The day started with a trip to Newton to pick up a friend of a friend’s dog to watch over while a friend of a friend went on vacation. The interaction involved a large kitchen mitt, prayer, and the dumb bravery that comes when I don’t have time for coffee.

Dog and I made it home, and I went to work. Spent the day talking to prospective nursing students, 18-year-olds about the FAFSA, eating the best lunch ever with the amazing Alison, making calls, taking calls, and sending texts to everyone at home about the dog.

Home meant another blowout knockdown brawl with Colin. Followed by shoulder shaking sobs when I found his old soccer uniform in the hall closet. Colin held me while I cried and told me everything was going to be ok. I did not believe him but I went to Zumba anyway.

I danced for an hour, oh my god, I love that class, with my friend. She’s been going thru a bad break up for like four months, so some of the love songs made her cry. She went to the bathroom before I could hold her and tell her it was going to be ok. I don’t think she would have believed me either.

Sweaty clothes, and seats at Novara on the deck. Summer breeze and chicken wings and tuna tartare and ice-cold seven dollars a glass white Chardonnay.

Home. Made salmon with a ginger maple siracha glaze, roasted broccoli. Walked the dogs. Except for the new dog. He did eat peanut butter from my finger, so there’s that.

Now, this. Writing it down.

There are pockets of grief and bliss from loving my son. There is drama and the relief when the drama leaves for an evening to go somewhere else.

But it is not everything like it used to be..He is not the center of my world. Just one of the worst, and the very best parts.

And now, it is time to lure the dog out from under the table. It is time to box up the fish and the vegetables for lunch, find my shoes, fold the clothes.

It is time for bed. It is time to say goodnight to Colin, and goodnight to you, and pray that tomorrow the world makes a little more sense.

Letter to my boy

August 6, 2019

Don’t forget about the dog poop-

(I warned you 
If things got bad
And they got bad
There would be repercussions.)

Scoop it, bag it,
Drop it into the
Starbucks dumpster.

And the dog,
Walk the dog-
not around the block-
The pavement burns her paws,
Take her to the park.
It’s not soccer season yet,
Bring a bag
Use it
Even if no one’s watching.

Check the website for your summer work,
Do it.

Email your coach,
Tell him what he wants to hear
and do that too.

Brush your teeth,
Floss,
Don’t only eat food flavored
Buffalo
Or from a bag
Or glowing orange.

Respond to all the girls that sent you Snapchats.

Be kind to everyone that asks to
Follow you.
(I haven’t asked but I know
Better.)

I remind you
to empty dishes,
walk the dog,
sweep a floor.

I don’t ask you
To follow or accept or friend me.

I keep our conversations about
The dishes in the sink.

I update you
About what
The world expects.

I text instead of call.

You talk to friends on FaceTime.
You laugh,
And swear, and listen.

I read books,
Ask for prayers from strangers,
And send you bullet points
so what I need from you
Is clear
And listed by
By priority.

-Call me.
-Do your homework.
-Clean the yard.

I check my phone
For your response
All night.

Tonight, I packed my eighteen year old son’s stuff in two trash bags and a shopping bag and left them all in by a dumpster. I walked away and didn’t look back until just before I got in. He was standing in the middle of the driveway, looking around for the bags as if they weren’t right next to him. It was ten degrees, he was wearing a tee shirt, and somebody else’s sneakers. I don’t think he believed I’d actually drop off his clothes and leave. He looked up at me, and I don’t know what his face said. Fuck you, maybe. Why? Did you remember my toothbrush? What is going to happen to me now?

My son’s smile is warmer than the sun after winter. He is funny, and he can dance. He used to play basketball for hours, and if he wasn’t on the court, he always wanted to be connected to some kind of ball. If we went for a walk on the beach, we had to throw a football. If we took the dogs for a walk, he was in charge of the tennis ball. He’d dribble in his room. He’d play basketball in the driveway and eat dinner in between shots. My son stopped smiling about two years ago.

He still lived with me until today. In sophomore year of high school, sports and school were just hobbies. Drugs took over. Doing drugs. Posting pictures of doing drugs, or lip syncing to songs about drugs. Going to the woods, to the quarries, to whoever’s house was unoccupied by parents or belonged to parents that had their own stash and shared.

I’m not going to tell the tale of then to now. I don’t know how we got from early morning cereal before the game, to begging him to wake up to go to class at a community college because a judge made it a condition of his release.

