nurturing thursdays: a true friend likes who you are…and lets you know it

I’m certain my female readers can relate when I say…at the moment my “plate” is full to overflowing.

It may not seem that way to look at me, but keeping my mind from becoming unhinged is a daily exercise. At times it’s almost as strenuous as the weight resistance class I’ve begun doing 3 times a week. If I lost a few pounds I know it would lessen the load I have to push off the floor, just as I’m positive once my life is decluttered my mind will return to point balance once more.

Easier said than done…both…losing those last 10 pounds and ridding my brain of its overload. At least for the time being.

Enter…friends!

Just when you need to take the “edge off” the craziness in your life, a few good friends lend a hand…or an ear…or both.

I have three “go-to” girlfriends…Cindy, Mary, and Suzy.

We tend to weave in and out of one another’s lives with very little, if any, fanfare. We never apologize for lapsed time. We just pick up where we left off, even if many months have come and gone since we last got together.

Our friendships are casual. We’ll either email or text synopses of what’s going on at the moment, knowing we’ll expand further over coffee and a bagel, or salad and some pizza.

What I love best about these gals is their love of family, their upbeat attitude, their can-do resolve, and their easy laughter. And with each of them, I feel loved and valued for exactly who I am. 

There’s an unspoken acknowledgement with each of these ladies, that we’re good moms, hardworking wives, contributing citizens, and above all, compassionate people. 

What’s more we’re not inclined to pass judgment on one another. We don’t offer unsolicited advice. Instead, we compliment one another wholeheartedly and without hesitation. 

Good friends not only love one another…they truly like each other.

I like Cindy because she’s extremely humble, speaks thoughtfully, and exudes so little effort when she laughs with abandon.

Mary is a rock. I like that about her. Although the youngest of 7, you’d think she was the eldest the way she manages whatever dilemma befalls her extended family. I’m always amazed at her fortitude and no-nonsense demeanor. She gets things done…and moves on.

My friend Suzy use to be my neighbor before she moved out of the neighborhood. I’d see her mowing her lawn once-in-awhile, but she was up the hill so we never really spoke. And she worked full time, so I’m sure she had better things to do than while away her weekends in idle chatter. When she married a widowed neighbor whom I greatly admired, Suzy and I became fast friends. As retired “snowbirds,” the two go south to California for half the year, but when they’re here she and I fall back in sync so easily. She’s a friend who makes me feel very glad I’m alive.

I make friends easily because I genuinely like people. And I like letting them know how I feel. Most folks respond with grateful hearts. Only a few, like Cindy, Mary, and Suzy, know to cherish what I am offering…

…my heart on my sleeve.

………hugmamma.

 

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nurturing thursdays: compassion…

Old woman pouring tea, unknown artist, 19th ce...

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more aware of others senior to me. In particular, women who are alone without that special somebody with whom to share their lives.

Recently, one lovely friend told me that as she sits alone in her home she sometimes wishes her life would simply cease. Having lost her beloved 91 year-old mother several years ago, and a younger sister to cancer last year, my dear friend professes weariness. 

In her late seventies, Annette has health issues that are of some concern. 

Having broken her hand a couple of years ago when she fell down her front steps because of ice, Annette continues to suffer the effects.  She’s also still dealing with the aftermath of cataract surgery. Both impact her job as a part-time sales rep/bookkeeper at the local antiques mall where I’m a vendor. 

How my friend drives the 20 minutes to and from her job, regardless of the weather or the time of day, is beyond comprehension. I’m further blown away when Annette drives an hour to a doctor’s appointment.

Underlying her physical ailments is her ongoing struggle with depression. You’d never know it though, for she rarely complains and always greets folks with a smile.

The woman is a tower of strength in a seemingly, frail body. She must weary of my saying…”You’re my role model.”

Perhaps if I were in Annette’s shoes (were I able to fill them)…a survivor of two divorces, the second one decades ago…family and friends left behind in Canada as a result of her first marriage…and was once the sole bread-winner with a couple of young children…I’d be a real Wonder Woman too.

Isn’t it a wonder how women manage what life dishes out…no matter our age?

It helps that Annette’s son lives with her, making his home in the large, finished basement. Her daughter, a school bus driver lives nearby as well. More recently, her 31-year-old grandson has moved in while he decides what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

So in spite of her weariness, Annette still has a lot of living to do. We all want her in our lives still…her children…her co-workers…and her friends…

…especially me…

………hugmamma.IMG_4127

nurturing thursdays

I happened upon a new idea…..Nurturing Thursdays...as I browsed another blogger’s site” On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea” at http://beccagivens.wordpress.com 

So although today’s Friday and not Thursday, I’d like to offer some words which I hope will nurture…someone in need.

