Pre-Empty Nest Summers



It’s been exactly 4 full days that kid 1 and kid 2 have been gone and I’m starting to get ‘that feeling.’ I check my purse, my keys, my wallet and my phone at least 3 times before closing the front door. And once it’s locked, I check once more. I know everything is there. I know it is. But there’s that feeling I can’t shake for a few seconds and it doesn’t take me too long to realize it’s not ‘what I’m missing’ but ‘who.’

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled and excited that they get to go on these great trips. What an amazing experience it must be for them. Two years ago they traveled through Colombia. They hiked and rode horse back through some of the mountainous regions. They celebrated their dad’s marriage with old and new family. They had the privilege of spending time with their grandfather on what would be his final family vacation. Their memories made, and relationships that began there, have flourished. Including the relationship between the two of them. They got along well enough before the trip. They always have. I mean, the four year difference between them has caused some minor incidences. And there’s no doubt that the divorce, the cancer, the world has brought them closer together. But that year proved to be the one that brought them from the obligatory brother/sister relationship to one of being friends. Voluntarily. And despite their many, many, many arguments about whose turn it is to do the dishes, fold the clothes, throw out the garbage and who had the remote last, I don’t think I’ve ever heard them say they hate each other. That was the year he told her, “you’re the only person in this whole world I’m 100% related to.” It still makes me a little misty eyed when I think about it.

Last year, they had the privilege of touring some of Europe. Her dad kept his 16 year promise and was the first man to ever take her to Paris. They also strolled through the streets of London and witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (well, they waited to witness it but I don’t think it happened that day). They marveled at the ruins in Rome where the gladiators once fought to the death and ate more pasta than they care to recall. Last year is when the 4 year gap suddenly narrowed. They learned they liked the same movies, music, jokes. Their conversations became longer and private. That part has taken some getting used to. When she left for California in the fall, I went into her room to make sure she was awake and I found him curled up beside her. Her head buried in his shoulder. Needless to say, the 2 seconds it took for me to leave the room (for their privacy and because I was well on my way to the ugly cry) went by in super slow motion. I can’t remember if I was sad because they were going to miss each other, proud that they would miss each other or overwhelmed at witnessing just a small part of their bond. I didn’t know that I wanted that for them so much until I saw it.

This year their family trip finds them in Germany with Austria and Switzerland next to conquer in the weeks to follow. They update on facebook and send me private messages in my inbox. One complains that their dad is being cheap the other that their dad is being too protective. I smile. I know they only complain to me about him because they think it makes me feel better. Little do they know that I feel most comforted because he’s doing those things. Earlier this Spring, kid 2 said he didn’t want to go. He doesn’t like the long plane rides and he wanted to hang out with his new high-school friends this summer. Neither his dad or I were upset about his decision. But then kid 1 found out. That did not go well. Needless to say, after a 5 minute conversation, he was back on board. Best part of that convo… “what do you mean you don’t want to go? this is our only real time together without our ratchet friends getting in the way.”

I do love that they are spending this time together. Learning about the world outside of Chicago. Learning about the history of countries far older than our own. Learning how to be a family outside of the one I make up with them. Learning how to grow their friendship. I do love this time in their lives for them. But I miss them. Not just how a mom misses her kids. I like my kids. I like them a lot. They not only make me laugh and challenge me as a mom, they challenge me as a person. Even when they are the most confused or start to feel like life is pinning them against the wall… you know, the way life can do to us sometimes… they may cower for a minute or two. Maybe even make an unwise choice in the whirlwind of emotions that happen within the situation. But, when the dust clears, they’re they are… standing all tall, with a smile on their face and a smart-ass remark to boot. Survivors. Don’t tell them but I’m pretty sure they get equal parts from those of us who are only 50% related to them.

