My Empty Nest…

(a rewrite of One Door Closes…)

The bedroom doors on the south side of the house used to be open.  All the time. That’s the only way I could hear if they were crying, or awake and playing.  When they were in grade school, I could jump on their beds to wake them up, or plop on the floor to help with a project.

When they hit their teens, the doors closed. They wanted privacy. They didn’t want me or their Dad to interrupt them with their friends. They wanted to blast their music without being asked to turn it down. They were probably doing other things that I didn’t want to know about.

The doors remain closed now, except on the rare occasion when the dog pushes them open to find a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. And it’s quiet. There is no longer any music blasting. The sound of teenaged girls giggling is gone. The thumping and thudding of an occasional wrestling or weightlifting episode has died down.  The silence is clamorous.

When they first left, I kept the doors open. Often, I would walk in and inhale deeply, trying desperately to get a sense of their presence in a lingering aftershave or scented candle. I would walk by my son’s room almost expecting to see him sitting at the computer with his guitar on his lap, laboring over tabs for the latest song he was learning. But he wasn’t there.

Two steps further and I would be in front of my daughter’s bedroom door, forever adorned with pictures, quotes and flowers. That door now reminds me of just one more household project that my new best friend, my husband, and I can complete together. We have to remove the old, sticky tape, sand and paint it.  It’s barren.

Keeping the doors closed now is my way of separating myself from that chapter in my life when the machinery of parenting required so many more adjustments and tune-ups. Today, a little oil on the hinges and they swing open and closed for a quick visit, once in a while, and I go back to opening new doors on the north side of the house.



Standing in the doorway with the sun sneaking through the slats in the window shades, I couldn’t help but lose myself in flashbacks to older days.  The light danced around the room, stopping briefly on moments in time… moments that will forever be in my heart and mind, but will ultimately fade as new memories nudge them deeper into the elevator crevices of my aging intellectual lore.

My daughter filled that room with those memories. She created them. In three days, we, my husband and I will walk her down the aisle and give her hand to a man with whom she will create a new life, and new memories.

In the middle of the floor, on the bright red carpet, we sat, cross-legged, cutting out flowers from a magazine for a collage on which she was working.  Many nights I climbed into bed and lay down next to her and just talked until she could fall asleep (if she wasn’t visiting me in my room).  I can’t remember how many times I sat on the edge of her bed listening to a problem with a friend, or a new Backstreet Boys song. We must have spent hours doing art projects on that floor, even before, when the carpet was aqua colored.

She had decorated the room herself from floor to ceiling herself, with excellent taste, when we offered her the opportunity to do so as a reward for taking the smaller bedroom when we first moved into our present home. She was ten, but had a remarkable ability to make the best out of every situation. She still has that attribute.

The color scheme had changed when she was away on a school trip to Boston, the room transformed to her Coca-Cola theme. Her brother, father and I spent every evening making that happen in three short nights. It seemed to me that was when the door of that room began to slam more, and would remain closed most of the time. Middle School will have that effect.

Over the years, her room was always cluttered. In the aqua days, I would find little girl things: games, stuffed animals, candy wrappers and the like. As she grew into a young woman, her interests changed and so did the clutter. There were running shoes and clothes, make-up, community service awards, art supplies and books. The food wrappers had changed too. There were granola bars, protein bars and vegetarian snacks wrappers now.  Don’t misunderstand, there was still chocolate.  And there were still a few of her favorite stuffed animals. Now, additionally however, there was a vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

The room has been as she left it almost ten years ago. Empty, except for occasional visits.  The memories remain, sometimes haunting, sometimes tickling my heart. My daughter has, does, and will always have a large part of my heart.  As she enters into this marriage, I know she will bring as much joy to her husband and new family as she has to me. As for me, I’ll likely find myself standing in her doorway, remembering, and having flashbacks.

Does This Fit Here?

My grandmother did crossword puzzles. So did my dad, in pen. My one brother would photocopy both the morning and afternoon newspaper puzzles and we would sit around the dining room table doing them, almost as if it was a race to the finish. Another brother used to pore over jigsaw puzzles. Still a third brother liked the logic puzzles that came in the Dell Puzzle books. Mom likes Sudoku. I was fascinated by the Rubik’s Cube. I like them all. In fact, I like word games, puzzles and just about anything that challenges my mind, that is, except for the puzzle that is my mind, which is the greatest challenge of all.

Even the artistic expression I’ve settled into has been somewhat fractured. I choose to blog about anything and everything that pops into my head. There’s no stream of consciousness and it would be impossible to put the individual posts into any semblance of order that would make any sense. I dabble in mosaics: cracking up pieces of tile and glass, and attempting to create a masterpiece of recognizable images. Most of the rest of what I do is graphic art, at best. Even when I sing, I do parodies of some of my favorite songs, never singing them the way they were written, but always in an attempt to make someone feel touched, loved or when it’s really good, embarrassed.

It should be no surprise, then, that I am, in middle age, attempting to piece together the splintered elements of the puzzle that has been my life. Now, I suppose, is the time when most women go through this: when their kids have grown and gone, when they’ve settled into a new normal with regard to their body, their health, and their sex life; when they have a whole lot less time in front of them than they do behind them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t an easy thing either.

Having discovered much about myself through honest introspection, and having overcome some of my demons (we all have them); I have survived the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes of life. And now, when things have finally settled down, it’s the aftershocks that have to be put into place… like the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, or that one last word you can’t get, even with the crossword dictionary or the internet.

What I have learned is that when you try too hard to seek happiness, you are often disappointed. When you attempt to please others to validate yourself, you do yourself a great disservice. I think the best way to find that happiness, to validate yourself and feel real and complete peace of mind is to live your life authentically. Listen to and follow your heart and the pieces of your own puzzle will fall in to place naturally.

My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

Meant for Each Other

A little background on both of us… If you’ve been reading my blog then you know all of this already, but if you haven’t I’ll give it to you in a nutshell.  I’m a middle-aged woman, who spent a lifetime serving as mom and as wife, while working full time in the not-for-profit arena, doing the best I could to make life better for those less fortunate than I, while raising my two children and taking care of my husband and home.  My kids are doing great.  One married last year and is starting his life up state.  The other moved away this past spring to take a terrific job and start her life up north.

Now I am in the midst, I imagine of what is known as an Existential Crisis, as I am slogging through that awful period of the “Empty Nest Syndrome,” while trying to rediscover my marriage and to see if my husband and I are on the same page about our future together.  I’m dealing with a lot of transitions in my life, and trying to determine my next path, and I really don’t know what to do.  My emotions are sometimes raw, yet sometimes numb.  My passion for work, for life, even for chocolate has been muted.

The other starring character in this blog has an even more mournful past.  He is the product of a mixed marriage, if you even want to call it that.  He was actually hit by a car and left for dead, though he had a strong will and survived, as a youngster. He was kept in foster care for way too long.  He seems, even today, to be an isolationist, and to be ever so slightly melancholy, although some just say he is laid-back, or mellow.  I feel he is very trusting, accepting and loving.  There aren’t too many like that in this world, especially when their beginnings were so challenging.

I came upon him quite by accident.  My wanderlust took me to where he was one day, and I happened upon him, visited with him for a short while and then left.  But something inside me kept tugging at me, telling me to go back.  I’m not really sure what it was.  A calling?  A sense of obligation?  A need on my part?

I went back last week, and figured the whole thing out.  He needed me as much as I needed him.  I knew he couldn’t stay alone in the situation in which he was living, and I needed to have my own personal outlet for emotions that nobody else could ever understand.  I love my husband, my mother, my children and my friends, but this guy seems to me to be the best medicine.  Like a few before him, he is the kind of friend who listens without judging, accepts my crazy mood swings and goes with the flow, seems to know when to just lay down next to me quietly, and when just a little kiss on the cheek to tell me he loves will be enough.

Alex "the Great" Fisher
Alex “the Great” Fisher

I don’t even feel like I’m cheating on my husband.  Because he does the same for him.

Love this guy!!!

I Want a Do-Over!

Always had an excuse as to why I didn’t perform better on a test.  There was always a reason I forgot my lines in a play, or finished third in the race.  It must have been old baking powder that caused the cake to come out flat.  I struck out three times in softball because I had something in my eye.  Messed up my letter to the President on the school stationery because there was something wrong with the pen.

Didn’t take that job because I didn’t think it was a good idea to relocate for a three month contract.   Didn’t send my dinner back with the waiter when it was served cold because I didn’t want anyone else to have to wait.   Stayed in that other job too long because I couldn’t find anything else. Let my mother-in-law give the kids brownies right before dinner because she hardly ever got to see them.  Stopped after two kids because that’s what my husband wanted, and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

My mother always told me “little children, little problems, big children….”  You figure out the rest.  Well, right now, I consider myself one big kid, with one big problem.  I have a lot less time ahead of me than I have behind me, and besides my 32 year marriage and two (actually, now three) wonderful kids, I really screwed up, and am just now figuring out that its all my own doing.  All those excuses.  All that wasted time.

I can’t help but call to mind Erma Bombeck’s poem, “If I Had My Life to Live Over Again.”  I want a do-over.  I want the chance to follow my dreams, to stand up for myself, to make my own choices based on how I feel.  I want to put myself first once in a while, stop playing the martyr and the victim.  “I want to run barefoot in the grass earlier in the spring.”

My mother also told me I don’t have to be the “richest one in the cemetery.”   I don’t think I can retire yet, but I certainly can simplify what I’m doing to allow myself to “do-over” some of these things.  (That probably doesn’t include having another baby).

Put me in Coach… I want a do-over.

Meltdown at 30,000 Feet

Don’t know whether it was a drop in cabin pressure, sheer exhaustion, the realization that I truly was going home to an empty nest, or the fact that I was just getting too old to to do so much in such a short time, with little rest, lousy eating habits, too many cigarettes and a medication imbalance. Could be that I was suffering from claustrophobia because the guy next to me was huge, not to mention wreaking of body odor and bad breath. I just wanted to scream. My first flight was late, landing after the second flight was already boarding, at two opposite ends of two diametrically opposed terminals, and if it wasn’t politically incorrect to say so, I would tell you that I ran through the airport like O.J., made it to board in time, only to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes waiting to take off.

The meltdown actually began long before I ever reached the airport. In fact, its genesis wasn’t even revealed to me until the next day, when a physician explained to me that I was in a full-blown, acute relapse of my fibromyalgia. That explained a lot.

It explained why I abruptly attempted to give notice at my job ten days prior, when I needed to be working, and didn’t really want to resign. I had been unhappy about several things, though none of them, insurmountable. It explained why the recent several weeks found me weeping over television commercials or stories on Facebook™ or the news. It certainly was the reason I had difficulty getting out of bed or bending over or sitting for longer than fifteen minutes, or even keeping the covers over me during the night.

Granted, my life had been full of emotional challenges in the past two weeks. I had to put the dog to sleep… my best friend. I found myself moving my daughter to a city one thousand miles away to start a new job and a new life. And if those challenges weren’t enough emotionally, I encountered significant financial trials as a result of those things and unexpected major household repairs. Isn’t that always the way? Financial pressure always wreaks havoc on one’s emotions. So do termites… and I didn’t even know that until after my meltdown.

So I sat between Mutt and Jeff (or The Odd Couple), in the seats that seem to get tighter and tighter each time I fly, and wept. No, it wasn’t weeping, it was absolute convulsive crying. I was never a very good flyer. I usually succumb to white-knuckled anxiety. This time, however, I didn’t even notice the take-off.

Suddenly, just after the pilot announced that we had reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, I blurted out, “I need chocolate.” The lovely man sitting next to the window handed me a granola bar. “It has a few chocolate chips, if that will help.” Nice to know there are some people that just get it.

The three of us flew silently back to south Florida. When I got in the car, and kissed my husband hello, I immediately talked about planning a trip back to visit our daughter, and that we needed to make the reservations soon if we were going to travel on a holiday weekend. (I’ll pack chocolate with me this time.)