I just know my son is not here tonight because I told him not to be. He is staying at a house with a dumpster in the driveway, that reeks like weed from ten feet away. He is staying there because last night on the phone he refused to come home. His words were slurred, and sloppy, his voice didn’t belong to him. And he’s been doing drugs for a while, so there’s something new on the menu.

He promised last night he’d wake up in the morning, and go to school. I was supposed to pick him up on my way to drop his little sister off at school.  “Mom, I’ll be ready.” He’d straightened up a bit by the time our last conversation.

I woke up early, packed his toothbrush, and a change o Read the rest of this entry »

Work and Road Etiquette

February 6, 2019

An old saying has become popular where I work- “stay in your own lane”. I work at a college, and lately there seems to be concern sweeping the campus that those of us that work in the administration are trying to do other people’s jobs. Employees in the registrar’s office are giving tips on how to navigate IRS data retrieval. Advisors are giving students pointers on their algebra homework. The head of student life is telling liberal arts majors that clubs are a waste of time and they should be preparing for the TEAS test.

Of course, none of what I described above is actually happening. I’m not really sure why this phrase recently became part of my work culture. I just know that someone way, way above me on the food chain sent me an email recently with that very phrase in the title line. This person was actually wrong in making this particular accusation. I had made a mistake, one I’m not going to get into detail about here, but it wasn’t because I was rewriting my job description. I had been asked to help out in the office I was told I was infringing upon. My critic wasn’t aware of the situation, so I let it go.

But it got me thinking. What kind of wisdom for a college, or even corporate culture, is “stay in your own lane”.

How many times have you been driven mad by the words- “that’s not my department..” “I need to transfer your call.” “You need to email this person between the hours of 11:02 pm and 11:04 pm, the night after the moon is the fullest, during a month that is only four letters, and, only then, will your questions be answered.’

I work with people, students. When they come into my office, many of them are scared. A lot of them aren’t sure they fit in, will ever fit in, or figure out how to find their classroom, pass a math class or figure out the portal, (yes, for those of you not in academia, it is a portal. It is on your computer, and figuring out your portal is the key to everything. Really.).

I check on their financial aid. I do not work in financial aid, but I explain the difference between a loan and a grant, and remind them, every single time I see them, to do their financial aid.

I talk to them about the learning center, and point out how important it is to stay ahead in their classes, and take advantage of the free tutoring, online and on campus.

I tell them where the nearest Starbucks is, where to find cheap indian food, and when Dunkin Donuts has the discounts. I don’t work for yelp.

At work, I have a job. My title is Outreach and Dual Enrollment Specialist. I am currently lucky enough to work in our Advising office. All day long, I tell students that want to talk about which schools to transfer to, to make an appointment to see an advisor. I tell students that want to know how to fill out a master promissory note, to check in with Financial Aid. If someone wants to drop a class, the only person to see is someone in the Registrar’s office, and, quite often, I will walk them over and show them the form.

I know there are limitations to what I know, and what I can do. I know that bad advice can cost someone hundreds of dollars. I know that each office where I work has an amazing team of professionals trained to answer all questions related to just about anything.

I also do have a lot of answers. I received my Associate’s degree where I work. I’ve spent time in Career Services, IT, Mission Support, Admissions, administered placement tests and helped out on FAFSA day.

I don’t know it all, but I know a lot. And I know when to kick the ball, or make the call, or take a student by the hand and bring them over to meet with an advisor.

I work with people, students, and my job, no matter what the description is, is to help them. If there isn’t anyone answering the phone, or I’m the third person they’ve been sent to, I’m going to do my job. I might not be able to resolve their issue, but I can offer them a seat. I can listen to how their day is going, hear about what they hope to do with their degree. I can share a little of my story, not much, they aren’t there to hear my story.

They are at college to learn. I work at a college and am privileged to help them, from time to time.

Stay in your lane is a term that is useful when you are driving down a highway. I’m not on a road trip at work. I’m the person on the side of the road who is there to help people find their way back to school. For many, it’s their first time in college, and it’s the first time someone in their family went to college. It is a privilege to hear their stories, and spend a few minutes doing whatever I can to make sure they come back tomorrow, and next semester, until they’ve moved on.

Cliches and credos should be avoided, at work, at least. There is no one size fits all phrase that applies to everything. The customer isn’t always right. Do more with less is sometimes just not possible. And circling back later isn’t always effective as getting things done now.

So let’s say what we mean to each other, and avoid warnings that come from too much time behind the wheel.

I’m not good at staying in my own lane on the high way, either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.