My own life is oft times crazy, trying to do this, that, and the other thing. Always running it seems…and I don’t mean around the track at the community center where I might find some time to recoup and re-energize…and drop a few pounds while I’m at it. 

If you’re like me, you set yourself goals…short term and long term…and like items on a “to-do” list, you check each off as you accomplish them. It’s a rat race for sure, and usually of our own creation.

Women seem especially prone to setting ourselves up for failure when we can’t get it all done. It seems especially true of women in their 30s, 40s, and perhaps 50s. Those are the years when careers are evolving and children are born.

Book of Answers

Book of Answers (Photo credit: Caro’s Lines)

How to make it all work? That’s the $64,000 question…or more currently…the answer’s worth a billion dollars. Experts and amateurs alike have tried their hand at the jackpot. To my way of thinking…there’s no one-size-fit-all response.

I’ve finally found my way to the truth after six decades on this planet. Like other women, I’ve been looking under every pebble, stone, rock, and boulder for the answer. Know where I found the answer? My answer?

INSIDE MYSELF!!! That’s where I discovered how to make this crazy hamster’s wheel of a life work.

I listen to my own voice, not someone else’s. No one knows the path I’ve taken…to get to where I finally am.

I decide what my goals are…and when I need to achieve them…or not.

I set about working at something…or not.

I establish my own priorities…or not.

I choose my friends..or not.

I forgive my enemies…or defer it to another day…knowing I will forgive them in the end.

I take time to “smell the roses” and bask in the warmth of sunny days…whenever I need.

I make up my own mind…after listening to all sides.

I don’t argue…unless it’s meaningful…never doing so for the sake of…or just because.

I try not to judge others…for I’ve not been in their shoes.

I let my heart rule…not my head.

This is not to say I can’t ever get myself into a pretzel…twisted and discombobulated. But at least I can say it’s one I’ve cooked up all by myself. So that the next time I’ll know which ingredients worked…and which didn’t.

Breathing in and breathing out is what life’s all about. Perfecting the intake…and the release…of each breath, requires a lifetime of practice.

…i’m still practicing…and perfection is not my goal…neither is an immaculate house!

………hugmamma.

harsh reality…

Shirk The Harsh Reality

Shirk The Harsh Reality (Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks)

…the name of a blog created just this year.

I invite you to go take a peek…if you dare… http://aopinionatedman.com

The blog’s author is quite opinionated as you might guess, but he does not welcome opinions to the contrary.

While I may not agree with him in all matters, I do agree that argumentative narratives should go find themselves their own Internet home.

I highly recommend Word Press.

Four Women

Four Women (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One “harsh reality” post speaks of women as being crazed individuals who only make sense to one another. It goes on to inform men that women stir up a hornet’s nest…just because. And that we already know all the answers, before getting into an argument with men. 

A must read… women-are-crazy-the-way-to-lose-your-female-readers.”

Finally! A man who knows why women are placed on a pedestal…and offers no argument as to why we should be removed.

…need i say more…

………hugmamma.

women…and the world…

Women have a way of softening the edges around acrimonious debate in which men often immerse themselves…and our world.

Would a woman…a daughter, wife, and mother…make a better President than her male counterpart? An intriguing question, which I hope will one day be answered.

Until that day…let’s continue to do what we do best…bring people together.

…couldn’t have said it…any better myself…

………hugmamma.

women rule…no matter what…men say

A poignant reminder for all of us…sisters in spirit…from one of mine.

Listening to Each Other: a Multigenerational D...

One Flaw In Women

Women have strengths that amaze men…They bear hardships and they carry burdens,but they hold happiness, love and joy.

They smile when they want to scream.

They sing when they want to cry.

They cry when they are happy

and laugh when they are nervous.

They fight for what they believe in..

They stand up to injustice.

They don’t take “no” for an answer

when they believe there is a better solution.

They go without so their family can have.

They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.

They love unconditionally.

They cry when their children excel

and cheer when their friends get awards.

They are happy when they hear about

a birth or a wedding.

Their hearts break when a friend dies.

They grieve at the loss of a family member,

yet they are strong when they

Think there is no strength left.

They know that a hug and a kiss

can heal a broken heart.

Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
They’ll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you

to show how much they care about you.

