Tag: empty nest

Why Resistance to Change is Futile

Warning: in this post you will see a TON of cliches thrown around. It’s because I’m trying to make a point about facing life changes. The Borg in me knows “Resistance is Futile,” but still I resist.

Change is inevitable. Change is constant.

Words slung around with verve.

How ironic. Change means “to make different from what would be if left alone,” and constant means “not changing or varying; uniform; regular; invariable.” Although in this case the third definition for constant is more fitting: “regularly recurrent; continual.”

In other words, things are always changing.

But we often resist change.


If we have to change, then we want to snap our fingers and be changed. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s a process. It’s a journey.
In fact, life is the progressive change of an infant through adulthood. If considered in that way, we wouldn’t want to remain an infant forever. Some people are stuck in such a state and they’re deemed disabled.
Meaning, if you can’t change then you’re hindered at living.
The process of living is the pathway of change. A baby learns to eat and walk. It grows and can soon run and talk. The first few years are filled with rapid growth and change.

And if that growth doesn’t occur, parents are quick to consult a specialist. They need to fix it. It would be horrible to get stuck in a formative stage.
But when an older person is faced with change, the tables turn.

“It’s always been this way.”
“It’s worked this way for years, so why change now.”
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Bring on the cliches. As many of them exist indicating humanity’s resistance to change as those encouraging growth.

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Peter M. Senge

Let’s analyze this saying in reference to Empty Nest Syndrome.

It isn’t that we don’t want our children to grow up into responsible adults that live on their own. It’s that we want to remain attached to them, an important part of their life.
We are still parents but our ROLE is being changed. And we don’t get to say how it will change. That’s up to our children.
Moving to an empty nest is one of the changes I faced in recent years. But it certainly wasn’t the hardest one.
It became easier to accept when I focused on what I was gaining rather than what I was losing. Sure, the kids were moving out and wouldn’t be around as much, relying on me as much. But that meant we had a guest room and I could redecorate it. It meant cooking less and less mess to clean up. Suddenly, I only had to consult one other person’s schedule before making plans.
Plenty of changes are forced on us. We lose a loved one, and you can bet we didn’t choose that. We know resistance is futile, but still we drag our feet about entering the valley of grief. We hold memories close, revel in the pity of loss.
And we can stay there a long time. It’s up to us to stop resisting, to get moving forward, to go through the process.

Remember, change is a process.

And, yes, I’m going somewhere with this post. In fact, writing and re-reading it was part of my process for evaluating 2017 and brainstorming words for my 2018 theme.

You’ll have to come back next year to see the end results.

What’s the biggest change you’ve faced? Did you resist it? Why or why not?

The fine art of double-standard

Hypocrite

High expectations rule in my world. But do I have the right to hold others to the standard? Especially since I so often fall short?

You know what I mean. We have ideals. Things are important to us – and other people should value them, too.

Or should they?

Rewind to my post about wedding traditions.

Was it okay for me to expect people to dress a certain way for the small ceremony? After all, I didn’t feel it was right for someone else to judge me based on what I was wearing.

This double-standard isn’t reserved for special events. We operate in its shadow every day.

A few examples

  • Conservation of natural resources is important – but I drive a gas-guzzling SUV
  • It’s unhealthy not to eat fruits or vegetables at every meal – and I have cheese and crackers
  • Communication is essential to any relationship – but when was the last time I really listened to my sons?
  • Surfing the net or checking Facebook while “on the clock” is the same as stealing from your boss, but I’m taking a break here in my home office

Why this bothers me

I believe in freedom of choice. For everyone. I also believe a true standard of right and wrong exists, and that we’ll all be held accountable for how well we matched it.

I’m not the judge of that standard, however.

Most days I can’t even reach the bottom of its loftiness while standing on tiptoes on the step ladder.

Why do I expect others to measure up?

Is it wrong to have a standard? Or does the problem come when I expect other people to conform to my wishes?

The truth

None of us can measure up to the standard. All of us will mess up at one point or another.

I guess we should give up – stop trying to be a better person. That will solve things.

Better yet, we should lower our standards. That way, everyone measures up.

We talk about acceptance, but we still believe our way is right. Is it wrong to have convictions?

What’s wrong is expecting everyone else to have the same standards we hold. Why should they be accountable for meeting them when we stumbled and fell on our face?

