30 Days of Thanks – Day 9 – Long Sleeve Pants

It’s tough being a mom.  Oh, you already knew that?  I did too, but I wish I had known it before I had kids.  I might have stuck with goldfish.

When I have doubts about whether I’ve done right by my girls, raised them to be the kind of people I had hoped they would be, I am grateful for long sleeve pants.

What are long sleeve pants?

When Granuaile was much younger than she is now, at the ripe old age of 7, she had a funny way of putting things.  One thing that always made me laugh – and still does – is the description of clothing.  She always got the concept of shorts and short sleeved shirts, and the long sleeved shirt thing never gave her any trouble.  But when it came to long pants, I don’t think we imparted the right information to her.  If shorts were shorts, then longs should be longs, but she knew that wasn’t right.  Somewhere, in the twisted mind of the toddler brain, long pants became long sleeved (or sleeve, as G would say it) pants, and all was right with the fashion world.

It’s days like today that I live in thanks for days like the ones where we were looking for long sleeve pants.  I am grateful for the memories of the funny, quirky things my kids did and said, because it gets me through the days where I can’t find anything funny or quirky about them.  It’s been one of those days today, so for that reason, today, I am thankful for long sleeve pants.

30 Days of Thanks – Day 8 – The Super Starbucks Lady

I may have mentioned a passing fondness for Starbucks.  Once or twice.

When we came back to Seattle after our Alaska cruise last summer, we took our “every time we’re in Seattle, we must….” visit to Pike Place Market, which includes a trip to the very first ever Starbucks store.  The Mecca.

We built up the excitement by putting off the stop at Starbucks.  We strolled through the market, bought things that we had no idea how we’d get on the plane and home, and when the anticipation was too much to stand, we headed over for our drinks.

Aaaahhhhh.

We bought a souvenir for my friend Sandi, a Starbucks manager who was watching our dogs for us.  It was the first time I think we’ve ever purchased anything but coffee, but since our last visit, we have become more frequent users of our registered Starbucks gift card, which gets us points to get free drinks.  Jim saw this card, depicting the original store, and we decided we loved it (okay, I decided I loved it) and bought it.

The card became quite a conversation piece whenever we went to a Starbucks store.  The baristas always made a comment on how neat it was, and none of them had seen one like it.  I loved that card.

Then it got lost.  I say it got lost so as not to point the finger of blame in any particular direction, especially not the one with the adorable balding, dimpled man standing in it.

We called Starbucks, who cancelled the card and called the store.  They spoke with a manager, and she offered to send one to us to replace the one we lost.  We waited weeks and weeks.  It never arrived.  Then we took the car to be detailed.  Lo and behold, there was the missing card!!

Oh, snap.

The card is cancelled.  Why no, they can’t activate it again, it’s been reported lost or stolen. No, they don’t know where the replacement one is that we never received.  We got quite a run around.

Until we finally got Nica Tovey on the phone.  She is the Super Starbucks lady who saved the day.  Faster than a speeding bullet, she got a replacement card in the mail to us, and I am now in possession of my favorite Starbucks gift card, ever.

And I am so thankful for Nica Tovey today!  I have no future trips planned to the west coast, didn’t know when I’d be able to personally pick up another one, and she was so kind and so helpful, she got one right out to me.

That is what real customer service is all about; that’s what Starbucks is all about.  And I’m thankful.

30 Days of Thanks – Day 7 – Medical Insurance

I have raised delusional children.  Alright, let’s not call them delusional.  Let’s go with stubborn.

I’m allergic to cats.  Granuaile is allergic to cats.  Brighid is allergic to cats.

Welcome to the family, Brighid’s new pet:

Okay, maybe it’s me that’s delusional, but does that look like a cat to you?  Yeah, me too.

So, as my family anticipates becoming a three kids/two dogs/one cat family, I’m thinking of the bills I’m about to incur to cover the Allegra I’m going to need.  Or Benadryl.  Or Claritin.

And then I’m grateful for the fact that any time I’ve needed medication, I’ve either had awesome insurance to cover it, or I’ve had a doctor that was kind enough to offer me medication from their supply of samples.

We have new insurance lately, and the coverage isn’t as good as what we used to have.  It’s a new beast for me to have to be aware of how much my medical care might cost.  Gone are the days of zero deductible, zero copayment, 100% coverage.  When you have it, you take it for granted.

