Ode to Mom

My Mom at around my age.

Today is my beautiful Mom’s 63rd Birthday. (Sorry Mom!)

I look up to a lot of people in my life.  I am very blessed to have a lot of positive influences around me, a lot of family and friends who are truly fantastic people.  Those who are still with us, and those who have passed on.

Of all those people, there is no one that comes close to this woman.  I have never met anyone so willing to give, give, give.

Growing up, my parents owned a business.  I remember being young and looking back, I know that they were financially strapped.  Obviously as a child, I never knew about any of this, as this is not the type of thing you typically burden your child with if you can help it.  As time went on, I got older, the business went through some really prosperous years, and our lifestyle reflected that.  One thing I can say about both of my parents is that when they had it – they gave.  They were always so generous with people and not in such a way that made you feel uncomfortable, they were just generous.  If you saw something you liked, don’t mention it in front of them, or within a very short amount of time, you would find it within your possession.

Christmas growing up was really quite the thing in my house.  Everyone was spoiled rotten.  We would all sit around with mountains of gifts – all completely thought out and hunted down and purchased by Mom.  Nothing gave her more pleasure to sit and watch her family open the gifts that she had so obviously thought about and stressed over, wanting to make Christmas perfect for everyone.  Especially me.  I’m her only child and I used to sit there forever, opening gift after gift.  Totally spoiled.

So there is a reason for telling you all this.  About 6 years ago, when the economy started to get really bad, things were pretty tough at work.  A very high stress situation all around, and things were not good.  Luckily, someone came in and bought the business, meaning that everyone that was working could still keep their jobs.  After this, obviously my parents didn’t have the steady working income coming in anymore.  There are investments, and pensions, but my Mom was definitely not able to be as flush as she once was.  We even decided for a few years running to forget gifts at Christmas altogether, just to concentrate on the dinner, the holiday, and being together.

So here’s the thing, and this is a real tribute to her:  I thought this was a great idea.  Me, who had basically been spoiled since birth not only at Christmas, but all year long, didn’t give a rat’s behind about whether or not I opened a single gift at Christmas.  As long as I had my family around me, and everyone was healthy, and we had a tree, and lots of food, and each other, I was good.  So obviously, throughout all the gift giving, the true message of Christmas got through, the true meaning of the season was more important than all that commercial stuff.  That I thank her for more than anything, and hope to be able to pass on to my son.

Nicholas with Grandma at Christmas.

She still gives like crazy.  If I need something, help with anything, she is the first person I call.  She is an amazing Grandmother and our primary caregiver for Nicholas.  If I need to paint a room, she is there with her ladder and brushes.  If I need decorating advice, she is the one.  If I need help organizing or cleaning anything, she is my go-to girl.  She is the most clean and organized person I know, bar none. Most importantly, if I need a friend, advice, or just someone to vent to, tell my dreams to and my fears, she is always there, no questions, no judgments, just 100% love and support.  You can’t ask for much more than that.  But if you did, she’d find a way to give it.

I’m not the only one that has benefited from her giving.  I can think of several people who would line up to say that she has helped them in one way or another.  Moving, tearing down or putting up wallpaper, painting a room, or several rooms.  Caring for sick family members during tough times, from making me chicken noodle soup when I’ve got a cold to really caring for someone who is palliative.  Sending a card or present at just the right time, saying just the right thing when you need it most.  She really has a gift for knowing what to do to make a difficult time a little easier.  When she loves you, she loves you.  She loves fully, and without restrictions.  And if she loves you, she will do anything for you.  Heck, if she LIKES you she’ll go above and beyond.  That’s just the person she is.

So today, as I do every day, I thank God for my Mom.  I know I’m not alone in thinking that she is truly an amazing person, and I am so lucky to have her.  I can only hope that someday people look at me with half the respect they feel for her.  It’s a lot to live up to, but I know she’s there, steering me gently in the right direction.

