Boy to the World! — the book is now available

Boy to the World! book cover

 

Boy to the World! is a collection of inspirational and sometimes humorous stories about raising boys, from the author’s perspective.

The book is available now on Amazon.com in print or eBook format.

 

 

 

“Our readers have enjoyed your columns over the years and, as the mother of three boys myself, I can personally relate to the ups and downs of raising sons. Sometimes you shake your head and sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.” – Kate Walsh King, Nashoba Publishing

“I found myself laughing out loud at the humorous glimpses into Caroline Poser’s life, as well as marveling at her creative parenting skills which sparkle and shine like white Christmas lights on a dark night.” – Reverend Deborah Blanchard, author, The Christmas Church

“From the first time I read Caroline Poser’s writing, I knew she had to be part of the Ten to Twenty Parenting family of writers. Her stories are genuine, endearing and pull you into the middle – as if you were sitting in the kitchen while everything was happening around you. With a cup of coffee, of course!” – Kristen Daukas, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Ten to Twenty Parenting

Pajama Night

pajama night picI sat down on the edge of my oldest’s bed. He had fallen asleep in front of a movie in his room, the theme song snippet playing in an endless loop. It was 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening and he’d had the afternoon off from basketball practice after having games the previous two days. He’d gone in early for extra help, taken a math exam, recited the Gettysburg Address by memory, and who knows what else that day at school.

I touched his shoulder and he sat bolt upright, yet still in a fog, dispelling any question I had about whether he was pretending to be asleep.

“Oh, I’m so sorry hon – I didn’t mean to scare you!”

“Wha— ”

“Well, I just wanted to know if you wanted to go to Chess Club.”

Blank look.

“It’s in an hour.”

“Uhmmmm…”

“Never mind. Go back to sleep. I don’t think tonight counts in the standings anyway, right?”

“Uhmmmm…” he lay back down on his bed and I covered him up. I went back upstairs to talk to my youngest.

Tap tap tap. I nudged him. He had headphones on with his iPod, which is a requirement if he wants to sit in the same room where I am working. “Your brother wants to take a night off from Chess Club. How do you feel about that?”

Blank look.

“It doesn’t count towards your rank. You know – it’s just Kids vs. Parents night.”

His eyes brightened and he smirked slightly. “I’m fine with that.”

I figured he would be. It’s his first year and he hasn’t won that many games and his enthusiasm has been steadily declining as the season progresses. Personally, I was fine with it also because I am not a big chess fan (my kids and I do not share all the same interests, but I do try to support theirs). Besides, it had been an intense week at work, I still had plenty to do, and I wanted to wrap up at least a few things before I shut down – firmly committed that even if I worked on a Friday night, I would not taint my weekend with my job. Plus we had an early out-of-town hockey game and then three basketball games the next day.

“I’m going to go put my pajamas on right now!” he announced.

“Yeah, me, too!” Although I already had pajama-level-of-comfort clothes on that I had only just slipped on to go to the bus stop that morning (but I never got around to changing even though I’d gone to school to pick up my middle son who called from the nurse’s office before 10:00 a.m., apparently stricken with whatever I was getting over from the previous weekend). I had even worn the same clothes out to the bus stop that afternoon, too, consoling myself with the fact that I was five nines sure “at least I didn’t have these same sweatpants on the day before at the bus stop.”

It’ll be Pajama Night! I thought. My middle son had put on his pajamas the moment we got home from school – after just a quick detour to the supermarket to get cough drops and soup – and parked himself on the couch, only to fall asleep on all the classwork he’d brought home. He’d manage to rouse himself to get a little work done but had retreated to his room to check in online with his Minecraft friends. Also not a big chess fan, he is not a member of Chess Club.

