Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Please Tell Me Crayons Are On This List

"Please don't forget your lunchbox," I reminded him. And his father noted that he now will have a locker. I'm not really worried about him remembering the combination or finding the lockers; I'm worried about him remembering to USE the locker.

I remember going to Logan's new school orientation last spring. He is at Ray Middle School now, as a sixth grader. I did not stop to think about the small changes that would upset him, uh, I mean, me. New location, new teachers, new principal, oh, and yes, new supplies and things like lockers.

Lockers. Aren't they for gyms...and high schoolers?

My mind flashes back to the Kindergarten orientation at Nate Perry in the spring of 2008. He was littler, his voice softer, and he was cuter (he's now "handsome"). And he still thought Dad and I were gods.

Today is his first day at Ray Middle School. Though it is hard for me to tell if he is nervous, as he doesn't show it (just like his mom), I wondered if it bugged him even just a little, to be in a new environment. He did complain about returning to school; this is nothing new. Was he hiding the fact that he was anxious about a new school? Memories of our January 2010 (mid-first grade) move flooded me.

"Don't worry; it'll be fun," I said last night as I frantically packed a lunch and helped him sort his multitude of supplies that we had only just purchased the day prior (Labor Day), as I had not time to do it sooner this year. "You'll see, once you get there and see your friends, you'll forget you were even concerned."

"I can take my iPad as long as it is kept locked," he said this morning.
"When did you find out?" I asked.
"At the orientation."
"They said nothing about that."
"No, at the one we attended with the school."

I'd forgotten that though he came with us to the parent orientation at Ray Middle last spring, that he was not invited. The school did a separate orientation for the students. "Oh. Well let's get dressed and eat," I said.

I literally wandered the first few rows at Wal-Mart Monday looking like a deer in headlights. "What the heck are folders with clasps?" Logan wondered. As a writer, I at least know this. But I could not find the rulers. Of course, I always avoided math. "Don't we have rulers?" my husband asked. "Yes." I said. That's it, yes. We have them. I don't know where they are, but we have them. Luckily they are cheap, and though I don't like Wal-Mart's employment policies they are cheap and did manage to have all the back-to-school stuff up front in one neat section, including fruit chews, and they did not have Halloween stuff out already. Well, yes, one costume. At least I think it was a costume. Maybe it was a goth back-to-school outfit. (They were starting to put out Halloween stuff when we got there late Monday afternoon.) Remind me to hug the social studies teacher for only requiring one item. People, this is supposed to be a paperless society!

It is easier to focus on iPads and stressing on supplies you can't find (I had other parents in the store pointing me in the direction of rulers and binders and I still forgot one binder) than to worry about the true things: My son is getting older, and he's almost a teen. He has muscles and his legs are longer than mine, though they probably were when he was six (I have stubby legs). He is exhibiting an attitude with sentences that always begin with a huff, sigh, and "Fine!" He is considered a tween and he now takes the earlier bus and will be in school with teens...yes...some of the 7th graders will be or are 13.

New bus and new driver. Will he drive safely? Will Logan be bored? He was wondering if he'd see any friends on the bus; I was wondering if I'd cry when the bus took off. Yes. Guess which question that answers?

"You're starting out earlier in the day, but you'll be home sooner!" I said, grasping at straws and knowing full well he'd fill that extra hour with additional homework. Shhhh.

Try to look alive, kids, not like prisoners on their way from the justice center.

As I saw him off, taking pictures of course and being annoying as I always am, I resigned myself to the fact that the summer season is done for 2014, though I will miss it. Memories of everything we did this summer flashed before my eyes like a TV sitcom flashback. The Pride and Scottish Festivals; vacationing near Atlantic City and at Wellesley Island; working on our deck "expansion"; Logan tarring the roof and tarring his body; swimming in our river; walking the neighborhood; barbecues; boating; kayaking; camping. Did we do enough? Did we do those things we did enough times? Why is it over already?

I love and always welcome Fall, but this year, somehow, I really did not want him to get on that bus. Maybe if he didn't board the bus, he would not grow up. There I go again.

I knew he'd be fine once he sat on Keith's bus, Route 35-1 in and 35-2 back home.

Would I be okay?

I ran back to my coffee mug that I'd left at the neighbor's so I could jog.

Why aren't crayons on his school shopping list anymore?

And someone please tell me what the heck a book sock is?

Happy new school year, parents. (I know the kids will be fine.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Couldn’t be Prouder

My son Logan, always more in common with Dad. Does so much with him. I get to do very little with him alone these days. Boo hoo. This boy doesn’t listen to me.

Yes, I feel sorry for myself sometimes.

But not this morning.

Enter Logan last night at 8 pm. “Oh, don’t forget the talent show is tomorrow!”

