Category Archives: Friends

Paying It Forward

Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.

Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.

But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.

So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.

Gratitude

It was a very busy week, so I’ll keep this sort. I’m happy to report the kid is graduated! I’m grateful for my sister and-bro-in-law who were able to come from Connecticut for the ceremony, for my ex for being the kind of ex where we can celebrate these milestones in peace, and for my kid who tossed up his mortarboard in joy and then promptly lost it. He’s careful most of the time, maybe too careful, so if there was a time to unload something, this was it! It also saves him from having to put it in a box and move it around for years before either losing it or find it moldering away in an attic. Well done! I’m also grateful for the live streaming so family and friends in other states could watch.

I’m also grateful for the Boston Gay Pride Parade that happened on Saturday. It certainly was a year to come out and show support. I had to leave early to facilitate graduation celebrations with the kid’s friends, but not before I got to see Senator Elizabeth Warren dance with the trans group. She hugged, she waved, she smiled, and she was hugged and selfied in return. Her and our joy was uplifting, but even more moving was just having her there. Some days it feels like she and a handful of other Congressional members are the only things standing between us and Cheeto flea Armageddon. So, I’m so grateful to live in Massachusetts, and will continue to stand behind Elizabeth and others to keep on dancing and fighting and being grateful.

Birth, School, Work, Death

OK, so my reference to the Godfathers’ song from 1988, is a bit melodramatic, but what is teenage existence if not melodramatic? Plus, it’s my solemn duty to reference anything 80s, anytime I can.
My kid had a crash course in adult life this week. First he got yelled at by yours truly for not handing in assignments and a lecture about doing what you are supposed to, even if you don’t feel like it. Senioritis has reached an acute stage, and I can use that word because I work at the hospital.
A few days later, our beloved hamster, Marble, who has gotten me out of more than one blogging jam with his cuteness, decided on Wednesday that his allotted two years were up. As one friend said, Marble has moved on and will  forever be remembered with his cheeks stuffed with seeds and carrots. Even though this is hamster #3, the kid was still sad. I am too, truth be told. But we didn’t have too much time to mourn, because at the end of that day, we got word that the kid had received a local scholarship, and we’d find out details at a ceremony next week.

Thursday started with a visit to the vet for Marble’s cremation and ended with a 2-hour wait to get the kid fitted for a tux for the prom. Yes, my gaming, independent kid decided to go to the prom on his own to see what the fuss was all about. On the way to the fitting, he confessed he was nervous and wasn’t sure what he was doing. He also knew the ticket had been bought and the tux rented and there was no going back. If that’s not a “welcome to adulthood” situation, I don’t know what is.

The next day he got dressed up, looked awesome, and I drove him to the prom fashionably late. We agreed he could call me at anytime to come rescue him, and it took him a few minutes to get the courage to open the door after a brief strategy session. I then headed home and sat waiting though the next three hours like a firefighter waiting on the next call.

When I finally got the call at the end of the night, I was jubilant, or perhaps slightly delirious — it had, after all, been an intense week. I thought, “He stayed until the end, he must’ve had a good time!” Of, course, this is my kid we’re talking about, and he tends to lean more to the glass half empty way of viewing the world. I picked him up, and he proclaimed the experience, “Meh.” However, we did have a good discussion about his expectations, and that not everyone has a fabulous time at prom or in high school for that matter. I argued that the main takeaway should be him giving himself credit for facing his fear of going to prom on his own and going. He seemed to feel bad that he probably wasn’t going to have any nostalgia for his high school days, and he compared it to my nostalgia for 80s music. I explained that my love of 80s music and the memories I have of say, my friends and I hunkered down watching this new, amazing thing called MTV — 20 minutes of moon footage interspersed with the Buggles singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” — had really nothing to do with high school. Except that I was a high schooler during that time. I pointed out to him that his nostalgia would be around the video games he’s played with his friends. His spirits seemed to brightened at that idea.

