Almost Empty Nest, Kids Coming Home,& All of That

My friend,2016 beach mike and amy Shelley, a roommate from college (go Gators and all that) asked me about empty nest and what works. We still have Andy for another year so we are not empty nest folks just yet . . . but we’re really close. Andy is independent and mostly self-sufficient.  The “bigs” have now been gone for a bit.  I speak with little authority but, I have to say the things we’ve done give me hope for our future together. ALONE. NO KIDS. JUST US.

  • Make friends! Be the brave one who invites relative strangers for dinner! I started doing this about three years ago – actually, I’ve kind of always done it but not for the same reasons. Trust me, no one cares if your house is perfect. As far as I can tell, a clean bathroom and clean dishes are all anyone cares about. I’ve been kind of insane lately. If we meet people close to our age/kids’ ages, I have a dinner party. Yes, it does make your stomach churn. But . . . Mike and I have met some great people and the things we have in common have nothing to do with our kids!
    • I find this kind of thing really hard. But, for years and years and years, I’ve kept my friend Julie’s “slogan” in mind.  “I’m not much but I’m all I think about.” If someone rejects your invite, it probably isn’t personal. Move on. Invite them one or two more times and then let it go.
    • Hard as it can be, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. We’ve slowly built a group of people that we really like to spend time with and they seem to feel the same way.
  • For me, the biggest challenge after being home for so many years is figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I was home, I was homeschooling, I was not lounging on the couch eating bon-bons. Still, if you want to re-enter the regular work force, a 25 year gap in employment is not a big highlight. I worked before the internet was an actual thing! I’ve opted to go self-employed with painting and refinishing furniture & cabinets. I’m good at it and it’s what I’ve been doing all of these years!
  • Get to know your significant other again. For so many years Mike and I have been “the parents”. That’s how we’ve related to each other and now *poof* no kids! We’re finding ways to spend time together and apart. Dinner? Together. We even go out now and then on our own and we have not done that since we were dating! Evenings? I like to work on my projects and listen to an audiobook. Mike likes to veg in front of the tv and watch five shows at once. I’m not hurting him and he’s not hurting me. On the weekends we usually find something we can do together – a garden nursery, a flea market, Harbor Freight or (if I really want to push it) a thrift store.
  • It’s a process. Andy is still home but Mike and I both recognize the need to get back to why we are together in the first place. Without four kids in the back seats demanding whatever it is, we are slowly coming to the realization that we actually like each other. Maybe that sounds awful or maybe it sounds familiar.
  • Recognize that with each kid leaving home things get easier AND harder. I can’t tell you what happens when the last one leaves but . . . We have both been trying hard to stay open to new possibilities and look ahead to what our future holds rather than the life we used to have. I don’t see any reason you can’t love both sides of your life. (You know, unless you catch me on a bad day and I can moan and groan about everything.)
  • Just like your kid have to learn how to be grown ups and “do” college or jobs. We (parents) have to learn how to be couples again. We didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight (to paraphrase FlyLady).

I dunno . . . it’s hard when the kids start moving out. (See tomorrow’s post) At the same time, it’s freeing and it can be fun. BUT, it’s not like “back in the day.” You have to work a bit to get the fun back. My experience? Once you start trying to have fun, you have fun.

I hope this reassures or helps someone. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Quick! Flip me a fish.

ladder view

I managed to finish painting the shutters today! Lots of climbing up, climbing down to move the ladder (Mike and Andy did this for me),  climb up again! It’s hard work, people! This is my view as I was coming down the ladder after the last one was finished. Believe it or not, despite the ominous clouds, it never actually stormed here.

shuttersThis was taken a few weeks ago – when I finished the front. Today I finished the back – just didn’t take a picture. Used to be red, now the shutters are black. I think I’m the only one that notices but that’s okay. It makes me happy – and, likely, very sore tomorrow.

Mid-July???? Seriously???

nd2I give up. Time just speeds by. I feel like I’m busy. In fact, I am busy. But when I look at the calendar it’s obvious that I have been sitting on my thumbs for about two years.  Wasn’t I just in Paris?