The heart of a woman is what

makes the world keep turning.

They bring joy, hope and love.

They have compassion and ideas.

They give moral support to their

family and friends.

Women have vital things to say

and everything to give..

HOWEVER, IF THERE IS ONE FLAW IN WOMEN,

IT IS THAT THEY FORGET THEIR WORTH.

Please pass this along to all your women friends and relatives to remind them just how amazing they are.

(from one of our own…Wendy Gibson)

It’s good to remind ourselves of our worth, especially in light of what’s been said recently by U.S. Senatorial candidates Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdoch.

Earlier this year, the Missouri senate race between Todd Aiken and Claire McCaskill gained the attention of a lot of the nation when Aiken said he believed a woman’s body had ways of preventing pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape.” Aiken’s comments called for many from his own party to call for him to drop out of the race. He did not.

and…

Half way through the debate Tuesday at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany between the three candidates vying for U.S. Senator Richard Lugar‘s seat, Republican candidate Richard Mourdock was asked about a woman’s right to choose an abortion in the case of rape. 

Mourdock said, “I just, I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Women’s Equality Day – celebrating women’s rig...

…women have come too far…to go back to being…dominated…and subservient…

………hugmamma.

go julia!!!

Seventeen (magazine)

Seventeen (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NBC news  recently shone the spotlight on teen ballerina, Julia Bluhm. From Maine, a normal looking youngster…with a passion for activism. Her debut efforts at effecting change? Getting Seventeen Magazine to stop photoshopping its models’ pictures.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

Another benefit of aging, for there are some, is that vanity takes a permanent back seat. At some point we realize no matter what we try, short of comprehensive plastic surgery, we’re not going to alter our genetics.

A glance in the mirror confirms that I’m looking more like my mom with each passing day…especially without makeup. I’m fighting the battle of the bulge, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to regain the figure I enjoyed in my 20s, 30s, and even 40s.

Who decided that ordinary women with looks ranging from…dour…to homely…to lovely…to breathtakingly gorgeous…wanted to see only one end of the spectrum represented in advertising and in the media. Whoever it was, or whoever they were, must’ve thought we were gullible sheep who wouldn’t buy anything unless touted by foxy hotties.

These days I tend to look past the glam and listen for substantitive words instead. I’m not saying beautiful women have no place in the world. They just don’t represent ALL the women in the world.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see faces and bodies more akin to those reflected back from our mirrors?

Advertisers need to overhaul their perception of what women want. We can help them by boycotting their products.

I for one could easily see Victoria Secret Angels banished for good. Flaunting their scantily clad bodies, these women invite men to fantasize. Some acting out their fantasies with murderous results.  And young girls to imagine themselves as less than, if they don’t see themselves reflected in these sensual goddesses.

How do I start this petition rolling?

 

Victoria's Secret Black Friday at Westfield Sa...

Victoria’s Secret Black Friday at Westfield San Francisco Centre 2009 (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

…or am i just a lone voice?…   😦

………hugmamma.   

reconnecting…a necessity

Often times in our busy lives we have difficulty meeting up with others who make us feel good about ourselves. But when we do, they provide a much needed shot in the arm. I’ve returned from just such an appointment. Exactly what the doctor ordered…my chiropractor, that is.

I didn’t make it to exercise class this morning. I’m not an early riser as my classmates know, and after having been up at the crack of dawn to go touring every day while on vacation, I’m taking it nice and slow now that I’m back into my normal routine. Sleeping in…and burning the midnight oil. Some may not understand my schedule, but anyone who’s spent time in Hawaii knows that the natives like to take their sweet old time. I think that’s true of islanders anywhere. “What’s the hurry?” That’s our motto.

Starbucks on Briggate

Image via Wikipedia

I did meet up with the ladies after they were done exercising. At Starbuck’s we chatted about this, that and the other. In the mix…vacation experiences while on cruises…Kauai being the island of choice to visit…the charm and beauty of the British Isles…biographies about rock stars…lumbar aches and pains…rotator cuff exercises to alleviate pain…an upcoming fashion extravaganza for which one of the women would be applying makeup for all the models…the real reason for closing the doll museum in Bellevue. You name it; we talked about it. Women do that.

