As a parent, and as a woman, it seems the most popular conversation initiated by family, friends, and neighbors is the status of my children. And why not? People are the most valued form of life; hence, our mutual interest. However, altruism aside, these conversations probably occur to avoid fumbling for another topic. Children are the go-to, like sports, for those inclined.
Now that my youngest is in college, I get the question – “How does it feel to be an empty nester?” Pre-pandemic, it was frequent. Lately, not so much because, one, I hardly see anyone, and two, because some of us have lost our empty nest status due to children shuttling in and out of our homes because of job losses, lease decisions, and distance learning.
One morning I’m walking through the neighborhood when I feel a vehicle edging up beside me. Because of the pandemic and the lucky people who can work from home, there’s little traffic at 7:40-ish. My neighbor pulls closer, lowers the window, and begins the chat. The empty nest question is almost immediate. I explain to him that pre-pandemic, yes, I was an empty nester, but now have a boomerang occupant due to a job loss. He then tells me about his daughters. The oldest is away at college, and his youngest is home and in her last year of high school.
Then he proceeds to console me for not having my kids around. (He’s already forgotten about boomerang child being home.) “I guess you need to figure out things to do,” adding, “An empty nest home is kinda like a divorce.” I presume he’s envisioning sad feelings and adjustments.
As I see where this is going (because I’ve been there numerous times), I curtail the impending pity party with my list of reasons why I was okay to be an empty nester and will be again when it happens. And it’s not the cliché response of traveling with my spouse or heading back into honeymoon phase as everyone smiles and suggests (though we did some awesome traveling). It’s selfishly about me. Like right now, I’m writing. I didn’t have to get up before children awakened or wait until children went to school. (By the way, all day flexible time is a myth because the business of running a house, being in the sandwich generation of life, and charitable duties take a good chunk of time, even when you’re not employed.) However, I prepped for this stage. Before the kids were out of the house, I felt the call of focusing on myself. In different years, I joined a book club, took horseback riding lessons, and tennis lessons. I exercised in the mornings on a parking lot with girlfriends. I took a few sessions of art classes at the library. And the biggie – two semesters of Spanish at the local community college, which meant homework!
And I created Postcards & Authors! I learned Instagram, Twitter, and how to set up a Facebook page (which is different from a personal account) – all for Postcards & Authors. So when said children were eventually away in their various pursuits, this empty-nester was on a roll.
The neighbor? I don’t think he believes my contentment. He’s struggling with his upcoming empty nest status, which is normal. Most parents do. However, when I mention some of my hobbies, he asks how I knew to prepare.
Both he and I were late parents. Most of our same-aged friends’ children were deep into elementary school when my kids were born, and his, too. I tell him that I watched my trailblazer friends and knew the possible upcoming emotions and lifestyle changes. But, I didn’t presume I would feel exactly like anyone else in particular, as much as each friend would insist that I would. My instincts told me I’d be fine. I wasn’t worried.
Somewhere in the chat, I go into therapist mode. I mention personality types and emotions, trying to communicate that tradition doesn’t dictate our feelings, but instead, our identities’ natural makeup. In other words, it’s okay to be sad when our children leave home, to be happy, or anything in between. I lean toward feeling good about my entire family pursuing dreams and goals, changing and maturing, and being where they need to be. Plus, we all have cell phones, FaceTime and WhatsApp. Right?!
Tiny gnats begin to bite my sweaty body, so we end the chat. My last statement to him is “When I see you again, I’ll want to know what your new hobbies are.”
Did I convince him that I’m okay? Hmmm… I don’t know.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign began 34 years ago, so maybe you’ve gotten used to hearing it mentioned on TV and seeing it on social media and print ads, taking it in for a few seconds, but then moving on to your next thought.
Does donating to a breast cancer fundraiser at your job or on your friend’s Facebook fundraiser keep the thought of breast cancer awareness lingering a little more? Have you participated in a group challenge, like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure walk?
I salute these methods of getting people to pay attention to the seriousness of breast cancer; however, my main questions are:
“Are you doing self-examinations?”
“Have you had your mammogram or scheduled it?”
“Are you reminding your loved ones to have theirs?”
Do it today.
To those who have been on the journey of having breast cancer and have had treatments, mastectomies, or alternative surgeries, I applaud your strength, and I’m glad you’re here.
I picked up this postcard at the Louvre, not knowing anything about the artist or the mindset for painting it; however, I found it intriguing. I assumed the artist was one of the ol’ (or young) white guys whose works are prominent at the museum, but discovered it’s not. Portrait of Madeleine, formally known as Portrait of a Negress, was painted by Marie-Guillemine Benoist. SmartHistory website has an interesting article about her and the painting, written by Dr. Susan Waller.
Marie-Guillemine and Madeleine are probably out there somewhere, saying, “Who knew we’d be used to promote breast cancer awareness.”
* The mention of websites is not an endorsement or suggested as fundraising vehicles, but used as examples of what some people choose to support. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. government site, might be a source you’d like to visit.
One of my favorite summer pleasures is what I’m doing now – lounging on my screened in porch. Most of this time is spent stretched out on a sofa with a book in my hands and a cup of tea on a little Ikea table beside me. At the moment, the branches on the tall trees that line the edge of my back yard are gently dancing, creating a peaceful windy sound in unison with the chatting birds. It is a little slice of heaven, as they say.