Which is good — growing up means getting your own nostalgia and appropriating anyone else that’s interesting. Long live the 80s.

 

 

Unblinded by Science

This weekend was Earth Day and also the March for Science around the country. My friend Mike and I went to the march in Boston, which was transformed into a rally for safety reasons. That might sound suspect, as plenty of other big cities managed to have marches without mishap, but Boston is so chock full of hospitals, universities, and businesses engaged in scientific research of all kinds that marching around is probably fairly redundant. We just gathered at the Boston Common and swept our arms in a broad circle to call out the all the science going on around us.

You might ask, what is a one-time failed biology major doing at a science rally? A one-time bio major who eventually accepted herself and became a word girl, that is. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to mid-life. My ex is a nurse, I have science and math kid, and I work in communications at a hospital. And while my kid can render me inert by flashing his calculus notebook with derivatives, slopes, and tangents, I have come to appreciate the importance of science and math. I have also come to appreciate all the people who do it much better than I do and actually enjoy it, leaving me to play in my word sand box. So, thanks for that. Also, thanks for creating all of the vaccines that prevent small pox, chicken pox, and all the other poxes Shakespeare liked to insult people with. Not having to battle preventable, contagious, deadly diseases leaves more time for my writing and yoga and, you know, that crazy thing called living.

At the rally, school kids from across New England who had won an essay writing contest read their work, and they were all about cleaning the air and the water and needing science to find cures and look for other planets we could live on — clearly these kids aren’t betting on us to fix this in time. I can’t say I blame them; they are way savvier than we were at that age. When we were in school, we used stone tablets, ate bark off of trees, and called this Earth stuff ecology. Remember this symbol?

ecology

I have clear memories of coloring this on many purple-inked mimeographed handouts, oops, I mean stone tablets. I also remember the message being simpler; mostly it seemed to involve not littering. I drew a lot of pristine landscapes with full trash cans, and I picked up a fair amount of litter; although back then it was mostly soda cans and paper bags. But the general idea has stayed with me all these years, even though I didn’t even like science for a good number of them. That’s what education is supposed to do, so how come it hasn’t sunk in for some people? I’m talking to you, Cheeto Flea and your minions. Maybe a little more coloring in Cheeto’s youth might have helped us out here. Or we can just stick a Crayon in his eye now.

If science teaches us anything it’s that evolution is not always a progressive process, so here we are some 40 years later having to explain why science and the environment are worth protecting. I get that there is a lot more we should do — we need more social justice-informed funding; we need to figure out how to make the cures we do find more affordable to everyone who needs it; we need to make the information about science discoveries more accessible to everyone and be able to say why it matters. Science is a long game of patience and persistence, which is kind of a drag in our very impatient society. After discovering penicillin in a failed bacteria experiment, it took another 10 years before it was actually usable as a treatment. Many discoveries take longer than that.

So, yeah, science needs some defenders, and that’s why I was so excited to see another part of my childhood at the march, Beaker, from The Muppet Show who is the long-suffering assistant of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. I know Beaker is a true man of science because only a scientist would have the patience to get waylaid by a grinning middle-aged women who busted in just after a kid got his picture with him. OK, maybe he was a little scared too, but the point is we all have something to contribute — as users of science, practitioners of science, or fictional characters based on science. Eyes wide open, we’re watching.

 

 

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston, aka Boston Marathon Day. There will be an estimated 30,000 runners who have either a qualifying time, are part of a team running for charity, or are simply a handful of rogue folks who find registering and qualifying a bother, and good for them.

At 121 years, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, and is 26 miles and 385 yards, which reminds me of the Mass Ave Bridge’s measurement in Smoots — 364.4 and one ear to be exact. For some reason we Bostonians like our precision, even if it means adding yards or an ear. Oliver Smoot, by the way, was a 1962 graduate of MIT who stood 5 feet, 7 inches. You can well imagine how he was used as a measuring stick. Perhaps the 385 additional yards in the marathon came about in a similar way. We can only hope.