A skateboard

Image via Wikipedia

Upon exiting the coffee shop, good friend and exercise instructor, Kristina told me of repairs she was making to a condo her family owns. She installed a new garbage disposal. Imagine that! It seems there’s nothing she can’t do if she sets her mind to it. We also spoke of our children. Her son, in his early 20s, is a professional skate-boarder. He tours the world competing, as well as doing exhibitions and promotional gigs for his financial backers. He’s even had a skate board named for him. Like my daughter, he began his career path at the age of 16. Kristina and I agreed that our kids jumped into their passions feet first, learning as they aged how to manage the real world of adults. And they’ve both done a heck of a job!

After Kristina and I parted, I trotted over to visit my lady friends at the nearby gift shop, Look’s. Shelley and Shelley, one the owner, the other her right-hand employee. They’ve been a welcoming twosome during the years I’ve frequented the store. We’ve shared anecdotes about our lives, our children, our concerns. On one occasion, they couldn’t have been nicer to my daughter when she accidentally broke a wine glass while reaching for an item nearby. She offered to pay for the breakage, but both Shelleys explained that it was an accident, that my daughter owed nothing. Well! That confirmed my loyalty to Looks from then on. Treat my offspring kindly…and I’ll be back again and again, with my business.

Driving home, my spirit felt refreshed. My reservoir of compassion had been replenished. A sisterhood, my friends and I support one another’s efforts to carry on…

…in our daily lives………hugmamma.

“same sky,” empowering women

Economically empower a woman—you change her, her family, her community, her country… and eventually, the social & economic fabric of the entire world.

On Inside Edition last night, not a program I usually sit and watch, more like I glance at the screen as I’m walking through the living room. When something is of interest though, I’ll sit on the edge of the closest chair. If it’s worth watching, I may settle in for a few minutes. Mention of “Same Sky,” an organization that helps empower the women of Rwanda caught my eye. So I gave my full attention to the broadcast.

In 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were massacred. During this genocide, women were enslaved as sex victims. As a result they were inflicted with the HIV virus. Bearing children, these new mothers were unable to care for their offspring because they suffered the effects of the disease. Filmmaker Francine Le Franc was moved to help these women help themselves, and their families. Le Franc began “Same Sky,” a cooperative wherein the women learned to crochet. With their newfound skill, they were able to make beaded jewelry. The necessary tools are shipped from the U.S., and the finished pieces shipped back for sale in retail stores, and at home parties, and trunk shows. 100%of the proceeds are put back into the business, thereby enabling more women the opportunity to participate.

Le Franc decided “Same Sky” was a befitting name for the business venture, because ALL women live under the same sky. “They see the same stars and the same moon. Every woman. One dream.” TV host Deborah Norville remarked, “And they’re sold for a profit. This is not a charity operation.” Le Franc added “It’s a trade initiative, not an aid initiative. It’s a hand up, not a hand out.”

Check out the SAME SKY website for further information, and see familiar faces, like those below, who have joined in supporting the cause. The jewelry may be a little pricey for most of us, but for an extra special gift, they might just work. Nonetheless, we can join in celebrating the self-liberating, empowerment of these women of Rwanda…hugmamma.

Halle Berry in Seafoam     

Goldie Hawn in Butterscotch and Jade Green

Ben Affleck in Men's Wrap

Katie Couric in Clear Sky

Ann Curry in Caviar

Chelsea Clinton in Seafoam

Fran Dresher in Fire Red

Meryl Streep in Starry Night

Queen Latifah in Chocolate Brownie

Jesse Jackson in Men's Wrap

Joan Collins in Fire Red and Starry Night

Geena Davis in Sky Blue

Donna Karen in Fire Red (photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

“getting to happy”

One of Oprah’s guests today was author Terry McMillan who had written the book “Waiting to Exhale.” I remember having seen the movie it spawned, enjoying the 4 black actresses who portrayed the story’s main characters. I can’t recite what it was about, only that it dealt with the all too familiar romantic difficulties between men and women. McMillan’s newest book, “Getting to Happy,” brings the 4 women full circle. Maybe I’ll read this, her second book, or wait until the movie is made. I’m not overly fond of reading fiction, preferring non-fiction instead.

While I missed most of the interview, I was present when McMillan’s ex-husband was speaking of the hellish 5 years following their divorce. Feeling betrayed when he cheated on her with a gay partner, McMillan sought revenge by suing her husband and his attorney for $40 million. To his relief, she eventually dropped the suit. In her explanation to Oprah, the author explained that while she harboured resentment against her husband, she continued to suffer, because she’d hung onto the hurt. Once she released the pain and rescinded the lawsuit, McMillan was on her way, “getting to happy.” Sitting side by side, she and her ex teased and laughed, sharing the friendship they’d once had.

