December 20, 2016

You don't know me: Week 17

Here I am, reflecting on another week of pretend empty nest. Because at the particular moment of this writing, it's full. Plus one.

What I realize is the new normal, otherwise known as reality, is here to stay. From here on out, it will be coming and going, cars starting and stopping and parking. The door will revolve, and we will get glimpses of updates. At some point, we parents will no longer know who they hang out with or how often or what they do when they hang out.

That's normal and good.

I spent a day with my mom yesterday and I see the generational parallel. I told her about the lives of the people she knows are my life long best friends and realize, it's conversation fodder. It's how we touch base. My relationship with my children is approaching that place.
moving together forwardMy oldest child's beau is visiting us. They met last summer while she was interning and have kept in touch long distance. He seems really nice though I think I made him uneasy with my questions. At least he was polite and answered each one. I kept apologizing for being nosy. But the fact remains, we no longer will have that built-in framework of familiarity. We do not have any common ground other than the one person we know in common, my child, Period.

Admittedly, it is a bit disconcerting to realize that I no longer bond with our children and their friends over a common teacher, town event, or local story. Their worlds grow when we aren't looking. They grow beyond what I know or relate to and that is okay.

I don't know who all mom's friends are, nor does mom know all mine. The torch passes on. I don't know who all our kids' friends are, and likewise for them. Each story about someone else begins with some sort of explanation who this person we are talking about is and why they are in our lives.

When we start out as parents, our goal is to raise independent strong young people for the future. When it happens, it's a little unsettling, because it's hard to realize we achieved exactly what we set out to do. While it was the plan, it was going to happen regardless of any level of intervention on our part.

I think one of the difficult parts is that nobody throws us a shower or celebration. When we embark on this journey, we are literally showered with presents and cards of congratulation, and yet, upon retirement, it just fades. You want to holler, "Hey! All of you who loved that lump of wiggly baby in my arms? Yeah, you! I did it! We did it! That baby grew up and look-ee here! We got ourselves a co-ed!" Where is my party?

It doesn't work that way. Instead, we swirl away from the familiar world of over 18+ years raising young people.  We don't know where they are going and we somehow have to trust them, as well as ourselves. We have to trust that we did our best and so will they.

Stay tuned next week for my last installment. And stay tuned longer for my journey to book.



December 12, 2016

Nothing is the same, nor should it be: Week 16

As the month of December unfolds, I'm approaching the end of my self-chosen 18 week commitment to process and understand the dynamics of my empty nest. Back in August when I first began the series, the plan was to live-blog each week, chronicling my emotional and intellectual learning curve as I was experiencing it.

This past weekend, I picked my younger child up from college in Chicago. I drove in a day early with a neighbor friend and we had a mini-shopping girl's getaway planned. We briefly saw my baby bird to have some lunch and then went and checked into our hotel room. We spent the afternoon checking out some Chicago shopping destinations, had a nice dinner, hit the sack and got ready to bring two young co-eds home. (Another young person from our town attends the same university so we share rides to and from school with her parents).
Anyway, that little scenario led me to the realization of how little of my December is the same as in years past. It was a gradual process, but it hit me like a ton of bricks when I was shopping with my neighbor who still has younger children who still have child expectations of Christmas, including Santa and lots of magic and gifts.

Santa knows they were goodChristmas over the past few years has taken a decidedly less magical and much more realistic turn. I'm okay with that. My children were too old when the Elf on the Shelf "magic" became another thing to do over the holidays. Thank goodness.

Yet, I do recall the year that our dog was a new puppy and the children were nervous that he would scare Santa away from coming, so they asked to bring his crate upstairs to their bedroom. Then, when they couldn't decide whose room to put the cage into, they decided to share a bed. That was magic I'll cherish forever. The sight of my little angels sleeping next to each other on Christmas Eve, making sure Santa would still visit, will never be forgotten.

While I miss the visits to Santa, I honestly don't miss the built up deception and the impression that "Santa can do anything". My children haven't quite forgiven me, but literally the minute they were old enough to question Santa, I came clean. I am terrible at sugarcoating and not so good at lying either, so it was a huge relief to just say, "I'm Santa". Okay, I wasn't quite so blunt, I think I said something like "Once upon a time there was a very kind and generous man who loved making children happy. His name was Santa Claus and he was so inspirational that parents have taken on his traditions over the years and kept his spirit alive, and now that you know, you will want to keep his traditions alive for the younger children." Honestly, I never cared for the commercial bend that Christmas took.

Before I sound like an insufferable Scrooge, I love the family get-togethers, the parties, the baking, and the decorations. I love putting up a tree and reliving a lifetime of memories with each ornament I hang. But some of that has changed as well. Concurrent with children growing up and getting older is that the generation older than myself starts to shrink. The losses of patriarchs and matriarchs has all begun to happen over the past several years and life needs to take a new turn to compensate.

This year, I found myself especially nostalgic and I think my emotions were a mélange of events, but I fondly remembered not only the handprints my children made, but the crocheted snowflakes my grandmother made, the Shiny-Brites like the one my husband's grandparents hung on the tree. I recognized that nothing will ever be like that again. We will never pack ourselves into my grandparent's living room again, nor will we stay up half the night smuggling gifts out of hiding places, waiting until the children fell asleep to take bites out of cookies on the plate and stage a Christmas visit from Santa for the break of dawn.

Instead, we get the magic of well-educated young people. I get to talk to my younger daughter about literature and philosophy and sharpen my thinking skills. I get to arrange the meeting of my older daughter's beau for the first time. I don't intend to pressure or embarrass her, but honestly, whenever I meet someone she is dating, I always approach such meetings wondering if this is a person who will eventually become a member of the family. That's exciting!

Last week, my spouse and I had a date. We went to a Christmas ale blind tasting and didn't have to worry about getting home for the kids. It's something we'd never have even considered when they still lived at home.

Those are just a few slices of the ways life will never be the same. And I am so glad it's not.

December 7, 2016

You ought to admire each other: Week 15

Now we're approaching winter break, I'll be bringing my younger daughter home for the rest of the month this Saturday. The older one will be home a week later and our nest will be full again. Additionally, we have family flying into town this year between Christmas and New Year's which means the house will be bustling with good will and cheer.

Something has happened in the past week that just really struck me, and it transcends the typical proud parent role that we cast ourselves into. Even when we don't always like each other, I've realized how deeply I admire my children and their peers. I admire the people they became.

There is so much negativity floating around about those spoiled millennials that I want to depart slightly from my personal empty nest journey and talk instead about the things I'm learning from this generation.

Gather at The Bean Chicago*First of all, our generation raised them. Yep, we're the ones who decided that they should all get trophies, we're the ones who let that attitude of everyone gets a prize sink in. But you know what? They see through it. They still know who is the best and they still have a work ethic. We didn't fool them with piles of cheap plastic awards and hollow accolades. We need to own our role in that impression. We left them a pile of trophies and overpriced tuition.

