I drove up to Milford, NH, yesterday to get a last taste of summer with my daughter. And her friend, (Because offering to let her bring a friend just makes everything easier. And she’s got really cool friends.)

The balloons were beautiful. The food was great. There were henna tattoos, bouncy houses, beer tents, tethered rides into colorful baskets, lines as long as the dmv at lunchtime, but much friendlier, handmade jewelry, live music, a summertime sunset, and a sense of summertime bliss.
No work in the morning. No bedtime. Fried oreos.

Here’s the thing.

Summertime is going to be over. in late September, I think. Last night is a million hours ago, and Friday at 4, when the weekend began, is a century away.

Kids will attend their first day of school, be sent away to their first sleep away camp, leave for college, if we are lucky.

One day, I realized I hadn’t pushed them on the swing in three years.

One day, you’ll realize their room doesn’t smell like their room.

The seasons don’t matter. The first day, the last day, they are milestones for facebook and family and reminders that time is passing, even if your sixteen year old has only eaten macaroni and cheese since he was three.

Not everyone has children.
There is still the first grey hair, the first ma’am or sir, the serious conversation about final plans. Menopause. Midlife. Mortality.

The weather is just a backdrop.

Don’t only live summer between June and August.

Fresh starts don’t only happen in September. Or a new beginning in spring.

All that matters is the people we choose, the people that choose us, and how we choose to spend the time that we have.
FYI, , if your kid asks for a push on the swing, give them a push. Take your time.

If you have to choose between Game of Thrones, and a conversation with your best friend, have the talk. Most shows are available on demand or can be found at at the local library. Even if you are feeling pressure from your well meaning, obsessed co-workers to watch a show, insist on meaningful dialogue. As a matter a fact, forget the best friend, call those television obsessed colleagues, and share every detail of your day. And your dreams. Then ask for their advice about redecorating your attic. Don’t let them off the phone until it’s dead.

Which brings me back-

The night sky, every day of the year, has something to tell you,
So does the sun first thing in the morning,
or whenever you wake.

I didn’t need to go to Balloon Festival with Chrs to appreciate summertime, or to connect with my daughter.
But I’m glad that l did.

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Bedtime story

March 19, 2018

Before bed, there used to be requests for water, stories, searching for tomorrow’s outfit, digging under the bed for dirty clothes, I would collapse in a chair at the end of it all, and just sit long enough to hear a voice from above call out “Mooooommmm”.

Tonight, I climbed the stairs, uninvited. I knocked on doors, and waited. i went in and leaned over for a kiss on the cheek, a kiss on the hair. I looked around their bedrooms, and thought about saying something about the dirty clothes, the half full cups of water, the nail polish smudge on the rug. 

I told them both, in the same voice I used ten years ago- “tomorrow’s going to be a big day. Get some sleep.”

I did not tell them how much I loved them, or to clean up their rooms or else. 

After all this time, they know dirty clothes go in the wash and that they own my heart  always and forever.

But i still feel the need to remind them, and myself, of all of possibilities that will be waiting in the morning.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

 

 

 

 

I walked away from church at First Parish Milton today after listening to a sermon by Reverend Hank Peirce holding these prayers close-

Every day, I will try to choose faith. I will choose joy. I will choose trust and love and hope.

This is about the big world we live in- I will apply it to the future and all the people that share the planet with me. I will make these choices even on days the news is grim, the alerts are high, and Facebook is screaming in capitol letters to do the opposite.

This is about my corner of the world, about the face I show my children. I will try to find trust for them when I don’t want to;  I will let them go while my heart screams to keep them close. It is believing that someday they will learn not to leave their peanut butter knives on the counter and their clothes on the stairs.

It is believing in who they are now and who they are becoming, even though I don’t know who that will be. They have choices, too. I will honor them.

It is about them knowing when times are tough that my door is always unlocked.  I am here and our home is open to the world. I want them to have the gift of belief in the future even when the right now sucks.

door-open
Right now, right now is Sunday afternoon. My son is bringing me coffee after keeping me up half the night

My daughter is playing her flute.


I’m going to yoga.


I am so grateful for now.

 

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Perpective

December 5, 2014

 

At this moment in time, I know where my car keys are, my eyeglasses, (They’d been missing for a month, and last night I had a dream that revealed their location. Really.) both of our tv remotes, the cats, Sophie the Sweetest of Pups, my gym bag, the favorite cup, the house phone, the mobile, scissors, pens- I can even tell you where to find a band aid.

