ghosts from a bygone era. Charitable organizations, as a whole, are finding it difficult to remain afloat during the currently depressed economy. So where do those existing on the fringes of society go to survive? 

With few exceptions, the grizzlies have been disinterested in the issues and policies that their political opponents say are good for children–despite new numbers from the census showing that rising numbers of America’s children are poor. Most of these candidates have vowed to fight to repeal President Obama’s health-care plan, for instance, and Bachmann (Minnesota’s congressional incumbent) and Haley (South Carolina’s gubernatorial candidate) have taken  special aim at CHIP, a federal program aimed at helping low-income kids get health insurance. In 2001, as a member of Nevada’s state Assembly, Angle voted no on a domestic-violence bill that would recognize restraining orders issued in other states. In 2007 Haley, a state representative, voted against a measure that would have created a kindergarten program for at-risk kids. As governor of Alaska in 2008, Palin slashed funding for Covenant House that included resources for teenage mothers. In 2009 Bachmann voted no on a bill that would give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave.

Palin, Haley, Bachmann, Angle, and O’Donnell all declined to comment for this story. (Most grizzly candidates regard the mainstream press as the enemy.)

I agree with Angle’s friend and head of the Washoe County, Nevada GOP, Heidi Smith in that ” ‘When people don’t have jobs, they don’t have food, …There’s a loss of self-respect if you can’t provide for your family … ‘ But I’m not as comfortable with her statement that ‘The less amount of government interfering with family life, the more families can prosper,’…” Nor do I agree with Haley’s friend and president of the South Carolina Policy Council, Ashley Landess, who concurs with Smith and adds ” ‘Children are the most stable and most protected when their parents are able to provide for them,’ …” What happens to those of us, born and bred in this country, who don’t have parents to provide for us? Or whose parents can’t provide for us? Are we exported to some third world country to blend in with “our own kind,” vanishing from the collective American psyche forever?

If the grizzlies are united by an anti-establishment fury rooted in maternal concern, then it’s fair to ask what their records show they’ve done for kids. Not just their own kids–but for America’s kids, and their families as well. Even some Republicans wonder whether all the fearsome roars are merely election-year antics with little substance. ‘ ‘Mama grizzlies’ has a  catch to it, and you save your cubs–but what they’re lacking is solutions,’ says former Republican congresswoman Connie Morella. ‘They want to take their country back. Back to where?’

As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” I used to say mothers should rule the world. I guess I was looking in the mirror at the time, imagining women who share my perceptions of life and humanitarian attitude. But even more, I assumed they’d “bring more to the table,” like broader life experiences, higher education or greater aptitude for knowledge, more management skills, greater business acumen. Perhaps I was envisioning someone like Michelle Obama.

Gut instinct and common sense resolutions work in managing my household. But there are so many more layers to governing masses of people. So I’m not in alignment with whom Palin “…was soon anointing mama grizzlies… When she endorsed Arkansas congressional candidate Cecile Bledsoe on Facebook, Palin explicitly referred to her as part of a growing list of “commonsense conservative ‘mama grizzlies.’ ” I’m for environmental responsibility, but I have no clue how to proceed, no matter how much gut instinct and common sense I might muster up. So if experts advocate conserving energy, I will do my best to follow their advice. In some corner of my brain, I understand the need for “living within one’s means.” But in our household my husband balances the checkbook and pays the bills. I’ve learned that I have a low threshold for anxiety, and have difficulty wrapping my brain around mathematical calculations. Why then would I want to relinquish the government purse strings to women who are unable to manage their own home finances?

Haley, who has two children…is just the sort of pro-business, low-tax, limited-government conservative Palin loves. Her platform is focused mostly on economic issues: creating jobs and unleashing entrepreneurial energy by slashing taxes. She holds herself out as a paragon of fiscal responsibility (never mind that she and her husband have failed to pay their taxes on time in each of the past five years).

O’Donnell, too, preaches fiscal responsibility on behalf of children, but hers is a tougher case to make. According to the Wilmington, Dela., News Journal, O’Donnell defaulted on her student loans, as well as on her mortgage. Aside from running quixotic campaigns for the U.S. Senate, O’Donnell hasn’t had a real job since 2004. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. attorney and the Federal Election Commission, alleging that O’Donnell embezzled $20,000 in campaign funds ‘to cover her personal expenses’ and committed tax evasion by not claiming those funds as income. ‘If what you’re doing is sending someone to Washington to cut the deficit, why on earth send someone who can’t manage her own finances?’ says the former Republican governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. ‘How does that give the voters a level of confidence?

