Full Moon March 2021

March 28, 2021

Full moon tonight. The traffic heading into the city is almost like what it was before. The crocuses have bloomed by our front steps, and Sophie’s snoring on the couch.

I’ve been reading my journals from last year. I talked about meditation and our daily schedule, long walks in different woods, and conversations with Kate.

I didn’t have a clue what was coming.

We kept up with the schedules for about a month, I updated daily until June.

Lately, I’m trying to figure out how to fit reflection in with work, workouts, dinner and dishes. I know life is better when my house is clean, and I sweat a little. There’s not much time left to write about the latest pop song that made me smile or share the bliss I experience when Sophie eats a meal. There’s never enough time to talk about being lonely.

It’s helpful to look back on how I saw the world then, and think about how my point of view, and day to day life has changed.

I asked my friends last week- what would you keep from Covid? I don’t see the pandemic and quarantine as a gift. For many it has been a curse, and worse.

I am reluctant to speak about it because, for now, mostly, the worst I’ve had to deal with is remembering my mask and learning how to work while functioning as Sophie’s concierge.

I can’t begin to know how it will echo moving forward.

Do you wish you’d done things differently this past year? Do you have any regrets?

I wish I’d written more, taken a few skiing lessons, volunteered at the food kitchen, and played the flute every day. Katy has picked out a duet for us, and she says it doesn’t matter to her that I’m always a little flat.

Everyone is talking about the parties they will have, or attend, when this is done, the places they will go, and the people they will hug.

Invite me. Hug me. I’ll hug you back, or bump your fist.

Feel free to stop by for mediocre coffee or a glass of wine, if there’s any in the fridge. I make a good smoothie, and we have a tiny yard, with chairs. No fire pit, but I have a hoodie collection in a variety of colors and sizes.

I’m good at home with Sophie, but I’m feeling nervous as hell about face to face interaction, so put me on your guest list, or come on by.

And be patient if I’m awkward. I was awkward before all this.

Spin Class February 2021

February 21, 2021

Today, on the thousandth year of isolation, I spent the morning on the sofa. I was reading books, scrolling my phone, talking to dogs, and considering the possibility of washing the floors.

This afternoon, I found my favorite sneakers, and went upstairs to the room that was once my son’s bedroom. It is cluttered with clothes he didn’t want to take with him, and isn’t ready to give up. His desk is in the middle of the floor, to make room for the monitor, spin bikes, weights, and a pile of tools. Hung and pressed in his closet is the shirt he wore to court, sneakers, and a pile of socks we bought him for basketball that cost eighteen bucks a pair.

I found a sixty minute pop ride on the app that connects to the screen. I filled up my bottle. I hopped on the bike and rode nowhere, in the middle of a room where my boy once slept, spent time with his girlfriend, scribbled on walls, did homework, and stared at his phone. Sixty minutes is a long time for a spin class.

I watched the people walk by, in coats and gloves, masks and hats pulled well over ears. I had sweat in my eyes, and, halfway through, gulped the rest of my water.I played the music loud.

I tried sing along. I knew the words, even to “Fireworks” and “Believe”. I am not a fan of inspirational pop, unless the lyrics are telling someone to get the hell out the door.

When I was done, I folded some clothes, and swept up from under the bed. I thought about plans to make the room a guest room/workout space, which I guess it already is. But I’d like to make it look a little less like the space my boy left behind. He’ll always be my boy, but I don’t know him now.

This has been a long, quiet winter. I am not complaining- we have water and heat, when I flick a switch, lights turn on, and there are leftovers in the fridge. I am sending love and hope to my friends in Texas, and donated what I could.

I am blessed, but even with everything, I needed an hour to sweat and sing along to songs that I’d never listen to if I was walking outside.

Maybe we are fireworks, perhaps we just have to believe.

Today, I just needed to feel myself smile. I smiled.

Soon, we will be walking outside. Soon enough, it will be spring, and I will hop on a bike that brings me somewhere.

Until then, I am on the sofa, in front of my desk, or spinning and waiting, upstairs in my son’s tiny bedroom.

There are two tiny dogs, on either side of me, and Sophie the Amazing is glaring at me from the carpet. She looks forward to getting her sofa back.

I cooked on Superbowl Sunday. I made a stew with chicken thighs, artichoke hearts, spinach, chicken stock, mushrooms, sour cream, and dill.
I ate at the kitchen table while I read the Sunday paper, and thought about work the next day.
Katy and I watched the halftime show, and then another episode of Designated Survivor.
I cleaned something, I don’t remember what, and read a novel that brought me to the world that was when “Friends” was on tv.

I’m used to the day being noisy, wherever I landed for the game and before. This year, it was quiet. I turned up the radio, and blasted my workout playlist through a speaker instead of headphones.

