There is alcohol. Wine, fancy cocktails with basil floating in them like pine needles, and beer.

There are long, dark wood walks with a dog that follows, lingers, then sprints to a pile of damp leaves. There is the observation of joy, as she thrashes in gold and rusty brown and dirt. When she jumps into the van, my sweet girl smells like she was out all night, and it’s Thursday afternoon.

There is work, swallowing handfuls of chocolate chips from the fridge meant for Sunday pancakes, dinners out at restaurants I can’t afford, where we share appetizers and order just one more.


There is splitting the check even though I ordered just one more, and knowing it’s understood. I needed that.

There is time with friends.

There are phone calls to mom, and not calling mom, because I don’t want her to know details. There is knowing she is there to listen to the details if it comes to that.

There is music from when I was his age, and his own music, the inappropriate language, the grinding bass, the beat. There is time at the gym, lifting metal, finding downward dog in a room full of women who look they don’t have a clue even though probably half of them have been where I am now.

There are impassioned conversations about Trump, the Supreme Court, moving to Canada, the latest from Trump.

There the memes of Obama and Biden.

There is tv and slippers and sleeping pills and falling asleep with the tv on so I don’t have to think about anything but the carefully written dialogue written by writers on another coast that belong to a union and  are probably talking about Trump right now.

There is knowing, somewhere, in my head, this is not cancer. It is not Alzheimer’s, or living without heat, or living alone, or being old, and wishing for what will never come again.

When I find myself dealing with another variety of grief, I may or may not turn to the same these things I have found  along this journey.

Inside this life of mine, right now, I still find bliss and laughter, even though this heart of mine weighs more than my whole house, weights more than anything I have ever carried.

I have found a way to lift this heart and love this child and move forward into the tomorrow and next month.

Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my knees buckle and I lean knowing I have lost it all. I find myself on the sofa, wishing I had softer socks, or a magazine, or a softer pillow, or it was ten years ago.

Then my daughter asks me to sign her permission slip. A student calls with a question. Sophie sighs in her sleep and I know she is dreaming of bunnies.

So I pull myself up and I take myself down to my bedroom. I find sleep, I do not dream of bunnies, that I know of anyway.

But I wake up next to Sophie and that helps.

My family is home with me tonight. I’m a little bit angry and totally blessed.

Well, mostly blessed.

I hope I dream of bunnies.

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There was a band concert tonight at the high school. All ages were playing, in the post recorder years-. 6th grade thru 12th.
 
I don’t usually get that excited about school concerts. My daughter plays the flute in a sea of fifteen other flautists. Since it’s classical music, and she’s a little older now, it’s not considered good form to kneel down in the orchestra pit to take photos where I can actually see it’s her, instead of one of the other little girls with long hair and a silver rod sticking out of her chin.
 
The music was lovely tonight.This is the first time Kaitlin performed on the same evening as the high school band. There was a eclectic combination of jazz, a smattering of avant garde, I think, or maybe it was modern, and some haunting classical pieces. If I’d known I was going to write this down for the world to read, I would have stolen a program so I wouldn’t seem like such an idiot.
 
I arrived late. Right after I dropped Katy and her friend off to warm up (sorry about the insider musical terms, I was in high school band too,) I had a call to pick her big brother from a friend’s house.
 
I suggested Colin join us at the concert. He said “no, thank you”.
 
Actually, that’s not what he said. The terms he used would sound mean in print, and he’s not a mean boy. I don’t think he’s a mean boy, he’s a fifteen year old boy and he certainly acts pretty damn nasty sometimes, but when I took him to the drive thru he shared his french fries. And he’d been working out. Everyone knows french fries are a key component to muscle recovery.
 
So I had to pick Colin up, get him food, check my teeth for lipstick, remove lipstick, reapply lipstick and fill a go cup with yesterday’s coffee. By the time I was back and parked, far, far away from the front door, I was five minutes late walking into the auditorium.
 
Rock’n roll concerts start late. Band concerts start exactly on time.
 
I staggered up the stairs. In the very top row, and I saw a couple I knew. They did that wave thing, 2nd level, which means “we are saying hello, but we also have a spare seat for you if are willing to climb all the way up and over to join us.” I joined them.
 
I tucked myself into the folding chair and settled down to listen. I looked at all the people in the audience. Colin’s soccer coach from 2nd grade. My friend’s daughter. A yoga classmate and fellow church goer who gives the best hugs in the world. The two people who had welcomed me to sit next to them; they don’t know me well but they have offered me wine on more than one occasion and they’re funny and they think I’m funny so I think I love them too.
 
Small town concerts are different than small town sports events. I had a chance to take stock. I studied the faces of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, gym buddies, and kids. Kids that I’d known first in strollers were tiptoeing down the stairs and out into the lobby to buy snacks by the themselves.
 