On the other hand, I misplaced the tablet, our dryer is busted so there are clothes draped on every available surface and our towels are crunchy, Christmas is coming. I need to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the whole new full time job thing.

I have a new job! A job I love at Quincy College, 2 minutes away from our house, with a terrific boss and a really cool team that is kind and doesn’t mind that sometimes most of my sentences end in exclamation points.  And Christmas is coming!

But I haven’t had as much time to go to the gym as I like, and I miss my friends and long dog walks with the Wondrous One.

Breathe.

I know where most of my stuff is, there is a gym in the basement of the building I work, my friends are on Facebook, and I know where my children are. I know they will be coming home to me tonight, safe. And that we live in a tiny corner of the world where the odds are everyone is coming home tonight.

I am fortunate woman.

I am also a sad woman. A woman whose heart has broken more than a little in these past few weeks for all of the mothers and sons out there who aren’t so fortunate.

There is space inside me for both.

 

 

It’s the middle of December. This is the time of year, more than any other, when money weighs heavy on my family. We can’t afford to sign the kids up for ski lessons, we have eggs for dinner not because breakfast for dinner is a lovely novelty but because it’s a cheap meal. I throw out the mountains of flyers in the Sunday paper because looking at all the wonderful gifts we can’t afford is depressing. We aren’t poor, for God sakes my kids do not suffer because they can’t fly down a mountain on a few carefully crafted pieces of plexiglass. And we like eggs. But sometimes it feels that way. Our town is made up a lot of people who shop for sport and go to Aspen to snowboard.

The other morning, I woke up way too early. Too much on mind, not much I could do about it. The day was spent, and I’m kind so I’ll make this brief, struggling thru a yoga class before the sun was even up, driving twenty miles to a mall to try to replace a broken phone even though, and I heard this five times in the course of my time there, I wasn’t due for an upgrade. Next, I burned another twenty dollars of gas racing to work. I am employed at a local college where I also attend classes. A few emails, a brief review of what I needed to know for my finals next week, and then I raced back home to deal with dogs that needed walking, kids that needed feeding, and a mountain of half damp laundry in a dryer that hasn’t worked that well for years.

It was a long day. By the time the dishes had been cleared, and my notes reviewed, and the dogs sent to the back yard for too little exercise but a chance to shriek at anyone with the good fortune to pass by, I was weary.(Yoga at 5:45 is a lovely idea in theory, but I should really only indulge if I have time to nap in the afternoon.) Our tree was standing in the corner. It smelled good, but none of the lights worked, so the rest was going to have to wait for a trip to Ocean State Job Lot on the weekend.

I went next door to say hello to our neighbors. I walk their dog. They look after my daughter when I’m working late. In a month or two, or if we are lucky, three, they are moving across town. I’ve known this for weeks. I didn’t really know it until last night.

This is a family that is very different from our own. They are from another country. The mom is young and beautiful, I think she used to model. She sells fine jewelry on ebay. I am older and attractive if I work at it really hard and the lighting is good, but I never photograph well. I don’t wear earrings any more because I always loose one, and I’m not stylish enough to pull off asymmetrical jewelry.

Her daughters are a little bit older than my little girl. They have more than one pair of Uggs. They have impeccable manners and always call me Miss Julie. They take off their shoes when they come over and they like my popcorn. They laugh at my jokes but that might be because they are really polite. Watching them grow up has been one of my favorite things.

We are very, very different. Yet, in the course of being neighbors for ten years, I eat cereal out of a bowl that belongs to them. She sips coffee out of one of our mugs. She notices when I lose weight, I can tell when she hasn’t slept well. I went over to their house the other night at eleven pm to borrow a belt from her husband because my son needed to wear one to school in the morning. He got out of bed, found the belt, and told me to keep it.

I don’t know them that well, and I know them better than my friends. I know they like to sleep really late on the weekends, and that she loves her leopard slippers. Her daughters have danced around my living room and my son has cleaned their garage. I know them because they are in our lives and have been in our lives almost every day for a very long time. And even though I don’t always understand what my next door neighbor says, and I know she sometimes thinks I talk too fast, we have chosen each other as family.

At end of my long, long, day, I chose to visit the family next door. It’s the holiday season and I think they must miss their home, far, far away, and their family, on the other side of the world. After our brief visits, to talk about kids, to take their dog for a walk, to borrow a stick of butter, I always feel better just knowing they live right next door.

