The Almost Empty Nester

Friday, January 12, 2018

Even Though My Nest Is Almost Empty, I'm Still A Mom

We got a Great Dane puppy for Christmas.

Yes. That's right. Because life isn't busy enough with me going back to school to get my MDiv in Chaplaincy, I decided to toss a small horse-sized puppy into my world. I already have an 8 year-old wiener dog so you can imagine what life is like around my house now.

But here's the thing. Life wasn't really all that busy.

In the almost empty nest years, I started to pull away from things before it was time.

Let me explain:

I told myself my kids were grown and gone and didn't need me. Silly, really, since Thing 1 and Thing 2 are here and will be for another year and a half. And although The Girl Child is in college and adulating well and doing her own thing, she still needs me on a certain level.

I'm still a mom.

My schedule had gotten to a point where I really didn't have much going on each day and although that sounds blissful, and on some days it was, it honestly just made me lonely and sad. I could tell myself all I wanted how nice it was to have all the time in the world to read and journal and do whatever, but I was kidding myself. I was bored.

Yes, I was still writing novels and promoting them, but in all honesty, that doesn't fill a day. And I got to where the marketing/media side of it almost ended me.

Every facet of my life has changed over the past year or so.

- I went from doing CrossFit three times a week to doing yoga and riding the bike because of issues with my hips
- We changed churches.
- I decided to go for my Masters Degree
- I am doing things different in my writing life
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Don't get me wrong, none of these changes are bad. But as I've said before, I don't do well with change and every - single - thing was changing.

While out Christmas shopping with The Hubby, he said he had an idea of a gift for me but thought it best to decide about it together. He wanted to get me a Great Dane. I had one as a kid and have talked for years about getting another one. Within a week, we brought home an 8 week-old puppy.

Her name is Sabrina Noel.

I wish I could say it was all holly berries and ribbons and bows, but it wasn't. The first week I cried every day either from childhood memories washing over me like waves or me questioning my sanity. I had just gotten to where life was mellow!!! Easy!!! What was I thinking?

Hmmm. I had forgotten sad and lonely.

I had forgotten that God doesn't call me to ease and comfort. He calls me to obedience. 

Now, I'm not saying that getting a puppy was obeying God on any level, but having Sabrina around has taught me a lot. A whole lot.

I've learned that an "easy" existence was, well, sad and lonely. In my thinking that these almost empty nest years meant I had not much left to do as far as being a mom, I let myself go down a path that wasn't at all what I thought  it would be. Easy, yes. Empty, also yes.

I've been reminded of all that I'm capable of. I can get my Master's Degree, continue raising three kids and now raise two dogs. My days are busy again and I love it. Not busy to where I'm a stress ball or overwhelmed - good busy where I have purpose and challenges, mess and all the fun that comes with living life.

Sabrina has taught me how to live life again. That tears are ok when needed because nothing is better than a dog that kisses away your tears. She has taught me that laughter is the best medicine. (If you've ever owned or even seen a Dane you know what I mean - they are total clowns.) She has taught me to take life one day at a time, live in the moment, embrace what is - crazy and all.

She has taught me that my nest is far from empty. It's full of life and laughter, love and hugs. Puppy kisses and furry snuggles. And I'm not so sad or lonely anymore....

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Blissful Ignorance

The Girl Child has been at school for a while and I have to admit, this year has been easier than the last. Don’t get me wrong. I miss her like crazy, but without so many unknowns and her adjusting to life in college, we have found our new normal and are settling into it.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 flew to see her for a weekend,  just the two of them. A sibling weekend full of shenanigans that made memories and brought them closer. My Mama Heart was happy.

However, one thing I learned from that weekend, as well as The Girl Child being gone overall, is that I prefer to be blissfully ignorant.

I have recently friend zoned social media. To be honest, we are really more of acquantainces now. I have no desire to post things and I only look at various sites about once a week. It's mind boggling how much more time I have in a day, and how much more space I have in my brain. I no longer carry around information from hundreds of people. I am able to focus on those in my life and process that information well.

Anyway, in the weeks since The Girl Child has been at school, I have seen how much calmer I am NOT knowing every moment of her life. I wasn't a helicopter parent to begin with, but looking at her Facebook page and Snapchat all the time actually ADDS stress to my life.

She and I had a great phone conversation about it the other day. I told her that if I only looked at her Snapchat, I would think one way about her life. If I looked at her Facebook alone, I would think another. And then when she calls or texts me to update me about her life, it's a completely different story all together. We chatted about what that means - how media can be used in life or deleted if necessary. But for me, I realized I would rather live on her phone calls and texts alone.

Do I still have her on media? Sure. But I don't look much. And to be fair, she doesn't post much.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 are training me in this as well. They still live at home but both drive now. I know where they are going and who they are with, but I have zero clue what they are doing specifically when they are out. Why? Two reasons.
  1.  They aren't on any media so they don't post.
  2. They are boys so if I can even get them to return a call or text, it's an act of God.
I came home the other day in between appointments and running errands. Thing 2's car was gone. I thought of texting him to ask where he was, but then stopped. If he wanted me to know where he had gone, he would have told me. I had a few ideas of where he was - all good - so I moved on knowing he was fine and later he told he he'd gone to get a haircut. Awesome. Perfect.  

