mom-a-tude-a-thon day 1040: grateful every fucking day for this one

Every mother’s day, we used to go to The Boston Photographic Center and famous photogs would take giant polaroid pics. This is my most favorite one of my guys.

At first I did everything I could not to get pregnant. It seemed easy back then, like I might fertilize an egg just by going on a date. ROGUE SPERM ALERT! I was an obedient birth control user. A poster child, really. I would not have to make the decision to keep or abort a baby. I knew it would undo me, so I faithfully used my diaphragm (which felt like the size of a flying saucer. “Earth to Toni’s vagina.”), the pill for a short time (which made me gain 10 pounds in about six seconds), condoms (which the guys were never too happy about).

My mom had me at 41, and I swore I’d never wait that long, because I was always worried she would die before I was ready and didn’t want to impose that same anxiety on my children (little did I know I WOULD NEVER BE READY FOR HER TO DIE). A stomachache would send me on a year-long hunt for the reason and that reason would be that I had stage IV endometriosis, and all my organs were glued together, and as the doctor said, so eloquently, “You’ll never have a baby, because your insides are a mess.

But fuck you endometriosis, and fuck you even harder, doctor with no bedside manner, I did. I did have a baby. Not saying it was easy. Because it was not. There was not one easy thing about it. It was three years of physical and emotional pain, tests, surgery, anxiety and eventually a desire to get in bed, and stay there, for like, EVER.

But after one miscarriage and three years, the test was positive. Two lines appeared. I checked and re-checked. And nine months later, I had a little boy named Jake. I had a baby. I had a healthy baby. Three years later, after two months of trying, I was pregnant again (I actually thought it might not be mine). I had a healthy little girl with more hair than most full grown orangutans.

It’s my 22nd mother’s day. There is a lot more to say. A. Lot. More. To. Say. But because I have a big breakfast in bed waiting for me, I will say this: I love my kids more than all the words the alphabet can make. Jackson Robert Gabriele and Alexandra Louise Christina, Riley, my buddy (who is my dog, but I’m pretty sure I gave birth to) : you are everything, plus french fries.

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In Santa Monica, all grown up.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 869: call your mother, whoever that is

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A lot of years ago I was told by a doctor who missed the class on bedside manners, “Your insides are a mess, you will never have a baby.” A month later, I was standing in a hospital room looking at my mom who had just been told she had cancer in the lining of her brain. Three weeks later, she would die, and one week later, I would find out my mother-in-law left my father-in-law for her high school boyfriend while on her 35th wedding anniversary in Hawaii (where the boyfriend lived), and where she would re-marry and live until she died a few years ago.

Yes, that all happened.

I felt utterly motherless. And for a time, I was. Except for not really.

Being a mother means offering unconditional love, well-meaning and timed advice, supportive full-on body hugs. And sometimes it means saying the tough things that will help your child in the long run. What it doesn’t mean is that you must have had a fetus inside of your womb to be someone’s mom. And I found back then, as I find now, it comes from all sorts of sources when I need it most.

This mother’s day, remember to remember your mother–whether she’s living or she has passed. But also remember to remember those who’ve filled in for your mother. I have a lot of friends who’ve played mother to me throughout my life. My sisters and relatives, my husband, sometimes even my dog have mothered me.

I see mothering as not just a biological job description, but as a universal feeling that can come from anywhere, and anyone who makes you feel cared for beyond all measure. (The beach has played mother to me on many occasions. I know that sounds weird, but it has.) Gratitude to all those people who have mommy-ed me, when my own mom couldn’t. It meant something, it mattered, and I will never forget you for it.

gratitude-a-thon day 589: to you, mom, the mother of all people

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Hey Moms,

It’s your day. You know why? Because you took on a role that is so daunting, so often thankless, and so gosh darn important, you have convinced society to celebrate you for 24 hours. You should actually be celebrated for, like, a fucking year, but a day is what you get, so, like you so often have to do, shut up and make the best of it.

