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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Mid to late August, it happens.

The back to school flyers weigh more than the news/travel/ and sports section combined.

My 14 year old daughter sighs and shakes her head-“I don’t know where the time went.”

Cunningham pool posts it’s last day. Sunblock goes on sale.
I look up from everything
To wonder how the hell that happened.

The pool might close,
assignments might be due,
but the sales are going to run until it’s time for Halloween.

Summertime is time out. Time off.
A day at the beach. An hour by the barbecue. An afternoon with a good book.

Some time at the park with your kids, grandkids,
or a bunch of dogs you’re babysitting,
spying on them on the swing in the playground,
wondering where the hell time went.

I don’t know where you’re at in the journey,
but I can pass this on.

The beach doesn’t close.
The barbecue doesn’t care if it’s Monday, November, or 4 am.

Cunningham pool shuts down,
but there’s ponds, kiddie pools,
the ocean, the bay,
and the bathtub,
all offering different water temperatures and dining options.

We can move thru life
At summertime slow,
Or fall frantic.
It’s still August, my friends.

No one is going to run out of pencils.

You don’t need to start wearing fall until January,
orange is not on the runway this year.

Revel in flip flops, sundresses, and shorts of all shapes,
until knees are blue.

Stay barefoot whenever you can, have something on hand
in case you want to enter a store, a restaurant,
or have an appointment with a court officer, or a prospective employer.

There are beaches, and the water is warm.
If the sharks bother you-
There are lakes, kayaks, italian ice, baseball, drive-ins, eating outside, eating takeout from the boxes in bed while watching Netflix, bike paths, hiking trails…

These are my summer time things.

I want to say- to myself- as much as you-

It doesn’t have to end because
the bus pass came in,
or a leaf turned,
or your son graduated high school, and all his friends are going to college,
and you want him to get ready for fall.

Summer is here.

It will not leave
until we mark
it in pen
Or email a colleague
Likely to note
it’s expected departure
On the calendar.

There is time
To call your family.
Text your friends.
Light a sparkler. Go dancing.
Sing along to the radio.
Roll down the top.
Roll down the window.
Laugh out loud.
Wish on a candle.
Look at the clouds.
Buy a beach towel that
means something.

Everything else goes by so fast, everything else-

This year,
Let summer last.

We don’t need to infringe
on the Fall season-

those that love the fall,
or make their living selling leafblowers, pumpkins, and autumn colored towels-
I respect their needs too,

I am just asking for a little room
to prepare for what needs to be done
in September.

There is work to be done in September.

This year,
I need a little extra time at the beach,
Before what comes
After Summer
2018.

Yesterday was the “progressive dinner” of high school college fairs in this area of Massachusetts. If you’re not familiar with the term, a progressive dinner is one where the participants move from one houses to enjoy different courses- the Jennings for cocktails, the Gorbenski’s for apps, Jenny and Rob always serve the roast beef, you get the idea.

I had to be a Milton High School at 8 am, followed by Braintree at 9:30, Blue Hills Regional Technical School at 1, and Randolph at 220 pm. I had a lot of company, about fifty to sixty other colleges attended, some from as far away as Florida. We all wore comfortable shoes, lugged portable suitcases stuffed with tiny phone chargers, stress balls, little notebooks, flyers, viewbooks, pens, inquiry cards, invitations, business cards, pop up signs and polyester table runners in school colors.

We walked from the parking lot thru Milton High School’s front door like we’d been there before. (I have actually spent a lot of time walking in and out of Milton High School’s front door. My son was asked to leave three months before he was to graduate.) Yesterday morning, I was there to speak to his classmates about coming to school at Quincy College while Colin played NBA All Star Draft in his room.

Admissions representatives don’t speak to each other much, at least that I’ve noticed. Walking in and out of the high schools, we’re rushing, to get to our tables, hoping for coffee, trying to get our display set up and inviting before the first class descends into the cafeteria or the gym, trying to find our car to get to the next college fair, or home, or to a hotel. We are rushing from one place to another, phones in one hand, suitcases dragging behind us. We save our smiles and conversation for the prospective students, that want to us to tell them that Criminal Justice is a terrific major, there are careers for people that study Art, or that they’ll get into Nursing School. I try to be as honest as I can when I speak to the teenagers.

It’s easy for me. Quincy College, where I work, is affordable, so it’s a good fit for most seventeen year olds without a clue. And most seventeen year olds are without a clue. Even if they think they have a clue, they really don’t. Not about the future, anyway. But they do have a hell of a lot of time to figure things out. Not as much time as my son, but they’ve got time, especially if they spend a year at Quincy College, where tuition is affordable, and they can save on housing costs by living at home.

