Camp Convos in the Car with Cooper, episode 4

I was waiting in the pick up line for Cooper at camp yesterday as I watched him walk, hop, and drag his belongings across the field. While he approached I heard him yelling (he is the loudest human being on the planet) “And then you are killed, and then you are killed…” over and over. It grated on my brain and heart given what has been going on in Ferguson MO, Israel, on mountainsides in Iraq. I got his attention and gave him the CUT IT OUT signal.

When he was finally in the car and we were on our way I asked him if he knew what was going on on the world. He said no, so I described in very basic terms how a young man had been shot and killed by the police while unarmed and running away from them. He asked “Did he do something bad?” My response was that even if he had been stealing a car or selling drugs, he wasn’t armed and was running away. Should the police have shot him? No. 

Then we talked about how the boy was black, and that there are people in this world who will hate another person just because of their skin color. We talked about his friends who are Indian, African American, biracial, Hispanic, and how there will be people who will hate the gentle and loving person that is his friend William just because he is brown skinned. “It’s like the color wars, back when they had to go to different schools and drink from separate fountains and ride at the back of the bus all over again!!” he responded angrily. Ah. So he DOES listen at school. Kudos to our educational system. 

I responded that we had come a long way in this country but still had so far to go. And this is why I told him to stop yelling about killing. He was talking about a game called Roblox and how many ways you can die in the game. I pointed out that the problem was that people wouldn’t know why he was yelling about being killed, and with the way people feel right now, I think our energy would be better spent putting feelings of love, kindness, and peace into the world, rather than yelling about killing. 

“Does that make sense” I asked. “Yes. Ok, I understand what you said, but just so I get it, say it again, but make it BASIC so I am sure I get it.” I’ll explain it as often as necessary little man, because it is important. 

As I walk on through this wicked world, searching for light in the darkness of insanity,

I ask myself, Is all hope lost? Is there only pain, and hatred and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside, there’s one thing I wanna know,

What’s so funny about Peace, love and Understanding.

Nick Lowe

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Camp Convo with Cooper, episode 1

Backstory: Cooper goes to camp at the Y. There are several options, some designated by age, some by activity (sports vs. not sports). Cooper is old enough to be in Camp Cabot this year, for 7-12 year old kids. He REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to stay in Pioneers, which is for kids going into Kindergarten and first grade. When we signed him up, there was an error in the brochure, and he got assigned to Pioneers again. This past week I was getting calls from the woman who manages the camp saying we should move him into Cabot. The following conversation occurred: 

Me: The camp called. They say you should be in Cabot. You are too old to hang with Pioneers and you can set your own schedule in Cabot. But that doesn’t mean you get to swim all day. 

Coop: AGGGGHHHHHH! I waaaaant to staaaaaaaay in Pioneeeeeeers. PLEASE don’t make me move to Cabot. pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease can i stay in pioneers, he whispers. 

Me: Uh, what’s up with Cabot? Why don’t you want to be in Cabot? Did you hear the part about making your own schedule? 

Coop: The counselors yell a lot at the Cabot campers. 

Me: Why do they yell? Are the kids doing things that they shouldn’t be doing, are they not LISTENING? 

Coop: Well, maybe.

Me: So easy solution here. Don’t be a trouble maker, do what the counselors ask the first time they ask and behave yourself. Oh look, the same rules apply at home too!

Coop: I still want to stay in Pioneers. PLEASE let me stay in Pioneers. 

At this point I recognize angst of a different sort in my child, Camp Angst, generated from an as yet unidentified source. I decide to push it further. Get some real answers.

Me: What is the real problem here. Yelling counselors, we figured that out. You can control that. What is the problem? Who is the problem? TELL ME. I hug him and give him a noogy.

Coop, flopping over, limp, with a siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh, utters one word: VLADIMIR. 

Well if one is going to have a nemesis, that is a good name for him. I am hoping we are not dealing with the son of a Russian mob don. We have determined that Vladimir is a bit of a bully, tackles people, throws things at people and may or may not be stealing the bands that kids get each day from the counselors for being helpful or doing something really well. Next week Cooper will definitely be in Cabot. They say they will put him a different group from Vladimir. We will see what happens…Stay tuned. 




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This is Fifty…

On this day in the year of our Lord, one thousand, nine hundred and sixty-four, at approximately 2pm in the afternoon, I was ushered into this world. My father, so the story goes, had waited and waited and waited for me to make my entrance, and figured going for a sandwich would be safe, and of course it was while he was eating lunch that I arrived. I like to joke that he has been out to lunch ever since. Love you Dad!