Interjecting an anecdote of her own life experience, Oprah told of a long-held grudge against someone she happened to observe one day at a distance, walking into Tiffany’s, laughing.  The woman looked like she’d carried on with her life, while Oprah had dwelt upon the rift between them. How could that woman not continue to be as agitated as Oprah over the incident? This was the question she asked the audience in total disbelief. I understood the look on her face.

When I lived in New York, I had worked for a black manager who involved me in his ongoing battle with his boss, the department’s director and her close friend, the vice president, both white females. I would return home each evening, upset and crying to my husband about the grief I was experiencing. Something he said finally sank in, shutting me up once and for all. “While you’re spending all your nights bemoaning something Tony’s done or said, he’s probably enjoying himself with friends, and a glass of wine.” Picturing him relaxed and laughing, angered me. I decided not to let my boss have one more minute of my day. “Out of sight, out of mind,” has become my motto when dealing with aggravating people. That’s not to say I always succeed, but I never stop trying.

of course Oprah learned the same lesson, long ago…hugmamma.

coffee with friends, so much more than

If women were the world leaders of governments, corporations, learning institutions, medical facilities, courts of justice, sports teams, the entertainment and music industries, and any other body having great societal impact, they’d probably do their venting over coffee with girlfriends.

Coffee with the women means, friends gathering together to vent about anything, and everything. Surely centuries old, this female ritual has probably saved countless marriages, and kept our prison population from overflowing. Our ancestors, cave women, must have wanted to crack a few skulls. Being dragged around by the hair would not have been an endearing prospect. Native American women didn’t drink coffee (or did they?) but using smoke signals to communicate their marital woes was, perhaps, the start of environmental pollution. A frontier wife might have envied Annie Oakley her skills with a gun, when her cowboy came through the door smelling of whiskey and women. And a Victorian lady must’ve ripped off her corset and took a swig, when she was in a snit. Would Sonny and Cher have continued as a duo, if she’d had regularly done coffee with the women? “And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on. La, de, da, de, do, la, de, da, de, day…”

Women, coffee and conversation are like a game of Ouija. One speaks, another interrupts, the first resumes speaking, and the ebb and flow of conversation continues. The chatter is spirited, peals of laughter ring out, continuing to ripple through the group. Then voices quiet into whispers, while knowing glances and nodding heads silently agree that “it’s so frustrating…” whether it’s talk of jobs, husbands, children, mothers, even mother-in-laws. All agree that these sessions are more productive than paying for psychotherapy and a lot more fun as well.

The best coffee gatherings are among women whose personalities are in accord. Allowing one another time to speak, rather than hogging the conversation is also important. Egos are stroked, each feeling uplifted knowing others care, so that they needn’t continue shouldering their burdens alone. Coffee (for me) with a good friend (tea for her) became an important “life-line” when I moved with my, then 16-year-old, daughter to Atlanta. For two-and-a-half years I chaperoned her while she journeyed toward a career in ballet. My husband, our financial support, remained behind.

When my daughter was invited to train with the professional company where we relocated, our family consented without hesitation. Rushing forward without thought, we moved into an apartment with my husband’s help. The day he departed for home, we breakfasted at a pancake house. It was then that the finality of our decision hit me like a “ton of bricks.” I burst into tears. Ever the pragmatic one, my husband assured me he’d visit in a month or so. That seemed like an eternity to be without my best friend of so many years. But as moms have always done, I “placed one foot in front of the other,” and carried on.

It’s been about 5 years since I returned home to my husband. Having apprenticed with a ballet company in another state, my daughter was promoted to full member a year ago. She begins her second season this fall. Through hard work and maturity beyond her years, she has accomplished every young ballerina’s dream. There were peaks and valleys to be sure, but my daughter weathered them with our help, and the encouragement and prayers of many who have loved and supported her through the years.

Offering me a shoulder upon which to lean, or cry, was a woman who became, and remains, a very dear friend. It wasn’t unusual for Becky and I to linger over a cup of coffee, or tea, for hours, kibbitzing about her son and my daughter. Both aspired to being professional ballet dancers. We’d compare “war” stories about people with whom we had dealings, who seemed insensitive to the difficulties our children encountered. Very little was ever resolved, but reinvigorated, we could return to parenting, knowing a friend was nearby.

I was able to offer Becky some advice, since I was already in the midst of helping my daughter wend her way through the maze of becoming a career ballerina. It is such a singular path, not like being in college with thousands of like-minded youngsters. How one dancer succeeds is not a ready prescription for another’s success. But from my observations, certain facts seemed applicable to every wannabe professional.