When I got home, I realized that all of the boxes in the kitchen weren’t parcels from online shopping. That in a month or two or three, they will be gone. They will live on the other side of town. We will see each other in the drug store, or at the school for a Christmas concert. But how much can we say when we aren’t standing in each others kitchen, at the end of the day, and really listening thru all of the barriers language leaves between people from different sides of the world?

All of the stuff that had weighed me down heavier than a thousand rocks fell away, and I started missing my family of friends while they got ready for bed next door. My son came down stairs and put my head on his shoulder, and promised me that we would always stay in touch with the Vo’s.

The tree is decorated now. And Katy is outside playing in the snow with her very best friend in the whole world. And I will ask her mom tonight, when I visit her kitchen, if her daughter can sleep over again.

This may be their last Christmas as neighbors, but it won’t be our last Christmas as friends. My son promised.

The other day a friend of mine asked me why I blogged. Since then, I’ve been giving the matter  a lot of thought. I turned over the obvious reasons for a bit. I like being able to get in touch with my “creative side”. I enjoy sharing my own particular view of the world as much as I savor getting glimpses from others when I bump around their pages.

But they really weren’t quite right.

I just like to write stuff down.

For a long, long time, from about the age of eighteen, to somewhere in the middle of my 20’s, I watched my father succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of my memories of him are flavored with the picture of him trying to light a cigarette upside down, squinting at a friend of mine while he searched for their name, looking at me with an expression of total joy, then asking- “Are you the person that brings the ice cream?”

For about twenty years after that time, I did pretty much most of the stupid things people do when they are lost in grief. I drank way too much. I stuffed, snorted and smoked  anything I could get my sad nicotine stained little hands on. I stayed up so late I actually bought curtains for their ability to block out morning. i woke up so late, it was sometimes night. And so I’d start it all again, right after I had my “good morning” cigarette.

I don’t know how I got my life back. These days, I work at the YMCA. I just passed my ACE exam, which means I am now a certified personal trainer. I get up at six in the morning most days, and I don’t have to drink coffee to stay awake. I like coffee, and I like being awake. I know this sounds pretty normal to most people, but to me, even after about ten years of not being an idiot, I still savor not having a hangover. I still relish opening my eyes because I’m happy. And not because I really, really have to pee from the two bottles of wine I drank the night before.

I like going to sleep at night instead of passing out.

I started my blog for my kids. I want them to see our lives, right now, while they are young, the way I see them. I want them to know how very much I love going to the pool with Katy and how much she makes me laugh. I want them to read about how proud I am of Colin, when he catches a snake, or stuffs a ball thru a hoop. I want them to know  I love these days, that I celebrate the chance to be front and center in the audience while they grow up.

I watched my father lose his mind, and for a long time, that took a toll on me. But at the end of the day, it taught me how elusive the moments that make up our lives are, and how sometimes the memories don’t last.

I wish I had more of him than some photographs, a painting and some records. He was the most wonderful, charming, loving man in the whole world. He looked like Robert Redford. He laughed with his eyes. He loved me and for a long, long time he made me feel like there was nothing wrong in my life he couldn’t fix. That other person he became was just a man that taught me what I needed to know. It just took me a while to figure it out.

I don’t know if I’ll get Altzheimer’s. But I do know that someday, I’m going to die. And I really like to write stuff down.

I am blessed to be living a life that has contained so many memories worth saving.

Bewitched and Bewildered.

February 27, 2013

Tonight, after I made our salad, I looked at the naked avocado pit on the counter. I asked my daughter if she’d seen any toothpicks.

Her eyes narrowed- “How many toothpicks do you need?”

“Four should do it,” I answered.

“Ok, I’ve got a stash in my room.”
Moments later, this beautiful creature presented me with exactly four toothpicks. Katy wouldn’t tell me where they came from, or for what reason she stored them in secret upstairs.
And so continues the mystery that goes by the name of Kate. I wonder what she would have said if I’d asked for twelve toothpicks, or twenty.
I’m thinking the mighty seed would be tucked into the bag of scraps intended for Miss Debbie’s chickens.

Thirty Something Years Ago

February 2, 2013

In the course of a conversation with my supervisor the other day it came up that I’m no longer working on Mondays. I asked her- “Why can’t I work on Monday?” She looked at me, puzzled. “You said you wanted Mondays off, when we made up your schedule. Three days ago.” I have no recollection of asking for Mondays off, what would I do without work on Monday? Go to the spa? Mow the lawn, Clean out the closets? I can’t afford a spa, it’s the dead of winter, and I’m tooi scared of what’s inside my kids closets to actually look inside them.

