May 13, 2020

There is a piece of me that is enjoying every moment at home with my daughter.
We watch tv together. Eat breakfast together. Workout together. She shows me a game she’s playing on her phone that is just like FarmVille, and gave me a tour of her “campsite.” (I pretended to be impressed, but wasn’t really impressed until I read AOC plays the same game. Now I’m a little impressed and kind of confused.)
I asked her to look at my LinkedIn profile, and listened to her feedback about potential career paths.

She talks to me about her relationship, takes great delight in hiding condiments when I don’t put them away, plays her flute at midnight, and bakes at one am.

I know this is abnormal behavior, but who, anywhere in the world is behaving normally right now?

How do I know if something is wrong?

I wake her up each morning, because schedule is important. We exercise, because movement combats depression. I’ve been lenient about time on her phone so she can stay connected with friends.

I do not have a clue what I’m doing, or what all of this is going to do to her.

I’ll be fine. I have some leads on new opportunities. Sophie keeps my feet warm, and Sheldon is building me a garden in the back yard.

But what kind of scars will this leave on my daughter, and will I ever stop missing my son?

This is the season of not knowing anything. I’m a mom, and the stuff that I know isn’t that helpful right now.

Should I give her more space, or insist she does her homework in the living room?
Do I check on her grades, or let her know I trust her to that chemistry homework takes precedence over carrot cake?
Do I say something about the fact she has macaroni every day for lunch, or do I stock up on Annie’s?

I’ll try not to give into buying a $300 Nintendo to make things better, but it’s tempting as hell.

Arrrghhhh.
Julie

On Day Fifty Four, This Helped.

Today, I had to get off a zoom call because I needed to drive my daughter somewhere. I was worried about a friend of mine diagnosed with the virus, overwhelmed by LinkedIn, and exhausted by trying to come up with something to say- here, on the phone, or to my husband during dinner.
I’ve always used music to lift me up. I dance with Katy to the Latin music of Zumba, drag Sophie for endless walks, earbuds tucked, volume up, and play classical guitar on Google home to fall asleep.
Today, I needed more than the radio.
So I got in my car, plugged my phone to the auxiliary jack, pulled up Spotify, and searched for Bruce Springsteen.
I put on his playlist, and turned it all the way up.
I sang so loud my vocal cords ached. I wailed to the sound of Clarence’s sax, whispered about Billy down by the railroad tracks, and believed, for about three to four minutes, in a promised land, and that I, or we, will find our way there.
It’s nice to get swallowed up by headphones, jump around the living room with Katy, and lean into sweet melodies as I drift off.
But sometimes, I need to sing along, as loud as I can, to the music I’ve loved forever. I need to know the notes and lyrics, remember what it was like to be sixteen years old, and sing like no-one is listening.
Find your music, and make some noise.

I take an emotional inventory in the morning before I leave my bed.
I lie there, with my eyes closed, and try to feel how I’m feeling. Is my heart light in my chest, do my feet want to hit the floor and bring me upstairs? Does my skin crave another layer of blanket, does my head want to fold itself inside a pillow?

The first couple of weeks, almost every morning, I’d find that things didn’t look any better, and I’d dive into Facebook and feel worse until Sophie or I had to use the bathroom.

I will not tell you I’ve adjusted.
Or that in a month, a salad will come from our garden.
I will not tell you the time with the kids has been gift. It has been an revelation and complete pain in the ass.
I had the chance to know them when their only escape route is a screen. The fifth week in, it is easy to underestimate, and there is no end in sight. So I take notes and occasional pictures.

I check in with my overall state of mind all day long.

Today, I found joy, goofy, bird flying high, Christmas morning with toddlers and Santa, Bruce Springsteen in concert, joy.

At first, it scared me a little, this unfamiliar flutter, this smile that found my mouth, and lifted up to my eyes.

I don’t know, maybe it’s a symptom that hasn’t been documented yet.

I felt better almost all day, even though Katy and Colin are fighting over Netflix, Sheldon has some document I need to review, and it’s supposed to rain again tomorrow.

Tonight, I looked into the eyes of the cashier at Walgreens, read an update from my friend who works in the ICU, and washed my hands, like I’m Lady Macbeth on her worst day.

My spirit fell quiet, ached, went to wait in the wings.

Today, I glimpsed joy,
and it stayed for a bit.

I’m not sure why it came-
All I have to look forward to is clean sheets, a late night conversation with a friend, and pancakes for breakfast. I like French toast.

This joy isn’t strange.

I have clean sheets and soft blankets.
I have a friend waiting for my call.
I have pancakes for breakfast, and real maple syrup.
The coffee pot is set
so I’ll wake up to the smell of
dark roast and cinnamon.