O’Donnell’s response ‘I think the fact that I have struggled financially is what makes me so sympathetic.’ reminds me of Depression-Era’s John Dillinger.

John Dillinger has gone down in history as a pseudo ‘Robin Hood’ character, a gangster with charm and style who was more idolised by the public than reviled. His life has been recounted in many movies, particularly the film-noir gangster films of the 40’s. In a case of life imitating art-imitating life, Dillinger, who is said to have modeled himself on Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn – for instance leaping over counters- was himself a character whose eventful life influenced the pictures, especially as the archetypal good-guy hood.

But the truth about Dillinger is more prosaic; that he was simply criminally intent on making as much money illegally rather than having been pre-occupied with Joe Public during the Depression years. Gunned down by the FBI while leaving a Biograph cinema, even his death has helped fuel a mythology about this good-looking, charismatic crook, who is as famous for his love life as he is for the banks he fleeced.

 I have difficulty acquiescing with other stances taken by these “mama grizzlies.” With regards to abortion, “Angle’s views are harsh: when asked by a radio interviewer in June what she’d tell a young girl who’d been raped by her father, Angle responded, ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right,’ and that the girl should turn ‘a lemon situation into lemonade.’ ” Sounds like some nonsense a Stepford Wife would utter in her fairy tale world. Tom Pritchard, president of the Minnesota Family Council has said of Bachmann, ” ‘Michele’s view is that parents are the ultimate educators and should call the shots,’ …” Meanwhile she “has voted against funding early childhood education, student-retention measures, and school modernization.” And as a state legislator, Angle “fought the conventional wisdom that kids have different learning styles. She introduced two bills that mandated the teaching of phonics, saying, ‘We need to return to the basics of education.’ According to fellow legislators, Angle refused to meet with the teachers’ union or lobbyists while she pushed the bills.” In 2005 O’Donnell complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and sued her employer, a conservative think tank, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for $7 million alleging gender discrimination. “Yet in 1998 she appeared on cable television defending the Southern Baptist Convention’s new language commanding that wives ‘graciously submit’ to their husbands, and she has been an outspoken opponent of women in the military. Her erratic stances and statements have caused even party stalwart Karl Rove to call her ‘nutty.’

Themselves mothers, it’s understandable that these “mama grizzlies” would support positions beneficial to their households. “Angle pushed a Nevada judge to expand definitions of homeschooling to accommodate other moms like her, who sent their children to small, family run religious schools.” And Palin “a mom who sent (or sends) four kids to public schools…refused to advocate for school vouchers in Alaska and supports infusions of public money into the education system.”

‘Our schools have to be really ramped up in terms of the funding they are deserving,’ she said during the 2008 vice presidential debate. ‘Teachers need to be paid more…We have got to increase standards.’ While governor, Palin repeatedly increased education spending, and shortly before leaving office last year proposed a plan to ‘forward-fund all our school districts with more than a billion dollars.’ The only place where Palin veered to the right was in the teaching of creationism. ‘I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class,’ she said in 2008.

But while I don’t fault them for following their maternal instincts, I’d rather not sublimate mine so that theirs might become the “law of the land.” I’m not certain they’d be impartial arbitrators in determining whose maternal instincts would be most advantageous for all, under their governance. Newsweek’s writer says it best

Fundamentally, the mama-grizzly phenomenon is not really a movement or even a political term that represents a fully coherent set of ideas. It’s mostly a marketing tool, meant to draw attention to Americans’ broad dissatisfaction with the way things are. Fair enough. Many people are dissatisfied, and they want to vent and they want to change Washington. But in the wild, real mama grizzlies are known to be aggressive, irrational, and mean. The issues facing the country are complex, and bears are not.

walk backwards and avoid eye contact.. . hugmamma.

 

 

 

“service with a smile”

Having both worked in service-oriented jobs for many years, with my husband still in the business, we agree that customer service is a “dying art.” Shopping on the Internet has made it more convenient for consumers to surf the global market for all their needs. An appealing product, savvy marketing and a credit card completes the transaction. There’s no need to interface with a flesh-and-blood person. After all, Google can answer any of your questions. And if you’ve got a hankering for “warm and fuzzy,” click on “smiley face” or download your choice of YouTube videos, to get your endorphins moving.  