Success seems dependent upon 50% talent and 50% other factors like a solid work ethic, quickness at learning choreography, resiliency to criticism, continuing good health, and a lot of luck. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be “in the right place, at the right time.” When it comes to casting, being a favorite of resident and visiting choreographers is a plus. Less tangible is having “the look” that an artistic director wants for a role or for the company in general. This alone can force a dancer to audition wherever there may be openings, in the hopes of a perfect match. With much effort and good fortune, a job is found, if not, the dream will likely end.

Deciding to go the college route, Becky’s son graduated with a Fine Arts Degree in Dance. To his credit and due diligence, he is in his second year apprenticing with a ballet company. This is no small feat in the current economy when the arts are suffering the loss of patronage.

Belonging to a rare breed of women, moms of professional ballet dancers, Becky and I continue to enjoy a mutually supportive friendship. Circumstances may prevent us from meeting as we once did, but given the ease of travel these days, it’s not too far-fetched to assume we’ll be meeting for coffee, tea and friendly conversation somewhere, some time… 

it’ll be like old times, only better…hugmamma.

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.

acknowledging trivia

We tend not to notice the “small stuff” we accumulate as part of our daily routine. Sometimes it’s good to pause and take note, for these things must be worthwhile if they’ve become part of our lives. So here’s what makes me “tick.” 

  • Biofreze was recommended to me by my chiropractor for use when I’m too lazy to pull out an ice pack for my aching muscles, which is always. Its label reads “Penetrating, long-lasting pain relief from: Arthritis, Sore Muscles & Joints, Back Pain.” From time to time, I have all of the above, often at the same time. I use it in spray form; my daughter uses a roll-on. This product is a lot easier to use than rubbing on BenGay or Tiger Balm. There’s no residual smell and I don’t need to wash it off my hands so I won’t inadvertently rub some in my eyes. I would imagine it’s obtainable on the internet.
  • Here’s an update on my “dry mouth.” I guess you could say I healed myself when I stopped using antihistamines. Doctors beware!  Here I come!…Interested in being my first patient?
  • Run, don’t walk to your local Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have one, then petition for one! Their merchandise is the closest thing to homemade that I’ve ever tasted. And my taste buds are really finicky, ask my husband, my daughter, my in-laws. My mantra is “If it doesn’t taste great, it’s not worth the calories!” It’s become my husband’s and daughter’s philosophy as well.
  • About my stack of Wall Street Journals, there must be at least 25 shoved into a cupboard waiting to be perused. Yes, I have difficulty tossing them out without so much as a “look-see.” Then there’s the stack of 6 or so in front of me on the computer desk. I looked at them, and saw some interesting articles, which I have yet to fully read. Now you know why I don’t subscribe to anything.
  • Probably won’t read this book for some time, but its title intrigued me “Hero of the Pacific – The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone” by James Brady. Has anyone ever heard of this man? My husband hasn’t, and he’s a walking encyclopedia about World War II. Well, I wanted to read this bio with “…revealing stories of Basilone’s youth in the Rockwellian any-town of Raritan, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s; his first cross-country railroad trip with fellow soldiers in 1935; and his decisions to leave the Army and, later, join the Marines.” Basilone would go on to be a “…Marine gunnery sergeant known to his buddies as ‘Manila John’ ” who “first displayed the courage, tenacity, and devotion to duty that would define the remainder of his brief life and the manner of his death two years later on…Iwo Jima” Sounds like a story about men for men, but it’s also about a small town guy just doing his best with what life served up. Mightn’t this be any man, or woman’s, biography?
  • Had unexpected company for dinner this evening. A nephew and his girlfriend “Facebooked” me asking if we wanted to meet for dinner since they’d be in our “neck of the woods.” We invited them to dine with us. So I set aside blogging for a few hours, and my husband eased out of his recliner where he was watching “Patton” on TV. We drove to Trader Joe’s for a few groceries, came home and threw together a nice meal. It was a pleasant change to spend time with young folk. They’re in their 30’s, so they were old enough to “get” our humor, like my husband teasing that he’d trade me in for 2 – 30 year olds, a running joke since we were in our 40’s. They seemed to enjoy the side dish of sautéed, seasoned Portobello mushrooms, for  they ate them, without squishing up their faces in disdain. And they didn’t rush off when friends texted asking what time they’d meet up at a local tavern. I think they enjoyed our company too. Our house always rings with laughter, even when my husband and I are the only ones here.
  • Was just cuddling one of my Maine Coone-mixed breed cats, Juneau. He’s so desperate for attention that he tends to body slam anybody or anything nearby. Picking him up is like lifting a Costco size bag of potatoes. Watching him as he burrowed down into my chest, eyes closed as I stroked his head, these lines came to mind: “Three kittens, no mittens, no home, no mom. Three kittens found mittens, found home, found mom, found love.” How can I not love my pets, who give so much and expect so little in return.
  • As you can see, I’ve returned to blogging and my husband is snoring in front of the TV with the “movie looking at him.”  Our nephew informed us that that’s what his dad, my husband’s brother,  said happens when he falls asleep watching TV. I guess like brother…like brother.

