Newest Family Member brings back old feelings

I remember feeling this way over 20 years ago, the night before my son was born. I was in labor and would soon be heading to the hospital- leaving my daughter in the care of her grandma. I recall thinking:”What have we done? Why did we think we should have a second child? How can I love another baby as much as I love this one?”

In hindsight, it seems naive or foolish to think our love is finite. Of course, the instant my infant son was places in my arms I fell in love all over again. All that dread and doubt were a waste of energy. However, today I have the same questions going through my head. I have been in a different type of labor: moving items I don’t want to become chew toys, protecting cords and outlets, setting up gates; all as part of puppy-proofing my house.

Tomorrow we will be driving to the home of the breeder and collecting our 8-week old bundle of joy. Our elder dog will stay home, even more clueless than my 2 1/2 year old was that by this time tomorrow he will have a sibling. This newest member of the family will mean a permanent sharing of attention with the human parents; but it will also give him an opportunity to be a mentor and role model, as well as someone to love or at least snuggle with when we are out of the house.

I know I will love the new puppy as much as I love my beloved Cockapoo, who will still be the King of the Hill. He will still be allowed special privileges for seniority and good behavior. Cooper will still sleep on our bed; puppy will sleep in the crate. Cooper can roam the house and yard; puppy is confined to puppy-proof areas. Cooper can enjoy some treats from our dinner plates; puppy will stick with his puppy food.

I am hopeful that Puppy will motivate Cooper to be more active and boost his energy level. At the same time, I hope Cooper will be a good example of how to behave, perhaps making our training a little bit easier. I really shouldn’t compare children and dogs, but it is kind of ironic that just as my daughter moves out and begins medical school, we add a new puppy to the family. So I can assure you that, contrary to what the term “empty nest” implies, our days of “finally empty nest” will be quite lively!

*By the time I was able to publish this post, Puppy has been named Dino (“Dee-no”).

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Skipping over the Middle Generation

The image of my adult children sitting on the patio, sipping cocktails with my mother makes me realize that: a) I am getting older, and b) I am no longer a crucial link in their connections, so therefore c) I must have done something right as a parent.

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Cheers!

My son and daughter took their first extended trip together and flew across the country- taking a break from work and other obligations. Of all the exotic or exciting places they could have chosen to spend their vacation time, they desired to see their grandmother. None of us had seen her since my daughter’s commencement last spring. Since then, a lot of things have happened for the better or worse and it definitely felt like a visit was long overdue.

We have traveled as a family for an annual visit almost every year, but this time the “kids” took matters into their own hands and planned their trip without the Middle Generation getting involved. As much as I would have loved to join them, I knew this would be a wonderful way for the two of them to reconnect with their grandmother on their own terms and without any interference from me. In fact, if my husband or I had been there, the dynamics of the visit would have been much different.

By skipping over the middle generation, the grandparent and grandchildren had no competition for attention and knew exactly where they stood in relation to the members of their trio. From the limited text messages or photos I received during the week, I could tell they were enjoying each other’s company. They also felt they could speak openly to her and tap into her life experiences and non-judgmental personality. In exchange, she was able to form a new bond with her grandchildren as adults with their own goals and dreams.

While it would have been nice to be a fly on the wall, overhearing all the interesting conversations they likely had, I am very happy to know they had this special time together without me. It is nice to know that the middle generation doesn’t always need to be the mediator or facilitator to make things happen. And as I reflect on the thought of the cocktail hour on the patio, between a grandmother and her now adult grandchildren, all I can say is how grateful I am that our family has this strong intergenerational bond. I am content that I have done my job.

Here’s to Adventure!

At some point in our lives, we come to the realization that our kids don’t need us as much as they used to and our parents are thankfully still in good health and independent. We are semi-retired and have more time for vacationing than we used to. One child is about to graduate from college and the other is soon leaving to pursue his musical interests on the road. So, it seems like the perfect time for Husband and I to make our own plans.

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Home is where you park it!

For years we have been fantasizing about getting a camper and going on our own adventures around the country. He introduced me to camping and I fell in love with being out in the National Parks, away from the stresses of everyday life. Well, a few weeks ago we found the perfect couple’s trailer and dove in! Last weekend we took her on her maiden voyage at a beautiful state park on Otsego Lake. IMG_0902

The weather was less than cooperative, but we had heat, electricity and indoor plumbing- much more glamorous than tent camping. In fact, if we had been confined to a tent all weekend, I would have cancelled the trip. Instead, the rain gave us an excuse to curl up with our books and still enjoy the nature views without getting cold and wet.

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We were able to get out for some walks and use the outdoor fire pit and grill in the evenings. Our dog was very compliant and didn’t go chasing after any wildlife and the three of us had a very cozy and relaxing weekend away from it all.

On our way home, we wrote down a list of minor projects to make things even better (e.g. a place to store books, a permanent trash can, an outdoor rug and shoe storage). But we couldn’t have been happier. We ate well and we were very comfortable on our real queen size bed- no more air mattresses and sleeping bags for us.

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Part of me felt like this was cheating. My late brother-in-law would have certainly called it that. He enjoyed the rugged lifestyle we shared on our camping adventures. However, as I sat inside with my book and listened to the patter of the rain on the roof, I could imagine him knocking on our door and asking if he could come in out of the chill and have a cup of tea.

