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Friday, April 29, 2016

My Hero Dad - the Unbelievable True Story of Lolo

My Hero Dad's True Life Story - This is the story of the first man I loved, my first and forever hero, and the most dependable, loyal, honest, charming, and loving man I have ever or will ever know, my dad, Mariano Muyot, known to everyone simply as "Lolo" (Tagalog for “Grandpa”). Lolo was born in Manila, the Philippines on December 26, 1935. His father was an optometrist, who had a large, beautiful estate  and office in the beautiful tropical city of Manila. Lolo's  mother was a stunningly beautiful woman, devoted to her husband and 6 sons; the first 5 were much older, they were all teenagers when Mariano was born.  The Muyots had walled off estate with many servants, gardens, and a large art collection.  They were the founders of a music conservatory.  Little Mariano was doted on and cherished by both parents and his older brothers.  But all of that was about to change.

War was coming to their little paradise in the tropics.

When World War II descended like a scourge upon the Philippines, the Filipino army was probably one of the most under-prepared armies in the world at the time. Nonetheless, all 5 Mariano's older brothers volunteered and, because they were all college educated, went in as officers. When Mariano was 7 years old, Japanese soldiers came to his beautiful house to interrogate his father.  They knew his older brothers  were helping the U.S. Army learn to be "guerillas." The Japnese soldiers wanted to know where the US guerilla soldiers were. 

Dr. Vedasto Muyot refused to give up their locations. Mariano watched in terror as the Japanese soldiers beat his father savagely.   He cried as the soldiers smashed his father's precious eye-glass cases. When Mariano's mother ran to her husband, they slapped her and she fell to the ground weeping for the life she knew was slipping away.  Mariano could only watched in horror as the soldiers burned the entire palatial Muyot estate to the ground.  They dragged his father away to a concentration camp with other P.O.W.'s, including Filipino and US soldiers.  There he was tortured and beaten mercilessly alongside American soldiers and Filipino soldiers.

Mariano witnessed many atrocities and went from being an affluent doctor's son to being homeless. He never owned one toy growing up. He looked in the sky and saw "dogfights" between US and Japanese warplanes daily. If you know history, you know that General Douglas MacArthur is personally responsible for saving the Philippines and the US soldiers left behind on that island nation. Truman was ready to abandon the nation and the American troops, but MacArthur had lived in served in the Philippines for many years and he love the nation and it's beautiful people. He stood on the shores of Leyte and said, "I shall return," to the Filipino people he loved so much -- and he meant it. 

Defying his own Commander-in-Chief and sabotaging his own career, MacArthur did come back, he did liberate the Philippines and the remaining American troops. Vedasto Muyot crawled home from the concentration camp, emaciated.  He gazed once more the faces of his wife and children and soon after, died in his wife's loving arms.  Her name: Juliana Tiga Muyot. 

The "G.I.'s", the American soldiers who liberated the Philippines, were so good to the Filipino children they gave their own C-rations to the kids, including Mariano. Mariano  vowed then and there to do something to re-pay the Americans. 

In 1963, Mariano joined the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay Naval Base, initially as a foreign citizen. He served for 7 years. After serving in the Gulf of Tonkin, the only battle of Vietnam to be considered part of a "war" (Congress briefly declared war, then revoked it, hence Vietnam was actually a "conflict" although 56,000 soldiers and sailors died), he became a US Citizen under the provision whereby a foreign citizen who serves in the U.S. military during wartime is eligible for US citizenship. In between, he met an Irish American gal from Beacon, NY named Mary McCaffrey. They dated for a few weeks and got married in San Diego, CA during shore leave on April 4, 1964. They just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.

I was born July 23, 1965 while my dad, Mariano, was on a ship in Vietnam. My brother was born December 20, 1967. After leaving the Navy, my dad worked a full career at IBM, from which he retired years ago. 

