A Christmas Miracle

Having a BFF with a good memory is both blessing and curse.

You never know what people remember about you, especially if you don’t remember it yourself.

We were sitting among girlfriends over wine one evening, and she said, “Remember the time we took our boys to the Wild Animal Park?”

“Pick any year out of the last twelve…help me out here. No.”

She proceeded to tell, with gusto, a story that was not remotely flattering.

I couldn’t kick her shin under the table, so I did the next best thing: feign indifference.

It seems we had our small tykes out for a morning adventure, and she overheard a chat I had with my youngest just before we entered the gates. He had some spending money in his fist and was hopping up and down in delight at his prospects.

I stooped down and gave him some good advice: “Kid, you have some money that is very special to you. It’s important. You want to put it somewhere safe, so you don’t lose it. It’s easy to lose money when you’re busy having fun.”

I suggested some options: “If you want to, I can hold it for you in my purse. I will keep it safe for you and when you are ready to use it, I can give it to you. You can put it in your pocket, but it might fall out. If you hold it in your hand, you might want your hand for other things.”

He chose to keep it close, in his pocket.

“That’s fine,” I said, “but if you lose it, it’s lost. I won’t replace it.”

And off we went into the wilds of Africa.

“Of course he lost it,” says my BFF, sipping her chardonnay, “and here’s this poor heartbroken little boy and she wouldn’t just give him another dollar. I couldn’t believe it!”

This, people, is why I was never in the running for Mom of the Year.

It’s also why certain girlfriends aren’t going into the running for BFF of the Year.

Ahem.

Actually, I wonder if it helped her be a little stronger with her own firm parenting.

If it didn’t, and you all need more (sigh), here you go:

Money management doesn’t come easy to everyone, anymore than time management or sock drawer organization.

But they are skills our kids should grasp, preferably before the big bad world gets ahold of them.

My daughter is working and going to college and dating and basically living a busy, industrious life from a room that looks like a train wreck, but I digress.

She has a paycheck that covers both her simple needs and her silly ones, and I’m happy to support her finishing what she started, before moving out into the big bad world.

She is going to graduate debt-free which is so huge, she may have no idea until years later, just how huge that is.

Words like ‘priorities’ and ‘budget’ and ‘savings account’ get floated around fairly regularly.

I offer to tell her (and any kid who will listen, aka nobody) stories of back when I was her age, how I had no problem eating beans from a can if it meant I could make rent that month.

All the kids who aren’t listening just roll their eyes.

Fine.

But there was a wee mix-up at the bank last week in which the sudden collision of college tuition, Christmas shopping, and paycheck timing went into a tailspin, and college came skidding into home plate, leaving Christmas in the dust.

Oops.

I heard my girlfriend’s voice in my head, “And here’s this poor heartbroken little girl and she wouldn’t just give her another dollar! I couldn’t believe it!”

I heard my daughter’s voice in my head, in my texts, through my door, “I just can’t believe it!”

“I can’t buy presents for my friends!” she cried.

“Tell them the truth. I’m sure they have tight budgets, too. Make a new tradition that doesn’t involve gifts.”

“But I love them!”

“Love comes in many languages. Maybe you could write poems for them. Maybe you could bake cookies. Maybe you could clean your disaster of a room and recycle treasures to give away.”

Maybe I could just move to Siberia where all the cold-hearted mothers are sent.

And take some wine with me.

“Mom!” she explained, “just because the Grinch is your role model doesn’t mean the rest of us hate love and joy and puppies and orphans! I have a heart!”

Her look contained pity and horror.

“And re-gifting is just wrong. People want pretty little shiny new things. It’s Christmas!”

“Kid, haven’t you heard of saving the planet? Recycling is cool. Re-purposing is all the Pinterest rage. When you have things lying around ignored, give them to someone who will appreciate it. It’s the young 20-something female consumer like you who should be telling the big fat American marketers that shiny new things are overrated.”

My pouting collegiate huffed from the room, “Oh brother, I can’t wait to see what we get for Christmas this year….”

Three days later, the miracle occurred.

She gave up being rescued from her own hand-crafted fiasco and took the first step.

She started cleaning her room.

And literally found buried treasure.

Who knew there was that much pocket change in the world, scattered thoughtlessly in drifts of laundry and in the bowels of dust buffaloes under furniture?

She’s getting socks for Christmas.

Used ones.

Intention Retention

Yesterday afternoon, the Hubby finally broke down and “helped” me go over our finances.

It’s been sitting on my desk for nine months.

Time to birth the budget.

It’s a pudgy pile of paperwork that grew from a single sheet and is now looking more and more like us. And it’s colicky right from the get-go.

Money is the single most argued about item in a marriage they say.

We spent about six hours putting numbers into tiny boxes and then rearranging them until my eyes crossed. An additional two hours went into taking deep breaths and pacing around the kitchen and another hour devoted entirely to making tea and forgetting to drink it.

I simply cannot be held responsible for the things I think during labor pains.

But this morning I woke up and realized, “Hey! We tackled something! It’s not done and it’s not perfect but we stayed married!” I checked the bed to affirm that yes indeed, there was a husband in it.