50 years has passed. FIFTY YEARS. Half a century. Given the general life span of the human species, it is safe to assume I have more years behind me than ahead of me, although Tony DePasquale, my dear maternal grandfather, is giving the universe a run for its money at 95 years of age and still ticking.

I am grateful for the life I have. Oh sure, I get out of bed every morning reminded of the delicate nature of our bodies, with plantar fasciitis making my left heel complain, and my right shoulder with its torn rotator cuff which needs repairing giving me what for. Also, I could stand to lose 40lbs and I have a zit. I am 50 freaking years old and I have a zit. The universe is HILARIOUS sometimes.

But I also have a lot of love. I have The Bob and The Coop, two people I truly never expected to have in my life, who bless me every day with their exuberance and laughter. I have a home that most of the time doesn’t aggravate me, even if it lacks a garage and central air. I have a job that, when I am able to step back from the cranky parents and the instant gratification demanding students, allows me to help people advance their dreams, and become something more than they were yesterday. I have super spectacular friends who care enough to successfully plan and pull off a surprise birthday party and whose children are such wonderful little people I am so very glad to know. I have friends and family across the country whose existence in my life makes it full and colorful. For all of this I am truly, humbly grateful.

There are a variety of life lessons I have learned that I could share now, but really, most of them are only useful when you learn them yourself, on the job so to speak. I will say this: I think the most important step we can take in our lives is to stay open to the possibilities. The biggest mistake people make is thinking in absolutes. Life must be this way or that. I must achieve this or that, by this age or that age. I love when ask me in an interview “Where do you see yourself in 5 years.”  I HAVE NO IDEA. 12 years ago at this time I was recently separated from my first husband, grieving but OK with that change of events. A year later I was watching fireworks with the man who would bring love and laughter and motherhood into my life. 14 years ago this month I took a HUGE risk and took a job as the director of aid at a tiny college that was reinventing itself. I am still here, working along side some of the most talented people in higher education I could ever ask to meet, and that college has more than doubled its enrollment and added graduate programs. I am taking karate classes. I am a PTO mom. I didn’t PLAN any of these things. Opportunities present themselves, it is up to us to step forward into the unknown and make the most of them. They don’t all work out, or at least not the way you expected. But that is life. Nothing works out the way you expect. Sometimes it sucks out loud, and other times it exceeds your wildest dreams. You just have to ride the wave and keep on going. 

I will continue to try to stay open to the possibilities. I will try to be quiet enough to hear the universe telling me the secrets it wants to share with me. I will try to love with all my heart and be grateful every single day for the people in my life, near and far.

Today I am fifty. And so far, fifty is nifty.


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Don’t mess with this Karate Mama

The other day Cooper and I were getting ready to go to our karate classes. They happen at the same time at the same dojo.  National Grid had pulled up in front of the house a few moments before, and there were men measuring and consulting papers on a clip board and staring at my house, so before I changed into my gi (uniform for karate) I went out on the porch to ask if I needed to be concerned about them staring at my house while a back hoe was parked in front of it. Seems that we were on the schedule to have our inactive gas line cut off at the street. 

Side story: At some point prior to our purchasing of this house, a previous owner had a gas line run to the house. There was a meter, a gas line, but nothing INSIDE the house was ever hooked up to gas. No gas lines at all exist inside the house. Eventually, a few years after we had moved in, a different National Grid guy came wandering by, asking if we had a gas account. I explained how there was no gas inside the house. He seemed baffled by that, but it was true. So months later he shows up again to say they are taking the meter off the house and turning off the gas at the street. FINE. WHATEVER. Just don’t blow up my house thank you. Now they apparently have decided that they have to cut off the line at the street. Fine WHATEVER. Just don’t blow up my house, nor can you dig up my tree.Thank you. 

Side note to the side note: They have yet to dig up anything. Back hoe is gone. Whatever. 

Back to my story. I go back inside, change, get Cooper changed and send him out to the car as I gather things and lock the door. The one dude sees Cooper in his gi and says “Don’t you look great.” Cooper looks at him as kids do, assessing if this comment requires a response, but decides no, and gets in the car. Meanwhile, I wander out onto the porch in my gi, turn the lock the door as I see the guy turn and take in all the glory that is me dressed all in white head to toe with my bright gold belt and I hear him say “Oooookaaaaaaay…” 

That’s right gas dude. I know Ka-rah-tay. Do NOT mess with this karate mama. And don’t blow up my house. Thanks. 