We’re on a rowing break which is kind of awesome. Andy is doing some kind of strength/conditioning camp thing two days a week. Compared to three hours a day six days a week, that’s a cake walk. He continues to search for a summer job – so many places only hire people 18 and older. In the meantime, he’s been picking up odd jobs when he can.

With the rowing break, I thought things would slow down a bit. When it was still relatively cool, I started painting the shutters on the house. I WILL finish them tomorrow. I don’t mind climbing the mountainous ladder – I just mind the news people tell me it’s going to feel like 105 when I’m up there. Who does that help? No one.

Before I could finish the shutters, we ran into lots of rowing. Then . . . who knew? We became party people. Graduations, birthdays, it’s Saturday – all kinds of parties. Up front, it’s kind of fun to finally be in the “cool” group. Only took me 52 years and what’s cool has changed quite a bit over the years. Anyway – we’ve been eating and drinking our way through Orlando and we’re going to continue for the next week or two.

I’m mostly excited that Danny will be coming home on Thursday. He’s only been to this house once before. Weird, huh? I got to see him back in December but Mike and the brothers have not seen him for over a year. I’m so, so, so, thrilled to have all six of us together. We’re all pretty excited. Since he’s missed the past two Thanksgivings with us, we’re hosting a Thanksgiving-in-July cookout.  My sister is even coming with 2/3 of her kids!  (If you have food ideas, please share in the comments!!!) I think we’ll have between 25-35 people. If I haven’t officially invited you and you’re in Orlando – you’re invited July 15 around 4:30.

finallogo jpgIn other news, I’ve started a new side business – Overalls Overhauls. I have spent so much time over the past (yikes!) 25 or so years redoing furniture, and I LOVE  doing it, that I thought I might as well start selling the stuff instead of cramming my own house full of “just one more adorable” whatever.  To my Facebook friends, I apologize. So much of this is a GIANT learning curve for me. I’m getting it now and soon I should have my personal and my business pages working independently.  If you’re on Instagram, I will apologize in advance – that’s next week’s project.

Hope all is well in your worlds.

 

I always want to be surprised!

(Warning: This is long and probably boring if you’re not me. But, I don’t want to forget this weekend.)2017 varsity 8.png

Spent this past Thursday through Sunday in Sarasota for the Youth National Rowing Championships. Andy was not rowing – he was an alternate. He wasn’t thrilled. Mike and I were iffy about spending the money and going to Sarasota. Weather was predicted to be bad. There have been a lot of “growing pains” friction among board members and active volunteers lately. (When Andy joined, the team was struggling with the jump from 40 to 80 rowers.  Today, we have over 160 rowers! Change is painful.)

I drove to Sarasota on Thursday morning to drop kids off for their 10 am check in and practice. I was kind of dreading a weekend of trying not to say the wrong thing and avoiding conflict and just making the best of things. Nationals is a weird race – we have no food trailer, no real responsibilities as parents other than to chaperone and drive the kids. I was doing neither.

I spent Thursday exploring Sarasota  and Sarasota. We go to Sarasota a lot but usually just hotel, race course and maybe a restaurant.  Thursday, I got a great haircut. Visited about 8 thrift/vintage stores. And managed an hour at the beach before heading to the hotel. Hotel was lovely – we try to support people who are working to restore/revive the older hotels in Sarasota. We had one we really liked but they are doing so well we can no longer afford them!  This time we opted for the Lantern Inn and Suites.  Our room was great and totally updated.

I was on my own Thursday so I picked up a sub for dinner and checked in. I had a few writing jobs to work on so I settled in.  Okay, I took a two hour nap first.  Then I messed around with the cable (we don’t have cable at home) and discovered a Harry Potter marathon. Seriously? It was the best day ever!  Did my articles and everyone was happy.

Friday, I headed to the race course but no rush – my kid wasn’t racing.  Our team had a rough time trial period and there were LOTS of unhappy kids, parents and coaches. I gave Andy a hug, went to Walmart and bought a cheap bathing suit (Mike had the beach bag) and went to the beach alone. I ate hot dogs (2) with excellent sauerkraut and some nachos and just people watched.  Me at the beach without a book? Never happens. But it did and I had the best time.

