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Even More Heart Tugs

            I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, the times when heartstrings tighten. To appreciate the moments and imprint them in my head and heart.   To make notes because by writing about these experiences, however brief and jumbled in the busyness of life, they are relived and cherished.

I’ve shared Heart Tugs previously and my files are filled with more. My twelve-year-old Grand’s birthday request was to spend the night in Nashville with her mother and me and shop at bookstores. My heart sang. Time with Daughter and Elsie and book shopping. This overnight trip got better when my college roommate invited us to spend the night with her. When Roomie, Daughter, and Grand posed for a picture, I could hardly focus to snap it because my eyes were filled with happy tears. I never imagined that my dear friend of fifty years would also be loved by Daughter and my Grand.

Mindi sent a text message. A picture of a Valentine paper bookmark with the words, “Look what Mason found and uses in his books!” Mason is Mindi’s son who is about the same age she was when she was my fourth grade student. On the bookmark I’d written, “Keep reading, Mindi!” Mason declared it his favorite bookmark.

A friend texted six words, “Doctor said all clear! No cancer!” Those few words were the happiest of the day.

When I visited a friend’s home, she said, “Come downstairs, I wanta’ show you what I’ve done.” The concrete basement floor and wall blocks had been painted a warm gray and a colorful area rug covered a small area of the floor. A bunk bed set along one wall and a queen size bed and a twin bed on the adjacent wall. A kid-size table and toys and children’s books were the only other things in the huge room. “Look at my new room! All 5 of my grandchildren can sleep here!” I smiled and laughed. I understood my friend’s jubilance.

On a windy 39° morning, four-year-old Jesse said, “I need to play outside!” We bundled up in coats and hats and he happily created roads in our mulch around shrubs. A cup of hot chocolate and cookies warmed us when we went inside.

A bed of bright pink and lavender-pink phlox tugs my heart. It’s just a small flowerbed around my mailbox. Nothing spectacular except these are exactly the same plants that bloomed every spring beside our driveway when I was a kid. Mom shared a few plants with me more than thirty years ago and although an over-zealous yard boy sheared them to the ground (because he thought the late summer green plants were weeds), I salvaged a few plants and this spring they are beautiful.

“This is a momma hug,” Daughter said. As she and I hugged each other, my ten-year-old Grand wrapped her arms around Daughter’s back. A three-person hug. A three-generation hug.

Heart Tugs. I’m catching all I can.

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Never Run Out of Hugs

images-1 I love all the hugs that I share with my Grands. And just as each Grand is different from the other, so are their hugs.

I held my arms out to Dean, age 3 ½, and asked, “Do you have a hug?” He spread his arms wide, threw them around my neck and said, “I never run out of hugs!” Until the next day.   Dean sat on my lap as I read aloud Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. I read the last page, squeezed him with one arm and said, “How about a hug?”

Dean shook his head and grinned. “No hugs. I don’t have any,” he said and he jumped onto the floor and stood beside me. I told him I’d give him one of my hugs and I did. “Now you have a hug to give,” I said. Dean wrapped his arms across his chest, raised his shoulders and clutched them with his hands. “I gave me a hug!” he said.

Dean’s little brother, Neil who is 21 months old, laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me. A whole body hug. Later, I sat on the couch and watched Neil line up his matchbox cars on the windowsill. Then he held a car in each hand, stood, and turned his back to me. He walked backward until his back touched my knees and then he looked up at me. That was my signal to pick him up onto my lap. Neil pushed himself back against me and sat still. Another whole body hug.

Elaine, who is also 3 ½, has perfected the welcome hug. When I open the back door to her family’s home, I hear the slap of Elaine’s feet as she runs toward me. Her arms form a T with her body. Her eyes and mouth are open wide. I quickly sit on the nearest chair or squat down. “Gran!” she screams, just before she throws her arms around me. It’s a two-arm around the neck squeeze and a kiss on my cheek.   If I don’t sit or squat fast enough, it’s a two-arm around the knees squeeze and a kiss on my thigh.

Lou, 7 years old, surprised me last week. I turned my van’s motor off and expected her to undo her seat belt, open the van door, jump out, say “Bye, Gran,” and run into her house as she usually does. She stood behind my driver’s seat.   After her older brother got out of the van, I asked, “Lou? Everything okay?” She put her arm around my shoulder and her head beside mine. “Gran, thank you for taking me places. I love you.” Then she opened the van door, jumped out, and ran up the back porch steps to her house. She stopped at her family’s back door, turned toward me, and waved. I counted that as another hug.

Virginia Satir, a respected psychologist and family therapist, is often quoted. She said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”   I agree.

A good thing about hugs is when you give one, you get one, and then you’ll be like Dean – you’ll never run out of hugs.images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugs for Heatlh

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“A pick-up hug!” my Grand says.  Lou, almost six years old, stands in front of her Pop, looks up, and raises her arms.  Pop lifts her high above his head.  Her arms come down to encircle his neck and she wraps her legs around his waist.  What a hug!