This year they are retiring the number of the first woman to officially register and run, Kathrine Switzer. In 1967 she registered with only her initials — there was this pesky thing where women weren’t officially allowed to run until 1972, so they gave her a number assuming she was a man. I guess that’s some progress. Mary Ann Evans had to take an entire man’s name of George Eliot to get published. Kathrine was inspired by the 1966 rogue run of Roberta Gibbs, who apparently jumped out of the bushes near the start and ran and finished the race. Wanting to run 26 miles is crazy and hard enough, without having to concoct a surprise way of joining in. A year later, Kathrine may have made more than 26,000 steps for herself, but also she made a giant leap for women athletes everywhere — at least the white ones. Marathon official Jack Sempe tried to take her bib, yelling, “Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend, who was running with her, body checked Jack out of the way, but not before the whole thing was photographed and went the 1967 version of viral. There’s a well-done piece about the story in the Boston Herald.

Cool story, right? It made me wonder about other firsts, like the first African-American man and woman to run the Boston race. And that’s where that little ole thing called racism creeps in. Granted, Kathrine’s story was splashed all over the news this year because of the retired number thing. And there was that 1967 viral photo by a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, no less.

However, it should not have taken as many Google searches as it did for me to get to those other firsts. I mean isn’t that what Black History Month is all about? Digging up historical stuff that we’ve been covering up/not caring about for, like, ever?

I found two sources, and the second one, the National Black Marathoners Association history project gets credit for actually including a — — woman. Both sources say Aaron Morris was the first Black male runner in the Boston Marathon in 1919, 47 years before a white woman. The first and only reference I can find of the first Black woman to run in Boston is Marilyn Bevans in 1977; and she placed 2nd. That’s pretty amazing right? Where are the stories about her? Granted once I knew her name, more came up in the search, including that she is considered the first lady of marathon running. But doesn’t that warrant her coming up in the more general searches of first women/first Black woman to run the Boston Marathon?

Maybe in running circles this is common knowledge, but let’s face it, most of us think marathon running is crazy, unless it’s a big event in your city and you get the day off. Or you do it to celebrate a milestone birthday. I personally try not to be friends with people like that, but one tries to be open and flexible to others’ obvious lack of judgment.

So today, I salute you, Marilyn Bevans and Aaron Morris. I like you, too, Kathrine and Roberta, but you’ve been saluted enough. You all remind me that marathons take time, effort, and preparation. That sometimes people don’t want me to accomplish a goal, so I have to jump out of the bushes or avoid getting my bib grabbed. That sometimes remarkable accomplishments go unnoticed because of skin color or gender or both. That many times I need to remember that and be curious beyond the story of a white woman’s amazing accomplishment.

Happy running.

 

 

 

Flashback

This week I had a flashback to when my kid was a baby. He is now an 18-year-old senior, and even with teenager shenanigans, I’d still rather have a teen than a baby. Babies turned out to be not so much my thing, and you won’t see me hanging creepily around families with babies, staring too long. If I’m hanging around, it will be for some other completely different creepy reason.

But that’s another blog post.

So there I was Friday afternoon, focused solely on my offspring, making sure he was packed for our overnight trip to visit a college for accepted student day. Yes, we’re on the home stretch of Collegepalooza, and I love the dean who said while polling the kids about the other colleges they were deciding on, “And how many of you can’t decide and are driving your parents crazy?” My kid raised his hand. See? Better than a baby.

I had already packed, so my stuff was in the car. I asked a few more “Did you bring your [fill in the blank]” questions and it seemed we were ready.  We were going to stop at my sister’s house for dinner as a driving break and then drive for another hour or so and head to a hotel near the college. This was my attempt to recover from the previous week’s accepted student day at a college closer to home. It turns out you can shave 30 minutes off the drive time in Boston if it’s a Sunday morning. Since I try never to be awake early Sunday morning, this is not something I would know. And now that I do know I don’t have to wake up at 6:30 am on Sunday, I was hell-bent on not doing that again. So, we were booked at a hotel well within roll-out-of-bed-grab-coffee-and-get-to-the-event distance.