“But you’re not doing anything in it, you told us!” Dad says.

“Oh, but I am! I’m a stage hand!”


This boy chose what he wanted to do. Or perhaps his teacher, apparently with much foresight, did. In either case, he wowed us.

He bobbed and weaved and was right there, in the nick of time, placing and removing chairs and music stands. Helping Chris with his upright bass and bow. Thank goodness he did not try to swing the bow like a sword. He knows better! Adjusting the mike. And never leaving anything behind or done halfway.

All I could remember, as I snapped shot after shot, tears streaming, that his dad and I both turned blue in the face, trying to convince Logan he should sing, or dance, or act, or be funny on stage. Because he can do those things so well!
Why is he so shy? He proved to me he could decide for himself where he fit in, what his strengths are, and his role, something he does with finesse; and as back stage hand, he demonstrated to me that he chooses well and knows himself. He wasn’t being lazy; this was the hardest job. Remembering what to bring out or remove and when … what other 11-year-old could do that with aplomb? And spoken as the true career advisor that I guess I am now, this is a very marketable skill. Furniture mover, if not rock roadie!


As I sat with the future talents, watching the comedy and dance, hearing the singing and music, the girl waiting behind me bumped her violin. It woke me to the fact that this boy, MY boy, DOES listen to me. He IS me.

Who is the one who can organize and keep things together, all very quickly and at a NYC pace? Who can gather up an infant and an 11-year-old, bleary eyed early on a Sunday morning to get out the door for a 7 a.m. swim meet, or pack up the whole crew for a last-minute trip out of town? Who can get everyone out the door in less than an hour daily, without skipping breakfast and brushing? Who can mentally and sometimes physically bob and weave in and out of kitchen traffic, not only cleaning but cooking and straightening, while checking to see if the baby soiled and if the laundry is done, when company is over? Yeah, gymnastics girls! I can bend. I can’t always get back up without assistance, but I can still bend! All while playing a round or two of Words With Friends.


I’m not bragging but I’ve been told I multi-task well. I'd like to think it comes from within. But it may come from being the middle child. Or from growing up a Manhattanite. My former boss,  Lisa, RIP, once said, “If you want something done yesterday, ask Paula.” And apparently, I’ve taught my son that skill, too. The skill of fast and strategic organization. Except he plays Infinity Blade on his iPad as he takes out the trash, not WWF.

"A round of applause for everyone!" Mrs. Crisafulli, principal, said at the end. “And how about the ones you didn’t see, those stage hands? They did a lot of hard work; very good job!” In reality, Mrs. C., the stage hands were the most visible; on stage more frequently!

“Whoooo!” shouts a crazy woman in the back. Yes, the back. Me.

As I think I said, I am from NYC. You don’t like my “Whoooo”, you can move.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Diary of a Mad Jogger

Thoughts and ramblings over the course of a 3.5 mile race.

There should be a challenge set up for actually GETTING to the Corporate Challenge that includes getting through traffic, finding the best route, finding a ride/parking/shuttle and then finding your team tent. Oh, and let's not forget changing and putting your number bib on correctly without stabbing yourself.
    Starting line: Yea! Made it to the race and found my company's tent!

.10 miles. La la la! Nice co-workers, right by my side.
.15 miles. Where's the water?
.25 miles. Tell me again why I'm here?
.3 miles. I try to push on by reading and combining random T-shirt slogans. "Onondaga County Corrections"..."Bone to be Wild".
.4 miles. This race didn't seem this long last time I did it.
.5 miles. Only 1/2 mile?
.6 miles. Where are my co-workers?
.75 miles. THERE'S some water!
.85 miles. What do these white painted numbers on the ground refer to? I know I didn't do 6 km yet.
1 mile. Only 1 mile??? It's a plot!
1.10 miles. Dead animal.
1.15 miles. I wonder if it would be ok for me to drink that sludge on the shoulder?
1.25 miles. Yea! Water!
1.3 miles. Glad I'm not the one who has to sweep up all these cups tossed to the ground.
1.4 miles. My brother Fred would have won this race. Rest his soul. Tears. No, someone spilled water on me.
1.5 miles. Hallucinating. Keep thinking I see and hear my co-workers.
1.6 miles. Listening to other company team blaming each other for "cheating" (jogging when they said they'd walk. Fear police will chase me down for the same "crime".)
1.65 miles. Think about the food afterward, Paulie.
1.75 miles. Another dead animal. And the bridge. My tall co-worker should watch for clearance.
1.8 miles. Texting while running. Probably also a crime.
1.9 miles. T-shirt reads, "Eat your veggies." NOW you tell me.
2 miles. Yea! Two miles! I'm alive!
2.1 miles. Co-workers! There they go! Bye!
2.2 miles. Dedicating this to my brother. Real tears.
2.3 miles. Stupid sun in my eyes. Sun? In Central New York?
2.5 miles. Another dead animal. Will try to figure out how long the next dead animal I see has been there.
2.75 miles. Did not see any former co-workers today.
3 miles. There are more Tops employees here than dead animals.
3.1 miles. YMCA employees/volunteers hold up signs saying, "Keep running. Your boss is behind you."
3.2 miles. Hot tub when I get home, pronto!
3.3 miles. Dead animal I recall from the last Corporate Challenge.
3.4 miles. Was my co-worker chiding me about eating that dead squirrel for dinner?
3.5 miles. Finish line! 58:38. Not too bad for not having jogged regularly for a long time.

