Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mea Culpa, Mom

My mom has always told me, "Kids take their moms for granted."

She's never stated this in a discouraged or disappointed way; it's more matter-of-fact, as in: "this is how it is and not only am I OK with it, I'll also never complain about it." And she never does.

Because that's the type of person she is.

My sister and I can emotionally throw-up all over her and my mom will be there, holding the space and offering empathy. We can toss just about anything at her - and we have.

Because that's the type of person she is.

My mom can babysit for hours on end and never once turn on the television or resort to the Nintendo player. Instead, she'll bust out every crafty thing imaginable and have Ben collecting leaves and rocks. She's better at getting Ben to do homework than I am and she's quick to volunteer to drive across town to retrieve him from school so that I can have a little downtime at home.

Because that's the type of person she is.

Our dog is forever bonded to my mom because she is the one who walks her every day. She also dog sits when I'm gone overnight and I so don't deserve this but she also treats the dog's ears and picks up the dog poop.

Really. Because that's the type of person she is.

On Friday mornings, I usually hear the garbage trucks rumble by and sit straight up in bed, panicked. Then, I remember that I have no reason to panic because my mom always drags the cans to the curb on Thursday nights.

Yes, she does. She really does.

When I optimistically plant a garden in the Spring months, my mom is the one who waters the whole project all summer. I also catch her vacuuming on occasion and she has a real penchant for Cloroxing my sinks. And if you ever have a moth problem in your kitchen, my mom's your girl. She knocked out a whole colony for me. Twice. It was pretty remarkable.

Because that's the type of person she is.

I get headaches. A lot. My mom brings over medicine, she cares for Ben, she makes food. Last month, when I missed the school holiday performance, my mom took the treats I had made to the classroom and stayed for the show - in my place.

Because that's the type of person she is.

A busy month like December means that there is constant movement and quite a bit of chaos in the background. Ben needed to be watched when I rushed off to my birthday dinner. He wanted constant entertainment on cold weekend days when I had stacks of cards to address and piles of gifts to wrap. The Christmas tree would still be standing in my front window had my mom not stepped in, with Ben's assistance, and dismantled the whole thing while I closed the books on my business for the year.

Because that's the type of person she is.

I should have done a little shout-out to my mom in the previous post because most of December would not have been possible without her. Right up until the last day of the year, when she came over to help with Ben before she volunteered at a homeless dinner, her presence gave me just a few short hours to begin the conversion of a new invoicing system.

In the midst of my divorce, I never would have imagined the crushing responsibilities associated with maintaining an older home, running a small, service-oriented business, carting a child to and from an out-of-the-way school and still carving out time for everyone to have a good meal, clean clothes and a little fun once in a while. The daily tasks are still daunting and only do-able with the extra set of hands that belong to my mother. She is, indeed, the backbone of this whole operation.

So, I'll say it now and I'll keep it simple:

You rock, Mom. You really do. I couldn't do all that I do without you. It just wouldn't work. I may always take you for granted, a little, but I'll always appreciate you - more than you'll ever know.

Thank you for being the village that we desperately need. You do it so very well.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blessed January

Hello, New Year's Day. You have no idea how glad I am to see you. Not that the last two weeks weren't brilliantly fun, but I am toast. Supremely exhausted. Genuinely and positively wasted.

You did this to me, December.

All fatigue aside for a moment, I want to re-cap the last two weeks of the year because they were, despite all the chaos, perhaps the greatest two weeks ever.

In the middle of the month, my girlfriends threw their annual birthday dinner party for me. I am wickedly lucky - I know - to have a group of lovely, lovely friends who plan this for me especially during the busy month of December. The food is always yummy, the wine is great and they bring extremely thoughtful gifts. Having spent my entire life with a birthday that's completely overshadowed by Christmas, I'm always moved by the generosity of my girlfriends. I'll say it again: I am oh-so-very lucky!

The weekend before Christmas, I celebrated a high school friend's 40th birthday at a winery in Livermore. We played bocce ball, drank wine and lamented the fact that we're all "on deck" for the 40 club. My childhood girlfriend came with me and we took an entire day to shop in Pleasanton, while my dad and stepmom took care of Ben. It was a great time.