So on Friday, I did a last check in on the kid, he grabbed his driving learner’s permit, I had my coffee in hand, glanced around the house for anything being obviously forgotten, and did the little mantra, “Well, whatever we forgot, we’ll just buy another one,” and off we went. As I was overly pleased with my cleverness, it wasn’t until we were two hours into the trip that I realized what I forgot.

My wallet.

I don’t carry a purse because I find them annoying. Also the name is stupid, second only to pocketbook. If the garment industry would actually make all women’s clothes with pockets, we wouldn’t even need the darn things. In the winter, I mostly use what my friend calls a coat purse. I put the three things I need — phone, keys and wallet — in the pockets of my coat. In summer, they go in my pants pockets, unless I’m wearing a cute sundress, and then I have compromised with a crossbody bag, which is absolutely not a purse. It fits only those three things, and if I’m feeling spatially up to it, I can squeeze in my sunglasses.

But on Friday, I had switched coats and as I was focused on my offspring, I’d left my own important thing in the old coat. This happened a lot to me when my kid was a baby. On trips I’d make sure he had everything he needed because the price for leaving behind the favorite toy, or the baby wipes, or the kid himself was rarely worth paying. The Department of family Services can be a real bitch about that kind of thing.

On the highway, I realized the only ID we had between us was the driving learner’s permit, which clearly stated it could not be used as a form of ID.

Now the real fun began. Do hotels ask for ID when you check in? I could recollect handing over my driver’s license and my credit card at a counter, but I couldn’t tell you in what circumstances that had occurred — the airport? Renting a car? Buying Sudafed? Were hotels in that mix? Then of course was the paying part. Would they take Apple Pay on my phone? Did I even know how to use Apple Pay on my phone? Did my sister have a couple hundred bucks in cash lying around I could borrow?

I called my sister and gave her the heads up. She did have cash, but other than that there wasn’t much we could do until I got to her house. When I did I called the hotel. The front desk person said they did accept cash (rather snootily declining to even answer the question about Apply Pay, I may add). However, that was moot because they needed an ID to check me in. That’s when I wondered, what do people who are sneaking around having an affair do? Losing all the dark outdoor spaces for secret trysts is bad enough, and now you have to identify yourself if you take it indoors. What is this world coming to?

The hotel woman did say they’d accept a photo of my ID if someone was at my house and could take a picture and send it to me. Somehow, that seemed even more stupid than requiring one in the first place. How serious is this requirement if you’ll accept a photo of a photo ID?

So I sat in a small puddle of self-pity for a few minutes, but then within the next hour, my sister had procured an airbed so we could sleep over, she had cash to give me and coffee, and the hotel didn’t charge me for canceling late — clearly the right thing to do since I was physically unable to check in, but the “right thing to do” and “payment policies” rarely rub up against each other, so I was grateful for that.

All that was left was not attracting any police attention and the fact that I had to do all the driving. I was pretty sure I’d be able to talk my way out of not having a licence if I got pulled over, but if my son got pulled over, with only one form of unacceptable ID between us,  we were pretty much toast. But I drove the speed limit, a novelty for sure, and no one did anything stupid near me on the road, also a novelty.

Sending a big thanks to my sister and the universe for getting us to where we needed to go. My kid still doesn’t know where he wants to go to school, but at least I know that next time, I’m letting him forget something.

 

Dammit

Don’t you hate it when life tries to teach you stuff?

Life, knocking at the door: “Hey, it’s me, here for your lesson. It’s time.”

Me:”Oh, hey, hi. No thanks, I’m good here with my glass of wine and Netflix. I think the people upstairs with the endlessly barking dog could use your help, though. Wow, that is seriously annoying. Go get ’em!”

Life:  “No, I’m here for you.”