Ruth, almost four years old, is famous for her good-bye hugs.  As I walk toward her family’s back door, her mother calls,  “Ruth, Gran is leaving.”  My Grand comes running.  Her arms open wide.  Eyes wider and an open-mouth smile.  If I don’t get down to her level immediately, she wraps both arms around my legs and plants a kiss right on my knee.  Because I prefer neck hugs, I move fast to sit or lean over.  Her arms hold my neck like a vise and she lays her head on my shoulder.  “Um, Um!”  she says and kisses my cheek.  Then she looks me eye to eye.  “Bye, Gran!”  Her hug carries me through the day.

Our Grands don’t know that they are making Pop and me healthier, both physically and mentally.  It’s been proven.  A University of North Carolina study showed that hugs increase the levels of the hormone oxytocin and reduce blood pressure.  This hormone triggers a caring and bonding response in both men and women, and a daily dose of oxytocin from hugging can help protect us from heart disease.  Hugs also lower cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for high blood pressure.  And it’s also been proven that the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout our entire body, increases when we hug so we feel healthy and full of energy.

A proper hug, where the hearts are pressing together, relaxes muscles and releases tension.  Hugs balance out the nervous system.  Build trust and help foster honest and open communication.  Teach us to give and receive.  Hugging boosts self-esteem.

Much has been written and said about hugs.  When you give a hug, you get a hug.  A hug makes you feel loved and special.  A hug takes a few seconds – lasts for hours.  A hug is free and the supply is endless.  Dr. Dorothy M. Neddermeyer even liken hugs to food:  organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, non-fattening, no carbohydrates, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and 100 % wholesome.  How many hugs a day to we need?  Virginia Satir, a family therapist said, “We need four hugs a day for survival.  We need eight hugs a day for maintenance.  We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

The only requirement to give a hug is a willing spirit.  Lou and Ruth’s little 21-month-old sister Elaine watches as Ruth hugs me.  “Gan, ugh!”  Elaine says.  I lift her into my arms for a pick-up hug.  Her hands grab my shoulders.  She swipes her face across my cheek and wiggles.  She’ll get it.  It just takes practice.  And I’m happy to participate in her training.

John Stories

Sunday morning.  I stood in my closet choosing clothes for church when the phone rang.  “Susan, do you have a minute to talk?” my college roommate asked.  I sat down as she spoke.  John, her husband of 40 years, was breathing his last breaths.  John, whose doctor had just a few days before declared his heart valve replacement a great success and told him to carry on with normal life.  John, who had planned an evening out with friends to celebrate.  His passing was quick.

I first loved John because Jo Ann loved him.  She and I had shared a 10’ x 12’ dormitory room for three years at Tennessee Tech University.  Sisters by choice.  In 1972, I stood beside Jo Ann when she and John promised to love each other until parted by death.  For four days, I stood behind Jo Ann while she made difficult decisions and received condolences.  And I heard stories.

A ten-year old neighbor boy hugged Jo Ann and said, “I liked when he threw the ball with me.  I’ll miss him.”  The next-door neighbor cried as he told me that just two days before he and John had stood in their driveways.  “He hugged my girls (ages 2 and 3) and said ‘How fast can you run?’  When they ran to him, he laughed and told then they could run faster.  The girls wrapped their arms around his legs and John pretended to fall.  He made everybody laugh.”

Jan and John had an on-going joke about birds flying overhead.  John didn’t want to sit at the outside restaurant table under a tree.  Surely there was a place inside for six people to eat dinner that May evening.  Jan teased him that his bald head would be a perfect target, but she’d make sure that birds didn’t deposit anything on it.  When John turned his back to her, Jan poured water into her hand and dumped it on his head.  John stood, hollered words that his mother would’ve washed out of his mouth, and swiped his head with a cloth napkin.  His friends laughed, and John laughed loudest.

Only his generous heart surpassed John’s sense of humor.  January 1976, a snowstorm hit the Nashville area at rush hour and immediately turned roads into parking lots.  My fifteen- month-old daughter, Alicia, and I were stranded on a neighborhood street, miles away from our home on the other side of Davidson County.  After two hours, my new best friends, whose cars were parked on the snow-covered, icy street, pushed my car into a driveway and watched as I knocked on a stranger’s door.  I asked to use her phone and stay inside her warm house.  The snow finally stopped and the main roads were cleared.  John left his workplace in downtown Nashville.  He drove out of his way to rescue Alicia and me from a stranger’s house and took us to his and Jo Ann’s home.  Midnight supper never taste so good.

‘John stories,’ Jo Ann calls them.  Stories that remind me to laugh and hug.  Stories that make me happy that John was my friend.  Stories that help heal hurting hearts.