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.

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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.

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.

 

 

4181938366_df6cf47bc9_b.jpg

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.

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.

Part I Thursday Night

Sitting on the edge of a holiday weekend-. There will be cook outs and Mexican food and swimming at the Y, and catching up with Girls, and long, long walks with the dogs, and arguments over who has to feed the pets, and discussions over whether it counts as “family time” just because a certain teenager spent time in the house. With six of his friends.

I will zumba and read and look out in our back yard and spend at least fifteen minutes thinking about the need to landscape. I will dance with Katy to the radio, I will applaud Colin’s jump shot. I will scratch Sophie’s belly and kill 30 minutes looking for her damned leash. I will give up and take her to Cunningham. I will call friends and see friends and miss friends that are far away.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Part II

Saturday Morning

Not on the brink anymore, now I’m sprawled on the sofa in the middle of a holiday weekend. Just near enough, there lay two weary dogs, two well fed kids, and one glass of cold wine in easy reach. It’s Saturday night. But instead of Monday looming large with lunches to be packed and homework to be done, I’m thinking a day at the beach. Or a trip to the pond. Or a long, long hike thru the Greatest of Hills with the Greatest of Dogs.
I love post horrible-winter, late spring, long, and lazy, afternoons.

Part III

Monday Night

It’s done. Monday night. Backpacks lined up. Cereal bought, milk in the fridge. I think they did their homework. I think they have clean socks. I think there is money in their lunch account.

No beach. No trips to the pond. Or long hikes thru the Greatest of Hills.

But I finished a book. I made whipped cream from scratch. I snuck up to their bedrooms yesterday morning and held them close and didn’t remind them that clean clothes don’t go on the floor.

I sat in the back yard with the dogs and watched people drive by with places to go.

I was a little bit jealous. And then I was a little bit lonely.

And then, the sun wamed my shoulders, the breeze touched my hair, and the radio started playing “Tupelo Honey”.

And by the time the song was over, and the sun had slipped behind clouds, I didn’t have time to be sad the weekend was over.
Tomorrow they will kiss me goodbye on their way on out the door.

I can’t imagine “empty nest syndrome.”

I will need to start thinking about hobbies, updating my profile on LinkedIn, or adopting three or four children from overseas.

Tonight, sitting in Ayeesha’s kitchen for the first time, it occurred to me. I’d made a new friend. She and her husband had books, good books, familiar books. They had board games and a cat. Her cat is not allowed on the kitchen counter, and her cat doesn’t go on the kitchen counter. They have big conversations about the world and not about car pools or the finale of How I Met Your Mother. Though she did make me want to watch The Walking Dead.

She got me cookies, made me coffee, and gave me the sweet spot on the sofa. It was a magical moment, when I glanced at her face and realized, I hope I see more of that face. And it wasn’t because of the cookies, though I am a sucker for cookies.

As I get older, the moments are fewer and farther between when I look at a face that isn’t related to me, and want to see it on a regular basis. There is so much stuff to do. Recitals, basketball games, work, more work, working out so I don’t look like an idiot at work. (I work at a gym.) I’m glad I met her, and I’m glad I was smart enough to get to know her. Oh, gosh, I hope she likes me too. When she comes to my house, I will bake her a pie and try to talk about something political, or at least current, or at least not about my kids.

When I got home, probably inspired by Ayeesha’s kitchen, I went on a bit of a bender. A cleaning bender. Did you know dirt gets under the knobs on the stove? When I lifted up the stove top, there were drips of indeterminate animal fat, and candle wax, (I think,) and matches, and hair elastics. I swept under the stove and found 4 milk caps, one broken glass that someone didn’t feel like picking up, 97 broken crayons, primarily in pastel shades, and an earring. It’s like mining, deep cleaning my house. There are layers and layers of stuff, and they all tell a story. We really like milk, eat too much meat, sometimes are a little lazy, do most our sketches in primary shades and are constantly looking for hair elastics.

We are a messy family, and I am a work in progress. Tomorrow I will tackle the dining room and next week, I will invite my new friend and her man over for dinner. After I teach my cats not to spend most of their time napping on the kitchen counter.

Maybe I will wait until it’s a little warmer and they spend most of their time outside.

Valentines Day

February 14, 2014

It’s Valentines Day.