I am blessed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel that way.

Today I did, for a while.

I need to work on that.

Love,
Jules

 

The sun was out for the first time in days.

Katy has not been a fan of hiking with me since I dragged her and her brother wandering the Blue Hills behind the Trailside Museum when she was five and we got lost. I didn’t have snacks, and we probably ran out of water five minutes into our journey, which, I think, lasted about two hours. I’m surprised she speaks to me, or agrees to go anywhere near any kind of trail with me.

Today, I guilted her into coming. She was tired, and depressed. I was wide awake and depressed. By the time we left the house, (guilt tripping takes time,) the sun was hidden, it was windy, it was already 3:30 in the afternoon.

She didn’t want to drive. She put her head on the dashboard, and said she was tired. I said we could just skip the whole thing and go home. She managed to put her head further into the dashboard. (I don’t know how she did this, and, yes, I know this is incredibly dangerous. And I’m not the best driver.)

I was going to turn around, but spotted Sophie the Wonder Dog in the back seat. Sophie doesn’t like fighting and she really likes ponds.

We went to Houghtons Pond. Katy kept her head in her hands on the dashboard. When I pulled to a stop, she looked up.

“I thought we were going home.”
“I need to walk Sophie,” I growled.
“I want to go for a walk.” she answered.
“You don’t have to. You can wait in the car. Remember, you’re tired.”
“Well, then, if you don’t want me to go for a walk, I’ll go that way,” Katy marched off towards some rocks.

I dragged Sophie out of the backseat. She wanted to follow Katy. I wanted to follow Katy.
We walked in the opposite direction.

I took Sophie to the edge of the pond, and went back to the car. Katy was nowhere. I called her name.

I put Sophie back into the car and ran to the rock and yelled loudly- “Kattttyyyyy” and went back to the car scared as hell because my first go to every time we have an argument is to take the phone. I will rethink that in the future.

She came back to the car.
We didn’t speak on the way to Target.
There was no one at the store The people who were there were all wearing masks. Everyone stood miles apart.

For a little while, we were able to pretend it was a regular mother daughter shopping spree, the only thing that made it different was all we bought were pajamas and frozen vegetables.

We’re going to wear our new pajamas tonight, in front of the television, when we watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
It’s another Saturday night.

Katy and I have made peace, probably because I’m leaving her alone for the moment.
I need to leave her alone, or let her stay home when she needs to.
She needs to come along with me, sometimes, without the promise of ice cream or nail polish.

This is too hard to do with my daughter’s head on the dashboard, or standing in the woods, screaming her name.

I think she agrees, because she’s upstairs cleaning her room. (At least, she said she was. I’m not going to check.)

Peace be with you.

Love,

Julie

Ritual helps.
Katy and I meditate every morning. We’ve tried ocean breath, slow yoga, a guided visualization that let me found my own happy place, which was on the Cape with a cocktail in front of pool watching my daughter play in the water.
I’d really like to be on that lounge chair, holding a Pina Colada, wondering if I applied enough sun screen, watching Katy and Madeleine. In no time, I’d jump into the cold water, and twirl them around under the surface while they laughed.
Summer will be here at some point, I think.
It’s been incredibly gloomy, the weather in New England is far too appropriate for the current state of the world.
I don’t know what summer will look like, and I try not to think about it by gobbling up new stories and the Facebook feed, exercising to videos online, or tucking my ears between headphones, and TURNING UP THE VOLUME
to a ridiculous level so that there is no room to think about
what’s going to happen next.
At the end of the day, we find our way to the television. We make popcorn in the microwave and add butter and maple syrup. We watch Mrs. Maisel, and marvel at the beautiful clothes, sparkling actors, and shiny view of New York City in the 1950’s. We appreciate watching beautiful people kiss, hold hands, go to the store, share drinks, squeeze together in a cab.
Katy, my sixteen year old, has started calling me mamma, especially if she wants an impossible burger, or hair dye. Especially right before she goes upstairs to bed. She leans in and hugs me each night, presents me her cheek.
There are blessings in all of this,(I know, and I’ve counted the blessings, but I do need to remind myself of this,) and terror, and sleep is hard to come by.
I’ve got the days figured out, mostly.
Nights are long. We’ve taken to leaving the light on, and leaving the phones in another room.
Sleep well, my friends.

Julie

Comments
We watched the first two episodes of Mrs. Maisel, did a workout class in the living room, and dined on fettuccini with asparagus.
I cried over a book of photographs of Colin as a child, then called him to invite him for dinner.
I was on the phone with Amy when it started to snow. I complained it wasn’t sticking, and remarked how beautiful it would look if the world was covered in white.
I wonder how long before we get back to where we can take things for granted.
I wonder how long the gratitude will last for being able to join friends for coffee, go to work, kiss someone hello.
The world is white now, and for a moment it looked beautiful. But I moved onto making dinner and it got dark, and I didn’t remember until now. I wish I’d made time to appreciate the view.
Now it’s time to try to sleep.
Sweet dreams, my friends.

