Monday, August 29, 2011

You can't put a pricetag on sanity

Me and Eves

The other night,  I got a very pleasant surprise when Brad coordinated with my longtime babysitter and emancipator, Ginny, to appear at dinner, unbeknownst to me.  Her name is actually Jenny, but when she came into my life, my kids pronounced her name as "Ginny" with a hard "G".  Ginny and Meredith are sisters, and when Mills was just 4 months old and Hallie was two and a half, Brad told me to hire someone who could "help out" with "everything."  But, everybody with children, knows that just because you have the "go ahead" to get yourself some assistance, doesn't always mean that you know how to go about getting that assistance.

What instigated all of this was that a very close friend of mine who was feeling the same way that I was, and who had also just recently had her third child, had entered into therapy.  She was lamenting to her therapist that her sessions "cost so much" and "What was she doing?" and her therapist coolly said, "You can either spend the money on ME, or you can spend the money on childcare.  You are overextended emotionally and physically.  It is your choice.  You cannot put a price tag on sanity."

Okay, back to ME, my favorite subject.  So, I was strung out and hormonal and sleep deprived and I was getting my two young babies out of my car at the Giant Eagle, and I hadn't slept or showered in days, and I happened upon Deb, an acquaintance at the time, in the parking lot.  She had three boys who were probably the age that my kids are now (10, 7, and 4) and she asked me how I was doing and I burst into tears right there in the parking lot and exclaimed, "I just wanna play tennis this summer, and I have NO IDEA how I am supposed to do that!" given that I had just birthed yet another life that left me disheveled, irritable, and clearly over emotional.

To be clear, Deb was just being polite as she was attempting to pull out of the grocery, as I was pulling in, and she had mercy on my soul, right on the spot, and said, "I would never normally give out this number, but my kids are older and she is about to graduate high school, so why don't you call my girl, Jenny, who basically raised my kids, because you obviously need her right now more than I do."

She continued, "She has a sister, Meredith, who is going away to college in the Fall, and she can help you out, too, if you are nice to her."

It was like a modern day Cinderella Story.  But, instead of a ball and a carriage and all of that nonsense, It was a parking lot, a sitter, and a fairy godmother in a tennis dress.

Okay.  Meredith and Jenny are now and always will be, a part of the Underwood family.  I have taken vacations with the two of them on several occasions.  One, was a vacation we all took together to Chicago, right after Ginny broke up with her boyfriend, which he attended, (I know, AWKWARD, but that is FAMILY) and the other was a trip Meredith took with us, with Brad's extended family to Duck, North Carolina.
Mere, Hallie, and Mills

Ginny and Meredith visited me in the hospital when Eva was born and I was happier to see them than my own Mother, because I recognized them as my allies, and we were all in this together.  We actually consulted Ginny, before I tried to get pregnant a third time, and asked her to sign a contract that she would help us raise our yet unborn child, before we attempted to procreate. If I have not driven my point home, yet, as to how important these two people are to me, I called THEM, before I called anyone else when my dog of 12 years, Elaine, died, because I knew they would grieve like I was grieving...and they did.
Mills' Birthday Cake.  I think that is all I got her.  Jenny bought the presents, I think.

Ginny and Mere Mere (Meredith's speech impediment nick name) have attended all of the girls' birthdays, and any party or family event, including Christmases and Thanksgivings that were held at our house.  On Mills' third birthday, Eva was a few weeks old, and even though I was walking erect, I was not functioning in any productive way, other than to breastfeed,  and I remember Ginny conducting the family party, as I hovered above her in a haze, as she put candles on the cake, distributed plates and napkins, and then cleaned it all up after, because I literally had hit that wall where I was conscious, but could not really communicate with anyone.

Jenny, helping Mills open the presents she bought her, while I sat there and stared at her.

When Eva came along, and Meredith was off at Miami University, Ginny used to clean my house, and do my laundry, and take care of my three children one day and one night per week, with such ease and precision, I used to question whether I was worthy of being a Mother in the first place.

Hallie and Eva, before Eva could talk and make everyone angry.

She would always counter, "It's easy for me because I do not have to get up in the middle of the night and it is not 24 hours a day....besides I am YOUNG.  I have more ENERGY."

Ginny admitted tonight that she and Mere, Mere actually come each Christmas Day, under the guise of seeing what Santa has brought the children, only to see what Brad has gotten ME.  Hilarious.

Ginny was there, and knew beforehand, that I was getting a scratch and dent refrigerator one Christmas, while Brad blindfolded me and led me out to the curb, fully knowing that I was gunning for a new car that would comfortably hold three children, and their carpool mates.  She laughed so hard, she had to blow her nose.

I have so many family memories that include Mere and Ginny, that I don't know where they begin and we end.  What I am trying to say, is that these two virtual strangers became a part of my family and now they are gone, living their own full lives, and I miss them desperately, if I let myself wallow.

Meredith is still in Columbus, with a fantastic job, and an active social life.  (God, I sound like one of those nauseating Christmas letters.) She is successful in every sense of the word.  She bought her own house and is living the dream, as she has climbed the corporate ladder and landed herself smack dab in the middle of her "dream job" at the ripe old age of twenty- eight.  Given all of this success, Mere Mere offers to take my children on overnights at her house, and is always there for me when I am in one of my "binds," where I send her pathetic texts while she is trying to work.  My point is that she makes more money than most men her age, and she continues to accept "babysitting jobs" for me, when she clearly does not need the income, just because I need her.