will say a prayer for you at Mass…hugmamma.

who i am

Girls become women; boys become men. In the beginning it seems to just happen. Females emulate their mothers; males, their fathers. Their traits become ours, seemingly by osmosis. As children we don’t stop to differentiate between good and bad characteristics. What we see becomes what we are and what we do. As we grow older and experience life outside our family, we begin to compare ourselves with others, our lives with theirs. We see what we like and don’t like about us, about them.

I think only in older age, especially if we have children, do we understand those who walked in “our shoes”, before we did, our parents. My father died when I was one, so I never knew him. My mom was my world, in good times and bad. Throughout my 50’s I gradually became aware of the legacy she left behind.

Widowed at 30, nine children to raise, my mom managed with the help of Maryknoll nuns who ran the orphanage where she worked. She was laundress, part-time cook, and part-time chaperone. She never missed a day on the job, driving an hour from our home in the city, to the orphanage in the country. As a toddler, I accompanied her, my days spent rolling around in huge crates filled with freshly laundered clothing and linens. The youngest orphans were my playmates; the older ones my babysitters. They were my family, since most of my siblings had long since left home.

My mom’s car was our “bread and butter,” as she would repeatedly remind us. It was essential to our subsistence, getting her to and from work.  There was no AAA in those days, or if there was, we were too poor to subscribe. My mom changed her own flat tires, tinkered under the hood, and faithfully had the car serviced. With a sergeant’s precision she showed us how to wash and wax the car.

We would drag out the bucket, the hose, the detergent and lots of “elbow grease.” Along with two siblings, a brother and sister who were still in school, we cleaned every inch of our two-toned blue, Dodge sedan, until it glistened under the bright, tropical sun. We often looked like wet fish, having pelted each other with water from the hose or soapy water scooped from the bucket. When we were seized by fits of laughter, my mom’s eyes would twinkle and a huge grin would emerge to temporarily smooth away the frown lines deeply imbedded above her brows.

Active in our church community, my mom served as president of 2 women’s groups. She allowed me to invite foreign students to live with us for several days or weeks, giving them an opportunity to experience life in our country. It wasn’t unusual for my mom to invite total strangers into our home, like a young, handsome, Chinese man who was selling Life magazine subscriptions. We couldn’t afford it, but my mom felt sorry and subscribed anyway. To thank her, the nice man returned with an ice cream cake, which we happily devoured. One particular Jehovah Witness was a regular visitor on Sundays. A devout Catholic, my mom still listened when others spoke of their faiths. I’m ashamed to say we children hid, hoping they would go away. My mom suffered painful arthritis as far back as I can remember. At 3 a.m. when I’d head to the kitchen for a drink of water, my mom would be pacing the floor, attempting to walk off the unrelenting ache in her knees. She’d moan heavily, sometimes crying. I was too young to be of much comfort. My mom sat in the bleachers, watching with pride as I led the crowds in cheers for our team. She sewed one-of-a-kind clothing, some “hit the mark”, others not so much. Strumming the ukulele, she’d harmonize old Hawaiian songs with me, a favorite being “Ke Kali Ne Au.”

Without realizing it, my mom was bestowing me with her strengths. A single parent, she forged a life for herself and her children as best she could. She wasn’t above accepting help, nor did she shy away from helping herself and others. While raising us, I can’t recall my mom investing in much time bemoaning her plight. She was a handsome woman who prided herself on how she styled her hair, and how she wore her makeshift dresses.

I may not mimic my mom in every way, but like her I’m a strong woman with a soft underbelly. She has instilled me with her graciousness toward others, her “funny bone,” her songbird’s voice, her sense of style, and her gourmet sensibilities. And like my mom, I have faults. While she didn’t apologize for them, I’m certain she asked God to forgive her trespasses. Like her, I pray to be pardoned for my transgressions. 

