Sunday, May 9, 2010
Happy Momma's Day to all my momma-readers out there! I have so much to thank my Mom for, the whole gift-of-life thing notwithstanding. Here are just a few of the lessons I've learned from my Mom:
Fearlessness pays. In 1981, my mom (who posts on this blog and on my sister's as Wilderness Gina) applied for a job as a carpenter on a hotel construction site. She needed a job, and she knew that the best-paying jobs were those being done by men. So through all the hassling and harassment (yes, she was occasionally fired for refusing some cretin's advances), my mom not only made decent money throughout the 1980s, but she held her ground in the male-dominated field of form carpentry. She even learned some crazy mad carpentry skillz that allow her to now work on her own house. I've co-opted that same fearlessness (or I've tried to anyway) while working in architecture and construction. I'm not afraid of heights (like Mom), and I'm not afraid to tell a contractor, "Ur doin it rong." I've worked hard to know what the hell I'm doing, and then swallowed the fear and spoken out when something wasn't right on a jobsite or in a set of drawings. (However, I have so far resisted the urge to remodel my condo. So far.)
Have options. Over the years, Mom has developed a wide range of talents, all of which she has been able to use for monetary gain as well as to keep her sanity. Mom's ability to visually organize and prioritize allows her to clean a room or a house in no time flat (side note: Mom, the condo is funky again; when are you flying out to attack my kitchen with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser again?). She has continually practiced her sewing talents such that her quilts, blankets, hats, and clothing are in demand around town (and in high demand by her daughters, one of whom owes her for recently making some extremely cute stuff for her--check is in the mail, Ma). Her construction skills allow her to be her own contractor, and she even developed some auto repair skills along the way. While my skills are considerably less useful (architect, writer, stand-up comic, public speaker), they still allow me to easily wear different hats at work and in my personal life.
Be independent. At one point in the early 1990s, my mom's second husband (whom we all fondly call "Shithead") left her with mounds of bills, and she had to file for bankruptcy while living in a house that didn't even have running water (to be fair, it's the house her dad grew up in, and she was restoring it to its former glory). Mom marshaled her skills and parlayed them into some sort of living--she worked at a local sewing plant, making men's suits; she cleaned a couple of churches, and she did tons of odd jobs for the farming widows in her community (one of whom was her ex-mother-in-law, my dad's mom). She had a 1977 brown Toyota Celica on which she replaced the starter and could set the points herself. I remember once that we had to pull over one pitch-black night to tweak something under the hood of that Celica, and this big Southern dude pulls up behind us, gets out, and asks my Mom while she's under the hood, "Can I hep yew with anythang, ma'am?" Mom said without missing a beat, "Yeah, hold this flashlight and hand me that wrench. Thanks." Classic. Mom.
Don't trust Whitey. Wait, no, I learned that from Samuel L. Jackson.
Take care of your self and your health. When I was ten, my Mom could still lift me out the car when I was fast asleep (and dead weight), and take me in the house and put me to bed. Even now at the age of 61, she can wriggle around under a house and install piping, drag big-ass plants around the porch, push a lawnmower across her acre-plus yard, haul bricks and cinderblocks (CMU), repair and replace the tin roofing on her house (which now has running water and TWO bathrooms!), and chase dogs and cats around. Some of the lessons I learned from her were about what not to do--take care of your teeth, if you think you have a tumor get it checked out--but overall, Mom put a lot of effort into looking good and taking care of your health so that you're left with something decent during the back nine. Just last night, I called Mom from the medicine aisle of King Soopers, describing my symptoms and asking what I should be taking. Mom told me what to get, give the meds a day or two to work, and if they're not working, go to the doctor. And lay off the cocaine.
Have a sense of humor, and use it. Not everyone gets my Mom's humor, but she is absolutely hilarious and irreverent, and I love her and it. Mom has zero problem heckling authority, friends, and loved ones. She also recognized the fact that well-placed humor can diffuse a tense situation, and I use my humor on a regular basis to break tension, liven up a dull meeting or workplace, and (hopefully) make the day go better for myself and others. It rarely fails.
So HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, MOMMEEEEE!! [patpatpatpat on your cheek]