Ah, Pajama Night…It reminded me of the good old (hard) days a decade ago when the kids were little and shaking up the dinner-bath-bed routine with Pajama Night was one of my compliance insurance ploys (boys who haven’t had dessert yet are far easier to manage than boys who have nothing to look forward to but bedtime). Pajama Night helped me to imagine that bed time was just that much closer and made it possible to linger over dinner, because the messy (hard) part was already done.

On this particular Pajama Night – the only one not in his pajamas was the only one actually sleeping. He slept through his next youngest brother trying to wake him up at 9:30 p.m. when he went to bed, since his brother was under the impression that it’s not healthy to sleep so much (or maybe he was just bored). And he was still asleep the next morning when I hauled his youngest brother out of bed to go to the early, out-of-town hockey game.

“Sometimes we all need a night like that,” the Chess Club coordinator suggested when I saw her the next day at basketball.

“Apparent-LEE,” I emphasized the last syllable to underscore my complete agreement. I recalled a factoid I’d heard about the high school years being a time of intense growth and change for kids – as much so as the period from birth to age four. My oldest is preparing to go to high school next year. From one Pajama Night to the next – we’d come full circle. Yet, it’s a new frontier.

The many paths to success

Many paths“Is that what you wanted to be when you grew up, Mommy?” my eight year old asked me at the breakfast table after I told him exactly what it is I do on the computer and phone all day, until 5:30 – when, if they are home, they are allowed to turn on the TV – and sometimes later at night when they are supposed to be sleeping.

“Oh, gosh, no! I didn’t have the words for what I do when I was a kid. What I do now wasn’t even possible then.” (I manage a corporate marketing program – remotely – for a technology company.)

“What did you want to be, Mommy?”

“Well, when I was about your age, I thought I would like to be the President of the United States. But I didn’t like the risk of being assassinated so I decided I might rather be a jockey because I loved horses so much. But then I got too tall, so I thought maybe a veterinarian. Or an artist, or a hairdresser… I really wanted to be a hairdresser…”

“Why don’t you go to school to be one?” my oldest chimed in.

“Well, hon, I can’t just drop out of the workforce and go to school…how would I afford school, never mind anything else?”

“You could save up a lot of vacation time…” my middle son suggested.

“Well, that sounds like a good idea but in our company you have to use it or lose it by the end of the year, so that wouldn’t work. And besides, when you take vacation, you’re expected to return to your job afterwards…”

We all sat in silence for a few moments and I wondered exactly when it is that our childhood career dreams die and we have to get practical. Certainly not everyone’s die: there really are plenty of veterinarians, hairdressers, policemen, doctors, nurses, and firemen in the world, as well as numerous professional athletes, musicians, and actors. And, of course, I will encourage my kids’ dreams as long as they have them. However, dreams do change as we move along our life path. I thought about one time in the car when two of my sons were playing the Game of Life on one of their electronic devices. One had asked the other to “spin” for him and he wound up being a salesman. He wanted to quit the game because it wasn’t fair: he had wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. I listened to them argue in the back seat before I said, “Sometimes your career takes a detour that you might not have imagined, but it winds up being the best thing for you.”

My oldest will be going to high school next year, and there are choices that have to be made. The reason we were having this discussion in the first place is that some of his classmates had gone to tour our local technical school the day before. My middle son had perked up when we started talking about the technical school. He’s familiar with it because I have taken both his brother and him to different open houses there and they have friends from church who are enrolled there. He likes the idea of learning a trade such as carpentry and having a choice whether to go on to college right away or not. I like the idea of him doing something creative with his hands, something that cannot be offshored, something that will always be in demand and around which his own business could be built.

My oldest, however, has made the informed decision to choose the traditional high-school-as-a pre-requisite-to-college route and is applying to a private, Catholic school. Why, I do not know, since our public school system is among the best, but perhaps it’s because one of the Catholic school’s cardinal rules is “it’s cool to be smart” (my son has been called a nerd because he reads on the school bus and he’s planning to participate in an after-school math competition).