This is the year of quiet. I am learning to listen to my own thoughts and to others- my daughter, family, friends, colleagues, and members for the company where I work.

Sometimes what I’m thinking makes me uncomfortable. Getting older is weighing heavy; I am confronted with my face every day on Teams or Zoom meetings. I was laid off last year, and count myself lucky to have a job, but it’s an entry level position or an amazing company. This means that ninety percent of my colleagues are abbot twenty years younger than I am.

We spend a lot time looking at each other on screens. When I catch a glimpse of myself, the woman looking back is far older than I am ready to be. I am in a digital room with people who are worried about turning thirty and if they’ll be able to get married this summer, or buy their first house. I adore every one of them.

They love it when I forget to put my settings on mute when I talk to my dog, which means they are kind of laughing at me, but people are desperate to laugh at anything. Maybe I should leave my camera on next time I try to convince Sophie The Best Dog Ever to eat barbecued chicken for breakfast.

I’ve been married for twenty years and have a house.

Before class time on camera, I spend extra time on my hair and add mascara, but then I just look like a slightly better groomed woman of a certain age or someone who is trying too hard. Once the weekend comes, I avoid mirrors and spend too much money on moisturizer.

I think about what I miss. Hugs, mostly, and all that came with them.

I think about what I”ll miss when this over.

Katy and I hopped on a zoom meeting tonight, she kept scolding me because I wasn’t following the rules of virtual etiquette. This made me giggle, so she turned the camera off. She explained the rules, and scolded me some more, probably because I’ve been nagging her a lot about keeping her room clean. At the end of the day, does it really matter if she climbs into a bed that was made in the morning?

I know to mute my microphone, and to try to remember to mute my microphone, and that will have to be enough.

I’m going to try to make this a year to listen and learn, and make it less about the line that just appeared in the middle of my forehead.


I’m going to make time to laugh with the people I love, because not much is the end of the world, until it is.
Until then…

Who or what do you want to make time for?

jules

My house has been quiet this winter.

I work from 9 to 5. Before work, I work out. After work, I work out some more. I turn up the music, and sing along, but when the playlist ends, I can hear Sophie sigh in the basement.

I’ve been reading a lot of books, and I can hear my own breath, and the sound of each car that passes by, from my chair in the corner of the living room.

My daughter, Katy, keeps her door closed, but she doesn’t mind if I visit. When we talk, we use quiet voices, like we are sharing secrets. At this point, we don’t own any secrets, and there is no one around to overhear.

When I’m wiping the counters, or folding the laundry, I think about what I’d say to this friend from Quincy College, while we walked to Starbucks for lattes. I remember conversations with friends from church, while I sipped coffee, and munched on something dipped in hummus or cream cheese during social hour.

I think about who I should call, and when the call goes to voicemail, most of the time, I hang up because I don’t know where to start.There are big things going on the world outside of my own. I feel foolish and small because I don’t read the Times every day or, some weeks, at all.

All I can contribute to conversation is another story about Sophia that’s highpoint is she ate her dinner and wagged her tail. Since she was dying six months ago, that is a big deal, but I’ve told that story about fifty times. Though I am still filled with wonder, the miracle feels a little worn.

I watched a concert on my phone on Saturday night, Jason Isbell and Lyle Lovett, live-streaming from different corners of the world. They swapped stories in between songs, they laughed. Lyle went on about how brilliant Jason is on guitar, and Jason stood up and applauded a song Lyle wrote about his daughter. They were friends being friends, and I was as grateful to watch that part of the show as I was for the music. And the music was pretty damned good.

I am lonely, but I am blessed that the people I am most lonely for still call, text, and remember my birthday, (which is not good because I never remember anyone’s birthday.)

It is the night before snow falls. Tomorrow, when I walk, my steps will be muffled by snow.

I will think about spring, the season that is coming soon, the one with the daffodils, sunshine, allergies, when colors shift from black and white to shades of green.

I will also think about another spring, the one we are all waiting for, alone, and together.

Or maybe I won’t think at all. Maybe, I will just walk and enjoy the morning.

We will get to where we want to be.

I will try to appreciate the quiet of staying at home, with the people I love.

(I hope they still love me when this is over- the workouts are pretty noisy, and I’m not always mindful of the fact that not everyone wants to hear Britney snarling “you gotta work, bitch” at seven am on a Monday or anytime, actually- that will be another miracle.)

Miracles Happen.

January 16, 2021

For a time, I posted regularly on all channels about my life, including details about my daughter, husband, son, workouts… I shared and shared and shared.

