Sunday, October 8, 2017

Adjusting to the Empty Nest

And so the nest is empty. Everyone who has been through it says it’s hard at first, but “You’ll adjust.”  I thought about writing this column earlier in the summer, but decided that I wanted to have the full effect. All the feelings. I think that life prepares you for the day that your kids will finally leave home and go live off on their own. Slowly you begin to get a feel for what it will be like when the kids are gone. It’s in small doses, but the small doses get more frequent and for longer periods of time.
The sleepovers.
The summer camps.
The weeks at Grandma’s.
The summer jobs.
And let’s not forget the attitudes and the moods. Those attitudes and moods are also what prepare you to think to yourself “OK. I don’t think there really is an empty nest syndrome because I’m going to love it!” I once asked a friend about how he was doing when his son left for college. “It was time for him to go,” was the firm but humorous response. We sort of got to ease our way into the empty nest. Our older son took his time, saved some money, and moved out into his own place this past June. Our younger son left for college, came back, and left again. Only this time it’s somehow different. Last time his older brother was still here to soften the blow. And he was only an hour away, making frequent returns during ski season. This time the brother is gone and the college is farther. The next time we see him could possibly be Thanksgiving. We’ve been cushioning this departure with our variety of pets and livestock in the form of 1 dog, 2 cats, and 6 chickens.
            “Pretty soon it’s going to be just you, me, and all of these animals,” I said to Tom.
            “And thank God for all the animals,” was his reply.

It was funny when he said it, but now the house is quiet. Nobody will be home “later.” Nobody has to call to let us know if he’s staying the night somewhere else. I’m buying fewer groceries and doing less laundry. There are less dirty socks and half empty glasses to pick up. Bedrooms are cleaned out and ready for paint. We should be joyous at this new stage in our lives, but we are sad. Sometimes I wish I had had a few more kids because I’m not ready to be an empty-nester. I like the “HI Mom’s” and “What’s to eat around here; I’m starving!” For the last 2 months I didn’t yell about the pile of dropped clothes at the end of the hallway by the kitchen because I knew that pretty soon that pile wouldn’t be there anymore. Today is that day. The pile is gone. The nest is empty. It’s just Tom and me and all of these animals. But I’m pretty sure we’ll adjust.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What is 25 Years?


The beginning of August marked 25 years of marriage for Tom and I. “What is 25 years?” I asked Tom.  And all I got from him was “Seems like forever!” I had been thinking about it for several weeks. I had high hopes for our silver anniversary. I remember my mom and dad’s 25th. I insisted on a party with their closest friends, had them get their portrait taken, and put it in the newspaper like other couples did on their 25th, 50th, and beyond, anniversaries. I wanted to make sure ours was special too. I like to think that a 25th anniversary is kind of a big deal. We started out with grand plans for a week-long boat trip to the North Channel, the vacation spot of Tom’s childhood that I have heard about for 25 years. But as the date got closer, we realized that wasn’t going to be a reality so we planned a motorcycle trip for a weekend in the U.P. A few weeks before our trip, Tom hinted at his anniversary present to me. That he had “knocked it out of the park.” Since he is usually pretty elusive about his gifts, the fact that he was hinting around made me realize how excited he was about it. The day before our trip he revealed his surprise- he had not only found the hotel we spent our wedding night in, but he booked the very room, which was waterfront, overlooking Mackinac Island, for the first night of our trip. I was so moved by this gesture that I got a little tearful. So imagine my true surprise when we arrived in St. Ignace and not only did they not have our special room reserved, but they didn’t have a reservation for us at all. The only thing they had was a “Sorry, but we can get you in a room (not “that” room) tomorrow night.” Tomorrow night wasn’t an option. Tom looked absolutely defeated as he watched his gift crash and burn. “It’s OK,” I said, “Let’s just see if we can find something somewhere else.” Luckily, we found a room down the street. It wasn’t overlooking Mackinac Island, but the Starline Ferry parking lot and we didn’t awaken to lapping waves, but to 80’s music blaring from the parking lot speakers. Despite the disappointing start to our 25th anniversary weekend, we made the most of it and enjoyed our time together. That weekend gave us a memory we can look back on fondly and even laugh a little. Because 25 years is powering through the tough times and disappointments and making the most of things when they are easy and when they are hard. We embark on the next 25 years of this trip together as empty-nesters. I can’t wait to see what kind of surprises are in store for us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lovin' Every Minute of It

