The end of the season

After a long, cold spring, the summer has finally arrive with heat and humidity. The daylight lingers so long that you forget it’s time for your kids to be asleep. This last week was a week of closings.

Edwin Hubble readies his “Famous American” presentation

School ended on Friday. Today we’ve spent time spelunking through backpacks, throwing away pencils stubs and uncappered markers, while saving previous mementos and projects in folders marked “Thane – Second Grade” and “Grey – Fifth Grade”. Those folders will get no more entries. Monday they begin the adventures of summer camp, and kick off what will be an extremely busy summer for them. (Actually rather more relaxed for Adam and me!)

It was a very good school year for both boys. Thane is desperately in love with his teacher. He learned sign language from her, and felt valued and respected by her. He asked me a few weeks ago if he could fail second grade so he could do it all over again with her. (Sorry kiddo. Your grades are way too good!) I’d definitely been worried about sending Grey to Middle School. But he thrived in his classroom. He loved his teachers, learned a lot and has continued to grow in maturity and capability. Also, I think 5th grade is a fantastic time to learn what a 0 for not turning in your homework does to the ol’ GPA.

I’m always jealous at the end of the school year. The nature of my work is seasonless – the tropics of effort. I can’t help but thinking how lovely it would be to do work which both begins and ends.

This Saturday was also the last day of the soccer season. We require our kids to play at least one sport, and we can’t make baseball work. So that one sport has been soccer since Grey was wee. There have been quite a few years where one pondered whether it was a good idea. Grey used to have to be cajoled onto the field. Thane was apparently working on his PhD in falling down and didn’t like to get sweaty (sorry kid – it’s a requirement!)

Because of church commitments, I haven’t seen my kids play much this year. It feels like I’ve spent six months in non-stop committee meetings trying to find a pastor we want to hire. But I made it to all of this tournament. It’s really Stoneham at it’s best and brightest. The field is covered with children and parents. There’s a vast melting pot of colors, accents and levels of skill. Children in blue jersey as young as four to the teenage refs showcase sportsmanship and teamwork.

In it to win it

Best of all, though, was watching how much my kids have grown and flourished. Grey, the once reluctant player, was masterful in his defense. It was such a joy to watch him stretch his long legs, find his spots, challenge for the ball – and come away with it. In the tournament, he took two hard-hit balls to the his face. Where in prior years this might have been enough to keep him off the pitch entirely, this year he picked himself up and got right back into the scrum. I was incredibly proud of him, and grateful to his coaches.

Good luck getting past him!

Thane was equally wonderfully transformed. His team only had one sub, and was missing some of it’s skilled players, but managed to fight their way to the championship. They played back to back games. I couldn’t believe how well Thane read the field repositioning himself to be in just the right defensive spot. He did a great job stopping attacks and clearing the ball. He was focused, fast and good. I’ve never seen such a look of concentration and passion on his face. They ended up coming up short in the final game with a late goal by the other team. Instead of falling into sorrow, Thane cheerfully pointed out how fantastic it was that they got to play in a championship at all. I was delighted at the attitude!

Proud championship player

It’s not only the school year that is coming to a close. It’s also a chapter of our life on our street. We have an incredible neighborhood, where many of the families know each other very well. We have meals together, our kids play together all the time. We are deeply connected. This has been true for years now. But the time has come when our dearly beloved friend is being transferred to DC. We’ve known this was coming for years, but we’ve all been in denial. It’s getting harder and harder to deny, though, since they leave next week. Nothing will ever be quite the same – it never is. But this will leave a big hole in my life and community.

Love you forever, Stef!

Love you all the time!

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin.

– The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan
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I was late with my blog post this week. It’s the first time this year I didn’t put up a real post on the right day, and I’m rather pleased that my scheduled posting time has worked so well. (And hey, I put up an “I’m not posting post” which practically counts.) And to be truthful, it wasn’t because things aren’t happening in my life, or because I ran out of time.

It’s because I didn’t know what to say.

Life goes through these long periods when you just don’t have much change. I’ve stared my Christmas update in the face many a year and wondered what I’d really spent the twelve months doing, other than slowly accruing happy memories – a accruative drip building the stalagmite of my life. And then there’s a period where woosh! Things change!

I’m in a woosh period right now, although a pretty minor one. The big change (not to leave you on tenderhooks) is about my job. Specifically, I got a new one. I’ll be leaving my current employer at the end of next week. I have a little time between (and an impromptu trip to Mexico for April vacation – woo!) and then I start a New Thing. I suppose that’s only one area of my life changing. (We’re not moving.)

