Posts Tagged ‘empty nest’

On Most Days

Cool Trees

“I’ve been a little out of sorts lately. I had some sorts, but then I ran out.” –Friend and author – John Shore

I’m in the middle of a life transition. Uncertainty, nostalgia, fear of the unknown – they’re all here.

Big changes are seriously messing with my head. There are so many things in flux that gaining solid footing has been about as easy as eating a single Lays potato chip.

My  emotions are teeter-tottering all over the place, mostly because of my changing Mom role and my omnipresent anxiety about how the hell we’re going to keep the lights lit in these uncertain economic times.

In the summer of 2009, my 23-year, six-figured technical job was outsourced to India. Just like *that*, my established, well-respected career ceased to exist.

Tough luck, huh?

Yeah. But after the initial shock (and tears) subsided, I realized that I’d been given a “do over.” Now, I had a brilliant opportunity to ask myself honestly, “What do I want to do? What am I passionate about? What am I doing when I feel really happy?”

Joseph Campbell describes this process as following your bliss. The idea has always resonated with me, but life had never thrown quite the right “curve ball” to motivate me into action.

…until August of 2009. Since then, I’ve been watching a high-and-insider rocket towards me at breakneck speed. As thrilling as the process can be, reinventing myself is taking patience and a lot of faith that I’ll somehow land on my feet.

I’m working to put Campbell’s idea into action, and find that getting in touch with what I love to do is helping me set some real goals for myself. Having a plan has gone a long way towards creating my map for personal success.

So, the Plan. The first thing I did was take stock.

An exercise I use to help gain perspective and self-confidence is to list some of the personal hurdles I’ve already cleared.

I would highly recommend everybody write up a list like this. I’ve found it helps to see how strong you really are. You may find you’re holding your head a little higher and thinking you’re a pretty impressive human after all, just like I did:

1) 1985- Left my hometown in N. California to start a new life 400 miles away 2) 1986 – Eloped to Hawaii, 3) 1994 – Endured a miscarriage, 4) 1992 – Bought a house, relocated to a new community, 5) 1993/1995 – Gave birth to two healthy children, 6) 1986 – 2004 – Underwent multiple surgeries, 7) 1998-1999, Survived the deaths of three of my closest friends, 7a) 2002-2003 – Went through a really tough divorce, 9) 2005 – Remarried (my soul mate)  10) 2009 – Lost my job of 23 years, 11) 2008 – Helped my teenage daughter through a painful depression and drug rehabilitation, 12) 2011 – present – Approaching empty nest, reinventing myself…and still smiling.

Wow, look what I did. Yay me!

Then, I got into motion.

When I feel I’ve lost my way, or am insecure about how things will turn out, I force myself to do anything – even the smallest task – related to my goals. It’s my experience that taking the tiniest step in the direction of my dreams will open unseen doors.

When I followed my bliss, I discovered a passion for history, and a newfound love for creating websites. 

To indulge these interests (and possibly grow them into paying careers,) I began volunteering as project manager and website designer for a historical society.

Additionally, I set two goals. The first was to work more closely with my husband as we pursue our mutual love of history. By helping edit and market his books, promote his lectures and book signings, and help conduct his tours and classes, I’m building a whole new career identity for myself.

And because I set this goal, we were recently able to co-create and host our own silent film festival. How cool is that?

My second goal was to bring in some dough by helping new business owners design and create their first websites. In a short period, I’ve attracted an impressive list of clients, who, so far at least, seem to really like my work!

See what can happen when you move in the direction of your dreams?

I taught myself how to knit hats and scarves, and read over 100 novels–two pursuits I would otherwise have never had the time for.

I’ve also started two blogs – this one (teenparentcafe) and a recipe/cooking blog called Aunt Kim’s Kitchen. I’m becoming re-acquainted with my “inner writer,” who I haven’t heard from in years (who’d have thought that following my bliss would lead me to

So, ultimately, losing my job has given me a new circle of friends, a chance to pursue more satisfying careers, and time well-spent doing things I really love to do.

Though I still have my anxieties, on most days, I’m optimistic. I haven’t replaced the income from my technology job yet, but I’m working on it – and having a pretty good time doing it.

Since I’m still in the midst of transition, the final chapter (or blog post) on this topic has yet to be written. Check back to this URL for further updates.

Looky there! I just got some of my “sorts” back.

Free Girl (usage)


Catching Fireflies


I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the “good” living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more while watching life.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment, realizing that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”
There would have been more “I love you’s” and more “I’m sorry’s”
. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.”