I had a “feeling old moment” a few weeks ago. I was telling a friend about how excited I was to see Loverboy playing at the Venetian Festival in Charlevoix.
“Oh really?” she said “I was just a little kid when they were popular.”
“I was in high school/early college,” I responded, suddenly feeling old.
My friends and I were all really looking forward to the concert that was bringing one of the popular bands of our generation (late ‘70s/early ‘80s) to town for the recent headlining concert. When we got to the show, Tom and I stood in a spot where we could see both the band and the crowd. I was a little more than slightly shocked at the age and appearance of the band, primarily the lead singer.
“They’re old!” I told Tom, “If I close my eyes and just listen, they’re the same old Loverboy I remember, but when I open my eyes, they are just these really old guys playing really old songs.”
Tom said, “Did you check out the crowd? Everyone here is old … including us!”
We got a laugh out of that. I was one of those embarrassing moms, who danced and sang along (yelled-along was more accurate), when the lead singer held out the microphone to the crowd (and I’d like to apologize to the people who were standing in front of me).
A few times the lead singer referenced the age of the band and music they were playing. One of the songs came out in 1980. He mentioned they had been at the Castle in 1983 and then he talked about how another song was 34 years old.
When the songs played I had a hard time placing where I was at that time in my life. When I think back to my high-school years, I was listening to bands like Van Halen, Poison, Bon Jovi and Prince. Although I knew the words to just about every song Loverboy played, I wasn’t transported back to high school. When the intro to “When it’s Over” started on the keyboard, suddenly I was back at a sixth-grade dance in middle school! I realized at that at moment that I, too, was a kid when Loverboy was popular. Not a “little kid,” but a kid nonetheless. I got to be a little smug for a moment because Tom was in high school when they were popular. But I guess none of that matters. We are fortunate to be from a generation that produced excellent music and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I’ll take that “feeling old” moment and any that come, and I’ll be “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.”

Motorcycle Fashion has its Limits

I love summer and all its warm and sunny fun for a lot of reasons.
One of those reasons is summer fashion. Cute shorts and swishy summer dresses are my favorites.
If you read my column with any regularity, you know that my husband, Tom, and I have been motorcycling for years. You would also know that I upped my creds in the motorcycling world when I purchased my own bike a couple of years ago. Another thing you might already know about me is that I’m a pretty girly-girl and that my motorcycle reflects that personality with its white-with-pink-flames paint job.
Because there are dangers that come along with riding, Tom and I prefer to dress a little more protectively on most of our rides. I’m OK with that, but when it comes to the stopping part, I struggle. When we first started riding we were really into “the look.” Leather jackets, chaps, riding boots, and other motorcycling accessories that made us stand out and look like tough bikers. But underneath that we were still just a regular carpenter and his schoolteacher wife. In fact, I always kind of felt like I was playing dress-up when I had all of that stuff on.
In the past few years we have toned it down quite a bit, relinquishing the big Harley patches sown on the back of our leather jackets and only pulling on the chaps when the temperature was too cold for just jeans. That was around the time I traded my plain black helmet for one with pink flames and a red or black bandana for pink while Tom traded his riding boots for Keens.
I don’t have much of a problem dressing to ride. My problem comes when the ride is over and we’ve arrived at our destination. I don’t want to look like a biker chick when I’m just hanging out downtown. I just want to look like myself, which can cause a problem. How do I wear jeans and a long sleever on my bike, but cute shorts, a short-sleeve top, and flip-flops when I get there without hauling a duffle bag into the nearest public restroom to change every time we stop? Not to mention that it can be pretty hot walking around in the middle of July in downtown Boyne City wearing boots, jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt.
Last year I felt like I had a solution. I realized that my son’s jeans fit perfectly over my shorts and that I could throw a bigger shirt over my top. The only thing left was to change from my boots to flip-flops, and I was off. That was, until my son saw me downtown wearing his jeans, which, as you can imagine didn’t go over so well (neither did me taking them off next to my motorcycle). However, I finally found a solution to my problem. I don’t have to pretend to be a tough biker chick. I can enjoy the ride in protective gear while riding and sport cute shorts with a matching top when I’m not. It just takes a little bit of planning and someone else’s jeans.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I am Not a Vegetarian