Summer is also my season for planning outdoor activities away from the comfort of my porch; though realistically, most of it doesn’t happen, because, let’s face it – it’s hot! However, good intentions are abundant, resulting in a few successes.
As I looked through my box of postcards, searching for something that represents sun and fun in my town, I found this Byrd Park duck with the Carillon Bell Tower in the background. A couple weeks ago, I was there visiting the ducks, geese, and other waterfowl at Swan Lake; just me, having a lovely, introvert day.
My next trip will include family and friends. There is another lake there for paddle boating, surrounded by grassy areas of picnickers and sunbathers. Or if exercise is your thing, get on the Vita Course to hike or to run the trails while stopping at the various apparatuses for a full body workout; or play tennis at the self-lighted courts. There’s also the Carillon Bell Tower and the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, featuring well attended Festival of the Arts events – free, by the way. For us, I’m thinking something at Dogwood Dell; maybe the annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks!
So get motivated folks and make this a grand summer!
Ohhh… and it’s Summer Solstice Day for those of us living north of the equator. What are you doing (or did) with your extra bit of daylight? 🙂
postcard: Jeff Hansen Design
I can’t remember when my love of horses began; as a child, I suppose. However, it was probably an innate, subconscious fascination, because I stared at all animals, not just horses. Maybe it was during the trips along two-lane roads as my family headed to the country to see relatives. There were always horses grazing in the fields.
Sometimes at local fairs, I’d have an opportunity to ride, or more accurately, to sit on a horse and be guided around a ring; but I declined. They seemed so big and high off the ground, yet there was still a part of me that wanted to mount a horse, hold the reins, and trot off.
In my invincible teens – 16 or 17 years old – it would happen. Four friends and I went to a farm where we could pay to ride; three guys and two girls. I don’t know how I got on my horse, but with a little help, I did. After all of us were, um, situated, two of the guys began riding wildly like they were in an old western TV show. My girlfriend had gotten her horse to walk. Mine… just… stood… still, when suddenly, The Lone Ranger was advancing directly toward me at what appeared to be 50 miles per hour. Had someone instructed me to kick the side of the horse? Giddy-up! Move! wasn’t working. The next thing I remember is my body being on the side of the horse, not yet on the ground, with my hands hanging onto something. Was it the saddle? The reins? The Lone Ranger had plowed into me, and Tonto, on his horse, had joined the collision in an attempt to save me. Thankfully, the three horses all had more sense than we had.
When the dust settled, literally, I was somehow back on my horse listening to the howling laughter of my girlfriend. The guys didn’t hold back either.
There would be another adventure a year later while visiting cousins in Michigan. This time, my horse decides to run… fast… carrying me along as I held on and screamed. It felt like five minutes, but was probably twenty seconds. When it occurred to me to stop screaming, Silver stopped and I got off. Period. A 7ish year old child on the farm was saying, “Ma’am, you have to take the horse back to the farm.” I kept walking. (By the way, who were these people – the owners – who just let me get on a horse without the least concern!)
When I finally took horseback riding lessons well into my adult years, I was taught, step by step, month after month, year after year. In those lessons, I learned that you don’t leave a bridled horse out in the field with the risk of it getting caught onto something.
Those were fun times, with a few frights mixed in and adrenalin doing its job. I had progressed to cantering through the woods and jumping. Me thinks that is not going to happen anymore.
So there you go. A little background on why horses make me happy; even a museum picture postcard of a bronze Suffolk Punch Stallion.
It’s 3:30ish as I begin this brief paragraph or two. I want to say something about today before it’s over.
My day began early with a post to my Instagram story, a cup of tea, a walk/jog, another walk with my dog, and oatmeal. Afterwards, I began thinking about the events around town, knowing that this year, 2019, I wouldn’t be going to any of them. Actually, I don’t have a history of it being a thing with me; but a few years ago, I made it a thing… at least that year. I went to the Virginia War Memorial’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony, where they honor and remember veterans who gave their lives for our country. It was special. I sat on the grassy hill listening to speeches, then watched a procession of soldiers and a wreath laying. Music began playing – the familiar tunes of Scottish bagpipes by men dressed in kilts and other regalia.
It was a nice morning those few years ago; especially because I found my cousin David’s name on their wall representing those who died in service from the state of Virginia.
I bought the Washington D. C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial postcard during a Spring Break trip, not knowing that it would land on this website as a tribute to our veterans and to Cousin David. I found his name on this wall, too. He was 19 when he died.
On another Memorial Day of the past, I visited a county ceremony. It, too, was special. I thought about my diseased father who was a veteran, and how my brother was, simultaneously, at the cemetery expressing his love and respect.
To find a name of the Vietnam Memorial Wall from your computer, visit the online Virtual Wall website. In addition to names, there is so much more to browse.
On Mother’s Day, it occurred to me, that while it’s a treasured day for so many, a day of handcrafted cards made in school, family dinners, and flowers; not everyone feels the joy as I did, or maybe you.
My added feelings were made tangible when I viewed an Instagram story by Kendra Winchester of Reading Women podcast. She had reposted the Mother’s Day Thinking of You image by the artist who created it, Mari Andrew.
Link here to see the beautifully illustrated and thoughtful post.
Thank you Kendra and Mari.