Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birthday wishes with a side of gratitude

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and I have much to be grateful for.  My family is healthy and happy. We have a roof over our heads and food in bellies when so many do not.  We have jobs we enjoy (well, most of the time). We have amazing friends who stand by us in times good and not so good.

But, for two very special people, it’s a time of celebration. So, on this Thanksgiving I wish the original Big Susan and my Big Susan T a very happy birthday.  And, yes I find it interesting that two such amazing women were both born – 24 hours and a few decades apart but share characteristics that have changed life for my late mother and myself.

Big Susan, you have taught me much – mostly by example. Your patience, love and loyalty to those in your life is astonishing.  You have always seen the good, overlooked the bad and found the glass completely full.  I know you are recovering from the auto acrobatics.  I know the boys set up the tables and L made dessert. I know the Boston contingency likely arrived today.  I know that C & S made their way down from NYC along with all their cousins from assorted colleges and locales.  I know your house will be full of laughter and that someone will yell at some point.  I know you will have plenty if an extra 5 or 10 people showed up for dinner.  I know my mom is with you in spirit – standing beside while you cook or supervise.  I know you are surrounded by those you love and who love you. For this I am grateful.

T, though your big day was yesterday it just seems appropriate to extend a special wish to you today.  You have helped me understand what friendship truly is.  I watched my mother and Big Susan experience a friendship some only dream about and immediately understood their special bond when we became friends.

You’ve taught me to always take the high road (which is often a real struggle for me) and that classic clothes are always the best choice.  You remind me that slow and steady really can win the race and that it’s worth it to invest in a really good purse. You’re my friend despite my many shortcomings.  I know that today you are with your family - cooking, nurturing, supervising and likely playing peacemaker.  I know the cries of "Aunt Tammy" make your heart sing and watching your mom with her grandchildren,grand dog and great grandchildren warms your heart.  I don't know who will breath a bigger sigh of relief when you get home on Sunday - you or the dog.

I have many friends for whom I am grateful and I hope that they are grateful for my friendship. If they are, they should raise a glass to the original Big Susan and my mom.  They showed me the way.  

So, Happy Birthday to you fantastic broads!! Thank you - I am grateful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodbye to a friend

Today, Jillian and I said goodbye to one of her classmates and we watched while his family said goodbye to a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.  A horrible accident has torn a family apart and shaken a community.  After a service full of emotion we were each asked to write a message on a red balloon and together we would release them into the sky.  I wrote that his laughter would live on but mini-me said it better, “I will remember you in my heart.”

How do we comfort our friends experiencing the very worst life has to offer?  I signed up to take them dinner (admit it, food is comfort.)  Therapeutic and helpful for me, maybe. But looking at my friend, her small frame diminishing in grief, let me know that my homemade marinara sauce may be appreciated but offers no consolation.  Looking into her daughter’s sweet face – quite solemn when we walked in – light up a wee bit when she saw my mini-me coming to visit her made my discomfort dissipate – at least a little. We heard laughter coming from our little girls and it was like music.

As adults, we are prepared to face loss. This doesn’t make it easier – as I’ve talked about here – but we can at least attempt to intellectualize it, process it.  We may never get the answers but at least we possess the ability to try and understand what we can and resign ourselves to the part that is out of our grasp. Until it comes to the loss of children.  Parents are simply not meant to bury their children and there are no words that I can say, no matter how eloquent, that make that right or understandable.

But, how do we help a child through the loss of a friend? How do we explain what we cannot ourselves comprehend? Telling mini-me was heart-wrenching. I watched her screw up her face and the tears begin to flow as she cried out, “But, I wanted to show him my new glasses.”  You see, he wore glasses, too and she was very excited to show him her new specs. She knew he would understand. School was prepared and there were counselors for the kids but let’s face it, many weren’t comfortable talking to “professionals” and saved their hardest questions for their parents. I know mini-me had some doozies and though I reached out to my Rabbi for some answers, I found the ones she responded to best came from my heart. And, she fully accepted “I don’t know,” and “Sometimes, things happen and we just can’t understand them.”

I cannot imagine the pain my friends are going through. Though I have a great deal of empathy and sympathy, I know that I have no right to say, “I understand.”  But I want to understand. I want to help.  And I simply do not know how.

