Hugs, they’re not for everyone.

There’s currently a Puritanical idea that has pervaded our culture in which touch and sex are inherently linked and it is doing us a great disservice. I think that people are afraid to touch each other no matter how platonic.

I will admit it, I’m a tactile person. I give and receive hugs every day. Touch is one of the ways I communicate. I’m also a shoulder patter, and a hand holder. Hugs are free and there is no purchase required.

We Americans are often “touch starved” because the casual, nonsexual contact that happens between friends in other cultures just doesn’t happen here. I think we were never meant to hold each other at arm’s length.

 According to Readers Digest, hugs are more than just a friendly greeting, they’re a surprisingly powerful health booster you’ll want to take greater advantage of every single day. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The connections of self-worth and tactile sensations we received in our early years are still implanted in our mind as adults. Hugs affect our ability to love ourselves.

Hugs are much more than a friendly greeting. Holding a hug for an extended time is said to lift one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. Hugs supposedly strengthen the immune system. Hugging is reported to boost self-esteem.

Touch is incredibly important for us as human beings. Studies have shown that hugs can reduce blood pressure and release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that has been associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building among other things.

A good hug relaxes muscles and releases tension. Hugs can help ease pain and soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.  Hugs teach the importance of giving and receiving. There is an equal value in receiving a hug as there is to giving one. Hugs show us how love goes both ways. As a loving person, I get an abundance of hugs from my family. I find that hugs are like a miracle drug.

A Swedish study of 172 nursing home residents found that those who received hugs and physical touch, connected more with family, friends and visitors, were more socially active and had a tendency to thrive better than the residents who didn’t receive the physical contact.

When you are in a relationship, it is too easy to take the other person for granted. A benefit of hugging that is frequently overlooked is that a hug can reaffirm your love. I think it’s valuable to know that something as simple as time spent touching or hugging has been shown to have measurable benefits.

I had a doctor who was very professional but unemotional. He was an excellent doctor that in my mind saved my life on more than one occasion. The first time he proclaimed that I was “In remission” I jumped up and gave him a big hug, I was so elated. It was like hugging a tree.

 In his culture, men did not hug. Over the course of several years and 2 remissions, I hugged him many times. Our relationship warmed so much that the last time I saw him, he initiated the hug. He also had a student with him on this particular day. He said to the student that he might as well hug me because I was going to hug him too.

A few years ago, I had a person report me to HR that I had hugged her. She was telling me about her horrible battle with cancer when I said “sounds like you need a hug”. I did not approach her or grab her, just stood and opened my arms. She then stepped forward to get her hug. She didn’t protest at the time or say “No thanks.” but seeing as I was in a position of superiority over her she didn’t think she could refuse.

 She taught me to always ask if people are comfortable with a hug or possibly even a warm handshake before assuming that they were. It was a boundary I needed to understand and something I needed to learn.

I now recognize that for lots of people, touch can be not only be something unfamiliar but has the ability to transmit aggression or dehumanizing and scary messages.  I mean nothing more by it when I offer you a hug other than make an effort to connect with you or to offer comfort to you, not to invade your space or make you feel uncomfortable.

So while I will continue to offer hugs to people who seem to welcome them. I will never foist them upon anyone. I will say though that if I see you crying, eating cold pizza and you explain your troubles to me and ask for advice, offering a hug to you seems as reasonable to me as offering you a tissue.

Hugging might also be a wonderful way to resolve a disagreement. I think that giving each other the touch they need may have the ability to reverse the damages.

To me, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to consensual hugging, I just have to ask first. Norb is a loving husband, father and grandfather who doles out hugs in Lockport.

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Love Poems

old couple walking while holding hands
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I recently received a picture of a painting from a local Buffalo artist of two older people hand in hand walking away due to something I had published in the newspaper. It reminded me of my wife and me, always walking hand in hand wherever we go.

I remember meeting her at a birthday party I crashed with a friend of mine. It was the wild sixties. I picked her up and carried her off into a corner loudly proclaiming “This one’s mine”. I had dated quite a few girls but had never met anyone like her. Eventually, I fell in love and I remember trying to find a way to ask her how to marry me.