I recognize that this has come with time. When The Girl Child left last year, I appreciated seeing her Snapchat where she was laughing with friends or studying on the gorgeous campus lawn. I still enjoying seeing those. But I don't need them to have a happy Mama Heart.

No news is good news. And there is peace in blissful ignorance. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Moving Forward

I'm in the airport waiting for my second flight of the day to take me home. The Girl Child and I had a fantastic trip last week. A two day road trip to bring her car back to college. It was relaxing and filled with music and lots of laughter. We were grateful to get to our destination, however. There's only so many hours you want to be cramped in a car. For me, anyway.

We had a full day before she could move into her dorm so we went and got stuff out of the storage bin she'd rented for the summer. We did a Target run. And basically crammed her car and my rented SUV as full as we could.

Then we waited…

I honestly believe that in this whole Almost Empty Nest gig, the waiting is the hardest part. We felt that way last summer. She was all packed and ready and we spent a week just staring at boxes, crying, and anxiously waiting for the the next thing, as sad as we knew it would make us, actually doing something was easier than waiting.
We didn't have as long to wait this time, but still. She wanted to be on campus with her friends. She wanted to be moving in, moving forward.

Because, no matter how scary the unknowns can be, being stagnant is no fun.

There weren't as many unknowns this year, and yet we talked about the weird combination of what is familiar to her and what is still uncertain. Yes, she has made friends and knows professors and knows the campus. But it's a new dorm, new classes, and new experiences.

She Snapchatted me this morning as I waited for my first flight. She started classes this morning and all went well. She's back in the gym working out and trying to get settled. And yet she told me she already feels a little homesick. Her dad, her brothers, and myself - we are her home. We are what is familiar. And my Mama Heart got all warm and fuzzy inside.

Because she will fly, she will move forward, but she will always have a home.

I think that's the best gift we can give our kids who fly the nest. The guarantee that they will always, always have a place to land. They always have a home. I believe that's a huge part of what gives her the courage to test her wings. She's got backup.

I shed a few tears as I hugged her and drove away from campus, but to be honest, they were mostly proud tears. This precious Girl Child is doing it - she's living her life, venturing into being a grown-up, and she's moving forward. My Mama Heart misses her so very much, but I could not be more proud I get to call this amazing human my child.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

College: Round Two

We have one week left until the Girl Child goes back to college. It's been a whirlwind, amazing summer filled with trips to Italy...

 and Colorado...

 as well as a few weeks of family time at Lake Tahoe.

 This will be The Girl Child's last summer home. She wants to live where she goes to school starting next summer. So we wanted to milk this time with her and have a summer of tons of fun.

And we did.

But our time together is coming to an end.

And the sadness that overwhelmed me last year is knocking at the door of my heart. I'm familiar with it now. I'm not even opposed to opening the door and allowing it to come in. I know that she's doing what she's supposed to do. Fly the nest. Live her life.

But it doesn’t mean that change doesn't hurt.
Because it really, really does.

For whatever crazy reason, I thought round two would be easier. We've experienced 8 months without her living here at home with us. We have a sense of our "new normal." And in some ways the pain this time around is muted. But it's still there. Knowing what to expect helps. A little.

But I’m still sad.

And I’m learning to let myself be sad. That it's okay. Change is hard. It's also good. As much as it pains me to admit that, it's true. These changes are good ones.

I'm excited to have a road trip with her as we drive back to school. I'm excited for that time with her. And I'm excited to watch her fly again. I am. I'm just praying that the goodbyes in round two are graicous and kind. I could use some of that right now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I Want To Be My Age

I've always considered myself confident. I grew up in a home where who you are on the inside was more important than how you look on the outside.

Don't get me wrong, I was raised by a mother who deems how one presents themselves to the world is important, but even as a teenage girl, if I was seen without makeup I didn't care. "This is me. Take it or leave it," was my main attitude. It still is.

And I feel I've raised my daughter the same way. She's extremely assertive and confident. She walks tall, all six feet of her.

But let's face it, it's tough to be a woman in this day and age. Where we used to only have to see photoshopped women on magazine covers in the grocery store line, we now can find them everywhere thanks to our handy dandy phones and social media.

And I'm just as guilty as the next woman of following Instagram pages on health, exercise and food, not to mention Pinterest and blogs. But I'm seeing a trend that concerns me.

Young women my daughter's age feel that to keep up, their media sites need to have pictures of them looking like models. Everything is posed and filtered and "perfected." And in truth it's not just her age group. I do it too.

We went to a concert last night. As I was getting ready I was trying to decide if I should wear my hair up or down. I really wanted to wear it up but thought that I look better in photographs with it down. It hit me square between the eyes that before social media, I would have worn my hair any old damn way I please without a single thought about a photo being taken. Maybe one or two for a photo album but let's face it,

We live in a world now obsessed with being camera ready.

I found myself longing for the days where it was fun to get dressed up and go out and have fun. Period. End of sentence. No stress over how the night would be documented.