Mike arrived and we went for dinner with friends we have been volunteering with for years. We’ve always had fun working with these folks but . . . when no one has any responsibilities?  None of us was dragging a trailer. No one had their dog(s) and no one had extra kids. SO MUCH more fun. We went to a restaurant that was new to all of us. Delicious and really good service. Mostly, though, we laughed and laughed and there was no dread about having to be up at 5 to get the food tent set up.

Saturday, we headed early to the race venue. Weather was iffy. About half way through the weather turned. High winds, lightning and no more rowing. We ended up trapped with the boys team and a handful of chaperones and random parents. We were all soaked, the kids were rowdy and funny and we made the best of it. A dad I have only talked to a few times but who Mike knows stopped by to invite everyone (adults) to a local micro-brewery that evening.  Mike and I have been there before – you can’t go wrong with a place that has rock-em-sock-em robots on every inside table, a grilled cheese truck out front (seriously – lobster/grilled cheese?) and horseshoes and bocce ball in the back patio area?

This guy is my hero. He spent Friday and Saturday walking around the whole venue inviting anyone in orange and blue to come to JDubs Brewery. And, they came. There were about 60 OARS people who showed up. Many had never met. This is a lot of people as we were only traveling with four boats (about 40 kids).  So awesome! Multiple people offered to split the tab with this dad and he just kept saying, “This is great. I’m happy to pick up the tab.”

I don’t think the tab was a big deal for him but he was so right. It was awesome. So many people talking and so many people rethinking and so many people getting along. I think this generous dad put our club ahead about five years. For the price of a few (okay – probably more than a few) beers and some grilled cheese!  Sunday morning – there were all kinds of new friendships and the tension from the past few months was gone!

I don’t even know how to explain it – that simple invitation (the man was running around inviting complete strangers) changed the climate of our team!  As far as the kids’ races went? It was not a great year for us but . . . it’s crazy to complain when your boats end up in the top ten in the country.  The really great thing – the parents were all sane about it. It was just a wonderful, low stress, friendly ending to a well-run event.  People who wouldn’t share the same sidewalk on Thursday were having civil conversations on Sunday.

Thank you Mr. M!

reid and andy regionals 2017‘Thank you Andy for accepting your role as an alternate (Reid, too).  You guys were awesome doing whatever was asked and keeping the coaches on track.  And, you totally looked like assistant coaches!

 

 

How many to change a light bulb?

ian bing andy june 2017Fun? Ian showed up out-of-the-blue on Wednesday to take me out for a birthday dinner (a week early as he’s going to Nashville to look for a new home next week).  How sweet is that? It was just me and Ian! Mike had a meeting and Andy was at practice. We had so much fun wandering around downtown Winter Garden.   I love when I get time alone with one of my boys. It’s easy to forget how funny and unique they are.  Ian refuses to move back home but it was nice to get a night with him.  Isn’t this just the best picture ever?

While we were on our way home we got a funny text from my mom. A light bulb went out in her kitchen. The kitchen has really high ceilings.  She bought one of those sticks and got the old bulb out. The new one was NOT going in. My mom didn’t know Ian was in town so I thought it would be fun to surprise her. We stopped at the house and grabbed Andy (who was home from practice) and went to Bing’s to change a light bulb. Good thing she had wine. I dunno – it might not translate but it was an adventure.  Bing’s kitchen is now astoundingly bright.

It’s been a while  . . . we just haven’t been too interesting lately. Well, I haven’t been too interesting. I finally caught a break. Andy had to be in Sarasota at 10 am this morning for Nationals. He’s an alternate. He’s not thrilled but he recognizes that he has to be here. Just. In. Case. That left me on my own all day in Sarasota and now on my own in a hotel. Mike comes tomorrow. I figured I’d take advantage of the down time and catch things  up.

oo patchwork armoire drawerI’ve started a new website Overalls Overhauls. I love working on furniture and helping people figure out their houses. I love writing too. But, when it comes to earning money … I am hoping this is a way to combine the two. It’s a steep learning curve so just bear with me (or ignore me). Any way, I’ll keep this blog up and the other one separate. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to ignore the new site if it doesn’t interest you.

 

 

On Becoming “That” Parent …

reid and andy regionals 2017Four kids. Three grown(ish). Through it all, I’ve prided myself on not becoming “that” parent. The parent that makes excuses for their kids. The parent that takes their kid’s successes and failures too seriously. You know – the “high-road” parent? This weekend, at least in my head, I became “that” parent.

