Deep sigh…I don’t know where to start.

I started a new job that requires eight hours a day of training, in a tiny office just off the tv room, next to the pellet stove, five feet away from the back door. I work in front of one lap top and two huge monitors, one of which is pushed to the back of my desk and is dark. The training is challenging, the others in my class are rock stars, my leader is patient, funny, and patient.

I start every morning at 8:50 am, and am in my chair until 5. Lunch is glorious, and usually consists of avocado toast, eaten during class time so that during my allotted hour, I can take Sophia the Amazing for a walk, clean the kitchen, or workout in the living room, while Sophie watches from the couch or tries to climb up my thigh.

Dinner is a work in progress, either oven fried chicken, (Sophie’s favorite,) smoothies, (Katy and I ate too much at lunch,) or whatever looked good the night before when I googled recipes for what we have in the fridge.

Most nights, there is a workout, just because my body and my soul feel the need to jump around after spending the day in a chair learning things.

When I’m lucky, there is tv with Katy, at the end of it all. We watched Anne With An E and have moved onto Designated Survivor. I miss commercials, sometimes. Sometimes, I remember the pause button.

Sometimes, I wish life had a pause button, and then I remember it does.

Bed is early. Before sleep, I watch The Office, because it’s leaving Netflix, and there is pressure. I read.

From time to time, I collapse on the mattress, find the sheet, turn out the light, and fall asleep, like it’s easy to sleep, these days.

In between, I floss, sweep, check the headlines, call my mom, fold laundry, wander around Amazon, sip coffee, ask Sheldon if he’s ok, use my water pick, sweep, argue with Katy over the state of her room, how to load the dishwasher, or whether or not it is bad manners to not respond to a cheery “Good morning”. She says any response, even if it’s a sigh, behind a door, under sheets, blankets, and a cat named Maurice, counts.

I miss Facebook and Instagram- looking at pictures of what everyone else is eating for dinner, hearing about bad days, and victories, checking out dogs, cats, kids, and home renovations.

I miss likes, conversations, writing things out, rewriting, saying something, and being heard.

We are all missing so much right now, and making adjustments.

My life is good, and different. I am lonely as hell, contented, scared, and grateful.

How you doin’?

Thanksgiving. Covid. Colin.

November 27, 2020

My son is twenty years old.

I lost him about the time he was halfway through his sophomore year in high school. I’m not going into details here, except to say that was the point where I began to realize I could ground him, shriek, take away his phone, and nothing worked.

I made threats and he offered intense promises on the ride home from the police station. My husband and I shared nervous trips to the court house, endured discussions with parents on the courthouse steps, searches on google for an air freshener that eliminates the smell of pot, searches on google for a place for kids like him, conversations with friends that ended quickly because I didn’t know how to spin any of it.

Colin is twenty now.

There is my baby boy who wouldn’t fall asleep without plastic zoo animals, couch pillows, his favorite pot holder and a special blue blue blanket in his crib.

There is Colin of elementary school, who tried karate, loved his bunk beds, and wanted a dog more than anything.

There is Colin, the teenager. He played football, partied in the woods, set the table, had friends over on school nights and hid them in the closet, woke up for basketball practice without an alarm, asked for a waffle maker for Christmas, and was a genius at making his sister do his chores.

There is Colin, the young man on house arrest. A picture with him in the driveway was part of the senior scavenger hunt.

We fought with his probation officer to let him play basketball in the driveway, and sometimes he’d shoot hoops when the weather was nice, but mostly, he’d sit outside the back door and look at his phone.

And there is Colin now.

Tonight, I sat next to my son during dinner. It’s Thanksgiving, 2020. We were at a restaurant, and our masks were all placed in front of our silverware.

He lives five minutes away, but he took an Uber to the restaurant.

It’s been six months since we shared a meal.

I don’t know what he watches on Netflix, who he’s sleeping with, if he still eats Lucky Charms for breakfast, takes thirty minutes in the shower, and twenty minutes to dry off and drop his towels on the floor.

I don’t even know why he came to dinner.

I don’t care if Colin smells like 1969, is twenty minutes late, or wears a jacket that costs more than what I spend on groceries.

I love him more than spring, Springsteen, or the little boy he was, when it was easy. (Maybe it wasn’t easy, but looking back it seems like it was easier than now.)

