Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I am blessed. When it comes to friendships I am truly blessed. I have friends from every part of my life: amazing relatives who I would choose as friends even if we did not share DNA, grade school friends (with whom I have been reacquainted thanks to Facebook), high school friends (thanks to Janie), college, and then throughout to my adult life.

I am not talking about fleeting friendships. Those friends that wander into your life for a brief period due to school, office or neighborhood affiliations.  The friends I speak of love me, because of me and...well...in spite of me. They love me regardless of all my faults and failings. That unconditional love is reciprocated to each and every one of them.  Again, I am thankful and blessed.

The best example of loving me in spite of me is Maggie. We have been there for each other for the past 19 years.  Together we have lived through raising 4 children, 2 divorces, money woes, jobs or lack thereof, depression, crushes, fear, illness, death, relationships, broken hearts, endless phone calls and most of all a friendship that will endure a lifetime. If I had a penny for every minute we spoke on the phone in the past 19 years, I would be a millionaire.  Although not wealthy, I am honestly richer in spirit because of her friendship. 

We always have each other's back. After her divorce, she could not afford to pay a speeding ticket.  She was experiencing a series of bad luck and I was afraid her license would be revoked if it was not paid soon.  So, although she did not ask for assistance, I paid her ticket.  However much money the ticket was has been repaid to me 1,000,000 times over. 

Maggie is my Wing Girl. Going on a first date?  One of us is on the other end of the phone suggesting clothing options and moral support.  Final words before hanging up are always, "Call me - no matter what time!  I want to know how it all went.  Love you!"  Especially for those blind dates, the "call me no matter what time" phrase is to make sure the other did not date the next Ted Bundy. Upon driving home from said date, Wing Girl is there to find out how the date went and if there will be date #2. 

Maggie is, in fact, one of my favorite dates. Whenever possible, we go out for dinner and a movie date. We laugh a lot(!), shop, eat, drink and go to the movies. We often joke that if one of us was the opposite sex we would be married by now.  Once we went to see "Confessions of a Shopaholic".  Maggie bought drinks before the movie and I planned to buy movie tickets and popcorn.  Unbeknownst to me there was a problem with my ATM card.  Earlier that day I tried to update my GPS maps through TomTom's website which is based in the United Kingdom.  There was a problem with their website.  After three attempts to update my GPS maps I gave up and decided to update them another day.  Yet, my bank decided someone had access to my VISA check card and was trying to use it in the UK.  They shut down all access until they could reach me.  They, unfortunately, neglected one small detail.  They forgot to call me and tell me that they were freezing my account.  Now I NEVER carry cash on me.  Carrying cash is completely against my religion.  So, we get to the theatre to see (again) "Confessions of a Shopaholic" (isn't the irony priceless?) and my check card does not work...at all.  Completely and totally declined.  Payday was the day before.  I knew there was money in there.  Money comes and goes quickly with me, but it sticks around for at least a weekend.

What could we do?  We laughed.   Maggie paid.

After 10 years of debate and countless field trips to tattoo parlors looking for the perfect Meg/Alexis angel, Maggie joined me on my tattoo field trip.  We laughed at all the different tattoos.  Seriously, naked angels with vampire fangs?  Obscene butterflies?  Not sure about you, but I believe butterfly bodies should not be phallic symbols.  Tattoo parlors are a strange and crazy world.  But with the two of us we had a blast.  After my angel was permanently affixed to my shoulder, Maggie was already asking what my next one would be.  Tattoos are rather addicting.  Most likely the Chinese symbols of "To Live, To Love, To Laugh."  The problem I initially had with that question is the same problem I have now.  Where to place those symbols?  Therefore, there have not been any more tattoo field trips, nor do I have Chinese symbols permanently adhered to my body. 

Maggie May knows everything about me...and I mean everything.  (Side note to the men I have dated:  OK...she does not know everything, but she does know as much about you as your best friend knows about me.)  I cannot lie, or bluff.  She was there for every episode of my life since 1991.  The one thing I can always and only be with her is real.  No fronts, nor falseness.   Occasionally there is bravado, but when I return to earth there is always laughter, or tears, over my false bravado. 

While taking pole dancing classes a couple of years ago, I called Maggie weekly on my way home to tell her about spinning, flipping, or about how strong and powerful I felt after my 2 hour workout.  I convinced her to come to an S Factor Open House so she could see first hand what this was all about.  After entering her name in a raffle, Maggie went home with her own stripper pole to install in her 1 bedroom Rogers Park condo.