Mediation this morning was cut short. We didn’t make it the living room until 1130 and  by the time we negotiated on the instructor, (it was Katy’s turn, according to Katy. It’s always Katy’s turn.) and sprawled, eyes closed, palms up, animals watching, it was almost noon.

Within seconds after the teacher’s voice started to flow, Sheldon started a home repair project that involved ripping up carpeting on the basement stairs. He wasn’t that noisy. There were not drills involved, and the door was closed. But I found it impossible to lay in the middle of the living room floor, listening to my breath, while my husband was dealt with the reek of cat urine that has lingered for weeks. Katy agreed to try it again later, and given that is after 8 pm, we’ll have to get back on that horse tomorrow.

We had planned to meet friends at Worlds End again today. The place matches the name, and given the current situation, I’m drawn there. I think Katy was happy to return because she likes the veggie burgers at Wahlbergers. But we didn’t get there either.

Around 1 pm, after a 10 minute attempt at Zumba in the living room, we decided we needed some downtime. From all the downtime, I guess. Katy made brownies. We turned on Criminal Minds, a show about FBI profilers that my daughter is partial to, and  explains her recently expressed desire to study psychology. We ate brownies, watched tv, and catnapped for three hours. (I had not previously experienced this intense level of Netflix and chill.)

Afterwards, I did not feel chill. I’d missed calls from my friends. My leg was cramped, belly bloated with brownies, and brain disoriented by dozing thru stories of serial sex offenders and/or killers and the people that capture them. I almost let her talk me into one more about the cult and the Apache burial ground because my foot was asleep, but somehow, my inner mom rose to the occasion. I snagged the remote, stole Kate’s blanket, and sent her upstairs for warm clothes.

By 5, we were at Wollaston Beach. We walked far, and we talked about her boyfriend, if school would be back this year, why she’s a vegetarian and if she’d consider giving it up for quarantine, (no,) and why I always feel the need to talk while we’re walking. I would like someone to explain how I ended up with a Mona Lisa daughter, and why this mysterious one still likes me?

She might not. She’s mysterious, and she’s pragmatic. She recognizes I hold the car keys and the cash. And for right now, I’m the only friend she can see live and way too in person.

I asked her to think what I can do to help her thru this, and I’m going to try to make space for her to respond.

This quarantine allows me the opportunity to know my sixteen year old daughter, my Mona Lisa flutist with the messy room, passion for olive green teeshirts and hot pink nail polish. She is a girl of mystery that might not be mysterious at all. We both just might have been busy.

Tomorrow, I am going to clean the basement and read a book. I’m going to walk with my daughter, and make sure we meditate before Sheldon decides it’s time to empty out the kitchen cupboards. I am going to delete Facebook from my phone.

It’s time to take drastic steps. Here’s hoping our government steps up and does the same.

Peace.

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.

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.

Orangetheory and ME

November 5, 2017

I go to the gym almost every single day. Working out gives me the chance to listen to silly pop music and use the immaculate showers when  finished, (I live with two teenagers).

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not  a gym rat. I’m as coordinated as a newborn giraffe. I carry baby weight 17 years after having the baby, and living with the teenager has probably added a late night when-the-hell-is-he-going-to-start-packing-for-college Breyer’s induced pounds. I wear glasses, my hair refuses to stay in one of those adorable high ponytails, and my torso, when tucked inside a yoga top, looks like a well stuffed sausage.

When a person acknowledges they go a health club to listen to Shakira and hit the steam room, it’s an indication this person should take their workout up a notch. When I received a chance to try out something new, I took the leap.

I was curious about Orangetheory, a fitness studio that opened a year ago in Quincy Center. There are about two hundred franchises nationwide, and the chain is growing rapidly.

Each gym is set up the same way, with treadmills along one side, a large area in the center for rowing machines, and an open space for strength training that includes TRX cords, free weights, and gravity balls. The colors are- you guessed it- tangerine orange, and slate grey.

Along the wall in the separate workout areas are flat television screens that flicker on when class begins. Every participant has their first name listed alphabetically on the screen in day glow letters. During the workout, people can track their heart rate and  see how they measure up because of a special Orangetheory heart rate monitor strapped on their arm. The studios are dark, and the music is loud.

I knew all this beforehand because I’d been peering thru their window for weeks, while sipping coffee from the cappuccino shop next door.