We are looking forward to many more adventures this year!

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Childhood Memories

I have been doing a lot of reading about memory and memory loss lately- probably a combination of my career and personal interests as my clients and my family age. The topic that I have found fascinating is how things related to sensory perception (e.g. music, art, tactile objects) can trigger memories from long ago.

I experienced one such flashback this morning. I had made myself a breakfast of two sunny side up eggs and an english muffin with butter and strawberry jam.  It wouldn’t seem like anything extraordinary at first, but once I sat down and started to take a few bites something happened.

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As I cut through the runny yolk and watched it spill onto the plate, I dipped my jam- covered muffin into it and swirled it around. All of a sudden I pictured myself sitting at a dark oval table with yellow country curtains on the window behind me. My grandmother had just served me two easy over eggs for breakfast and was trying to convince me to eat them. I didn’t like the gooey substance, much less the pungent taste.  Then I heard my grandmother tell me to put a dab of raspberry jam in the yolk and mix it together. It sounded like a weird enough thing to do that I tried it. Amazingly, I ate my eggs like that for most of my childhood. It was only as I got older that my tastes evolved enough to try sunny side up eggs with just some salt and pepper.

As I continued to savor my eggs this morning, every time I swirled the muffin through the yolks until it was soaked through along with the jam, I had the happiest feeling that I was in my grandmother’s kitchen once again and remembered how kind and loving she had been. Wonderful childhood memories!

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Escape from Reality

I just returned from a week long escape from the ugly and frightening political scene in America. My husband, daughter and I used her “spring break” to travel to Europe! As the days before the trip decreased in number, I became more and more excited about our getaway. We had made plans to fly on Icelandair to Paris (more on that later) with a 2 day stopover in Reykjavik. We left on March 4- right on the cusp of Trump’s ridiculous and unfounded accusation of Obama wiretapping him. Very glad to leave that one behind and fly to one of the more remote areas of the world.

When we disembarked in Keflavik Airport, the temperature was warmer than when we had departed Boston. So much for thinking we were going to “icy cold land”. Granted, we still needed to bundle up because much of the land was covered in layers of snow, but with the sun out it still felt pleasant compared to back home.

The jagged volcanic rocks showed through the fluffy white snow and were in sharp contrast to the lush greenery growing in proximity to the multiple geothermal pools and hot springs. The smell of sulfur in the air and the gurgling sound of the water reminded us to use caution when sticking our hands into it and not get scalded.

We drove many kilometers from the airport to the famed Golden Circle, Geysir

and Gullfoss waterfall

until finally arriving at our hotel in Hvergardi, appropriately named Frost and Fire. All across the land we were impressed by the geography of the mountain passes, the flat plains, the high buttes and the frozen lakes or steaming creeks. Signs of humans were densely concentrated in the city and outlying towns and then only found on random ranches and small settlements as we drove farther out.

 

Something about the majesty of the territory and the sense of what it takes to survive here just seemed so amazing. It made me realize that no matter how in control and powerful we as humans think we are, Mother Earth will do just fine after we have wiped each other out through greed, hate and stupidity.

The plants and animals that can survive in these surroundings will still be around long after humans are extinct. To come to this place is very humbling indeed.

 

Peace!

Another Empty Nest Benefit

So here it is, President’s Day. Most other years I would be on vacation with my family- during one of the most expensive weeks to travel. Blackout dates definitely apply and airports are crowded as families make their way to their week-long vacation. Instead, I sat behind my desk today- which was very undisturbed by the way- because all of my clients were on vacation- and accumulated holiday time that can be used at a later date.

I am looking forward to taking one of my few vacations (but I hope there will be many more), that are not driven by school timing. That is another great benefit of the empty nest- I can vacation on my own terms- not the schedule of the millions of school children!

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Adjusting to the Empty Nest

babies4613Today marks the second time in the last 4 months that my husband and I have been “Empty Nesters” for over two consecutive weeks. The first time was in September, when we dropped our son off at his freshman dorm and our daughter returned to her college a few days later. The house all of a sudden seemed very quiet. No jam bands playing in the basement, no piano improv going on the the living room, no late night doors slamming or microwaves and dishes clanking. Our meal sizes had to be adjusted as well. We realized we didn’t need to make such huge portions or we would be forced to eat leftovers for days. And just as we started to settle into our new patterns- our son came home again. He was unhappy with his choice and decide to withdraw. We of course let him come home until he found his way again. After a few months he accepted an offer to work for his uncle across the country. A few days after he moved out, our daughter came home for her winter break. It was great to spend time with her, but again, our pattern was totally disrupted. She returned to school 2 weeks ago and he is still in Texas  so at this point, we are readjusted to our “Empty Nest” lifestyle. We are finding new activities to do together on the weekends and making time for ourselves to take evening classes and socialize with friends. I am enjoying not having to coordinate schedules for everyone and be a little more spontaneous. Hopefully I will now find more time to write and share my experiences. But I will not take this for granted. I have no idea what my son will decide to do in the future, and I already know my daughter plans to study for her MCAT at home this summer. So my advice to myself is to enjoy this calmer, quieter period while I can.

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