In truth, it’s time for people to do a mirror check. And I despise mirrors. I like to think I’m still young and thin. The mirror tells me otherwise.

It should be the same for our standards. Do we expect others to listen to us, but we don’t listen to them? Are we imposing our dress code and moral code on others?

Can you think of a particular time someone’s double-standard shocked, amazed or angered you?

Wishing for the Empty Nest

Empty nest sign

No matter how I say this, someone will interpret incorrectly (ie. So I look bad). I wish my nest was empty again.

I know, I’ve been so focused on other things this past year, I haven’t mentioned a topic that many of you began following me to read about. You know, life after your children leave.

Perhaps I haven’t been able to post on the subject because I haven’t been experiencing it.

Remember when I was sad about seeing my older son leave for college. Refresh your memory here.

And then my younger son went to college and for some reason things started getting romantic around the house again. Yep, that post is here.

What happened after that?

My oldest son graduated from college.

And moved back in with us.

Oldest Moves In

Rewind to June 2013. It’s a happy day. Our first born son completed four years of college and earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Software Engineering.

And moved in with us “just until I get a job.”

And proceeded to take the “summer off.” He flew to Vegas to visit a friend, traveled to Idaho to see he girlfriend and took multiple road trips to hang out with college buds.

And the months passed. He applied for a few jobs. Interviewed for even fewer.

Fast forward to January 2014 when he lands a job working for his dad’s former employer (a place he held a summer job several years ago). Hurray!

February he purchases a $20,000 car. He’s paying $1000 per month on his student loans.

When’s he going to move out? Shrug is the answer.

Oldest Moves Out

After two years of marketing it, time comes when our house sells.

“They sold the house out from under me.” Really?

“I wasn’t invited to live in the new house.” True, but we would have allowed it.

Still, isn’t a year of living rent-free (while being gainfully employed) enough time to build up a cushion so you can rent your own place?

That’s March 15, 2015.

New and Empty

Not empty nestOn April 3, we moved into our new home.

Brand. Spanking. New.

It was me, hubs and the two cats. And all the piles of boxes.

But, after a few weeks, things were mostly organized and in their proper places. The new office inspired words galore.

Hubs traveled to China. It was the truly empty nest of silent bliss.

Fast forward to May 2.

Our youngest son graduates from college with a Bachelor of Business Marketing degree.

Youngest Moves In

And moves in to the empty nest.

Suddenly, having college graduates for children doesn’t look so lovely, does it? I mean, that’s the common thread in the return to the empty nest.

Even if the youngest would have had a job, he wanted to live with us (“And get the same deal” his brother got).

Sure. Free is the best price.

He’s saving for a wedding, being married, and setting up an apartment. His reasoning is sound. Savvy even.

But it means my nest is no longer empty. My house has been invaded by people who wonder what’s for dinner. People who mess up my perfectly decorated guest room.

People who cook late night snacks and leave my kitchen looking worse than a plundering tornado would.

And here we are. Do I love my son and his fiancé? Sure. But there are a few things I’m not too thrilled about. Funny thing – the cause complained about the same thing a few months ago.

Come back next week to read more about Being the Thing you Despise in Others.

Graduation Blues

These blues have little to do with sitting on uncomfortable bleacher seats for two hours. I’ve never sat comfortably through a single graduation ceremony. I think a stiff backside is a requirement.

As usual, the robes were black, so no actual “blues” there.

Okay, the ticket was blue after all.
Okay, the ticket was blue after all.

Maybe it was just a rough day because the sun smiled on the ceremony and I was stuck in the covered grandstand.

Or it could have been the overcrowded seating area and being unable to sit with my husband. At least we had a seat, thanks to a kind gentleman who moved people aside to give us three seats together (even though there were four women needing them.)

In fact, the biggest blues factor could be the noise coming from the “guest” bedroom.

Our empty nest is no longer empty.

The positives

  • Graduation day was gorgeous.
  • Since he graduated from a Christian college, there was prayer, scripture reading and a Christ-centered focus throughout the speeches.
  • My son graduated cum laude AND he won award for the Outstanding Marketing student in the graduating class.
  • Delicious meal with family at Red Robin after the ceremony.
  • He finished. He has a lead on a job. He’s moving on to the next stage of life: adulthood. (He might not see that as a POSITIVE in a few years).
  • I am proud.
  • I’m not spending the week totally alone while my husband is traveling – again. (Would you like to hear more about this in a later post?)