I took what we had for granted, but I am so grateful to be able to pay medical bills.  I know that even with our new plan’s out of pocket component, we are lucky to have coverage that will protect us in an emergency.

We are so very lucky, and I am so incredibly thankful.

30 Days of Thanks – Day 5, Rutgers University

After years of taking college classes here and there while I focused on other things, like being a mom and a sarcastic pain in the arse.  I ended up with a bazillion credits, which when combined meant I’d need two more years of school before I could get a degree.  So much for the philosophy class I took in 1994 that was going to make me a better rounded person.

When Jim retired, I felt like it was time to gather my courage and head back to the classroom.  We’re really fortunate that we live in South Jersey, where we are surrounded by excellent universities and fantastic colleges, both here and in Philadelphia, so making the decision about where to go was a bit overwhelming.  It came down to a matter of convenience, and the fact that my Mom’s Taxi service was often requested by one of the children, I thought the closer I went to school, the easier the transition would be for all of us.

I picked Rutgers University in Camden, NJ with a bit of hesitation.  Camden, in case you don’t know, has ranked as the WORST city in the United States numerous times.  How was I going to go to school without stressing over the violent streets and vicious crime all over?

And then I hit Rutgers.  The campus itself is like a small oasis in the dangerous desert, insulated from the troubled city in which it thrives.  The professors are some of the most helpful I’ve ever met anywhere, all seeming to genuinely be concerned about you doing your best.  They’ve made sure I’ve felt comfortable, even in classes where I was definitely the Grandma in the group, and some have gone out of their way to see to it that I fit in among my much younger peers.

I’ve gotten awesome advice from academic advising, and the adviser I have for my major is probably the best teacher I’ve met.  Anywhere.

Rutgers has helped me find a direction, reach some goals, and I am so close to achieving what I long ago thought I’d never achieve – a bachelor’s degree – that I can’t help but be thankful for being so close to this incredible university.

I am thankful for school – and the opportunities an education provides.

30 Days of Thanks, Day 4 – Fuzzy, Warm Sweaters

We’re getting a Nor’easter this week.  I hate Nor’easters more than I hate any other type of weather boogey man.  I don’t mind wind – I own a small arsenal of hairspray.  I don’t mind rain – umbrellas seem to multiply in my closet, and I always have a ton of them.  But when you combine wind, rain, and throw in cold weather – oh, yuck.  I hate Nor’easters.

But it’s not just bad weather that makes you love a fuzzy, warm sweater.  There’s something protective about them.  You wrap yourself into your sweater, and you immediately feel like all is and always will be right with the world.

Fuzzy sweaters are sentimental.  I’m not sure why, but being wrapped in a fuzzy warm sweater brings up fuzzy warm memories of my grandparents.  My Grandpop Fee wore a sweater pretty much every day of his life, and I think when I put a sweater on, my thoughts and memories of him seem so much more vivid.  It’s like channeling my inner Grandpop.

Above all, fuzzy warm sweaters remind me of how blessed I am.  There is a roof over my head, food on my table, and warm clothes for me to dress my family in.  Especially at a time like this, when so many people are still trying to get power back, heat on, and food on the table after Hurricane Sandy, I am so thankful for fuzzy, warm sweaters.

Mother Knows Best – 30 Days of Thanks, Day 3

When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality.  It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no.  You’re going to get it anyway. – Erma Bombeck

Today, my husband posted a picture of me on Facebook that I hate.  It was taken last Christmas, up 40 pounds from my lowest post gastric bypass weight.  I wore all black, as you do when you’re trying to conceal rolls of flab, and when the pictures came back from the photographer, I realized I discovered what Jabba the Hutt would look like had they bothered to clothe him.

My husband looked for people to tell him how awesome the photo was.  He loves the picture.  But my husband, who spends 23.7 hours of his day thinking of ways to “get lucky”, isn’t the most impartial judge of how good I look.  He’s quite certain – as am I – that telling me I look like a clothed Jabba the Hutt would mean that 23.7 hours of that particular day would have been a complete waste.  But he got several people to say that yes, I did indeed look good in that picture.

Then he asked my mom.  I believe this is her exact quote, “No, it’s not a good picture!  It shows how fat she is again!  I don’t know why you would spend all that money to have surgery only to get fat.  Is it time for birthday cake?”

I kid you not.

So as we enter the 3rd day of thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mom.  What? you ask.  Someone says something like that and you are thankful?  Yeah.  I am.  Because it’s always my mom who will be honest with me.  If I ask her opinion or her advice, I’m going to get it, followed by, “But you’re going to do what you want to do anyway.”  But she is honest, and even if the words sting, they are the words I need to hear.