I love you Mom, and Happy Birthday! – here’s to another 60 years!  Okay, I know that makes you 123 years old.  That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Counting our Blessings

There are lots of things that suck in life.  We have all kinds of problems that we have to deal with on a daily basis.  Sometimes we just don’t have enough money to stretch to cover those bills in a month.  Sometimes we have just enough for the bills, but groceries?? No way.

We had a rough year when I was on maternity leave.  Living on one and a half incomes is tough.  After I went back to work, we decided it was time for Joe to go back to school to make something of himself.  We had barely caught our breath financially, and all of a sudden he was a full time student and we were back to one and a half incomes again.

Times were tough.  We did the things that many people do to get by, roll change to buy food, thaw out and eat chicken skewers and pigs in blankets found in the bottom of the deep freeze.  As long as our kid was fed, clothed, warm, and happy, we didn’t care too much.  Though it was pretty stressful at times.

We still have those months where things get tight.  A dollar just doesn’t go as far as a dollar used to.

It’s so easy in life to feel sorry for ourselves.  I mean, of course, we’re the worst off out of everyone we know…right?  Well, maybe not.  Being sorry for yourself doesn’t take any effort.  It’s an easy pattern to slip into and a hard one to get out of if things continuously keep screwing up.

It’s easy for me as I sit there, miserable at the kitchen table, looking across at my equally miserable husband, as we both eye  the last pig in a blanket, being courteous to each other by saying “no, you take it!” meanwhile ready to fight to the death over it-  to feel sorry for myself.  And I do.  But then I try to take stock of my life and count my blessings.

I look down on the kitchen floor, and in his exersaucer at the time, was my little guy, smiling up at me with a tooth or two in his mouth.  Healthy and thriving.  I look across at my miserable meat and potatoes husband, and thank my lucky stars that if I have to be in this with anybody, it’s him.

Even as things even out a bit, as I said, there are still months when things get tight.  An unexpected car or house repair has to be made.  A ton of Birthday parties to go to in one month, and something to take to each one.  Having to go here or there or everywhere, with gas prices going through the roof.  It takes a bit of juggling sometimes to be able to handle everything and still be able to have an extra or two here or there.  To be able to go out to dinner together or see a movie.  To buy a paperback (or six) that I’ve been wanting.  Sometimes it’s very frustrating.  We lie in bed and talk about things and what needs to be paid.

It’s times like this where it is very important to be aware of your blessings and be thankful for each one.  I think of the little boy sleeping in the room across the hall.  He is happy, and healthy.  I look at the man there in the bed being frustrated with me.  He’s my best friend.  He also works hard and does everything he can to support his family.  He’s healthy and is able to work.  I have a healthy and supportive family.  My parents are well, and are so supportive of us and so willing to help however they can.

We all have our things in life to deal with.  I remember when I was little and sitting in church, the priest was saying his homily.  I have heard a very large number of homilies in my lifetime, and though I’m sure there was a message in each one, this one has stayed with me throughout my life since.  It was basically a story about how we all have to carry crosses in life.  One man went to God and begged him to be relieved of his cross.  God agreed, saying that he could throw his cross into a pile with all the other crosses in the world and pick out another one to carry.  After throwing his cross onto the pile, he started trying to look for one that he would rather carry.  To make a long story short, after examining all the other crosses that others were carrying, he decided to pick up his own cross and carry it again.

Moral of the story:  no matter how bad you think you’ve got it, there’s always someone that has got it worse.  Is your kid driving you crazy because he is running around the house when all you want to do is relax for a minute after work?  At least he has the energy and is able to run.  Is your spouse driving you crazy because….well, there are tons of reasons why they could be driving you crazy.  Ask the person who just lost their spouse to an accident or illness what they would give to have that person there to drive them crazy again.  Is your boss a pain in the butt?  Think about the unemployment rate.   Worried about living on one and a half incomes? What about just one?  Or just half?

So I guess that’s it.  Find your blessings.  They are there.  Count them and cherish them.  Even when it seems like there are none, there are some.  Sometimes they are in disguise, but they are there.  Don’t take them for granted.