Empty Nester-ing 101

I don’t know when the first day of school is in our district this year. It’s not on my calendar nor my radar. When the school buses start to hold up traffic on Susquehanna Road at 7 am, that’s when I’ll know. Why? Because I’m an empty nester now. Jenna began her senior year of college a few weeks ago, and this weekend, we move Andrew into his dorm as he begins his college life.

YAY! It’s another life transition that I’m facing without a manual. While I am excited for them, I’m also sad this part of my life is over. Lately, depression has reared its ugly head and asked me questions like “Who am I without my kids?” and “What does my next chapter look like?” Answer: How the hell do I know?!

I’ve tried everything to tame the fear of the unknown, from retail therapy to real-life therapy, from journaling happy thoughts to crying in the car for no particular reason. Thanks to an amazing therapist and an incredibly supportive and loving husband, I’m learning it is okay to honor those low moments, but it’s also important to make plans, try new things, and stay busy.

In the coming months, I’ll have a lot to say about this empty nester business and how it’s going. For now, I’m staying positive and finding some silver linings. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. I don’t have to write my name, my husband’s name, our address, home phone number, cell phone numbers, work phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contact information on dozens of forms (times two kids).
  2. I’m not writing multiple checks for pretzel days, picture days, field trips, or the school directory. Although, the checks are for much larger expenses now.
  3. Back to School nights, parent-teacher conferences, swim meets, dance classes, and track practices no longer need to be meticulously entered into my calendar. Carpools don’t need to be pre-arranged, and I am no longer held hostage by the school calendar. I can take a vacation in the middle of the Fall – and we are planning to! And the phrase “It’s a school night” is no longer an issue.
  4. This winter, we will not be rudely awakened by the sound of the house phone and mobile phones alerting us to school delays or snow days. Of course, I also won’t hear the cheering coming from the kids’ bedrooms as they celebrate having the day off.
  5. My workday won’t be sidelined by requests to drop off forgotten homework, textbooks, laptops, lunches, gym clothes, or swim bags.
  6. I don’t have to worry whether it’s an A day, B day, or any kind of block day. Not that I ever understood that system.
  7. The attendance office will no longer stalk me for an excused absence card. Who will they go after now that their most delinquent parent has moved on?

This list is a good start, but as I focus on the silver linings, I can’t help but see the things I’m going to miss most, like seeing their smiling (okay, often groggy) faces when they come downstairs for breakfast. Or talking about what happened that day at the dinner table. Instead of saying good morning to them, I’ll send them a text. And, I’ll go to bed wondering what they are doing instead of knowing they are in their bedrooms safe and sound. And yes, there is always FaceTime, but it isn’t the same. And yes, my son is going to school less than an hour away, but it isn’t the same. And yes, my daughter could move back home for a while after graduation, but it isn’t the same. Nothing is the same.

Welcome to my world. This is how my thoughts have fluctuated from happy to sad for most of the summer leading up to move-in day. I know change is supposed to happen, which is a good thing. I’ll embrace it. I’m excited to see where life takes them next, and I’m here for them when they need me. And they will. In the meantime, stay tuned for what the future holds for me – my life without a manual.

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A Change of Scenery

I decided to take my own advice and enjoy a change of scenery while I write today’s blog post. On weekdays, my morning routine is to get up early, make a cup of coffee, solve the Wordle, open up my laptop, and write at my kitchen counter. The house is quiet, and I’m at my creative best at this time of day. On weekends, the kitchen is the absolute worst place to write. The phone rings endlessly, thanks to sales calls about our timeshare, recorded messages from elected officials, and prescription reminders from CVS. The only juices flowing in there is the one made from oranges.

I do have some other viable options of places to write on the weekends. I’ll sit on the couch by the bay window, which brings lots of sunlight. There is good pillow action there and no tv in the room. But, when I settled into the couch with my brand-new lap desk, I realized my laptop was too big for it. It slides off in this annoying way that is not conducive to the writing process.

My daughter’s bedroom is also available, and she has a door that closes. It’s an excellent alternative, except for our dog. Chloe will ultimately find me there and scratch incessantly at the door until I open it and pay attention to her.

So, this morning I found myself thinking: where else could I write?

And then, I remembered that we have a new library building that I don’t take advantage of often enough. It is air-conditioned, well-lit, quiet, and void of distractions, diversions, and dogs. I quickly packed up my bag with everything I thought I needed – my laptop, laptop charger, cell phone, cell phone charger, earbuds to listen to music, and the dongle to plug into my iPhone. I also brought a mask, a notebook, a pack of tissues, and a bottle of Gatorade.

I grabbed my keys, and away I went for an amazing afternoon of productive writing time! WOO-HOO!

As I unpacked, I patted myself on the back for putting this time to good use and carving out quality time for my craft. Why haven’t I done this before? This library is the perfect spot for writing. It’s not crowded. The Wi-Fi works and no password is required. There are plenty of nice spaces for me to choose from and settle in. If I want a study room, I can reserve it ahead of time. If not, I can plop myself down in a spacious cubicle and look out the window at the pretty trees surrounding the building. I happily set up my workspace and got busy.

It was then that I realized I had forgotten my purse. Inside my purse are a few other essentials I hadn’t considered bringing until I needed them the most.

  • Reading glasses to see the laptop screen clearly
  • A pen to write in my notebook
  • A library card because I should probably check out the book I want to read instead of buying it at the bookstore.
  • My driver’s license, money, credit cards, house key, etc.

Seriously?! What woman leaves their house without a purse. (I’m sure many women do, but I am not one of them). I could do without the library card. My husband is home, so I don’t need my house key. But, a pen and reading glasses are some necessities. It’s like going hiking and leaving my outdoor boots and water bottle home. I am not prepared!

But, it is so peaceful here that I decided to make the best of it. I have lots of laundry at home, and once I start on that, who knows if I’ll get anything written today. I’ll consider this library trip a dry run and not make the same mistakes twice.

P.S. If you see any typos in today’s post, now you know why. 🙂

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