Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm laughing at you...not with you.

Today is a quickie - i saw this picture and laughed my ass off.

I love to laugh with my friends. I’m also not above laughing at my friends. This picture pretty much sums it up. I’ll even admit to having been in both of these positions at one time or another.

Nothing cements a friendship more than a rousing game of jackassery that is well-played. Luckily, mine were long before mobile phones so unless you can prove it, it’s all a rumor or an oft-visited story during a game of “remember when…”

I hope you have all been face down at least once….and other times pointing and laughing out loud (I’ve been known to snort at these times.) Keeps you humble….and gives you leverage for storytelling with one’s children.

Keep laughing my friends.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I blame you completely.

We learn a lot from our friends – both good and bad.  I may have picked up some questionable “gifts” from my friends – but they have also help make me the mom I am today.  

To Neiman: You have taught me that taking the high road matters, the details count, that is okay to do something for myself and that no matter how big of an jackass I may be – you’re still my friend.  You are the aunt to Mini-me that swoops in with long weekends of hugs, tickles and lots of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. You remind me to live in today. We may disagree about the importance of a good white blouse but you have taught me that the classics matter – in books, clothes, manners and sometimes in parenting.  You reassure me that following my gut – and heart – usually keeps me on the right track. Thanks for loving my little mini like she was your own.

To Geek: Holy shit you put up with a lot. More than anyone else, you put up with my parenting insecurities, frustrations, annoyances and pitfalls. Our nightly talks (yes, we talk every.single.night) keep me sane and remind that my kid is normal, that is okay that not all my friends are normal, that your family is as crazy as mine and that I need to be more patient.  You have taught me that I can probably find a better deal and that things are rarely as bad as they seem. Thanks for talking me off the ledge.

To Brenda Starr: You’ve put up with my brand of bullshit for a long time and we’ve seen each other through plenty. Watching you teaches me the difference between quality and quantity and that we are stronger than we know. I wish we lived closer so the kids could play. And, who am I kidding…so Mrs. Cleaver could cook for me, too.

To my brother and sisters: We each had a wildly different relationship with Mom but you totally get why today is tough. The story behind our cries may be different but the tears are all the same.  There are not enough word to say thanks. To Patron – just thanks and know that means everything.  You and Beach were the first ones in my corner on my path to motherhood and have never left.  To Dad’s Favorite, your relationship with the Candy Striper is astonishing and you’ve set a high bar – I can only hope I reach half that high.  To Mini-Mom, your perseverance and willingness to look deep and make things better reminds me we can all do the same.

To my mom’s group friends: Yowza, you guys remind what is important and isn’t – and not always in ways you would imagine. I’ve learned so much – you’ve made me laugh, made me think and reminded me what I do and don’t want.

To my old friends anew aka those I reconnected with on Facebook: You set quite a bar – be it for parenting or friendship or standing up for what you believe. You have each taught me to find comfort in what I’m doing right, join me in laughter when I do something stupid (it’s been known to happen) and to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I may do it more quietly than you – but I’m usually walking right beside you.

To former friends, those who just don’t talk to me anymore or those who can only be friends when the wind is blowing in a certain direction: Thanks for showing me the value of my real friends. You’ve taught me to be a better example to my own child when you show her what not to do.  You’ve taught me to instill a greater sense of decency, respect and honesty in my daughter.   Cannot overestimate the value of that lesson.

To Rona: You set the standard and for that I am grateful. You’ve taught me to embrace my heritage and understand the importance of passing it down. I can only hope that Mini-me, who shares your Hebrew name, will find as much comfort in her spirituality as you did in yours.

To my mom and Big Susan:  You each tackled motherhood from a very different playbook. This isn’t about who won that game but what I got from each of you. You taught me the value of friendship and its importance in our lives. You didn’t sit down and explain it to me. You didn’t write me letters. You showed in your actions and your devotion to one another. I’m grateful every single day for that lesson. And, for knowing how to make your brisket, chicken salad and roast chicken. 
So, if you admire me as a mother or think I'm setting my kid up for a lifetime of therapy - pat yourself on the back. I didn't do this completely on my own - I can blame you, too.  After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child…and while that may be, I say it also takes a village to make a mother. 

I wish each of you a Happy Mother’s Day. May your day be bright and poop free – except for your own, and I hope that you’re able to do that in private.

Friday, May 3, 2013

What you give is what you get

It was Mitzvah Day.  In its most simplistic terms, mitzvah is a worthy deed; a meritorious or
Shit Shoveler Extraordinaire!
charitable act.  For mini-me, it was a Sunday not spent learning her Judaica or Hebrew therefore making whatever else was on the agenda infinitely more appealing.  We had a list of activities from which to choose – helping the elderly, helping children, packing meals, keeping company….all so worthwhile. But then mini saw the words “Triple R Horse Rescue” and it was like a cartoon balloon appeared over her head with the word “YOWZA!”  Not only would her mitzvah involve horses but it was also at a ranch she was familiar with, had competed at and there was a chance she would run into another rider – or horse – that she knew.