My greatest concern is the condition of my heart, as well as my daughter's.

If I spend that much time worrying about my looks, is the state of my spirit shriveling up and wasting away? Am I more concerned with what people see in my hairstyle than what they can sense from my smile or my eyes.  

"As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person." Proverbs 27:19 (NLT)

I don't know about you but I'm beginning to get exhausted at how much it takes to NOT be me. Countless articles and books are out there about how to fight aging and be younger. Gone are the days where age and wisdom are deemed valuable. It's as if the main message is, "Who you are is not good enough. Who you are should weigh less, have perfect skin, and be put together 24/7." 

And all I keep thinking is, "I just want to be 44." I want to be my age

A healthy 44. I exercise. I drink lots of water. I try to eat well. I laugh. I cry. I love life with my people.

But I'm done with the days of trying to turn back the clock. 

I'm done working so many hours in a day trying to be something or someone else the rest of the world tells me is beautiful or how I "should" look.  I'll never be the size I was when I was 25 and quite frankly, I don't want to be. I'm done wasting my time now NOT appreciating myself where I am. If I'm not careful, I'll live my life in a constant state of discontentment. 

And I hope and pray my daughter sees that. A healthy lifestyle goes beyond what we eat, how much we exercise, or how we look in Instagram photos. How are we loving and caring for others? Are we a light in a dark world?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Every Stage Has Challenges

I just spent the week in Colorado visiting my mom and my sister and her family. My sister is married to her high school sweetheart and they have four boys. They are 23, 20, 17, and 16.

We went out to dinner with some friends and got to talking about the different phases of parenthood. Our friends shared that the baby phase wasn't their favorite, but they are enjoying the teen years with their kids. The Hubby and I said that the baby phase was tough, especially with twins, but we liked it. We don't want to do it again, but we liked it. And the teen years with our kids have been amazing. Too much fun. My brother-in-law said that he and my sister have also enjoyed each phase but that having adult children is really, really hard.

I've said before that parenthood is defined by seasons.

Each season has good and bad, and some are simply tougher than others. 

The baby phase of parenting is filled with diapers, bottles, 24/7 care of another human being, and doing it all on about 4 hours of sleep a night - if you're lucky. It has morning snuggles, baby shampoo smells, and watching kids change almost overnight.

The teen years are filled with drama (the level depending on your kids and how much they engage in it) as well as hormone changes and learning to navigate friendships and relationships. It also has nights filled with laughter as you play games around the table after dinner, talks beneath the stars of the years ahead and dreams wanting to be chased, as well as watching kids turns from kids to young adults, preparing to fly the nest.

The phase of life with adult children I haven't spent too much time in since my oldest is 19, but I ask my sister a lot about it since her oldest is 23. She says that the biggest challenge is finding balance between giving advice when it's asked for (and sometimes when it's not), and not nagging too much to where they won't want to come home and visit you. It consists of watching them make mistakes knowing they need to do so to learn life lessons, and guiding them through it as they go. It's about helping them build a life but doing so from beyond an arm's length away.

Every parenting stage has it's challenges. But it has it's moments of bliss as well.

I do know this. I wouldn't trade a moment of the journey. Watching my kids, as well as my nephews, navigate life, seek to serve God, and become awesome grown up human beings is something I will treasure forever in my Mama Heart. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Travel And The In Between

For Christmas, my husband gave me and The Girl Child a trip to Italy. We each took a friend. A girl's trip that we did a few weeks ago. For the first week back, I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. Jet lag is not joke, people.

Neither is the adjustment that goes with having a grown child home for the summer after living on her own for nine months in another state. Then go on an overseas trip with her where she wants to roam around in the evenings just her and her friend off on their own. It's like being tossed into the deep end with no life preserver or instruction on how to swim or even tread water.

I tried to give her some freedom while also keeping her safety and best interest first. And it worked. She had a blast and we had a fantastic trip. Not to say I wasn't in constant prayer or that we didn't have our bumps in the road. Life and travel aren't ever without those.

The In Between is a bit bumpy as well. In the same way that we are trying to adjust to having a grown child, our grown child is adjusting to still having parents and yet be independent. As I would mentally grapple with what I was okay with her doing on her own while we were in Italy, I had to remind myself that she lived most of last year on her own in another state without me approving or knowing of 90% of what she did. Now, I trust this child to no end so I wasn't concerned, but it's…weird.

To go from knowing everything they're doing to knowing very little of what they're doing and back to knowing most of what they're doing is quite the dizzying experience. Now that she's back, I know about most of what she's doing, and I don't get quite as big of a say in it. And that's okay. That's how it should be. But again...weird. It's amazing how much I've had to train myself to think before I speak. 

I will say this. The In Between has been way easier so far than when she initially left. The complete hole that left in our lives was difficult to navigate. It was hands down, one of the saddest, toughest times in my life. The In Between is merely a part of the adjustment to our relationship as it moves forward. The Hubby and I are becoming less parent and more friend. Which is wonderful. Truly. But it is a change. And we all know how well I handle change. ;)