Monday, September 24, 2018

More Thoughts on the Empty Nest

Todd and I have had some good fun in the empty nest the past few weeks.  But just when you think it's safe to declare forever party time, some memory or event triggers the tears again. The sadness for me ebbs and flows.  

We were coming home last night from our last parents' weekend for our oldest son, an event blessed and complicated by the fact he has a wonderful career opportunity that will take him 1,000 miles away pretty much forever, I'm guessing.  We invested our time and energies into the quest to help him succeed, so I don't know why the thing we wanted for him inspires such a dichotomy of emotions in the heart of a mother.  So, I had to apply two rounds of foundation this morning because my tears washed away the first application.  I was having, as they say, a moment.  Todd and I hugged him goodbye on the curb outside the airport then headed inside.  Once settled at the gate, I noticed something flying around the ceiling.  "Hey, look! It's a bird!" I exclaimed.  Several minutes later, hopping around about three feet from my shoes were five little sparrows.  Looked to be a mom and dad maybe and three fledglings.  Hopping around the airport looking for pizza crust or bun crumbs at gate C21 at the Raleigh Durham International Airport.  

The cuteness of it all faded fast as the symbolism hit me upside the head.  "Todd, there are five of them... together like we used to be." My eyes welled up with tears and Todd looked at me a little helplessly no doubt thinking, "Oh, no.  Here we go again." Five wee birds.  A little family.  A mom and a dad and kids hopping around them.   Something we don't have anymore. 

I prayed last night for God to help me get it together.  To give me some healthy perspective on where Todd and I are right now and some peace to move on with my own life as I celebrate the adventures of my adult children.  The bird family and its metaphor for the dependence of youth and family love was not exactly what I had in mind.  Then, something really poignant happened.  All five birds flew up and found a resting perch on a window ledge maybe 30 feet high.  There they sat, all lined up, staring out the window at the world awash in rays of late afternoon sunlight.  Unnaturally caged inside an airport.  Together, yes.  Free, no.  

We serve a supernatural God who works in supernatural ways.  Did he direct those birds into the airport so I could see them?  Highly doubt it.  Did he take an opportunity to use those birds to teach me something?  I suspect he did.  The impression they left was far too indelible, far too corrective, far too healing to be coincidental.  Do I feel like skipping through a wheat field now?  Not exactly.  Do I feel slightly better?  Yes.  Did those birds break my heart?  Kind of.  

I called the airport and spoke to someone who said they have animal control look after them.  They can't always be caught and released.  Sometimes they put food out for them.  Mostly, they graze for tiny scraps on the floor.  "What about water?" I asked.  "They drink from the fountains," she said.  

I'm haunted by those birds.  They're captives in an unnatural setting.  Just like my boys would be if they didn't have lives of their own.  

Binge listening to Perpetua. (Live) by charlton n company

Monday, August 20, 2018

Empty Nesting Ennui


I don’t recall crying when they toddled off to preschool; I knew I’d see them at noon. I felt a tinge of ennui when we sent two off to college but I knew they’d be home for fall break. When one left, there were two remaining.  When two left, there was one remaining.  When the third goes in 5 days, 6 hours and 27 seconds, there will be none. I was utterly unprepared for the shackling grief I would experience when my boys became men, hauling back-packs, power cords, plastic tubs and Twin XL bedding into dorm rooms from North Carolina to Fort Worth, finding their own way, independent of the person who spent more than two decades raising them.  I indulged in self-pity this past week, feeling like an old lady on the precipice of assisted living and a soft food diet.  With no one left to nurture, who am I?  The empty nest for many is an existential crisis.  

I’ve reached out to every human with a pulse who has grown children and scavenged online forums looking for someone, anyone who can make the pain hurt a little less by virtue of the fact they do have a pulse and lived to chat about it. What I learned is that my boat is full of people who feel they are adrift at a sea that alternates between unpredictable, onerous waves and menacing, indigo clouds (the crying jags) and a calm that looks like miles and miles of monochrome blue beneath a barren horizon (the feelings of emptiness).  Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience.  I’ve encountered plenty of people who are chirping with delight over newfound freedoms and opportunities to re-discover who they really are independent of others.  I hope my train pulls into that station at some point real soon.  