I wrote about this in my first book, MotherMorphosis, more than ten years ago: I hope and pray my children are the people God wants them to be and that they are happy and productive members of society. I can encourage, nurture, socialize, care for, teach, and love them, but ultimately who they become is not up to me.

There are many paths to success.

It’s only a game

football_coachThis is a story I didn’t know if I would ever tell because it does not have a happy ending.

However, a couple of recent events have got me thinking about it again. First of all, my youngest son decided he didn’t want to play football anymore, mid-season. Normally I like my kids to see their commitments through, which is why I insisted they finish their t-ball seasons and if they didn’t want to re-enlist in cub scouts, I wouldn’t make them. Not signing up again is not the same as quitting. However, with football, if your heart isn’t in it, you can get hurt. So, I let him quit, but I made him face the coaches and team and tell them himself. As we were leaving the field, I cried all the way to the car. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“I don’t know, honey. It’s only a game, right?” But I did know. It was because he wasn’t fulfilling my dreams for him, and I knew how ridiculous that was, and I didn’t want to burden him with it. I just wanted him to be happy.

The other event that triggered the need to tell the untold story is the poor sportsmanship of a football team that my oldest son played against recently. They’re a good football team, no doubt about it, everybody knows it. They beat us. By a lot. But were the raucous insults the fans slung at us from the other side really necessary? It’s only a game, people.

The unhappy-ending story is about the time one previous season when I had the opportunity to stand behind “enemy lines” during an afternoon football game.

That day I was “Playcounter: opposing side.” That meant I had to go and hang around with the person counting plays for the other team. Depending on the size of the teams, each of the players on the roster has to have a certain number of plays every game. You can help figure out who’s on the field (if needed) or just verify that the Playcounter is checking off names during every play, except kick return and extra points. The guy I was working with that day had a pretty good system, which was color coded by special teams, offense, and defense, and each of the teams had a mini roster, so if Head Coach called out “Eagle Five” (not the real name), a certain set of players would run out on the field, as listed on the color coded key. Clever. So, I really didn’t have to do much of anything. I made a little small talk (what number is your son, do your other kids play sports, and so on), but very little, because when you’re hanging around in that situation, not only is small talk unimportant, but also I wanted to be sure I didn’t divulge anything I shouldn’t. I had mentioned to Playcounting Dude that I didn’t think we’d ever played their team before, and he concurred, it was the first time. I asked how their record was. “Four and two.” “Hey, that’s great, I have to confess I don’t know what ours is.” “Three and three,” he informed me. I cringed and actually clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from saying anything else.

I was thinking about the game our team had played the week before, which was a terrible loss, and I hoped the team morale had recovered enough by then. Surely this team had heard about that as well, if they knew our record. They probably knew about all of our plays, too, and which of our players they should double team.

Apparently they did not know.

It seemed that they expected to run roughshod all over us. Instead, the opposite happened. We had a few plays that just worked, and we repeated them, and they worked again. And again. I was able to refrain from clapping and cheering the first time, but not so much the second or third or subsequent times. I apologized to Playcounting Dude. He said that’s okay. I replied, “Yeah, I guess if your team did that you’d be cheering, too. You have to admit, it was a great play.” He did have to admit, just as I had acknowledged their good plays, many of which involved their quarterback, who happened to be his son.

It soon became clear to me that what I thought was “only a game” was much more serious to all the coaches from the other team. The coaches began swearing, including Playcounting Dude, though he did apologize. I told him I’d heard those words before. They used up all their time outs in the first half. I had hoped we’d get everyone’s plays in before the half, so I wouldn’t have to go back to that side; it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. But there were about five guys who still needed plays. So, after the half I went back.

In no time, the swearing resumed. Then throwing clipboards and towels. Then berating the kids. The kids who still needed plays didn’t want to go in; they were afraid to make a mistake. Boys coming off the field were blaming their teammates. There were three or four coaches waving and yelling and swearing, but I think there was only one actually swearing at the boys.