I closed my eyes and was swept inside the music. In between songs, I peered onto the stage for a glimpse of my daughter, or Madeleine, or Andy, Colin’s friend from football playing jazz saxophone.
 
It was long. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes mysterious. Throughout the entire concert, I felt so blessed to be there, at Milton High School with all of these people I’ve shared so many moments like these with, most of whom I don’t know by name.
 
We share a town. We are sharing our lives in this town in this turbulent, scary time. But inside this town, at the spelling bee and the soccer match, day to day life is still familiar and naive. Yes, there is bad stuff happening here, look at the thousands of beer cans in Cunningham Park.The high school has been on lockdown more than twice in the past couple of years. We fight like crazy people on Facebook, and then seek out a yoga class or head out the back door for a run in the hope of finding some peace.
 
But inside the high school, last night, we were all in it together.
 
I know your daughter, look out for my son. I’ll keep an eye out for your cat that sleeps sprawled in the street. I promise to buy cookies from your niece if you’ll smile at my daughter when you see her standing alone in the morning, waiting for the bus.
 
If you don’t know me, I’m Colin and Katy’s mom. Lately, they’ve been growing up way too fast. So be kind to me too. This is hard. Not just having teenagers in the house, but knowing that the days of band concerts, doling out money for ice cream, helping with homework, and liking the same songs on the radio are pretty much on the way out. All that’s really left are band concerts and football games.
 
I’ve got seven more years of concerts and games.
 
So when you see me, say hi. We will sit on the sidelines together. We will applaud for the people we love, the people we know and the life we are living right now- in the stands, walking the dog, and driving the streets in this little corner of the world.
 
It’s nice knowing I have friends, even if we don’t all know each others names.
 
I’m Julie.Band concert

15 feels like shit.

February 22, 2016

Let’s just say a friend of mine has a teenage son.

And this friend’s been having to deal with a lot of teenage angst.

This friend has been on edge, which is a nice way of saying she’s ready to pull all her hair out. My friend likes her hair.

Then my friend took a moment to remember how it feels to be miserable and left out and scared and angry at the whole world.

She remembered what 15 felt like.

It felt like wearing jeans two sizes too small- uncomfortable and embarrassing, or being lost in a shirt a shirt 2 sizes too big, that your mom swore looked great, knowing everyone thinks you look ridiculous. It smelled like Clearasil and blackberry brandy, anger and old kleenex. It tasted like tears, flat beer and words that couldn’t be taken back, no matter what. It felt like regret and fear and rock n’roll and springtime and the heart when the phone started ringing and the heart when it realized the phone was never going to ring again. It felt like all these things every single day, every single hour. Just thinking about this made my friend very tired.

My friend is thankful she is not 15.

My friend is going to try to use a combination of breath, empathy and attending her “kickit” kickboxing twice a week to help her not make his misery all about her.

My friend is going to try to be a little more understanding of what he’s going thru.

She is not going to let her sympathies turn her into a doormat.

It is going to be a process.

I wish my friend a lot of luck.

 

 

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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.

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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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Bliss

January 13, 2015

I’m driving to the library and “What I Like about You” comes on the radio.

There’s no one else in the car and I have time to listen to the whole thing and pick up the first season of Breaking Bad before I arrive, on time, to fetch my basketball boy and his friends.

I return home. The dishwasher hums, nothing is left in the sink but a half eaten sponge,

Sophie the Sweet just informed me she’d rather nap than walk in the rain, my daughter smells like lip gloss and soap.

My friends love me, my family still calls. I’m not close to being done with anything and I’ve still got plenty of time, (or the ignorant bliss of assumption)

I am just so damn happy to be alive.

I love you.

(Just want to make this clear, I am, by nature a very loving person. It’s safe to say I love almost everyone. Well, like almost everyone. If I’m having a good day. You get the point- as I write these words, love is in my heart.)

Even though I love you, it is not a good time when I go to the store at 8:30 at night to buy you earbuds so that you can get pumped on the way to the game tomorrow.

It is not a barrel of laughs standing in the middle of your bedroom trying to figure out how, in 36 hours, every piece of clothing you have ever warn, in your entire life, seems to be scattered on your floor, draped on over sized pillows, dangling from your music stand, or stuffed under your bed.

I understand that you regard it as a kind gesture on your part to accept my help cleaning it up, but this process, well, also not a day at the beach. Or a day at the dog park. Or even an hour in the dentists office reading People.

I’ve established I’m a pretty nice person to the people in my life. And I don’t regret the late night shopping, or the early morning to mid Saturday afternoon attempts to return order. I didn’t even mind the late nights spent with glue and poster board, a map of Ecuador and your friend with the allergies, whose mom made me move every single piece of food that might have been exposed to peanuts or peanut dust out to our shed. Which meant transporting everything in our cupboards, except the spice rack, outside.

