Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Three Things are You Thankful for Today?

Sean turned 7 last Monday.

I need to just let that sink in for a sec. Not for you. For me. I'm still kind of floored that he is SEVEN YEARS OLD.

My little big man is growing up, and I am in awe of the person he is becoming. Both he and his brother have such amazing personalities and senses of humor. They are so bright, so creative, and so good. And their capacity for empathy and kindness is just unparalleled.

Every night at bedtime we read two or three stories, and then it's lights out for a few prayers and what we call our "three things". The three things are something I picked up not long ago from some magazine--Family Fun? I don't remember. Anyway, one reader wrote in to say she enjoys a ritual with her daughter each night in which they list three things they are thankful for that day. And, the woman noted, her daughter rarely mentioned anything material or superficial.

It seemed like a good idea to me, so off we went with the idea. Most nights, Nolan says he is thankful for "toys, fresh air, and food", although some night he mixes it up with two of the three, always keeping fresh air in there. It's adorable to hear a four-year-old say, without coercion, that he is thankful for his brother or the dogs, or for playing with his friends. He often cites "our warm, cozy house" as something he is grateful for on any given day. Just beautiful.

Sean. Sean trumps us all, usually. It's not a contest, but he does have a knack for seeing the sweetness in just about everything. Tonight, my little boy who is getting so big, so fast, said, "I'm thankful for friends, for the love in my heart and the love in other people's hearts, and for this really nice day we just had."

For the love in his heart and the love in other people's hearts he is thankful.

My boys teach me everything.


Friday, January 9, 2009

My Cantankerous Guardian Angel

Are guardian angels real? I think so, in my own way. I think there is a certain element of spritual guidance and divine intervention around us at all times, and whether it's a product of the "universe" or "God" or "Krishna" or whatever you want to call it is really based on your own experience and interpretation of the ethereal plane.

As a child I would lay in the great big, blankety bed of my spunky, devout great grandmother in Massachusetts, and we would say together a prayer to our guardian angels--a prayer she taught me and that my children now recite.

"Angel of God, my Guardian dear
to whom His love permits me near,
ever this day be at my side,
to love, to light, to rule and guide."

There are variations of it, but that's the one that was taught to me by my great grandmother, who learned it when she was 4 years old in 1898. I think I'll stick with that.

Whether angels are "real" or not depends upon your definition of "angel". An angel might not necessarily descend from on high, like Clarence, the wingless guardian angel who dropped down from heaven to save George Bailey from making the mistake of killing himself--a permanent solution to temporary problems--in Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life." I have always loved Clarence, a sweet old man in a nightgown. And I especially enjoy George's comment to him when Clarence tells him that he is George's guardian angel: "Yeah? Well you look about the kind of angel I'd get."

An angel could also simply be a passerby, whose idle comment impacts your day, and sometimes your life.

I thought of this on Wednesday morning, as I scraped a thick layer of ice off my car. Scrape, scrape, scrape. I wish we had a "real" garage, I thought to myself. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Dammit, why didn't Ian do this for me? Scrape, scrape, scrape. Well, Ian didn't do it for me because he knows I'd insist on doing it myself, since I "love" being so self-reliant. And that I am. I sure hate co-dependency, and so does Ian. We're allergic to it. And that's why we're together, trying to get better at asking for a little help now and then through this life. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Still, I kinda wish he had scraped my windshield. This is just kind of a pain in the ass, and I just don't want to deal with it.

I continued on my train of thought, thinking about how I really DO insist on taking care of most things for myself, often deferring to Ian to handle stuff only when I simply have run out of options to get something done. (Or if I'm too lazy to get a step stool to reach something up in a high cabinet. But anyway...) And I remembered back to a day long ago when Sean was a year old and I was a new mom. It was a miserable winter day with a mix of really wet snow and freezing rain. I had just left Stop & Shop with Sean and a cart full of groceries. I put baby in the car, turned on the car to get it warmed up, and proceeded to put the groceries away in the trunk. As I tried to shut the trunk closed, it popped open. I tried again, and it popped open again. This went on for several minutes and for several rounds of "What the fuck?" escaping my lips.