I’m hardly an expert, but I think a plan is a good idea, and this is mine:

1.    Start a dialogue with others.  I’m not a joiner and the kids have been the epicenter of my life (I know, I know… that’s a problem), so this is new to me.  But, I’m reaching out to people who have adult children and chatting online with people in transition.  It helps.
2.    Make “to do” lists.  I need carpets cleaned, the window with condensation replaced, broccoli and chicken from Walmart for dinner, a solution for the weeds out front, a new binge-worthy Netflix show, etc.  Starting immediately, I’ve got the time to make some lists and check them twice.
3.    Look outward. My kids are all in a great place. It’s me that’s a mess.  It’s not incumbent upon them to fill this void of mine. It’s up to me to make some adjustments in my life and move forward, one measured step at a time.  No one has died.  No one slammed the door, moved to Greenland and vowed to never again visit.  We are embarking upon a new version of us.  I love kids and dogs.  Maybe there’s a volunteer opportunity when really leaving the house seems like a good idea?
4.    Be real. It’s OK for adult children to know that you are sad.  This helps them sympathize and one day empathize when they have kids of their own who will grow up and leave. Just resist the temptation to pull them back to assuage your hurt.  Don’t leave them with the sense that they alone are responsible for your happiness, that you’ll never enjoy another movie, mall trip, or meatloaf dinner without them.  This becomes 50-pound potato sack on their backs and really and truly, you raised them to be joyous and free.  

That’s my plan, and thoughts from someone in the throes of an existential crisis who maybe shouldn’t be giving advice. Thanks for indulging me.  Now, I’ll update my to-do list and throw on a slicker in case it’s a stormy day.  Oh, and I’ve got some extra Ritz Bits that didn’t get eaten by the kids if anyone on the boat wants to share.  


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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Proximity Effect Out Now!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Fickle Fans and True Love

The trajectory of celebrity is a mercurial thing.  Its arc swings up and down or levels at the fancy of the fan base which can go from hot to lukewarm to cold faster than Miley Cyrus changes hairstyles.  From time to time, an arc that seemed destined for oblivian reverses.  Mickey Rourke comes to mind.  I’m struggling to think of others. 

Yesterday, I blogged about Bob Dylan’s reinvention and how I, personally, enjoyed the “new” artist (or this permutation, anyway) a lot more than the “old” one.  For every one of me, there are probably 1,000 others who feel cheated when old familiars—iconic songs—are spun differently, both musically and lyrically. I can think of a number of once-popular musical groups whose changes over the years have left me sulking.  There’s disappointment when a favorite artist strays from his roots. Music fans, for the most part, want consistency.  Regardless of how many years or decades have passed between the chart-busting hit and the live performance, fans want to hear what they are familiar with.  They want a fuzzy blanket not a polar splash.  They go to concerts, maybe in large part, to recapture a moment.  Changing out lyrics or mixing up a beat or dropping some notes is like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  Meanwhile, the artist is thinking, how do I stay current?  How do I keep breathing in a dub step world?

The end result of this is fan base erosion and, more often than not, the artist just kind of fades away.   Venues get smaller and smaller.  Groups that could pack an amphitheater are playing at apple festivals or, arguably worse yet, not at all.

So, people are both generally fickle and lacking a certain loyalty.  Imagine if the creator of the universe went hot and cold on his creatures or walked away and never looked back on us when we became less amusing. Chilling thought, huh?

Theologians write about the “immutability” of God.  This means that God doesn’t change with respect to his nature, character or attributes. God will always be an all-powerful God impeded by nothing and capable of accomplishing all he envisions.  God is the same today as he always was, undiminished or reshaped by time, and will be the same forever.    

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is form above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17)          

Looking for something to celebrate today?  How about that?

In my DVD Player…  The Last Lions.  Love, loss, loyalty and courage are not exclusive to the human domain.  This is a suspenseful, heart wrenching and ultimately redemptive film that shows us life is both hard and precious.        

Photo from Pastor Lynette Santiago's blog.

Friday, November 02, 2012

On Reinvention and Bob Dylan

 
Bob Dylan
 
I had a really interesting experience at the Mark Knopfler/Bob Dylan concert in Grand Prairie last night.  A huge fan of Mark Knopfler’s music from his Dire Straits days up until, well, the album before last,  I was thrilled that he was finally coming to Texas!  When I heard that Knopfler and Dylan were playing separately, I was beyond happy.  My fear when I first heard about the concert is that they would be playing together and I really didn’t want to listen to Bob Dylan on top of Mark Knopfler.  Call me shallow, but I don’t get Dylan.  The greatest songwriter of all time?  Really?  And who can tell?  You need sheet music to understand what he’s saying beneath the plugged-nose warble.  (Not trying to be mean here… just a small critique… sorry.)

