Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Regrets....I've had a few....

‘Tis the season…..for stress and regret. Ugh – I have had a really hard time finding the holiday spirit this year and that just isn’t like me.  I regret to say that I haven’t been a very good friend of late.  I was not only short (way too often) with mini-me but I was unavailable to my friends – both physically and emotionally. Partly by circumstance and partly by choice.  The circumstance was work, work and more work.  Crazy days – including weekends - (and unfortunately every.single.night) at the office have made it so hard for me to commit or even step away and relax with my friends.  The choice was that an exhausted and stressed me is not fun to be around – I simply don’t have the energy and my snark level was at an all time high. It really was best for everyone involved that I was hermit-like.

Unfortunately, these crazy times came at a price.  I missed celebrating T’s birthday in our usual manner – and what is worse is that I’ve just remember that I forgot. So….she will ring in her new year with what should have been admired in November.  Luckily, she knows I’m not a total jackass all the time and she will forgive me.  This is just one more reason she is my Big Susan.

But it was during these long days and nights of work that my thoughts turned to those that I truly miss during the holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need a stressful time to miss these folks – but in times of extreme stress and when emotions are running high, their absence seems to fill a larger part of my heart.

My mom really loved the holidays. She decorated the house, she hostessed, she wrapped and she received (man, did she love to receive).  She loved knowing she would have a full house.  I remember walks through her neighborhood after dinner – her area had the best light displays – and we all went. The grown kids, the little kids – it didn’t matter.  I really miss my mom during the holiday season. I wanted her there to taste the stuffing and tell me what it needed (or what it didn’t need ‘cause she wouldn’t hold back.)  I wanted her there to drive around and admire the lights. She “oohd” and “ahhh’d” more than anyone else.  She loved to hear what all my friends were up to and tell me about hers.  I wanted her to watch mini-me light the menorah and stammer through the prayer with a giggle.

My dad loved the cold weather during this time of year. He only brought out the super heavy coat if it was in single digits.  We had an annual tradition for the ten years I lived near him as an adult.  He would miraculously have a trunk-full of coats, sweaters, mufflers, gloves and blankets that he no longer needed. We would drive down 14th Street in DC and he would randomly pull over and pass out warm clothes and blankets to homeless men.  He shook their hands, he wished them better times ahead, he talked with them. For a man driven by money and tax write-offs, this amazing act overwhelmed me. Under his often bawdy (and wildly inappropriate) exterior, he was a kind man who truly knew how lucky he had been in his life.  I just shared this story with one of my sisters – she had no idea.  I miss doing this with my dad and wish we could do it one more time – bringing mini-me along to show her some true holiday spirit.  I’ve not talked much about my dad in here and I should.  He was a loyal friend and though he knew a ton of people, he truly cherished those he called friend.

I miss Rona during the holidays. She never understood my family celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas but she never criticized. It was just there.  But, she loved to make holiday treats and she made the most wicked caramel brownies ever. They were a major pain in the ass to make but she did it every year. And, every year she bitched about it but did so while laughing.  And we should shop together – people watching, laughing, lunching.

It’s so easy to talk about those I miss that are gone – their absence is real and I can do nothing about it.  But, I have also missed my friends that I have simply not had or made time to see.  My mom posse lives on my street and around the corner – they have seen my harried self and shared a glass of wine or three.  But seeing many of my other friends takes effort that I simply could not put forth.  There is my regret.  That taking time to see my friends should not be a luxury.  That perhaps a quick coffee or visit with one of my amazing friends would have eased my stress and made this overwhelming time a tad bit easier.  But, as I’ve said before, I really suck at sharing.

A friend recently said that she doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions – she makes goals. I like that better – seems more attainable. So, my New Year’s goal is to make time with friends a necessity before regret turns to longing I can do nothing about.

May your New Year bring you no regrets.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reunited and it feels so good

Every December, mini-me gets to reconnect with her oldest friend. Her oldest friend happens to be the daughter of my Big Susan, M.  I know that M and I will always be friends. Parenting toddlers brought us together but it’s not what keeps us friends.  We talk virtually every night, we talk about everything. We are very different.