She worked at Saint Mary’s Home for Children with children who had birth defects and knowing how much she loved children, I devised what I thought was the ideal line. One that I thought she could not say no to.

One night at Ellicott Creek Park, as we were looking out across the water and I said I had something to talk to her about. I then asked her to marry me and have my children. She hesitated a bit and I thought I had blown it. I realize now when I said I had something to talk to her about, this wasn’t quite what she was expecting, but she manage to say “Yes.”

It also reminded me of a few short poems I wrote to her several years ago that she has framed on her dresser.

The first poem reads.
Thru good times. Thru Bad.
Thru happy. Thru sad.
Thru high. Thru low.
Thru you, I’m whole.

The good times were all the years we have been together, going to dinner, laughing and loving each other. The bad times were when I was being treated for cancer and I would lay in bed sleeping, only waking to eat chocolate covered mini doughnuts. The Oncologists and I didn’t think I would see another Christmas. She would lay beside me comforting me thru it all. I firmly believe she are the reason I made it.

The happy is when she said “Yes” at Ellicott Creek Park and when she said “I do” in Saint Patrick’s church in 1969. It also relates to the children and grandchildren she has given me. She has given me an amazing, loving family. The sad is the loss of family members we have both suffered.

The High is the soaring feeling I get seeing her, hearing her voice and snuggling with her on the weekends. The low is the times we had to spend apart while I was in the service. She will never know just how I missed her then.

With you, I’m whole means that without her, I would be a ship drifting on the sea of loneliness. Completely lost. I never thought I would deserve such a loving, kind person in my life. One who accepted me for who I am.

The second one’s a three-word poem that goes. Together, Forever, Whatever. This reflects in three words how I feel about us. Sometimes simple is best. Both of these poems reflect what she means to me.

In all the years we have been together, I don’t ever remember having a major argument. We’ve had disagreements sure, but we always resolved them quickly.
She is my soulmate, the Yin to my Yang, the ping to my pong, the day to my night. We’ve been together for 50 years and I want another 50. She will always be my “Bride”.

The Gambler

ace achievement banknote blackjack
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My name is Norb and I’m a gambler. (Muted response, Hi Norb.) I don’t bet on the ponies or play poker. I don’t play the over/under on sports games but I gamble every day.

When my alarm goes off and, at seventy, when I swing my legs over the edge of my bed, I gamble on the fact that when I stand up, my legs won’t collapse. I’ve been to the hospital a few times when I “melted” as I call it. I don’t fall, just slowly collapse to the ground because my legs can’t support me.

Once I am up, I shuffle to me kitchen where I lay bets on a number of things. I make myself a breakfast sandwich and I gamble several times. I make myself a ham, egg, cheese and kimchee breakfast sandwich in the microwave. According to Consumer Reports, “More than 10,000 people were hurt using microwaves.” I gamble the egg I use won’t give me salmonella or the ham I use won’t give me food poisoning. I’ve had food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, once in my life and it wasn’t fun. As I cut my English muffin I am reminded that lacerations caused by kitchen knives affected more than 900,800 people in 2012, according to the www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. I gamble I don’t cut myself.

After I eat my sandwich, risking choking, I then go down my back steps gambling on the chance they aren’t wet or icy causing me to slip, go ass over tea kettle and doing a face plant on the concrete sidewalk at the bottom. My wife has put non slip strips resembling black sandpaper on the steps to help prevent this.

I then take my biggest gamble of the day. I get into my car, turn on the ignition and ease myself on to the road. According to driverknowledge.com, the average number of car accidents in the U.S. every year is 6 million. I wager on fact that every other driver isn’t DWI or Texting or Chatting on their cell phone and are paying attention to their driving. When you think about it, half the vehicle to vehicle car accidents on the road are caused by the other guy. I may be the best driver in the world but that might not help me if someone is acting unsafe on the roadway.

I also gamble, if it is winter, the road crews have plowed and salted the roadways properly before I drive on them. I have traveled on unplowed roads before and I slid into the ditch.