I was having lunch in the lounge at school and the conversation was centering around meatless patties. I mentioned that my favorite wraps at Scovie’s in Charlevoix are the Veggie Burger Burrito and the Oriental Chicken Salad Wrap without chicken.
            “Oh, are you a Vegetarian?” my co-worker asked.
            “No. I just don’t eat meat.” I responded.
            “You’re not a vegetarian, but you don’t eat meat?”         
            “I like to keep my options open.”
I’ve been on this ‘to meat or not to meat’ journey for several years now. What began as a digestive issue that demanded an extreme dietary change has evolved into somewhat of a personal choice. I just choose to not eat meat now. As I navigated my way from vegan to vegetarian, to not-a-vegetarian, I found out it’s easier for me to not limit myself with labels. If I’m a vegan or a vegetarian, I can’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving or ham at Christmas. I can’t eat a bowl of someone else’s chili because it’s nearly impossible to get all of the little meat bits out (plus that little pile of meat bits on the napkin are just gross). A bowl of chicken noodle soup isn’t fun if I have to worry about those tiny shreds of chicken and if I accidently ingest one, it’s OK because I’m not a vegetarian, am I? I’m not even going to attempt to pick the ground beef out of my mom’s lasagna. I’m just not. It’s not happening.

            I also found that being a dinner guest was tricky when I had a label. “What can’t you eat?” was a common question. I found my hostess trying to come up with a special menu to accommodate my “dietary restrictions.” I really don’t like it when people make a fuss over me. I have found I can quietly take the salad, the potatoes, the roll, and the bread without anyone noticing that I didn’t take any meat when I’m not a vegetarian. Plus, I’m enjoying the new found freedom that comes with not being a vegetarian. If I want a bite of bacon, I have one. If I want to have a rib or chicken wing that Tom just made (he’s a genius with chicken wings and ribs by the way) I have one. If I want to have a piece of pepperoni pizza with the pepperoni picked off but I accidently missed a bit baked in the cheese, I eat that too. I refer to a friend of mine as “My niece that’s not really my niece” because she’s my sister-in-law’s niece, so close enough, right? So if you have to call me something, call me “a vegetarian that’s not really a vegetarian,” or better yet, just call me Dawn.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don't Call it a Staycation

“Are you going anywhere for spring break?” That familiar question that I avoid like the plague most years is inevitable. “Please don’t ask,” I’d think to myself. I didn’t want to admit that my boring life would transition into a boring spring break again this year. Usually I get that pang of jealously and envy knowing that just about everyone I know is going to be basking in some sort of sunshine this week. Usually I sit on my laptop and scour Travelocity for great last minute deals because I am so sick of winter. But for some reason this year is different. Oh I’m still sick of winter. As I write this I have the fireplace turned on and the furnace cranked up. But this year I planned things a little bit differently. I scheduled a hair appointment. I saved out some crafts. I set aside a bunch of books that I want to read.  Before I knew it I had enough stuff on my to-do list that I couldn’t imagine going away. I would get my laptop out to look for airfare and then I would think,
            “But when would I be able to do all of this other stuff?” Going away on a vacation started to feel like something more stressful than relaxing. Would I just sit there and think about all of the stuff I could be doing at home? I know I must sound like some weird workaholic or that I’m just in denial. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to sit in the sand on a beach somewhere and just relax? Usually that is me, but this year I’m content to go without it. We have been working on training our dog and I just can’t rationalize giving up a week after we’ve worked so hard to get her where she is.

            I don’t know when I started feeling so much pressure to go on a fabulous spring break every year. It’s definitely harder, living up here in Northern Michigan. The winters are longer and many spring breaks are cold, drizzly and snowy and this year is no different in that respect. But each year that we choose to stay home while everyone else goes, I learn to appreciate the staying more. I don’t even call it a “staycation.” I let the time go by slowly with my family and my dog and my cats and my chickens.  I do wear sweatpants and hoodies and I don’t wear make-up. I don’t worry that I won’t be one of the tan ones.  Am I going anywhere for spring break? Nope. But thanks for asking.

Adjusting to the Empty Nest

And so the nest is empty. Everyone who has been through it says it’s hard at first, but “You’ll adjust.”   I thought about writing this col...