He had colon cancer in 2001 but beat it. He was in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital on 9/11 when the planes hit. The nurses and doctors couldn't wait to meet me and tell me how all the patients were so scared but my father, who had just had surgery days ago, walked around the hospital wheeling his IV with him, comforting the patients, especially the younger ones, saying he had faced death several times before, and not to be afraid, the worst thing to do if you're going to die is to be in a state of panic, to put themselves in a state of peace and everything would be all right. They say he brought peace to an otherwise panicked hospital. I could go on and on about my dad. 

All I'm going to say is I was one lucky little girl, you can only imagine what it was like to be Daddy's little girl, with Mariano Muyot as my dad.  Not that we had a lot of money, we didn't, but I always knew I was loved, loved, loved.  

This is a reprint of a blog I first posted in 2013. As I sit here today, Lolo is 81 and still feisty.  He suffered a stroke this past week and is working hard to get back to where he was.  He is receiving wonderful care at Vassar Brothers Hospital. If you don't see me every day at the office in the boathouse, you know that's because I am at Vassar hanging out with my Hero Dad.  

Have a great day everyone and always remember to count your blessings! 💗 Mrs. Lo (Daddy and Me 1967) 

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Grandma the Guru

MY GRANDMA WAS A GURU - You know all those self-help books out there -- with advice on everything from lowering your cholesterol to raising your self-esteem -- it turns out that they are just regurgitating everything my grandmother always told me. And there’s a good chance your grandparents told you the same things. Which makes our grandparents kind of like gurus. Let’s think about it:

NUTRITION - Nellen (my grandmother) was always urging us to take cod liver oil, “It gives you brainpower.” It turns out, Fish Oil is full of Omega-3’s, and is a cornerstone of healthy diets. The sale of Fish oil capsules is through the roof, and guess what? It’s good for your brain!

FITNESS - “Use it or lose it,” my grandma used to say. And in fact, fitness experts recommend daily exercise of at least 30 minutes a day, instead of the weekend warrior style of bursts of fitness. Because unless you move it every day, you will in fact, lose it. This is why so many weekend warrior suffer chronic injuries.

ON MONEY - “Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will look after themselves.” It’s really the best money advice ever. Save your pennies and they will turn into dollars, at that point you can turn them over to your bank or your financial advisor to invest -- but it’s up to you to save those pennies!

DINNERTIME TOGETHER - people now think it’s almost “revolutionary” to make a home cooked meal every night and sit down at the table together to eat it. (Hey, I didn’t say the meal was delicious or my table was even cleaned off!) It’s something my grandmother always insisted on and now I see why. It brings our busy family together every day, even if they wolf down their food and go do their homework or retreat to their man cave.

BEAUTY ADVICE - “Your best beauty asset is your smile,” my grandmother always said. Now they have things like Smile Therapy (No, I’m not kidding!) But Nellen always knew, smiling not only makes you look good, it makes you feel good.

"SPREAD THE WEALTH" was one of Nellen's favorite sayings - every success guru says the same thing. Having success is not enough. Sharing the wealth and giving generously is an integral part of being Successful.

"FAMILY IS EVERYTHING" - actually, what my grandma used to say is “someday when I’m gone, it will be you and your brother and you have to look after each other and stick together because family is everything.” At the time, the thought of a World without Nellen was both inconceivable and depressing. But as always, she was right. Family is everything. Not the money, not fame, not retweets. And family can take many forms. Your immediate family, your extended family, your neighborhood and community. It’s important to find a way to stay connected to your family every day.

When I was a little girl, I thought if anything ever happened to my grandma, I would want the world to stop so I could get off. But that’s not the way it works. Although she died in 1994, Nellen lives on in me and my brother, and everything she taught us, which we have passed down to our kids. So while it would be nice to have a convertible and clothes from the 3rd floor of Neiman Marcus; I will drive my Mom-mobile with the 3rd row; and recycle my clothes over and over, and instead invest our money in our kids’ education, our love of travel -- and fish oil. Because at the end of the day, I can look at my family, smile, and say thank you Grandma, I now know what it really important.

