Book Club

June 21, 2013

I love being a girl. I haven’t loved being a girl this much since I used my period to get out of gym class. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever reveled in my gender. I didn’t have bridesmaids when I got married, I’ve never had breasts that made me particularly proud, and I don’t really possess much in the way of feminine wiles. At least not when I’m sober. Or not when those I might want to practice them on are sober. Sorry, off point. Girls do that. Women do that. And it’s fine.

I went to my first book club meeting tonight. It was everything you’ve heard. There were carefully laid out snacks, the carrots on the tray were all the same size and the celery’s green perfectly matched the platter. There was lots of wine. And lots of diet coke. There were wine glasses, real glasses, and tall slim tumblers for those of us that chose diet coke.

And we didn’t spend our time talking about our kids, or “Shades of Gray”. Or why our husbands always forget to take out the trash. We talked about the book. Only two of us had read the whole thing, and one of us had read it five years ago. But we still talked about the book, and we talked about why we hadn’t had time to read the book. We talked about why we picked the book, and what we wanted to read next. We ate food, and we laughed and we had a really good time.

I like that women make plans to get together and talk about books. I like that we acknowledge that sometimes we want to learn something and sometimes we don’t, sometimes we want to just visit someplace we aren’t. I like that the conversation was easy, even though the wine was in the other room, and that the snacks were mostly healthy. I liked the brownies.

I like that I’m a grown up, I’ve lived here a long time, and a new bunch of girls invited me over to play.



June 20, 2013

Mostly I live my life wandering around about two or three inches above planet earth. That is how I’m oblivious, mostly, to the grime along the baseboards in the kitchen, how I barely see the dead chipmunk I need to step over on my way down the walk to get the newspaper, how I avoid dealing with cluttered closets and a pile of “artwork” I’ve been collecting since Katy figured out what crayons were for.

This attitude applies to most parts of my life.  When it comes to our finances, or lack of finances, 95% of the time I’m in a blissful place where it’s lovely to have my daughter give me pedicures. I don’t even stop and think  when I stop to count  quarters before I suggest a trip to the Dairy Freeze.

But today I found myself yanked, unpleasantly delivered, to solid ground, no rose colored glasses, no down pillows to break my fall.

It’s the end of the school year. My son misplaced a geography textbook. Katy lost two library books. The notices say if I don’t “remit payment before the end of the school year”, five days from now, report cards will be withheld.

I’m in the process of negotiations with the powers that be at both schools to purchase replacements on EBay. The powers that be aren’t terribly pleased with my offer, since the books won’t arrive until about a week after the last day of school. Right now, it looks like my refrigerator is going to have to hold onto last semester’s report cards until fall.

After about an hour exchanging emails and bumping around used book sites, I needed to get up and get out. I didn’t give my children the usual speech about not talking to strangers and not to put anything  metal in the microwave.

I told Katy she was never, ever going to get another book out of the library again.

I told Colin he needs to get a job making bagels at Brueggers, even if he has to lie about his age on the application.

I think they were probably pretty happy to see me go.

I broke out my music, and my ear buds, and in the search bar, punched in the word “martyr’.

“Accidentally Like A Martyr? came on by Warren Zevon.

I’m not going to ramble on about the amazing music of Warren Zevon. If you have any interest, you should listen. Especially if you’re not having the best of days.

His songs are beautiful, sweet, funny, loud, obnoxious, bitter and silly. He died of a brain tumor a few years ago. He worked on his last album, with the help of his friends, right up until he died.

He wrote the song “Poor Pitiful Me” and then he moved on to singing about werewolves and teenagers.

I went home and apologized. Colin isn’t going to make bagels at Bruegger’s. But he will mow the lawn. All summer. Every summer, until he can hire someone else to.

And Katy can take out library books. Paperback library books. One at a time.

I don’t have a brain tumor. I do have a house, a husband, two kids who love me most of the time, and quite a few plans for the future. So I guess, what I’m trying to say, though I’m not sure I am all the way there yet, is that

Things aren’t all that bad.

And there is always the possibility that tomorrow will be amazing. It seems distant right now, but it’s there.