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My Father’s Day post, a day late

First of all, I am the worst daughter because I managed to forget to call my father yesterday.It’s not like I could forget it was Father’s Day. I was reminded when my son and I gave a card and a new rake to The Bob and we went out to breakfast. I was reminded at the Red Sox game we went to when they played recorded snippets from the players to their fathers. It was everywhere. But to be fair to me, my brain was COOKED by the time we got home from the game. I love that we have the T in Boston, to get to and from most things pretty easily. But on game days, it is the worst. You are crammed in on a train with all the other sweaty, and by now inebriated in many cases, game goers. It is a challenge for me when my personal space is usually about 3 feet out all around.


I have shared previously the things that I have to thank my father for. A love of gardening, learning to throw, hit and catch a baseball. My love of photography. My first experience with a camera was with a Brownie that was my fathers. A love of classical and jazz music, although it took me a long time to get there.

One thing I noticed though as I was on the book of faces on and off all day, was the number of women who chose to post pictures of their fathers from their own wedding day. As the father of the bride. And I realized I do not have that picture. I have been married twice, and neither time did we do a traditional wedding. And by the time I married The Bob, I was 40. No one was giving me away. I was choosing to marry Bob, and he me. We didn’t have dancing. We did have great food, wine, and a lot of chatter with good friends. It was more dinner party than wedding.

But I will acknowledge that this independence that is at the core of my person, that says “I am making this choice, and I am not the property of someone to give away” is to a certain extent the gift of my father. It is the gift of both of my parents, but I can see that throughout my life my father made sure that he was raising a child who would stand for herself. I remember him teaching me the right way to shake hands, with confidence, when I was young. I remember him teaching me things about a car that had nothing to do with driving it. He did try to teach me to drive, but we quickly realized that teaching when you had to speak your thoughts out loud before you wanted someone to do something was not necessarily his strong suit. But he taught me the things you need to know about a car. I learned to sail, to fish and to build a fire from my dad. I learned to use tools, how to clean a swimming pool and wash a car properly. I learned how mow a lawn, shovel snow and when I came home from girl scout camp and said I liked canoeing, he bought me a canoe. I couldn’t lift it by myself for anything, but he got one!

I appreciate that he was supportive and caring even when he was hard to be around, when the migraines were taking over his brain or other issues were in control. He has always been a man of integrity, and made sure his family had all of the basic needs covered and then some.

So happy Father’s Day. We love you!

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I don’t always make it easy…My Mothers Day post a day late

I recognize my flaws, most of the time. I am not the neatest person in the world. I have a high tolerance for clutter. I am not always careful of other people’s feelings with my words. I procrastinate. 

I am VERY sensitive to noise, to smells, to temperature and humidity changes. I hate being hot, I don’t like to be touched unless I am prepared for it. And even then, PLEASE do not touch my nose. I cannot be responsible for the consequences if you do. 

Because of these idiosyncrasies, I never thought of myself as mother material. Kids tend to be touchy, they are loud, lord knows they make smells that could drop a horse. Teenagers are frightening on all these accounts, what with the MUSIC and the BO. Except that is usually the period of life when they do not want to touch either, so on that score they would be almost tolerable. But given all that, I thought it would be easier to just not be a mother, and I didn’t walk through this life with this burning desire to be a mom. I was fine with the idea that I would not procreate.

My own mother was, and still is, a very caring, loving mother. In her “get it done” manner, she showed me what it was to be a capable and self sufficient woman. Even though she didn’t work full time for much of my life, and my father was the primary bread winner if you will, my mother was the one who kept it together. Made things happen. And I learned a lot from her whether she was purposefully trying to teach me anything or not. 

Being the kind of kid I was, I didn’t always make it easy to be affectionate. I was, as I recall, pretty good at managing myself from an early age, and wasn’t a cuddly kid. I remember seeing a family in church sitting a few pews ahead of us, and the dad had his arm around a little girl approximately my age, and thinking “AGH” and shrugging involuntarily. 

But as a mom myself, I find that my barriers are invaded. I get demands for cuddles from the living room when I am in another room doing something. My first instinct is to say “In a minute, when I am done with _____.” But lately I have been reminding myself that this time is short, and as kids grow, they don’t just grow up, they grow away. If we are doing our jobs right, we are preparing them for the essential moment of individuality, of separateness. So I go in and I cuddle. Even if it is just for a moment. I get all up in his business and I try to ignore the fact that he already has begun to smell like the bottom of a gym bag in a boys locker room, and I cuddle the hell out of him. I kiss his head, I muss his hair, I generally just get in whatever contact I can as often as I can. Because some day I know it will be awkward. He won’t want to hug or be kissed on the head. He might tolerate it, but he won’t seek it out. And that is sort of the way it is supposed to be. 