Have a great day, everyone and as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! (My grandmother's MOST favorite saying) <3 Mrs. Lo

Friday, April 15, 2016

You're Still Beautiful, Mommy

A few nights ago, Michael (my 12 year old)  and I were watching a movie on Netflix and a song from the 90’s came on that I hadn’t heard in years.  And, as only music has the power to do, it really carried me back to a time when I was living in NYC, a law student, living a very different life. “I remember that song,” I told my son.  “That came out when I was 22.”

“What was it like to be 22?” my son asked me.  I had to think, after all that was 28 years ago.
“Well,” I said, as I struggled with my memory, “overall, it was great to be young and beautiful but it wasn’t so great to have no money all the time.”
“You’re still young and beautiful, Mommy!” decried my son.  My first reaction was to say what I would say if I were among friends, “Come on, I am none of those things, nor does it matter to me because I now have everything I ever wanted back in those days.”  But I stopped myself.  I had to think about how my son saw me.
I wonder if anyone else remembers that children’s book from years ago.  A little boy gets lost in a department store and when the store personnel ask him what his mother looks like, he tells them “my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.”  The store clerks bring over all manner of physically beautiful women only to be told time after time by the little boy that none of these women are his mother.  Finally, a plain and sturdy woman comes over and the boy throws his arms around her neck and exclaims, “that’s my mother!  See, I told you she was the most beautiful woman in the world!”
And so, if our kids see us moms as Beautiful, and their Dad as heroic and strong; and their grandparents as the wisest people in the world -- really, who are we to burst their little cocoon of Happiness?
So instead of telling my son he needed glasses, or he should have seen me 30 years ago, or 20 pounds ago, or before wrinkles and crows feet; I simply smiled at my loving, trusting boy -- which gave me even more wrinkles and crows feet -- and simply said, “Thank you, my boy.”  
Life can be so full of simple pleasures, if we just open our hearts to them!
Have a great day, everyone and, as always Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo (Photo from 2004, Mrs. Lo and Baby Michael)

Friday, April 8, 2016

200 Miles to Dance with My Son

This past winter, I drove over 200 miles a week to take Salsa class and Bachata class with my 15-year-old son.  “You’re crazy!” said one friend lovingly.  “You’re paying so much money for gas!,” said an acquaintance.  “It’s too much for both of you,” worried my family members.  But they didn’t know what I know:

That every moment spent in the car with your teenage son is precious, because soon they won’t need Mom to drive;
That every moment spent dancing with your son is worth 7 years in Mom Life;
That it truly seems like just yesterday I was singing and dancing with my son in Music and Me Class, and my whole week revolved around those two morning classes;
That Christian used to be an Irish step dancer in 3rd grade, ever so briefly, and I always knew he had a gift for dancing;
That dancing nourishes the soul, and dancing with you son is simply priceless;
That my father and my mother’s ancestors came to this great nation so that every generation could do successively better; and every generation has; and that while my husband and I raised our sons to be equipped to go away to college and succeed;  I had no idea I would start crying every time a brochure from a college comes in the mail;
That there are only 121 Saturdays before Christian leaves for college and I would have driven 500 miles to dance with him;
So yes, all winter, every Monday and Tuesday night, I drove 40 miles  from Newburgh to Ramsey, NJ where my son had indoor rowing practice; then 41 miles to Elements of Style Dance Studio in Middletown NY for Salsa Class; then 23 miles to get back home.  He is a very good dancer and I was bursting with pride each class.
But then again, that’s how we moms are.  We are so proud of every little accomplishment.  Remember when your kid finally learned to tie their shoes?!  Admit it, you secretly thought your child was a genius -- all moms think that, it’s OK.
It’s a wonderful thing going to dance class with your teenage son.  Everyone else saw a handsome young man, a prep school student-athlete.  Who was a great dancer.  But not me.  I was half seeing us dance, and I was half remembering all those many moments in Music and Me when we sat in a circle and sang and danced and played.  And now look at my Boy.  
We are on hiatus for now due to my son’s hellacious varsity spring crew schedule.  But we hope to return after spring crew is over.  And I will again be happy to drive 200 miles to dance with my son.
Have a great day everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo

Friday, April 1, 2016

Orion LoBiondo, the Blogger Dog: Welcome to Spring 2016!