The last straw for me was when one boy wanted to come off the field because his head hurt and the coach wanted him to stay in and they started swearing at each other – including the F word – and the boy was kicked out of the game, all within five feet of where I was standing. I froze, horrified. Playcounting Dude was seemingly shaken up as well.

“You can check off #4, I told him. He’s out on the field.” This may be the first useful thing I did. I wondered if he felt as helpless as I did.

The exiled boy had pitched his helmet and flung himself face down on the ground next to the bench and was sobbing. Surely it takes a lot for a middle-school-aged boy to cry in front of his team if he doesn’t have a physical injury. Where were that kid’s parents? I wondered. Where were any of the kids parents? There were plenty of other adults standing around behind me: did they think it was okay for the coaches to yell at their kids like that?

Playcounting Dude asked me if I had any Advil. I told him I did, but I’d left everything on the other side of the field.

“Do you mind getting it?”

“Not at all!” So, I ran back and forth as quickly as I could so as not to miss any plays– perhaps this was the second useful thing I did.

He gave them to the boy on the ground and told him to get a sip of water.

Breathless, I peered at the playcount sheet. Only a couple of kids needed plays. Finally, #4 was in for his last play. I didn’t even bother to wait until it was executed; I signed off on the sheet and wished Playcounting Dude good luck for the rest of the season. As I passed the boy, still lying on the ground, I bent over and told him I hoped he felt better. I don’t know if he heard me or even felt my touch on his shoulder through his pads. I’d like to think this was the third useful thing I did that day, but I don’t know. Should I have done more, said more?

I still don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that my kids have never experienced that kind of coaching, thankfully, during any of the seasons they played or within any of the organizations for which they played. If they do, I vow here and now not to stand silently on the sidelines.

I also know that youth sports are supposed to be fun. They are not opportunities for us to have a do-over or live vicariously through our kids. If we are not part of the coaching staff, there is no reason to be yelling advice from the sidelines or bleachers, unless it’s something along the lines of “do your best.”

Furthermore, I know it’s only a game. There will always be another game next week…or next season.

By Caroline B. Poser Posted in football

First things first

Homework and footballOne of my sons had chosen to take a nap after school before dragging himself to football practice. By the time he got home and showered, it was already 8:30 p.m. when he was starting up his laptop to do his homework.

“When is this due?” I set him up with a plate of food and a drink at his desk.

“I have to get this part done by tomorrow.”

I passed by a little later on my way to the laundry room and peeked over his shoulder, balancing the basket on my hip. It seemed like he was off to a fine start.

“I’m gonna need a color printer.”

“We don’t have one anymore. I guess you’ll have to color in the stuff you printed out.” I supposed this was a good use of the colored pencils on each of my boys’ school supplies lists.

He groaned.

I’d remembered I’d wanted to add some hand towels to the wash I’d started, and on my next trip to the washing machine, I brought my son a container of hand wipes so he wouldn’t get food all over the keyboard.

“Mom, do you know how to make titles or labels for these stupid graphs?”

“No – I use Excel for work but rarely make graphs or charts.”

So we Googled, “How do you create titles and labels for graphs” (omitting the word “stupid”) to figure that part out. “See, honey, if you get stuck again, just ask for help online.”

Later, when I went to check on him again the laundry, my son was sound asleep in bed. I moved the laundry to the dryer.

The next morning, he was back at it, but was struggling with charts. “No, honey, I can’t imagine why the pie chart isn’t working…” I answered on my way to the dryer.

“Sigh, mutter, grumble,” he was starting to panic, I could tell.

“Can I get you something to eat?”

I brought his breakfast to his desk and discovered him struggling with graphics. I didn’t know what that had to do with the charts, but I offered some suggestions. “Can you right click?”

“NOoooo-oo-ooo!” he wailed loudly.

