Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Enough

I was trying to be a champion grocery shopper today, having scoured the ads and money-saving websites and organized my list and coupons accordingly. I found my way to the brand spankin' new grocery store nirvana in a neighboring town.

While I was getting out of the car, using my leg as an awkward buffer between my door and the car next to me, I gave myself a nasty paper cut across the nose with the damn grocery list! By the time I made it inside, my face was bloody. Apparently, saving money can be dangerous.

I managed to have a productive trip, and I'm proud of myself for being so organized, but there's no telling if I'll be up for it all again next week. And if not, I won't beat myself up over it.

My coupon clipping made me think about my mom, because, much to my annoyance, she flatly refused to "deal with coupons."

You have read about my mother on this blog before, so you know she was pretty special. She had a magnetism and good humor that people still talk about even though she's been gone more than 20 years.

She was an entertainer who used silver and fine crystal, but who also parked herself cross-legged on the kitchen counter to chat. She was a church-going charmer who threw around the S-word.

She was a fashion plate and decorating guru, whose kitchen counters were piled high with papers and assorted "crap." She saved her kids' artwork for posterity, but then found herself writing lists and doodles and phone numbers on it.

A nice thing about my mother was that she did not try to be perfect. In fact, in many ways she was, well, "good enough."

She could eat an entire bag of gumdrops for lunch and not beat herself up about it.

She could take us out to dinner 3 nights in a row because she couldn't bear the thought of how this dinner thing kept coming up...every day.

She was not the most consistent gift giver, with gifts ranging from Neiman Marcus goodies in pretty little boxes, to the pineapple she made me give my 4th grade teacher for Christmas.

I despaired of ever having a satisfactory birthday or Christmas, as she never seemed to get me what was on my list (no Snoopy Snow Cone machine?) Instead of giving in to my histrionics about the injustice of it all, she would shrug. "Well, I'm the only mother you've got."

In my childhood and adolescent wisdom, I would try to change my mother: her clothes (pj's and clogs in the carpool line?), her spending habits (why wouldn't she go to yard sales with me?), and how she kept house. Always a reader, I had articles to share. I had statistics. I was an expert on all things current and new. She would listen, give me a "hmmmmmm," and not change a thing.

Now, I use her as a model in my own varied attempts to throw away the damaging idea of perfection.

I do not sort laundry. Ever. Or hand wash. Or lay flat to dry. Apparently, I like an element of adventure at laundry time.

I do not iron anything, and am not above/below stapling or gluing on scouting patches. Another strategy I've used is to leave the patches in a baggie to see if the child will move on to the next level of scouting before I do anything with them.

I do not make homemade Halloween costumes, and when I do make costumes for school projects, my son tells me mine are the "cheap-iest looking."

I rarely offer side dishes. Taco Night means tacos, Chili Night, chili. You get the picture.

I go places, like church and work, with soaking wet hair. If people are inclined to think I'm a serious swimmer, rather than someone who is too lazy to dry her hair, so be it.

I choose (or steer) my children's activities based on my personal convenience and preferences.

I decorate with quick fixes rather than high quality, knowing that I'll tire of a trend before too long.

The list goes on and on.

So even though I only had my mom for 18 years, I feel her influence still. The short-cuts, attitudes and actions I pooh-poohed about her are the very things that help me get by without getting myself in a dither. The fact that she was so comfortable with herself helps me to accept myself the way I am.

Growing up, I never once thought a clean house or good grades or a fancy car or thin thighs were the most important things in life, and I know that was because of my mother. What a gift.

And if that's not perfection, I don't know what is.

"There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one." Jill Churchill


Ellen aka Ellie said...

My mom died when I was 31, and I miss her fiercely every day.

As for your mom...if you have silver and crystal use them! I too don't use coupons, what a hassle--not to mention they're dangerous.

As for your wet hair, well, it's very green (which does not come from swimming) but from not using a blow dryer.

Beautiful post. Don't you love ANYTHING that makes you think of Mom?

Sara said...

Oh my goodness. I love your blog and have since the day I found it. But today was extra special. Some days, I find myself comparing myself to other "perfect" mothers and feel bad when those mothers feel the need to remind me that my kids don't have school (like today) because they assume I'll forget. I, too, leave the house with wet hair and refuse to iron anything (isn't that what the dryer is for?). Thank you (and your mom) for giving me a sense of validation. Especially since I just burnt 1/2 of the cookies my kid has to take for his birthday treat tomorrow. :)

Katherine said...

What a beautiful post, Anna. One of my favorites. I wish I had been able to meet your mom.

Gretchen said...

Your mom sounds like my kind of gal!

Marinka said...

"good enough" is such a gift.n Lovely post

for a different kind of girl said...

After reading this post - which made me smile so very much - I think there's a chance we share a bloodline! If my family gets a Pillsbury crescent roll on chili night, they fall to their knees in praise! Cripes, you should see what they do if I simply remember to buy saltine crackers (without a coupon!)(mostly because I've not found one yet!)! I learned from my mother, who has a stove older and, well, cleaner than me because it's so rarely been used!