If you offered me a million dollars, I couldn’t tell you Colin’s favorite color, how to make him laugh, or the first thing he remembered.

I know he is amazing, and will do amazing things. Not sure why or when, but there is such a thing as unconditional love and faith.

That is pretty big, I think.

Colin’s football jersey from 2017. My son is twenty now, and I don’t know him anymore. I knew him then, and he needed me to drive him places.

A potholder with a picture drawn by Katy in third grade.

A black silk bathrobe I ruined long ago in the wash that I bought during the height of my “I’m never going to get old, rainy days are for sleeping in, and I love the dressing rooms at Lord and Taylor’s!”.

A picture of my friend Cici, who died so long ago, I’m not sure that’s how she spelled her name.

A necklace my husband Sheldon bought me at some club that looks like a dog collar for a dead stuffed poodle owned by someone who misses the 80’s and his pet, and has watched everything on Netflix.

So many single earrings and broken necklaces.

Two unopened bottles of coriander. I must have seen an incredible recipe somewhere, but I must have thrown it out.

I didn’t hold onto baby clothes and wish I could find the homemade Mother’s Day cards.

I don’t know where the tickets stubs are from the last time I saw Bruce or a baby blue sweatshirt from my friend Rachael. She left it at my house, and finally gave it me when I begged, or maybe I offered her something in return. It was the right shade of worn out blue, soft, and perfect. The cotton had a tiny blood stain on the sleeve from a car accident she’d had just after she learned how to drive and faded spots from where she’d tried to wash them out with bleach.

It’s funny I don’t have any regrets about everything I’ve sent to Goodwill or tied up in big, black, bags and left at the end of the driveway.

I still have sorting to do, and it appears I will have the time to ponder what stays and goes.

I have time to consider, reminisce, and hope.

Well, not much time, actually. I just started a new job.

My daughter is a vegetarian, my husband is a diabetic, and my dog has kidney disease, so making dinner is complicated.

I like to workout in my living room, read novels so thick I can use them to make myself look better on Zoom, and it takes me forty-five minutes to walk Sophia around the block. We have a fenced in back yard, but I don’t want her to get bored.

Watching Sophie sniff the same patch of grass for four minutes, and then move on to a bush for two minutes is incredibly boring.

But anything is better than choosing what to throw away and what to keep.

Well, not anything, but you know what I mean.

I’ve been a lot of people.

I’ve been a seven year old who wouldn’t turn on the fan in my bedroom because I didn’t want to waste power, wrote love stories about horses, and put a dead rabbit in the drawer in hopes I could bring it back to life when I was older.

I’ve been a teenager who guzzled Colt 45 in an outhouse, loved a boy and didn’t know him, and thought I was invincible- from heartbreak, time, and regret.

I’ve been a twenty something without a clue- about how to help my father die of early onset Alzheimer’s, what to be when I grew up, who to love and how to say goodbye or make it last.

My thirties were a blur. I’m not going into details, tonight, at least. I had fun, I think. I learned to swim on the days after I partied too much. I swam a lot. I spent too much money, and I cherish the people that knew me then who still love me now.

My forties brought parenthood. Against all odds, I had two kids, a son at 39 and a daughter at 43. I was not, and am not, a fan of babies and toddlers, so my favorite moments early on are dropping my child, or children, at a friends’ house for the weekend.

When they were able to have a conversation that didn’t involve a debate over macaroni and cheese or whether or not I’d continue to push them on the swings, they became interesting. They made me laugh, and still do. They are far smarter than I will ever be, kind, patient, funny, and fascinating. They are are also incredibly private about what I share, and since I’m not I’m not on SnapChat, I don’t know if it’s me or their personal brand.

I wish I’d finished college before the age of 56.

I wish I liked more about babies than the way they smell, and found my toddlers as delightful as a great book, or even a semi good thriller.

I wish I’d known I will not go on forever.

But now, it’s a pandemic, my kids are good, I have a house, a dog who thinks she’s a cat and two cats who like to nap on the kitchen table, and a husband who likes me even when I’m mean. I wake up without regrets, except for wishing I’d had a clue. I guess finding one is kind of the point of everything.

Find joy in where you’ve been, and who you are.

I do, and I’m a mess.