Mini-me and her friend K are very different, too.  While we refer to both of them as our “square pegs”, they are dorks in different ways. Mini-me is very earnest in her approach to things, wildly extroverted, tries to fit in but is reasonably comfortable in her own, slightly nerdy skin.  K is a quieter sort, amazingly observant of all that is going on around her, cautious of what she doesn’t know, a techno-geek (like her mom) and the most stubborn person I’ve ever met – children and adults included.

I don’t know if they will be Big Susan to one another – time will tell.  I do know that mini-me relishes their visits. She equates sadness with missing people who aren’t around her, including K.  Mini-me loves to talk on the phone (a fabulous trait she inherited from moi) but K doesn’t share that appreciation so their conversations are pretty one-sided and short. But mini-me tries.

Dork Pile
Their initial reconnection is exactly the same every time. Mini-me is wildly excited, flailing about and needing to hug and squeeze K – girl squeals are often involved. K is excited, too – I can see it in her face but her approach is more cautious. She has to be sure that this is indeed, her old friend. Once confirmed, her face lights up, she laughs and joins the squealing. Laughter ensues and they begin to find their place beside each other again.

M and I often wonder if they will forget one another or be unable to relate because they only see each other twice a year.  The chaos of holiday visits doesn’t always lend itself to the kind of reconnection that we believe friends need. 

When they were wee ones, they liked the same things – fairies, the toy kitchen, princesses, Dora.  But as they have grown and their personalities develop (oh, they are so far from being fully formed) they have developed distinct and different interests.  Mini-me remains devoted to horses and was thrilled that K got to see her ride.  K is way more technologically advanced and was able to show mini-me lots of games on the DS.  Mini-me is more physically adventurous but it makes K curious enough to try. Sometimes.  K follows the rules better than most kids I know and while mini-me gets the rules and is pretty damn good at following them, I do recognize that she sees some as mere suggestions.

Still, the reconnection makes me a bit nervous. Will they still like each other?  Will they still be friends?  You see, I know that as life changes and our daily routine takes us in different directions we may drift away from friends. It’s not that we stop being friends – it’s just different.  And sometimes, there is a period of adjustment where you have to become comfortable with one another again. It may take just a few minutes but it’s there.  I know as an adult that I can manage this but I worry for two seven-year olds.

Asleep at Last
Clearly, I was worried for nothing. Mini-me and K laughed, shrieked, chased, hugged, whispered and loved.  Like all friendships involving 7-year old girls, it’s full of drama but I’m thrilled it’s the typical drama of good friends.  K helped mini-me light the menorah, they opened gifts, they shared a bath and despite having a trundle – they preferred to share a bed. 

Sometimes, the more things change the more they stay the same. And sometimes, that is a good thing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To the friend I will never know

A few weeks ago, I became a Helping Hooker and helped a fellow hooker in need.  As a big fan of Rants from Mommyland, I totally embraced what Kate and Lydia suggested – I sent them my name and told them that in the spirit of the season, I wanted to help a hooker and requested they match me up with one who needs a boost.

For those that know me well, you know that I’m always willing to help a friend. I’m that neighbor where you can borrow a cup of sugar, I don’t mind the kids all at my place, I never mind driving and I’m here if you need to talk. I’m also a reasonably decent person. I donate to charity, I pick up litter, we “adopted a family”, I volunteer at school, I encourage my daughter to give and we carry change around so that she can drop a few coins in cans that need filling.

But this wasn't a friend asking (or someone standing in front me with a nice smile and a bell); there was no tangible benefit for me.  There was something about just doing a good deed simply because I could that appealed to me.  I wasn't looking for kudos, thanks or letter I could give to my accountant. I just  wanted to help someone in a quiet way that caused them no embarrassment - because it's hard to look someone in the eye and say "I need help."  

As I was reading about all these helping hookers, someone said that they Googled the address of their hooker in need and was dismayed because it appeared to be finer than what she would have expected for someone requesting help.u nee  As my fellow helping hooker E pointed out, “I just didn’t want to know that.” We were doing this because we wanted to help and trust that those asking for help truly needed it.

Because deep inside, E and I – along with hundreds of other generous Helping Hookers – wanted to do something nice, something unexpected because even though we face our own challenges – we know we’re lucky and we wanted to pay it forward. Not because we bought our little Whos everything on their list or because we need a tax deductible donation.  We wanted to help friends we don’t know – moms who just want to put a single gift in a stocking so that their little Whos can still believe in the magic of this season.