*Secondly, we may have stopped asking them to do chores or get part time jobs, but we started to expect them to be "well-rounded". We threw every possible activity to do in their direction, beginning with pre-school play groups and ending with things to put on your college application. Seriously? Our generation maybe did one activity, sports or music, or maybe something with our church group. But we didn't do all of it nor was it expected of us. The pressure we've placed on our next generation is astounding. And they have risen to the occasion. The book "Busier Than Ever!" is an excellent read why this isn't such a bad phenomenon.

*Third, they love their elders. They ask us for guidance and respect what we suggest. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the past presidential election, when their most popular candidate was
the "grandpa who gets them", an unlikely 74 year old man who paid attention to their concerns, Bernie Sanders. Now, this is not to suggest that we should adopt the political platform of Senator Sanders, at least not in its entirety. It does mean that if we take time to listen to their concerns, they will take time to heed our advice.

Enough of this "Them vs. Us". They are our children and we taught them everything they know. We have a duty and obligation as the people who pass the baton to them to pay attention instead of dismiss. We are required to care about what affects them. I admire them and I look forward to the day they have to take care of me, because I believe the future is in good hands. It's time for all of us to believe it.


November 29, 2016

You won't always like each other: Week 14

Just like that - the honeymoon is over. Well, not really, but it's time for a reality check. I spent months waiting to have the whole family under the roof and it was fantastic for at least 25 minutes. Then things got real.

Now, this is not to say I didn't love having my children nearby and didn't cherish every second. Rather, I'd like to say that going off to college doesn't make all those little personality nuances disappear or even fade. In fact, they seemed to come back stronger than ever. I'm still inclined to smother, one daughter is inclined to retreat to silence, the other inclined to know everything, and my long suffering spouse is inclined to immerse himself in busy-work to avoid the unending barrage of estrogen that suffocates him.

Suddenly, a swath of destruction and mess wove its way through the entire house. There were shoes where there had been none, jackets and sweaters strewn on chairs, empty glasses that never even got filled, a bathroom counter filled with toiletries. The invasion had begun.

The food got eaten, the dishes got dirty, and the house was in an unending state of disarray. And all that was good. The house bustled with energy.

Other aspects of the weekend? Not so much. For example, for several years now, I have not lived down the purchase of a brand of toilet paper on sale that wound up being scratchier than sandpaper, because I insisted we use it up. That was the break my daughter looked forward to going back to the dorm, because the toilet paper there was better. Apparently, my acumen for a bargain completely ruined what we had coined "the home field advantage". When I made sure I didn't purchase that toilet paper this time, jokes were made about who was the favorite child and that sort.
Scratchy or not, it got used.

Sometimes I just want to sue Norman Rockwell for false impersonation of the American Family Life. Because nothing in my mind matched the reality. We settled down for a friendly game of cards and a joke was cracked and within an instant one family member called another family member an a**hole. Yeah. Nothing Norman Rockwell about that. Although, in retrospect, at least it was a comfortable a**hole, due to the upgrade in the toilet paper that wiped it.

The weekend came and went without any notable event, food was eaten and enjoyed, laundry was washed and folded, friends and family came and went. Before we knew it, it was time to load the car back up for a trip that began at 7 AM and circled back until nearly 8 PM. Our chicks were back in their nests.

Now the mess is cleaned up and the house echoes somewhat forlornly with tidiness. No random dishes, no scattered shoes, no a**holes to be found.

For at least another two weeks.

Rewind - a weekend at home: Week 13

Here we are. Just before the Thanksgiving celebration, and I'm literally counting down the hours. I cannot wait for both my kids to come home, to be under my roof, to celebrate the holiday.

I think I was fair, I understand they want to see their friends, and honestly, social media makes it so easy to stay in touch, I am not desperate for face to face interaction.

Yet, knowing that at the end of those days they are here? They will be safely tucked under our roof? That I can peek at them sleeping, that I can delude myself into believing that the world will never hurt them. That I can protect them.

I'm all in.

It's a throwback. It's one I'm fairly certain we all are excited about. I know that when I was in college, going home always meant someone else took care of me. Interestingly, I've discovered that sometimes going home means you take care of someone, at least as you get older, but that's a different life phase, one not part of this series.

It's Thanksgiving. They are home, and I am thankful. (so are they).

(and I got so busy that I never published this post -- but I wrote it before the weekend).





November 21, 2016

Wow, I went all week without being sad! Week 12

This week's post is a bit of a reflection, because I got way behind and lost my goal of wringing out every ounce of emotion as I processed my empty nest.

While managing the empty nest is not always going to be linear, I realize that I finally am moving forward. I desperately scheduled dozens of things to artificially stay busy back in Week Four, and those things came to fruition lately. But they didn't feel contrived, they felt normal. They felt like an answer to "this is how I spend my time." 

In keeping with my goal of losing weight (who doesn't have that goal on a regular basis, just curious?), I have been avidly walking my dog. There is a bit of a second tier motivation as well. Our family dog is now almost 12. Last winter was rough for him & he was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Selfishly, I cannot bear to lose my canine friend at the same time I'm getting used to an empty nest. In order to keep him nimble and strong, I'm walking him like crazy.

Additionally, I took up a job as a mystery shopper. It's all self assigned, and it gives me a regular reason to get out of the house. I look at cars, dine at casual restaurants (and get to treat friends to lunch!), and visit retail establishments. It fills in the time when I'm not writing for a client or waiting to hear back from a freelance inquiry. Oh, I also get to write reports and share my opinion. Win/win.

Lastly, I was recruited to coach speech for a local high school (not one my children attended). I am able to spend time with teenagers a few hours a week and dispense all sorts of ideas and advice. My mom gene is fulfilled.

All these personal tasks I've taken on have filled my time perhaps to a fault. I have been busy! I like it. I'm not having meltdowns because I have nothing to do, and my time is spent purposefully. I'm helping my pet, general consumers, and other teenagers.

I'm happy. This is the point of this Week 12's belated post. Make life happen instead of waiting for it to happen to you. Enjoy what you can put on your plate instead of standing there waiting for a plate to fill itself.

My plate is full. And so is my heart.

Navigating those waters between adult and child: Week 11

This week, I learned how very difficult it is to redefine that new relationship between yourself and your child who is now an adult.

mom fixing thingsIt became patently clear one night when my child who lives pretty close to home (but still on campus) came home for a mental health break. The first day, I pretty much parented. I did laundry and made food. It was task oriented and fulfilling. Then the wheels came off. The following day was still stressful. Our child contacted us and said that she needed a day away from campus. She came home and tried to tell me about all the stress she is under as she tries to figure out what is the best move forward.