Which brings me to this pre-empty nest summer. You’d think it would get easier seeing as it’s my third one. Not that it’s tragic. I’m making do. You wouldn’t be reading this if they were here. But still, I don’t like it. I enjoy alone time. I’ll enjoy most of these next 9 days. Kind of. I have my new job and that’s good. But I don’t live to work. I went 12 years without a ‘real job’ and found more fulfillment and purpose in that mundane life of being a mom. At times, the noise drove me close to insanity. And now the silence does the same. There were times when our 2 floors of home with a double lot backyard felt too small for the four of us and the countless friends who roamed in and out. Now, our 1300 square foot condo with a deck can feel haunting. There was a time when I used to think about what it would be like when the kids were old enough to drive and do things on their own. I promise, it never looked like this. I have my moments of anger/regret/disappointment. I’ve learned to stop asking why. Although I do wonder, how did I get here? But then I take a deep breath, close my eyes and let myself see what I wanted. I give it a good 5-7 seconds before I remind myself it’s time to open my eyes and see what’s there. Once in a while, I close them again. Quickly. But most times, it’s just makes more sense to do what’s harder, so I keep them open.

There’s a tree just outside of my front door. This year, it didn’t bloom. At all. In it there’s a bird’s nest. The kids used to point it out every Spring. They didn’t need to though. It was hard to miss with all the bird tweeting coming from it. Obviously since there are no leaves on the tree, with the protection from the elements gone, there haven’t been any birds or eggs in the nest this year. For a few weeks I thought it was the saddest thing. But today I looked up and thought it was kinda cool that the tree is still standing. It appears to have no use anymore. But there it stands. Who knows for how much longer? The fact is, it’s still there. Even if it’s sole purpose is so that I can admire it just the way it is.





Working Out With A Cigarette

I hate running. I honestly, seriously, really do. Other than the apparel, I don’t feel good doing it and I hurt like a mofo after. The thing is, I’ve come to an age where I hurt even when I don’t work out. I have no idea what happens when I sleep at night but, lately, my morning now begins in shifts. First there’s the “why am I awake before the alarm clock” thing. Annoying. Then there’s the sitting up. Yep, no more is there the flinging of the blankets to the side as I simultaneously jump out of bed. Nope. Now I pull the blankets off, teeter to the right a bit, sit up, rub my arms, roll my neck back and forth  and then ease my way off the bed just slow enough to remind my legs “it’s time for work, lovies… time to hold me up.”

Because I am a logical person, I figure, if I’m gonna hurt anyway, it may as well be the good kinda hurt. So, I work out.  My goal is not to show-off or sport amazing abs or to reach a personal best. I do it, once again, because if I’m gonna be in pain, it may was well be the good kinda pain. That’s it.

I went running for an hour this morning. And by running, I mean I did this trot/speed walk thing for 20 minutes and then just opted to walk at a brisk pace. Anyway, about 2 minutes into my run, I noticed a heavy set woman walking toward me. She was wearing her pink workout gear, her Ipod was securely clipped to the strap of her sports bra and her hair was pulled back really tight. I can tell she was gonna own today’s workout. As I got closer, I noticed her arm go from her waist up toward her face. That’s when I realized she was smoking a cigarette. My first impulse was to laugh but I didn’t or at least I didn’t dare. But the older man sitting on the bench off to the side of us did. We passed each other just as quickly as it took for her to take a puff of her cig.

About 15 minutes later I saw her, again, a distance away but walking toward me. As we crossed each other’s path I noticed she had a fresh, unlit cigarette in one hand and a pink lighter in the other. She was sweating like crazy and she seemed to be focused on looking straight ahead. I smiled at her but her gaze was straight. From the looks if it, as far as she was concerned, no one was in that park but her at that moment.

20 or so minutes after that, as I contemplated whether I should slow my pace from brisk to a gangsta walk, I noticed her walking my way again. Her pace had slowed a bit and she was drenched in sweat. And, yeah, she still had what was once a perfectly smokable cigarette clenched in her fist.

I didn’t see her again after that. But she got me thinking. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t gonna stop smoking. At least, not today. But it didn’t look like she was gonna stop walking either. I mean, she had the workout outfit with matching sports bra. Obviously an investment had been made. To me and maybe to you, it doesn’t make sense. Who works out with a cigarette? Doesn’t she know how horrible those things are? Doesn’t she know how awful they smell? Doesn’t she know that the cost of a pack of them could put 2 gallons of gas in my car? Doesn’t she know that this workout thing she’s ventured into could go a little smoother if her lungs were a little clearer? I suspect she does know. But it’s her thing. It’s her “thorn”.

