Tag Archives: Marriage

The Nest

When I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, I led a seminar in the church I was serving on “How to Cope When Your Kids Go to College.” I have a background in Pastoral Counseling so I guess I believed I was using that knowledge to teach. Now, I just think it is hilarious and I’m surprised they didn’t throw things at me for not knowing what I was talking about.

I remember talking about grief, change and how having a child move out alters your family system. I talked about finances and the demand college expenses places on families. At the very end, a man in the back and raised his hand and asked, “Is it possible this could also be very fun?” The teacher (me) and the rest of the class seemed frozen in time for a minute. We looked at each other and quietly decided that fun just might be possible.

Fast forward almost three decades and I feel more qualified to speak on the issue. We have successfully sent two children to college and in about a week we will drop off our third child there  We are about to experience an empty nest.

We have literally been parenting now for 29 years straight. We have had kids in our home that entire time. How incredibly weird it feels to look up, look at each other and say, “Wow, that was distracting.” And, “You look different.”  “What year is it now?”

This time, with this kid moving out it feels different to me. First, for whatever reason, he’s more pleasant at this stage of his life than the other two were. He’s talkative and interesting.  He will cook, mow and run errands happily with no expectation of money or reward. He’s musical and fills our home with piano and guitar music and songs of all types. He’s funny. Secondly, I’ve been able to spend his senior year not working so we’ve bonded. I’m going to miss him. I told him I got a job at his college in the dining hall just so I can see him at meal times. He did not think this was funny nor a good idea.  I loved the idea except for the hair net issue. Thirdly, this time the next will really be empty. No extra kids left to parent after this one.

Yesterday, at church, a lot of moms with kids this age were crying. We needed a support group or something. Some of the kids were too.

It is really hard after pouring yourself into someone and spending 19 years loving, protecting, worrying and hovering, to send them off. It just is.

How I plan to cope:

-I’m going to let myself grieve and acknowledge that I miss him.

-I’m going to stay appropriately in touch. Some soon-to-be college parents were talking about devising a communication code with their kids where the students will text SA if they are still alive. I’m going to ask for more than that, for my sake.

-I’m going to continue with all my healthy habits: exercise, journaling, drinking lots of water every day, yoga.

-I’m going to have fun with the guy I married.

-I’m going to focus on the projects in my life that give me meaning, purpose and joy. There’s so much need in our world, so many ways I can love.

-Oh, and I’ve decide it is not an empty nest, at all. It is just a bigger nest. My nest stretches from Grapevine, to Frisco, to Houston and now out to College Station. And actually my nest has more eggs in it than ever with a son-in-law and now, a grandson too.

-If all that fails, I’m getting a hair net and you’ll see me at Duncan Dining Hall at Texas A&M happily distributing scrambled eggs. It’s always good to have a back-up plan.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Teacher

Life is clearly a series of transitions. We should be used to that by now. So many I know are in the midst of some achingly abrupt and difficult transitions. The hardest ones seem to the be the ones no one asked for.

I have friends who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Some are grieving breaking or broken marriages. Some are agonizing over the painful transitions of their children in trying to launch into the real world or who are struggling with addiction, anxiety, learning differences or depression. People I know keep getting difficult diagnoses. I know some right now who are transitioning from this life to the next or sitting near a loved one who is.

I have two sets of friends who are literally going through everything they own in order to move to different countries for a work season. I know some who are in the midst of big job changes, some they didn’t ask for.

My family has been wrapping our hearts around my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis which became official last June after revealing itself slowly a few years before that. She does not like to call it that. She believes she has normal “old people forgetfulness.” We try sometimes to gently remind her that it is more than that but I don’t suppose it matters.

My mom was an elementary school teacher. She’s still teaching me, even through her own transition. As Alzheimer’s erases her memory, she is forced to stay anchored in the present: the this day, this moment, present. Her disease has made her more attentive, more reflective even. We spend Wednesdays together. One of her favorite topics is for me to tell her about my childhood. I’m a storyteller anyway and not that many people are asking about my childhood these days, so I find it delightful. She hangs on every word. She’ll say, “I remember that!” Or, “I was a good mom, wasn’t I?”

She gets more caught up in the moment we are in. Last week, at a restaurant, she said she loved me and asked if she could kiss me. One kiss led to more all over my face. With the business lunch crowd looking on, she kissed and loved on me as if I was 9 months old. I just let every single kiss soak right in.

She stays in the present. She savors things, gratefully. She loves playing Tetris and beating me, every time. She loves a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. She loves peppermints, iced coffee, ice cream, playing Solitaire and Words with Friends on her Kindle. She will look at pictures of her loved ones all day long. She often names the things she likes, like a Holy litany.

Almost every time we are together, she tells me to look at the sky. “Can you believe how blue it is?” “Look at that tiny cloud over there!” “I’ve never seen the sky look so beautiful, have you?”

I do not romanticize her disease or what is coming for all of us. I know how hard and long and ever changing our journey will be.