Now, recognizing that my (s)mothering hadn't magically fixed everything the day before, I went into hyper-adult mode, but still didn't leave the mother side behind. I figured that some brutal honesty, adult stories would be useful. They didn't particularly pertain to my daughter's dilemma and stress, but in my grasp to be helpful, I thought that some stories from my lifetime of experience would help her find some perspective. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was the last thing in the world she wanted to hear and she made sure I knew that. With silence.

I screwed up because sometimes there just isn't a magical mom answer. There isn't a way to fix things the way we kiss a boo boo or snuggle under a blanket. Life is hard and it won't get easier for our young birdies who are flying the nest.

And that's how it goes.  We are going to redefine our roles as each milestone happens. The fact is that my children are going to face things that I never faced, partially because they are different people, and partially because this is a different time. My advice and experience will only go so far, and what I've realized is that now, when they come to me for advice, I'm not nearly as qualified to give it as I was 10 years ago. Or even five.

Learning what our roles are as parents when are children are adults is no easier than trying to figure out how to transition from adult to parent. It's a life milestone that is only mastered with experience. I recently told a 13 year old girl I know to be kind to her parents, they've never had a teenage daughter before and everything is just as new to them as it is to her.

Now I need an adult to tell me the same thing. I never had an adult child before and I'm figuring it out as I go along. You will, too.
             

October 28, 2016

We're all adults here: Week Ten

Over the past several months, and even years, since our firstborn went to college, we have seen the gradual shift in our relationships. It took longer with the oldest, probably because we had never done it before, so it took us more time to concede that indeed she was an adult.
first adult home

Today, our visits and conversations are about adult issues. It really hit home when we found ourselves encouraging our younger daughter to go to a frat party. All the years we spent discouraging her participation in any party that would involve underage consumption of alcohol flipped. Having raised a responsible young woman, we knew that at least by attending a party, she would see what she was missing.

The next morning, she gleefully called us hangover-free to tell us how much fun she had playing beer-pong, but with water shots.

Their lives are moving at an adult speed. Our oldest is at an out of town conference and messaged us that she has an interview with a well-known company, She drove her own car there across another state. She has taken several long road trips, solo, back and forth to internships, grad expos, and now this conference. The younger one is enjoying living in a city, taking the train to different parts of town, all without having to check in with her parents or abide by a curfew. She is going to the store to pick up her favorite snacks all by herself and even considering staying on campus for summer classes.

Our conversations are now on equal footing. We still are helping out with the bills, but more often than not, they are managing their day to day finances, their schedules and their lives. Which means when we communicate, it reflects their complete independence. Not to say there aren't times they call and ask for advice or encouragement. And we've spent the World Series texting back and forth throughout the game. You know, like a couple of buddies would do. We spent many years reminding ourselves that "We are your parents, not your friends", and now we can finally say, "Hey, let's be friends, too!"

I reflected back on that critical shift with my own parents, when I became an adult in their eyes. For me, it was probably when I got my first apartment and was living off campus. Suddenly, I had a place I could entertain my folks. I could have them over for lunch or dinner. I still had a lot of growing up to do, but I knew that I was managing life on my own terms.

It's funny today, but because dreams are such a jumble of our subconscious, whenever I have a dream about an adult sort of decision, the location is still in my first apartment. I can still mentally walk through that space with photographic memory accuracy. As I remember the pride I felt the first time my parents treated me like an adult, I wish the same joy for my children.

Because now, they are adults. I really am glad they are also my friends. 

October 17, 2016

They Miss You, Too! Week Nine

I am halfway through my 18 week journey. Part of this live blogging strategy is that I intend to blog each week until the end of the year and then take those instant, week-by-week, reactions and turn them into logical chapters in a book. Capturing each week as it unfolds lends a sense of timely authenticity.

This past weekend was Parent's Weekend at my younger daughter's school. She attends school 400 miles away (versus 8 miles for daughter #1). We haven't seen her since August 13th. For those of you counting, that was 63 days/nine weeks. It was longer than when her sister went overseas for a summer study abroad.

With my older daughter spending the weekend dog-sitting for us, we headed west.

We didn't really care about the family picnics or the mixers, we just wanted to see our child. We left at the crack of dawn on Saturday and drove 6 hours until we arrived on her campus. She told us she had to work until 1:00 in the afternoon and so with accounting for the time difference, we had time to stop for lunch. An interesting side note is that the owner of our now favorite burger joint remembered us from both orientation and then move-in weekend. Made us feel practically local!

With full bellies and a care package in the trunk, we parked on campus to wait. Nervously pacing the last 15 minutes, anxiously awaiting the chance to see our girl, finally she spotted us from across the street and sprinted to us. Straight out of a movie, the hugs and joy and tears were obvious. She looks great and so so happy.

The rest of the day, we tagged along with her as she fulfilled some obligations. She was volunteering at a St. Baldrick's fundraiser and we met person after person that she has become friends with.

My mind raced backwards to all the reasons I was happy to leave high school behind. My daughter has blossomed into "the happiest person ever" (as the clerk who checks her into her dorm calls her). She found a perfect fit for her future. Yet, amidst all that newfound joy? She still loves the not so distant past pieces of home. She was delighted that we brought flowers from my garden and pints from the local ice cream store. She misses our park and our dog. In other words, home has not been abandoned.

What I realized this past week is that while your children are growing and moving forward, that we have to remember how much of home they still carry with them.

On our drive home, we touched base with our older child to see how everything had gone. Because she lives on campus so close to home, she asked, "Do you mind if I just stay here again tonight?" I practically yelled, "OF COURSE NOT! MIND??? This is your home!" She gently reminded us that as a college senior, she is making that transition to full independence and she recognizes that while this is our home, she is now a guest.

I thought about it and of course, yes, we no longer stock the refrigerator with their favorite foods if it's not something we eat. We don't have their activities on our calendar, and honestly, I'm considering alternative uses for their bedrooms. Life is in flux and we are moving forward as much as they are.

I remember one Christmas when I was in college, I picked up a kitschy little country-decor picture of a house and it had some cliche' saying in calligraphy writing about loving home. But I added my own words to the bottom of the picture. I wrote, "I'll never stop coming home." Now I understand on the other end of it.

No, I didn't, and neither will they.

October 10, 2016

Sleep, Glorious Sleep: Week Eight

In 1995, I gave up on the idea that I would ever have a decent night's sleep again. From pregnancy-bladder wake-up calls, to a newborn needing to nurse, to a toddler having a nightmare, the pattern for sleeplessness was set early in my motherhood career.

After the children were sleeping through the night, I began to value my late nights as "me time". Previously, I had never been a night owl yet I found myself staying up until midnight or even later, just so I could have time when someone wasn't asking me to do something for them. I would call other late night friends or chat on the computer or even just watch videos, just to carve out solo time.