But just as I didn’t make it easy for my parents to show me affection when I was kid, I will probably find a way to make it difficult for him NOT to show his mother affection later. Recently I asked Cooper if he would always at least let me give him a kiss on the head. He looked at me with this funny look on his face, as if to say “Why are you asking this” but then he shrugged and said “SURE (crazy woman whatever you want.” 

It’s funny how things change you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. My mother molded me and taught me even when neither of us may have been aware of it. When someone jams the copier, they come looking for me to help clear it. When a baby bird was dislodged from its nest under an air conditioner in a window in our building, I was sought out because apparently I know about baby birds. But really, it was because that’s what I do. I problem solve. My child has forced me to crack open those walls a little, to cuddle and hug, to be kinder to myself and to embrace the moment. And it’s all good. 

But really, don’t touch my nose. That quirk I will take to my grave.

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I want what I want…alternately titled Progressive Lenses are the Devil’s Handiwork

I know, that title sounds a little bratty. But let me explain…some of you who are friends with me on the book of faces may have seen my rant recently about my newly acquired progressive lenses. Over the last decade my eyeballs went from “Hey, I can read and see everything just fine, no glasses needed” to “Huh, Honey, would you hold this menu up over there on the other side of the table for me so I can read the wine list.” I was puttering by with glasses you can buy in a three or four pack at Costco and it was fine. But two years ago I realized I hadn’t had an eye exam in several years and maybe it would be a good idea for a professional to tell me exactly what strength lens I need and to confirm I don’t have glaucoma. Things like that. 

Selecting an optometrist or ophthalmologist is like finding a dentist. You have a hundred choices, they all deliver the same services and you hope you pick one that doesn’t have stinky breath. They get REALLY CLOSE to your face when doing the various exams.

The first visit was OK. He sort of scoffed at my Costco purchased glasses, but in general I liked him and he didn’t have stinky breath. He gave me a prescription, stuck those dilating drops in my eyes and pointed me at a wall of frames. Really? You want me to pick out frames while in a state of diminished vision? I did pick out a pair, which sadly I misplaced not too long after I acquired them. But they were rage inducing, so maybe it wasn’t really so mysterious that I “lost” them. The frame was slightly too small for my noggin, and they would sloooooowly push down my nose while I wore them, pinching my temples in the process.

I eventually invested in some slightly more expensive but fabulous glasses from EyeBobs and loved them.

Eventually I went back for another visit. I took Cooper too, as he had not yet had an official eye exam. I confessed to having lost my frames, showed him the ones I had, which were not inexpensive (but not $300 either) and again, he scoffed. We did the routine of dilating my eyes and pointing me at the frames again. He gave Cooper an exam, good news is he has no need for glasses. Braces, yes, glasses no.

This time he informed me I not only need a reading prescription, but a slight distance prescription. Time for progressives. Oh goody. Or the exact opposite of that.

If you have never had progressive lenses, I recommend you research them. Watch these videos about what they are and how they work. Had I watched them I probably would not have chosen to go with them.

I think if you are someone with really bad vision and you need a distance and reading prescription, and are embarking on glasses, you will probably love progressive lenses. I still have pretty decent distance vision. When I put the new glasses on, the reading part was almost useless to me. You are instructed not to move your head, just your eyes. But when I did that, all of the area to left and right was blurry. Turns out there is “distortion” in a progressive lens on the outside edges. I do not know why, it is “the way they are made.”

I took my glasses back. I explained my problem. That wearing these glasses made me want to punch things. I asked about alternatives. Bifocals, with a line. But not a bifocal that goes all the way across the bottom of the lens. “Pfffttt. We haven’t made those for 30 years” I was told. But why? Why is the industry standard a form of lens that actually makes it hard to see in your peripheral vision?

I am getting my way, partially. I am getting bifocals, with the largest area of bifocal they can do. But you would think I was asking them to replace my iphone with a land line that has a corded handset. “We are unfamiliar with the dimensions, because we never make or order these any more.” Well now you will know. Because I wasn’t paying over $300 for a pair of glasses I didn’t want to wear.

But my point, and I do have one, is why can’t I ask for what I believe is completely reasonable? A pair of glasses that gives me a wide area of coverage for reading and for distance? Why is the industry standard something so weird and limiting? I don’t accept the argument “You’ll get used to them.” I don’t WANT to get used to seeing LESS. I want to see everything as clearly as possible with as little irritation and effort as possible. I should be able to move my eyes side to side and SEE WHAT I AM READING CLEARLY.

The end of this story will be that I find a new optometrist. I don’t need to for a year, but I will find a new one. One that doesn’t dismiss my lovely EyeBobs readers, who is willing to consider all of the options when putting me in glasses. Someone who respects what I would like to experience as the consumer and the one with they eyeballs who has to live with what I purchase.

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