Businesses grew by leaps and bounds when consumers had quantities of disposable income. Customer service was unnecessary, so it became a thing of the past. A few retailers, like some purveyors of travel and TV’s QVC, continued their traditional practice of being solicitous towards customers. But some, like E-Bay, Amazon.com, Craig’s List, department stores, supermarkets, drugstores, fast-food chains, medical practitioners and airlines, may have opted to minimize service in favor of quick turnover, with a “get ’em in, get ’em out,” attitude.

With the downturn in the economy, companies are scrambling to win back customers who have fewer dollars to spend. Customer service may be on the rise again. I hope so. It doesn’t cost businesses more to have employees smile, offer a warm greeting, listen with patience, offer options for resolution, and express appreciation for ongoing patronage. However, a company may want to invest in customer service training. Even employees with impeccable manners and the greatest intentions, will meet their match in irate persons. I know, I’ve sat on both sides of the desk.

In my mid-20’s I worked as a customer service agent for the Hawaii Medical Service Association in Honolulu. It represents Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the islands. I had extensive training in the technical aspects of HMSA’s policies so that I could answer policyholder questions. I did so in person, and on the phone. I enjoyed helping people, especially when I could clarify or demystify the finer points of their coverage. Receiving their thanks, and seeing their smiles when they turned to leave, was extremely gratifying. Of course, there were some who were disgruntled with what I had to say. And there were a few who insisted upon speaking with my supervisor, hoping his response would be different. Sometimes a review was scheduled, but often his answer confirmed mine. One particular encounter left me “shaking” in my muumuu (long, Hawaiian dress).

A gentleman from the island of Molokai had called, unhappy with a bill payment. I think it was a hospital claim, probably of a sizeable amount. I explained how the insurance carrier had determined his coverage. Unhappy with the information, I can only imagine how the man’s eyes bulged, his belly heaved, and how difficult it might have been to breathe, as he screamed profanities through the telephone. The tirade continued when I handed the call over to my boss. We were mistaken to think we’d heard the last of the policyholder. Not long after, the huge Hawaiian man  arrived at our offices, having made the flight specifically to address us in person. I gladly introduced him to my supervisor, who withdrew to the privacy of his office, with the angry islander in tow. I think someone from upper management eventually joined the conversation, but I don’t remember the outcome. Needless to say, the experience left me wary.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been the irate customer. However I’ve certainly done my fair share of yelling, I’m sorry to say. But it’s always been when I felt inconsequential, the company having already snagged my business. There was the time we’d refinanced with a bank at a low-interest rate. Because the appraiser hadn’t submitted his report on time, our rate was due to be increased. Not until I spoke with the President’s secretary, shedding tears of frustration, did she resolve the matter in our favor. 

When my 19-year-old daughter’s VISA bill showed an annual $85 fee for fraud protection on a credit limit of $500, I went ballistic! If she didn’t pay the fee, she’d be slapped with a finance charge. And if that kept up, she’d reach her allowed max in no time.  It was ludicrous that a billion dollar corporation would take advantage of a teenager. Unfamiliar with marketing schemes, my daughter thought VISA’s $2 rebate check was a reward for opening a bank account. Cashing the check actually signed her up for credit card protection, as indicated on the back, in fine print. My nonstop tirade failed to move the customer rep until I asked how she’d feel if her teenager had been scammed. The rep agreed to remove the fee, without requesting repayment of the rebate.

Purchasing a used sofa back table in Atlanta for $300, I agreed to pay the dealer another $265 to ship it to my home in Washington state. He shipped with a small, regional carrier because of its comparatively low-cost. When the merchandise arrived in Tacoma, my husband was told that the price had escalated to $600. In speaking with the seller, I learned that the price change had occurred within the shipper’s bureaucracy. The clerk with whom the transaction originated, wrote up the piece as a “sofa bed,” not a “sofa back table.” Sight unseen, the receiving office modified the price accordingly. When we asked that they open the crate to verify that it was a table, not a sofa bed, we were aghast when the amount shot up to $800+. No reason was given, but I surmised the decision was made that the piece was an antique. If I refused to pay the exorbitant price to retrieve my belonging, it could be sold locally for a hefty sum. After phone calls to 3 different offices, I was directed to the company’s corporate offices in Alabama. I wrote a letter describing, in great detail, the events leading up to my outrage. I addressed it to the President of the freight company, copying the President of its parent company, and express mailed both. It was sent on a Saturday, and I followed up with a call on Tuesday. Long story short, the Tacoma branch delivered the table to my husband for the originally quoted price of $261. That didn’t include door-to-door transportation, but it did in my case.