A few weeks ago when my friend and I chatted as she put away the dinner I brought and I told her I didn’t know the words to choose.  She chose “shitty” and it seems pretty accurate though not nearly horrific enough.  I asked if there was anything she needed. “A rewind button, can you get me a rewind button, please?”  Oh, I wish I could.  I can only rewind with memories and I choose to remember his laughter, his willingness to help and share, his joyful approach to life.  Mini-me says that he was “just such a nice boy” and that she has decided she will be extra kind as a way to remember him.  A short life with an amazing legacy.  Be kind.  Be kind to others, be kind to yourself. Be kind to your friends and be kind to strangers.  Be kind for Logan Patrick.
The Patrick’s are an extraordinary family facing devastating personal loss and the significant financial burden that often comes in these dire situations.  At this time of Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for all we have and what we are able to share.  Any donations are greatly appreciated. There is also an account at Wells Fargo under Patrick Family Fund.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's your type?

My friend Chrissy, over at A Lil’ Dash of Diva, and I have been talking about guest blogging for each other.  She just shared a rockin’ idea of what she wants me to guest blog about and in true friend fashion – I’m stealing it and using it here. Because, well – I suck (but at least I admit it.)  So Chrissy, this one is for you.

Generally, our circle of friends includes folks that have a high “plu” factor. This means “people like us,” because well, generally like hangs out with like.  Within that circle, there are a few stand-outs – some with a higher plu rating than others.  We’ve all got our Big Susans (at least I hope you do) and this isn’t really about that kind of friend. This is about those other friends that hold a special place in our hearts.  The kind of friends that everyone needs:

Hip friend. This is someone that is way hipper and cooler than you. In my case, this is not hard. Virtually everyone fits the bill but really – this friend is so important.  They will generally keep you from flashing the neon “dumb ass” or “dork” sign above your head.  They often do things you only wish you could do and look way cooler doing than you would ever look.

Native friend.  Someone that is native to the area where you live or has lived there long enough to know the scoop.  I moved to my ‘hood 3 years ago and not to diminish the other newcomers that I befriended but we were the blind leading the blind. It was really awesome to have friends that knew the dumps that served great food (two words: Chino Bandido), the good dentists, the back roads and the can’t miss stuff around town.

A drunk. Or someone that at least likes to throw back a drink or three. This friend is not a drink snob – boxed wine, cheap tequila or discount happy hour drinks are all just fine.  They will raise a glass, dance crazy with you, share a good drunk cry with you later on and does not need a reason.  This may not be your most reliable friend.  At one time, I had more than one of these friends in my life but these days this friend is a wee bit harder to find. Former Reformed drunks often fit this bill these days and neither of you often get beyond two drinks. Still drunks – but cheap and easy ones – with families and jobs.

The picker-upper.  This is the friend you call in despair – you had a fight with a significant other, you bounced a check to your kid’s daycare, you lost your job, you haven’t had a date in years or you need bail.  This may or may not be your Big Susan.  Note:  This may also be the same friend that will hold your hair back while you vomit drinks you sucked down with your drunk friend.

Gay friends. Politically incorrect or not, your circle of friends is just not complete without a gay friend and a lesbian friend. The former will keep your fashion in check and remind you how fabulous you are.  The latter will remind you how amazing you are (different than fabulous) and that, yes, it’s perfectly normal for your body to do that.  Either can serve as stand-in dates for virtually any occasion.  They may also be your pick up the pieces friends.  Note: And, if you’re gay – you need straight friends. Similar reasoning. Except for the fashion part.

Me and a fellow bitch frolicking
Bitch. We all really need a bitch in our lives. Now, I can be card carrying bitch (at least I can admit this about myself) so perhaps your bitch balances you out but more than likely, it’s a really kind-hearted person that just speaks your specific kind of snark. This shared perspective is so important – especially when people watching or talking about others.

A jackhole. This is different than a bitch.  This person is just really an ass.  You generally don’t confide in this person and you often need to hide them on Facebook because their comments are so wildly jackholey-ish.  But once in a while, this person’s inner human shines through and they say or do something really kind. Or funny.  Or, you just really need reminding that at least you (or your spouse) are not that bad.