I have never met the hooker I helped. I’d like to think we’d be friends if we knew each other. But if that were the case, would she really have asked me for help buying her kids gifts – much less taken the gift card had I offered it?  I will never know and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m better than okay. My heart grows when I think about what I was able to do for a friend I will never know. 

A Hooker Holiday

A hooker in need, a mom in bind
Shouted out “Yes Kate & Lydia - I need help, do you mind?”

The hooker brigade – from near and from wide
Embraced helping hookers with glee and with pride

Quickly we moved, mom hookers know no other way
Filling the mail with envelopes that  all seemed to say

"We’re all hookers together, you are not alone anymore
We get it, we know; we’ve been there before

From my hooker heart to yours; our gifts come with good cheer
Wishing all things Merry and a Happy New Year!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jackassery - It's elementary my dear, it's elementary

I have a history of behaving like a jackass. Not always my proudest moments but they happened, I was lucky enough to survive reasonably intact and life has moved forward.  I like to think I learned some lessons along the way.  Some friends have had their experiences with personal jackassery, too.  And really – some of my family have embraced jackassery like a religion.

Jackassery is learned. It takes practice.  Back in the day when kids just played outside–bikes, hide and seek, tag, a fair amount of potty mouth, trash talking and general mischief making – jackassery was honed and perfected.  In my ‘hood, we (me, L, T and the younger sisters) played “beep” on the hill which was really a handstand contest on a hill and you had to say “beep” when you landed.  Not the hardest game in town but we spent hours doing it.  It was the harmless fun that our parents saw.  The jackassery came later, when T and I would make splat candles. It involved matches, crayons and the curb.  We were in elementary school playing with fire – literally. And yes, both of us were told not to play with matches.  It was the early stages of jackassery.

I really wanted mini-me to experience that type of play and I’m lucky enough to live in a ‘hood where that can happen (minus the fire play though truth be told, I like that the fire station is only a block away). In the last couple of months, mini-me has become part of a neighborhood posse of two girls and three boys.  All are between 7 and 10 meaning that none of them are fully formed and that the potential for elementary jackassery is extremely high. 

Now, I’m told that with boys, this behavior is more the norm. Holy mother of boys behaving crazy – you ladies need to be EMT’s, engineers, mechanics and vending machines all rolled into one. Now, I know there are plenty of girls that fall into this category – I’m not being sexist – but mini-me and her girlfriends, while crazy active, imaginative, daring wild girls – are just more girly girls.

Some of the jackassery I’ve witnessed is quite elementary:

This isn't our kids. But it could be if we blink too long.
►  Boy pedaling bike with 15’ yellow nylon strap tied to back of bike; the other end tied to a skateboard pulling another boy.  Down the middle of the street. The boy on the skateboard careening into parked cars. Brotherly laughter ensues. 

►  Assorted kids get into back of wagon while token child pulls wagon as fast they can to pop curbs and watch kids fall out - on pavement, gravel - not grass.  Much laughter.  Now, to credit the girls – they are pulling as often as they are riding. 

Some show a real gift for it:

► Boy balances step stool on foot part of scooter, then stands on said stool so that he is driving the electric scooter from an elevated height all the way down the street, popping the curb into my driveway. If you think the girls were innocent in all this, you would be wrong. Totally cheering from the sidelines, egging him on and waiting their turn.  (To those of you thinking I’m completely irresponsible in letting this happen – I told him he was being a moron and made him stop. But I was secretly laughing.)

Now, the girls are not nearly as sweet as they want you to believe.

► Two boys decide they should jump in my pool because they would not be bested by 7-year old instigator telling them that the diving board really isn’t that high and she goes off it All.The.Time. The boys are ready to jump in fully clothed and the only reason mini-me didn’t was because she wanted to change into a new bikini (see, that girly-girl part.)  Now, mom of said boys likely thought I was a jackass for letting that happen but they got right out, I wrapped them in big, warm, fluffy towels and they admitted I was right, the water was too cold.  Now, c’mon, it was worth it just to hear them admit I was right. 

► I walked out front to see the girls singing – in the street – with a bucket at their feet in case cars and passerby wanted to throw money.  I’m sure cartwheels were also involved. We're afraid they liked it a little too much.