Andy’s rowing team went to Regionals. I did not even anticipate Andy going to regionals this year so had not planned to attend. However, when the coaches put him in a pair (2 man boat) he was excited and their times were good. I booked a room and headed to Lake Lanier, GA. First day was time trials and they took third. I was so nervous and excited for Sunday’s finals.

Never mind that our team mainly rows 8-man boats year-round. The boys had a week and a half to practice in a two. They finished fourth. Fourth in the entire Southeast. A normal parent would have been thrilled, even if she knew the boys in the boat would be disappointed. Me? Nope. I finally snapped. I’ve never been so sad at the result of anything any of my boys have done. Part of my brain knew I was crazy but, the other part was insanely disappointed, sad and kind of angry.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the sane part of my brain for taking charge. I really only lost it internally and only for a few minutes. But, as the Talking Heads famously asked, “Well, how did I get here?”

I think if you have a kid that starts out strong and does exceedingly well in a sport it’s hard when they change categories – Andy went from lightweight to the big time this year. But, the thing is, that’s HIS fight. Not mine. My fight is to feed him, make sure school’s a priority and to nag him about brushing his teeth. His accomplishments (or lack thereof) are not about me. I know this. I’ve always known this. Funny how I forgot so late in this “race” called parenthood.

I’m back to sane again thanks to a long drive home fueled by caramel M&Ms and a great audio edition of Anna Karenina. Funny how a “hard” book forces you to focus and move on.

No point to this. Just sharing. No matter how sane you are and no matter how long you stay sane, you’re always vulnerable. Take it from me, you don’t want to be “that” parent. I’m just grateful that my experience happened entirely inside my head. 😉

All or nothing!

10898The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. A rowing state championship followed the next weekend by a college graduation!

This weekend? Mike was able to get away early and we drove up to Tallahassee to celebrate Ian’s graduation from Florida State University. Mike and I are Gators through-and-through but, we once again (Danny also graduated from FSU) sucked it up and left our blue/orange clothing at home. Ian was working Friday night so we planned to check into our hotel and head over to his restaurant (Bonefish Grill) to visit and let him serve us dinner.

So . . . we checked into our hotel. First, it’s my own fault. I should have booked a hotel back in January. But, back then, Ian was waffling about whether he wanted to participate in the ceremony. When I went to book a hotel a week ago, everything was booked or $400/night. In Tallahassee people. NO. WAY. I found a room for $250/night. I knew the location of the hotel and we fully expected to spend the night in a 70’s time capsule. What we did not expect was to be given the keys to hell. Seriously. We are not terribly demanding. We walked into the room. Looked around. Cracked open a beer from our quick gas station stop. Mike rarely gets mad. After 27 years of marriage I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve seen him really angry. I’m running out of fingers. Insanity. After a lot of back and forth, the manager suddenly found us a perfectly lovely room with a king-sized bed, a real bathroom  and everything else. If you’re planning on going to Tallahassee anytime soon, let me know, I’ll tell you what hotel to skip.  Gah!

During the great room debate, we were texting with Ian – who had graciously made reservations for us – to keep backing up our reservations. No small feat on a graduation weekend! When we got to the restaurant, Ian’s co-workers were waiting for us. We had a wonderful dinner and even had a chance to talk to Ian. As Ian was not closing the restaurant that night, we decided to find a cozy pub and meet him after work. Oh my. The fact that people keep letting us wander unsupervised is so wrong.

I looked on my phone and found what looked to be a charming Irish pub close to Ian’s restaurant. We found the place and were busy talking as we walked in, not paying too much attention. We sat, ordered drinks and kept talking. Once settled we started looking around. Mike pointed out a woman in a sequined dress saying how rare it is to see a woman well over six feet tall. Yep. That woman was a man. The Irish pub is now something else. I’m not sure what exactly it is but, everyone was having fun, including us. When Ian finally turned up, he was hysterical. “Do you even know where you are?” he demanded? I don’t know about you, but I hate to disappoint my children.  And, if I’m going to freak them out, I like to do it in a big way.