Plugged-in friends. Those well-connected friends that know someone everywhere.  They are a great “go-to” resource for everything from advice to job leads to a Sangria recipe. If you’re lucky, one of these friends may also be your brother and another may be your Big Susan.

Opposites. Friends that sit on the other side of the political, religious or lifestyle fence.  Different is good and hopefully, this friend welcome questions and conversation. This friend opens your mind and teaches you that tolerance is an important trait – in ourselves and in our friends.  Besides, you cancel out each other’s vote.

The other gender. You can’t underestimate the role of this person – they give insight and understanding. And, can help you shop for a gift.

I really need all my friends so while this list is far from complete – it really does highlight a few key types that keep me humble. Some of you may recognize yourself and in some cases, you may be embarrassed.

And last but certainly not least, you all need a friend like Chrissy. She gives great ideas and doesn’t hate you for stealing them.  Visit her at A Lil’ Dash of Diva.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Say a little prayer

On behalf of friends everywhere – your bffs and your work pals, your new friends and those that know all your secrets, those nearby and those far away – say a little friendship prayer. 

Yesterday, the original Big Susan was in a car accident. She is in the hospital surrounded by her children and grandchildren. My heart hurts that I can’t be there with them – as much for them as for myself.

So, while those lucky enough to know the Big S are optimistic for a full recovery, I hope all of you remember to let your friends know how much you love them, how much they make you laugh and how much they mean to you.

Friends just make everything a little better and a little sweeter.

To all those folks that I’m lucky enough to call friend – I love you, you’re hilarious and life just wouldn’t be as much fun without you.  Thanks!

Update:  The original Big S is on the mend and we're all thrilled. She's even talking about her Thanksgiving menu!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Let's just do it AKA A grown up happy meal

Another lunch out today – yeah me!! I mean, really – YEAH for me. Two meals in two days that did not involve cutting up anyones food, a kiddie menu or me doing dishes.  This makes it a banner week despite the craziness at work and sheer exhaustion at home.

The other day, my good friend K invited me to lunch.  Now, as good of friends as K and I are  - we never do things without our kids.  We even took them to the beach together.  So, when she asked I immediately thought either something is wrong (as in I’ve pissed her off in some unforeseen way) or she has big news (like they are moving away, which BTW would send me off the way deep end.) Then, I pulled my proverbial head out of my butt and realized it was just two busy moms meeting for lunch.  Without our offspring. Lunch at one of my favorite restaurants and we both agreed that we need to do it more often. It was like a grown up happy meal minus the crappy toy. We were quite pleased with ourselves.  Note to my co-workers, I refrained from the white sangria though it was calling my name…..

Last night, I was in the mood to yak on the phone. Now, I knew my nightly call to my Big Susan M was in the very near future but we don’t talk until our mini-me’s go to bed (yes, we have a nightly ritual that involves overall catch up during which one or both of us eat, drink, yell at our pets and use the bathroom all while on the phone.)  T is on the other side of the world (literally) for another few days so I couldn’t check in with her (though wouldn’t it have been cool to say we talked while she was on the Great Wall of China??) It was too late for my sister-in-law, S, (another person who I talk to about absolutely everything and nothing) and L would be chasing down two very active little boys.  It dawned on me that I had no one to talk to.

For all the wonderful and amazing friends I have here, we rarely chat on the phone. You know – the old-fashioned catch up – talk about your day, your kids, your job, the dumb-ass behind the counter at Target or that great deal on a dress – kind of way.  Because we Facebook instead.  I see where my friends have checked in, checked out and what they are listening to. I read snippets of their day and admire their pics. But it’s just not the same as hearing a voice and just having a good chat.  As a side note, this just makes me ache to hear my mother’s voice. We talked multiple times during the day and she was just as thrilled to hear me tell her about something mini-me did as she was to hear me say, “Just driving home and wanted to check in.”

When I get together with friends, we usually have a purpose – dinner and a movie, a playdate with the kids, the pool, a birthday party or holiday gathering.  They are planned get-togethers that have a clear goal.  None of that last minute “meet ya at the mall” kind of thing where we may wander for a few – looking, mocking and maybe buying – with or without our kids. No quickie, “Wanna grab dinner? I don’t feel like cooking,” kind of nights. Oh they happen, but it’s normally just me and mini-me. 