But for now, in this transition-no-one-asked-for, she’s still teaching. I think her lesson points can work for anyone going through a hard season.

Stay in today. It is all we really have.

If you love someone, tell them and kiss them all over their face.

Savor little things, gratefully. Name what is good in your life over and over and give thanks.

And, for God’s sake, and yours, look up. Look up.

Yoga, Babies and Marriage

When the year turned new, I adopted a  word for the year. It is the word “new”. The purpose of having a word is to increase one’s focus. So I’ve been trying to be alert to all things new. I’ve also been trying to embrace new experiences and trying to learn new things.

So far, the word has led to me taking a Facebook Business Page class. For those of you who know me that last line should come with an exclamation mark because I don’t even really do Facebook. My daughter and I have continued to embrace the new world of repurposed and vintage treasures with our antique booth, Mimosa Rose. Every day,  on my to-do list, I now have a category  “new”. I make myself learn something or do something new before I do all my comfortable old things.

So a couple of weeks ago when a friend texted me that she was taking yoga twice a week and I needed to be there, I said yes. I’d dabbled in yoga before and I knew people had been doing it for centuries with good results. But,  people I’m here to tell you the whole yoga thing is awesome. Mind, body, spirit, relaxation, stretching, peace, love, personal challenge all rolled into one. I love this new old as time practice.

My other new is just watching our almost 8 month grandson experience “new” every day. Foods, mobility, sounds, textures, laughter, love, boundaries…the world is before him and it is pure wonder to see it through this eyes.

And marriage…I’ve been married to the same guy since 1985. I’ve loved him since we were 18. When I’m with him, we are still 18. In fact, we always say these days, “Can you believe we are grandparents?” We can’t. In order to be new, marriage needs attention and focus and taking time to just look in each other’s eyes again. We just finished a few days away together. Away matters. Away is different than home. I can’t explain it, it just is. Away makes all things new. A wise counselor told us once that couples need to be away every quarter together. This seemed very over the top to us and we have not yet managed it. But, I know he is right.

New things require focus, attention and time. Precious things do too like babies and relationships. I cannot do the downward dog or the dancer’s pose in yoga without focusing every ounce of my being.

What a gift to focus on new. Yesterday, I drove across Texas and saw new green grass, budding leaves and our precious state flower, bluebonnets beginning to emerge. What’s getting your attention these days?

 

Milestone Moments

60 years. My parents celebrated 60 years of marriage this weekend. I know, that’s a lot of years of marriage. We chose a low-key celebration at their home. All four of their children were present for the day, which is rare, along with some significant others and a few grandchildren. We played games, ate their favorite barbecue, remembered a few stories together, teased each other and then played more games.  My family is like yours, awash in family dynamics, so we had all of that going, of course.  We had a family meeting to talk about the future which was brave and important and something I would recommend every family do.

Our different resentments, issues and decades long baggage were all present and accounted for. Through the day, we had tears, tension and laughter.  Some of us were hot and would crack a window secretly until other people figured it out and were freezing. We repeated the window thing all day.

We asked my parents to please tell us the secret to marriage. My dad said the secret is just two words, “Yes Ma’am.” I like that. Then my mom chimed in and said the secret was respect. I like that too. She still calls my dad her boyfriend and repeatedly tells us how much she likes him and how cute he is. She made a couple of clear, heartfelt speeches telling us how much she has loved her life, her work, her travels, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandson. Alzheimer’s evidently took the day off for this anniversary milestone, so imagine that.

60 years takes you through so many seasons, so many dynamics, so many homes and jobs and friends. 60 years presents different challenges at different times and my family has weathered a few.

Almost everything these days makes me feel grateful, blessed and amazed. Milestone moments highlight the blessings.

We all looked at their wedding pictures. They still have the cake topper from their wedding cake. Some of us did little photo collages and put the pictures on Facebook or Instagram so others could see our celebration.

My husband’s grandmother always used to remind me that I was rich, rich, rich. On Saturday it felt like she was so right.

Emotionally Able

Sometimes there are just seasons of emotional ups and downs. Sometimes you and I just get into times of being stretched, challenged or pushed just a little too far. One unfortunate thing about being in such a season is that the high emotions make it difficult to realize we are in a time like no other and we simply need to be gentle with ourselves.

No one will argue with me that our country is today in a time like no other.  Emotions are beyond high and roller coaster like. I watched a news piece last night where they brought together a group of widely diverse American strangers in a focus group, about 15 of them, to talk about the election and how they are feeling. In minutes, they were yelling and crying and were just sort of beside themselves. Strangely, it made me feel better about my own ups and downs. I kept telling my husband as we watched, “See, look at them.  They are taking this whole thing pretty hard too.”  Thank you, out -of-control focus group, for making me look somewhat normal as we head to whatever happens tomorrow.