We slid the 10' pole into my SUV. It went from my windshield, over the backseat and through the hatch.  We secured the pole with bungee cords and tied a red winter scarf on to the 1'-2' of extra pole sticking out of the car.  Once we got it into her back alley, attempting to get that dang long skinny box up two floors of a winding back porch staircase to her condo was a Lucy and Ethel moment like no other.  We dodged live (yes, live) electrical wires, almost dropped it when I was scared by a squirrel (I swear it was rabid), laughed till tears were streaming down our faces.  Of course I was in heels (aren't I always?)  Can you imagine if that pole actually hit a live wire, there would have been two crispy critter women (and possibly fried rabid squirrel) and many questions why we were trying to bring a pole dancing pole up to a 1 bedroom condo.  Questions would have been raised by many.  Those that know us would have shaken their heads and said, "We are not surprised."

When Mags decided she really could not store her winnings in her living room (on the floor, along the long wall, behind the T.V., stereo and chair) any longer, I offered to store it for her in my basement.  Which required us to return down two stories of the winding back porch staircase, again almost hitting live (yes, live!) electrical wires, (no squirrel this time) again laughing like idiots as we almost fried ourselves, again into my car where we slide it from windshield to hatch, tied a red winter scarf onto the last two feet of the box, secured it with bungee cords and I drove it down Lake Shore Drive to my house.  Once there, my accomplice, Katrina, helped me bring it through the garage, into the family room, pass my mother who was sleeping on the couch, down into the sub-basement and into our storage room.  Where it stayed until Maggie donated it (just last week) to a Harley charity raising money for ovarian cancer research.  The story is legend with my friends.  To this day, when the story is told I get tears in my eyes from laughing. 

Our friendship has seen the worst of me and the best of Maggie. Maggie is never mean, so I have never seen the worst of her. I have seen her at her saddest. And I have seen her angry.  But never at her worst because I truly don't believe she has "mean" built into her genetic code.  There are very few people in the world that possess pure kind souls.  I have been fortunate to meet a handful.  Maggie May is one of them.  When faced with a situation, I quite often ask, "What would my Maggie May do?".   Or "What would Maggie May think?" 

How many friends can laugh about the fact that I threw a clipboard at her?  Yes, I did.  Really.  Sad but true.  It is still the most embarrassing moment of my life, yet Maggie laughs about it.  When the subject comes up, I generally want to hide my head in the sand.  At the time I was frustrated in my job. My ex-husband was making my life miserable. I was angry, annoyed and irritated with everyone.  Actually, I was angry, annoyed and irritated with myself, but it was easier to be angry at the world.  I hated my life.  I had always wanted a career yet I knew my career was derailed due to single-parenthood with a toddler and pre-schooler.  Any career was going to be on the back burner for a number of years.  I love my children and would go through it all again to have them in my life, but at the time I could not see the forest for the trees.  I felt stuck with little options. 

If I remember right (because honestly, I've attempted to obliterate this moment of my life out of my memory), we were making audition phone calls for the theatre.  We had a clipboard for each day of auditions and I had the one she needed.  For whatever reason, instead of handing it to her, or flipping it onto her desk (our desks were definitely within handing and flipping distance), I threw the clipboard at her.  In my brain I meant to toss it, but there was definitely more throw than toss in my actions.  I don't know why I did it.  I never wanted to hurt her.  But in a burst of anger it went flying.  Maggie, fortunately, remained unscathed, yet I still remember the look of surprise on her face.  She teases me about it.  I remain mortified.

Yet, I am blessed.

There are endless stories involving many different friends.  Each one holds a special place in my heart. 

But if a friend can forgive me and still love me unconditionally for what could have been bodily injury, I am beyond fortunate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


One of my earliest memories is about laughing. My Uncle Jim is a doctor (still practicing at 81 - God bless him!). When I was little he would visit us; chasing me around the house pretending to be a monster. He threatened to take me to live at the hospital where the nurses would take care of me. Most kids would be scared. And actually I was afraid of so many things as a child that I cannot believe I was unafraid of my uncle, or unknown nurses at an unknown hospital. Yet I remember my peals of laughter and giggles as I ran away; running just slow enough so Uncle Jim could catch me and throw me over his shoulder. I doubt I was more than 3 or 4, but that memory is etched in my brain.