ORION, THE BLOGGER DOG - Hellooooo Humans!  It’s me, Orion LoBiondo, the only 4-legged member of the LoBiondo Family.  As you know, my mom (you guys know her as “Mrs. Lo”) only lets me blog at the beginning of every season.  Well, guess what, Mom?  That’s right, it’s SPRING, so it’s my turn to blog this week!  Spring is my very favorite season, along with Summer, Winter and Fall.  More than anything else, I really enjoy my spring sports:  tennis and swimming.

I don’t wanna brag but I happen to be one RAD tennis player!  What?  No, Mom, please this is my blog, you get to do your own blog every week, let me do it my way.  Sooooo, my Mom says I am not really a tennis player because I don’t use a RACK-it, whatever that is.  Who would want to use that stupid thing when the pure joy of tennis is running as fast as I can, leaping in the air and catching the tennis ball in my mouth when my brothers throw it to me!  Tennis balls oh boy oh boy oh boy!!  I am so excited thinking about it I am starting to drool!  Literally!!  I WILL clean it up, Mom, chillax.  
Anyway, my brothers have started throwing the tennis ball to me already and I must say I have not lost my touch.  No matter how far they throw it or how high I pretty much always catch that tennis ball.  Who invented this game anyway, it’s the best?!  
There’s only one thing that makes me happier than playing tennis and that is swimming!  I love it when we go to our favorite (NAME DELETED) and I jump in the (ALSO DELETED) and swim out as far as I …. Um, Mom, why are you deleting stuff from my Blog?!  What do you mean I’m not really supposed to be swimming in there, all the dogs do it!  Well, that’s a stupid rule.  And you and Poppa are lawyers, you should change that rule.
So I would like a new rule:  dogs who are really good swimmers should be able to go swimming in any watering hole that we want!!  Get to work on that, Mom and Poppa.  (Humans, I don’t know what kind of law they are doing all day long but if they are not making the world a more fun place for dogs, they are probably just wasting their time.)  But I digress …
The absolute BESTest of the Bestiest is when we combine swimming AND tennis!  We go to the (DELETED BY MY LAWYER MOM), my family gets their fishing poles out, and then they throw the tennis ball into the water and I swim out and fetch it.  Did I just use the words tennis ball, swim, and fetch in the same sentence?!  Drooling all over Mom’s rug again, sorry, Mom!  You can use my allowance to buy more paper towels.
So I am starting to be a teenager, I’m not a little pup anymore.  In addition to being a varsity sports athlete and a great scholar (OK, I guard the backpacks on the way to school but you know, close enough), I am starting to notice the other, the um, how do I say …. OK I’ll just say it, I have a girlfriend!  (Sorry, Mom I’m just drooling a lot today).  She is sooooo beautiful and adorable with those long beagle ears and that sassy bark of hers!  Her name is Abigail and she lives up the street from me.  We face-bark each other all the time.  Nooooo we don’t use iPhones!
I go to the edge of my yard and bark up a storm and she goes to the edge of her yard and howls back at me.  It’s awesome.  We could do that all day long and all night long.  Until those vermin arrive, you know who I mean, those evil squirrels!  The bain of my existence!  You should see when Abigail’s family brings her to my house and we team up and chase the squirrels away together!  We are such a dynamic duo, we are like Batman and Robin!  What’s that?  Oh, ha ha, Mom says we are more like Grammy and Grampy.  Cuz we like to roll on our backs and smell the sweet grass the clover and gaze up at the sky!  Hey, it’s important to enjoy the time we have together, isn’t that what you always say, Mom?  Awwww, I love you too, Momma, and while you’re scratching my head can you get me behind the ears??!!
Isn’t life just grand, everyone?!  Spring is here, time to enjoy my family and my sports, and team up with Abigail to chase squirrels, Life is Good!
Signing off for now, have a great Spring, I will blog again when Summer starts!  Your friend -- Orion the Dog (Oh, and Momma says to have a great day and to Remember to Count Your Blessings!!!)
(Photo of Me guarding my brother Michael)