That night, a fellow swim mom called me. She wanted to know if she was still picking Katy up for swim team that night. I didn’t remember her offering to take my daughter to swim team.  I didn’t remember talking to her at all last week. Of course, I didn’t hesitate, I’m always happy to let someone else drive my child around.

It didn’t occur to me until later on, after Katy was at swim team, and my son at a friend’s house doing homework, that in the course of a week, I’d pretty much misplaced two  entire conversations, one about my job, and one about my child. It scared the fuck out of me.

Thirty years ago, I was 16 years old and was standing outside the Mountain Lakes Club, in Mountain Lakes, NJ, waiting for my dad to come out of a business meeting and give me a ride home. It was his first day back after an extended absence. He’d been sent to a hospital, (this was before the days of rehab,) to be treated for alcoholism.  He was there for thirty days. Before he’d been sent away to deal with his addiction to russian vodka, he was a big shot, in charge of the American division of a company that imported raw cocoa That morning was his first day back, the big executives from Switzerland were in town.

When he came out of the front door, his eyes were down. He was carrying a briefcase like it weighed a million pounds. “Dad, what happened?” He looked over at me. He looked over at me, but it was like he didn’t see me. His eyes stared in the direction of the tennis courts, they never moved from the tennis courts. “I can’t… I couldn’t- I had to leave, Julie. Something’s wrong.”

“Dad, what do you mean? You’re sick?… Did you have a drink? Do you need to go back?”

He shook his head. I don’t think he ever stood up straight again. My father, my charming, handsome, funny father, the man that all the ladies wanted to sleep with and the men wanted to drink with, was gone. He put his arm around me, and we walked to the fancy company car. We drove home in silence. A week later, he was tentatively diagnosed with early onset Altzheimer’s. He was fourty four years old.

So when I find myself in the middle of a week with pieces missing, it takes my breath away.

It took me a long time to recover from the journey my father and I took, his descent to a place where he tried to stab his health aide. Where he smoked endless cigarettes upside down. Where they had to strap into bed at the nursing home because he was always hopping in with the ladies.

He really didn’t know any better.

After he died I spent about twenty years making a series of incredibly bad choices.

And then I got pregnant. And then I got pregnant again. Long, long story short, I have two children now, one is 12, a basketball star and a lover of animals. My daughter is nine, she likes to slow dance with me in the morning, she writes songs, she makes me laugh more than anyone.

My father’s illness came close to destroying me, I can’t, can’t can’t get that disease. I can’t.

Tonight, I’m making Spaghetti Bolognese. I brown three different kinds of meat first. Then I dump it all in a colander lined with paper towels to strain out the grease. I chop onions and shallots and garlic together, real fine. Add the mixture to the meat back in the pan. Then I pour in tomatos, and an old jar of spaghetti sauce, and a box of special tomatos from Italy. (They are in a box, they must be very fancy.) I don’t follow a recipe, I don’t cry when I chop the onions, I know just the right moment to add the cream, and to boil the pasta.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the gym at 9 for a cardio class. Then I’m going to church. Then, a long walk with some friends and some dogs. The Superbowl. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

If I move really fast, and I pray really hard, and I surround myself with my family and friends, and I start paying attention- I’ll  make notes in my phone, I will actually use the calendar from the bank, I’ll buy a book about Mindfulness, and another about nutrition.

I’m scared. I’m not scared of having the illness, well, I am, but that’s not the main thing.

I don’t want to tell my kids. Like he told me. Because I never recovered from those moments in the parking lot in Mountain Lakes, NJ, thirty something years ago.

I can’t do that to my children. And I won’t. Because I am going to be fine. Period.

The spaghetti sauce is done, I can smell it. I will put on the pasta, and salt the water, and take out the plates. Katy likes milk, Tue, her friend, only water. With one cube of ice. Colin asked me to make a plate for him to eat later.

As long as I can remember the important things, I’ll, we’ll be alright.

Post script  An hour after I wrote this, I was going thru the voicemail on my phone. Remember the wonderful swim team mom that had arranged to drive Katy? The arrangements I forgot and confirmed I was on the path to dementia? She’d left me a voice mail I’d never listened to. And the conversation about working on Mondays, well, I may not remember it, but it was a damn good idea. Monday off. Maybe I can’t afford a spa, but I can sleep in, go to the gym and spend a really long time in the sauna.

I’ll be allright, and on special occasions, amazing.

It’s All Been Done

January 21, 2013

It’s Martin Luther King day, February 21, 2013.