Knopfler did not disappoint.  Backed by what must have been some of the best musicians in the world, he and his band beat out mostly newer fare.  Only two songs, however, hearkened back to the "older" Knopfler I most enjoy:  Brothers in Arms and So Far Away.  So, I had to kind of get past the new Knopfler’s bluesy, folksy, Appalachian story-telling schtick.  Still, a dazzling show.

So, then Dylan takes the stage with a back-up band that was probably going straight to somebody’s wedding reception.  It mystified my husband and me as to how this iconic legend couldn’t pull together a better group of musicians.  It’s not that they were awful.  It’s not that they were bad.  It’s just that the opening act’s band blew them out of the water.  The contrast between Band Knopfler and Band Dylan was like chocolate and vanilla. 

So, anyway, Dylan’s up on stage.  We were in a tiered-seating venue in the mid-section.  Lots of people down front were standing up, but there were no obstructions to our view.  We could see fine until some guy in front of me decides to stand up, too.  Hey, it’s a concert.  That’s what people do.  But, I was not really in a stand-up mood.  And neither was anyone behind or around me.  We were all sitting down in our section.    My husband immediately wanted to change seats with me.  I didn’t want him staring at this guy’s back.  So, I declined.  Then my husband said, “Why don’t I ask him to sit down.”  I thought about this for a second.  My biggest consideration was the people behind me, because I really didn’t care.  I’d already seen what I came to see (Knopfler). Maybe Todd should ask for the people behind me, I thought.   But, I could see that this guy was having a moment.  He was watching someone he really admired… so obviously thrilled to be there. I didn’t want to mess with the vibe.  So, I just put my head on my husband’s shoulder and was content to let #1 Dylan Fan soak in it.        

So, this guy was really into the performance, swaying back and forth and grinning, for about four songs.  Then, he sat down and I noticed his attention seemed to wane.  He was a little bit more conversant with his wife and looking around a bit. Dylan saved his three biggest songs for the end:  Like a Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower and Blowing in the Wind.  Dylan did wildly different interpretations of all three songs.  In fact, it wasn’t altogether clear until he got well into the songs what they were.  As soon as it became obvious that he was playing Like a Rolling Stone, #1 Dylan Fan did something bafflingly, crazily unpredictable.  He got up… and left.  #1 Dylan Fan up and walked out just as the artist was getting down and legendary.   Why?  Could have been an emergency?  It was more than a bathroom break, because he and his wife kind of packed up and left never to return.  Who knows?  But, my guess is that #1 Dylan Fan had come to the concert, maybe, hoping to recapture some of the magic and what he got, instead, was a reinvention.  History rewritten.  The song did not remain the same. 

Then something else happened that took me by utter surprise.  As #1 Dylan Fan was walking out, I got a chill and goose bumps and suddenly got Bob Dylan.  I not only got him, but think I fell in love. It all clicked for me.  And it took a reinvention to do it.  I don’t like old Bob Dylan.  It’s the new Bob Dylan I fancy.  It’s the new take on the old songs that did it for me.  #1 Dylan Fan, I suspect had a totally opposite experience.  He came for the old Dylan and walked out on the new one.  Which is kind of the way I feel about Mark Knopfler, frankly. 

I think there’s a spiritual application to this story.  But, we got home at midnight, the dog needed to go outside four times before 5:00 a.m. and I’m really tired.

Pondering it, though.

 On my iPod... thinking I got to get some Dylan     

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kitchen Grown Veggies!

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. Mark 6:41 (ESV)

My oldest brother and his wife inspired me to attempt some kitchen sprouting.  It was amazing for me and the family to watch over the period of a few days how a handful of dried beans, grains or legumes can dramatically increase in mass to become a fresh salad or stir fry.  It reminded me of Scripture's account of how Jesus supernaturally multiplied bread and fish.  While we didn't have a miracle on the kitchen counter, we did enjoy a very cool experiment in cultivation, food multiplication and cuisine.

