No Pity Here

This story is from Tasha V. She shared this story with me as we embarked on a road trip. It was all I could do to keep my eyes from getting blurry with tears as I attempted to drive while listening.

Two days after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Tasha received a call from a church acquaintance who had also had cancer. She wanted to visit with Tasha. When she arrived she walked in with a very matter of fact attitude. No pity, no worrisome look in her eyes. She offered support by explaining what to expect during her first round of chemo. She detailed everything she might feel or experience that first day and through the first round. It wasn’t until after their conversation was over that this acquaintance embraced Tasha and didn’t let go. They both wordlessly cried together.

By holding back the embrace and tears until the end Tasha was able to hear her advice and take it to heart without fear or any other emotions clouding her thoughts. It was because of her visit and her explanations that Tasha was able to endure her chemo and be prepared for the next steps. It was because of the embrace that she knew she wasn’t doing it alone.

I am happy to report Tasha is now cancer free.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Judge Not

This was weighing heavy on my mind this morning and I felt compelled to get it out.

I preach about not judging others, accepting and loving everyone you encounter. You don’t have to agree with them, just accept, respect and love. How are we supposed to do this with so many labels on everyone? Why do we even have labels in the first place? Why can’t we just be?

With labels we are constantly judged and judge ourselves based on what the labels mean. I am a heterosexual. What if I found myself in love with a woman down the road? Would that then make me a lesbian? Would I be labeled bisexual? What is the point of that label? To make myself more comfortable or make others more comfortable?

I stay at home with my kids. What if I decided I wanted a job more than staying home with them? Would that make me a failure as a stay at home mom? Would that make me a working mom? Why am I not already a working mom? That’s the way it feels even though I am not in a traditional ‘go to the office’ job.

What is one of the first things you ask someone when you meet them? “What do you do?” Huh. Well, I like to write, play piano, take pictures, love my family, meditate, read. Psh, try saying this to someone and their response will likely be, “No, I mean what do you do for a living?” Or, in other words, what is your Label?

With labels, would you listen to me talk about equality? Or would you wonder what label it is that qualifies me for that? Would you listen as I rant about challenges for women in the workplace? Or would you search my website for some label that qualifies me for that? What about autism, mental illness, nutrition, sports or traveling the world? Would you wonder what label I have that qualifies me to discuss these topics?

I tell you what qualifies all of us. We are human. We have thoughts. We have feelings, dreams, aspirations, a desire to change the world for the better. That is our label. And, I think that is enough.

Kicked Out

This story comes from Pat S.

They had been dating for some time. He got kicked out of school for a semester and was forced to return home to work for the family business. He was miserable and even though his family was grooming him to take over the business he knew that was not how he wanted to live his life. He would be returning to school the following semester. During that time they wrote letters to stay in touch with each other. In his last letter before returning to school he wrote, “I have decided what I am going to do with you.” Looking back she just laughs with a twinkle in her eye saying, “That was so typical Chuck. Instead of just waiting to talk to me in person he left me a note with no information.” But at the time, as most girlfriends would do she imagined the worst. “Oh my goodness, I was sure he was going to break up with me.”

As the next semester started they were both accompanied to school by their parents. While the parents were determining what the sleeping arrangements would be and where they would stay, the couple quickly volunteered to find them a motel. As they drove around during the 3 hour hiatus from their parents, she recalls only looking at one motel during that time. At one point they pulled off to the side of the road where she confronted him about his letter, “So, what are you going to do with me?” He turns to her and asks, “Will you marry me?” The hug that followed was easily her most memorable.

He left us 11 years ago and she recalls every detail as if it were yesterday. I was privileged to witness the love between these two and while he was a man of little words, his love spoke volumes.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Overseas Pen Pal Hug

Sometimes the stories will be my own.

One of my most memorable hugs came from someone I technically just met.

