3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

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The importance of friendships in an empty nest

 

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Back in the busy days of parenting with the gang.

I had a great day yesterday with two of my former elementary and middle school mom chums. I hadn’t seen one of these friends for we figured out—12 years! Where did those years go? They went to busy, busy days of parenting with our kids going on separate journeys and different schools.

One thing all three of us decided at lunch, at Spencer’s one of my all-time favorites, was that we have to get together more often.

How often do you say that to people and it doesn’t happen? Well, all three of us are empty nesters, and we’ve managed to stay busy—but it’s different. I miss the interaction with my friends who were the moms of classmates or swim mates. While you’re in the thick of parenting years, you have all the interaction with other adults every single day. You don’t think about it or that one day it’s just you and your husband staring at each other!

Seriously, sometimes I feel that doing what I always wanted to have the time to do—write uninterrupted every single day—can feel like solitary confinement. I’m not a terribly social person, but without the chats on the playground, play dates in the park, or sitting with fellow swim parents at meets and practice—it’s a quiet life.

So, in addition to swimming Masters with my swim friends, I’ve made a pledge to not let my older friendships slip by. I’m glad my friends agree and we’re going to actively work to get together more often.

And I’ll treasure the time my husband and I have together and to go on new adventures together—as well as the ability to write without interruptions from the kids. It’s a good life, after all—but friends make it even better.

 

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More adventures to come….

What do you do to make sure you stay in touch with friends?

 

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Here’s a story I wrote after moving our daughter out of the house into her college dorm. As she begins her senior of college, I enjoyed re-reading my thoughts about the empty nest.

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Nostalgia for the iPod nano—and the kids

 

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A view from our seven-mile hike.

 

I’m feeling nostalgic today. Maybe it’s because I cleaned out my son’s desk drawer or maybe it’s because he spent a few days with us this past week. We enjoyed talking about years gone by, memories of his childhood and listening to music together. We even took a seven-mile hike and camped overnight in the nearby mountains.

Back to today, I decided to clean out his desk and I found his high school IDs, ACT and SAT reports and the most important electronic device in his life—an iPod nano, circa 2005. He would have been in middle school at the time. His nano opened his world to music and he was the envy of many of his school friends and swim mates for a few months—until everyone had one. I remember years with his nano with him at all times.

I searched through other drawers to find a charger that had a really, really wide base. I don’t remember the chargers being that wide, do you?

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My son’s 1st generation iPod. It was engraved on the back with his name and “I think therefore iPod.”

 

I found one in my daughter’s desk—next to one of her formerly prized possessions, a Pantech slide phone. How tricky was that? How on earth did she text on it? I never got the hang of it. She loved the phone because it came with a big sliding screen—and a camera.

I charged up the nano and listened to a few of my son’s songs. Then I tried to charge the old phone of my daughter’s. I wanted to take a peek at the photos she took on her first phone with a camera. I texted my son that I had found his iPod nano and I was going to mail it to him. He surprised me with a “please don’t.” I guess I’m the one feeling nostalgic, he’s over it.

I found an article about the history of the iPod. Here’s the section about the 1st generation iPod nano by Jacob Kastrenakes in “The iPod nano had a weird, amazing history.”

Like the iPod Classic three years before it, the iPod nano’s death today was a long time coming. But years ago, before the product stalled out, lost its identity, and was made wholly unnecessary by the iPhone, it featured some of Apple’s finest design and arguably represented the iPod at its peak — tiny, fun, and focused.

1ST GENERATION, 2005
My favorite iPod nano iteration has always been the very first one (seen above). It came in black and white with a silver back, like a shrunken-down version of the classic iPod, and it felt immediately retro. It wasn’t throwing back to anything — just the iPod released a year earlier. But it was as though the nano had leapt so far ahead as to make the traditional iPod feel like a thing of the past, like the nano was a modern riff on technology we used to use and love.

What were your favorite devices 10 to 15 years ago? Did you have an iPod too?

 

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Hiking.

 

Farewell Old Car, Your Time Has Come

kat swimmers

Memories of days filled with laughter.

The final straw was a couple weeks ago when I woke up in the morning to a flat tire. I called Triple A and had them put on the spare. I was driving the puppy to a vet appointment and then to the gas station to get my flat tire fixed, when the tire fell off the car and flew across the road, dodging two oncoming cars and landing in an unsuspecting yard.

I freaked out to a grinding and dramatic crashing noise. I was stranded on the side of the road with a three-month-old pug. I shook as I assessed my predicament and wondered what to do first. Waffles the pug snored in his carrier, oblivious to the freak accident and my stress.

That was the final straw. There have been a few others, like my husband being stuck on the 91 freeway, right before the 241 toll road, when the car broke down. Triple A had a tough time sending out a tow truck, because drivers refused due to the recent death of a tow truck driver in the same spot.

In the later years of owning a car, sometimes it’s tough to make the call when enough is enough. Car buying is almost as painful as anything and expensive, so it’s easy to put it off for a few years.

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Laguna Beach with kids and dog.

Especially with this car. There were so many memories with the beastly Sequoia. Hauling pop-up tents and kids to meets stand out the most. We could put six kids comfortably in our car and often did.  Summer vacation with the car packed to the hilt, complete with 108-pound Angus, our faithful yellow lab (RIP), camping trips, driving a carful to the Getty for a Latin field trip—the list goes on and on.

We have no need for an eight seater. We aren’t hauling pop up tents or children to meets. We’re now in the phase of life where a two-door would be fine. But it’s like closing the door on one part of our lives. When we finally say goodbye to this old car, it’s like we’re saying goodbye to days filled with so much fun and laughter.

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Carpinteria camping trip with Angus.

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This old car is filled with memories.

Is Losing Control the Same as Letting Go?

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Swim buddies.

As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked them. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and what books to read.

They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into the classic musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to share that part of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised while visiting us when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.

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Back when I got to pick out the movies.

Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that aren’t exactly the same as mine. For example, I want to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I send him job openings in the Bay area, where he’s currently living. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)

Does he listen? He’s polite. Every time I text an employment opportunity, he thanks me and says, “that’s a good idea.” Then he goes and applies to one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores are 2 in math and 7 in English. He decides to teach instead of what I want him to do—and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thinks it will be a challenge.

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High school graduation speech.

I can’t stop him. He’ll have to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So, I guess I need to learn to let go since I’ve lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

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The gang.

“You’re Only as Happy as Your Least Happiest Child”

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

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The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

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Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

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Olive the cat.