Why did we do the project at our house? Because you wanted my help. I think. (Looking back, it was probably because your friends mom wouldn’t let you listen to the radio, but I’m going to choose, for my purposes here, to go with you wanted my help.

And both of you, or all of you, you all out there- Still want my help on a daily frigging basis.

So why you gotta be so rude? (I can hear the eyeballs rolling as I type.)

How can you act like sitting down to dinner of barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, and rice, is a favor? And that I should be thankful to you to eat the barbecued chicken and rice, the corn is too labor intensive, while sitting next to me. And that I shouldn’t complain when after four minutes you get up to leave. After all, you sat next to me. You didn’t point out that you prefer legs, and mashed potatoes. You didn’t even try to bring it down to the tv room. I got to spend four minutes with you, and you even put your dish somewhere near the sink.

Let me point out, I didn’t even serve a real vegetable in honor of your presence. And that I attempted to look wide awake and interested while you explained, for the 89th times, what “special teams” are in terms of football.

And that just sitting next to me for four minutes isn’t enough.

This is what I want from the people in my life- I would like you to be nice to me.

I would like you to ask about my day before you start walking upstairs to bed.

I would like you to laugh at my jokes. Ok, maybe about a quarter of my jokes. We can work out a signal so that you know that a joke is coming, so that you can laugh. Or chuckle softly. Or even not roll your eyes.

I would like you to say thank you and please when I hand you your laundry instead of pointing out that when Michael’s mom washed your socks, they came back “white, actually, white!!! Can you call her and find out how she did it?”

I would like you to know that sometimes you hurt my feelings.

I know that my feelings are the last things on your mind, and I accept that orchestra, and algebra, and going for a bike ride with Amanda, and procuring money for another trip to Milton House of Pizza, that all of these things are probably a little more on the forefront of your mind than my feelings.

I would like you to know that your friends won’t think you are a complete loser if you say hi to me after the game. And that I will rent Spiderman two if you’ll hold my hand when it gets scary.

And I’d like you to know that even when you hurt my feelings, I get over it pretty quick.

And I start thinking about what it would be like if I stopped driving you to practice, or making sure you have enough money for snacks, or reminding you about the project due on Monday.

Sometimes I have a lot of free time. To think.

I’m just sayin”

This summer,  I sat down with my 14 year old son and discussed, in depth, porn and pot.
I took my 11 year old  daughter shopping for a swimsuit. She came out of the dressing room a young woman. A young woman that had discovered what horrible lighting, unforgiving mirrors, and a swim suit one size too small can make can make a person feel like spending the summer on the couch.
This is not a time that lends itself to facebook posts.
I look at my son and I swoon when he smiles and I cringe when he opens his mouth.
I reach for my daughter and she’s left the building or she leans on my shoulder and giggles or she takes a deep breath and explains the world.
I don’t know what’s happening next. Just that summer is almost just about done and fall means we are all moving on and I wish I could have this summer one more time
Next year. Cause it’s only going to get more complicated.
Or just worse.
It’s going to get worse. And ‘m going to wish I’d appreciated now- these past few months, even with the awkward conversations and sad revelations, more than I did.

After all, there was long games of catch in the back yard, watching Colin’s face beam as he showed me a snake he caught at Ponkapoag Lake, the way Katy still puts her hand in mine when we cross the street, lots and lots of ice cream, and more time than I’d like to admit, curled up in bed, all three of us watching Brooklyn 99 reruns.

I’m going to wish for a lot of things.
.
Growing pains suck. For me. For them.
But I couldn’t wish for two smarter, cooler, funnier, kinder kids.
While they sleep upstairs, I count my blessings, pray for help, and thank God for all the memories.

Here I am.

March 2, 2014

I have finally came to the conclusion that my body is a pretty nice place to live. This after a troubling bout with a never ending chest cold, the onset of my fifties, and a life long wish that I was just a little taller.

All my life I’ve been plagued, not only by height envy, (and look at all of the woman lurching around in high heels, I’m not the only one,) but by the vague idea that I would look so much better if my lips were just a little plumper, my belly a little less so, my hair straighter, my feet daintier… The list goes on and on and on.

And then, while I was on the phone with my mom, listening to her tell me about the latest cruise she’s booked, a thousand pounds of envy crashed down on me. Not only did I want to be taller, with a voluptuous smile, a taut tummy, a sleek mane, held up by a delicate instep, I wanted to be all of that and lounging on a deck chair in the sun. On a boat. With a cocktail, a cabana boy, a slew of really good books and a crowd of fascinating people waiting to hear my latest bon mots.

I pulled in my driveway and looked out the window at the dirty snow, the basketball hoop, slightly crooked, perched at the end of the driveway, and the dog poop in the front yard.

My short legs carried me out of the car and into the house. My face was greeted by the most wonderful of dogs, the smiling Sophie. My daughter gave me a hug. My son smiled and asked if I’d remembered to pick up milk.