We are now on day 29 of work happening in our home. Some things are done so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Other parts are just sadly hilarious. The floors and ceiling work, led to wall and trim work. This led to taking down every set of blinds and all window treatments. The painter suggested gently and tactfully we might want to clean all that window stuff. Cleaning curtains and blinds is not that easy, especially when they disintegrate when doing so. My husband and I are learning all over again that WE ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT PEOPLE. He is thorough and painstaking in his approach to home projects. For example, he likes to find studs in the walls before hanging things. I am fast-paced and streamlined in my approach to getting things done. We each think our way is best. Our two styles create a bit of emotional clash from time to time.

Last week, I went for my every six month mammogram. When you’ve had breast cancer this is a BIG EMOTIONAL DEAL. Making the appointment is hard. Waiting for it is hard. Going to it is hard. This time when I arrived, I was told I had scheduled the wrong kind of mammogram and would have to leave and reschedule. I said, “No.” As they looked at me, puzzled, my voice got sort of preacher loud for the whole waiting room to hear. I explained the part about mammograms post breast cancer being a BIG DEAL and not without a lot of angst. As all the other waiting women listened, I found myself saying, “I cannot leave and reschedule. I’m just not emotionally able to do that right now.” They worked me in. My mammogram was (whew) all clear.

Here’s what I’m learning in this season. It is okay to admit that we are in a season of high emotion. It’s okay to be election-stressed, home-stressed and mammogram-stressed. It is okay to not be emotionally able to do what others want you to do.

It is okay to say to relatives or others, “I cannot have this conversation right now.” It is okay to trim back your schedule or to do things you know will nurture your soul or level you out. For me that is getting lots of rest, exercising, writing and making banana pudding.

I’m bringing all this up in case it helps you; in case you are in a season too. Feel free to say to whoever is demanding something of you, “I’m just not emotionally able to do that right now.”  Take good care of your self. All will be well.

A Few Thoughts on Marriage…and Geese

A wise man once told my husband and me to think of our marriage as “the goose that laid the golden egg.” After I processed through a few weird visual images, I started to get it.  He meant our marriage partnership was stronger and more productive than either of us was apart.  He was trying to tell us to take care of the goose, for heaven’s sake.  Feed it, water it, shelter it, take it for walks, give it nutrients and vitamins and good goose food. Our marriage needed intentional nurturing to produce good fruit. I mean, eggs.

The same man asked us if we had a weekly (weekly!) date night.  He asked if once a quarter we got away together for long weekends.  What?  He had the nerve to ask us if we’d ever gone on a trip alone for two weeks or more. Are you kidding me?

We still have not achieved the once a quarter get away much less the two weeks gone thing but we got the point.  The goose needs love and attention, now.

As a pastor, I see it too often.  Marriages running on fumes.  Relationships depleted.  Couples so stretched, busy and out of the habit of tending to their marriages that they have almost nothing left.  There are some very malnourished, emaciated geese out there.  How did it happen that we put careers, kids, sports, community, hobbies and friends before our marriages?  How did our geese get so feeble?

Dr. Richard Swenson is a physician who writes about margin, making space in our lives for what matters. He writes, “Relationships require time.  Marriage requires time. Love requires time….Shared experiences, romantic date nights, reconciliation, errands, play, all require time.” He writes a “prescription” for marriage: “Make time for it.  Schedule time for communication….Have regular dates. Keep short accounts….When culture makes home deliveries of stress and overload, don’t open the door.  Guard the atmosphere of your home and the resilience of your marriage.” A Minute of Margin

Or, more simply put, wake up and take care of the goose, now.

MLK Day 2015

I saw the movie Selma over the weekend.  I was both deeply moved and greatly horrified. The theater was packed.  The woman sitting to my left was a stranger to me.  She was African-American.  I noticed we both cried at the same points in the movie.  I just think our tears may have been for different reasons.

I left the movie, spent and wanting to learn more about what really happened during that time in history.  I had such a mix of feelings.  First, disbelief that Bloody Sunday in Selma was less than 50 years ago.  I couldn’t fathom that in my lifetime, people were prevented from voting because of the color of their skin.  Secondly, I felt pride in the clergy who stood with King and others at that critical time in history.  I wondered if I had been a pastor then, would I have marched or played it safe and silent?  Then I wondered what issues need a pastoral voice in our time rather than the safe/silent treatment? Racism, still, marriage issues, immigration reform, domestic violence, mental health issues come immediately to mind.  Thirdly, I felt apologetic and humbled, like I needed to apologize for the hideous actions of white people through the years.  And lastly, I felt surprised at how real and vulnerable MLK was portrayed.  He was flawed, conflicted and wavering at times.  It makes sense, all leaders I know are like that. I felt grateful for him; for his leadership; for his sacrifice.  It changed our country forever, thank God.

I’m glad we are coming around to see MLK Day as a “day on” not a “day off.”  I love the idea of serving others on this day.  Our church family celebrated the day by packing 20,000 plus meals for the hungry.  Hundreds of volunteers made it happen.  It was a huge undertaking led by the women of our church.

I only wish it was enough to right all the wrongs.  It’s not of course.  We have so far to go, so much to do and so much yet to learn.  I know I do.