This morning, we picked Ian up (woke Ian up) at 7 am. We found a good parking spot and I was thrilled when we saw Ian’s old roommate, Alex, coming to join us. We dropped Ian off and went on a hike in search of coffee. The ceremony was long but fun. So many happy people in one space. I knew Ian’s grades were good but, I was so thrilled to see him come up to the stage with his Summa Cum Laude “decorations” on his robe. In his entire college career, I think he had one ‘B.’ We’re so very proud of him.

After the ceremony, we went for lunch (well, mostly caffeine but food was involved as well). Afterwards, Ian took us on a tour of the college radio station where he has been a DJ for the past couple of years. So fun. I could have stayed there all day reading the posters and graffiti from the past three decades – the walls are completely covered.

I’m proud of Ian but his graduation is yet another reminder that my kids are grown ups (mostly) and part of me would love to go back to when they were 8. But not really. Mostly, I’m looking forward to what the next chapter of Ian’s life will bring – I know it’s going to be amazing!

The last weekend of April involved a trip to Sarasota with OARS for the FSRA State Championship. It was, as always, an exciting and exhausting weekend. Mike and I help with the “food team” and keeping 150 kids fed and hydrated for two full days on a shade-less race site is no small feat!

In an effort to save some cash, Mike and I split an Airbnb apartment with our most excellent friends, AJ and Maria. Thus far, my Airbnb experiences have been very positive. Last weekend? Not so much. Fortunately, the reason we get along so well with AJ and Maria is the fact that they have great senses of humor. We laughed until we cried and made the most of a very strange apartment. In addition, we each saved about $600 for the weekend. The a/c worked and the weekend will go down as a fun, memorable one!

Andy’s boat took second place. The boys on the boat were not at all pleased to take “first-place-loser” but, it was a hard-fought, exciting race. I’m proud of them.  Next weekend, the team heads to Georgia to race on the course that hosted the Atlanta Olympics – you know, in the last century? I’m still debating whether to go or not. Mike won’t be able to make it. I know Andy doesn’t care one way or another.

But, Andy’s days are numbered and I’m starting to get that feeling that I want to be there for all I can. Stay tuned . . . and if I do go, cross your fingers I pick a good hotel. 😉

 

Philosophizing . . .

99689970While I have absolutely NO desire to be 17-18 again. Part of me hopes that at least one of the young people in these pictures recognizes how fabulous they are and how big the possibilities available to them are. There is no going back. But, oh, how I wish I had appreciated who I was each and every year of my life rather than constantly looking ahead for what’s next. Yep. Bedtime for me. Still . . .

And the beat goes on . . .

Tonight Andy and his friend-that-is-a-girl are at the prom. It’s not at her high school and it’s not in our living room (aka homeschool prom). Instead, some fellow rowers issued the two of them invitations to the prom at their high school as it’s being held on one of the very few weekends there is not a race. Tim dropped by in time to go with Andy to take pictures, pre-prom. The other young man is Andy’s official “date.” But, let’s face it, they’re all accessories to the friend-that-is-a-girl. You can’t tell from the pictures but her earrings are butterfly wings that match the dress! (I’m sure the wings were donated and no actual butterflies were harmed in the making of the earrings.)

In other news, we were happy to see Ian Thursday night. He stayed here before catching a flight to Minneapolis. He’ll be back again Sunday night. Sounds like he’s having fun so far. Don’t know if he’ll end up there. I don’t know if he appreciates what living in such a cold climate entails . . . like shoes on a regular basis.

20170409_135535While I was (ahem) in Paris, Mike did the kitchen counters with concrete. The counters are awesome. However, they looked awful with the gray of the cabinets. Now our kitchen looks like this.  The backsplash is pallets – easy enough to change when we get tired of them and can afford what I really like. 😉

Other things I have neglected to blog about . . .

  • 20170401_123224Mike’s parents came down to see one of Andy’s races. They didn’t realize they had signed up for hard labor. They helped us with food for the race and to get ready for a party after the race. It all worked out. Andy’s boat won by a huge margin – which is especially fun for people watching who have never been to a regatta.  The party was equally fun. We are so lucky to know such a great (sometimes weird) mix of people! There was food, a birthday celebration, more food and occasional bursts of singing. Andy’s friends made clean up easy – there was NOTHING left over. (Andy is second from the right in this picture.)

