Abrazos Fuerte for 2016

Dear Friends,

Last year, ironically without anticipating all the difficult emotional terrain I would cover, I selected the word “Awaken” (or awake, I cannot recall!!) as my “Word of the Year.”  Boy did I subconsciously Nail It!  The Universe mercifully gave me lots of wake-up calls……and my Divine Power gave me the strength to answer.  Suffice it to say, our family soared through potentially staggering emotional challenges and I am now a strong, proud “Friend of Bill’s” (aka Recovering Alcoholic).

This year, it took fewer than 5 minutes to imagine my guiding phrase/philosophy:  “Abrazos Fuerte” – Translated from Spanish, it means “Strong Hugs.”  Our wise and adoring Primo from Argentina (Spanish for Male First Cousin), Charlie, always ends his written communication with this beautiful phrase – it is his “signature.”

Cousin Charlie (pictured above, enjoying his 71st birthday in Bariloche, Argentina and in 1998, “supervising”  my sister-in-law Christine in the family tradition of empanada making), is a strong and loving figure in our family.  He is the existing “Patriarch” of the Tamburini family of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the homeland of my husband’s father, Mario Tamburini (my son has his name).

Charlie is the lifeline between my husband and his Argentinian heritage – he can tell us stories and share history that brings the family ancestry to life and provides a strong foundation for our children.  When my husband and I announced the news of our engagement to the Argentinian branch of the family, they sent telegrams of congratulations and Charlie offered me abrazos fuerte in the form of one simple line:  “Grandma Isabel is smiling for she would have found you extremely simpatico.”  Simpatico means likeable and easy to get along with.  WHO COULD ARGUE WITH THAT?!!!!

Anyway, life continues to amaze me and the journey would be impossible without MUCHOS ABRAZOS FUERTE.  As a side note, I should add that the Tamburini family are known to be extremely strong huggers – so much so that my sisters, as Aunts, have had to caution my son Mario before hugging, “Not too hard, Mario!”.  I am the proud Mother of 2 very strong huggers – they will do well in life.

The infamous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo published in Time Magazine from “V-J Day in Times Square 1945” really, for me, visually depicts the spirit of what I hope to achieve in everything I do with everyone I encounter in 2016.  In life, one must march onward and celebrate moments with laughter and abrazos fuerte or else what the hell is the point?

Happy New Year, friends!  May 2016 bring each of you your own special moments of warm embraces that melt away life’s jagged edges.

Love always,

Joanie, the Big Cheese on Cheeky Street

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Godspell And My Word Of The Year

godspellThese days, most of my “Zen” friends are choosing one simple word to depict the state of being they want to exude all year instead of going to the trouble of creating long Resolution Lists.  Simple and clean, easier to attain and measure, I am in favor of it!  My “word” came to me about 2 hours ago while I was waiting in the checkout line at the Hy-Vee grocery store.  AWAKEN.

Remember when Jesus gets all pissed off at the lawyers and pharisees in Godspell and belts out “Alas! Alas! Blind Fools!” to awaken them to the fact that they were merely repeating their predecessors’ mistakes?  My mind immediately went to this song in the sweet moment at the Hy-Vee checkout line when I encountered “Becky,” the former Little Sister I once knew a long time ago when I worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  She had an endearing speech impediment and looked like Strawberry Shortcake 8 years ago.  But now she’s all grown up, living on her own (about 250 miles away from home!), has a job and an apartment – and the same joyful and giving heart she had as a little girl.  My heart jumped as I caught her eye – I knew she might not remember me but she lit up the minute I mentioned her Big Sister’s name, “Sally,” the retired teacher who was determined to be a companion and role model to Becky – and awaken her to new ways of living to help her avoid making the same mistakes as her family.   In one explosively happy moment, I KNEW FOR SURE that Becky had been awakened – and that she still had that little girl’s joyful heart.  Becky was cheerfully sacking the groceries of the man in line ahead of me and she told him, “I like your hat, sir!”.  It was a Chiefs hat.  The man lit up.  Sweet little Becky awakened him from whatever preoccupation he may have been consumed with in that moment (rent, job, illness) and reminded him that there can be joy in life even in the grocery line!

0105151246When it was my turn to go through the line, the clerk checked the price of a beautiful pink begonia that had caught my eye and asked, “It’s $25.00 – still want it?”.  Still glowing from the beautiful moment I had just seen pass between the little girl with practically nothing I once knew and the grown man with grown concerns – the begonia immediately represented my Word for 2015 – AWAKEN Of course I want it!  This thing has magical powers (I wanted to shout but restrained myself!).

I told Becky that I knew her a long time ago and she was thrilled to be remembered.  Repeat after me:  SHE WAS THRILLED TO BE REMEMBERED.

Yes, Becky, believe it or not, you are remembered and treasured in my heart.  And you are the reason AWAKEN is my Word of the Year – you see, it’s when someone as innocent and humble as you can change the heart of someone as old and pessimistic as me – that’s when I am positive that GOD lives and works in our hearts all day everyday – if only we would AWAKEN……..