Other gambles I have taken were asking my wife of 50 years to marry me. This was probably the most important chance I have ever taken. I would have been devastated if she would have said no. I tried to “stack the deck” to favor me when I asked. Knowing how much she loved children I asked her to have mine.

Two children later, I also took a chance when I got out of the navy.  The movers were supposed to be at my apartment at 8:00 AM and pack us up for the trip back to Western New York. Donna and I got up early that day and made sandwiches, filled bottles for our two daughters and prepare for our road trip to Western New York. We figured it might take the movers 3 hours or less to load up our merger possessions so we could head home.  We packed up our Volkswagen Beetle with what we thought we would need for a few days, filled a cooler and waited for the movers to arrive.

They only missed this appointment by 12 hours showing up at 8 PM. By 11 PM we were sitting in our empty apartment and had a decision to make. Should we start an 8 hour long drive, in the middle of the night, in the ice and snow of January, after being up for 18 hours? Our other choice was to stay in a motel overnight and leave for home in the morning when we had some sleep and were fresh.

Donna, my wife was as anxious as I was to get home so we gambled on option one. She said she would stay awake and keep me awake during the trip. So I went all in. We loaded the kids and the last of our possessions in our car and I started to drive

The first 25 miles went well, Donna and I chatting about how glad we were to be going home, but as soon as we got outside of Providence, Rhode Island, Donna fell asleep. I gambled again and decided to drive straight through. This almost proved fatal. I tried to deploy a few ways to try and stay awake. I turned the radio real loud and opened my window allowing the freezing air in.

I had fallen asleep a few times during that long trip but I would manage to wake up when my tires would hit the shoulder. The last time I fell asleep however I woke up in the median to snow flying over my car as I was plowing it. I jerked my steering wheel to the right and popped back on the roadway like a Jack-in-the-Box. Thank god no one was hurt.

We all are unaware we are gamblers and unknowingly gamble several times a day.  Follow Norb at  https://whywny.home.blog/

Thanksgiving

I value the traditions we have around the end of the year but some traditions are set in stone and some are a bit more fluid. We have burgers and fireworks for the Fourth of July, a tree and egg nog for Christmas and a turkey with cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

Good conversation, delectable smells and the laid back mood make Thanksgiving one of my favorite meals of the year. I will always have warm feelings about this day. 

The planning for Thanksgiving starts shortly after Halloween. Who has the folding chairs? Who is going to bring which dish? My wife and I always bring the turkey and she selects one of the largest ones she can find. She starts thawing it ahead of time so it will be ready for roasting.Then early Thanksgiving my wife starts the long process of cooking the bird soit will be ready for meal time.

We have three generations of Rugs that show up for this holiday. The younger grandchildren shrieking and running is the first sign that the guests have arrived and everyone is greeted at the door by these family members.

With my whole family comfortably gathered around, I can’t help but feel content. The relaxing noise of a house filled with the people I love mingles with the sound of a video game and I can’t think of anything that I would rather hear.

My Daughter’s home is airy, with a large island where she would lay out the appetizers. We used to have a seafood tradition where I would buy shrimp, clams, smoked salmon etc. that we would lay out before dinner along with chips, dips, salsas, pickles, etc. Honestly you could make a meal from the appetizers. I had to quit buying the seafood however as it got too expensive to buy crab legs for a dozen people.

Once the cooking starts, the kitchen seems a bit cramped though, like working on a food truck. The delicious smell of a turkey roasting fills the house with delicious aromas. It’s all worth it though when the aroma of the Brussels sprouts roasting in the oven waft out to fill the house in yet another delightful smell.   From the timemy wife starts cooking the turkey until the satisfaction of that last bite,when I am too full to move, Thanksgiving never fails to fulfill my expectations.

When the large assortment of dishes is finally cooked and put on the dining room table, we all sit down and it’s time to dig in to a family style meal. My daughter serves up the best corn dish ever created. It’s creamy, with a smooth texture but she serves many, many more delectable concoctions.But every dish is better than the last and to just sample every dish on the table fills your plate. You need a side plate to hold your dinner roll.