In this blog, I very rarely talk about work. (I never want to wonder if my boss or client read something.) But I spend 10 hours or so a day on my employment – more time than on any single other thing I do except maybe sleep. I dream about work often. (Which I hate, by the way.) I try hard to not go to sleep thinking about work, but I fail more often than I succeed. And my labors (and my husband’s) make possible the rest of my life – my tithe at church, my farm share, my children’s carefree childhoods, trips home and on vacation, the pink house in which nearly everything needs to be updated or fixed… all of it. It matters a lot where I work, and how, and with whom. It matters how long my commute is, and how much I travel. It matters a lot whether I come home satisfied with the works of my hands (well, mind) or anxious and disappointed at my day’s labors.

Five years ago I made a big move. I have learned SO MUCH in those years. I’m stronger, more polished, better informed and more capable than I could have imagined. I also have some idea of how much I DON’T know (way, way more than I know!). I’m not sure you ever get over the anxiety of wondering if you’ll actually be any good at a new job. Five years ago, I truly didn’t know. But now, I’ve done this a few times. It’s worked out each time.

(Hmmmm this post is just as boring and vague as I was afraid it would be. Oh well.)


I’m moving jobs. I’m SO EXCITED. I’m nervous. I’m thrilled beyond belief. I will miss my old work friends. I’m really going to enjoy the time in between. And hopefully it won’t mess with my blogging schedule too much!

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

So long, and thanks for all the fish

So I have now wrapped up all but one of the tasks I need to do for my old employer. My desk is nearly clean — the drawers hollow and coveted office supplies reallocated back to the central office supply location. My code is checked in. My documents backed up.

I’m done. I’ll come in tomorrow to do a little more knowledge transfer, and that will be the end of my 7.5 year tenure here.

This job has been such a long position for me that it’s very hard to imagine not being responsible for those things I’ve always been responsible for. It’s difficult to conceive of just walking away from the tasks and people and locations that have been mine for nearly my entire adult life. I find it hard to fathom not driving this drive, walking up the stairs, lurking for the mail, or changing the water on the water cooler. How will the plants I have nurtured for 3/4ths of a decade survive when I am no longer here to water them? It has become not my problem. I was always very careful, in my professional life, never to claim that things were “not my problem”. It goes against my own personal training to, with great intention, turn my back on the consequences of my departure (past the reasonable point, of course).

But there you have it. Tomorrow, I will turn in my keys. I, the only one who didn’t lose her mail key. I, the one with the server room key and the original card that opens the back door, when all newer cards do not. I will hand over this fob, this object that has inhabited my pocket every week day for longer than my eldest son has existed. I will pass it out of my hands, and know it no more.

I’m an extrovert in a nearly silent office with lots of quiet, heads-down programmers. Hours can pass in our office without a word being spoken. So in order to not go crazy, I have long wandered the halls of the historic old mill that houses our office. I visit restrooms floors away. I check on the mail hours before I know it will come. I answer phone calls while pacing uneven wooden floors. I’ve gotten to know well the other wanderers. My farewells to them have been almost as wrenching as those to my colleagues. The building manager had tears in his eyes and a tight grip when I told him I was leaving. People who have made up the casual cast of characters of my life are being set aside, to be met no more. Those I know the least, the shadowy figures, will never even be told that I am leaving. That an extra in the film of their lives is walking off the set.

Nails in the floor
Nails in the floor

Through bare branches I watch the Merrimack hurrying past, on its way to the sea. Construction has not yet closed down the old iron bridge, although it will soon. The floor under my feet is studded in the interstices between the boards with hundred-year-old cobbler’s nails, relics of the days when greater labors were done here. This place has known me through four pregnancies, two long springs and summers of pumping in a cold server room, heart break, headache, and cheerful Tuesday mornings. I have known it through flood, hot summer, changing walls and brittle winter chills. I know how the puddles in the parking lot ripple, even when there is no wind. I remember walking an empty cavern of a warehouse, calling the doctor for my first ever pregnancy visit. That cavern is gone, filled with refinished offices. I consulted with the owner on the colors of the walls, and discussed the filling up of the old building.

Here have I wandered, but no more. Here my feet know well the routes, my eyes note quickly the smallest changes. I greet strangers with the confidence that I can help them find their way. I watch the ebb and flow of the seasons across the mighty river.

No more.

My view of the bridgework and river
My view of the bridgework and river