I love that my kids make me laugh. We are talking full out, bust a gut, slide down the wall, can't catch my breath, afraid I am going to pee my pants, tears streaming down my face laughter. Although that kind of laughter does not occur every day, I love when it does. We laugh daily. If any of us attempted to explain why, no one would understand, but I am sure gonna try.

The laugh can be inspired by a look, a simple word, or action. The "I'm afraid I'm gonna pee my pants" laughter mentioned above was simply due to opening my daughter's bedroom door last winter to find her multitasking as usual. The room was dark except for the glow of her TV and a book light clipped to her headband so she could read and watch TV while being completely encased in blankets. (In the winter her room resembles a meat locker due to horrid windows.) I haven't a clue how she turned the pages of her book. With her nose? She must have known how silly she looked because her faced reflected the thought of being caught in the act of something extremely silly. It was the combo platter of a cold breeze hitting me in my face and the look on her face that sent me into giggles.

And, by the way, nothing is sacred and quite often irreverent. Putting dinner on the table, or dining together is generally where the laughter begins. We don't care if we have company. Join the jokes, puns and silliness. The more the merrier. Most times when we have company, we end up sitting around the dinner table (or venturing only as far as the living room) talking and laughing for hours. I love that about my family and friends.

Anyone who dines at our table holds a special place in my heart as they are about to witness my family at their most real and surreal. Few have entered this domain. No casualties reported yet because I am very careful of the guest list. There was a time when I worried as to who would share my life. Would they understand our dinner table antics are sacred to us? Would they criticize? I no longer worry because anyone I would invite over would know how to laugh, joke, join the ensuing silliness and keep up with witty repartee.

Once as I walked in the door from work, Kat was teaching Gramma how to drop it and pop it. Music was blaring and there was my daughter and mother dancing in the kitchen. Trina was encouraging Gramma to "work it". Wish I had a video camera at that moment in time, but honestly, I was laughing too hard and having too much fun watching my mom dropping and popping. The dancing was pretty good. She knows how to move. And I am fairly jealous.

Another time Trina made Adam laugh so hard (can't remember why) water spewed from his mouth. As it arched through the air and hit the floor the evening sun caught the jet stream creating a beautiful rainbow. Sunny D quite possibly came out of Trina's nose as she witnessed the rainbow. But then of course, she was all, "Do it again! That was SO cool." Yes, the source of our laughter is quite everything and nothing.

Last winter, it was just Trina, Gramma and I at the dinner table as Adam was in bed with the flu. Trina always makes me laugh, but this particular evening she was on a roll. It started out with Trina trying to convince Gramma to join a dating website for seniors. First off, my mother can't even figure out how to turn on the netbook we purchased for her, let alone attempt geriatric on-line dating. But that did not stop Katrina. She wanted Gramma to go bike riding with some senior "dude" she saw on a commercial. I suggested a pub crawl. Gramma thinks we are both nuts.

Kat then told me the senior "dude" on the bike looked like he was in his fifties. Uh...gee...thanks hon...senior dude?...you are hitting a little too close to home for this 48 year old mom...so I grounded her. She laughed at me.

We then started gossiping about seniors that were currently dating. Katrina is sure there is a senior somewhere in Gramma's circle of friends that would be a great match. Gramma is sure her only current mission in life is to live vicariously through her grandchildren. Katrina suggested Gramma raise her expectations as their lives are not interesting. We then all agreed my dating life was completely snooze inducing. Can you feel the love?

Katrina, Adam and I banter constantly. One liners fly back and forth. Sadly, if the batteries in Gramma's hearing aides are not fully juiced she misses much of the rapid fire comments flying around the table. I spend a lot of time explaining what just happened which is often lost in translation, forcing me to miss out on the latest bit of insanity.

Although Adam is not quiet, and quite funny on his own, his sister over powers him in most scenarios. He is generally the straight man playing off of her lunacy. Desi to her Lucy. One of Katrina's favorite phrases is Mother Flower when she is angry. Adam stole the phrase when crabby about something. The next thing I heard was Katrina yelling, "Mom...Adam said Flower". I don't care what Adam was angry about, her stupid comment made him forget his troubles...for a moment.

Katrina's friends are surprised how the kids and I speak to each other. Yes, I know that I am the parent and they are my children. People remind me all the time that I am not their friend, but their parent. Thanks for the news flash folks. We do know. But honestly, I LOVE my kids. We have fun. My parenting style may be different, but I think I get the job done. And no one has been arrested...yet.