Dinner conversations are lively, with hilarious jokes that have me laughing so hard my eyes are tearing and stories that often revolve around my children’s childhood. The conversations around the table are refreshing change from the chaos of everyday life. When my whole family is at my daughter’s house, we have to split the family into the adult’s table and the kid’s table. This is a poor description though, considering some of my grandchildren are all grown up and living by themselves. In fact one year I ate at the kid’s table and I am the oldest family member, the patriarch of this motley crew.

I promise myself each year that I’m not going to eat too much but it always happens. Just when you have had to open your belt a hole or two and you think you are done, the table gets cleared and the homemade desserts come out. There are usually three to choose from and you have just small piece of each one so you won’t have to unbutton your pants. Every year I feel as if I could just make it to the couch and take a nap, I would be fine.

Once dinner was over we would go back to the living room to watch some grade B horror movies. We used to have a competition to see who can find the worst movie. My son won one year with a movie called “bad taste“. Talk about truth in advertising.   Unfortunately this tradition had to change the year that a movie depicted a head rolling across the floor and my grandson took off saying “I’m outta here “.

The hours of work preparing the food are always worth being able to share a meal with others and with all the wonderful people in my family, it’s impossible not to have an enjoyable time. With its easygoing,laid back attitude, Thanksgiving almost tops Christmas as my favorite holiday of the year.

The comfortable attitude is infectious, and for a time we can all forget our worries over a cup of steaming hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.

From my family to yours, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Note: This article has also appeared in The Union Sun and Journal, Buffalo Rising, The Buffalo Chronicle and Art Voice. 

Thanksgiving

chicken close up dish food
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I value the traditions we have around the end of the year but some traditions are set in stone and some are a bit more fluid. We have burgers and fireworks for the Fourth of July, a tree and eggnog for Christmas and a turkey with cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

Good conversation, delectable smells and the laid back mood make Thanksgiving one of my favorite meals of the year. I will always have warm feelings about this day.

The planning for Thanksgiving starts shortly after Halloween. Who has the folding chairs? Who is going to bring which dish? My wife and I always bring the turkey and she selects one of the largest ones she can find. She starts thawing it ahead of time so it will be ready for roasting. Then early Thanksgiving my wife starts the long process of cooking the bird so it will be ready for meal time.

We have three generations of Rugs that show up for this holiday. The younger grandchildren shrieking and running is the first sign that the guests have arrived and everyone is greeted at the door by these family members.

With my whole family comfortably gathered around, I can’t help but feel content. The relaxing noise of a house filled with the people I love mingles with the sound of a video game and I can’t think of anything that I would rather hear.

My Daughter’s home is airy, with a large island where she would lay out the appetizers. We used to have a seafood tradition where I would buy shrimp, clams, smoked salmon etc. that we would lay out before dinner along with chips, dips, salsas, pickles, etc. Honestly you could make a meal from the appetizers. I had to quit buying the seafood however as it got too expensive to buy crab legs for a dozen people.

Once the cooking starts, the kitchen seems a bit cramped though, like working on a food truck. The delicious smell of a turkey roasting fills the house with delicious aromas. It’s all worth it though when the aroma of the Brussels sprouts roasting in the oven waft out to fill the house in yet another delightful smell.   From the time my wife starts cooking the turkey until the satisfaction of that last bite, when I am too full to move, Thanksgiving never fails to fulfill my expectations.

When the large assortment of dishes is finally cooked and put on the dining room table, we all sit down and it’s time to dig in to a family style meal. My daughter serves up the best corn dish ever created. It’s creamy, with a smooth texture but she serves many, many more delectable concoctions. But every dish is better than the last and to just sample every dish on the table fills your plate. You need a side plate to hold your dinner roll.

Dinner conversations are lively, with hilarious jokes that have me laughing so hard my eyes are tearing and stories that often revolve around my children’s childhood. The conversations around the table are a refreshing change from the chaos of everyday life. When my whole family is at my daughter’s house, we have to split the family into the adult’s table and the kid’s table. This is a poor description though, considering some of my grandchildren are all grown up and living by themselves. In fact one year I ate at the kid’s table and I am the oldest family member, the patriarch of this motley crew.

