Two weeks ago, in a communications class, I led the discussion about Society and Politics. I spent twenty hours to prepare for one hour in front of the class- reading, looking for the most up to date and accurate, information, struggling with google slides, putting YouTube clips inside google slides, putting anything other than youtube clips inside google slides- get the picture?

I was intimidated by the material. In light of recent events, everything in the textbook seemed outdated or irrelevant. At the end of the class, the professor asked how anyone could feel hope in light of current events. The world has become a dark place. The bad guys are winning, our population is under a constant state of attack we aren’t even aware of, and, realistically, it appears =it might be virtually impossible to overturn or overcome current events.

I answered his question by saying that although I agreed with everything he just said, I am able to find optimism in the course of my job and day to day life. I work with students, non profit organizations, and older people trying to find a way to become relevant in today’s world. I need to find hope, because the people I work with need me to believe there is a point to what they are doing or plan to do.

Quite a few of the people I work with are international, many are undocumented. The majority of these people are coming to Quincy College, a two year college, after they have completed their doctorate, or master’s degree in their own country. Dentists hoping to become dental assistants, doctors registering for the Certified Nurse Assistant program. Last week, I worked with an economist from Nigeria to find the resources to study for the TEAS so she can enter our LPN program.

I stand by what I said about needing to feel hope so I can offer my optimism, like a pen or an apple, to these people when they step into my office.

Last week, I had to lead the class in a conversation about the Global Media. Half way through the chapter, I realized I need to do so much more.

I had always thought ]when I welcomed a woman from Haiti, leaning over the table to listen to her words through her accent, and answering her questions, clearly, with the program sheet between us, as a visual guide- that was doing the right thing. Calling upstairs to see when the next TEAS preparatory class began,  also the right thing. Personally showing her the campus, introducing her to the Dean of Nursing, directing her to the most sympathetic staff member in our Financial Aid office, I felt like a rock star.

Welcoming people from other countries and helping them adjust to the area, navigate their way through job searches, higher education, even helping them help their own children make the transition, is important. But wouldn’t I be so much more effective if I knew something, anything, about the world these people are coming from?

Since Wednesday, I’ve made a priority to spend about twenty minutes looking outside of Western sources for the news. Columbia, France, Brazil, Canada,, Africa, Egypt, Qatar- the world is huge. I thought catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’ was going to be a process.I

I don’t know anything about ransomware, triple talaq, the recent rescue in Italy or spread of cholera in Yeman.

 

I consider myself an ambassador for higher education in the United States and I know little or nothing about where these people’s stories began.

Since then, I search out the international news mid-day. Over coffee, it’s too much. Before bed, I would never,sleep. Middle of my work day, I take a few minutes over lunch to seek out global news, not just from my half of the equator.  After reading a story like ‘There is no justice for the poor in Brazil’  or ‘Pentagon wants to boost US troop numbers in Afghanistan’, my ongoing issues with the copier machine seem a little less dire.

It’s sad, often, the state of the world, but it’s also enlightening, to feel like I’m becoming, bit by bit, more aware of what is actually happening in the whole world- the whole world. I’m aware and beginning to understand different points of view. I’ve had the opportunity to glimpse at a different landscape, politically, emotionally, socially, and   outside my own window. (Honestly, it’s been a week. I know enough to know I’m going to be without a clue for a while.)

I’m never going to have time to catch up on Game of Thrones.

Today was Monday, a big Monday in our world.

Big day at work, not really. I work in Mission Support at Quincy College. I was calling prospective nurses who had been accepted into our Nursing program to confirm that they planned on beginning our Nursing program. It couldn’t get much simpler. These people really, really wanted to be in our Nursing program. I heard “of course” most of the time. Or if they called me back, they led with “is something wrong with my application?”

I like talking to prospective Nurses. I love their clarity, their sense of purpose. Not once have I heard someone say “I’m thinking about the Nursing program, but I’m also considering being a Vet or going into law school like my dad.” Many students come into Nursing after trying other things out, so by the time they are applying, I guess they pretty much have seen what their alternative lives look like.

I work for Mission Support. Nobody really knows what that means, except me and my boss. Not even people that work at the College. The Director of Finance told me I actually work in IT. Some people think I do some kind of outreach, students like to ask for my help figuring out if they should take Math or English in their first semester and the people in IT would tell you I work on the second floor.