“Okay, well,” trying to remain calm, I suggested, “Save as. Yes, on the c: drive, or wherever you can find it again when you need it. Then insert it into a document…”

The next time I looked in, I saw that he was again agonizing over a “dumb old pie chart.” “Here, let me see.” I leaned over him and grabbed the mouse. “Hmmm, I don’t know, honey. But look at the time. Why don’t you just give me that flash drive and I’ll see if I can print these other two for you.” Our shared non-color printer is also non-networked.

He came up to my office dragging his open and overstuffed backpack just as the papers were spewing out of the printer. “Honey, the charts didn’t fit on one page. I am sorry, I tried to move them but there was something behind this one and the alignment is off.” I handed him the flash drive.

“What about the graphics!?” He demanded, alarm causing his voice to rise.

“I didn’t know you needed those printed, too. Honey, we really don’t have time. You can’t miss the bus!” The alarm in my voice matched his. We no longer live half a minute from the school and a trip there would require a good 30 minutes of my time, which was not an option that morning, and even if it were an option any morning, I had already warned them that they would owe me taxi fare. (I have yet to ask the elementary school bus driver if she would take them an hour later.)

“I’ll try to hold it for you,” his brother called as he took off out the door.

My son was distraught, “What am I supposed to do!?”

“Well, you could stay up later or get up earlier. That’s what I do for work when I have something due…”

“No, I mean now, today, about this!” He was frantically stuffing the papers into his backpack.

I urged him along towards the door. “Take your flash drive to school and tell your teacher you need time to work on it; that you were having trouble with Excel, with printing. What are kids who don’t have Excel, never mind computers, or color printers supposed to do!?” I was annoyed.

“Whatever! Bye!” He took off down the driveway after his brother. Later, I found his muffin and orange juice barely touched.

It was only the second week of school. I’d corresponded with a couple of my son’s teachers already (regarding whether my son could use a free kindle app instead of a $120 calculator in math class and to clarify another project that was assigned during Labor Day weekend because my son felt “uncomfortable” emailing his teacher), but I didn’t know the teacher who had given the Excel assignment. I logged in to the school website to see if I could figure it out, but when I did, couldn’t bring myself to write a note. Just the night before, I’d had a conversation about homework (via text) with a couple of my fellow football carpool moms (none of us was driving at the time). Hadn’t I said, “…my older two really need to do it on their own or suffer consequences (bad grades).” The topic had come up because one of the moms had kept her son home from football practice due to his abundance of homework.

Though I felt rotten all morning – as if I had absorbed all my son’s angst, compounded by worrying about how hungry he must be – I never did contact the teacher.

It was midday when I consoled myself with the thought that it was better he have a small setback now and pay the price, than have a bigger one later. I am not going to be able to solve all his problems in high school: I do not want to relive high school calculus, physics, or chemistry. I can’t make him go to class if and when he gets to college. He’s going to have to have his priorities in order before he gets his first full-time job.

I braced myself when I heard the boys chattering as they walked down the driveway after school. I met them at the door. “How was your day today?”

“Good. Fine. I smell cookies!” They answered, dropped their backpacks on my feet, and headed to the kitchen.

“Alright, then,” I replied and headed back to my office. I’d left the cookies I made during a June-Cleaver moment on the counter.

Later, my son came by my desk (but didn’t bring me any food). “I’m sorry I was kind of jerky this morning.”

“Okay. Well, hon, how did everything turn out?”

“Mr. H. let me use his computer. It’s networked to every single printer in the school! I printed everything out – in color – in the library!”

“You reformatted everything and figured out what was behind that one chart?”

“Yeah, there were like 20 things behind it!” he laughed. “I helped other kids with it, too. Some of them hadn’t even started yet!”

I didn’t understand his explanation about how he fixed the pie chart, but answered, “Well, good. I’m glad you got that all sorted out. I left some laundry on your bed to fold and put away.”

“But, Mah-ahm! I’ve got homework.”

“It doesn’t matter to me which you do first, but please do both before you use any electronics.”