Do you remember getting pen pals in grade school? If not, these were names of kids from the same grade as yours in other schools. You got to send them (snail mail) letters and they would do the same in return. Well, in 5th grade our class was fortunate enough to be pen pals with students from England. My pen pal and I connected immediately. Not only did we write letters through 5th grade, we continued writing letters for years. We became great friends. As I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to do some traveling. What better way to travel than with someone overseas you already know?! I wanted to surprise her, so I contacted her Mom and coordinated the trip.

Now, this was my first time on a plane. Going overseas. For two weeks. To say I was nervous would be an understatement but it was completely overshadowed by my excitement to finally meet my pen pal. As I got off the plane I knew she would figure it was me she had come to pick up seeing as how I traveled on American Airlines. And, I was right. As I walked down the short hallway toward the waiting crowd I saw her with her family. We both screamed that high pitch scream only teenage girls seem capable of. I ran to her and we squeezed each other like long lost friends even though technically we had just met. Although, not really, but kind of. We stayed that way for a few minutes, jumping up and down and not letting go. I think even a few tears may have been shed. I spent the next two glorious weeks seeing London through the eyes of a native. We may lose touch periodically but I am happy to say that we are still friends and keep in touch almost 30 years later.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Day 2 – The Elusive Kid Hugs

This story comes from Sandra A.

When I asked about her favorite hug she kind of stared off in to space and said, “Well, the first thing that popped to mind was when my kids linger in a hug instead of squirming out of my arms.” Ahhh, the elusive kid hug. I know that all too well. I thought that may be the end of her story when after a moment’s pause she reflected back to a time when she struggled to get close to her youngest son. She smiled sweetly as she mentioned how he is now the one to linger in her hugs and how meaningful that is to her. Her oldest lingers too, but he’s always been quite loving and affectionate towards her. I see her struggle with her emotions as she knows she should be grateful for both hugs equally, but when it comes from her youngest who did not always give love so freely, she knows it’s something special. At which point she adds, “I know it’s not much but it’s the first thing that came to mind.”

Aren’t we all like that to some degree? Quick to dismiss those little things that are so important to us that we don’t think others will agree or understand? Those little things? They are what make life worth living.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Compilation #1

Sometimes our hug stories aren’t long, but short meaningful snippets of love and/or humor. I will share these in compilations together.

From Bambi G. – D (her youngest son who is almost 4) saw a girl from his class…she ran up and hugged him and blushed after.

From Bambi G. – “Customers hug me all the time because I give them free stuff. They just love me.” (said jokingly with a hint of pride)

From Heather W. Facebook status – “I traded in the infant car seat for the big girl car seat and came home feeling a twinge of last baby blues. Walked in to a sleeping baby in my bed who promptly woke up enough to crawl into my arms for a snuggle we both must be needing. Not rushing her off to the crib tonight.”

From O, Magazine – “One evening my husband and I hugged before sitting down to eat, and when we turned back to the table, there was no chicken on my plate. Three months later, I found the chicken breast under the refrigerator and learned to pay more attention to my house cleaning–and our cat.” – Judy Thomsen Davis, CA (This story struck me because she felt the importance of adding the hug to the story)

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

My New Year Of Hugs

Squeeeeee I am so excited! A whole new year of hugging. Yup, I am doing it! A brand new year of hugs. With a twist. I am beyond thrilled to offer up a year of hug stories. Some will be mine, but most will be YOURS! Every day I will share a new hug story with you. If you have one to share, please email it to me at melinda@myyearofhugs.com.

My first story comes from Erin T. It takes place recently, just one month ago. She recalls laying in bed with her husband where he just held her for 10 minutes. I could hear the tears welling up in her eyes talking about what this moment meant to her. It made her realize that since becoming a mom 3 years ago no one has held her or hugged her for more than a quick second. It’s all she can afford before the kids realize their mom is giving attention to someone else and they break the intimacy. 