I wonder if sometimes we see the cigarette in people’s hands and get so focused on it that we don’t notice that they’re walking. She was walking! She was doing it! Yes, she had to take a puff before and probably during. At first. But then she decided not to light the next one. At least, not while she was walking. But she still had to hold on to it. I don’t know why. Maybe it was symbolic. Though not the healthiest reward, maybe she decided it would be her prize at the end of her work out. Maybe she just needed to hold onto it because it was something she knew. A constant. Healthy or not, it was her safety net. Or maybe she just forgot she was holding it. Who knows? I certainly do not. And what business is it of mine. She was walking! We crossed each other’s paths more than once and wouldn’t it have been a shame if all I ever noticed about her was the cigarette in her hand. Once I got past the cig, I saw someone working out… working ‘it’ out. All the while, with a cigarette in her hand.

I hope she keeps at it. And there’s a part of me that hopes she keeps at it with an unsmoked cigarette in one hand.

So It Begins…

After wracking my brain trying to figure out what I’d write my first official blog about, I decided I’d write about just how apprehensive I am about writing a blog.


There’s the pressure of finding a topic. What will I write about and how much should I write about, about the thing I’m going to write about? People’s attention spans are not all that long. What if they have a 2 paragraph/7 sentences-in-a-paragraph-maximum attention span? Let’s face it folks, I ramble. I could be 3 paragraphs deep in writing before I get to the topic, never mind, the point… assuming I have a point.


Is it necessary to have a point when writing a blog? I don’t want to be preachy. Ok, sometimes I will want to be. But mostly I just want to write stuff.


What stuff should I share? I don’t have a problem sharing stuff about me. Many of my friends have a problem that I don’t have a problem sharing stuff about me. I find that’s usually because they may be part of one of my life lessons/adventures. So what does that mean about the stuff I share? Should I use alias’s for my friends? Will they still be my friend if I don’t? Do I really care?


I do care what people think. Ok, not all people… but a lot. Ok, not a lot… but some. And what if someone doesn’t like what I write and decides to make a stupid or inappropriate comment? I work for news. Freedom of speech means something to me. But will it mean as much if someone’s freedom on my blog is working my nerves? I don’t like criticism but I’ll take it… I’ll take it to a whole new level is where I’ll take it. I’ll think about it most of the day and well into the night. I’ll have 8 million conversations with myself, God and the criticizer… all in my head. I will forgo nourishment and sleep pondering the critique and wondering how I could be such a loser for thinking I could do this. And then, after a couple of days, I’ll get over it. Just like that. So, I guess I just realized that my caring has as time limit. But the fact that I do take to heart what folks have to say about me, my thoughts and/or my writing should serve as warning to be gentle with me. Also, easy on the swears, people. This is intended to be a family show…  it’ll probably be appreciated more by a twisted-thinking family… but intended for all eyes to see, nonetheless.


Ok, by all eyes, I don’t mean all. You see, I kinda-sorta have a potty mouth which might leak into my typing. But I promise I will try my best not to put in print every inappropriate adjective that comes to mind. I just hope y’all can appreciate just how much more creative that means I will have to be.


I recognize that I am and that I can be better at it. I don’t really like that I’m not as creative/gifted in areas I would like to be. I love music but can’t really sing. I love great acting but, other than acting like a fool, I get nervous in front of crowds of people, so there goes that.  I enjoy looking at art but the last time I tried to draw a car my nephew thought it was a turtle pooping (for those of you keeping score… notice how I used the word ‘pooping’… be impressed). So, I’ve been told and I accept that I am creative at writing. So I will take this gift and run with it.


I have no idea if this will last more than a week or two but it seems like something that can be fun.  I’m all about having fun. I’m also all about working hard for something that I want. So I will do this, whether people read it or not, as long as it’s what I want to do and I’m having fun doing it. As soon as it becomes waaaaaay more work than fun, I’m out.


I’m serious. First blog completed. That’s it.