TV or not TV — that is the question

TV or not TV“…and he wants to go over to so and so’s to watch the game because we don’t have cable…” I was explaining the evening’s logistics to another mom watching our sons’ baseball game go into extra innings and why one of my other sons was texting me.

“Yet,” she concluded, since she knew we had just moved into a new house.

“No, at all. I have internet and phone already – I needed that for work right away.”

I am not sure if she didn’t answer me because I’d rendered her speechless or if she had simply reverted her attention to the game, where her son was at bat.

“Are you going with dish?” the guy at the hardware store asked me when I availed myself of their UPS drop off to ship the set-top boxes and remotes back to the cable company.

“Actually, we thought we’d try streaming TV. You know, from the Internet.”

“No.”

“Yeah. People do it. I’m gonna try rabbit ears, too.” I held up my two finger in a peace sign to indicate the antenna I remembered from childhood, which, back then, we sometimes augmented with a coat hanger and/or aluminum foil for better reception or if one of the “ears” had broken.

“What!?”

“Well, the device I got is actually a flat HD antenna. I expect to get all the local broadcast channels. They are free, you know.”

“You’re all set, ma’am, this shipping label is prepaid.”

“Thanks.” I guessed he didn’t know what else to say.

A couple of days later my cousin and her boyfriend stopped by to see our new house. As we sat on the screen porch overlooking the boys playing Wiffle Ball in the back yard, my cousin’s boyfriend asked, “Why aren’t they watching the game?” He was checking the score periodically on his smart phone.

We don’t have cable and haven’t figured out how to stream TV yet. My cousin and her boyfriend actually thought the streaming idea was “kinda cool” and that launched a remember-when discussion about the TV that used to be in our grandmother’s house. “It had those two dials and a pull-on knob…What were the dials for?” my cousin, who is a “millennial,” asked me.

“You know, one was VHF and one was UHF.”

“No.”

I racked my brain to explain, “Well, the VHF one – I don’t know what it stands for, but – that’s where you’d tune in all the low channels; except there was no channel 1 and you could probably only get three to four of the channels total. The other dial – the UHF one – was for the high number channels, but it didn’t go anywhere near 100 and again, I think you could only get a few of them. We used to watch 56. UHF is where I discovered ‘Creature Double Feature, ‘and ‘Community Auditions.’ ”

She looked at me blankly. Her boyfriend was checking the score.

That night my son watched the playoff game, it went into overtime at nearly 11 p.m. on a school night. I told him, “Sorry, hon, I’ve got to take you home now.” His friend’s mom backed me up and consoled him with, “You can listen to the game on the radio on the way home.”

My son asked as he was tuning it in, “Do we have a radio at home?”

Being nowhere near unpacked, I answered, “I can’t think where it is, but I’m sure there’s an app for that.” As soon as we pulled into the driveway and were within range of our wifi he began the download.

All summer we’ve watched mostly ‘Leave it to Beaver’ on Netflix (since we already lost the remote to our streaming entertainment device and most of the channels we get with our HD antenna are in Spanish). We don’t have the variety of sports the boys were accustomed to (nor do we have hundreds of channels with “nothing good on”) but they can follow the games via apps on their iPods.

Dumpster diving

dumpster diving

dumpster diving

“You threw out my papier-mâché penguin.”

“Yes, I did. We just can’t keep everything.”

“Awwww…”

“Honey, I spent all weekend going through things that Grandma saved from my childhood – and some even from hers! I got rid of my report cards, my handwriting homework from third grade …”

“Handwriting – what’s that?”

“You write in cursive.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind honey.” How could I explain it to someone who can type faster with two thumbs on a handheld device than with a full keyboard on a computer?

