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

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 In light of recent events, everything in the textbook seemed outdated or irrelevant.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It all started with church,
This idea of getting ready for Monday-
To try on a different approach
To first light morning chaos.

I’d become one of those people
Who write hymns to their crockpots and can tell you
Which days the children
Need gym clothes.

(I am also a person who knows
Anything
Can happen.
Just because I’ve located
My stockings and checked them for tears
Does not mean I believe
I have control
Over tomorrow
Or anything else,
For that matter.)

I head to the gym for
A swim, some sweat,
and some space
To reach and drop
Stretch and bend.
I think about summer.

Maybe next Sunday,
I’ll schedule a pedicure
to get ready for spring
Or my next time at yoga.
At least once a week
I find myself surrounded
By well groomed women
In two tone leggings
Doing down facing dog.
In position, I’m faced with
Feet that scream neglect
Even louder than my kids
When I suggest last week’s
Corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

This evening-
One extra load, one last check with each kid
Do you need pencils?
Do you need a ride?
Tell me now because
You are old enough to know
I have no idea
When your recital will be, except that it will probably happen between now
and the first week of May.

Let me know whether your first game is at home or away.
Tell me, or text me,
Then tell me, or text me again.
I don’t care you don’t want me to be there.
I’ll put on sunglasses,
Wear the other team’s colors
and probably show up twenty minutes
After it’s over.

Coffee is measured,
Fruit is sliced,
Clothes selected, inspected,
Heels lean in the hallway.

Lunch is tucked inside tupperware,
This is good.
It won’t go bad
When I forget it tomorrow.
The world won’t come to an end.

(I know this because
I’ve devoted most of my life
doing everything I can to avoid
getting ready for anything
and so far… well, look outside.
You know what i’m saying?)

I spent an hour an a half doing
Everything I do every morning
in about twenty minutes.

And I still haven’t brushed my damned teeth.

or had a drink

or read the Sunday paper.

I’m ready for Monday
Though I’m carrying a bit of a grudge.

I like now,
Sunday night,
the moments before the alarm.

I like now.

.

If I was to step way far to the back of the room, a big room and look at a painting of my life, my whole life-
There would be wrinkled toes and clenched fists, a brilliant green swimming pool littered with nicklels tossed as bribery to slip my face inside the water, my smile on the first day of school in the Simplicity pattern dress my mom sewed the night before. It fell around me like a gown, white and peach daisies, holding my brothers hand inside my own.
There would be Linda Weaver‘s impossibly long legs, tucked under her body while we lounged away the morning in our sleeping bag forts.
There would be birthday parties I wasn’t invited to, and flute music dancing across the canvas, all the way through.
School and homework led me to a lifelong love affair with procrastination,
I’d need to make room for a thousand assignments I started,
and even more space for all of the projects I wish I had begun.
There would be Mountain Lakes, and tan O’Sullivan girls, the Eveleth‘s kitchen ,
The Club would loom over a lake, you’d be able to smell the fried chicken from Sundays.There’d be an inch or two devoted to my red, white and blue sunfish and the time I took a boat out in a storm and didn’t tip. Everyone capsized that afternoon,
or maybe no one else went out that day.
There would be the bathroom at the Tourne,
 the floor would be littered with bottles of Colt 45.
There would be Oniko and Lisa, and a whole lot of boys. (Another canvas, another medium is needed for the boys of this life.)
There would be daddy saying goodbye outside of the Mountain lakes Club and again ten years later.
There was college, and nothing.
There was too much time in bathroom stalls, and not enough listening to the bands we were there to hear.
I love you, Rachel Cohen DeSario. Jeannette de Beauvoir and Paolo Palazzi-Xirinachs,
We’d be hiding in some smoke waiting for Paolo to move his turn in Scrabble. J and I’d be scowling, Paul would zipping Zima.
Fast forward, I’m running out of oil and it’s expensive- you’d see my babies.
My first, my boy, my Collie bear. He’d be high on a rock in back yard in Dorchester
Singing “Circle of Life” from Lion King.
He’d be fencing in gym class, catching snakes outside the pool, Staying awake worrying about where to sit at lunch,
Most of the time, he’d be holding a ball.
Next came Kate.
As an infant, she held onto me, for 2 years, she dangled or clung to wherever I had available flesh.
These days, she smells like milk, her blue eyes smile, her mind is a millions miles away.
When I call her back, she comes back. We hold hands, though these days, not when someone’s watching.
Someone’s always watching.
Blonde, fierce, smarter than all of us put together, Katy is the one in the middle. She speaks to all of us, for all of us.
I’d see the South Shore Y, Walden, Wollaston, Cape Cod, James Paul with a cocktail, a dented mini van, and most recently, Quincy college. Most days, I love to come to work.
In the corner, or behind a moonlit night from last September, you might see Colin, the Colin I will see tomorrow at breakfast. He’d look mad. You’d see me, reaching towards him, and his back, clenched, his fists, clenched.
You’d hesitate a moment at the scene
Then your eyes would take you back
to the sea of color surrounding
the two of us-
Lakes, city lights, bars, stadiums,
rocking chairs, tangled sheets,
Christmas trees and snowmen,
Mountains, oceans, miles of sand,
Stacks of books and record sleeves,
Kitchen tables, covered with platters and pitchers,
and wine and glasses of milk
Surrounded by chairs,
Filled with the people I love.
I am blessed. I am blessed even when I don’t know it.
It’s hard to see-
it’s impossible to step back when I’m bent over weeping
For all the things I don’t know
and all the things I think I know.
I need to find a way back to all the things I know.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to take a few steps to the back of a room,
get down on my knees, lift up my head,
Listen.
I have to find the right words for the prayers
and believe the quiet words
from deep inside my shaking heart.
I need to believe.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to step to the back of the room
and study the big, beautiful picture.

