Sunday, May 17, 2015

Money Money Money Money

Payday at Nana's!
My first paid position came about when I was six years old. Every summer, my sister and I would spend two weeks down at the Jersey shore with my Nana. Nana was a total sweetheart, but rather set in her ways. Her favorite thing in the entire world was sleeping, and at six, that was my LEAST favorite thing to do. So, Nana paid Mo and myself $5 every single morning we stayed in bed until 9 AM. Great gig, huh? But at that age, money meant less than nothing to us, and it was even more uninteresting because Nana often wrote us checks! We would arrive back home in NYC, suitcases bulging with signed slips of paper with Five and 00/100 written on them. After months of inaction on our part, Nana would plaintively ask us to PLEASE cash the checks.  When we finally did, the bounty went for Archie comic books mostly, maybe a little gum.

When I was 12 and babysitting a lot, I spent every single dime I earned on the Columbia Record Club. Columbia sent you a record every month automatically, and charged you if you didn’t return it quickly. I never remembered to send the records I didn’t want back on time. As a result, my vast, expensive LP collection was filled with music I never listened to.

Things didn’t improve when I grew older and worked in restaurants. “Easy come, easy go” was the motto of me and many of my co-workers, as tips flowed to us and then, magically, away from us and towards things like after-work beers and pizzas. For Heaven’s sakes, I was 20 years old! Ever heard of a savings account, Elise? Apparently not!

When the kids were young, we had a change jar in the kitchen, (quite optimistically) labeled “London Fund,” as that was our lofty travel goal.  Alas, the jar’s proximity to the front door and our quickly exiting, hungry little students who needed cafeteria money, caused the fund to deplete to the point that we just gave up and relabeled it “Luncheon Fund.” So much for THAT plan!

What's on sale this week? Who cares!
Nowadays, although we are on a tight budget, I don’t clip coupons, and neglect to scour the sales circulars before I shop. Every time I get in line behind a dedicated couponer, I envy the low number on her receipt ( even as I am tremendously annoyed at the way she holds up the register).  Much better to zip through, paying top dollar!

It’s all about my short-sightedness, I’ve concluded. I simply fail to look ahead and plan accordingly. Oh, I’ve read the Rich Dad, Poor Dad book. I just don’t take any of it to heart. And so on I go, living paycheck to paycheck, doomed to keep working until I am at least 105. But maybe…

Maybe I’d better go on eBay and see what the market is for a mint-condition recording of “Sing Along with Mitch.” Who knows? It might be worth a fortune!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I Don't Hate Mother's Day

Nana, Yaj and Aiden Mother's Day 2015

 I’ve been reading all the pro- and anti-Mother’s Day comments on Facebook and in the news. Those against the day have a variety of reasons, writer Anne Lamott’s essay “Why I Hate Mother’s Day” being a prime example (Anne thinks the day touts moms as somehow superior to non-moms). Why, even Anna Jarvis, who founded the holiday in 1908, criticized it in the end. Those for it, see it as a nice chance to spotlight their moms, grandmoms, daughters-in-law—much as Father’s Day does for all dads, etc. etc.

How do I feel? Well, I certainly do NOT feel as if I am any better than childless women. Indeed, women who choose not to bear offspring are very often more successful in business, have a more clearly articulated life path, and have a bit more time, not only to develop their own interests and passions, but to selflessly volunteer in a wide variety of ways. My sister C is in this camp, and I am very proud of the wonderful, fulfilled life she has built for herself.

But I am pro-Mother’s Day, and here’s why.

It’s darned hard, this mothering thing, and no one thanks you, a lot of the time. Your kids are either too little to express gratitude, or (in the teen years) too moody. And then, if you’re lucky enough to have children with children of their own someday, they are so immersed in their own babies (who also don’t thank them) that the year can indeed go by without much in the way of recognition, for any of us.

Yeah, I know Mother’s Day is a cash-cow for Hallmark, but as I looked at the display of cards last week, I was struck by the wide variety of “mothers” being honored. Single moms, adoptive moms, mothers-in-law, women who are “like a mother to me.” Even thoughtful cards meant for moms who have, tragically, lost children. All deserving of a little pat on the back, a few words of acknowledgement, a bit of special treatment, at least in May, if not more often.

We may not all be mothers in the technical sense, but we all have, or had, mothers, and that is reason enough to celebrate them. Mother’s Day takes nothing away from non-moms, any more than Easter takes away from the observance of Passover. Lord knows there is not very much to be positive about in the world these days. So why not make a bit of a fuss about the special people in our lives, whoever they may be?

Yesterday, I thought of all the many mothers in my life: my mom Joanie (gone 10 years next September), two wonderful grandmas, many friends who are amazing moms, and now, my incredible daughter-in-law Ya-Jhu, who enjoyed her first Mother’s Day since precious Aiden was born last May 27th. Then I thought of my five beloved kids, and the unique joy they each have brought me. And then I opened my Hallmark cards. And gave thanks.

Mom and little me