Quest to change the “empty nest”

Empty. How does that word make you feel? What images do you see? Empty is defined as “containing nothing; not filled or occupied.” Not exactly a word that brings to mind sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. However, it’s a word I’ve been hearing lately as I move toward this era of my life that others refer to as the “empty nest.”

The Mayo Clinic, in this article, states that “Empty nest syndrome isn’t a clinical diagnosis. Instead, empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.” OK, I get it, and technically, that explanation does describe my situation. During conversations,  I meet the words, “empty nest” with a wrinkle of my nose in irritation and in truth, it brings tears to my eyes. When #1 son left for college, the door to his room was now always open which triggered tears. When #2 son heads off this fall to his new adventures, the emotions will be real.

A colleague recently introduced me to the word, transitioning. I’m finding it to be a kinder, gentler, and much more suitable description of this time in my life. I’m in the process of moving from one condition to another.

Transitioning…yes. Empty…NO! My nest isn’t empty, nor will ever be. What do you think?

 

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This is the year I learn to like bananas

It is true. I detest bananas. Yes, I know they’re good for me. I cannot bear the flavor of banana candy, pudding or  banana cream pie. (My nose is wrinkling as I write this.) The years have made me more tolerant of this healthful fruit. I no longer gag just from the smell, both of my boys love bananas, and I truly enjoy eating banana bars and banana bread.

After reflecting on 2015, three items of significance came immediately to mind:

  1. I learned to knit.
  2. I said goodbye to a 20-year friendship.
  3. I realized that I am a private person who finds it difficult to discuss my personal thoughts, accomplishments, dreams, struggles with even my closest friends. (Learning this truth has been life-changing as I work to be more forthright about my life. And likely contributed to Reflection #2.)

As I continue my quest to learn and grow to be the best I can be, this year (2016) finds me in the midst of some major life transitions. Son #1 will be a college graduate. Son #2 will be a high school graduate. We celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary and I enjoy a milestone birthday that ends a zero.

I am also a sucker for those Internet quizzes. (I am Dorothy from Golden Girls.  My redneck name is Trixie. I am most like Carol from The Walking Dead.) When the opportunity to discover my  guide word for 2016 showed up in my news feed, I had to see what was waiting for me! That word is “future.”

So how does this connect to the commitment of learning to like bananas? While the noun definition of future references that “period of time that’s still to come,” the adjective defines future as “at a later time; going or likely to happen or exist.” Whatever explanation you prefer, the point is that the the future isn’t set; my future can include so many things, including eating bananas. How many times do we let the voice in our head keep us from experimenting and experiencing? I don’t like to give that power over my thinking to anyone or anything. And maybe I’ll learn that I still don’t like bananas. I’ll never know until I try. The only thing preventing from knowing my future on this front is boldly braving a bite.

Here’s to that moment of courage…whatever your banana may be.

 

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You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow

The story you are about to read is true. It happened in our home about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.  If you’re not a cat lover, read it anyway. My hope is that it brings you a chuckle.

Hoss was born in spring 2012 to Fuzzy Gray, one of the six-toed cats adopted from my friend, Dena. (Evidently, the town of Casey, Iowa has been overrun with these mitten kittens and I was glad to bring home some new genetics.) These polydactyls are prolific producers and soon we had a clowder of cats!  (Thanks to this The Big Bang Theory episode!) #2 son has always been partial to fluffy kitties and soon claimed Hoss as his own. A strong, stubborn male, he stuck with the more masculine name even after learning that Hoss was, indeed, a female. 

It was an incredibly cold February day during the 2013 winter when Hoss gave birth to her first litter of kittens. Unfortunately, the offspring didn’t survive the brutal weather. Lee was gracious enough to chip through the frost layer so we could give them a proper burial in the family pet plot. We said hello to the memories of Ratbert the hamster, O’Brien the cat, David the parakeet and a few of our other deceased animal friends.

It was no surprise when Hoss turned up pregnant again. She gave birth in the thicket (think bramble patch) in front of our house while we were on vacation, My friend/neighbor, H, had been taking care of the critters and heard faint mews mixed amid the poison ivy, mosquitoes, gooseberry and raspberry bushes. She was unable to find them even while covered in something akin to a HazMat suit. Before we unpacked from vacation, we were in the thicket and discovered four furry baby felines. We moved them to the shed and enjoyed watching them grow. (In case you’re curious, their names are Light Knight, Dark Knight, Four and Chunk.)

Fast forward to February 2014 which finds Hoss a housecat. We moved her in after the resident bully, OBJ, kept beating the snot out of her. Poor Hoss would hide in trees, under bushes, in logs…anything to escape the wrath of OBJ. Hoss and our older cat, Pilgrim, have grown tolerant of one another, as you can see here.

cats

When Lee pronounced yet another Hoss pregnancy a few weeks ago, I was reluctant to agree. How could she have gotten pregnant? She only escaped that one night! And with that, I answered my own questions and finally agreed that Hoss was with-kittens. (There isn’t anything much more exciting, in my opinion, than a mama kitty about to give birth.)