I became friends with another neighborhood mom and the minute our kids were in bed, we would alternate houses and meet for a glass of wine, toasting another successful day of mothering. It was our way of pretending we could still go out like we did before we were mothers. We found ourselves substituting wine for sleep, which isn't exactly the healthiest decision.

The sleep deprivation did not end when my children reached high school. In fact, their own late night activities, be it school or social related, kept me up, waiting to make sure they arrived home safely -- only to turn around and wake up first thing in the morning to do it all over again.


getting eight hours sleep
For 21 years, sleep had become so rare to me that a good night's sleep was cause for jubilant celebration. The first time it happened in the past eight weeks, that was exactly my reaction, jubilation. I had come to expect a poor night's sleep as the norm. The gradual acceptance that I did not have to spring out of bed to get the day going, nor did I have to stay up half the night to make sure I had some solo time has been a delightful side effect of the empty nest.

After our trip last week, I came home not only jet-lagged, but also with a terrible cold and fever. So I babied myself. I slept and napped, I went to bed early, and stayed in bed late. I didn't have to soldier through being sick as I had in the past. Also, did you ever notice that your colds would linger for weeks upon weeks? This time, I succumbed to feeling sick and have really rested.

It feels so luxurious to give myself time to feel better, something I had not allowed myself to do in over two decades. Oh how mothers are masters of dispensing advice we don't follow! I always made my children rest when they were sick, but never did the same for myself. I used to let my kids sleep in late knowing how critical sleep was, but somehow thought myself immune from that need.

The lesson for week eight has been a valuable one. I've been getting plenty of Vitamin B-E-D. I still have someone to mother and that is myself.


October 3, 2016

Change the Scenery: Week Seven

Caudebec-en-Caux, France
photo by: Kim Urig 2016
For as much as I had to write in week five, I didn't post at all last week, primarily because we were on a vacation. Which leads me to what I recommend from a firsthand experience. Plan a trip. Get out of Dodge. See something new.

For the first time in however many years, you don't have to worry about who is going to watch the kids or what you would actually miss if you went away. Your children are going forward with their lives and it's your turn also. They aren't the only ones who are now independent.

If you are worried how in the world to juggle tuition payments as well as a trip, it doesn't have to be an exotic trip, but it needs to be a change of scenery. I found myself watching all the fall school activities my friends were posting about and swirling deeper and deeper into a sense of longing and loss.

Walking away from everything that had kept my life so busy a year ago and filling it with something so different than my regular grind was exactly what the empty nest ordered. In our case, we took a river cruise in France along the Seine River. This isn't meant to be a vacation showcase article, but rather a suggestion why getting away was such a mental health break.

My husband and I had been planning a big trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, which was last year. We delayed it a year because it was our daughter's senior year. While our trip was rather grand, the bigger takeaway is that the change of scenery was really what helped reset my emotional state.  We had limited internet access, we were in a different place, and were interacting with different people.

On our trip we met several other couples, many of them retirees, who upon finding out our last child had just gone to college were practically high-fiving us and saying "empty nest is best!" It certainly wasn't what we thought we'd hear, but truthfully, it helped us get some perspective. All last week, we socialized with new friends in different stages of life and remembered that this is only one of several more stages to explore as we age.

Here are some ideas for a trip regardless of what your budget may be:
  • Explore local hiking or biking trails. Getting the adrenaline pumping out in the fresh air is an incredible rush and you'll slow down and see things from a much different view than the typical mom taxi view. 
  • Plan a weekend at a bed and breakfast or look into weekend specials at state park lodges. Go somewhere that you won't get news from home unless you really work at it. 
  • Visit a friend you have been meaning to catch up with for ages but couldn't make time.
  • Go camping. Fall rates are very reasonable and the weather is still temperate. You can find nice cabins if you'd rather not completely rough it, but getting outdoors and unplugging from reminders is incredibly soothing.
  • If budget isn't a consideration, consider planning a trip to somewhere you've never gone. Don't go back to a family vacation destination, which will only make you nostalgic, but instead, visit a new place, plan a dream trip. Start planning it while your child is still home so when that one month itch is really getting to you, you already have the time away planned. 
Over the last week, my husband and I hiked and biked across the French countryside, we drifted along the Seine River, reverently explored the D-Day shores of Normandy, and made new friends. I returned, jet-lagged, but with a completely new outlook and energy.





September 22, 2016

Letting it all hang out: Last installment for Week Five

Sad moodYesterday I had, to borrow from the children's book, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I was at my wit's end with a wave of emotion that had been building for two days. I couldn't snap out of my mood and just kept crying. 

I thought about my idea for live blogging and wrote out everything I was feeling. By openly discussing what I am feeling when I'm feeling it, the framework for the book becomes more honest and organic. This is how I felt, with no apologies. 

The mood passed and if I can offer any advice to people experiencing these moods, reach out to people. Talk about it, write about it, ask for help. I did and wow, I sure received it! So many notes of friendship and encouragement. I'm incredibly blessed with fantastic people in my world.

Without further ado, I present my emotional breakdown. 

I’m so tired. I just am not sure I can do this. I don’t know what to do with my days when someone else hasn’t planned them for me. And that down time is horrible. I spin my wheels trying to find new ways to fill my time.

I’m lonely. I wish I had a job. I thought I missed the kids when they went to school all day, and I did. But this is different. I have nothing that makes me get up in the morning. I have no reason other than to cook a meal, iron a shirt, or vacuum a floor that matters.

Nobody needs me for anything. I don’t know how to ask for help. Children grow up all the time. I’m embarrassed that I am so lost. I spent a month frantically filling my time and that became more work than working. It doesn’t come naturally and curling up alone feels natural, but way too quiet.

I feel so unproductive. I invent things to keep myself busy. I tidy and fix stuff. I box things. I sell things. I make food. I do laundry. I walk and count steps, I exercise. It’s empty. Nobody is asking me to do a thing and so I feel useless. I hate not having a schedule. It ruins my brain and motivation.

My daughter turned 21 yesterday. For 21 years I’ve defined myself as a mom. I took care of people. I barely know how to take care of myself. I’m not even sure I was a good influence on my kids. I actually think that they grew up determined to be as much the opposite of me as they could. I don’t know if I really did anything well raising them. I tried, I wanted to do well. I just wonder if my demons took over too often.

I am in a tailspin. I’ve disappointed my family repeatedly and sometimes cannot even face them. I am not even sure I know how to really make friends. I cry most of the days and quickly put on a happy face before my husband gets home so he doesn’t know how lost I am.

Because he hates his job. He doesn’t know how to get up and keep going and I wish I had a reason to get up and keep going. I envy his obligations. I do. I suspect he envies my shiftlessness. That’s what I feel my days are filled with. Nothing. Time killers. I want to tell him that I would give anything to have a reason to get up and out the door every day. An expectation, an obligation. A reason.