I didn’t mention progress reports and tuition bills from nursery school, decades old legal documents and business records, and even a 30+ year old ponytail, from one of my more noteworthy childhood haircuts (which I have since sent to Locks of Love), never mind my mother’s personal mementos, which included photos of people whose identities I did not know, though I imagined they were our relatives, and a few of her childhood journals, from her own “Dear Diary” era. We had rented a dumpster, though a lot of things made a detour to the “FREE STUFF” table I’d set up on our lawn and many others went straight to the closest FedEx office for bulk shredding.

While Grandma had traveled across the country six times, some of her stuff never left our house. After she passed away, one of her friends shipped me several boxes of her things. I hadn’t opened any of this stuff in more than four years, if ever. There was no way I was going to bring it with us to the new house we’d be moving into without sorting through it. Nor could I continue collecting at the rate I had. Not only would I run out of room for the memorabilia, but also, I’d surely end up a candidate for the TV show “Hoarders.” Plus, I didn’t want my kids to have to go through the same exercise with my stuff that I had with my mom’s at any time ever in the (hopefully distant) future.

Still, the penguin haunted me. “How could I be so careless with one of my children’s creations?” I chided myself. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up with it on my mind as well.

I decided if I looked into the dumpster and could see it, I would retrieve it.

Lo and behold, there it was! I climbed up and hung over the edge of the dumpster and I could reach it with my hands. It was a little damp from the morning dew, but it still looked fine. I removed all of my own artwork and clay pots and such that my mom had saved from a curio cabinet and set the penguin there instead. Most of my artwork went straight to the dumpster, though some made the detour to the FREE STUFF table first.

When my son got home from school, he noticed the penguin right away (especially since it was the only thing left in the cabinet). I explained how I had entered the dumpster headfirst and snatched it from the morass of stuff…

“Did people think you were a hobo?” Our house was on a busy street so no doubt many people had driven by to witness my dumpster dive.

“How would I know? What other people think isn’t any of my business.”

“Thanks, Mom. Maybe we can put it…”

“…I’m sure we’ll find a good place for it in our new house.”

Lost and found

Lost and found

Lost and found

“My son and I had discussed writing a thank-you note. Do you think that would make a difference?”

I smiled as I took a long, deep breath and exhaled it before the receptionist, who had been studying me, replied, “No.”

“Well, thank you very much, then.” I breezed out of a nearby town’s middle school. It was a beautiful sunny day, the Monday after I’d returned from a business trip, and prior to my leaving, the weather had not been at all Springy. However, the buoyancy in my step after retrieving my son’s iPod following a lengthy search drained away quickly.

My son had called me during a rather inopportune time while I was away. I didn’t let on that I was busy and pressed to find the time to talk with him, and we were discussing a presentation he had to make the following day. Just as we were about to hang up, he threw in, “I lost my iPod yesterday.” This isn’t just an MP3 player – it’s the latest model of iPod Touch with a customized case that he received for Christmas. It is probably the only gift he remembers. It’s certainly the most late-model technology of the plethora of devices in our house, even including my work computer, though I only recently received it, I happen to know was configured last fall based on all the software updates that occurred as I was setting it up. My son took the iPod with him wherever he went, the value to him far greater than the sum of the cost of the device and all the apps it contained. I wonder how many of us Smart Phone users could go without our devices for nearly six whole days, most of those days not even sure we’d ever see the phone again?

“What do you mean, you lost your iPod. How could that happen?”

“I was sitting on the away bench doing my homework and when the other baseball team showed up, coach told us to move and it must have fallen out of my backpack.”

“Well, did you ask coach?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. Mumble mumble… but I heard so-and-so say that he heard the other coach asking kids if they’d lost an iPod…”

“Well, I guess we need to get in touch with your coach.” I looked at the time. It was 2:00 where I was, which meant 5:00 where my son was. He was already home from practice. “I’ll see if I can get in touch with him via email.”

“Okay, mom. Thanks, mom.”

“First thing tomorrow, check the lost and found in the office.”

“It’s not gonna be in lost and found, Mom.”