After work, I raced home to switch costume from aspiring Mission Support/IT/Outreach Coordinator trying to climb up the ladder to a job title people have heard of, to Football Mom. Skirt off. Jeans over tights. Some kind of workout long sleeve sleeved fleece thing in black to hide too many lunches and office parties.  Uggs. Scarf. Sunglasses. Old Starbucks cup filled up with this mornings coffee that left on the burner for 7 hours. Dog on leash, keys in hand, phone charged, I made it ten minutes before half time.

Afterwards, Colin says it wasn’t a good game and he sucked. I spent my time talking to friends and walking the dog back and forth. It was lovely.Occasionally there are advantages to being totally without a clue.

Home again, my 12 year old daughter had a band concert. She plays the flute. A friend had picked her up early, so I had the luxury of switching again,*this time to low heeled leather boots, a flannel shirt from Bass Pro shop and a blazer. Little lip gloss, little mascara, should have done something about the hair but my friend was saving me a seat and I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Or have to park on the sidewalk. Which I had to do. (Milton moms, and most of us have full time jobs, are usually groomed. Especially at concerts, school plays and sporting events. I am not usually groomed and am certainly not the sort to wear three different outfits in one day, but for some reason, especially when there a whole of them gathered together, I really, really want to look like one.)

Great concert. They were 12.  There was a chorus, a orchestra, a string band, and a cello group. The singing was lovely. My daughter and her friends were brilliant. All the different interpretations of black pants, white shirt, black shoes was fascinating. My daughter wore Converse. My daughter is so much cooler than I will ever be.

I picked up my son. He didn’t want to talk, you know, sucky game and all. Katy wanted to know when I was going to her a phone. I asked both of them when they were going to put their clean clothes away. We should have put it on YouTube.

I pulled into the grocery store. I needed meat. I needed salad. I just started Atkins again, and all I’d eaten all day was peanut granola bars with nougat.

I went into CVS, a hungry mom of two, worried about my weight and my job and whether or not the  Colin and Katy’s clothes were going to rot on the stairway while I grew out of mine, and I looked around. I looked for Diet Root beer and snacks on sale for after school that I wouldn’t be tempted to demolish and nail polish remover and thought about lipstick.

I decided to buy the root beer and go home.

I’ve known the cashier who rang me up for a while. She is an English student, crazy smart and she uses words the way I do. We have lightning conversations about everything but the Kardashians, under the glare of the Kardashians, every time I shop there.

While I was ringing out, she mentioned that in her senior year she’d be doing some teaching. I offered to introduce her to a friend of mine, a math teacher, suggested we have coffee.

She grinned at me. “You know what, here’s my number. Give me a call some time. I’d love to go to coffee with you. You seem like you’d be a cool person to talk to.”

Do you know how long it’s been since I thought of myself as a cool person to talk to?

I define myself as a middle aged mom, good for advice about what to do when puberty hits or whether or not a family should get a dog.

I’m an employee of Quincy College- I can talk to anyone about financial aid, pathways to careers, and how to get into UMass.

I have a lot of friends, and I know they think I’m interesting, but most of my friendships have taken a long time to take hold. I figured I kind of grow on people, or wear them down, or they just appreciate that I like to take their kids to the gym.

I’m a cool person to talk to, says a college student named Alexandria.

Of course, I lost her number.

But I always need stuff from CVS.

It’s where the cool people shop.

MY Job At Quincy College

August 15, 2015

It’s been a Long Week in my life.

Hours at work have been intense, I work for Quincy College and a large part of my job is working to help potential students become students.

This involves many conversations, involving almost every single candidate. There are conversations with the student, some parents chime in. I have Financial Aid on speed dial – “He hasn’t turned in his Financial Aid information form? Really?”

Admissions- “Are you sure you haven’t gotten her transcript? Can I put her thru to you?” Followed closely by the Registrar’s Office, the Business Office, the Deans, the Advisors-  at the end of the week, I’ve talked a lot.

Occasionally I sit down with someone and they tell me about what their plans are, about which classes they’ll be taking, even about what they want to be when they grow up.

When a student leans forward, and starts to talk to me, I lean back and listen.