After processing that mood with words, it slowly began to dissipate instead of build. If you don't name it, you cannot defeat it. A sad mood is okay, but you shouldn't wallow. Work through it and get someone to talk to. Seek professional help if you need to. Don't let the mood linger and keep you in a dark place. I learned that your friends are going to be valuable resources and they will reach out to you, but also you ought to reach out to them. Don't sit in silence. Call the people you want to see and make a plan to do something.

I want to thank everyone who helped me through a rough day. You're all the best, truly. I appreciate your encouragement to share these thoughts in my book. I cannot wait for it to finish coming together!

Love,
Kim

The Roller Coaster of Emotion: Week Five continued

Emotional Roller CoasterOn the tail of finishing my list of things I don't miss, I made myself chuckle a few times and then a wave of emotion washed over me like a tsunami. I became overwhelmed with unexpected sadness and grief.

I've spent five weeks chronicling all the things I was doing and feeling so I could be as real time as possible. I debated if I should share such a raw emotional state. It seems so dramatic and self pitying. I am as embarrassed as I could be that I couldn't hold it together. A few emergency calls to close friends and writing it out really helped me process my pain.

What I learned yesterday is that it won't always be simple and straightforward. If you're like me, a lot of things are going to be happening simultaneously in your world, besides the empty nest. In my case, it is menopause, a milestone birthday, the loss of a parent all within the past few months.

This sort of thing is to be expected around our stage in life so there is a lot going on mentally and emotionally, besides the empty nest. I found myself walloped with a mood I couldn't climb out of... so I didn't. Instead, as I promised, I wrote it all out and I hope that you see how very normal and natural these sort of feelings can be. It's not uncommon, I discovered. I would like to not just share my words, but the wisdom so many friends offered up.

I feel so much less alone after sharing my thoughts and now want to put them out there for anyone who may read this. I have such wonderfully wise friends in my world.

Lori, who is a booster mom friend from band, choir, and drama, had this to say:
Milestones, good or bad, are designed to get us to the next phase of our lives. In [your daughter's] 21st birthday and her "official" entrance to adulthood, you've forgotten that kids need us in a totally different way as they get older. You may not be schlepping them from place to place, but your advice, life experience and just being their mom keeps you close, although some days it doesn't feel that way. Who told you that you had to productively (society's term) spend your days doing what society deems acceptable passages of time? Who cares if you spend all day writing in your pajamas, reading or doing whatever makes you happy? Cleaning, fixing, selling are all things people expect a newly emptied nested mom to do but if they don't make you happy then why do them. I'm close to empty nest hood, have begun the adjustment phase and it isn't easy. Take the time to come to grips with the new dynamic of your family. The right answers will come to you in time, I'm sure of it. Maybe for all of us parents making this adjustment, I pray it is. You've got a grip on this- it just hasn't revealed itself.

To which I told Lori that I had a lot of really silly ways I had been killing time. This is the quite embarrassing way and I even realized why it has been such a crutch for me. I've been binge watching an old television show on Hulu. As long as I'm keeping it real, I will also admit that I have truly terrible taste in television. I don't do culture or thinking shows. I personify the term vegging-out when I turn on the television. The last time in my life that I didn't have children, there was a show I watched every week religiously. My husband worked nights so I would come home and flip on this show with a bowl of popcorn. I even watched it when I was waiting to give birth to Daughter #2. Watching the adventures of Dylan, Brenda, and the rest of the gang from Beverly Hills 90210 has kept me company for several weeks. It really is as bad as I remembered, but I don't care. It entertains me. I've watched so many episodes that Dylan & Brenda aren't even on the show anymore. I'll let you know how it turns out. I never saw the end of the series, because I had children and stopped watching TV near that time. My friend Jackie recommends Gilmore Girls when I'm done with 90210. I think I'll do that.

Thoughts from my friend Denise who vacationed with me as a teenager:

[My husband] and I go on a retreat every year. We learn, in a group setting, that a woman's bond with her husband often gets lost raising children. At the same time, a man gets caught up in furthering his career at the expense of quality family time.
Reconnect with [your husband]. Rediscover why you married him in the first place. Marriage constantly needs attention at all stages of life. ...include him in making your decisions about your future. You just may be happier as a result. 
Denise really helped me understand that this is a team project and decision. I need my husband to know what is happening and to rekindle what we let slip away. Maybe he just needs to see more boobs. Err, eggs.

Kathleen, who was a fellow band mom with me had this to say:
This is the start of my 3rd year without my girl--and although I always wanted her to fly-soar even, I miss her and I wonder if I spent enough time with her? Every time I see [our marching band] or hear certain songs, I tear up. It does get better -but it is a strange feeling. I love the freedom and I love that [we] can be "free-wheeling"-but there are still times I think of that little girl I had and my eyes fill. You are so busy-and enrich so many lives-be patient with yourself. Cry, reminisce, and take your time to get to wherever your next step will be.
Kathy helped me realize that we don't have to "get over" anything. It will be there and that's okay.

From Liz, my former co-worker, whose daughter is the same age as mine had these words:
It's like losing a job- our biggest job that we're the most proud of-being a mom. Every time [my daughter] brings up that she's not going to move back home after graduation in April, I cringe. I look forward to when she's home - there's more for me to do. All this in spite of the fact I work a very demanding full time job. I know how you feel. We're used to being the overachieving parents of our overachieving kids.
Liz and I worked side by side for several years. We found ourselves sharing notes through our children's high school years and discovering how very much we had in common besides a common employer. So I know she understands how very much this does feel like a job loss.
With a final reminder from my friend Ellen, who I became friends with right after I graduated from high school, wrote this about her own experience:

I was a whole person before I had children. I was a woman, I was sexy, I was beautiful, I had words, I was a someday novelist, I had intelligence, I was a singer, an artist, I had my voice, I loved deeply. I had goals and wants unrelated to motherhood. I was a force. I was an individual. I planned meals, I went to the store and bought things. I sifted the cat box. I drove a car across the country. I loved. I watched others die. I had a lot of great sex, completely unrelated to procreation, before I was a mother.
I was a whole person before motherhood.
I love being a mother. But it is just one part of me.
They deserve a lot.
But not every single second of my time.
Not my every resource.
Not my every thought or consideration.
Love doesn't mean the destruction of self, or it shouldn't.
I was me, before them, and that's not a bad thing.
I was a whole person before I was a mother.
 


Ellen, we still are whole people. Thank you for the eloquent reminder.

What exactly did I write to get such an outpouring of wisdom? That will be my next post.  Week Five is a big one!