The not-so-positives

  • He keeps talking to me when I’m trying to work.
  • He rolled his eyes when I asked him to clean the bathroom.
  • There are boxes scattered in the hallway and junk in the living room (by JUNK, I mean game systems and related wires, controllers, etc.)
  • I’m not totally alone in the house – meaning, I will have to cook. I can’t just enjoy easy meals. (See this post for details.)
  • The guest room is a cluttered mess. AND there is no longer room for a guest.

Let’s face it, the positives have everything to do with graduation and the “nots” are all about adjusting my schedule and home. You know, to adapt to having an adult child residing here again.

When have you experienced mixed feelings about a life event? Isn’t anything ever all positive?

My house is full and my stress runneth over

In the past, I’ve blogged about the empty nest syndrome. Many of my readers commiserated with the heart-wrenching transition to this phase. What about the refilled nest syndrome?

Yes, I just made that up. It could be the no more silence syndrome. Or the where did all my food go syndrome. Perhaps the overflowing laundry basket syndrome suits it even better.

No more silence

My favorite sound is silence. I know. I’m strange. Silence soaks into my soul and opens my mind to creativity.

Computer games, friends and girlfriends, movies until 2am – none of these promote peace and quiet. They can make falling to sleep difficult as well.

I especially loved hosting friends when the boys were younger. I loved knowing where they were and what they were doing. I enjoyed interacting with the people who filled the kids’ lives. I’m not saying that’s changed, but I’m older now.

When I’m tired, I lock myself away in my room with a book. Mostly because I want to wear PJs after 9pm. No one wants to see me in such attire.

I won’t even mention the brotherly arguments (they both can’t be RIGHT – but each of them is certain they are). I will say they’ve gotten less frequent.

I can only pray for an internship for my youngest. Then I’ll at least have the daytime to permeate myself with solitude and get my creative work accomplished.

Where did all the food go?

Men eat. All the time. It’s hard on the food budget and requires more menu planning on my part.

“There’s nothing to snack on” is the phrase I hear most often. My response, “Go buy something then.” Yeah, that goes over like a Nerf ball in a vacuum.

I am a leftover for lunch kind of gal. I was raised on leftovers and this was before the invention of microwaves (which make reheating so much simpler). I will cook extra so I can have lunch for the next day or two.

First off, the more you cook, the more these men think they need to eat. You make six pork chops for four people (there should be two left), and the bottomless pits absorb those extra two. “That was my lunch for tomorrow” does little to curb their appetites.

Secondly, those late night game and movie sessions work up an appetite. That extra plate of chicken and rice – ready for the microwave – passes for a midnight snack (in the absence of chips or crackers).

This one is irritating because I never discover it until I open the refrigerator at lunch time, dreaming of that plate of leftovers, salivating in anticipation. Where is it? There isn’t even an empty dish (until I check the boys’ rooms).

Overflowing laundry basket

It’s amazing how quickly I adapted to running two loads of laundry every Saturday. Yep, only two. Except when I changed the beds.

Four people translates into a minimum of six loads. Six loads that only I can move to the dryer and only I can fold. I’m not sure how this works. No one else hears the musical chimes signaling the end of the cycle, I suppose.

No, I haven’t folded their clothes for a decade or more. I put them back in the laundry basket and set them in their rooms. My oldest folds them and puts them away before he goes to bed that night. My youngest uses the basket as a dresser and his dirty clothes get piled on the floor beside it.

Needless to say, the door to his room remains closed.

And there’s more

I personally love the “Are you making us lunch?” query on Saturday afternoons. You can imagine the response when I answer with, “I thought you were making me lunch.”

My oldest son will take me to Taco Bell if he thinks I’m serious. The younger one looks at me like I’ve lost my mind and cooks something disgusting – Top Ramen noodles, for example – with a blithe offer to make me a package, too. Yeah, if I wanted to load up on fat and sodium.

I know this sounds like I’m complaining about having my boys living with me. I’m not. I love having them around, and I’m glad they feel comfortable enough to spend so much time with us.

They bring energy to the house. Translation: peace and quiet get exchanged for stress and activity.

For those of you on the other end, the kids moving home for a while, what’s your take on the situation? Parents, what other changes did I forget to mention?

When Chicks Fly from the Nest – Literally

Our world is shrinking. We’re part of a “global community.” But does that really mean we have to let our children fly thousands of miles away from us?