Who wants the grief that accompanies confrontation? Not me, that’s for certain. I’d just as soon turn my back, leaving it to those with hardier constitutions. But as I’ve indicated in my earlier posting, “put a ‘face’ on the ‘unknown,’ ” sometimes I’m integrity gone amuck! As with most people, there’s a “line” which when crossed, Mr. Jekyl steps in for Dr. Hyde. At that point, I become “warrior mom,” battling until my opponent is “face down,” eating dust from under my high-heeled stiletto, specifically removed from moth balls for the occasion. 

In my travel experiences from one end of the country to the other, southerners and Hawaiians exude genuine warmth and hospitality. The tellers at my mother-in-law’s bank welcome her with sunny smiles, and assist patiently with any questions she may raise. I find Southern wait staff gracious in their greetings, and their drawls hold my attention as they enticingly describe the “specials of the day.” What both ethnicities share is a slower paced lifestyle. That seems to translate to great customer service. Of course, as with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. But I enjoy spending time in those locales, where “getting to know you” and “service with a smile” are more than fanciful sayings. They’re a way of life. 

for amazing customer service, huge hugs…hugmamma.

an expert, in my opinion

Since I’ve no other authors on my blog, from time to time I may reprint someone’s opinion other than my own, especially when my thoughts run parallel to his or hers. I’m a member of the AARP, having joined when I was invited some 6 years ago. We all have to place our faith in something, someone; I choose to believe that this organization is working for the overall benefit of people my age. AARP may not serve my specific interest in every instance, but who does? If I’m never served by them, then I can opt to make my voice heard, or opt out. So I share the following, which appeared in the Editorial Section of today’s Wall Street Journal, because I’m in favor of helping ALL seniors. In this economy, we may have bread on the table today, and be standing in the “bread line” tomorrow. So I opt to share my “bread” with the not so blest, now. Someone may share theirs with me, tomorrow. I think it’s called “paying it forward.” Wasn’t there a movie by that name? I think it garnered populous praise.

Obama Care Will Help Most Seniors

“How Seniors Will Pay for Obamacare” by John C. Goodman (op-ed, Sept. 23) provides a grossly misleading analysis of the health-care law’s effect on seniors and the value of Medicare to 45 million older Americans.

Of course, Medicare is not perfect. But the new law significantly improves it, with better benefits for prescription drugs (phasing out the ‘doughnut hole’) and the elimination of co-payments for a range of preventive services and screenings. It also advances high-quality care in traditional Medicare through an array of pilot programs that seek to improve patient safety, care coordination and treatment of chronic illness.

That is the big picture. These improvements can help all seniors, not just those who have opted for the private, government-subsidized plans known as Medicare Advantage. New quality bonuses, which we support, will also reward those Medicare Advantage plans that provide quality care.

Those who share our concern for low-income households should support the improvements to Medicare that help all needy seniors. By strengthening and improving traditional Medicare, we can ensure a more competitive marketplace that offers genuine choice to health-care consumers of all incomes.

No one understands better than AARP–or has worked harder to fix–the gaps in Medicare coverage. Despite widespread misunderstanding, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes major steps to achieve this goal.

John Rother, Executive Vice President, AARP, Washington

for ALL seniors, hugs…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.

a godsend, so cherish

Our daughter was born after my husband and I were married for 16 years. She was our “miracle baby” for we thought we’d never be parents. Had she not happened, we might have adopted. I did not want to endure testing to learn why we were not blest with a child before her, nor did I want to subject myself to methodical, medical procedures to become pregnant. Before she was born, I can remember sitting in our tiny, 100-year-old, New England, church during a Mass where 8 year olds made their First Holy Communion as Catholics. Tears welled in my eyes for I wished one day that my child would be among the communicants. From my lips to God’s ears, for my prayer was answered. I have always felt that our daughter was a gift that He placed in our care. She is ours to nurture and love, but she is not our possession, she is God’s gift. And “what he giveth, he can taketh away.” So I cherish our daughter more than life itself, and I never take one day with her for granted.

“Resilience” is written by Elizabeth Edwards, infamously known as the woman with incurable breast cancer, whose husband had an affair during his bid for the 2008 presidential campaign. They are now divorced since efforts to heal their marriage were unsuccessful. Elizabeth has borne these crosses publicly, but she has carried another in the privacy of her own heart, the untimely death of her teenage son. How can any mother, or parent, recover from such loss? Elizabeth shares her thoughts, on her own journey towards rebound.