The week before Christmas started with opening a big Nordstrom box containing the Uggs that I wanted. They are even better in person. I still don't feel deserving of such a great gift.
Following the Uggs was a deluge (really!) of sweet gifts from my clients. I never, ever expect presents from any of my clients and when they come bearing gifts at this time of the year, I'm always taken completely aback at their generosity. The gifts ranged from a massage certificate to a Costco sized bottle of really good vodka. Did my holiday stress really show that much?? What always touches me is the gifts that come for Ben. (Those do not include the vodka! Or the masssage, for that matter).

I started my vacation mid-week with Ben which made for uninterrupted reading, drawing and movie time. The morning of Christmas Eve was perhaps the best day with hours of pajama time, opening a few client gifts and enjoying the anticipation of Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, we went to Mass with friends (their child was singing in the service) and then had dinner at their home. Ben set a new record among the kids by wolfing down two whole burgers (buns and all) and asking for more. God help me when we get to age 10. What's next? Three burgers??

Late on Christmas Eve, Ben set out chocolate chips for Santa and I worked hard to draft a letter "from" Santa, explaining the issue of traveling on Christmas morning and the whereabouts of our gifts. The letter, I have to say, was quite good. All bases were covered.

Early Christmas morning, Ben awoke to chocolate chips scattered all over the living room, his letter from Santa and two gifts to open. He read the letter carefully - eyes widening with every word - and he bought it all: hook, line and sinker. Even the part about Molly eating most of the chocolate chips. We then set off for Palm Springs.

One airport shuttle, one ride on the (very full) airplane, one trek in the rental van (with a few tears from the backseat) and six hours later, we were, at last, in sunny Palm Springs.

We were joined the next day by my brother, my sister, her husband and his mother. I hardly ever get to see my brother. He lives in Orange County and I adore him.

In just a few short days, we managed to go to Christmas services, shop, walk the desert, go up the tram - hike a bit - and then come down, shop some more, celebrate my birthday, dip into the cookies - the cake - the wine - the chocolates - the vodka, drive to Joshua Tree National Park for a hike, open gifts, shop again, open more gifts, and return to the site of my first "legal drink with my dad: the Marriott.

I also opened my second pair of Uggs. Thank you, Alisa!!

The addition of my sister's mother-in-law was seamless and welcomed. She took care of Ben in the early morning hours so that I could sleep in, she cooked my birthday dinner and she told us how much she loved our family. We rode back to the airport, wedged into the back of my sister's Acura. The entire way, Ben leaned into her. When we arrived home, Ben asked me to guess who is new favorite person was. I didn't have to; I already knew that she had won him over and vice versa. We love you, I. You are our family. Please come again.

It was indeed a great trip, thanks to my Dad and to my stepmom and to everyone who made the long journey to the desert. The best birthday celebration ever. In retrospect, I think that everyone should be lucky enough to have a 40th birthday celebration like mine. I will always treasure the memories from my 40th. Thank you again, Dad. Let's go back to the Marriott in another 10. In the meantime, we have your now infamous birthday comment about getting the dog's "claws trimmed" or as you said it: "the dog needs her traws climmed!"

Ben and I ended our month, and our year together with my stepmom and her family. We were invited, or we invited ourselves - not sure which - to their home in North Sacramento for a traditional New Year's dinner of posole. Posole is a stew that cooks for hours. It is a basic, yet very core part of Hispanic celebrations. We enjoyed the company of my stepmom's extremely gracious family and we were home by 10pm and asleep by 10:30pm.

At midnight, I woke up to what sounded like the entire neighborhood setting off every explosive imaginable, but I'm sure it was all contained in my neighbor's - the Griwalds - yard. To my own surprise, I was supremely pissed off at the racket.

I really must be old.

Lastly, I have dozens of photo files to upload and download and unload. Our time in Palm Springs was well documented by everyone but me and I'm anxious to share the images from our trip.

But first, I need a nap.

Happy New Year!