Today, my youngest son boards a plane with two stops before arriving in the Middle East for a three-week educational tour. I’m excited for him – thrilled that he’s enjoying opportunities I’ve never had in my own life.

This is the appropriate response from a mature and caring mother, right?

Before you stand in awe of my perceived awesomeness, let me tell you this isn’t my first experience with sending my son on an international trip.

Rewind eight years. The boy is not even 13 yet, but one of his friends went to Europe as a People-to-People ambassador and when he was nominated, he could focus on nothing else. He’d endured a few tough years with medical problems, and it warmed our hearts to see him lively again.

But 16 days in Japan? Really? This is what a mother must allow her baby boy to do in order to recharge his enthusiasm for life?

I’ve never been one of those mothers who hovers over her children. I had two boys. When they fell down and cried, I picked them up, checked out the injury and kissed it better. Never made a big deal.

The day my four-year-old baby boy plunged from our second floor window was a different story. Not a day I ever hope to relive. Recalling it makes me sympathize with parents who have seriously ill or injured young children. He fell. I could do nothing.

Back to Japan. My husband and I planned a trip during five days of my son’s international adventure. I figured distraction might help me cope with any separation anxiety.

We send him off with a wing and a prayer. News flash. Earthquake rocks Japan.

God has such an incredible sense of humor, doesn’t he? My son didn’t feel said earthquake but he did have to remain on his plane away from the terminal buildings for an hour or more. Safety first and all that.

After an earthquake, I figured nothing else could shake me.

Juniors at the college he attends are invited to travel internationally as soon as school ends for the year. It’s a huge deal. Sophomores set up tents in the quad to be first in line at the booths hosting the trip they want to take.

My son’s first choice: Israel and Jordan.

Excellent choice. I’m slightly jealous because I’ve always wanted to go to Israel. In fact, I could use the firsthand experience of the Holy Lands for the book I’m writing set in first century Palestine. What a great opportunity for him.

Mom, Israel and Jordan. You know, where SCUD missiles are fired with regularity and terrorist bombings are too commonplace to make the news.

Right. No worries. Remember the earthquake?

The truth I learned that summer day when this same son flew from the window and broke his leg remains unchanged:

I can’t protect my children. I believe in a God who can, so I entrust my precious sons into the omnipotent and omnipresent care of the Almighty.

In fact, I hope my youngest nestling brings back some pictures that will help me visualize the setting of the book I’m writing. He will come home – in one piece – with stories to last a lifetime.

What experiences have made you anxious? Any advice for alleviating that worry?

Family Movie Night

familymovienight.marquee

Friday night for years meant two things: pizza and movies. Before our sons had a social calendar rivaling Paris Hilton, we would rent two movies, pick up a pizza and chill out in the family room.

This was back when the movies came from Blockbuster. Conveniently, our movie rental store was located two doors down from the Papa Murphy’s. That’s what I call one-stop shopping.

Fresh popcorn and fresh-baked pizza both stimulate the same response for me. It must be time for a movie.

We would fill our paper plates with slices of gooey pizza and sit in front of the TV. During the intermission between films, popcorn aromatized the house.

Soon basketball games and theater productions honed in on movie night. It didn’t work as well on Saturday night. Never did figure out a concrete explanation for this.

Change is inevitable. Kids are supposed to mature and find interests outside of their family. Encouraging them to invite friends to hang out at our house kept me in the loop longer than many parents.

Once the kids moved out, my husband and I dropped back into this familiar pattern. We tried to make it a “date night” but after a long week of work, that seemed like too much effort. Our dates became Saturday afternoon affairs.

Friday movie night isn’t the same anyway. We vary the type of take-out food (Chinese, pizza, Subway) and the movies come in the mail from Netflix. It isn’t the same. Are two people a “family”?

What sort of family traditions did you miss as you grew older? Can you recommend any new “couple-centric” things to replace movie night?

Life is Like a Dining Room Table

Life - waiting to happen
Life – waiting to happen

I freely admit I’m no Forrest Gump, but I must say that dragging a solid oak table and ten chairs in and out of the house a few times makes me think. And once you get a writer thinking – look out – an analogy is on the way.

When reflecting on uses of this table, it occurred to me that our daily life and the seasons of our life can be seen in the variety known by our dining room tables.