Wade was 16 when he died. On April 4th, 1996, the wind blew across a North Carolina field and pushed his car slightly off the road. Slightly but not enough. When he tried to bring it back on, the car flipped. The air bag came out, the seat belt held, but the roof collapsed on him. The other boy walked away. Some dishes he was taking to the beach for us were unbroken. Our boy was killed instantly. It wasn’t speed, it wasn’t inattention, it was a straight road on a clear afternoon, and it simply was.

And what that wind took at Easter was a cherished boy, a remarkable child with the character of a man. I try to find, in this narrow place, a way to explain his virtues. He was a loving son and brother; holding our hands, hugging us, no matter who was around to see. He was a loyal friend, always there when his friends needed him, but never succumbing to peer pressure. He never drank or smoked. When a parent who came on the accident asked if drinking was involved, the boys there all answered, “Wade Edwards? No way.” He usually drove home those who did drink. He was intelligent and determined. His conversation in the car that day was about how he wanted to be a lawyer; but he didn’t want to take anything from his parents, he wanted to do it all himself, like his father had. He was humble and shunned the spotlight. During the week before he died, his English class studied “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway. He participated in four days of discussion but never mentioned once that he had climbed Kilimanjaro with his father the previous summer. How many among us could have sat quietly? He went to Washington as one of ten national winners of an essay contest two weeks before he died. He did not even tell his closest friends, who only later saw him on television. He was fair-minded. When asked on Martin Luther King Day how we could make the world a better place, he answered, “Look at the inside of people, not the outside.” He was seven years old when he wrote that. Though he had many gifts, he never thought of himself as the tiniest bit better than anyone else. And he chastised those who treated others poorly.

I have tried to think about the nature of the bond between us. I guess the fact of “bond” assumes we are two people, such as would need a bond to hold them together. And I never really felt that degree of separateness that lets you describe the existence of a bond between two different things. His joys were my joys, his pains were multiplied to be my pains. I woke to him and slept only after his lips grazed mine. As private as he held some details of his life, protecting those he cared about from my judgment, his broader life was open, bare before me. I was the witness to all things he valued, most of which were intangible. His weakness, his strength, his vulnerability (which had worried me so), his sense of who he was and what this living business was all about, he laid that open. The truth of life, I would have guessed, could not be found out in sixteen years, and we would be fortunate to have a glimpse in sixty. Somehow, this child knew. Knew that we all fought too much over foolishness, that our vanity and our insecurities kept us from truly helping one another, that true love and friendship were marked by humility and loyalty that disregarded self-interest. And he more than knew these things, he lived his way. His mark will endure, because only these truths of life do endure. The good we do really is eternal, as we had told him, and now that axiom is a charge to us–not just to keep his memory, but to live his life message.

We know that we can never make sense of his loss. He had done it all right. Of all he wanted, he wanted most to be a father someday. And what an unbelievable father he could have been with his compassion, his warmth, his patience. He was a rare gift.

He wrote in a journal during Outward Bound when he was 15:  “More than any other goal that I have set for myself I want to show my love and appreciation to my family for all that they have done for me. I know that I don’t deserve all that I get but I hope that I will someday be able to say that I deserve it. I really want to do something great with my life. I want to start a family when I grow up. I am going to be as good a parent to my kids as my parents are to me. But more than anything, when I die, I want to be able to say that I had a great life. So far I have had a wonderful life and I hope it keeps up.” Well, it didn’t keep up as long as it should have, but we are thankful for what he left us. And he left everyone he touched the better for knowing him. We stand a little straighter in his shadow.

Our daughter has blessed our lives in EXACTLY the same way that Wade blessed the lives of the Edwards family. She has always been singular in her demeanor. She leads, without pressure. She’s seen, without being showy. She’s considerate of others, without their knowing. She gives, without expectations. She laughs, cries, worries, endures pain, gets sick, has self doubts. She is, as a choreographer recently told her, “genuine.” Our daughter is that, on and off the stage. Who you see is exactly who you get. She is a melding of my husband and I, but there’s a quality, an innate God-given sense that she is but an instrument of his handiwork. While proud of her accomplishments for one so young, our daughter is humbled when she sees others as accomplished as her. She easily relinquishes “center stage”, professionally and personally, giving others their moment in the “spotlight.” She has never been about herself, she has always been about others, even as a child.

I am a better person for knowing her…hugmamma