Me: “Look, I get it. You’ve got a boss you have to answer to. I’m really fine. Oh, remember all that stuff we learned a few years ago? I was curled in a ball and cried a lot? Good times! So that counts, right? I learned stuff, I’m not curled in a ball anymore. It’s all good, right? I mean, seriously, that dog. He barks constantly when they aren’t home. Have a heart and think of him. His owners surely need to learn a few things.”

Life opens the door and walks in, looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Really?”

Me: “Awwww, dammit.”

Yeah, I really hate that shit. So, we had the election, and the inauguration (I can’t even capitalize it in good conscience), and whatever the hell this is now. I’ve felt angry, nauseous, adrift, overwhelmed, and I’ve been eating too much. And that’s the part that really hurts — especially after I worked so hard long to lose weight. And I would like to point out that my son recently got sick enough to stay home. That never happened during the Obama years. Just sayin’. The facts don’t lie. Oh, ow, see? You can’t even joke about that stuff now.

So, what?!? What exactly, Life, do you have to teach me right now? Can’t you see it’s hitting the fan, like the paint on Spin art? I had to work this weekend to meet a deadline, my son is having senioritis, two great coworkers are retiring soon, my siblings are meeting this week to sort out how to best help our parents who are in their late 80s — old age is a riot, isn’t it? — and my dating life is in the toilet. And this morning the piece de resistance was getting a familiar pain in my left eye, and seeing the telltale bloodshot eyeball. Of course, scleritis. Why wouldn’t I get scleritis right now? Don’t worry, folks, it’s not dangerous, just annoying and requires lots of ibuprofen for 10 days.

Life just looked at me with that “are you finished?” mom face for a few minutes without speaking. I hate when she does that.

And then I couldn’t help but recount all the recent encounters of my friends showing up in my life when I need them, and the fact that my siblings can meet and work together, the substantive conversation I had with my son about how he’s really doing. And on top of that, two things that are helping ground me in this new era. And that’s the life lesson, tucked into the gratitude. Until I can find how to ground myself, I’m a liberal fall leaf getting carried down the orange Cheeto River.

One thing was the workshop I just finished on bystander intervention. I will blog more details soon, but in the meantime, if you are upset that people are feeling more free to say hateful crap, it’s a great thing to have a few techniques and a plan in your back pocket. As a reserved person in public (dancing is totally different!), all my life I have thought if I only were more bold, I could be helpful in a situation where someone is being targeted with hateful, sexist, racist, or, heck, even drunken speech. Guess what? It’s all about knowing yourself and using your strengths.

Dammit–know myself!?! As all my half-assed attempts to meditate and center myself flash though my mind, Life starts to chuckle — she’s not the most empathetic person. So before she comes knocking on your door, too, if you are in the Boston area, check out Rona Fischman’s class. If you’re not, try to find one near you.

The second thing that helped was reading a book called, Just the Facts, by Davis T.Z. Mindich. Well, I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s still helping. The subtitle is: How “objectivity” came to define American journalism. Apparently it started in the 1830s, and that was a violent era under Andrew Jackson (“I was born for the storm and calm does not suit me.”) with mobs of middle class white men dueling and caning people and disrupting antislavery meetings as they tried to preserve their, um, privilege. It did make me twitch a bit, but it made me thankful dueling and mob violence is slightly less prevalent now. In this world of fake news and the prevalence of the perceived equality of everyone’s opinion on social media and blogs, it’s a good place to get grounded in.

So I have some history to look back to, and I have learned I can dig around in my reserved bag of tricks to call out inappropriate remarks to help others both in work and in stranger situations. Rona emphasized anything you can do to prevent small incursions on civilized discourse helps it from becoming a bigger problem. And you have to know yourself to do it.

Me, holding the door open: “Thanks so much Life; you were right! I guess it’s good to be uncomfortable sometimes. It helps you grow.”

Life, settling comfortably into one of my chairs with a drink next to her, crosses her legs and squints dispassionately at me through the smoke of her recently lit cigarette.

Me: “Right. What do you want to watch on Netflix?”