I was so inspired, I decided to take a firm look at my other Resolutions and assess my progress with a critical eye.

Hmm.

There appears to be an occasional gap in my daily choices.

(If I managed to read one chapter from ten different books sitting in a pile next to my desk does it count as having “read” them?)

So I decided that today is officially “Anti Procrastination Day”.

I went early to a yoga class.

It’s been on my List for six months people.

I loved it.

I hope I go back again next Monday.

Then I drove straight over to the car wash and surrendered the taxi. It was a revolting combination of summer vacation debris mixed with teenage boy aromas, topped with a hint of campfire smoke.

While the car was detoxing, I walked across the street to Target.

‘Tar-jay’ is French for “come in for soap, leave with a new outfit and a VitaMix”.

But we have a budget now, so I stayed focussed and bought a table-top ironing board.

Because ironing is definitely on my List of Intentions and today’s The Day!

I was thinking long and hard about what I needed to address on my Resolutions List as I pushed the traffic light crosswalk button.

Waiting at the intersection, I noticed landscape rocks artistically placed along the sidewalk.

“Landscaping” has been on my List maybe ten months, since a friend offered us free rocks.

I said “yes” then and promptly forgot about the whole project.

Whoops.

I collected my car and dashed home.

Because today is the Day I Do the Things I’ve Been Putting Off.

On the kitchen counter were six rotting bananas, waiting to be turned into banana bread.

On the table was a pile of wrinkled laundry, possibly a decade out of date.

In my phone were messages from my mother (“Why haven’t you called me back? It’s been three weeks!”) three auto mechanics (“Here’s the price quote for your car alignment. When can we book you?”) my son (“Come pick me up now and by the way, I have volleyball at the gym tonight.”) and the Hubby (“We should research cell phone plans, our bill is way too high.”).

Serves me right for hauling out the budget.

No matter how much I attack that List, it expands like a hydra.

I heard the soft voice of my yoga instructor:

“Invite your breath to fill your body. Feel your heart lifting and your thoughts recede…”

I would rather invite the bananas into the trashcan and feel my income lifting so my hair stops receding.

But whatever.

 

Travel on a Tuppence

I got to the bottom of my list and had to choose between “managing my budget” and “travel more” for New Year’s Resolutions. Frankly, these two don’t coexist.

In a perfectionist quandary, I thought fast.

Naturally, I’m trying to have it all so I chose…traveling on a budget!

I am a very happy homebody. I love to be home. Give me my comfy couch any day.

If I had to choose a place worthy of getting off the couch, I would choose either England, Ireland or Italy.

If I end up choosing Italy, I’m getting on a cruise ship so I can knock about the place during the day but still have a familiar couch to crash on each night. Italy made the list because, A, everyone else got to go, B, history rocks, and C, of the movie “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn.

She rocks, too.

If I go to Ireland, I want to stay in bed and breakfast castles. I hear that the doorways are built for short people, possibly leprechauns. In a land that rains incessantly (hence the green country) you’d think that doorways would be tall in case of flooding, and everyone would live on the second story. Guess I’ll have to go find out why not.

I want to Riverdance with the locals and walk dramatically on a real live moor. I will use the Guiness, however, for beer can chicken. Don’t shoot me.

England may have to be my first stop.

If you know a chap who knows a chap who lives somewhere in England, couch crashing is the way to travel on a budget.

You’ve got to love those silly English.

I give them IQ points for having an awesome accent. I think a British accent makes even the street urchins sound like Harvard graduates, and I would instantly take their advice on matters of finance if they offered it, tuppence and all.

Sadly, I also think that you are smarter if you wear glasses. I don’t care what they look like but I assume you use them to read novels like Moby Dick and I admire your literary taste automatically. Even if all you’ve read lately is Dave Barry.

But…present them with a typical American dinner and all bets are off. Turn your back for a moment and they are spreading lime jello onto their cornbread. They thought it was mint jelly.

Ask me how I know this.

Sleep on their couch. Do not offer to cook. Head for the nearest pub.

This is another money saver, as I can feast like a queen on nothing but scones and tea.

Unfortunately, this fact presents a reality check. My head is full of romantic notions borne of reading everything from Louisa May Alcott to Charles Dickens, James Herriot to Agatha Christie.

I’m afraid of getting there and being sadly disappointed because I studied my fiction and not my travel guides. I’ll look for Sherlock Holmes in every dirty alley and Mr. Darcy marching across the meadows and Harry Potter flying across the sky and running over Mary Poppins.

Mr. Bean will be riding the Tube.

To create some balance I read the headlines on the glossy magazines super fast while I wait to pay for my groceries. You want a few facts thrown in there, just in case.

I am so excited to maybe run into Duchess Kate. I could give her baby advice and she could give me some glam wardrobe tips. I’m sure we would be besties.

Need I say more?

I’ve watched just enough Downton Abbey to tease me into wanting to leap off my couch and dash into the wild unknown.

If I dig under all the cushions first, I should have just enough change to pay for it.