Not in San Francisco

June 16, 2013

My heart is walking around outside of my body. It is far, far, far away, the next town over. It is with my son, my twelve year old son. He is at his first “real” party. By this I mean, it’s not a birthday party or a school dance.

My husband took him shopping. He is an athlete, which means for the past couple of years, his clothing budget has been spent on sneakers, shiny polyester shorts, eighteen dollar socks that bear the logo “elite”, shooting sleeves and ankle braces.

On the invitation, the dress was described as semi formal. My husband’s definition of semi formal is a suit. Colin’s is bermuda shorts. New bermuda shorts. I think he consented to wearing a belt. Oh my, I just realized tonight my son wore his first belt. Let me pause to sigh meaningfully.

Now, here are my prayers. I hope a few other kids at the party show up in bermuda shorts. (Are they still called bermuda shorts? If they aren’t called bermuda shorts, what are they called? Shorts? Really short pants?)

I hope he has fun. I hope the food is good. I hope he ate something before he left so that he doesn’t fall on the buffet the way he does when we go out for brunch. I hope he forgets about the fact that his team lost two games today. I hope he doesn’t brag. I hope he doesn’t stand in the corner and wish he was home watching the Bruins.

I hope he does’t miss me. I hope he is happy to see me and tells me that he had a good time. Even if he didn’t. But of course, he is having a wonderful time. I hope.

I hope I learn to get a life sooner rather than later, and that my heart returns to my chest so that I can walk around and go about my life like a normal person.

Who am I kidding? I lost my hearth a little more than twelve years ago, and I lost it again nine years ago when my daughter was born.

And normal is way over rated.


Summer is Coming

June 9, 2013

It’s the beginning of June is New England. We’re on the verge- of summer vacation, trips to the Cape and to the local pool, lazy mornings and late nights. I’ve already entered the season of coffee made the night before, and left in the fridge for the morning, of pedicures, and the familiar stink of sun block. But it’s not official till the last day of school, and that’s coming late this year

My kids are twelve and nine, so each year is dramatically different from the one before. Last year, camp was on the menu. Colin spent his days playing basketball at, you guessed it, basketball camp; Katy went to the Boys and Girls Club. I’m not sure what she did there; made art out of paper bags, played beauty shop under a tree.  On our rides home, I only heard bits of what happened each day, in between  frequent demands to turn the radio up and heartfelt pleas for ice cream. I’m well aware this year I will hear even less. every minute that passes, my children grow more mysterious.

I’m not sure how we are going to fill their time with during July and August. Money is even tighter, and camp is more expensive. And they have gotten old enough to stay home without supervision. Katy knows not to put metal in the microwave. Colin is well aware of the punishment that awaits if he visits sites deemed “inappropriate” on the computer, (though I’m getting the sense he’s figured out how to erase the history. Sometimes I do wish my children weren’t so savvy.)

But none of this matters. We aren’t there yet. We are on the verge of another summer. Another summer that they rely on me for money and transportation. Another summer when they still need me to remind them to put on the sun block and walk the dog and read a book and get some rest because ‘tomorrow is going to be a big, incredible, wonderful magical day.”

They may be old enough now to make macaroni and cheese without supervision. They are most definitely old enough to walk to the pool, and the park and the store. But they are still young enough that they still need me, sometimes. Even if it’s just to get them from point a to point b.

It’s a privilege to sit on the sidelines and observe them, from a greater and greater distance, as they continue to become the people they are deciding to be. For a time, they will grow more mysterious  I will eavesdrop  on their conversations for clues, and clean out their pockets on laundry day with a touch of apprehension.

Right at this moment, they are not mysterious. I can hear them out on the front stairs, dividing up gummy worms . Their voices are tangled up in a thunderous bass line from an old boom box, the crash of a lawn mower, a shrieking Yorkie in the yard next door, the whisper of the endless stream of mini vans  that pass by at all hours, and the laughter of at least fifteen of their friends. But I can make out the unique sounds of Colin and Katy, laughing. I can tell that Colin is impatient to get to the park, and Katy is a little tired from staying up to late last night.

They may be getting more mysterious by the moment. But I have time to pay close attention. And I’m really, really, really, smart.

I’ve been doing this thing, these essays about my life for a while now. Kids, pets, other peoples pets, growing up, growing old, losing people I love because of different paths, and  losing people I loved..