With the confession fresh in mind, I worked in my home office yesterday, Hoss meandered in and out of the room, meowing. For a cat who is pretty much silent, this was odd behavior and I kept wondering what she was trying to communicate with me. She couldn’t get comfortable and seemed to be pacing. The predicted snowstorm rolled in late afternoon and canceled the evening’s basketball games for #2 son. We hunkered down on the couch to watch the Iowa/Ohio State game and Hoss continued her meowing and hanging around.

I was texting my sister and H announcing Hoss’ situation. The game ended in a loss for the Hawkeyes and Lee headed back to take a shower only to return to the living room a few minutes later with asked these questions, “Am I the best dad/husband ever?” and “Will you admit that I’m right 99.5 percent of the time?” (I will add that his tone of voice indicated he wasn’t at all excited about whatever happened on his way to the shower. In fact, he sounded incredibly irritated so #2 and I went back to investigate.

We found Hoss cuddled up in the middle of the bed on Lee’s favorite blanket, affectionately known as Goosey. And she wasn’t alone. Two tiny tiger kittens were nursing as she laid on her side and kneaded her paws. What the heck? We had just admitted she might be pregnant and now the proof had arrived! It was a very clean birth with minimal mess and she had given birth about six inches from a stunned Pilgrim. Healthy, strong and mewing, these kittens were already dry and suckling. They had probably been born less than an hour before.

Hoss and family was moved from our bed to the bed in the room of #1 son, who’s conveniently at college. (I’ve also been using this as my home office.) She stretched out on the nest we made on the bed and showed off her creation. I’m a little reluctant to report it appears that Light Knight, her son, is likely the father of these newborns. The resemblance is uncanny!

hoss.family Good morning from the Hoss family. All are doing well after their first night in #1 son’s bedroom. (Won’t he be surprised when we arrives home this weekend!) As I think back to one year ago, we had 26 baby chicks in the basement. Perhaps I am a redneck, but I prefer to think of myself as an animal lover. Don’t judge me. And yes, Lee was right.

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New beginnings

The words, “New Year’s Resolution,” seem to either hope, loss, ambivalence…or a blend of all three. I confess to being one of “those people” who actually enjoy reflecting on what I need to improve, what I enjoy and look forward to the challenge that the simple turning of a calendar page brings.

Inspiring quote by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Isn’t it great to have a fresh start, a do-over or just a simple re-centering on life? These “resolutions” give me permission to try new things, let go of the negative, toxic actions and habits that interfere with life, and truly lighten my spirit. Every day is a chance to do something different than yesterday. And yet those words can also create pressure to succeed and then cause depression when we don’t achieve all that we promised.

The January/February 2013 issue of “Whole Living”  mentioned Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, a book by British psycho-analyist, Adam Phillips. The topic is focused on our “so-called mental life where we dwell on missed opportunities and spend time fantasizing about what we don’t have, but wish that we did.” “In our unlived lives,” he writes, “we are always more satisfied, far less frustrated versions of ourselves.” “…to yearn for the unlived life is to sabotage the one we have.”

In making a resolution, am I then setting myself for failure? In my yearning for possibilities and quest for experiences, am I missing fulfillment in this version of myself?

So what promises did I make for 2014?  See if you can figure out from my actions. After all, actions speak louder than words.

(More background on the book can be found here on Goodreads. PS… I LOVE Goodreads! It is a magical tool that helps me track my ever-expanding reading list and connect with what my friends  are reading. You can find me by searching me out with my real name! )

Image source: http://homegrownhospitality.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834518f7769e2017ee528980e970d-popup

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There’s always a first

I’ve been watching friends post pictures of their kids returning to school and lamenting how fast time has gone by as “Princess” starts second grade while another loads her oldest child on the bus for the first time. And I’m dealing with my own time machine.

#1 son is piling Pimp Daddy in preparation for tomorrow’s move to Iowa State University.  (BTW – Pimp Daddy is our affectionate name for the 2003 Ford Focus he drives.)

#2 son is filling his last day of summer freedom working. What a rude awakening it will be when his alarm rings at 7 a.m. tomorrow to signal the start of his sophomore year.

This year brings some significant milestones for our family. In October, #1 son turns that magical age of 21. On Sept. 5,  #2 son earns that golden ticket to freedom known as the driver’s license.  Definitely firsts…and definitely life-changing for all of us.

How is it possible to feel like I haven’t aged yet at the same time I feel the weight of worldly wisdom and experiences I’ve accrued these past 21 years of being a parent?

I smile as I remember the emotions of those early milestones – preschool graduation, lost teeth, school bus rides, overnight with friends. And I work hard to smile (and not cry) at these new adventures – sending a kid off to college,  meeting roommates, driving alone. We’ve had 20 years of  teaching, guiding and enjoying these boys and it’s time to watch them continue to grow and learn.

I am so very proud of the resilience, kindness, humor, spirit they possess…the people they have become. And, I look forward to continuing this journey as their mom. WOW…hang on for the ride!

 

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