As an Admissions representative, I don’t say much to my colleagues because I’m saving all of my energy for the conversations with the seventeen year olds. I have tired conversations about how Monday’s suck with friends, how irritating work politics can be with people the next desk over, how much I hate the morning with my daughter every morning. The teenagers at the other side get to see Julie, the empathetic, interesting, and interested version. And I get to listen to them, and remember what it was like to be seventeen with the whole world, and a whole life, spread in front of me.

I imagine a few years ago, Admissions representatives might have spoken to each other on the way back to their cars, after the first fair, on their way to the second about the best way to get from point a to point b. But now, we all have phones, with apps like Waze, Google Maps, good ol’ Suri, to guide us to the next stop of the route. So we walk to our cars, separately, calculating if we have enough business cards, summer schedules, and pens for the next stop. In between, Suri does the talking.

During the events, we listen, ask the right questions, and thrust inquiry cards at the students, saying- just fill out your name, email address, high school, interest and date of graduation. The cards they give back are hard to read, and a lot of the time, the workstudy who enters the address gets it wrong. Soon, we’ll have tablets. Soon the inquiry cards will be as automated as our directions.

I’m grateful for Suri. I can’t find my way to the corner store some days. My work study will say a prayer of thanks when we start having prospective students type in their information on a tablet.

Hopefully, there isn’t a technology waiting in the wings to take over the conversations with juniors. They look me in the eye, they listen to my answers. They tell me their plans, they tell me their other plans, sometimes, they tell me they’ve got no plans. I could spend all day going from high school to high school, five days a week.

 

In Sophie’s Opinion

April 5, 2018

    It’s my last semester of school, and one of the assignments is to write two to three times a week in a Communication Technology journal. The idea is for us to recognize the day to day impact technology has on our lives, and the way we relate to each other.

    For the record, I’m pretty aware of technology, and the impact it’s had on human interactions. I own two teenagers, and work at a college, where I am surrounded by many, many teenagers, all looking for chargers, lost headphones, or the wifi password. I work at a place where colleagues and I will email each other information when sitting less than three feet from each other. I work at a place that has about twenty times more screens than books, and understand, that is the way things are now, so I don’t need to be reminded that technology is the almost the norm in most day to day conversations.

    I sound grumpy about this, and I’m not. Technology has allowed me to share my essays and poems with an audience that doesn’t consist of Mom and my friend that just lost his job and will to listen to anything. It’s an easy way to remind someone to clean their room, without having to listen to the response or the lack of one. I enjoy crafting a well written email, I appreciate always having a camera, (I never had a camera, or if I did, I could never find it. Now, if I can’t find my camera, I can call it.)

    My own issue with technology is once I’ve started, it’s hard to stop. Right now, I’m wrapping up this assignment so I can go downstairs and spend some time with my dog, Sophie, the Most Significant Child, because she will remain one. But I just noticed a text from a student on my phone, my laptop is already open. If I answer the text, I’m going to end up on the website. If I look on the website, I’ll spot an incorrect date, or remember I was supposed to email the woman from Madison Park about a tour. Once I email her, I’ll remember I haven’t called my mother yet today, because the woman from Madison Park is named Cindy, and Mom is Sheila, and I really do like talking to my mom. She’ll ask me how Sophie is, because she’s afraid to ask about the kids this late at night, she’s a worrier, and I’ll feel guilty because Sophie will be downstairs, waiting, and has been since I started this entry.

    So, I’ll prove myself wrong, and just stop. It is hard to walk away from technology, but at the end of the day, I’d rather spend some time with Sophie, the Silent. She’s aware I’m spending too little time at the park, and too much time chattering, one way or another, on screens. Sophie is not a fan.

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

 

 

 

 

The smack of a basketball against the driveway just before dinner
The back door snapping shut as my son runs inside for a plate of spaghetti,
The sun falling down,
the smell of a dark, wet, sky,
Dishes, cat food, liquid detergent,
The sound of leaving, and staying,
The smack of the basketball just after dinner-
I lean on the sink, close my eyes.

 

All that has happened
Has not.
It is just before spring.
He is my boy.
I am the mother of two,
With lunches to pack,
Who needs to make plans for camp.
The basketball smacks against
the driveway, against his hand.

 

There is no noise
When he makes a basket.
Never was.

 

I don’t know what I’m waiting for,
So I turn the radio up,
While I wash the pot, wipe the plates.
He stays outside.

As long as the music plays,
He’s making
One basket

After another.

 

At the end of the day, after so many days, it is my job to let them go, and wait for them to fly on their own.
Whether they smash spectacularly into tree, soar into the sun, or crash into the waves of the coldest of oceans on the coldest day of the year, my job is done.
I am the audience. The one who still needs thoughts and prayers, because both of mine are still here. Soaring, crashing, and trying to find their way, even when they have no idea where it is they want to be. Or maybe they do know, but keep smashing into walls because they’re too busy staring at some stranger’s Finsta account.
Be kind. Be loving. Watch out for low flying wires, people that tell you something is too good to be true, and dark alleys that reek of, you know what they reek of.
Try to remember a little bit of what I told you. If you forget every damn thing, know that I’m a phone call or a heart breath away, waiting to hear your voice, asking to hear the sound of mine.