We celebrate you today, mom. Whether you are a stay-at-home, a work-from-home, or work from work version, a biological, adopted, or friend-in-need type, today is the day that everybody tips their hat to you and your multi-tasking ability, your selflessness, your really good mac and cheese. Today is the day that your children will be taken by the police and put behind bars unless they have purchased, or made you a card. Some of you may get breakfast in bed, others may get to go out to dinner accompanied by your brood, still others may be receiving flora, fauna, or bling. This is your day to shine, and I’m not talking about the silver mama, so enjoy your moment.

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Today we stop and give thanks for your amazing ability to annoy and agitate. We put our hands together for your intuition, your guts, your sixth sense. We bow down to your laundry skills, and bed making prowess. Today we put you, however briefly, on a pedestal, for the way you grocery shop, and drive us to multiple locations while listening to music you hate. We envy your keen ability to make a boo boo go away with a kiss, and your reluctant acceptance of your post pregnancy body. We canonize you for always having to take out the dog, for letting us borrow your clothes (and ruin them), for continually having to empty the dishwasher. We treasure the way you can juggle life’s obligations with a kid on one hip and a career on the other. We adore you for nagging us to do our homework and clean our rooms, use manners, and take a shower, the stuff that will help us in our lives.

We especially commend you today, mom, for putting up with us, as we mature. We know we’re not that easy, and can be downright impossible. We marvel at your good nature, your generosity, and the way you have not given into the desire to smack us across the face on multiple occasions.

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You are a rock star. You are the unspoken hero of our lives. You are the most special person we know.

And today, we tell you, even though the rest of the days, we just carry it around it in our hearts.

Happy Mother’s Day, Moms, all of you, every last one of you. Today is yours. And you deserve it (and let’s face it, so much more, too).

gratitude-a-thon day 107: mother’s day

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I think about my mom a lot. I’m guessing if I really paid attention, that I probably think of her everyday. That might seem impossible, but I think it’s probably right. I don’t mean, I sit around and cry that she’s gone every morning (although, honestly, I could work myself up to it if I allowed it) I just mean, that something about her pops into my world once a day. It might be something she said often, like, “Put two feet in one shoe and march,” her words of encouragement when you needed to get through something difficult. It might be the way she rubbed my hair after dinner when we were watching tv together. It might be the way she always took off the top of her fish sandwich when we ate McDonald’s every Saturday after Miss Burdett’s ballet class, or it might be the perfect serenity and contentedness of her face on the beach in Cape Cod, in her bathing suit, staring out at the water. They (you know, the general “they”) say that the dead are always with you. And while it’s not much consolation when you are losing someone, or have just endured their loss, I think it does end up in the end to be true. My mom seems to be in my air space most of the time, and she has for the 22 years she has been gone. I conjure her image when I’m making meatballs, or cutting garlic. I think of her when I’m playing “I”m the only one who ever cleans this house” martyr queen. And every time my kids do something extraordinary that makes me want to burst with happy, I think of how amazed she would be that this woman of Italian immigrant parents had grandchildren who did the things they do, and are the people they are.

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Being a mother is so much bigger and more important than the thought so many people put into it when they get pregnant. With no education, prerequisites, licenses, or special books required, being a mother can happen to those who aren’t even interested in nursing a glass of wine. But those who choose to be mothers, who consider what being a mother will ask, are kind of ridiculously remarkable. Because the experience is like no other, and has changed me in ways that I still fully don’t understand. It asks so much of you and it gives so much back to you, that it changes your very DNA. It expands your heart like an air pump expands a balloon, right up to the point, where you think it might pop. It demands patience and kindness and guts and pain tolerance, and a huge capacity for joy and disappointment in equal measure. It’s, to steal a phrase from the Peace Corp., “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

The most incredible thing about being a mother is the power you have. A sentence that slips out of your mouth nonchalantly can resonate with your kid in such a way that it guides their whole lives. I’m pretty loose lipped, so I am expecting some of my words to bite me in the behind in the near future. But mostly, I am hoping that I will be remembered as a mother who tried really hard, and loved really fiercely.

Just like my mom.

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So, here’s to you, ladies, who play taxi, and chef, and cheerleader and counselor, and warden, and fashion consultant, and repository for anger, frustration and general pissed off-ness. Raising a glass to you on Sunday’s day of the mom. Congratulations today, and everyday.