Saturday, March 3, 2018

Adjusting to Empty Nest, Part 2

           “I can tell you don’t have any kids in the house,” my friend Krista said after I showed her the video I had taken of my dog, Betsy learning to jump over a broomstick in the hallway of my house. It’s true. I’m that person. The person who has taken to teaching her dog “stupid pet tricks” to keep herself entertained now that the children have left the nest. I had posted a video on Facebook about how addictive it (social media) is and how people who are experts in making casinos addictive are hired by Facebook to make it just as addictive. When I sent that video to my son Robby he replied, “You’re the one with the chicken pictures.” Yup. Guilty. The first warm day we had, I opened the chicken coop, took pictures of my chickens happily walking around on top of it, then created a photo collage to post on Instagram. Last week I posted a picture of one of my chickens standing next to the grill with the caption,
“You do NOT want to know what goes on in there, Gerrie. #theuglytruth, #chickenlove, #backyardchickens.”
My friends have been having a good time pointing out that my new interest in dog training (check out the video of my dog putting 6 tennis balls in a plastic tub) is a sign of my current state of empty-nest syndrome. After the feeling of initial sadness went away, I felt like I was adjusting quite well. And even though I felt pretty good, (even counting the after-Christmas crying jag when the boys left), I noticed that I had been unconsciously behaving in ways that might indicate that I was filling some holes, left by our now absent children.
·      We eat frozen dinners more than I care to admit. I used to cook a lot. But now that it’s just the two of us, eating out and frozen dinners are just easier.
·      I have almost totally replaced my wardrobe with purchases from Zulily and Lularoe. I didn’t realize it was happening until I began getting what seemed like one new piece of clothing per day (some stuff I didn’t even like). Between September and October I had accumulated enough items to wear something new to work every day for 3 weeks. That prompted a trip to Good Will with a big basket of clothes.
·      I am taking lots and lots of pictures and videos of my dog, cats, and chickens and then posting them on Instagram or boring my friends and colleagues by insisting that they watch just one more home movie of my dog playing with the cat.
But some good things have happened too. I have started working out again. Tom and I are getting out more and the house stays cleaner, longer. We are going to do some traveling to places other than the Upper Peninsula. Everyone said that empty next would be hard, but we’d not only adjust, but like it, and we have. So if you see me around, it will be pretty easy to tell that I don’t have kids in the house anymore. I’ll be the one wearing a new outfit, showing people picture of my animals on my phone.

Everyday Heroes Come in Many Different Forms

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it has the potential to completely derail my entire day. I forgot my coffee. I’m not really a coffee-snob, but my coffee has to be a certain way, with a certain kind and amount of sugar (Sugar in the Raw) and a certain kind and amount of creamer (Silk vanilla soy creamer) in a certain container (Yeti or Hydroflask) so that it stays drinking temperature until I finish it at lunch. On this particular day, when I sat all of my things down on my chair and my desk, I realized it immediately. “Please,” I pleaded with myself, “tell me that I simply left it in the car,” but I knew I hadn’t. It was at home. I had a distraction as I got ready to head out the door in the form of a cone-of-shame on the head of a particular hotspot-chewing dog who shall remain nameless (Betsy). In my defense, the coffee wasn’t in its usual container, so maybe it didn’t catch my eye like it usually does. So there it sat, at home, the unfortunate waste of some good caffeine that I regularly need to get me from 8:10-11:20. There was one other distraction that particular morning. I had decided to make some minestrone, (a new recipe), in the crockpot. When dinner distracts my morning routine, things are bound to go amiss. When I discovered the potential disruption of my day, I started the series of steps it takes to regain the day’s momentum. First, a call to Robby, “Have you gone by the house yet? Any chance you can stop by and…Oh, you’re already at work?…OK…Thanks anyway.” Then, to the cupboard for plan B, which is instant Starbucks, and a packet of a Sugar in the Raw look-alike, to be put together in a standby Tervis that I keep in my classroom for one such emergency as this. The only problem I had was the creamer. While the water was heating I went from one potential source to the next, looking for not powered creamer, but liquid. I knew I couldn’t score on my soy creamer, but the next best substitute came from an everyday hero. Jessa couldn’t help overhearing my pleas for liquid creamer in the front office (I know, because school secretaries have nothing better to do first thing in the morning than to get a frantic teacher liquid creamer). “Do you like vanilla creamer?” she asked, “I have some in my classroom. You’re welcome to help yourself.” Saved! I praised her with thanks and blessings and headed off to her classroom to finish putting together my emergency replacement coffee just in time for the arrival of my first class. Forgetting one’s coffee might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me, it is such a big deal that a creamer-toting friend can be considered a hero, and on the rare occasion that it happens, if she’s there with creamer-in-hand. She’ll be a hero to me.

Friday, January 12, 2018

And Watch for Deer

This was my November column, which I should have posted before the "Break-crastinator" piece. So you get two for the price of one this month. Lucky you! 

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drive in Northern Michigan with that relaxing, cruising on a fall evening feeling. I have this fear of hitting a deer with my car that is reaching phobia level. I have always been leery of deer ever since I moved north of the 45th parallel, (which by the way, is almost exactly where we hit the deer on our motorcycle a few years back). I tend to categorize things in my head, and car-deer collisions fall into two categories:
            1. Has hit a deer with the car
            2. Will hit a deer with the car
Before we hit the deer with our motorcycle, I used to begin to pray as dusk was approaching, “Please keep us safe,” or “Please get us home safely.” Since technically we did get home safely on that night, I’ve had to adjust my prayer to, “Please don’t let us hit anything, and don’t let anything hit us.” Now that we’ve made it through riding season, it’s full on deer-car collision season. I have resumed my “Bye! love you! watch for deer!” saying every time someone leaves the house. Last night I caught myself saying the “watch for deer” part  a second time, louder because I wasn’t sure if Robby heard me the first time, (because of course, if he happens to hit one and I hadn’t said the “watch for deer” part, it would clearly be my fault, right?).

Now that I’m leaving for work in the dark and returning from work in the dusk, my driving anxiety is at an all time high.  I see a car on the side of the road and the mangled remains of some poor unsuspecting Bambi, just trying to get over to the other side for whatever reason. I drive slower. I watch for flashing lights to alert me of impending doom. The other morning, opening day of firearms deer season, I was literally driving 45mph. I had the radio off because I most certainly couldn’t risk getting caught up singing “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and miss those eyes looking at me from 2 feet off the roadway. I’m not completely unfounded in my fear. I have had some near-misses. Once a huge buck came out of nowhere and literally jumped over the hood of my SUV as I drove at about 35 miles per hour. I am a huge proponent of deer hunting for that reason. In fact, I think firearms season should be longer, just to get more of those menaces off the road. I was telling this to one of my co-workers who replied with, “ I agree! I’ve hit 4 of them with my car.” I could go on and on with stories of friends hitting deer with their cars, but I’m sure you can too. So if you come upon me, early in the morning, driving unreasonably slow through “deer alley” as I like to call it, don’t get annoyed. Just safely go around me and say a little prayer that we don’t hit anything and nothing hits us. And please. Watch for deer.

Adjusting to Empty Nest, Part 2

           “I can tell you don’t have any kids in the house,” my friend Krista said after I showed her the video I had ta...