But for the most part I have avoided talking about a pretty important passion in my life, one that actually sent me back to school, and has me currently pulling on a neon blue tee shirt and a pair of black pants and nikes a couple a week. I am in school for Exercise Science, and I recently was hired to work  by the South Shore YMCA. I was hired  to work in the health and well-being department on the floor. Essentially, I’m a land lifeguard surveying an ocean of barbells, huge tires and thick,  long,lengths of rope, treadmills, nautilus machines, punching bags. The people I’m guarding range in ages from seven to ninety two. They are fat, or convinced they are fat They are young, and working really hard to look older.  There are athletes, and quadriplegics, and quadriplegic athletes. They are mothers and fathers with kids, there are mothers and fathers cherishing an hour without their kids. I do my best to make sure they are safe, to offer help when they ask, and sometimes when they don’t. As soon as someone enters our area,  I’m responsible for checking their feet, flip flops not allowed. I wipe down machines, and mediate disputes over the racquetball court.

This is not where I saw myself, ever. But in my early forties I took a personal inventory and realized the one consistant place I found joy, outside of a Springsteen concert, inside the arms of my children  or walking the magnificent Sophie thru the woods at Cunningham Part, was the South Shore YMCA.

I want to stress- I am not athletic At All. Not even a little bit. I have never done a cartwheel, entered a triathlon or even sustained a rally of more than forty seconds on the tennis court.

Not only do I have the coordination of an potato, but I don’t even have the body of someone whose primary passion is spending time at the gym. I have muscles, and less cellulite than most my age, but I’m not what anyone would call ripped, or even svelte. Though I am well on way of being able to do a real push up without being on knees.

But I love it. I love walking away from my daily life into a locker room. I love slipping the uniform of working out- the little socks, the reeboks, the yoga pants, sports bra, concert teeshirt. I love the moments just after I’ve worked out- the peeling sweat stained clothes off, wrapping my torso inside an oversized towel, and padding to the steam room. I love laying there, being still, being fine with being still, because I’ve just came from an hour and a half of making my muscles do what I wanted them to do. I have earned the time to sprawl and breathe inside a cloud of water.

When it comes to what I do at the gym- (when I’m not there for work)  almost all of it, the basics that is. I zumba in the dark, lift the free weights, and press the leg press. I take yoga, yoga lates, body pump, (strength training with barbells.) I bench press and do sit ups  and leg lifts on oversized beach balls. I stretch on the stretch rack, I swim laps in the pool.

So a few years ago when I found myself in need of a professional change, I realized I wanted to chance to help others find what I find inside the walls of a gym. I signed up at Quincy College for the Exercise Science Program. I’ve got one more year left.

And more than once, in the course of that year, I’ve stopped myself and thought- “What the hell are you doing?”

I’m about as scientific as I am coordinated. So I study a lot. I know that the posterior deltoid is the in the back, and that  when lifting a weight  the muscle action is eccentric, as opposed to concentric. I know that a lot of personal trainers think zumba is silly, and a lot of zumba teachers think that personal trainers are a little high on themselves. I know the correct way to lunge and squat, though I don’t really like do either I am happy to tell someone else to lunge, and squat. I am qualified to correct their form with the authority of someone who spent forty five minutes in a class room discussing lunges and squats.

So this is who I am now- a mother, dog-sitter,  creative writer, with a strong sales background, proven success as a manager, living on macaroni and cheese. My family is living on mac and cheese,  broken up occasionally pasta,  because I decided to go back to school because I really, really like going to the gym.

Sometimes I stop and wonder- What the heck was I thinking? But I don’t do that often. Between work at the Y, work at Quincy College, classes, kids, and working out, I don’t often have the luxury of wondering about much more than what my families going to eat for dinner or if I’m ever going to able to pass College Algebra.

I took the summer off from school, but for the next couple of weeks I need to study for my Ace Certification test. If I pass I get to wear a black tee shirt when I work at the Y.

I just thought I should let people know there is a little more to my life  these days than musing about my children, bragging about my dog, and fussing about getting older.

However, I’m not done with musing, bragging and fussing. Just wanted to let you know that most often when I am writing these pages, I should be studying.