I don’t answer the phone. I ignore my son’s texts. I stop wondering what they will be serving upstairs for Karen’s Birthday or Michael’s going away.

I need this time with these people- kids, baby boomers, grandparents, unwed mothers, recovering addicts, struggling sons, international students from Nepal, Bulgaria, France, Haiti.

I need time with the people that come to me for help, I need to hear their stories so that I can remember why helping them is the best job I’ve ever had.

The other night, Colin was sprawled on my bed, watching basketball. He looked up at me. He smiled. He spoke- “mom, come here. I want to watch basketball with you.”
I swooned.

These are interesting times in our house. With Colin, I am often the source of great amusement, for what I wear, what I know and don’t know, (who is Kendrick Lamar?) and how I text.

Then he wants me to listen to a song he loves, or offers to lend me his basketball sneakers to go to zumba class.*

My daughter is 10. She went to see a teacher got married and needed to ask the next door neighbor for eyeshadow, my selection wasn’t flattering to her skin tone. And while I was making dinner tonight, she marched up to me in the kitchen, in front of the stove, thru her arms around me and declared it was time to snuggle.

I packed up all of Colin’s boy clothes last week. A thousand hats, he never wore one. Fifteen different teeshirts from basketball camp and summer camp and football practice. Little boy pajamas with dinosaurs and fire trucks and skulls.

In the midst of all these changes I’ve been on a bit of a cleaning bender. The hard thing is, Colin is thirteen. Katy is nine. They are used to my bi monthly half hearted attempts to get the house in order. They listened to the speech. They made their beds. They put the clean towels into the linen closet instead of on the floor in front of the linen closet. This all lasted about three days, every couple of months. Before.

When Back To School struck this year, I decided we were going to get the house in order. And that meant all of us. I regard clean clothes perched on the stairs the way I used see Sophie’s poop when she’d been left home too long. Socks in the hallway send me into a frenzy. And stuffing all of the offending articles into the closet and then closing the door doesn’t work anymore either. In the old days, I wouldn’t open the door. Now I do.

And of course, along with Back To School, the New Leaf Cleaning Policies, there are all of the Back to School Activities- swim team, football, youth group, flute lessons. And there is my job. And my other job. And two classes at Quincy college. And dinner, and friends, and the gym.

I have to go to the gym. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with asthma. Mostly at night. My lungs wheeze, it sounds like I have a choir of Who’s from Whoville singing in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. Yoga seems to help. And an extended time spent in the sauna after yoga helps even more.

It’s not surprising, I guess. My family has started careening forward towards the next part, the part where I have to learn to let them go. I can clean, watch basketball, burn dinner while I cuddle on the couch, zumba till the teacher throws me out, and it’s not going to slow down. And when I do slow down, when I lay me down to sleep, I lose my breath.

It returns. And I go back to sleep, and wake up to the most charismatic of canines, Sophie. Sophie groans when I first reach down to say good morning. And then she wags, not just her tail, her whole body. And she shivers, and sighs, and wedges closer to my body. I know she really, really needs to get outside. Even so she will stay in bed in bliss right next to me until I have to pry myself away and return to vertical.

That’s how things are right now in our house.

*Don’t ever wear basketball sneakers to zumba. Ever. They are incredibly hard to dance in, and more important, they look really, really stupid.

Last week I wrote a piece about the places in my life that make me happy, that make me feel at home, and let me move thru them without stropping to try to remember where the bathroom is.

Right after I click publish, there is a brief period of post-post afterglow, (sometimes I think that brief period after I’ve put something out there for the “public”, when I’m just thrilled with the simple fact that once more- I found something to say- it’s bliss, it’s relief, and there’s a dash of excitement in the mix… What if nobody reads what I so carefully offered to them, what if there are better things out there on the interweb, and all of my readers finally found out about them! Oh sorry, that causes a mild blip of terror, the excitement sings when I think about what if someone new finds my words, and they work in publishing, or run the New Yorker, or are a big time Broadway producer who thinks so far out of the box she can imagine my musings as having the potential to make a wonderful musical. Off off Broadway. (As long as I got rid of my son, the snakes and the turtle, and at the beginning of the second act lose my husband for a while to a crack whore, later saved by my 9 year old daughter, who put on a show so Daddy could go to rehab.) You never know, I suppose, but for the record, I wouldn’t get rid of my son or the snakes, but the turtle, well, I would be open to a discussion.