Pandemic Halloween

November 1, 2020

On Facebook, members of my New England community have squabbled over whether we should cancel Halloween. People posted ways to make it safe, people argued there was no way to make it safe. People with small children asked for addresses were families were giving out candy, people with large children reminded each other the numbers are climbing. More than once, parents were strongly advised to stay home with teenagers to watch Hocus Pocus while sipping juice boxes. Or bake.

Katy, my seventeen year old, doesn’t like Hocus Pocus. She has a boyfriend, and about five friends she’s spent time with since June. So I negotiated with her to host a Halloween party outside with, (I don’t want to use the word pod,) her people. They decided to dress up as characters in “Among Us,” a game they play on their phones. The characters look like spacemen, and it is free. That is all I know.

Then there was snow. Our table was broken by a run away umbrella, our backyard was as muddy as spring. We thought about cancelling because we’d have to move it indoors, and we didn’t. These kids had been inside our house a week ago making their costumes.

Rachel made caramel apples and I burned my finger tasting, just like I did forty years ago. Her mom brought mountains of naked wings so that Jared, whose allergic to dairy products, could eat them- her primary ingredient in buffalo wings is butter and I wouldn’t let her leave until she promised to make some for me next week. The kids ate wings, mountains of nachos, pizza and brownies. Jared was happy we had coconut ice cream, because naked wings alone for dinner is kind of sad.

Raphael, Katy’s boyfriend, took a nap; he’s exhausted from rowing crew, zoom, and life. They watched movies, and had meaningful conversations when they weren’t arguing over whose playlist was best, and played Cards Against Humanity.

They made Lisa and I go Abby Park for dinner, so this is what Katy told me after everyone left at ten.

We were cleaning the kitchen, and “Blue Moon Revisited” by the Cowboy Junkies came on my radio station, 92.5 The River. I told Katy to stop what she was doing, (she wasn’t doing much, mostly offering moral support,) and just listen. We stood there, while the sad voice of Margot Timmons spilled out of the radio. When melody of the original “Blue Moon” crept in, Katy sighed. I loved that album in the eighties, and I tried to make at least twenty people listen to that song. Katy, on this pandemic Halloween, might have been the first one who did. She added it to her playlist, and felt a small tear.

Afterwards, we sat in the living room, and talked- about Raphael, her friends and first kisses, the baby she’s taking care of today, the kalimba she’s learning to play, daylight savings time, and whether she misses her brother, Colin. We talked about whether I miss Colin, and to be honest, that answer is different right now than it was last night.

It was not the spookiest of Halloweens. For the most part, we were with the people we are closest to, friends who do not surprise us, but know us well and love us anyway.

This year’s Halloween was a respite from the fear of 2020. Over the next few days, the goblins and gremlins will do their work.

Please vote.

This is Us

October 30, 2020

I write a lot about my family, so I thought I should introduce them by telling you a little bit about what they love. If I included an accurate list of what they don’t like, (considering that these days we are kind of cranky, given the pandemic, and everything,) you would have to skip dinner to finish. Afterwards, you would be depressed; reading about stranger’s complaints is irritating and you might have more things to your list of what makes you unhappy.

Katy, my seventeen year old, loves data. She wants a scale for Christmas. She writes everything that she eats and tracks all physical activity on an app. She would like a thermometer for Christmas, but that’s just probably because she’s a bit of a hypochondriac. She loves “Call of The Midwife” and “Gray’s Anatomy”. When people ask me what she plans to do with her life, I tell them she wants to go into medicine, which I feel is accurate, given her viewing choices. When I ask her, she says she has no idea. I like my answer better.

Colin loves clothes, sneakers with resale value, cologne that is not sold at CVS, matching socks, and hoodies that cost $200, (I don’t think he calls them hoodies, but it’s too early to ask him, and you know what I mean). When we take a family picture, he looks like a model who we paid to sit with us to make the photo look better.

Sheldon, my husband, loves watching the weather channel. He likes cleaning out the refrigerator while announcing to all within a ten mile radius that he is cleaning out the refrigerator. He regards being stuck at red light as his own personal hell and he loves driving at 2 am when all the red lights change over to blinking yellow, but he also. likes being in bed by 10 so that he can watch the weather channel.

He also loves back rubs, and is sad that one of the casualties of being married for twenty years is I no longer give him thirty minute back rubs using expensive moisturizer. I need the moisturizer for my neck. On special occasions, I will scratch his shoulders if the angle from my hand to his itch doesn’t require I move or disturb Sophie.