September 20, 2016

Five Things I Won't Miss: Week Five

Today's post coincides with my firstborn child's 21st birthday. She is a full-fledged adult person and, barring anything beyond reasonable control, on a good path for the rest of her life. It's only natural that today I find myself reflecting upon her past birthdays and discovering one glaring thing that I Do. Not. Miss. In. The. Least.

Making birthday party treat bags. How I loathed filling bags of junk to give to kids as some sort of birthday trade-off. That is something that became a phenomenon for my generation of parents. The ubiquitous treat bag that our kids brought home after attending parties that rivaled some weddings. (Speaking of another thing I don't miss? The escalation of a child's annual birthday to some sort of major rite of passage - complete with DJs, photobooths, smoke machines, and limo rides). It doesn't leave much to look forward to as an adult, in my opinion.

I do miss planning the party but we always had them at home. They were "do-it-yourself" events, that my children had as much input into as I did. They picked a theme of based on one of their interests and we brainstormed theme-appropriate activities. One year, we had a backyard camp out. We borrowed a huge tent from an Eagle Scout friend I knew, made s'mores, went on a scavenger hunt, decorated flashlights, and painted magnets that looked like campfires. Another year we had a "diva party", where all the guests were invited to prepare a karaoke song and we had neon hair extensions and singing all night long.

Tacky Pink Frosting
But as if attending a fun evening with friends eating cake and drinking punch wasn't enough? We were expected to come up with a gift to send all the kids on their way. I do not miss that in the least. It bothered me up until the day my kids outgrew birthday parties. (Incidentally, I also loathed receiving bags of junk for attending a party as well).

I've always had the opinion that a birthday is the only day all year that is a "selfish" day. The stress of trying to make it a special day about every single guest as well grated on me. But that's just one of the things I won't miss, and I think it's healthy to remind myself that parenthood isn't always one big happy-fluffy-rainbow-sparkled journey. After the #1 thing I won't miss, I will round out my list.

2. I will not miss everyone getting a trophy, and I wish I knew what to do with all the trophies that everyone did get throughout the years. (actually upon pondering this, I did a search and found a GREAT idea,  a trophy recycling company, that will re-purpose all your old trophies. (and even donate them to 501c3s). They can be like fruitcakes, and eventually, there will only be 100 trophies in the world that just keep getting regifted!
Everyone gets a trophy

3. I will not miss clothing that becomes dorky and therefore completely unwearable before it's even been washed the first time. It winds up languishing in a closet until the pronouncement that my child had nothing to wear and would seemingly prefer to go naked rather than wear that hideous apparel that they chose only a month ago.

4. I will not miss finding out about a school project the night before and being asked to run to the all night printing store to do the last minute touches or a 24 hour superstore to pick up one last supply. I despised projects. What ever happened to just writing a report or taking a quiz? Why does replicating an entire village inside the lid of a pizza box check if you read the book? The only people who like projects are the people who own posterboard companies.

5. I will not miss the need to buy a t-shirt at every event and performance, as some sort of souvenir, because that trophy (see #2) wasn't enough.

I am going to keep this list handy for those days I feel really lost. I think it's healthy to reflect on both the good and the bad. To be clear, I loved hosting the parties, I just hated the treat bags. I loved the activities that my kids got to do, I hated the unending parade of trophies. I loved shopping for their clothing, but hated when fickle fashion taste ruled over practicality. I loved seeing them excel in school, but I hated projects that were more a test of how much you could spend at the craft store. And I love their diverse interests, but I hate the pile of tacky t-shirts.

Tonight, we forward to celebrating the dawning of adulthood with our elder child. I also look forward to the simple, tasteful gift we're giving to our young adult and an elegant dinner, without any food that smiles at us or has neon-colored frosting. It's a good trade-off.


September 16, 2016

Time to start dating: Week Four continued

Yeah buddy! We are going to town with this post. The nest is empty and we can get back out there. Or in there. Or just there. Watch out world, I am dating again!!!

I am dating a really great guy. He is the sort of guy you marry. So much that sort of guy that I did, in 1990. But I haven't dated him since the early 90s. The day we had kids, we changed. We shifted our focus to our future and the kids we brought into the world and how we were going to make sure that we gave them the best life we could imagine.

We had been married about 4 years and thought at the beginning of 1995 that my genes and his would make a pretty incredible child. I became pregnant 20 seconds, possibly 21, after that conversation and on September 20, 1995, our lives as a couple ceased. We were joined by a beautiful child who quickly became the center of our universe and topic of all conversations we had going forward.

Thus began the motherhood journey. My life changed forever. I stretched my maternity leave out as long as possible under the guise of taking time to decide what would work, but the truth is, I wasn't going back to my job. I look back now and wonder. Maybe I could have, but at the time, it just seemed more trouble than it was worth.

Our lives had many many ups and downs over the past 20+ years of parenting. It's not necessary for me to recount all the times he and I didn't see eye to eye. But we stuck it out because we had a family to raise. You see, whether you are single or married, since our children were born, we suppressed our "romantic" (euphemism for sexy) sides the entire time we had children in the home. I realized this the other day because I didn't need to cover up "in case the kids walked in". Quite the opposite, in fact.
egg cracked open
Egg or boob? You decide. 

I was getting ready to make breakfast and had a dozen duck eggs. (Acquired during a catch-up-with-friends road trip). I showed my husband the eggs after I cracked them in a cup to point out the difference in both color and size. His reaction was typically male. He said very matter of factly, "They look like boobs."

What? My mind reeled. Had it been that long since he saw boobs that he confused them with duck eggs? There was only one logical solution. He needed to see boobs quickly to remedy his confusion. I quickly undressed and continued to make breakfast topless.

As silly as it sounds, the duck egg incident marked a playful moment in our rediscovering each other. I didn't worry that the kids would walk in and see me topless. In fact, I actually am imagining the horror they are likely to express and the embarrassment experienced that their mother was topless. Not only was I topless, I told the world about it. Or at least as many people as will read this post. (have fun with me... make a comment if you go this far so we can keep a running tally of how many folks know I cooked breakfast without a shirt). 

My husband and I are dating and wooing each other again. It's pretty fabulous.

September 13, 2016

Pacing Yourself: Week Four

By now, I've had an empty nest for nearly a month and WHEW!  I am exhausted. There is a certain irony to the fact that now my time is my own and I have attempted to do everything I meant to do for the past 21 years in one month.

running ragged with tasks
How I envisioned my free time
Here is a short list of activities I've started:
  • Cleaning out all the toys and closets
  • Losing that weight that slowly crept onto my frame
  • Joining a gym
  • Writing the book I always wanted to write
  • Making a business plan to market and sell that book
  • Finishing up the plans for our vacation of a lifetime
  • Catching up with all my friends I haven't seen
  • Committing to new volunteer opportunities
  • Looking for a job and sending out over 20 cover letters and revamped resumes
  • Updating my blogs
  • Making doctor appointments for my milestone year of 50
  • Canning and freezing seasonal food
  • Substitute teaching
trying to multitask household chores
The reality, minus the cat and baby
Those are the new undertakings, not to mention that there still are the daily jobs that must be done to keep a household running, such as paying bills, cleaning, cooking, yard work and laundry. And frankly, I'd neglected a number of those as evidenced by (shhh, please don't tell my spouse) an overdue bill notice. Yikes!