My mother is also an awesome grandmother.  She is so generous with my kids, she treats them all the same (although I suspect she may have a favorite), and even at their worst, she loves them as if they are at their best.

My mom has bounced back from some awful stuff.  She’s suffered tragic losses and battled life threatening illness.  But she pulls no punches, loves us with everything she is, and honestly, she’s just bad ass.

I am thankful today for my mom.  We were very lucky to get the mom we did.

Hurricane Sandi – The Things I Learned (Day 1, 30 Days of Thanks)

There are so many things I could say about the devastation this storm wrought on the east coast of the United States.  The pictures are out there if you want to browse the ‘net.  I gotta say, when I saw the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, amusements in the ocean, stores ripped to shreds, the carousel where not only my Brighid had her first ride, but my sister Megan did as well, washed away in the storm – there were tears.  I keep in my prayers the people who have to battle back from the tragedy.

But I learned a few things at my house, too.  We had minimal storm damage – just a loss of some siding.  We maintained power the whole time.  We had plenty of food, cases of water, and hot showers.  I know these things are a cherished commodity in some communities right now, and I’m grateful we had them.  But in all my preparedness, surrounded by the creature comforts (yeah, I bought big dog bones, too, for them to ride out the storm in comfort), this is what I found out, and I am SO thankful!

My kids CAN get along!  There were board games played, snacks eaten, videos watched – TOGETHER!  No one smacked anyone, no one cried, no one yelled at anyone else.  I think that’s damn good for being cooped up for four days.

I could not survive anything without my husband.  We went out a couple of times in the days leading up to the storm to pick up supplies, and we held hands, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company.  We do this every day, but to do it in the face of who knows what while working under the stress of putting enough food and supplies in for who knows how long, well, it just shows me that after 23 years together, married life really does keep getting better.

And the biggest lesson?  No matter how many packages of Oreo cookies I buy, it’s not enough.  Oreos, apparently, have some sort of evaporation properties.  In four days, four packages of Oreo cookies disappeared from this house.  Every flavor – Halloweens, peanut butters, plain old, heads and tails – it doesn’t matter, they all have the same evaporation issue.  Not one cookie crumb survived the storm, and not one child – or husband – in this house admitted to eating more than two cookies.

I think Sandi was powerful in ways the weatherman couldn’t imagine.

Day 2 – 30 Days of Thanks – A Little Dog’ll Do Ya!

I had decided we were not pet people.  Jim and I had the most amazing dog ever when we first got married, and she passed away peacefully when she was nine.  Then we hit a rough patch.  I made it my mission to only find pets that would destroy my house, terrorize my children, and cause pet behavioralists to run screaming from my home.  No, seriously.

The nail in our family pet coffin came when we realized our Irish Wolfhound, Rosie, was the reason our Irish-American baby, Granuaile, was breaking out in horrible rashes and experiencing breathing difficulties.  She had dog allergies.  The pet nazi voice loomed ominously in my head – “No dog for you!”

But kids and dogs seem to go together, and it wasn’t too long before we started looking at pets again.  In the end, we decided to bring home two dogs with good reputations for being hypo-allergenic.  Lusi, who came to us from Italy, is a smart, amazing, and eager to please Lagotto Romagnolo.  She is a one of a kind dog who will do anything you ask.

And then there’s Harper Vee Marti.  Named after (a) a character from the Wizards of Waverly Place (b) the amazing Dr. V – Nestor Veitia and (c) the famous Cuban poet/patriot, Jose Marti, she is a Havanese.  Fuzzy, compact, and a little bit aloof, there’s something special about Harper.

Harper’s special talent is knowing.  When I was recovering from my kidney failure last summer, she would sit on the arm of the chair while I slept, knowing that I needed her company.  When the kids want to put bows in her hair and dresses on her fuzzy butt, she knows not to snap or growl while little hands manipulate her into humiliation.  And when Jim has two pieces of lunch meat in his hands, she knows just which side the big piece is on, and that’s the hand she sits near.  She knows when Lusi needs someone to play with, Eilis needs someone to talk to, or Jim needs someone to laugh at.  She just knows.

I love both of our dogs.  It’s almost like we’ve hit the dog lottery not once, but twice.  I am thankful for both of them.

But I am so, so thankful for the things that Harper knows.