Foremost among the lessons I have gleaned from my mom’s life  is compassion, for myself and others. Because her journey was fraught with more “lows” than “highs,” it’s a wonder she lived well into her 80’s. She was plagued by health issues, family discord, and personal demons. Besides which, my mom never remarried, remaining a widow until the end. For 50+ years, she shouldered her burdens without the love and companionship of a soul mate. So if she floundered, who could stand in judgement? “For unless you have walked in someonelse’s shoes…”

who I am is owing in part, to her…hugmamma.

NFL, for the men

My recent focus has been women, so I’m turning the limelight over to the men.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, an interesting article got my attention “Who Forgot to Turn Off the NFL?” I have a difficult time paying homage to athletes with attitude who make a lot of money. So I perused the paragraphs, searching for ammunition to bolster my opinion. The subtitle read “As Football Booms, Once-Sleepy Training Camps Become Stages for Grudges, Boasts, PR Stunts and Psychodramas.” Aha! I thought. Here’s fodder for me to chew on.

The article opens with remarks by Dick Vermeil, former NFL coach,  “Sometimes in your effort to make the team better, you bring in players who bring a lot of attention to themselves,…These distractions are an irritation.” The article goes on to list some of the “sideshows.” Cincinnati’s camera-hogging wide receiver Terrel Owens and media magnet Chad Ochocinco are teaming up as “Hot Summer Couples!” Washington’s defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has failed to pass the Redskin’s fitness test. Might it have anything to do with the fact that he opted out of the team’s off-season training program? Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t yet recommitted, once this final year in his 6-year contract expires. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens safety, grumbles that he’s not able to quickly access game film from the team. Minnesota Viking quarterback Brett Favree still “sits on the fence” about retiring (for the third consecutive year). Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback, returned to camp before serving “a multigame league-issued suspension after an incident at a Georgia nightclub.”

NFL Network analyst and former Steeler defensive back and Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson describes current league athletes as “mouthier…and less beholden to the idea that all team business should be handled in the locker room. ‘Today’s players seem like they have an agenda every time they speak to the media,’…” Vermeil contends that “the NFL’s summer landscape has become increasingly loony.” even before the training camps commenced. A contributing factor might be the NFL’s increased popularity. According to Harris Interactive, pro football “has risen to a 35% favorable rating among American adults in 2009, a 46% increase since 1985.” In the past decade it’s shown an average 3.7% increase in regular season TV ratings, while three other major U.S. pro sports leagues saw an average 35% drop in ratings.

“The appetite for all things NFL was apparent Friday in Westminster, Md., when 11,506 attended the Ravens’ first full-squad practice, the largest turnout for a nonscrimmage practice in team history. When the big-talking Jets arrived at their camp site in Cortland, N.Y., on Sunday, 1,500 fans lined the street to welcome them.” Woodson seems perplexed that the league is in the news even when nothing’s going on.

Patriot’s longtime coach, Bill Belichick seems to suggest that present day players are being coddled. ” ‘Compared to when I came into the league, there is no training camp,…in 1975, we started camp July 5 and our first regular-season game was Sept. 21. It was forever; it was 2 1/2 months. So has training camp changed? (The players) have no idea.’ 

 The article ventures to add that training camps in earlier times were “far more likely to induce yawning.” The big news in 1990 from the Vikings camp was how to get more touches for running back Herschel Walker, and that 5 players from the Chicago Bears missed their camp startup. The San Fransisco Chronicle reported one day that phone service in the 49ers dorm was temporarily disrupted.

Comparing the hoopla surrounding NFL training camps today, former NFL coach Jerry Glanville claims “that training camps have always been crazy. The only real difference is the impression itself. ‘It’s just covered better…Nothing that’s going on hasn’t happened before 100 times.’ ” He remembers when the Houston Oilers required players to “complete a mile run in six minutes in order to practice. But the team’s star running back, Earl Campbell, couldn’t do it. The team’s coach at the time, Bum Phillips, came up with a solution, Mr. Glanville said: ‘If it’s 4th-and-a-mile, I won’t give him the ball.’ ”

Have the fans unknowingly created modern-day NFL Frankensteins who lay claim to all they see? Or are we unfairly scrutinizing every detail of their lives in an attempt to know them better? Do the players call attention to themselves, or do the fans put the spotlight on the players with unrelenting adulation? Maybe there’s enough guilt to go around.

what do you think?…hugmamma