At this point, Sean was SCREAMING for any one of the many reasons babies scream, and I was at my breaking point from an hour in the grocery store and having been up since 5 AM. I tried again, same result. The trunk wasn't over filled. Instead, the latch simply seemed to not be catching. My hair was at this point soaked. My pants were soaked. My hands were cold and I wanted to cry. I know it sounds dramatic, but that's how it felt. I was so sick and tired of having to do everything myself all the time, but I never seemed to be taking care of myself any of the time. All I wanted was the damn trunk to close so I could go home, get dry, get warm, feed the baby, and maybe feed myself and take a nap with him on the couch. My frustration must have spilled into the atmosphere all around me, for when I was on the verge of tears, an old man walked by.

"You can't close it?" he asked.

Finally! I thought. I'll get some help! "No, and I don't know why." I sounded exasperated. The rain and snow pelted my jacket, and the sound of it annoyed me, along with everything else at the moment.

"Well, make it close!" he snapped.

I was taken aback. Why was this old, cranky man speaking to me like this? I must have looked dumbfounded by his reaction, since he followed that up with, "You're that baby's mother, right?"

Sean was still screaming inside the car. "Yes," I said, indignantly. Yes I was the pathetic mother of that miserable child.

"Well you have to take care of him, don't you? So you have to take care of that. Figure it out."

And he walked away.

I gritted my teeth. Jerk. Effing jerk! Some nice old man he turned out to be. I took all my anger at him and the trunk and turned my attention back to the latch and plucked out a piece that seemed like maybe it was stuck--or maybe I was pulling out a piece of the latch that was fine and I subsequently broke it. At this point, I didn't care. It was my last shot before I drove home with an open trunk full of groceries in the rain. I ripped the piece back, sliced my fingers, and slammed the trunk. And it stuck.

Bleeding and soaked, I got into the car and applied pressure to my cut fingers with a fresh baby wipe. At some point, Sean had stopped crying. I turned around and looked at him. "Mom," he smiled, his face soaked with snot and tears.

The cranky old man was, for me, an angel that day. He didn't help me. He told me to figure out how to help myself in a situation that was far less dire than I was making it out to be. But when times became very tough in the following years, especially when I found myself alone and going through a divorce with a two year old and a four year old, a full time job and 50K in debt, I thought of that old man. I remembered his words. And even if I got a little beat-up in the process, I took care of my children, and I took care of everything else.

Thanks, old man. You're about the kind of angel I need.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Hair

Happy New Year!

I rang it in beautifully, chopping off most of my hair and painting a lot of old furniture around the house. The actual "holidays" were nice, spent with friends and family and eating way too much food. But the real beautiful moments were in-between, whether it was ice skating with the boys (oh how I love to ice skate! I had forgotten!), playing in the snow, walks with the dogs, a basque dinner with Ian, bagels with Grandma, teasing my sister on Facebook, board games with the kids, a few empowering and relieving yoga classes, cuddling with my guys during a movie, quiet moments with a book or a productive afternoon with my sewing machine...those were the moments that made my time off what I had hoped it would be: a vacation.

I'm back at my desk now, putting out many fires that have raged in my absence. (Bonus: Heide's back from maternity leave, so I get to see her every day again.) The kids are back in school, the dogs are back to sleeping on the couch all day, and there are a lot of bills I've ignored the past two weeks that really must get paid. I'm looking ahead to spring, to our wedding, to seeing which bulbs and plants made it through winter and which birds will call our yard home throughout the more verdant months.

For all of my forward-thinking, though, I've resolved this year to not "plan" quite so much. Yes, I will look forward to things. But happiness doesn't exist somewhere off in the future. That brass ring has been in my hands all along. Silly me--I didn't think to look there first.

My new year's gift to you: here's a little clip of the song I heard in my car at lunchtime, as I skidded between work and home with a load of chai tea for my first afternoon back in the office in two weeks.

All I can say about this is awww yeah: