Empty Nests

Baby birds have left the building

The baby birds have left the building.

I have been watching a nest full of baby birds this summer.

When I first arrived here in Maine, the nest was active (mom and dad were flying in and out) but I couldn’t see anything in the nest. After a few weeks, the tippety tops of baby heads were visible. In the last week or so the nest has been very full of four little birds who would huddle in the nest together and stare back at me when I peeked out from our bedroom window.

I tried on several occasions to get a decent photograph of the babies in the nest but mom and dad would dive-bomb me and I didn’t dare spend enough time to take said picture.

So, the best thing that I can do is report that the the babies have all fledged as of yesterday morning. The first baby flew into the living room window. Fortunately, not hard enough to harm him or her. Just enough to perhaps stun it for a little while – it sat on the sill for a few minutes before flying off with mom and dad. The last baby fledged (left the nest) yesterday morning. And they haven’t come back. I keep checking the nest. It’s still empty.

My statement to myself was, “The empty nest is a little bit sad” (or something like that) and I realized that it’s true in our house today. Once again  … our nest is empty and we’re a little bit sad this morning.

I was so lucky to have been a full-time stay-at-home mom and as my kids grew up and went on their ways (as they should), it was sad. They are all full-fledged (coincidence?) adults now and they’re happy and productive and I am so proud of them. I’m proud of myself, too. My job was to raise them to be decent human beings and then let them go to build a life of their own making. It’s not easy letting them go. There were (and still are) times when I can get very sad but I love it when we get to visit.

But time flies so quickly. And, today, no longer having my daughter and her boyfriend and little pup in the house, I’m a little bit sad. And I know that they are a little bit sad, too, as they start their long journey back to Chicago. It was a fun visit and we built some new memories. Double-fisted drinking, “binocularing”, sighting a family of loons with two babies, listening to the loons, hearing the osprey overhead, slapping mosquitoes, and sharing this beautiful place that we are so fortunate to enjoy.

It’s good that I can feel sadness because it means that I’ve felt joy. And I’ve had a lot of joy.

Gone knitting.

An Easter Story

When I got divorced, my life changed drastically. It was (I was?) all turned upside down and I didn’t realize that it would never be the same. I have been working for the last six (plus) years on building a new iteration of my life. Some parts are very, very different. Some are similar. I work to maintain threads of some traditions that we valued as a family even though the family is not the same. And there are some parts that I am grateful to have given up & thrown away. We’re making new traditions, too. Figuring out how to be a family after a divorce isn’t easy and it takes time and perseverance.

The part of my life that I love the most is my children and this “Easter” (at least the few days leading up to Sunday) I got to spend some time in New York City with all three of my children. There’s nothing like it. And I am so proud (I know I’m repeating myself) of the people they are becoming … productive, self-supporting, happy, and fun to be with. All following their passions and building lives of their own. What a mother wants for her children and yet, also, requiring her to let them go … a mother’s worst heartbreak. A double-edged sword.

But this post isn’t written to make you sad. It’s joyful. I’m so happy to have spent time together in New York. And my little dogs were happy to see their “kids”, too! We also got to meet my son-in-law-to-be’s family for the first time which was a treat. Despite her concerns that someone would start a conversation about religion or politics and that everything would explode, we all got along. We all love this young couple bunches. Enough to be there for them and support them, no matter what.

What I realized this Easter is that I am “rising up” into a new life where I will be happy; filling my life with people I love and following my passions, too. Leaving the world, I hope, a better place. Making a difference in the life of a child. Just as I taught my children to do, I am now encouraging the same bravery in myself.

I didn’t take enough pictures but I have a heart-full of  memories to carry with me. Until the next time we meet!

Gone Knitting.

On Being a Mentor

I’m a mentor at my local elementary school. I had been feeling like I was missing being around children. Mine a grown and have full lives of their own; boyfriends, girlfriend, jobs, social lives, homes to clean, dog to walk … all the things that they’re supposed to have as young adults. I did my job as a mother and as a result of having done it well, my kids have moved on and are building lives of their own. It’s a good thing. And I was still feeling like I had something to offer to children. So I signed up as a volunteer with our local school district not really knowing where it would lead.

A little over a year ago, I got a call from the counselor at my local elementary school. She was looking for a mentor for a student – a third grade foster child. While the “warming up” was slow, I know now that she was holding herself back because she’d been disappointed by adults who had been in her life and was hesitant to trust that  would stick with her. We had a great time visiting over lunch at school every week. I often brought a little craft project or a book to read together or a puzzle to solve and was there for her when she decided she wanted to talk. When I met her, her foster family was going to adopt her. This fall, she moved again to a former foster home two and a half hours away from me. Now, I choose to drive down to visit with her every other week – I started out visiting every week but she’s so well adjusted now, I know she’s OK when I’m not there every week. But at first, she was having a rough time.

Last night, her “foster mom” called me and we had a face time session. I love to see her snuggled up at home and smiling because her report card was a good one and she’d been to a fun Super Bowl party. Normalcy is a good thing for children. Especially those who’ve had a rough start.

Last week I got a call from my neighborhood school again. This time, there’s a little third grader who is in crisis. Grandmother takes care of her and her siblings and cousins. We’re going to meet again next week and I’ll help her get up to speed on her math and be there for her so she feels important to somebody. No strings. No manipulation. Just a grown-up who’s there for her. This one is adorable, too. And so needy.

I’m so lucky to be able to work with these two little girls. They help me as much as I help them. They give me purpose and allow me to give something back to the community that I live in. And they give me joy – a lot of good laughs despite their difficult circumstances and hugs. There’s nothing like the full-heart feeling that you get when you make a difference in the life of a child. And there are so many children today who need a solid adult presence in their lives.

All you have to have is an hour a week and a phone to call your local school … you won’t be sorry. I’m proof!

It’s the Most Wonderful (?) Time …

Over the years, I learned to dislike the Christmas season … yes, I am a Grinch-y Christmas person. I’m not sure when I made the turn but somewhere along the line, the expectation of  making Christmas perfect for everyone got bigger than me. And it grew and it grew like the Grinch’s heart. I keep trying to scale back the expectations and it’s difficult. Even with no kids in the house and even though the pressure really only comes from me. I’m still not in love with Christmas.

So, for this year’s goal for myself, it’s to try to keep it simple. Focusing on what’s important. I’m not going to have all the gifts ready – my daughter’s leg warmers are probably not going to be finished. But she knows they’ll get to her as soon as it’s humanly possible. The rest of the family I’m keeping in my heart with small gifts to acknowledge the day. The hundred and fifty cards may not be sent until after Christmas (Happy New Year!) I want to make cookies because it’s a tradition. I want to have a small something for my family to open on Christmas and know that they’re with me in spirit although we’re separated by many miles. I want to be relaxed and enjoy the season!

I know I’m blessed to have children and family that I’ll miss on Christmas because that means I have people in my life that I love. I want to hold that close and remember how grateful I am for my children, my family and my friends – and you, dear blog readers are in that extended family, too.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, whatever you are celebrating I hope it’s filled with joy, wonder, good health – and maybe a little bit of yarn!

Gone knitting!