After the Big Cut
The day before, Mini did something even braver – and way cooler. You see, Mini had hair to her waist – hair of the most extraordinary red. In a tribute and honor to Neiman, Mini-me cut off 10” of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love.  Watching the cut and the big smile on Mini’s face while Lips yielded the scissors, I wept. Big ugly tears rolled down my face – both of pride at what Mini was doing and memory of being with Neiman while we cut her hair off at the start of chemo.  I was ferklempt. People stared and I’m reasonably sure Mini was horrified. As a parent and a friend, I was overwhelmed and surprised by the emotion of it. 

Mini-me’s willingness and excitement to help others made me think about my friends and what they do.  I see my friends who doctor and nurse and know they are in it for the right reasons – despite frustrations with the business side of things.  I’ve gone to them for advice and one even stitched up Mini’s belly.  Their compassion and willingness to help heal is part of who they are – it is what they bring to their profession (and their friendships) and not what they learned in medical school.  Lips spent a long time working with cancer patients – caring for them and boosting their fragile morale. She has no medical degree but her ability to help heal a wounded spirit is miraculous.

It seems so many of my close friends are givers.  Neiman’s life is hectic – very public and busy job, new homeowner, old home seller, …who not only sits on the assorted Boards of Directors and helps guide countless community and statewide efforts, but in her new role as cancer survivor, is starting an online support/resource group so others don’t feel so alone.  Wow, a very busy mom of three who already works in the nonprofit arena volunteers at her synagogue – bolstering and building that community.    Tinkerbell is non-stop mom in motion who in her overwhelming gratitude at her child’s recovery has dedicated herself to cures for childhood cancer (her hubby does, too!!)  Runner supports those both near and far – she runs in support of and in the hope of.  Geek volunteers at Kooky’s school – she’s helped kids with homework, supervised after school care, bought and sold assorted crap and more.

Even in my family – Mini-Mom has been helping a good friend through unimaginably difficult times. She is chauffeuring, cooking, delivering. She is helping, listening and doing. She is holding a hand and in the process, helping a heart.  Dad’s Favorite has long volunteered with old folks – providing companionship and support to a sweet soul for years. When she called to tell me that this sweet soul had died, my heart hurt for Dad’s Favorite. She’s always had patience for the geriatric set and I knew she saw in that sweet soul a bit of our grandmother and our parents.  Beach was a long time volunteer with a group that was sort of the drunken stepsisters to another uber-proper group – they raised countless dollars to support local charities in need.

In addition to the amazing volunteer efforts, my friends give of themselves – to their friends. To watch Stretch, Pixie, Snow White, Brenda Starr and others support and give to one another - a kind word, a shoulder, a partner in crime or a much needed swift kick in the ass. I’ve been on the receiving end of all those things – and appreciated it more than they will ever know.  Almost nine years ago, I was seven months pregnant and moving. I was alone with no help and there was Beach. She may as well have been wearing a cape – she moved, cleaned, unpacked and put away (for more than a year I would have to call and ask where she put things.)  I never asked – she was just there.  Neiman has hopped a plane and held my hand during many of life’s challenges – turning despair into memories that garner more than one laugh.  Patron can be the voice of reason (if you know him, you may have just laughed) for all sorts of advice but when I called him because I was hemorrhaging during the early stages of my pregnancy...well, hearing his voice catch, the fear and love in his words - well, they were a far away hug during the scariest time. Time and distance couldn't get him there but he arranged for someone to come hold my hand.

So, after what turned out to be a weekend of Mitzvah’s. After Mini squealed with glee over shorter hair, after she spent hours in the hot sun happily shoveling horseshit, distributing feed and grooming. After she declared that she needed to volunteer “a lot more” I’m left in wonder.  I am surrounded by both family and friends who have a boundless sense of generosity.

As someone who has spent the better part of her professional years in the non-profit world, I understand the value of those who give. For years, what kept me working – and serving on the board of another non-profit – was being surrounded by the generosity of those who gave and the determination and gratitude of those who received. There really is nothing like working in that kind of environment and I miss it.

Today, my friends may not all know each other. In fact, many have never met. But what they have in common is that they give of themselves. They call, they post, they pledge.  They donate, volunteer or organize. They hop on a bandwagon, shout from a soapbox and “share.”  They show up, hold a hand and lend an ear. So, just when I think I miss being surrounded by those who give….I only have to look at Mini…and my friends. And, I still wonder – how lucky I am to be surrounded by such generosity.