On the day of my visit, I went to the Friday afternoon 4:30 class. As soon as I opened the door, I was surrounded by three different employees.  All of them greeted me with the enthusiasm shown for adorable babies wearing cute hats and tiny little athletic shoes or socks with bunnies on them. They knew my name, were eager to answer all my questions and, four separate times, assured me I didn’t need to be nervous

This made me nervous. After they strapped the heart rate monitor onto my forearm and led me to the waiting area filled with female twenty something fitness models wearing perfect ponytails and shiny spandex and one very male body builder type, I was very nervous. Looking at the body builder helped a little.

My trainer decided I would start on the treadmills, and explained that even though most (all would have been the correct term) of the others were runners or joggers, power walking was fine. I walk fast, and I stroll, but I have never power walked.

Power walking was a thing in the eighties. Today there are occasional outbreaks at the mall before it opens because some brilliant activities director at an assisted living facility is nervous about residents wandering around the parking lots trying to get their steps while dodging cars, dogs, visitors, and wheelchairs. It came back yesterday to downtown Quincy, Massachusetts, thanks to me, because I only jog when I’m running outside to chase Sophie The Best Dog Ever, (obviously there might be a better dog that doesn’t slip out the door for a game of tag during rush hour,) find the newspaper, or realize someone is driving away with my phone.

Megan went over what my target numbers would be,and explained about the incline, monitor, and large tv screen where my name was right in between Jenna and Kylie. Somebody turned up the music, and I checked for the fourth time that I’d double knotted my sneakers.

During those twenty minutes on the treadmill, I worked really hard. When using the elliptical, I have access to the same data that flashed over my head at Orangetheory, heart rate, calories burned, and distance traveled. What made me work harder than I ever do at my gym- the data is posted in different colors, according to what your heart rate is. I really wanted to make my numbers RED.

I wanted to make my numbers red so much, I jogged. I even ran. It felt like running anyway.

After twenty minutes on the treadmill, we headed over to the water rowers. There is something significant about these rowers because they are powered by water, but they just seemed like nice looking rowers to me. Rowing is hard, but since I knew everyone could see exactly how much effort I was putting into it, I kept up. When I rowed, I rowed like I was actually trying to go somewhere. (I’ll remember that for next time.)

Because of my unique approach, the fact that it took me about two minutes to strap my feet into the pedals didn’t do too much damage. It only took me one minute to unstrap my feet out of the pedals because I was looking forward to the strength workout.

I’d had the chance to watch two groups rotate thru the exercises posted for us this part of the class, and felt pretty confident I could handle them. After all, I had jogged. I’d figured out the buckles on the rowing machine. I wasn’t wheezing, or asking someone to call my mom.

There are three different sets of exercises during the strength interval, designed to work most major muscle groups. The first set of exercises were one legged deadlifts, spiderman arms on the TRX, and pushups. It’s hard to do one legged deadlifts in a dark room with a Techno soundtrack, especially after running and rowing. I wobbled a bit, but didn’t fall down, so I’ll call that a win.

For the Spiderman arms, I had to position my body at a forty five degree angle, leaning backwards, while I clutched onto cables. I had to use my arms, like hinges, to pull my body up, one arm at a time. My moves were less Spiderman climbing a building and more clumsy person flails on resistance bands. But I flailed less with practice.

Finally, I made it to the pushups. I kept my back flat. My eyes faced the top of the mat. I didn’t bend my knees. I completed five of the best pushups ever before realizing everyone was back up doing the one legged dead lifts again.

At the end of the workout, everyone came together to stretch. I looked around the room, and realized that I hadn’t noticed anyone during my hour session, except so I could figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I  had run faster than I have ever run in my life. (As a child, my games of choice was not tag or soccer. They were backgammon and reading books; the latter isn’t a game and might explain a lot about my lack of coordination.)

The next day, they sent me a wrap up of my work out-

484 CALORIES BURNED
146 AVG HR
83 % AVG
29 SPLAT POINT

Am I a horrible person for pointing out the expected goal for a first time clients is around 12 Splat points and thatthe numbers are cut off, my Splat points were 29? Splat points refer to the amount of time spent in the red and orange zones, when the heart rate is elevated. Of course, my heart was racing! I ran, and I don’t run, I rowed, and I even ended the workout doing mountain climbers. (At my regular gym, I usually just hold a plank. Not a climber, either.)

At the end of the day, what I’m most proud of is that I took on something new, in a room full of people I didn’t know, and I did things I decided a long time ago I don’t do.

It’s really nice to surprise the world. It’s even better when one of my kids looks at me with respect and says ‘Mom, you’re doing such a great job.” But what I learned at Orangetheory is how wonderful it feels to surprise myself.

Next week, I’m going to try Acroyoga. I’ll let you know what happens.