Kelee Katillac said...

Great post Anna! So wonderful. You are your mother's child. It comes through your every post. Probably more in your writing than in the things you listed...although they mark it. So, freedom is what she gave you...and authenticity.

Could any parent want more for their child?

Lovely Anna. Imperfectly perfect.

Nichole@40daysof said...

What a great mom! Thanks for the perspective. I needed a little right now.

K A B L O O E Y said...

I think I love you both. She sounds like a character out of an amazing novel or movie, and it's clear her impact on you was and is profound. This is such a great post. It's smart and funny and compassionate without being maudlin. Just wonderful. Thanks!

Jill said...

Okay, you have me in tears my friend. TEARS. Loved this post.

So beautiful. Utter perfection. Truly!

TwoWishes Tara said...

What a beautifully written tribute. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman.

It's funny, last week my acupuncturist asked me whether prolonged illness has taught me any lessons, and I responded with an explanation of how limited personal resources have helped me travel from perfectionism to "good enough." Even though, in some ways, it's based on a loss, I truly believe life is better for it.

One Junk Drawer said...

This post is one (of the many) reasons I love your blog. Heartfelt? without a doubt. Funny? I wish you were part of the new fall lineup.

You really make me laugh.

Christy said...

Anna, you had me in tears too. I read this yesterday and couldn't even comment because I was too emotional. Your mom was such a gift. YOU are such a gift to your children, and to your friends. You are such a talented writer - this is one of my favorite posts, ever.

Lynn from For Love or Funny said...

Anna, I love that quote about "there are a million ways to be a good mother." To me, you are perfect just the way you are!

L said...

Love this, Anna. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I just may frame this! Thanks for helping me feel better about my skills (or lack thereof) as a mother. I think your mom and I were separated at birth!

R said...

In honor of your mother I ate a bag of cherry slices for lunch today. It was my best lunch all week...maybe all month.

Momastery said...

absolutely perfect.

Blue Creek Home said...

You touched my heart with this lovely post about your mom.
I had to laugh about 'dinner coming up every night'...that is sooo me!!!

Deidra said...

Oh, this gives me so much hope!

Heidi said...

Beautiful post, Anna. One of my absolute favorites.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This was beautiful Anna. And so inspiring - perfection is impossible yet we all find ourselves striving for it at one point or another...

I love it when you write about your mother. This was a lovely tribute to her.

Debbie said...

Anna, your mother sounds delightful. What a great gift to grow up with someone so well-adjusted.
And you, bless your heart you sounds just like me. No ironing, no side dishes, and that sorting laundry thing has bitten me in the backside more times than not. Oh well.

I can't find my blog said...

My mom used to tell first-time guests to our home that "spiders need homes too!" when they would spy the cobwebs in the corners.

Of course, she's still with us, so the story still lives! Oh, and she's a sister, too!

Anonymous said...

You write so beautifully--so movingly, so insightfully and with your special brand of humor laced througout. I think you have tapped into how a lot of us feel--wanting some validation for our choices. We are all different, but as mothers, we have to choose our battles and work to our strengths. You have found yours, via your very own self and, inevitably, through your dear mother. And that's okay.

Anonymous said...

And I meant to say above that whether you intended your post to do so or not, it made me realize that I need to be in better touch with my mother. Your lovely thoughts remind me how fortunate I am to have her in my life (even though I too have wanted, and still sometimes want, to try to change her--I should just relax).


Tracie Nall said...

I think I would have loved your mom. She lived her life and didn't get mucked down in the little things. That is a precious lesson.

Your laundry and ironing rules are the same as mine. Drives my OCD husband crazy, but I'm happy with a few wrinkles and that one time I turned my white shirt blue....well, I liked it better that way ;-)

purejoy said...

oh, anna. i loved this post. your mom sounded absolutely dreamy!
and i love your care-free style of motherhood.
i am available for adoption, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is my modern day "GuidePost".
I confess that I dont alway notice the little doo-hicky that reminds me you have posted something new.
Usually I sit down to sort through your words of wisdom when I am forcing myself to take a breather...

... and just now I have finished arguing with my daughter over whether or not she will be required to own, carry, or wear a jacket to school as the weather gets cooler. It turns out that the underlying debate was this... Does a good mom require weather appropriate attire? Or does a good mom allow you to freeze so you dont have to walk to your locker again at the end of the day?

So this was a welcome diversion with the perfect punchline... a million ways to be a good mom.
As always, thanks for such an incredible blog.

I wont be using my china though... I heard that "If you have good china, you might as well use it" bit so many times that I finally got rid of my china!

Mags said...

What a great article! A friend recommended your blog and I totally identified with the "dinner" comments... and your mom's choice of clothes. Brought back some of my own childhood memories!

:) Mags

Krista @ Craving Some Creativity said...

I do hate how dinner comes daily, so annoying! Some days the hubby just has to deal with a pizza pop with overdone broccoli for supper;) Loved this post:) Somehow because I blog, my house is supposed to be immaculate...this is real life!