Right after the brief period of post-post afterglow, I remembered what I forgot. Nowhere in musings did I mention one place that I have had a love affair with for years. So intense was this relationship, I went back to school so I could get a job to work at this place. It is the Quincy Y,a local branch of the South Shore Y.

We first joined when my daughter started attending preschool at their Early Childhood Education Center. We moved up to next level when she signed up for swim team, and I began to work out while she was at practice. I’ve never been a mom that could happily sit by any pool, even to watch her youngest swim laps for an hour. Pool sides are for when you are in St.Croix and I have a thick book and a really hot waiter that wants to bring me martinis. I am a kind person, if someone wants to bring me martinis, I accept them, with grace. Pool sides at the Quincy Y are places where I put my stuff before I go swimming. My daughter didn’t think it was a terrific idea for me to do laps with the team. And so…

I ventured to the world of strength training and cardio. Soon I flirted with the classes, found out I loved Zumba, and Body Pump and Definitions.

Katy left preschool, and I signed her up for a cheaper swim team in Dorchester, but I found myself spending more a time there.

Long story short, and I could essentially turn my slow journey into the world of the workout into a very, very long story, I decided to go to school to study Exercise Science, in hopes of one day working at this place that had become such an integral part of my life. I took the classes and got the job, and am proud to say I am an Ace Certified Personal Trainer working at the Quincy Y.

I’ve only been there about six months, but in that short span of time, I’ve made many friends. When I walk in that door, and glance at the woman at the front desk, I know her name. I know where the lost and found is, and that a pair of headphones wouldn’t be found there. They go in the drawer behind the desk. I know what to say to the six teenage boys sitting in a corner on Nautilus equipment, texting their friends and showing off their sneakers, I show them how to get to basketball court. In case they forgot since the last time I showed them yesterday.

But I hadn’t gone all the way, and it wasn’t that the Y didn’t make me feel welcome. So many of the trainers have become really good friends. And the members remember my name, even my name tag on order.

It’s this. I am a exercise science major. I passed my Ace exam and am a real, certified by the great people at Ace to train people.

And I’m not in amazing shape.

I work out every day. But this summer, I became a little obsessed with swimming and hiking. It has been… um… two months since I’ve lifted anything, other than my daughter off a wall. I thought about doing a plank when I was looking for my car keys under the sofa, but then I found them so I had to drive someone somewhere. But by the first week in September I knew it was time to get to the business of building the muscles, and I really do want muscles, I have wanted muscles long before Michelle Obama started wearing short sleeve shirts. So when fall came, I was happy. I knew that cold weather would soon send me inside to the elliptical, onto the sweet seat of the chest press and the assisted chin, and others.

And I would, with the help of my fellow trainers, build and lift and wave ropes around in the air until I finally got a body that looked like it belonged on a personal trainer. Since I am a personal trainer, this is probably a good idea. Swimming and hiking all the time count for something, but mostly they give you really bad hair, and an excellent cardiovascular system.

I knew once I had some muscles, the Y would be right up there with church,kids, woods and water as one of my homes away from home. And it would have to stay that way iif I wanted to keep all those muscles.

But two weeks ago, the Quincy Y succumbed to time, a water pipe exploded and the building shut for good. They are hoping to reopen the new facility the end of October, the beginning of November.

And so I’ve been missing it. I miss my friends, the seventy two difficult teenagers, and that feeling I’d get when Kim, my boss, 6’2″, told me she had something to talk to me about. I miss hearing Dani talk about Crossfit, and Angela telling enthusiastically showing off the bruises she’d gotten in kick boxing class with Mickey.

So tonight, I realized I have some work to do. I need to squat those squats and curl those hammers, I need to conquer the world of free weights, and work on my push
ups. I am going to ready when the new Y opens. I will be ripped, and taut, and strong. People will look at the new Y, and look at me, in my tank top, and they will wonder if I built it all by myself.

On opening day, when I walk in to our new state of the art facility, I will be worthy. And if I’m not quite there yet, I know I can count on a little help from my friends.

My kids had mid winter break last week.