► Mini-A (the other girl in the posse) loves sidewalk chalk and I found “Party House” with an arrow pointing to my door in her handwriting. In the street. In 8’ letters.

In all honesty, these kids rock.  They are playing, running around and having fun with things that aren’t computers, television, movies or a DS.  The boy-girl thing doesn’t really come into play.  Mini-me sprawled on a sofa bed to watch The Smurfs with two of the boys last week. Mini-A  was seen yesterday standing on the foot rests of one of the boys bikes while he pedaled furiously down the street.  They are school friends, neighborhood friends. They check on one another, they watch out for one another. They helped mini-me during her first week riding the bus home – assuring me they would take care of her.  They are becoming a pack, a herd and a posse.

Like moms, like kids.  Much of the time, the mom posse and I are right there, sitting in our field chairs in my driveway, some sort of mommy juice in hand and channeling our inner trailer trash.  One of us is almost always yelling at one child or another – telling them to stop being a jackass. Then we look at each and laugh.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just one small holiday wish

It’s the season of giving and when we should think of others. Blah, blah, blah.  It’s also when I get very regular inquiries of, “So, what does mini-me want this year?” (major kudos to Aunt V, who never asks and always sends something fantabulous!)  So, while I try to instill the spirit of giving into my greedy little who mini-me, I spend just as much time asking her what she wants someone else to get her.  In fact, she looked at me last night and said she was thinking of presents to give all her friends. My head exploded and I became a Grinch with red hair, “Have you lost your wee little mind…I’m not buying holiday presents for all your friends during this season of giving.”  Gulp.

In reality, I responded by telling her that giving can mean spending time with our friends, special activities and play dates, visits with family and friends.  Giving does not have to mean the actual outlay of cash.  “But,” she responded wide-eyed, “we spent money on people we don’t even know at the giving tree and adopt-a-family.”  Double gulp followed by an explanation on helping people that may need an extra boost during the season.

But it really made me think, if money were no object, what I would buy my friends. If I could don that red suit (a more slimming version, perhaps in black?) and magically go from house to house, what I would leave under others’ trees or next to the glowing menorah?  And, really – let’s forget all about that peace on earth, goodwill towards men stuff for a minute because as amazing as that would be, you can hardly put a bow on that.

For R & V, a fabulous vacation home that I would then use as often as possible.  Because V would make sure it had every conceivable creature comfort. R would make sure it had a rockin’ entertainment system. It would come with enough remotes that R will not have to share.  Or maybe just a guest house out back so we can all come stay for the whole summer and not get on your nerves. And just for kicks…one more NYC trip with just me and V.

M would receive every new gadget or upgraded version of the product she now has as soon as it’s available along with the space to store it.  Which means, a house with more space and a yard so her mini-her can romp and play with the pooch they long for. Oh, and a couple of free "anytime" passes on Southwest so that we can visit more often.

T knows what I wish for her. But I would also throw in that fantastic Kate Spade trench coat.

I would send L for weekly massages so that she gets a break from the world she’s carrying on her shoulders. Oh, and that Mary Poppins keeps things in line at home so she can truly relax.

For my sisters I would rent out a movie theater (with a stage) so that we could watch “White Christmas” together.  As a reminder. Singing and dancing would be mandatory.

I would buy S&S four plane tickets. We would marvel at the similarities in the girls while we repeat (again and again) that those two will never be left alone together (ever) and wonder at the marvelous mind of your sweet boy.  And I wouldn’t even make S do stuff around the house. Well, not much.

To K & D, a weekend at a plush spa so that you’re not watching anyone elses children, painting anyone elses walls, or doing repairs in anyone elses house.

To my mom posse neighbors, A & J, I would give personal bartenders, lounge chairs for the driveway (so we can really channel our inner trailer trash), lots of band-aids, bikes, skateboards and scooters that repair themselves and maids to clean it all up. Oh, and the complete season of Jackass on DVD.

For my friends far away, I would send a plane to scoop you all up and bring you for a visit. We would reminisce about what was (likely some big guffaws and a few shudders in there, too) and marvel at how far we’ve come.

And finally, for my mini-me, why yes, she would get a pony. And, a shovel.

Then, if I still have the spirit of giving in me after all that – I will throw a little peace on earth around for everyone to appreciate. Hope they know it if they see it.  And I hope all my friends get what they want this holiday season.