9:00 pm. Home. Hot tub. Ah. That was fun. (Bad short-term memory).
9:30 pm. Will be fun to try to beat my time next year.
10:00 pm. I came in 5,030. That does it. Next year I'm 5,000th!
10:30 pm. ZZZZZZZZZ

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Should Have

On the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012, I dropped my son off to school early. He missed the bus and I had an early meeting at work…not the norm. When I dropped him off I realized it was before the school opened its doors and he had to wait outside. Trying not to be the overprotective one I typically am, I said to myself, he will be fine, he’s resourceful. I drove away but could not stop thinking about him and potential dangers.

Upon arrival at work I called and left a message with the school nurse, who I knew would be the first to see him. I asked her to leave me a message. In my meeting, supervisors discussed the no cell phone policy and thus I did not check my phone at all or excuse myself to do so. I sat and worried. And in a town just three miles from where I was born, many people worried. Many panicked. People in an elementary school much like my son’s. While the nurse called me to tell me my boy was fine, the news broke out that a gunman had shot and killed 20 innocent youngsters much like mine.

The town no one had heard of before, where my uncle and aunt owned Newtown Inn in the '60s, where I spent the summer of 1965, now was recognized by everyone around the world, and not for the same pleasant memories I used to hold. It saddened us, shocked and frightened us. As President Obama stated, our hearts are broken. Why would this happen? I know people of all religions who believe in a higher power. Why would this higher power allow this?

We search for meaning, for why these children who will never have the chance to join the school band, continue on their swim teams, join a wrestling team, or make new friends like my son can? Would this horrible occurrence be the thing to finally cause lawmakers to seriously think about gun control? But why something this tragic? Was it meant to happen? Was it a fluke? Why children? The educators who also lost their lives already were giving their lives, working with children for I’m sure not a huge salary. Why did they have to give their lives completely? Many of them also had families, and they will never see their children’s graduations, relationships, successes, or be there to help heal the failures.

When will this stop? If we cannot feel safe in a place we considered one of the safest, how can we feel safe in the mall, the movie theater, a McDonald’s, a church, temple or mosque, or on our inner city streets?

My son finally understands, I think, why schools are so serious even about gun play at recess. When I was little, I liked toy guns. I did not grow up with guns and do not own or use them now. I feel they are tools for law enforcement and the military, as these professionals are trained in proper gun safety and use. Would I perform surgery if I were not trained as a surgeon? Would I own a tractor trailer if I were not properly licensed? Would I attempt to build a home if I did not know how to use a saw or install insulation? Would I work on my car’s engine without training? Then why would I have a gun if I were not in law enforcement or in the military, even if I received a few lessons, knowing someone else's life could be in danger even if safely used my weapon?

We are all aware that this issue is something we must now seriously reconsider. And we can hide the sorrow by blaming violent movies and video games all we want. But the other piece of this tragedy is that we often do not recognize when a child or adult is suffering. Everyone is unique and not everyone will express distress verbally or in a commonly known fashion such as acting out. The young perpetrator obviously had major mental health issues, and we as a society should have been better equipped to help him so he did not get to this point. The following is a song I wrote just after Columbine, April 1999. Unfortunately it is still appropriate.

Happy holidays.

You Should Have (Caught Me When I Was Crying)

(Chorus) Killing babies, others want them
What are we doin’ now
Being abusive, killing creatures
What are we teaching now?
Want some attention, she didn’t like me
I sent a warning but you could not see
I was abused, you didn’t stop it
Wasn’t TV, you could have saved me
Do you seek more, some seek the least
We haven’t gone far, like in that dream
Always running but in our own tracks
Find the road in, some seek it back


(Bridge) Some say we’ve come far
Others say we have not
Some say they want more
They are the have-nots
Is it the sun that’s out?
Or is it the moon?
I may end my life
But it’s too soon
Look like your kids, seem like mine
Hope they tell me when they’re cryin’
We must tell them when we cry, too
Need to help them see us through


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Back to Eight

March 19 I made a vow to myself to get back into shape. I was lucky enough to have good weather on my side, so I began jogging outdoors, something I had not done in nearly two years on a regular basis. I have been only walking a short distance (compared to what I used to do) on weekends, holidays and vacations. And I have been feeling very listless, tired, and guilty about not doing my regular 2.5 mile jog.