A List and A Prayer

December 15, 2017

The other day, I was putting off writing these words, and I went to CVS, a great place to go when there are ten blank pages weighing on my brain. (Relax, the outcome was more like five. And I talk fast.) The woman behind the cash register was brand new, but she was familiar because she had been ringing me up at 7 11 for years.

I don’t know why, but seeing the person that I’d been buying coffee from since 2010 working in the drug store right down the street thru me for a loop.

You know the feeling? You’ve had it. That moment when something or someone changes, and you weren’t expecting it. When one of your favorite people announces they’re moving out of state. When two people that you love tell you they are getting divorced.  When you find out someone is sick, or wake up to discover someone unexpected was elected president, even though everyone said it could never happen.

There are great surprises in store too- there will be babies, amazing job offers, or full scholarships to top notch schools. Your favorite band might get back together after a nasty, public, breakup on Twitter.

Even considering the good kind, I am still not a huge fan of change.

When I’m going to the Cape, I immediately move all the way to the left, to the lane that merges with Route 3, so I can stay in the same lane for the entire trip. When our neighbors move, even if I don’t know them, even if I don’t like them, I grieve. I still watch Gray’s Anatomy.

For those of you that are like me, I’ve put together a list of things I use to help cope with the endless fluctuations, cancellations, and curveballs life will throw at you. If you have any to add, please feel free to email me. I mean it.

  1. Go to the gym. Ride your bike. Or take a walk. Do something with your body that helps you stay strong for all of the mind blowing, fantastic, and terrible stuff that is to come. There are so many options, from yoga in straps, to hiking, lifting weights, kickboxing, dancing- explore. Mix it up. Ruts are for the unimaginative and lead to other ruts.
  2. Get off the phone while you’re at the gym, riding your bike, or taking a walk. Okay, listen to music. Just don’t scroll thru life. No matter what you have heard, it is not necessary to tell your 872 Instagram followers every time you pick up a weight or climb a hill. It still happened. If you are going to deal with the world, you have to be in the world, not watching it go by on your newsfeed.
  3. Decide who matters to you. Make a list. We don’t have all the time in the world. Choose your people and choose well.

4.  You are driving your own bus.

I was planning my wedding with a good friend of mine. I complained that I was going to miss a concert that weekend. She pointed out that I had to get married right away I was six months pregnant. It was my responsibility to make sure that the baby wasn’t born out of wedlock. I agreed and stopped whining. Eighteen years after that wedding day, I’m still pissed I missed Springsteen.

If you want to go to a show, or out to restaurant, or to a ball game, on your special day, listen to that inner voice. YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR OWN LIFE. People will try to hijack your plans, or the route you choose, but remember- No one else should be driving your bus but you. You can ask for directions, you can give people a ride, but at the end of the day, it is your journey. You are going a long way. Don’t let somebody else take the wheel unless you trust them, and even then, sleep lightly. It’s your damn bus.

What does public transportation have to do with the roller coaster ride ahead? If you are in charge of the changes in your life, you own them. You can’t be in charge of everything- someday you might get laid off, at some point you are going to lose someone you love, but wherever and however you can, don’t let life happen to you. Be proactive, noisy, daring, decisive, and brave. At the end of the day, it’s nice to know you were the one that chose how it was spent.

  1. Be flexible. In yoga, or pilates, they tell you to keep your knees slightly bent during the balance poses. This helps you find stability, keeps you from falling on your face. Flexibility in life means you don’t freak out when the movie you planned to see is sold out, when someone cancels last minute, or when your landlord texts you to tell you they aren’t renewing your lease and you have two weeks to find a new apartment in October in a city that caters to college students. Let’s be realistic, a minor freak out is expected for the landlord thing, but after you’ve done some deep breathing, maybe gone to a yoga class, you’ll figure it out. Spinning your wheels happens, just don’t get buried.
  2. Choose your traditions and embrace them.

The other night, I decorated the Christmas tree alone. I’ve always loved placing the ornaments collected over the years on the branches, and the ritual has been a big part of our holiday since the kids were old enough to stab each other with the little hooks. This year, we tried to coordinate a night to decorate together. Their father was working. Katy had flute lessons. Colin needed to stay after school. Colin needed to go out to eat. Colin needed to spend time on his Snapchat Anyway, Friday night, the only creature stirring was Michael the three legged cat. So, I decorated the tree by myself. It was a little bit sad, not having the company of my family. But at the end of the evening, the tree looked beautiful, Colin and Katy had a wonderful time fixing all of my horrible decorating decisions, and all was right with the world.