MY Job At Quincy College

August 15, 2015

It’s been a Long Week in my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Times, They Are…

June 18, 2015

June has been a pretty major month for us.

I finished my degree at Quincy College, a degree I’ve been working on for the past four years.

I left my job at the South Shore YMCA. The Y is one my favorite places in the whole world, and I consider the people of the Health and Well-Being Department family. But I needed to make space in my life, for my full-time job at the college and my kids.

My daughter is graduating on Friday from 5th grade. We are saying goodbye to Collicot Elementary School. There will be no more field trips or cafeteria duty. I won’t be walking her to school next year, or even picking her up from the school bus. She is making her own plans, I’m no longer negotiating play dates and or making delicate inquiries to other parents about whether or not she’s old enough to come home to an empty house. (She’s been coming home to an empty house from time to time for over a year now but I didn’t admit it to almost anyone.)

My son has completed his freshman year of high school. I know that doesn’t sound like an ending, he has three more years to go.

In the beginning of this year, he’d tell me what he had for lunch almost every night, he was excited about the salad bar and the after school options and playing football under the lights.

Now, he won’t tell me what he had for lunch, or maybe I stopped asking. He doesn’t get excited unless he’s mad at me. Then he’s very excited.

Since I’m done with my classes and only working one job, I’ve had a little spare time.

I started cleaning.

It’s spring, I was busy all winter- it was time to put the house in order.

I emptied drawers. I sorted thru clothes. I swept underneath the couch.

I found the Nerf ball we used for games of catch at Andrews Park. I dusted and polished every single one of Katy’s sculptures. I found Cheerios under everything; they quit eating Cheerios a year ago. There were stickers from the dentist and bottles of bubbles from birthday party gift bags.

And there were photographs, some of them curled, more than a few incredibly embarrassing, and all of them more than a year old. These days, memories are stored on the cellphone or on the cloud.

All this cleaning and sorting- I felt like an archaeologist or a nosy neighbor.

I didn’t remember what Colin’s voice sounded like before it changed. I can’t believe Katy ever got excited about Dora Explorer light up sandals.

I spent a lot of time in the past two weeks, (and yes, it’s been two weeks, I’m not kidding when I said the house needed a lot of cleaning,) mourning and moaning about how I missed the two kids in the pictures, And that being a parent means having to say goodbye on an almost daily basis to the people you love to make room for the latest version of the same people, slightly taller and surly.

Some nights, I would look at my children across the table and wish I was sitting across from the people in the snapshots I’d been mooning over.

Today, there was no time for cleaning, or dinner, or a walk with Sophia the Most Patient of Puppies. I had to take Colin to basketball, attend a committee meeting, help Katy find a dress for graduation, walk the dog, and then, at ten pm pick Colin up from the Y.

Colin had had an even longer day than I did. He spent all day studying for finals and finishing projects in school. After school, he played a basketball doubleheader, before heading over to the Y for an hour and a half weight lifting to get ready for football in September.

As soon as we got home, he started his homework.

I went on the computer to check emails and to search for a recipe that will use up the two pounds of ground turkey in the refrigerator that probably went bad yesterday. I was looking for a recipe that called for a lot of garlic.

All of the sudden, Colin yelled. He was sitting on the sofa, pulling papers out of his backpack. looking for a Science packet due tomorrow. He’d been working on it for weeks. It wasn’t there.

I went to him.

He was crying. Tears didn’t fall down like rain, they fell down like torrential rain, one of those Florida downpours that make creeks overflow and cars float.

I found went thru his books and found the packet inside a sleeve.

I showed it to him, helped him take off his sneakers and sent him to upstairs to sleep

I brought him up a glass of ice water and wiped his face with a clean shirt I found at the end of the bed. He rolled over, but kept talking. He told me about how he dropped a weight on his foot at the gym. He told me what he wants for his birthday. He told me thanks.

I put pillowcases on his pillows and kissed him goodnight.

I don’t know why I’ve been grieving. I have two amazing kids, right here with me, sleeping under the same roof.

Yes, their voices are different, their friends are different, and they certainly feel differently about me than they did a few years ago.

Pining over lopsided bowls and faded snapshots is a waste of time.

I might miss something.

I can do that later after they’ve left.

For now, I’m going to pay attention to right now.

Because right now is wonderful.

Perpective

December 5, 2014

 

At this moment in time, I know where my car keys are, my eyeglasses, (They’d been missing for a month, and last night I had a dream that revealed their location. Really.) both of our tv remotes, the cats, Sophie the Sweetest of Pups, my gym bag, the favorite cup, the house phone, the mobile, scissors, pens- I can even tell you where to find a band aid.

On the other hand, I misplaced the tablet, our dryer is busted so there are clothes draped on every available surface and our towels are crunchy, Christmas is coming. I need to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the whole new full time job thing.

I have a new job! A job I love at Quincy College, 2 minutes away from our house, with a terrific boss and a really cool team that is kind and doesn’t mind that sometimes most of my sentences end in exclamation points.  And Christmas is coming!

But I haven’t had as much time to go to the gym as I like, and I miss my friends and long dog walks with the Wondrous One.

Breathe.

I know where most of my stuff is, there is a gym in the basement of the building I work, my friends are on Facebook, and I know where my children are. I know they will be coming home to me tonight, safe. And that we live in a tiny corner of the world where the odds are everyone is coming home tonight.

I am fortunate woman.

I am also a sad woman. A woman whose heart has broken more than a little in these past few weeks for all of the mothers and sons out there who aren’t so fortunate.

There is space inside me for both.