My brother had chest pains and had two stents put in his chest; my mom says having two stents put in his chest at 48 is no big deal, the surgery was non invasive.

I got a C on my BioMechanics quiz on Tuesday, my attempt at diagramming the muscles in the upper thigh was pathetic.

My mother in law, currently suffering from the early stages of dementia, was found to have breast cancer at her last checkup. Five minutes after she left the doctor’s office, she told her daughter they needed to go out and celebrate “another perfect checkup.”

When my husband told me this, I started to cry, but then I remembered I was late picking up my best friend’s kids from the school bus. They didn’t have a break this week. So if I was late I couldn’t use my own kids as an excuse. And I  didn’t want them to see me crying because then I’d have to explain the whole thing to them and I’d cry more. Or they wouldn’t notice me crying

And I’d cry even more after I dropped them off.

My daughter went to camp. My son, he’s 12, in seventh grade, didn’t want to go to camp. He said he needed time at home to relax. I let him stay home, but made him put clean sheets on my bed, and walk the dog, and fold clothes, even Katy’s clothes, which always end up on the floor. Every morning before I left, I told him to feed the animals. I’m not sure what he fed them. Each night, when I got home, Sophie, Michael and Bijoux all seemed more anxious than usual. So, I’m wondering, did he feed them, or did he just listen to obnoxious music all day and they aren’t used to having him around. Maybe they have an afternoon napping club and he messed them up. So I fed them really large dinners each night.

Other than the C, school was good. Katy had fun at camp. Colin seems more relaxed, but he also announced this morning he is suffering from a severe cold. So I don’t know if he’s relaxed or weak from fever.

Thank God we went away for a weekend. Thank God, I saw my friend, and had a conversation outside of what’s for dinner, or what’s for lunch or whether the special socks are dry. Thank God, there were movies, and time to talk without any agenda, bigger than small talk, but smaller than meaningful… just conversation. And then home, and a drop off of luggage, and we deposited ourselves at another friend’s house for the Oscars. Chicken wings, and skits about boobs, and Captain Kirk as the voice of all wisdom…

And home by 9:30. I’m packed for the gym in the morning. Colin and Katy are ready for school There is milk for their cereal. There is cream for my coffee. There is coffee.

I am at the age where normal, daily life is going to be interrupted by horrible, horrible news. And I need to move forward thru my normal daily life because I am lucky enough to be in the middle of one. My prayers go out to the world, and soon enough, I know, I will be asking that the world pray for me.

Happy February Vacation Week. We are a little closer to springtime tonight and a little  closer to death.

Are you an optimist, a pessimist or just plain disgusted with poorly executed transitions?

I’m a little of both, but figure this will pass once the sidewalks are clear and I get a good grade on my midterms.

 

 

Today, 730 wake up, kids home from school, I’m off for interpersonal communications. Three hour class lecture covered syntax and hopi indians and the n word. Next, work study, I am the woman responsible for making sure the students of Quincy College know Jesus is coming to speak to us about the importance of voting, and there is a creative writing club whose leader has promised to bring snacks to 

the first meeting. And I tidied up the lounge. And I replaced the tape used on fliers in the past with sticky goo. I worked until four.
Then, two frantic conversations later, I had to pick one kid up from the bus, and get another to football… Do you have your water bottle… What you mean you forgot your helmut? You need your helmut? Your phone? You need your phone at football practice????
Picked up. Dropped off. Picked up. Dropped off. I am truly a modern day suburban glacier.
Home to get ready for a benefit, Date night with my daughter. Dress, make up, brief attempt at making my hair look like a style instead of just hair, I need to learn how to make a chignon… Katy looked great, she is eight, she knows about accessoriess and the dangers of too much blush. 
We are in the car in fifteen minutes. Dressed and smelling really good and then, we are pulling into the parking lot of the t, and… no cash. I begin my evening begging the parking attendant to let me slide an envelope thru his window with the $5 parking fee after they close because we are running late. I guess he likes my hair, or he thinks I’m really pathetic, or he will agree to anything because as I beg him, three other cars pull in behind me…
We park the car. I dig out an old tee ticket from the summer and we fly thru the turnstiles, Katy still loves a ride on the escalator,
We take the red line to the green line. We walk from Copley five blocks to the Copley Marriot. Katy and I are both in high heels but they are wedges, our feet don’t hurt too bad and we are excited. We are in the city. We are going to a benefit. We have tickets waiting, and there will be music, and dinner and dancing.
And there was. For a few hours, there was music by Bernadette Peters, and dancing by a swing band, and sliders and shrimp and wine and Shirley Temples. It was a lovely night. 
On the way to the t, I remembered to hit the bank machine. When we got back to the car, I remembered to slip the cash in the envelope and leave the envelope in the booth where the parking attendant was sitting just a few hours ago.
I was a princess tonight, even if it was just for an hour or two. And princesses always keep their promises, even when they are really, really tired from a long night of dancing.
And princesses in 2012 make sure they go home and blog about keeping their promises even though they were really, really tired after a long, long night of dancing and a long, long day of doing everything else.