Sophie is our dog. She has liver and kidney disease, so her passions these days are simple. She loves sleeping on the sofa on top of Sheldon’s bathrobe. She loves barking at other dogs, small children, teenagers, adults, and trucks from our back yard. If the weather is bad, she will stand in our living room and bark at our cat. Maybe what Sophie loves is the sound of her own voice.

She loves sniffing bushes, grass, and tiny corpses of dead animals, I think. If I sense she’s spotted a dead animal, I do not investigate, but pull on her leash until she follows.

Michael and Maurice, our cats, do not love each other at all, but since I spend so much time on everyone else, I don’t have much to say about them. Both like to have their bellies scratched, and will bite you when they have had enough.

Maurice only has three legs, and has a very large appetite. This probably won’t work out well for him, since he limited support for his expanding belly.

Michael likes to join Sophie and I on walks around the block. He doesn’t actually follow, he usually manages to stay about twenty steps ahead, and moves like he has somewhere to go, and we just happened to be out at the same time.

I love Megan Roup, from The Sculpt Society, and dance cardio workouts in my living room with Sophie watching. I love eating too much one day, and finding out the next that I lost two pounds. (This is rare, and I don’t have an affiliated link). I love the woods, stupid comedies, going somewhere with someone else driving, loud music, Spotify, buttery chardonnay, and my friends. I love being home and thankful we have a home, and enough to pay the mortgage each month.

I’m starting a job next week and working from my dining room. I love shade of blue on the walls of my dining room, which will hopefully inspire me to do great things. I’ve missed work, and I hope I love this job as much as working with students at Quincy College.

I love my family. This whole pandemic thing has allowed me to get to know them really well. After eight months with these people, it is a tiny miracle that my daughter talks to me, even when she isn’t building up to “Can you get me Chipotle”, my son doesn’t squirm when I hug him, and I am considering the possibility that maybe I should give my husband a damn back rub with moisturizer when he gets home.

Tell me what you love.

Sophie is sick. We got a call from the vet around noon. The diagnosis yesterday was that she was fine, and we were being overzealous

.Today the tests came back. Her liver and kidneys are failing. They have prescribed a low protein, low fat dog food, and given us an IV set up to give her fluids every day.Her kidneys are working at 25%.

We have another visit scheduled for two weeks to see how the IV and dog food help, she won’t eat the food. Or sniff the food.

But she barked at the neighbors and strolled across the field at Houghton’s. She rolled in our yard, and drank the fancy spring water with electrolytes.And now, she is on the sofa, glaring at her food, at the world, or at me, because she feels that workouts are overrated, or should be done outside, where creatures are not trying to nap.She might be in pain. Doesn’t understand why Purdue’s grilled chicken pieces haven’t been offered as an option.Or has been following the news.I know I am not the only lucky person with the best dog ever, but Sophie is. We watch dogs in our home, and Sophie has sacrificed her bed, snacks, and yard, to all of our guests, with patience and grace.If you walk by our yard in East Milton Square, and are annoyed by the black and white pup growling behind the ugly fence, say hello. She might be saying goodbye, or reminding you that Bassett Street belongs to her, and she’s not going anywhere.

May 13, 2020

There is a piece of me that is enjoying every moment at home with my daughter.
We watch tv together. Eat breakfast together. Workout together. She shows me a game she’s playing on her phone that is just like FarmVille, and gave me a tour of her “campsite.” (I pretended to be impressed, but wasn’t really impressed until I read AOC plays the same game. Now I’m a little impressed and kind of confused.)
I asked her to look at my LinkedIn profile, and listened to her feedback about potential career paths.

She talks to me about her relationship, takes great delight in hiding condiments when I don’t put them away, plays her flute at midnight, and bakes at one am.

I know this is abnormal behavior, but who, anywhere in the world is behaving normally right now?

How do I know if something is wrong?

I wake her up each morning, because schedule is important. We exercise, because movement combats depression. I’ve been lenient about time on her phone so she can stay connected with friends.

I do not have a clue what I’m doing, or what all of this is going to do to her.

I’ll be fine. I have some leads on new opportunities. Sophie keeps my feet warm, and Sheldon is building me a garden in the back yard.

But what kind of scars will this leave on my daughter, and will I ever stop missing my son?

This is the season of not knowing anything. I’m a mom, and the stuff that I know isn’t that helpful right now.