It affected both her and her husband so much they have since talked more about it. They realize that they never do it anymore even though up until their first daughter was born they held each other every night.  The busyness and tiredness of having kids just took over.  They were both reminded of the importance of hugging and being held.

Listening to her story got me quite choked up. I can relate only too well. There is a significant difference between kid love and adult love. It’s the difference between being the caregiver and being cared for. Hoping you are all being cared for today.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Special Love Moments

I decided to take an impromptu trip up north to CT to visit my family. It was a quick 3 day turn around trip, but it was worth it’s weight in love. (Also, I got a few more hug stories. Woo Hoo!)

Waiting for cousins

Waiting for cousins

Big Bro' waiting for cousins

Big Bro’ waiting for cousins

Are they here?

Are they here?

Cousins with Gpa

Cousins with Gpa

Better not get any closer Grammy.

Better not get any closer Grammy.

Birthday party bowling fun.

Birthday party bowling fun.

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

Mom and Sis being silly

Mom and Sis being silly

My big boy chilling while watching the older kids next to us.

My big boy chilling while watching the older kids next to us.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

When you know, you know.

I have been debating about when to start my new year of hugs and I think I have settled on April 13. Same date as my original year. Besides, that gives me over a month to start acquiring some stories.

In the meantime, let me share one of my recent stories. I began going to an acupuncturist almost 2 months ago. One of the first times I called the office I was struck by how friendly and warm the receptionist sounded. She was sweet and kind and I remember wishing I could just hug her through the phone. The first time I met her there were people around and she seemed kind of busy so I delayed the hug. Well, this week I had no excuse. Yesterday when I went to pick up some supplements she was working. Neither of us were in a hurry so we spent some time chatting. She always jokes with me about loving my purse so much she is going to snatch it away one of these days. Before I left, I met her behind the counter and asked her for a hug. She willingly obliged and I held her tight and told her, “I have wanted to do this since the first time I spoke to you.” She smiled up at me with tears in her eyes which caught me off guard because she puts up a beautiful, silly, joyful front. “I needed that today” she softly shared. Then, composing herself she added, “Now you go out there and spread joy as I know you will.”

It’s moments like this that I can easily imagine a kinder, more connected world and it is a beautiful place.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.

Encore

Recently I have been interviewed and asked for input on my hug story by two large media outlets. As I was reviewing what I wanted to say in the short time I had available I realized a few things. One, it has been almost 2 years since my year of hugs ended and people are still wanting to hear about it! Two, the things that I want to share are not the same things the media projects that people want to hear. Let me elaborate:

What I want you to know is the general idea of how the year made me feel. How I saw love, pain, hope and joy in the eyes of the people I hugged. I want you to know that my throat got that telltale lump that happens right before crying almost everyday just thinking about the love that was being shared. How important I felt it was to extend my gratitude to everyone that I was encountering. Even those that I didn’t agree with or feel quite so loving toward. Even they made a difference in my life and for that I was grateful. I want you to know that sitting here writing about these feelings is making me tear up once again. How there are absolutely no right words I can use to make you understand how the year made me feel, how even just one hug from a stranger makes me feel.

What I have always known, but truly understand now is that the media thrives on sensationalism. They want to know specific details of the most unusual, heartwarming, saddest or controversial hugs I had. I struggled with this through all of my interviews shortly after my year ended. I didn’t want to share the intimate details of my hugs. They were mine and I felt that by sharing it might lessen the experience not only for me but for the other person I was talking about as well.

I see now how important those stories are. They inspire people. They make others begin to feel a small inkling of how I must have felt. I know this because I thrive on those stories as well. I want to hear all about how Tim holds a hug-a-thon once a year to benefit a charity. I want to hear about how this skier is saving puppies in Sochi. I think about how I can implement good deeds in my son’s lives when I hear about this teen that delivers burritos to the homeless.

I still hug but if others can’t let go of my story and still want to hear more, maybe it’s time for an encore.

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.