Our day started out with my husband in full scale hysteria. He couldn’t find my car keys, he was afraid I’d forget about dentist’s appointment. Our son had left his cell phone at home. Our daughter hadn’t done a good job brushing her hair. All of these, and more, (the price of gas, if the pellet stove needed another cleaning, if he was to start getting tickets because we couldn’t afford to donate much to the policemen’s benevolent association…) were dancing around my beloved’s head this morning until his demeanor resembled a poodle on crack. No, I have never seen a poodle on crack, and after witnessing my husband in one of these moods, I can say with no hesitation at all, I don’t want to see a poodle on crack.

I don’t write much about my relationship with this man. In the tough times, I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to indulge in a one sided kvetch to the cyberworld and I wouldn’t be brave enough to post his side of the story. In the good times, we are in the middle of the good times, and I wouldn’t want to take time away from whatever moments of marital bliss to take notes for my readers.

And I’m not sure if we are in the middle of good times or bad times right now. Right now, I know that when he fusses and fumes about keys and appointments it is his very creative and irritating way of showing me he cares. He doesn’t want my teeth to fall out of my head, or leave me at home waiting for Triple A to come unlock my car for me, again. So when I tell him to “Shut Up!!!’ I try to say those words as lovingly as I can.
It briefly flitted thru my head that my gift to him this morning was not throwing a dirty sponge at his head.

I found my car keys. I made it to my appointment. And then, he picked me up from the dentist and took me to breakfast. A little egg slipped out of my mouth, novocaine was my appetizer. He reached over, and wiped it off my chin without saying a word.

A lot of the time I truly don’t know if he’s my one true love, the father of my children, or a really good friend that I fell into spending my life with. But I know I am a very, very lucky woman.

Because no matter how many times I tell him to shut up, he still has something to say to me at the end of the day. And I am happy to listen, especially if he’s not talking about what I’ve just lost or what I’m likely to forget.

Without him, I’d probably be wearing dentures and riding a bike.

Happy Valentines Day.

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.

Weighty Matters

September 22, 2013

In a world where everything is becoming open for discussion, there are still a few topics that make most people uncomfortable. The first three that come to mind are death, lice, and weight.

Of course, there are the brief conversations about who died when and how bad everyone feels. And whose kid came home with lice (and how glad we are it wasn’t ours.) And weight? I’m are always comparing notes on the latest diets, and what I ate or didn’t eat on any given day. But these tend to be brief forays that lead into the serious stuff- “adolescence, doesn’t it suck having teenagers”, “I wanted to kill my husband when…” and “what the hell should we do about Syria,” (I am not a total idiot, and neither are my friends. Between us, we have actually come up with a solution to most of the worlds problems. That’s another post.)

And when it comes to weight? I read the magazines. I watch the talk shows. Our weight is a subject that consumes a lot of us. I know that I can wear a smile for an hour after hopping on the scale and discovering I’ve lost a pound. I might kick a kitten if the reading is a few pounds heavier than the day before. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever had a real conversation with anyone about the actual number.(And doctors offices and health clubs don’t count. Though there is’t really a conversation. Just a statement.”You weigh —.” “oh.”)

I weigh 162 pounds. When I was pregnant I reached what I think was my all time high- but I don’t know because when I’m really heavy I don’t weigh myself- of 220 pounds. I would like to weigh 145 pounds, which according to those statistics in the fitness magazines, is kind of high. But I work out. And I like lunch.

Ok, it’s 168.

When I look in the mirror I see a pretty woman. I like my face. I have a waist line. My breasts are small, so there isn’t much gravity can do with them. I’ve got field hockey player thighs, but they could be defensive line football player thighs. And my belly is just a tiny heart shaped curve, it actually looks kind of cute.

And then, I’m walking in the mall. I catch a glimpse in a mirror. Staring back at me, is a chunky, middle aged women who really should hire a personal shopper to help her buy blue jeans because the ones I’m wearing make my rear end look the size of the Kardashian’s garage.

Maybe the mirrors in the mall are trick mirrors designed to make shoppers head screeching into the local department stores in search of Spanx.

Weight matters, but not nearly as much as we think it does. My life isn’t going to magically improve when I weigh 142 pounds. Shopping will be nicer. But I don’t think my friends are going to like me more, my kids aren’t going to start cleaning their rooms without 97 gentle reminders when I weigh a little less.

Lice doesn’t really matter at all, and death matters a lot. I use it as a cattle prod when I am tempted to spend the day at home eating chocolate instead taking my dogs out for a long walk. Not because I’m afraid of the damn calories. Because life is short, and I’d like to spend as much of it as I can walking in the woods with Sophie the Magnificent Wonderpup.

At the end of the day, I guess it’s not what we talk about or don’t talk about with the people we love. It’s how we live our lives when we aren’t busy comparing notes with our neighbors.