You will find traditions, create new traditions, and then they will change as your world changes. But it is wonderful to have touch stones to honor the past, whether it’s your personal past, your faith, or your family. It’s a thread that allows us to step back and appreciate where we have come from and where we might go.

 

  1. Stop looking around. Every single one of us is obsessed with how everyone else is doing. When you were little, your mom was checking out the toddler next door, and going a bit crazy because Jaimie started to speak five months ago, and you were still blowing bubbles and staring at your feet.

This attitude, this constant need to check in on whose doing what isn’t a true or even a semi true, yardstick of where you are at. Joe is killing it on Wall Street, but he’s not posting pictures on Facebook of his partner handing him divorce papers. Jenn just crashed a computer system at work, and is talking about going back to school to learn sign language. All the little pieces of information of how everyone else is doing, what they’ve accomplished, what they’re wearing and what car they are driving, have this incredible power to make us feel better, or worse and have nothing to do with where we are at.

Pay attention to your own path, and you won’t end up face planted on the sidewalk, wondering if someone is going to step on your head or come along and pick you up out of the dirt.

In closing, let me fill you in on the outcome of the uncomfortable interaction with the woman that inspired me.

While I waited in line, I wondered- was it her presence at CVS that made me uncomfortable, or was it the fact she hadn’t mentioned she was leaving 7/11 during one our conversations about Scratch tickets?

.  When I stepped in front of her, I asked why she’d switched jobs. It turns out Gwen, (we exchanged names during our conversation., thank God there was no one behind me,) had been studying to become a pharmacy technician, and the chain had hired her to work the retail side while waiting to pass whatever test pharmacy techs need to pass. So in a couple of weeks, Gwen will be the person I see when filling a prescription for penicillin.

Our lives are as big or as small as we choose to make them. People will come and go, or change positions, or we’ll change the way we define our relationships with them- from lover to ex, friend to best friend, to Christmas card recipient.

Some of you probably love the roller coaster of it all- not knowing what’s to come.

For the rest of usLean in. Reach for the commotion and the havoc.    Uproot everything you know to explore the unknown. Be a part of the changes you’re scared of, embrace the ones that are out of your hands, endure and learn from those that feel like they might break you forever.

     Find faith, and know who you are in this moment.

    Don’t be a person that clings to one system of beliefs, and one way of doing things, but recognize and build on the wisdom around and within you.

     What you discover in the years to come has the power to change you, and transform the world around you.

     Right now, the world needs changing.

     I trust all of you are up for doing your part.

     

 

Humbled

November 13, 2017

I can tell the temperature,
within a degree or two,
first thing, every morning,

when I open the door
to let the cat in.

When I hear my best friend’s voice
over the phone,
all she has to say is hello,
and I know if it’s time to reach for my car keys,
make some soup,
or find a spot to listen.

I read body language,
talk to dogs,
and understand why
the three year old boy next door
finds poop endlessly amusing.

But I don’t know what’s going on with my 17 year old son.

I know where he is-

a flight of muddy stairs
a damp towel outside
a closed door.

I eavesdrop on his conversations,
Not to hear the words,
But to try to recognize his voice.
It hasn’t worked.

He is steps and oceans away.

I am here,
with clean laundry.

I remember when I first started writing my blog and began my relationship with Facebook, I’d post vignettes about snow days, dancing the kitchen, swim meets, football games, bedtime rituals, and photographs of first days, holidays, days I had the phone close and the lighting was right.

Then life got more complicated. My children, who had been the focus of my world, who were still the focus of my world, didn’t really want me to talk about them anymore with the world.
I did anyway. I mean, cold turkey?

Lately, I’ve been pretty quiet.

Life is hard right now, glorious, exhausting, magnificent, heartbreaking.

And, then there’s the politics piece. No matter what side you’re on, most of us are carrying around a lot of rage, with a healthy side of fear.

No one expected we’d end up here. It’s the coldest war, inside our own country.

So lately, when I update my status,
I tell everyone to-
Look at the moon,
Listen to this song,
Check out what this guy had to say-(third grade drop out story, google it),
Read my friend’s book.

I am not the only one sitting on the front stoop,
looking up,
barefoot and reverent.
Even though the only sound is the breeze, an occasional car sliding by, and Sophie’s sigh.
Others have taken a moment to watch the night sky;
I have company.

When I sing along to a song in an off key soprano,
I am singing along with the writer, the singer, and everyone else,
Whose been swept up, for a moment or three,
Inside the melody and bass guitar.

On the late afternoons,
while I immerse myself in a novel,
or weep when I hear an old man’s tale of his father,
I have company.

I’d like to be here
for those that need more than the
moon or a pop song
To get thru the night
And say
Thank you for keeping me company.