I have never condoned name calling. To me that is just rude. But being siblings, the phrase Dork or Idiot flies through the air on occasion. They never name call their Gramma or I. But they often tell me I am a Geek. I happily agree and am rather proud of the moniker. So, when Trina called me a Geek one day, a friend of hers was appalled. I explained to the boy whose English paper I was proofing that I am admittedly one and I happily embrace my inner geekiness. I get giddy over algebra homework. What can I say? They repeatedly tell me that I am whacked. This poor kid said his mother would have killed him for that remark. His mother obviously had a sense of humor-ectomy.

We have a sign in the dining room that is perpetually crooked. No matter how often I try to straighten it, it tilts to the left. I've given up. The sign reads, "Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves as we will never cease to be amused." The slightly skewed sign is how I prefer to look at life. The fact that it won't hang straight on the wall is a metaphor for life. Nothing is as it seems and one can always tip a situation; finding humor behind it. Honestly we are often amused.

About 2 years ago my best friend Maggie won a pole dancing pole in a raffle at S Factor. Since her condo is not big enough to store it, I offered to keep it in our basement until she decided to either install it or sell it. It stayed in our basement unopened until she donated it to an auction raising money for ovarian cancer. But while it was still hanging out in our basement, one day while we were all dining on Chinese take out (yes, the best stories happen at our house over a meal) my mom asked what that long skinny box was in our storage room. Honestly, how could I explain a stripper pole to my 79 year old mother and why we were storing it? My response was, “It’s a pole…of sorts”. Considering Katrina was my accomplice when bringing the pole into the house, sneaking it through the garage, into the basement, passing my mother sleeping on living room couch and down the steps into the sub-basement and storage room, Katrina's shrimp fried rice flew across the room. I have never seen her laugh THAT hard. Gramma accepted the "pole of sorts" response; never questioning whether it was a light pole, coat rack, stripper pole.

Later that evening, Trina's friends, Eric and Antoine, show up to devour our Chinese take out leftovers. Katrina starts telling them about my "pole of sorts" comment to Gramma. The teens attempt to convince me to install the pole in the basement. One of the boys asked, "Ma, do you realize you would be the coolest mom at LT?" Um...yeah...and...not in this life time. I really don't care that my daughter's social standing would increase exponentially. Not the notoriety we want...or need. They did create hours of laughter discussing our house as the party palace with one of the boys attempting to mimic pole dancing with a dining room chair. The woman across the street who loves to peek out her window must have LOVED that scenario. I kept the curtains open. Heck if Gladys Kravitz is going to watch our house, she might as well have something to talk about later.

After dinner Gramma generally retreats to the family room to watch Wheel of Fortune, so our laughter gravitates upstairs. The kids generally do homework, text their friends and watch TV in their rooms. I generally sit in the middle of my bed which is my "desk", work on real estate, pay bills, or write. My door is open and they wander in and out throughout the evening. Our little area in the house is where the laughter continues. Great memories have been created wandering between our three rooms.

Sometimes I don't see what is going on in their rooms, but I hear it. The other day, Adam, while going through an Emo phase, wanted to see what he would look like with eye-liner and convinced Trina to teach him how to apply it. What I could hear from the other room was a simultaneously stream of commands and complaints, "Hold still. Open your eyes...Open them...I said hold still...Aargh!...you're swaying...stop it." Adam's version was, "Ow...I'm not swaying...Ow!...They are open" Next, I heard, "Have Mom show you!" With that Adam appeared in my room looking like a lost puppy and only half eye-lined.

Later the same night, Trina stood in my doorway bopping to music. Mind you, no Ipod or ear buds were attached. The music she was listening to was completely in her brain. As I am quite use to this behavior, I asked, "What station are we listening to today?" Techno. I could not help but laugh. Here is a girl listening to her own cranial MP3 while her pony tail swayed to the beat. A little while later, I noticed a different beat of her head as she wandered into the hallway. All I have to do is raise an eye brow, or tilt my head and she'll tell me the latest genre playing their top 40 list. It ranges from Punk, Techno, Oldies, Classic Rock, Country, etc. Once she told a friend it was Mozart. One thing for sure, my baby girl wouldn't know Mozart from Beethoven, but her comment had the intended effect of wonder.

There are endless stories of laughter and silliness. No one ever said life was going to be easy. But I honestly believe if you take what is thrown at you, find the humor in the situation and parlay it back to the universe wrapped in laughter you will live a happier existence.

Enjoy the moment.

Seize the humor.