Mere, helping out with the Santa photo, at the Mall.

Ginny is living in Washington, D.C., and continues to prove herself with her incredible work ethic at Hyatt Corporation, as she is given promotion after promotion in Management.  She is twenty-five.

Tonight, Ginny surprised me with Brad, by coming over unannounced with her new beau, Steven, from D.C.  He also works at the Hyatt, there.  She is "in love" and has finally found "the one".

Jenn, and her Luvvaaa.

Now, I have met and gone out with almost all of Ginny and Mere Mere's boyfriends over the years, and I have embraced each of them with an equal amount of skepticism (Who really is good enough for them that I haven't had a hand in?  Let's be honest.  Ha!) and enthusiasm.

To me, they are my trial run at being a Mother to daughters who are of the age to actually "fall in love."

They tell me that I am like a "Second Mother" to them, but then I always respond by saying, "How about older sister?" because I am too young to have actually birthed them.  Then, they laugh and retort that due to the fact that I grew up in Kentucky, "it is entirely possible."  Smartasses.  Maybe they are kin, after all.

I am not stupid, though, I always tell them, and I am totally looking toward the future, when my own girls will not confide in me (I rue the day, let me tell you.) and I am simply paying it forward until the time when they can serve as confidants with a moral compass that my girls can trust and learn from, when they feel that I am simply too "out of touch" to relate to them.

I guess what I am feeling tonight, as Brad takes Ginny and her live-in boyfriend, back to the Hyatt (because they took a cab to BW3's to surprise me and the girls.  SWEET!) is extreme gratefulness.  I am so blessed to have those two girls enter my life, when I was so raw and vulnerable.  I mean, seriously, think if it had been someone else with a penchant for kleptomania or something.  I was such a mess for so long during my child-bearing years, that someone could have loaded up my entire family room and taken it away and I wouldn't have noticed!

I have learned as much from them, as they have learned from me.  They are the Gold Standard, as far as I am concerned. I would want nothing more than for each of my children to evolve into the stellar adults they have become.  Their lives have not been without hiccups (Remember when the two of you fought in my kitchen?  Good times.  Fun cookout.), as all lives are, but the sum total of who they have become, is entirely enviable.

Ginny and I were telling her boyfriend how we became friends and not just business associates, the night that Mere was babysitting for maybe the third time and she asked me where I was going.  I was filling up my cooler for Ladies Night Tennis, and I responded, "Oh, Bible Study,"  and we broke out into a puddle of laughter.  We have been best friends ever since.  Nothing like a good lie to establish a lifelong relationship with another person, right?

Those two girls helped me to get through some of the best and the worst times of my life, and it was all because of an emotionally charged exchange in a grocery store parking lot with a person I barely knew.  You just never know when angels are going to appear.

I almost labeled this post, "You never know what you've got, until it's gone," because I am sitting here remembering how special Ginny and Mere Mere are to my family and I.  Of course, the house was a mess, and my laundry was all piled up, so I was able to send the clear message to Ginny that I cannot get along without her.  This should make me feel embarrassed and stagnant, but it doesn't, because with friends like Ginny and Mere Mere, you never have to make excuses or apologize, because they KNOW you, and they love and accept you, anyway.

My advice today, involves one of my favorite quotes, and the title of this post, "You cannot put a price tag on sanity."  If you are completely overwhelmed or just need a break, find that money in your budget, to do something to make yourself happy.  

I know that I could have gotten through that difficult period in my life, when I had young children, without Meredith and Jenny, but it would not have been nearly as enjoyable to me.  My point is that everyone's idea of regaining sanity is different.   Your idea of sanity may be to catch a movie in the middle of the day, while someone else's may be to take a long awaited vacation you can barely afford.  The long term effects of stress can be costly to your psyche and your physical health, which at some point will have financial consequences, that I promise you, will not be nearly as fun to spend your money on as a night out with your husband, or a clean house that you did not lift a finger for.

On that note, I have a wonderful cleaning person, who is looking for more work.  She is Brazilian and does an excellent job for me.  I no longer need childcare during the day because of school, but my little piece of sanity comes from Sirlys Coco, twice a month.  I am not bragging.  I have made concessions in other areas, in order to have her.  For instance, my primary bathroom, that the entire family uses, because it is the only bathtub, should be condemned. 

Please contact me if you are in the market for someone to help you with your cleaning.  I so enjoy that half an hour where my house is immaculate, between the time when Sirlys leaves and my children return home from school.  I have often thought of having an Open House or a tea, so as to give the illusion that I am the perfect homemaker, but then who am I kidding, right?  There is still the yard to give me away.  She services many friends and neighbors of mine, and is raising a child on her own.  I would love to help the two of you out.

One of my other favorite quotes is "It is all what you value," and if you value mental health, then my advice today will make sense to you.  Now, get out there and grab some sanity with both hands, because life is short, and you deserve it.

P.S. I love that I can showcase all of the pictures on my computer that I never use or organize.  It is so fulfilling.  Also, I am glad that I can use this blog to tell the people I love the most, how much they mean to me.

It SOOOOO could have gone the other way, and become a HATE BLOG, where I just elaborate on all of my pet peeves and things that annoy me on a daily basis.  Don't be disappointed, though, if this is something you are interested in.  I can turn on a dime.  Just ask my Baby Daddy. 

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