In other words, we have survived Christmas, and Christmas vacation, and New Years Eve, and back to school. I started a new semester at Quincy College last week. Work there has been busy, I’ve been lucky enough to have the honor of being part of the team that welcomes first time students.  This involved giving speeches, standing in the hallway asking anyone and everyone that looked even a little confused if they needed help finding where they were going, and making phone calls. I’ve spent my whole professional life making phone calls for various reasons and have never tired of talking to strangers, even when they obviously have no interest in talking to me.

And thru all of these days of rest and then return to “real life”, in the back of my mind I’ve been listening to my own thoughts, and observing our own lives… is there anything here that merits sharing whatever it is I’m thinking and we’re doing?

Here’s the thing… Katy and I are still dancing around in the kitchen. Sophie the Wonder Pup is just as delightful as she ever was. She still has dreams of being a bunny, or at least frolicking with a herd of bunnies in a field.  That still hasn’t happened.

School is school and work is work. It’s cold outside, I love late nights with the pellet stone breathing and the radio on. Colin is insanely good at basketball and from time to time I see glimpses of the man he is becoming.

I love my friends. I am so lonely sometimes I talk to the person that makes me coffee. I miss the nightlife. Nothing makes me happier than curling up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine. Nothing makes me happier than curling up in bed with the remote control, a list of shows on the DVR, and a large glass of water.

I am joyful. I am in despair. I am sleepy. I am caffeinated. The rhythm of my days drags, or it races by so quick I am breathless and struggling to catch up.

I love my children, and I wish they’d stop calling for my help.

I really don’t want them to grow up.

It is January and I’m suffering a case of betwixt and between. I suppose I got off easy, it’s not the flu, and it’s not cancer.

I am fifty years and have been actively involved in celebrating Christmas for about forty five years. And tonight, for the very first time in my life, I took down our Christmas tree.

I lifted the ornaments from the branches and wrapped the delicate ones up in a newspaper bought just for this task. I jammed the nonbreakable ones, the stuffed snowmen, the pine cones, the little watercolored masterpieces from nursery schools a few years back, in between the little balles of paper. I swept up pine needles.

I stood on my tip toes and lifted our angel from her perch. I nested her inside some of the “snow” that looks awfully similar to asbestos, and placed her on top. I swept up pine needles.

Next I began to deal with the lights. I was the one that wove them among the branches, it was only fitting I was the one that began to untangle the tangled web I wove… four different strands of lights. At one point, the length was so long and I was pulling so hard to free them in a long single strand, the Christmas tree fell back into the foyer. I finally dragged the entire tree, stand and all, and miles of lights out to the sidewalk. There I had room to work. And so I did. I’m sure the people walking and driving by were thinking of better ways I could have gone about the whole task. But no one made any suggestions. If you are one of those people, next time, I’m open to any and all advice. (There is so much in this world I know absolutely nothing about.)

Next was the storage of the lights. In the past, my husband has wrapped them around empty paper towel rolls he’d saved for this purpose.

I used one paper towel roll, after I unrolled, according to the wrapper, 250 feet of paper towels. I began at one end, slowly reeling in yards and yards of twinkling stars,  using the steady  gestures a fisherman uses when bringing in a good catch. I think. I don’t fish. But I imagine it feels similar.

When I was done with the the first line, I searched for alternatives. The remaining lights are wrapped around one sippie cup, one bottle of almost empty toner, (Bonnie Bell, left over from a brief horrid period of adult acne, thank God I’m finally too old for that,) and one tube of sunblock, still full, but number 15. Nobody uses fifteen anymore, the ozone layer is going to disappear any minute and using fifteen would pretty much guarantee skin cancer the following week.

And then I swept up pine needles. I lifted up the rug,I  think I saw some from last year, and swept them up too. I took down the Christmas cards, and the stockings, I untangled tinsel from shoes,  I put the last scraps of wrapping in the recycling, and ate the last Hershey’s kiss hidden under a log.

This was the first time I put Christmas away, into a box. Wrapped it up, onto a cylander. Buried it under fake snow. They say that we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. It doesn’t feel like Christmas tonight, it feels like the end of an era. An era when I didn’t have to responsible for unplugging and angel and tucking her away for a year.

But change is good. I’m going to go sweep up some more pine needles. I hope it still smells like Christmas for a day or two. Those candles that claim to smell like trees just smell like the home of someone that smokes that thinks they are keeping it a secret.

But that’s another story.

Happy January 6th, my friends.

P.s. And if you haven’t taken your tree down yet, start saving your paper towel rolls.