I didn’t know what we were going to do about dinner. Pizza three nights a week is a little much. And if I was ever going to do anything about this waistline, it probably wasn’t the best option.

It turns out Katy had made macaroni and cheese, and she explained to me she didn’t even use butter, just low fat milk. And Colin offered that we could round the meal off with the grapes in the fridge I’d bought them to bring to school for snacks, (since they never, ever brought them to school for snacks- “see mom, sometimes it works out we don’t listen to you).

And I decided right then, right there, that this body of mine wasn’t such a bad place to live. With a little help from my husband, it had delivered me these two amazing, surly, sweet, funny people. It has carried me thru a life of heartbreak and bliss.

I have not always been kind to this body of mine. Mostly I’ve actually been pretty cruel. Too much sleep, or sulking on sofas. A long love affair with cigarettes, and some serious time indulging in too much wine or dangerous trips to the ladies room. Bacon. Macaroons. Not enough fiber. Not enough water, too much water.

These days, I’m all about Greek yogurt, time at the YMCA and long walks in the woods with the dogs. I love spinach, I don’t eat red meat much. But that’s only been for a little while.

So all things considered, this body of mine has been pretty generous and forgiving. So I think the nicest thing I can do is stop fretting about the lounge chair that doesn’t have my name on it, and the fact that there isn’t a lip stick that is going to make me look like Ms Jolie.

I can still wear high heels, and dream a little. But at the end of the day, this day any way, this body of mine is right where I want to be.

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.

 

 

While I was making dinner tonight, I realized I was basking in the glow of a very good day. You know the feeling that lingers-  after the moment of accomplishment, a really good compliment or just after you’ve figured out an inspired solution to a difficult problem,(“Im thinking about the time I had to have a discussion with Aunt Joan about her, um, peculiar smell, but she’s still alive so I’ll save that story, and the inspired solution for a few years in the future.) When Katy figured out how to ride her two wheel bicycle,  I experienced major glow that lasted for days. When Colin got accepted to an AAU team, my heart fluttered every time I thought about it, every time I looked at him. When I make a meal both of them will eat, happily, no negotiations required, I glide thru the post dinner dance of dishes and counters and searching for tupperware tops.

In the middle of the nightly gotta make dinner two step- chopping peppers and peering into the oven at a chicken, still a pale yellow, except for  herbs on his back and the bacon wrapped around his legs, washing the spinach, and searching for more garlic, in the middle of a  hectic, rushed, half an hour intended to result in a delicious meal for four, I realized my feet were not touching the ground. That the missing garlic wasn’t making me anxious, or sending me rushing to the market for more. I was happy, and singing along to the radio, and smiling at the cat, who wasn’t smiling back because he isn’t happy with the order of operations. (People eat before pets.)

I had started a class last night, Exercise Facility Management, with an amazing teacher that is in charge of the Quincy Y in Quincy, MA. Unlike a lot of professionals, who take up teaching part-time, she was fascinating, engaging, and able to make a discussion about human resources paperwork interesting. This morning, I signed up to start working with disabled individuals during their workouts in a partnership program with the local YMCA. And I got to spend time with the king of exercise science at Quincy College, Dr. Wayne Westcott. He is enthusiasm personified, and may I just note the man doesn’t drink coffee, doesn’t even know what a munchkin is. During my class time with him, he chose me to help a young lady who had signed up for the wrong glass and had never even been on a piece of cardiorespiratory equipment. It felt terrific to be one introducing this lovely girl to something that just might change her life. And to top it all off, Kathi Schaeffer, my supervisor at the college, made arrangements that will allow me to take on the role of eyes for a blind student during her Nutrtition Lab.

All that good stuff has nothing to do with kids, or dogs, or even music on the radio.  It is about   having an opportunity to surround myself with amazing, smart people, and the joy I feel when they recognize me in their midst.  For the first time in a long time, I have found satisfaction outside my home, away from my family, unaccompanied by a gentle nudge of a cold, wet nose.

I think I’m growing up a little bit. I think I have ventured out of the nest and discovered some parts of the world are pretty wonderful. And the best part of all of this is, tonight, at dinner, if the chicken doesn’t burn, and the spinach isn’t too soggy and we have ketchup for the potatoes, I will be able to talk about all of the wonderful things that happened to me lately. I know Colin and Katy will be happy to listen. Since Colin got a Smart Phone, most of our dinner time conversations have focused on the dangers of the internet, the necessity of me having his passcode, (non-negotiable) and why, even though I’ve taken the test three times, I still fail miserably at his game Are You Prepared for A Zombie Invasion. We could all use a little break, at least until Katy hijacks the conversation with the question I’ve been waiting for… “Mommy, when can I get a smart phone?”

When one of the lovely people I just told you about gives me a job, my dear.