I actually decided one day to mow our lawn completely by hand so I could combine my exercise with yard work. As I was mowing, I got to thinking, maybe that could be my job, killing three birds with one stone. A job, exercise and yard work. My brain was drawing up a business plan how to get lawn mowing clients as if I were a teenage kid, not a 50 year old empty nest mom. Scratch that moment of entrepreneurial spirit, especially when I nearly collapsed after I was done with the lawn.

Nobody can accuse me of wasting my free time, but I am completely inundated by a monster of my own doing. Years of a hectic schedule, juggling multiple commitments for a houseful of people has me thinking that is the best way to feel busy.

Instead, I feel overwhelmed and less productive. A 2014 study by the University of Sussex indicates a link between multitasking and lower grey matter density in the brain.

What I have realized is that I don't have to cram in everything I still want to do. I can do every single one of those items on my list, but not simultaneously.

I need to pace myself and focus on one mission at a time. Quality, not quantity is what will help me fill my time and feel purposeful. Reminding myself that every runner knows the best way to finish the race it to pace yourself instead of sprinting full speed ahead.

September 7, 2016

You Can't Go Back: Week Three

When my children were in school, my nights and weekends were spent at cross country meets, band and choir performances, speech tournaments, and theater rehearsals. My free time was defined by how I could support the activities that my children were doing. I would step up anytime I was asked and felt it was my duty because as a stay-at-home mom, I realized how much more flexible my calendar was.

In addition to helping my children, these same activities became my social life and entertainment. I knew I'd see the same folks and we'd have the same stories to share. What I didn't realize was how much of my own identity was lost in the process. I was "so and so's Mom", and my clothing choices indicated as much, with my different booster shirts emblazoned with "MOM" on it. Many of us veteran moms still have to introduce ourselves by whose parent we are.

As they move onto new horizons, their identity is no longer tied to mine, at least in reference to my socializing. I helped out a friend of mine who still has children in school chaperone a recent band event. She was short a parent and offered to help out.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening, but found myself explaining to several puzzled people why I was there and that I didn't have anyone performing. I wasn't there with my ever-present camera or watching for anyone specific in the show. I just was enjoying the music. It was quite a different dynamic.

Later that week, out of habit, I picked up the local weekly newspaper and realized I didn't have to scan it for school lunch menus or school start times. I wasn't looking for any articles to save for the time capsule of my child's high school years.  I just read it for local news happenings and learned about other community events.

What I realized this third week is that even when I am doing the same things, there is a different lens for how I see it and what my involvement will be. It's a nice place to visit, but it's not somewhere to stay forever.

Think ahead and start to cultivate your own interests with a different group of friends. Find something that defines you independently. If you cannot find a group to join, start one. You'll be surprised how many other women you can find that share your passion and you'll feel much less rudderless.

book clubI started a book club in January this year, by soliciting friends on Facebook for interest. We rotate from house to house each month, taking turns selecting the book and making refreshments.

We're all in different stages of our lives, some of us have children, some of us do not. Some are working, some are retired, some are married, some are single. I've expanded my social circle one book and one strong woman at a time. The friendships are built around mutual respect for each other, not how involved we are able to be with our kid's lives.

I'm reminded that we have many titles and mom is only one of them. Go forward and thrive, because as the saying goes, you can't go back.



August 29, 2016

Redefining priorities: Week Two

Winter Warlock's first steps
I feel much like the Winter Warlock from the
1970 Rankin-Bass Christmas movie,
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.
It is now a full week of an empty nest under my belt. After a day or two of over-the-top pity partying (yes, I confess, I really overdid it), I took a deep breath and started moving forward.

A strategic plan was needed. When I last blogged, I recounted many of my past accomplishments and activities. Things that somehow were shelved for the past 20+ years. I revisited those dreams and thought about whether those were still goals I had.

It turns out, while I still have the same values that motivate my choices, I really don't care to go to Washington DC and lobby our government about anything. My youthful idealism has been replaced with healthy skepticism. I feel like a lot of my ability to affect change will be better realized locally, not nationally.

It's also important to say that many of the issues that sparked my interest when I was in my 20s are much different now that I'm in my very early 50s. I care deeply about education and children. Much more so than the 20-something who still took much of my upbringing and zest for learning for granted.

tree brancesThis has me narrowing my priorities moving forward. Though this is specific to my own experience, I think the bigger takeaway is that the first step is to remember what you always enjoyed and the next step is to determine if that is still something you would enjoy.

It's okay to realize that your goals change with time. It's easy to think like Terry Malloy from 1954s On the Waterfront, and think "I coulda been a contender" , but it's not healthy to think about things you cannot change.

I could have been a lot of things, but I chose to be a parent. I've got a lot of time left to figure out all the other things I still can be.

The spark of inspiration is that the nest isn't so much empty as the tree has many branches.






August 25, 2016

Now is Your Time: Week One continued

"This is your time," they said, "now you can finally do all the things you wanted to do!"

What those platitudes never took into account is that I did want to do what I was doing. I was raising two incredible children. I loved every single minute of watching them grow and become young adults. I love seeing their faces and bodies change, I love hearing their newly formed opinions and thoughts on the world, I love meeting the people they surround themselves with and I bask in their accomplishments with pride. I had a front row seat to their transition through every phase of life and it was fascinating. I cannot imagine anything else I would have wanted to do.

Additionally, after years of putting the needs of other's first, I am not even positive what my own needs are. I'm no martyr, but I'd become a bit of an accessory to my kids' lives. Think about it. I was a band mom, a drama mama, a choir chaperone. I have a well worn shirt that says CollegeU Mom, and a corresponding mug from my second child's college.

baby feet

Our generation of children may have had the most over-educated moms in the history of parenting. By over-educated, I mean in the art of parenting. We devoured books like they were pickles and late night ice cream runs. I can say the word Ferber and I am certain everyone of my peers remembers that technique. I can say What to Expect when You're Expecting and expect a bevy of dog-eared books and several people who also bought the accompanying sequels for the first year and subsequent toddler years. We all had an opinion about James Dobson's Focus on the Family books, and probably giggled a time or two, but owned a copy of Everybody Poops to help our little ones learn to use a toilet. If not a book, a VHS tape with the potty song.