 

  • We celebrated our one year anniversary in this house. Believe it or not, Mike found NEW garden sculptures just last week. I think that puts us up to about 25 hidden gnomes, creepy children and a barn yard full of “found” statues. The newest ones include a terrifying duck with dead, glass eyes and a dragonfly thing whose wings flap in the wind and make a creepy sucking sound. (Notice how Mike is wearing his falcon gloves to handle them.) 20170422_153047 My mom insists that the neighbors are sneaking in at night to hide them in the yard to scare us away. Not going to happen. Sure we’re scared but we’re not leaving.
  • And, finally, just because it was SO hard to find a suit to fit Andy – a picture of him all gussied up. This picture represents hours and hours of work culminating in me pitching a small fit that he put on the jacket AND shoes AND socks so I could take a picture. I don’t care if it IS 89 degrees. The smile is the result of Tim standing behind me as I  took the picture shouting “She is The Queen of the Harpies.” I relish the title.

 

 

Hope all is going well in your worlds. Next weekend we head to Sarasota for the state championships. I’ll try to take pictures. I’ll definitely collect stories.

Twin Milestones

242c2-imgp0190
2011 – Ian (L), Tim (M), Andy (R) – Interesting to note that Andy is taller than Tim now!

Okay, I googled for synonyms but “milestone” seems to be the word I want. The past couple of years have been kind of whirlwind – good and bad. So much has changed and so much keeps changing. Again, good and bad. Having grown up kids makes blogging harder. Their stories affect my life but they aren’t my stories to tell. And, so, I’m stuck, quite often lately, about what to blog about. As I’ve said before, I use this blog as a record of things in my life. If you have been along on this journey (since 2006!) THANKS.

Soooo . . . back to milestones. Ian will graduate from Florida State on May 6 with degrees in Literature and Economics. He’s busy researching cities he’d like to live and work in as a grown up. (Nashville, Minneapolis, Baltimore are on the list) This afternoon, I was in Target. I crossed paths with a woman who had a baby in the cart and who was shouting for her 3-year-old-ish son, Murphy, to get-back-here-this-instant. Flash back to when we first moved into our last house. Ian was four? He introduced himself to all the kids in the neighborhood as “Murphy.” For months, neighbors asked me if I was Murphy’s mom and I had no clue. Murphy is all grown up now and . . . milestone.

This morning, Andy and I helped Tim move into an apartment close to UCF. His own apartment. Well, his own apartment with his lovely friend-that-is-a-girl who I won’t name as I think we (as a family – okay, maybe just me – a friend recently informed me that I might be a bit intimidating – not true) still scare her a bit. Tim, after two years on his own, has been living here the past year. I love Tim. I think I will love him more now that I don’t have to worry about what time he’s coming home, waking up mad every morning at the coffee/breakfast mess and all the other stuff that pisses off parents of adult children living at home. So we moved Tim today. There were delays. I was grumpy about wasted time.  I moved on to the rest of my day feeling happy for Tim and for me.

I didn’t get home until after 7 pm. Like many of you, my first goal was to get out of my grown up clothes and put on something comfy and loose – for me, this is always my overalls. Before heading back downstairs, I stopped in Tim’s nearly empty room to assess the damage.  I was not prepared when I opened the closet and saw Tim’s two beyond-loved teddy bears flopped forlornly on the floor. Sucker punch! Tim and the bears ALWAYS stay together. I scooped up the bears and cried. Not a lot – I’m not a crier. But, wow. Tim is grown up too. I’ll keep the bears for the day when Tim has his own kids. But . . . the bears.  Milestone.

These are the things most on my mind. I won’t lie and say it all flashes by in a minute. It doesn’t – I think you feel every age in real time the entire time your kids are growing up. What I find scary/fascinating is how quickly the things that made you crazy cease to even be on your radar. For me, that’s why I love having this blog. I wish there had been internet sooner. It’s a way for me to keep track of things in real time and have access to my real-time thinking years later. It’s fun to look back at my worked-up self and try hard to remember WHY whatever it was was such a big deal.

My goal is to catch up on all that has been going on and to stay caught up over the next couple of weeks. Mostly for myself but you’re more than welcome to come along. 😉