Is this a product of having a young kid? Or, are we so scheduled that we simply can’t function without checking the calendar?  M and I managed to do this when we lived near one another but I think we’re weird different – we parent the same, have the same approach to things and our kids are used to being dragged around spending quality time with their moms and their moms friends. If either kid hears “girls!” in some random store and they immediately appear back by our sides. Doesn’t matter who yells it. Could be the woman two aisles away but our girls won’t risk it.

Lunch with K today just reminded me that an informal get together is to be relished- we just chatted (okay, yes we talked about our kids.) I know our lunch was scheduled – but it was really an email the other day just asking if I could do lunch.  I said yes, we picked a place and that was it.  No negotiating of calendars or times.  No working around birthday parties, babysitters or conference calls (okay, I'll be honest, I blocked my calendar so I wouldn't have to rush.)  Next time, I’m going to unload leave my mini-me with hers and I know her gem of a husband will monitor the frenzy so we can go wander through Home Goods, grab coffee and just catch up.  I won’t even write it on my calendar, block my calendar or schedule an "alarm" but I have no doubt I’ll remember it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not sure I could make it through a day without it...

Today is “Break Bread Wednesday” when my work friend S and I go out to lunch and refuse to talk about work (except for idle work gossip, which is like our appetizer.)  Deciding where to go is always an ordeal and today S wanted healthy so she suggested this fabulous Italian deli up the street. Delicious? Absolutely (the porchetta sandwich is to die for – I crave it.) Healthy? No so much. I point this out and her response was, “Well, they use no artificial ingredients. Isn’t that healthy?” 

And this is one the reasons we are friends.

Let’s face it – no one can really get through the day without a good rationalization (yep, paraphrasing from The Big Chill, one of the best movies ever.)  It’s that kind of “la, la, la, I don’t hear you,” that lets us enjoy something without the guilt or remorse.

I can tell you that right now, I have two shopping bags saved online. Neither contains anything frivolous – in fact, I really do need some clothes and shoes. But for some reason, I cannot hit “proceed to checkout.”  What I really need is T to tell me that she’s seen my closet and that it continues to scare the crap out of her that I really could use some flattering new stuff and that the prices really are great.  What’s funny is that it could be a tutu skirt with glitter for “mini me” and I could find 10 reason why it is necessary.

Now, overall, I'm pretty bold and confident. I really don't know why I need to rationalize doing something for myself (those are biggest rationalizations.)

Just ask my Big Susan M.  I whined, bitched and moaned about buying a house for a very long time (probably seemed like forever to M.)  But M just keep pushing, needling and cajoling me along – I was doubting myself the whole time. I think M was the least surprised when I finally forged ahead. Bless her for not saying, “I told you so.”

During my recent shopping expedition with T, I kept saying that I could not rationalize buying this and that. T just nodded and kept putting them both in the cart, finally saying they were completely unrelated items, both a great price and to just shut up – insisting I didn’t need a reason. It hurts to admit that she was right – I love them both.

Not long ago, I found the perfect lamp for my living room. I was alone so no one was around to be my crutch. I simply couldn’t rationalize spending the $65. That’s right, only $65. I wasted more on less – mostly on crap that I can’t even recall. A week later that lamp was gone and I’ve been kicking myself since.  A good rationalization would mean that lamp would have been in my living room – where it belongs!

Even my pool guy rationalizes with me.  “Just get the auto-filler already,” he sounds exasperated. “You will save by not burning out your pump during the winter months (uh, I’m not out there and don’t always remember to check the water level and then he has to deal with the aftermath) and you can always turn it off in the summer when you’re in the pool every day.”  He’s installing it next week and I’m sure he goes home and tells his wife about the dumbass around the corner.

I think that sometimes our friends give us the courage, the shove or simply the perfect rationalization to do something we wouldn’t always have the balls to do. And, this is not always bad. Sure, there are instances where I’ve been talked into that extra shot or that questionable piercing (ewwww…not there) but I can look back and see that in many instances, I was pushed by friends into doing what needed to be done or what I really wanted to do. 

So, it turns out – I can go without caffeine. I can go without privacy in the bathroom. I can go way too long without a mom’s night out.  I can go without an iPad, iPhone and any other i-device.  But, I cannot go without a rationalization.  Can you?