If there was a PhD in parenting, we'd all qualify for it. Not so much with our parents and theirs before them. We were parented by instinct and discipline. Our mothers began to enter the workforce in record numbers, to the point that it was never a question of whether or not I would have a career, but rather what it would be and for how long. Then the question of whether to stay home when we had children.

With each choice, we became more determined to justify it with reams of studies and education. We educated ourselves as perhaps a way to defend our decision to "go backwards". I know that my personal sparks of feminism were really challenged when I went the traditional route. I felt like I had proven my elders right and only went to college to get my M.R.S. degree and have babies. Rather than diminish the education I wanted so badly, I wanted to prove that parenting could be an academic pursuit as well.

Now 21 years into a career which I prepared myself relentlessly for, that job has been outsourced to my children themselves. The things I wanted to do before I became a mother loom as an utterly unachievable pursuit. There was a time I wanted to become a lobbyist and use my communication and political science degree to work in Washington D.C. I wanted to make the world a better place for all people.

I am the same woman who marched on a picket line when I was eight months pregnant, carrying a sign that said, 26,000 AND ONE reasons to shop union. I am the same person who won a class action suit for our employees and who worked for pay raises as well as benefits during the contract negotiations. I am the same person who chased shoplifters out of our store. I have gotten countless volunteer awards in community organizations. I need to remind myself of all the things I know how to do that didn't require me to give birth to two children 21 and 18 years ago.

Now is the time to revisit that line of thinking and start to ask, "Why not?"

*this is an opinion piece, not intended to speak for all women, but rather to reflect on my own experience* 


August 23, 2016

The Nest has Emptied: Week One

The Empty Nest

After nearly 21 years of stay at home parenting, the second child has gone to college. When we said goodbye to her in Chicago, the excitement and pride was so strong that there was no time to be maudlin. But now it's not just the quiet, it's the anticipation of unending quiet.

It's the understanding that there will be no more back to school photos. And that all the things that kept my days and nights busy will still go on, but not with my participation or my child's. I thought I was ready for this. I knew it was coming and I had several plans in motion to manage the quiet. Though I've never cared to be asked if I was going back to work (mostly because I don't feel like I ever was not working), I planned to begin working full time again.

An opportunity had come to me a year ago and I tried to juggle work and the last year of active parenting, but ultimately wound up resigning for several reasons, though one of the unspoken ones was that I just couldn't miss any more of those last moments. The luxury of staying home with my children was something I never took for granted and I enjoyed every day of it. Well, almost every day. There were times in any parent's job that could be trying, but I was lucky that my children never gave me grief or worries. Being their mom is the best thing I could have ever done with my past 21 years.

Now, while I'm not fired, my worst fear seems realized. I don't feel needed. I know my kids will always need their mom, but not in a necessarily useful, ongoing, daily way. I talked to a friend of mine last night who doesn't have children and she helped remind me that people get married to have a life partner and that I still have that, even if we are no longer raising children. It made sense and has lifted some of my overly indulgent feelings.

I am very proud of the young adults we raised. I don't want them to need me for their every move, but I just don't know what *I* am supposed to do. Those instructions didn't come with the What to Expect When You're Expecting book. Which I devoured and could have memorized, but honestly, I've about forgotten what it felt like to have a swollen tummy because a baby was inside, not because I gained weight in my 40s. In the absence of that, I suppose I'm substituting my swollen eyes or something equally silly.

We chatted with my daughter the other night and she mentioned her leaky window (which I noticed the first day). I asked if she had talked to maintenance about it and she said, yeah, but they won't do anything. I started to talk about sending caulk, or weather stripping, a million and one solutions, but the fact was, I was creating a problem to solve mostly so I could feel like I had something to do. I realized the absurdity of it when my daughter kept insisting, "Mom, it's OKAY", not to worry about it, etc. I think it was more my way of finding something useful to do.

Yesterday, I started to take photos and post things for sale online. That should keep me busy for a while. It will pay for some textbooks and it will help keep those long forgotten items moving along and finding a new well-loved home. The trumpet is gone, the hand-painted play table & chairs is on its way. Those items will bring joy to new families.

I don't recall the last generation making such a big deal out of the "empty nest". My parents took me to college and were happy I was somewhere I loved. I certainly don't recall any grief, but maybe that was also an era where we weren't encouraged to spill and talk about our every last thought and emotion. Feels rather self-absorbed the more I go on.

I'm writing this because that's how I process my world. That's how I communicate best. I'm an outgoing person, but I still feel like I organize my thoughts better in writing than speaking. I also figure if I put this out there, I will find some kindred souls who understand or can also tell me how silly I'm being. I do feel silly, to be honest. I know that I did my job and now am seeing the rewards of that job first hand. But for now, I'm going to mourn and beg indulgence as I work through all this.

I am going to post as I traverse these new waters, with the hope that in a few months I have a really solid guide to perhaps publish as a book. I am inspired by a friend of mine who turned her own journal into a book, Diary of a Future Ex-Wife: Yeah, I'm Pissed.

April 17, 2016

Save on Graduation Announcements: UPDATED



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January 28, 2016

Bass Amp Shoppers Guide: Know What You Need

Buying an instrument or an amplifier can be really exciting, and a lot of people save up money for years to get the exact model that they want. Others though, like working musicians and people who are just learning to play bass may have different requirements for an amplifier.

Whether you’re a beginner or you’re a seasoned pro, there are some basic tips that can guide you. Use this primer to make sure you get everything you need when you go shopping for bass amps.

Are You a Beginner?

musiciansThere’s nothing wrong with being a beginner. In fact, you should be commended for picking up an instrument and learning to play! However, you probably don’t need the best bass amp in the world if you’re just starting out.

Unlike bass guitars, amps that aren’t top-notch won’t really slow your development as a player. Focus on something that is small, sounds good and allows you to practice with headphones, especially if you live in an apartment.

You can always sell an inexpensive amplifier to recoup some of your money and buy a better one when you advance as a player.

Practice Amp?

Even skilled musicians practice at home in many cases, often setting aside at least an hour a day to work on their skills. If you live in an apartment or have neighbors close by though, chances are you can’t do that with a big stack!

Look for a practice amp with a single speaker and in a relatively contained package. Having a practice amp with a headphone output can be beneficial too, but don’t pay extra for that if it’s not a feature you’re going to use.

Studio Use

Recording musicians often need different amps for studio use and live use. In the studio, it’s all about the best tone, not about how loud you can be. Sometimes being too loud is actually detrimental, especially in home studios or in places where isolation is a concern.

If you’re recording, look for a low amperage bass amp that sounds good even at a low volume.

Live Music

If you’re buying an amp for live use, sometimes volume really is what matters. Make sure you can get enough out of any amp you buy or add a cabinet down the road. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with a heavy paperweight or a very expensive practice amp which will not serve your purpose.

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