Should I give her more space, or insist she does her homework in the living room?
Do I check on her grades, or let her know I trust her to that chemistry homework takes precedence over carrot cake?
Do I say something about the fact she has macaroni every day for lunch, or do I stock up on Annie’s?

I’ll try not to give into buying a $300 Nintendo to make things better, but it’s tempting as hell.

Arrrghhhh.
Julie

Happy Mother’s Day

May 11, 2020

At this point, we’re all taking care of somebody, whether it’s your fish or your dog, your kids, your mom, or a friend, your heart, your waistline, or your health.
I couldn’t sleep this morning. Since I became a mom almost twenty years ago, this day feels like a low-key, brunchy, Christmas. I remember the handmade cards, the scary looking eggs, the Mother’s Day at First Parish that always began with me trying to get them awake and out the door by 7 am, dangling the words “it’s Mother’s Day” like a threat.


My seventeen year old Colin recently decided to quarantine with a friend, and Katy will probably sleep until eleven. That’s fine.


They couldn’t be more different.


Colin makes choices that make me mad, crazy, sad, and defeated. He values sneakers more than books, smells like weed most of the time, and eats so much takeout, he should buy his own landfill.


He is also funny, generous, and kind. He is my boy, though he has forced me to accept he is does not belong to me anymore, and never did.
He smiles and my heart falls out of my chest. He sounds worried, I want to gather him into my arms, and make it better. I can’t.
All I can do is love him. So I do that, even when I want to smack him in the head.

Katy has been the light of my quarantine, which was not what she wanted for her sixteenth birthday. Every day she teaches me patience, while I wait for her to finish her room, her homework, her conversation. She says she learned this from me, and I tell her I’ve earned the right to keep her waiting. She thinks that’s funny, and goes back to whatever she’s doing, but does it more slowly. 

Katy was thrilled to put time limits on Facebook on my phone. She worries about the cost of everything, but vegetarian sausage, because she says that’s worth it.
She is careful, uses actual measuring spoons, understands chemistry, saves her money, and doesn’t care what people think. Except me, she cries when I snap at her.
I need to remember that even though she may seem like a remarkably mature thirty-five year old, a mother’s words have the power to sting like they did when you were six and in trouble for eating all the Oreos.
She listens when I speak, as long as it’s not too early, and I’m surprised and thrilled by this. (If I’m giving the lecture about being on time, or clean clothes, or dirty clothes, she pretends to listen, if she’s feeling kind).
Katy reminds me a lot of my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

You tell me often how proud you are of me, and between you and me, I’m a bit of mess.
I’m still working out what I want to be when I grow up, my daughter acts like the parent half the time, my cabinets are more disorganized than Trump’s, and I know absolutely nothing about retirement plans. (I do have a good recipe for chicken thighs with artichoke hearts for the NYTimes I’ll send over later.)


If you say I’m amazing, I must be. You’ll always be the smartest person in the room, (with Katy right behind you.) 


I love you,
Julie

Day Fifty Seven- I’m not sure whose counting anymore.

For weeks after my braces were. removed, at random times, I would run my tongue along my teeth. The enamel after three years of metal and rubber bands felt glorious and unexpected

Ever since the words quarantine came into daily conversation, I’m constantly checking my mood like I used to check my teeth.

I ask my daughter- she says I get way too close, and sound scary serious- “how are you handling everything?”

She usually says fine, but sometimes, she actually answers the question with more than two syllables. It’s best to catch her right before bed and never before 9 am.

I’m fine, mostly.
I’m depressed, miserable, elated, grateful, lethargic, whiny, goofy, tipsy, manic, sad, silly, sleepy, mean, petty, joyful, and mellow.

I’m lonely; I’m enjoying the time with my daughter.
I’m missing my job; I’ve wandered the woods at Ponkapoag on Friday at 11 am. I’ve read eight books, played my flute, and bundled up three bags of shirts for Goodwill.

There is a lot of talk about recognizing the difference between knowing what we can and can not control.

I’ve learned I don’t control a damned thing but whether or not I’m going to stay in bed, or get up with the morning.
I’m getting out of bed.

If I’m sad, I’ll move through it, with a little help from my friends.

Time to stop counting the days, recognize the privilege of a slow morning under blankets while coffee drips, and get on with the rest of my life.

I’ve got work to do.

Stay strong,
Jules