I promise myself each year that I’m not going to eat too much but it always happens. Just when you have had to open your belt a hole or two and you think you are done, the table gets cleared and the homemade desserts come out. There are usually three to choose from and you have just a small piece of each one so you won’t have to unbutton your pants. Every year I feel as if I could just make it to the couch and take a nap, I would be fine.

Once dinner was over we would go back to the living room to watch some grade B horror movies. We used to have a competition to see who can find the worst movie. My son won one year with a movie called “bad taste“. Talk about truth in advertising.   Unfortunately this tradition had to change the year that a movie depicted a head rolling across the floor and my grandson took off saying “I’m outta here “.

The hours of work preparing the food are always worth being able to share a meal with others and with all the wonderful people in my family, it’s impossible not to have an enjoyable time. With its easy going, laid back attitude, Thanksgiving almost tops Christmas as my favorite holiday of the year.

The comfortable attitude is infectious, and for a time we can all forget our worries over a cup of steaming hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.

From my family to yours, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Words of love, so soft and tender, won’t win a girls heart anymore:  The Mamas And The Papas (1966) 

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
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When I was in the service, I would try to write my wife as often as I could, relating where I was and what I was doing. These usually contained expressions of my love for her but the envelope, oh the envelope, I would adorn it with the number 143. That was my code for the number of letters in the words I love you. One cruise she was pregnant with my daughter and I wrote the 143 vertically and put a smaller 143 inside the 4. This represented my wife carrying my child.

As a family we have many ways of expressing our love for each other. If we happen to be holding hands, 3 gentle squeezes mean I love you. This will be followed by 4 gentle squeezes in response meaning I love you too. Another way we express our love for each other is by flashing the ILY a sign from American Sign Language which means I love you. The sign originated among deaf schoolchildren using American Sign Language to create a sign from a combination of the signs for the letters I, L and Y and is our personal “gang” hand sign.

Another way we say I love you is by saying “Owie”. This developed from a daughter who as a very young child and was just learning to talk responding “owie” every time we said I love you to her. Again this is a family specific way to let each other know how we feel about each other without yelling I love you in a crowded room.

One time I used a label maker to put I love you on the lid of the wash machine so every time my wife did laundry she would see it. This had a very humorous side effect one day when my furniture was in storage at my parent’s house after I got out of the Navy. A repairman showed up to fix the damage the moving company caused to the washer and when he opened the lid he said “I love you”. My mother was aghast until the repairman explained he was just reading the lid.

When I worked, I used to call my wife in the middle of the day to chat and tell her I loved her. There are many ways to say I love you and we say it to each other frequently. I tell my wife I love you several times a day and she says it to me but I also try to have fresh flowers in the house because she likes them and it is my way of saying I love you. She on the other hand, always ensures I have clean clothes. I frequently remark on my magic underwear drawer that seems to fill itself up whenever it gets low. She always makes me delicious meals and desserts. This is part of the reason I have gained 90 pounds since we married 48 years ago. That’s 90 pounds of love she gave me.

When my wife had a minivan I found some red rubbery hearts that I stuck on her rear view mirror. Every time she looked at it, it was like I was telling her I love you. When I bought her the new minivan this was one of the first things I transferred.

The love we show has spilled over to our grandchildren and they will frequently end a text to either Nana or me with a 143. We have several paper hearts that our granddaughter made sprinkled throughout our house. She stuck them on the bathroom mirror, the television in our bed room and many other places. Every time we see them we know we are loved.

We recently watched an 11 year old for a month this summer. We watched her from the time she was 7 weeks old until her family moved to North Carolina. One day she left me a note saying”Love Ya” on my end table. This is now taped inside my laptop where it reminds me of her every day.

It is easy to let someone know you love them. Write on the bathroom mirror with a small amount of hand soap on your finger and when the mirror steams up you will leave a little love message! On your way out in the morning, draw a heart in the snow. Telling someone you love them doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. It can be as small as a squeeze, a word, or just doing something nice for a person.

The Mamas And The Papas got it all wrong. Words of love will win a girls heart.

couple engagement hands human
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