–Erma Bombeck  


I’ve shot tons of video of my kids, but I’ve always known I wouldn’t watch them.  Because theoretically, the people on the screen no longer exist, and that makes me really sad.

Earlier tonight, my 15 1/2 year old played an old video of himself and his sister as little towheads, catching lightning bugs with their cousins at their grandparents’ house.

God, they were beautiful.

Their excitement was so genuine it brought tears to my eyes. They were completely immersed in the moment.

I listened to the younger version of myself talking to them, giggling when they squealed, and laughing as they screamed with delight when Mom caught a firefly, too.

As I watched, I found myself wondering if, on that beautiful Midwest summer night, I had appreciated the magic I witnessed. Did I realize how lucky I was to be able to pick up those beautiful babies, kiss those sweet cheeks and swing them around until they begged me to stop?

I cherish my children at every age, but I deeply miss when they were small. I’ve always known how fast they would grow, and made the effort to BE PRESENT at every moment. I’m grateful that I did, because the only emotion I hate more than nostalgia is regret.

I move through the sadness by discovering what I love outside of motherhood, what I’m passionate about, and what I want to accomplish in the second half of my life. I’m also grateful to bear witness to the emergence of two talented, compassionate, amazing young adults. There is Life After Mommy.

Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll write about how often my now-teenage children have me reaching for my gi-normous bottle of Advil.

But tonight, I think I’ll cry and catch fireflies. 


Appa Juice Bottle, Peez

momandteenagedaughtersmilingRecently, my 18 year old daughter and I were texting about sadness. I was feeling a little down, and she’d been feeling blue for weeks. We were both aware that our sadness was intensified because it was dark outside (I tell my kids to sleep on their worries because solutions are easier to see by the light of day.)

She suggested that when she got home, we cuddle, watch a movie and be sad together, then added a private saying we’ve shared since she was two:

“Appa Juice Bottle, Peez”.

When she was little she loved drinking apple juice from a bottle. She would drink “apple juice bottles” at times when she was relaxed and content, so this little phrase became synonymous with going to her Happy Place.

I love that at age 18 she still wants to squirrel away with Mom and “be girls,” talk about boys, relationships, weird stuff she’s going through, share her fears about leaving childhood behind, and giggle at silly pictures on her blog. At these times, we exist in our own little bubble, outside of time and worry.

As I read her sweet text, I was struck with an acute awareness that I’d been struggling with some melancholy myself.

It starts gradually in the evening. My husband and I will have enjoyed a nice dinner out, walk into the dark, quiet house (though far from lonely with our six cats, a dog and a rabbit) and I’ll be struck by the contrast between now and the days when SpongeBob was blasting from the TV and every fifth word was “Mom!”

I love the quiet — when it’s just my husband and I, curling up, covered in purring kitties, watching Mad Men on DVD. As a parent, it’s one of the things you look forward to – using your free time to do whatever you want. No karate lessons, rushing off to soccer practice, or getting after kids who are up past their bedtime.

But in a weird way, it’s not having to do these things that’s sad. It’s what the quiet house represents – that Empty Nest is fast approaching.

Since I became pregnant with my oldest child, it’s been all about motherhood. My children’s well-being has been at the heart of every choice, decision, and purchase I’ve made.

A good deal of my income was spent on things like childcare, Happy Meals, and new shoes every two months. I dealt with more dirty clothes, homework assignments, and skinned knees than I can possibly count. Neighborhood moms talking about motherhood while watching their kids play together was a nightly routine in our Rockwellian world.

But that’s changed as the years have passed. Now, my daughter’s 18 and my son is 15 1/2, old enough to get his Driver’s Permit, with a 4.3 GPA and a fantastic attitude towards academics. On top of these things he’s also just landed his first job.

So they’re big kids now. Young adults. No more time outs, Nick Toons, swimming lessons, or mac and cheese. They get themselves dressed, make their own meals (usually), and have their own house keys.

They don’t need a “Mommy” anymore. 

Enter sadness.

So, how does a woman who has functioned primarily as “Mom” for 18 years breathe new life into her sense of purpose?

Volunteering for a local non-profits, managing projects, building websites, and planning events has helped ease the transition. I’ve been able to channel some of that good “mothering” energy into productive projects that help other people. It doesn’t replace being “Mom”, but it helps me feel needed.

Still, I get sad.

So, while I can, I’ll treasure the cuddles with my “little girl” while watching A Knight’s Tale in the dark, with happy kitties draped over our legs, solving the problems of our world, and sharing whatever else might come to mind. 

I know my kids are growing up. But for now…

Appa juice bottle, peez. 

MomDaughter Cuddling Parentdish