I recently returned to college with the hope I might eventually figure out what I want to be when I grow up. In the course of this journey, I’ve studied math, computer science,  two subjects out of my comfort zone, but I think I met my nemesis in the form of a course called Anatomy and Physiology, no, it’s actually Applied Anatomy and Physiology, ( does this mean we have do dissect frogs, or are we going to play doctor?)

I have a quiz this week, but I when I sat down to study, I was seized by a very, very unfamiliar urge. I wanted to clean my house.

It was quite a bender. I washed the walls, I took everything out of the refrigerator, wiped the shelves, then re -organized it’s contents. We now have a space put aside for cheese, I’m happy to say. But the highlight of my afternoon was when I tackled the  receptacle in my kitchen known as the library box. On the bottom I found, buried under Highlights magazines, National Geographics and takeout menus, a “Mom’s Got It Together Calendar”. On the cover is a picture of a very happy mother, I assume, and a sticker that says “keeps the family in order”. Along the bottom it promises “Stay organized- so you can play!” It is a 24 month calendar good from September 2010 thru August 2012.

I had a golden opportunity, and I blew it.

6 am wake son

7 am wake daughter

715 am wake daughter again

750 am drop daughter at school bus

800 am yoga

900 am shower

940 am first class this semester, physical evaluations and assessments

1100 am second class this semester, strength training and endurance

1 pm third class… Anatomy and Physiology, the human body will never look the same now that I’ve seen it in quadrants.

255 pm run to car so that I may

300 pm pick up daughter

330 pm go to store

430 pm pick up friend’s daughter

500  pm cook dinner

530 pm eat dinner

535 pm clean up after dinner

540 pm start conversation with kids about why they should help me clean up after dinner.

542 pm kids remember homework they have to do right away…

Etc. Etc. Etc.

It was a long, long day, and I wanted to record it all for posterity, but I’m too damn tired. So if you would like to fill in the blanks and imagine the details- the funny and/or insightful comments I made, or just how great my hair looked, go for it.

If you’re a realist, I usually have lipstick on my teeth.

   Life for the next month or three is going to be nuts. I have got homework and labs and each weekday  begins with the quest for impossible parking. I have an NCAA player in the making, and an Olympics contender on the verge- in the midst of my stuff my athletes need to be ferried to and from practices and competitions and fed something other than last night’s pizza.  

     There is my homework, their homework, playdates and hangouts, and the constant challenge of keeping them in appropriate footwear that fits. And I can’t forget the new kitten, the not so new puppy, the cats and the turtle and the dead bird in the shed, ( I have to find Whitey an everlasting home where Sophie won’t rip him to shreds.)

      I have a lot on my plate, hell, I have a lot on my casserole dish that is roughly the size of Portland.

      So as I move through these days coming ahead, I will plan for the moments just after.

      When it’s done, when grades are in, championships won or lost, animals buried or tossed, living animals getting along or banished to individual rooms, doctors seen, paperwork done, I am going to find me a night on the town.

     I don’t want to do shots. I could care less about scintillating conversation. I don’t need to dress up or eat morsels of strange food at ridiculous prices.

     I want to go to club where I’ve never been. I want to sip a cold drink, take my time. I want to be asked by a gentleman, who, when he asks will act like he isn’t sure of my answer, for a dance. I will say yes. When I take his hand, the band will start playing just the right song. (I don’t know what the right song will be but it will be Just. The. Right. Song.) And we will slow dance round that floor like we have all of the time in the world. And we will.