One of my favorite times in my life was when I was laid off from a company that moved to Mexico, back in 1994. It was then that I jogged daily and later, worked at night (freelance) and attended classes toward a Master’s degree. What I got from that time frame was not only a Master’s that is useless to me, but a renewed love and appreciation for how jogging makes me feel.

I was inspired in the 70s by my brother Fred, who at that time, way prior to his death, ran 10 miles per day. And I mean “run” when I say it. I feel he inspires me again today, and I’m only sad that I did not listen to his inspiring and encouraging comments sooner.

The other inspiration came from the nurse at a recent doctor’s appointment, who weighed me. Since experiencing an eating disorder at 15, I learned quickly not to weigh myself often, so I don’t weigh myself at all. However, believing her scale, and always coming back to the notion that I am “fat”, I quickly noticed my belly. And then there were the summer pants from last year that were tight.

My friend Karen says to use a pair of pants to gauge ones weight. And I will use those.

In the little over a week that I’ve returned to my former love, jogging, I truly already feel more alive, refreshed, mentally more aware, and creatively more inspired, hence this blog. I kid you not. I even feel I dropped some weight. It will not show up on the scales, and I don’t care; it will show when I put on those capris when the weather warms up again.

I bundled myself up today, since it is now 27 degrees compared to last week’s 82. I walked out of my office at my lunch hour, noticing two co-workers. They were taking a smoking break. One of them had shared with me how upset she was at gaining some winter weight. She sat on a bench and took a puff of her cigarette.

It amazes me how few people were out walking compared to last week. And even then, how many more people were sitting around or smoking instead! I used to walk around the corner to buy a sub at lunch; now I’m committed to running at lunch.

I do feel less hungry and more alert and healthy when I jog.

I passed just one other jogger on the way back from my 2.25 mile stint. I smiled at him. Somehow, I knew he was probably also happy that the trail was not packed, but sad that no one else knew what we knew…that jogging is awesome!

I passed another woman who wore a track suit. Disheartened again, I noticed she sat down with a cigarette.

I think I will write a daily blog in hopes that I can inspire others to start or resume an exercise routine.

Meantime, I have to stretch and do some sit-ups.

Catch you later on my road back to my size 8s…aw yeah!

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Bird Has Flown

Another of Fred’s friends told me a story about the last time he saw my brother. “We had lunch, three of us. We’d been back in touch. We lost touch for about twenty years and then recently started getting together once in a while. Well, Fred wouldn’t let us pay our way. He said because me and our other friend were the only ones who befriended him when he first came here to school from Italy, when no one else did.”

It continues to rain today. I hear him tell me that it’s a good day to get back to work. Ergo, get back to living.

I see a bright red cardinal outside my window. He has made that tree his home since early spring. Now, properly disguised by extra full branches, he can sing, be alone, as he wants to be, unencumbered by peering eyes like mine, jarring atrocities like loud boat sounds, and eerie long lenses attempting photos.

“I’m taking a mental picture,” he would say, his disdain of being photographed only rivaled that of some reclusive stars.

I hold back my nervous and fidgety attempt to fish out my camera.

He stays alone, singing, looking around then flies away.

(He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.)


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Run for Your Life

One of my early memories of my brother involves sports. I rooted for the Mets just to annoy him; he liked the Yankees. I told him I knew they were in different “leagoos” (leagues). He would steal all my Spauldings to play baseball.

I interviewed some of the New York Yankees in college for a report, one of my most proud moments. Fred read my paper and told me he did not realize I knew so much about baseball. I learned so much from him.

I mentioned in the eulogy that I dislike football because Fred used to tackle me. To this day I wonder why he could not find anything better to do. Every time I heard him shout, “Tackle!” I would cringe. And down I would go.

And the irony is that he is the one who fell. Tackled by MS.

He ran 10 miles a day prior to his burden. He inspired me to love jogging. The day he told me about the M.S., I went out to run, not jog.

Had M.S. affected a less active man, the misery would not have been as profound. One of the final visits to his apartment, we witnessed wall paintings he had created, perhaps in an effort to express creativity, perhaps pain. Losing something of great value like one's independence certainly can take its toll.

But now my sister and I dream of him walking, even running. And the sisters and nurses by his side upon his moment of death say he passed away with a smile.

He ran into my parents’ arms. He runs again.