“Not the box by the cafeteria, honey. Check in the office.”

Fast forward two days and I was home from my business trip and I still had not heard back from Coach nor had my son checked with him or the office thus I began the odyssey of hunting down the iPod in earnest. I didn’t delve too deeply into why my son couldn’t bring himself to act. I simply told him if it was my iPhone, I would do anything I had to do to find out what happened to it and whatever it took to get it back. So, that is what I did for him.

I made multiple calls and visits to schools, building and grounds departments, and police stations (not to report it stolen, just thinking that if someone didn’t know whose it was, that might be a place to take it). Ultimately, after a dozen contacts, I learned, indirectly through the away team’s coach, that one of his players had it. But it was at his house. And since it was Friday, he’d bring it in to school Monday.

So there I was on Monday. The receptionist had told me the boy told her he’d found the iPod in the woods. We all knew that wasn’t true given the detective work I had done and the conversation I’d had with the school administrator who had spoken to the coach the Friday before, and the scene my son’s teammate had relayed. But I was still grateful; I knew my son was grateful. And that is why – when I sat him down Friday afternoon after school to explain what it took to track down the iPod (“Okay, mom. Thanks, mom!”)– we had discussed writing an anonymous thank you note, and what note might say: “Thank you for returning the iPod. It means a lot.”

It bothered me then and it bothers me now that because the receptionist had said “no,” she didn’t think it would make a difference, we did not write the note that day, nor have we written one since. Surely it’s not already too late for this middle-school boy to correct his course. So many of us have found ourselves on a path to a place we realized we didn’t want to go and have had to backtrack, look up directions, try a new avenue, figure out where we want to end up and choose our route carefully, a step at a time. Surely, even if we’ve already at the proverbial but fallacious “point of no return,” there is redemption.

Surely it’s not already too late for us to thank this boy for doing the right thing.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

~John Newton, “Amazing Grace”

Trip advisor

Some people’s approach to a business tripTrip advisor

  1. Announce they are going on a business trip. Sometime (it could be next week or the week after).
  2. Make airline and hotel reservations.
  3. Pack.
  4. Leave home.
  5. Work.
  6. Return home.
  7. Resume business as usual.

Other people’s approach to a business trip

  1. Announce they are going on a business trip. Since it’s an annual conference, the date has been set a year in advance.
  2. Make airline and hotel reservations.
  3. Make kennel reservations for dogs.
  4. Call the vet to have current records faxed.
  5. Make after school arrangements for the kids.
  6. Plan transportation to sporting events and practices for the kids.
  7. Do laundry.
  8. Pack. This process will be completed in fits and starts as combining the minimum number of accessories and clothes to make the maximum number of outfits and trying on business clothes that weren’t worn since the previous year is time consuming.
  9. Ensure all kids have clean clothes and uniforms for the week.
  10. Do laundry again.
  11. Portion out meals for dogs for week at kennel.
  12. Shop for groceries so the fridge is stocked.
  13. Prepay lunch accounts.
  14. Write check for book fair.
  15. Receive reminder that there’s a birthday party during the week away. Obtain gift and card. Wrap gift and set out card for signature.
  16. Pre-pay allowance.
  17. Take dogs to kennel.
  18. Leave home.
  19. Work.
  20. Figure out if there’s a scout meeting or not.
  21. Work.
  22. Make sure everyone knows about the baseball practice that announced on short notice.
  23. Work.
  24. Discuss homework project.
  25. Work.
  26. Field phone call from extended day program to figure out where missing child is.
  27. Work.
  28. Learn about missing iPod. Console, dispense advice, begin solving mystery of where it could be.
  29. Work.
  30. Return home on red eye.
  31. Make pancake breakfast.
  32. Clean kitchen.
  33. Do laundry.
  34. Pick up dogs.
  35. Sort mountain of mail; recycle 90% of it.
  36. Clean bathrooms.
  37. Resume business as usual.