We are now on our fifth batch.  My brother advised sprouting takes a bit of practice and patience.  For our first batch, we used a sprouting mix from the Sprout House.  Worked beautifully!  For our second batch, I used bagged lentils I had in the pantry from the grocery store.  They sprouted nicely, but the texture was tough. The third batch using navy beans failed to sprout after three days and began to show signs of spoilage. The picture below shows our fourth batch using more of the Sprouthouse mix after two days, looking good!  Most recently, we tried alfalfa sprouts and they were awesome. 

So, this is what we did.

1.  Purchased Sprout Master triple trays from amazon.  I liked the idea that they were "family size," stackable, easy to drain, and multiple "crops" could be easily grown at the same time.  But, you can use mason jars with draining lids or even some kinds of colanders will work.

2.  Purchased Sprout House Organic Sprouting Seeds ( Holly's MIx) from amazon. There are more economical ways to go (i.e., the grocery store aisle), but this one worked for us the best and kept us in the game! 


3.  Rinsed seeds and soaked in water overnight.

4.  Put seeds in VERY CLEAN sprouting tray (this part's really important... growing conditions need to be clean from start to finish to avoid contamination.) 

5.  Rinsed seeds thoroughly.

6.   Drained well.

7.  Covered with sprouting lid and set aside.

8.  Rinsed 2 or 3 times a day VERY WELL for 2 or 3 days and drain. Picture below shows our fourth batch of sprouts after overnight soak and 1 1/2 days of rinsing/draining.


9.  Enjoy!

Afterwards, just make sure to hand wash your tray (not dishwasher safe).  I keep a little spray bottle of food grade hyrogen peroxied (again, amazon... and please note this is NOT the stuff you can buy in the medicine aisle at the drugstore) under the sink and give it a quick spray before putting away to make sure that it is germ-free and ready for the next round.  If you're especially germaphobic, you can also use the food grade HP in the overnight soak.  

The batch pictured was great as a stir fry with olive oil, soy sauce and a bit of garlic salt. Cook up some rice and you've got a healthy dinner with good vegetable protein and essential vitamins and minerals!
        

Friday, October 05, 2012

Quiet Power

I remember sitting in a Bible group years ago and taking a "personality inventory" to see if  I was an introvert or extrovert. I was surprised to learn, by the standards of the quiz, I was a full-blown, off-the-charts introvert.  Not knowing what this meant but figuring that most sociopaths, psychopaths and convicted felons scored the same as me, I felt the blood rush from my head and this full-body creep of personal disappointment, dare I say shame.  Surrounded by gift-of-gabbers, I ran through all sorts of scenarios in my head about how I might spin this so as not to appear so, well, unChristian.

One on one, I find people enchanting.  I really do.  But, give me the choice of breaking banana bread and exchanging one-pot recipes with 12 women without an agenda.... or plucking goose feathers... I'd go for the goose.  I really would.  I don't mind silence.  In fact, I need it.  Otherwise, I can't think.  I can't create. It's the way, I suspect, God has wired me.

In the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain exhaustively researches and reflects upon the way in which the economic drivers of the 20th century manufactured an extrovert "ideal" that Americans have been trying to model and emulate ever since.  Cain tugs at the mask to try and expose whether or not it's illusory. Do extroverts have better ideas? Are they better problem solvers? Are they better leaders? Or, do we tend to simply follow after the guy or gal who speaks most often and can be heard most loudly?
             
If you are an introvert... if you are married to an introvert... if you are raising an introvert... if you were raised by an introvert... if you have ever met an introvert... if you have ever heard about this word that's spelled i-n-t-r-o-v-e-r-t... you need to read this book.  If you are an extrovert, you need to read it, too.  It might radically change the way you view and value the contributions of others. 

Love & peace and quiet.

On my iPod... I'll Never Know by Goldenhorse

   

Friday, May 18, 2012


Enjoy this U2 song from Transformers 3 soundtrack!    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Testimony to holding the Shield of Faith from Morning Star Church on Vimeo.


Oh, my. So powerful...

on my iPod... All My Days by Alexi Murdoch

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Sorry for the extended hiatus. Really busy with the boys and getting close to a conclusion for Anders in the Heavens... coming soon!

Pic: Lifesong Recital Night... boys performed hip hop routine to a Michael Jackson medley.