The first of January one of my first orders of business was less time on social media- scrolling through my feed, checking likes, fussing about how to share the challenges and bliss of my new position at Blue Cross MA, obsession with spin class at home, (support your local gym, they are struggling,) and clicking on all links that left me sprawled on my sofa for hours.

Social media made me put off conversations with my daughter, and the exploding number of plastic containers in my cupboard without lids intended to store food I am not making because I am on staring a screen looking up someone from middle school.

I have written numerous posts about Sophia the Sweet, a pitfall border collie mutt, struggling with liver and kidney disease. Six months ago, Sheldon and I sat in the parking lot at the vet waiting to hear if it was time for us to “end her misery.” She was walking into walls, not eating scraps of Sheldon’s Italian subs, barking at neighbors, or lifting her head when Maurice the Cat strolled in the room.

It came out of nowhere, we said, but not really. We were busy with Covid, Colin, my 20 year old pain in the ass, oh-so-charming, son, and weren’t paying attention.

These days, mid January, Sophie seems fine.

We stopped taking her to the vet for check-ins; the visits made her tremble and cost a fortune.

We are feeding her a low protein diet topped with oven fried chicken, tenderloin, or slow cooked ham.

She won’t walk at Cunningham Park, but is happy to stroll the neighborhood.

Sophie likes to take me round a long slow mile as long as I don’t tug on the leash. She is not comfortable being photographed, sniffing or rolling. She is comfortable with the current covid restrictions because she is shy and anti social.

I am doing quite well because Sophia sleeps on my feet.She doesn’t get up when I do; (remember, I have a job, and it does require I get up in the morning).

I am a woman whose emotional health is tied to whether her dog looks happy to see her.

Oh, yeah… This isn’t about me.

Miracles happen.

  1. Work a full-time job- This is not in most recommendations since the demographic receiving these tips are primarily those who have been identified as unemployed. But when discussing basic tools that help to maintain mental health- being employed is crucial. There is the paycheck, there is a schedule, and there are colleagues, all of whom are employed too.
  2. If you are unemployed, or are laid off, live your day to day life as if you’re employed. Get up in the morning. Look with the diligence you put into your career. Start after breakfast. Be creative. Treat it like it’s an exciting project you chose, and convince yourself it’s an exciting project you chose. Don’t ask for leads from the person standing at line waiting to buy groceries. But ask them what they do, and if they are willing to answer, and you can understand what they are saying from behind their mask, give them your card. If you don’t have a card, which you probably don’t, since you don’t have a job, ask if they have advise, or a contact. Tell them you appreciate their insight, or offer them a roll of toilet paper.
  3. Exercise. If you’re working you’re busy. If you’re unemployed and looking, you are busy. But put time in the calendar to move your body. I’m a fanatic, so I won’t say more, but just try it. You have options. Dance to your favorite music. Drag your dog on a walk, but when you’ve been round the block, leave her at home, and spend forty five minutes stepping around your neighborhood. Dance. Ride your bike. Find a friend. You have to move your body for a sustained period of time in a way that makes you lose your breath, or can’t to sustain a conversation. Strolling to Starbucks, or going to the mall doesn’t count, even if you’ll earn more steps than your friends. Sweat.
  4. Put your phone away an hour before you hope to fall asleep. Social media is helpful if you need your 884 friends to see how beautiful your cookies look on a plate, or are putting off looking for a job, exercise, or cleaning the kitchen. If you can’t go without, set limits. and if you’re still up at 11:30, watch late night.
  5. Spend time outside. In the woods, on the streets after hours, in a playground while most kids are home for dinner- if you can find a space in the world, you might remember life before now. Trees don’t carry covid, watching birds fly, leaves shiver, the glorious colors of the sun, and the moon, placid and silver- open your door and take a walk. The view might beat Netflix.
  6. Shower. When we aren’t seeing people, it’s easy to forget basic hygeine. Showers feel good. Body wash smells nice. And when you’re in the shower, you’re not wondering why everyone of Social Media is doing better than you or forcing your family to collaborate with you on a TikTok to show the pandemic has brought you closer together. you can be,
  7. While you shower, feel free to create the TikTok in your head, but don’t expect anyone in your family to go along. I use the time to sing along to the playlist called “Songs to Sing Along to in the Car” even though I’m in the shower.
  8. Lean on people you love, people you like who have indicated they don’t dislike you, and everyone else.
  9. Drop off groceries, check in on a neighbor, visit your friend and hang out on the porch, ask and listen to their answer when you ask “are you ok?” Let people lean on you. Helping others makes me feel even better than twenty minutes on the spin bike, thirty minutes wandering the woods, or a really hot shower.
  10. Vacuuming, checking your Twitter, scrolling through Facebook, and matching stray socks, can steal hours from your day. Consider how you’d like to spend your time. It’s valuable.

All my love,

Jules

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.