Daily Life Reflections

Unlike many families in our eat-and-run culture, I ate dinner at the dining room (or kitchen) table. When we were kids, my sister and I also wolfed down our Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks at the kitchen table before walking to the bus stop.

A dining room table is a place for family togetherness. In our home, dinnertime serves as a moment for the four (or three or even two) of us to sit together and discuss daily events.

“How was your day?” The dining room table might reply, “I sat in a dark room staring out the front window. It was lonely until the cat came and scratched one of my chair legs and then curled up on a seat for a nap.” Have you had such a day?

“What did you learn at school today?” “What happened in your world today?” “Are we having chicken again?” It might not be a deep, philosophical exchange but it keeps us in touch with each other.

If you’re like my family, the dining room table is in the dining room and gets used for everything except mealtime. That’s a statement about our daily life, too. What we expect occasionally happens, but most of the time we live in the flux of the unexpected.

Our dining room table:

  • Collects an assortment of junk – mail, books, games and a quick look at my recent garage sale woes reminds you our life resembles this
  • Can be about fun and games – this is where the two, four or more of us gather with cards, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, etc. – life has some fun times, too
  • Invites friends and family to sit and stay awhile – have you ever noticed how everyone lingers even after the food is gone? Some moments of life should be savored
  • Can be covered or bare – some occasions merit a formal tablecloth, while others are happy to see the oak finish. Depending on where we are and who is around us, we might choose to cover our hurts or expose them

Seasonal Comparisons

Needing refinishing: When the boys were little, we had a booster chair that you hung off the side of the table. Needless to say, bowls, spoons and cups became drumsticks on the drum of the tabletop. It didn’t take long until the varnish peeled away.

When our kids are little, time is an elusive imp. There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish our to-do list, not if we want to sleep anyway. This season of life stretched like eternity when I was in it.

Using all the leaves: Whether for birthday parties, game days, dinners, or a hang-out for the neighborhood kids, we needed a table with more than one expansion. This was a joy to me because I wanted to know who my boys hung out with.

This season stretched, like the table with all the leaves inserted, through all the school years. It meant extra trips to the grocery store and a house more cluttered than clean, but it kept the mama table content.

Adding more chairs: Even as our kids aged, we needed more chairs at the dinner table and for holiday dinners. Friends from college or old high school buddies spent time around the table – mostly for D and D or LAN parties. Good thing we had those ten chairs.

Inevitable fact of life: kids grow up. They go to college and move away. They find a special someone to join with, starting the seasons anew. Our table has yet to see brides for our handsome princes, but both of them have serious attachments and those girls have a place at our table.

Storing the leaves: If you pull this beautiful oak table all the way open, there’s room to store one of the heavy leaves. The other one generally leans against the wall in the entry closet. They’re close at hand, ready to host a gathering of family or friends, but most of the time, a more intimate arrangement prevails.

I’ve spent a few posts mourning and delighting in this phase of empty nesting. I’m reminded anew that even though that table is solid oak, it requires attention to stay beautiful. The same can be said for marriage.

Too often we focus our time and energy on the children and our spouse becomes that stranger in the bed beside us. If that’s the case, the close quarters brought on when the table size is reduced can feel uncomfortable.

What sort of dining room table are you sitting at? Think of a benefit for your current stage, it will be gone soon enough (unless you’re an empty nester – we hope that one stretches for another 40 years).

Empty and Full

Silence. Unbroken now, as my nest returns to its empty state, the boys flown away to college once more.

I love the sound of silence. I am not one of those people whose mind functions at a higher capacity when there’s noise. In fact, I recall completing one of those crazy, forwarded questionnaires in the following way:

Q: What are you listening to right now?

A: The sound of silence

And I didn’t mean the song by Simon & Garfunkel. Although, I do appreciate the harmony in that song, I would just as soon listen to actual, God-ordained silence.

My home is empty, but my life is full.

I’ve got writing projects calling my name. I’ve obligated myself to post a weekly article on my church’s blog. I didn’t write anything over the holiday break (remember, I was taking an actual vacation from everything). I need to get ahead with my blog posts again.

My novel sits in cyberspace, awaiting the return of the woman who pours words into its very soul. In addition, I’ve got a play to write for my class this term. And I have not forgotten that I have some poems and a feature story that were ready to be sent out to publishers.

If only I had a secretary, she would get right on that [sigh].

My house may be empty, but my life is full.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What about you? What’s your favorite “sound”? What’s empty or full in your life right now?