How to Bring Joy to an Empty Nester Mommy

Skypevintage adAnswer: Enjoy an hour-long Skype video conversation with her son.

That’s the highlight of my day. My Angel Boy and I Skyped for over an hour and it was rainbows and sunshine and glitter all rolled into one. The wonderfullness of seeing his face makes everything OK.

When my son first went to college, it was just down the road at UCSD (University of California at San Diego), about a half hour away. He lived on campus in a dorm for a few reasons: traffic on our freeway is horrible and would have been too stressful to drive every day, we wanted him to have a true “college” life experience, away from home —  for the first time — although we were close enough to be around if needed. He was seventeen when he was a freshman, and I really worried about him for all the reasons you can imagine.

8414969-empty-nest-isolated-on-white-with-space-for-textHe did just fine; I was the basket case.

Talk about empty nest syndrome; I was bereft, tearful, wandering into his room at all hours of the day and night…the silence was  hardest to bear. No doors slamming, “I’m home, mom, I’m hungry!” No one saying, “Hey, the guys are coming over to skate. Can we have snacks?” No one to need my help — not with anything.

That’s the hardest part of being an empty nester, I think.

It’s not being needed every day.


That was in 1998. We didn’t have the luxury of Skype — and mobile phones hadn’t yet attained their ubiquitous status. He had a laptop with an Ethernet connection and we thought that was a big deal.

We talked on a landline several times a week and he came home most weekends. We drove down to get him (and his laundry) and take him back with clean clothes and enough brownies and cookies and snacks to last the week.

In his junior year, he had the opportunity to go to Germany for his year abroad experience. He left for the University of Goettingen in September and I flew there in February and stayed for a week.

I met his friends and his professors and we walked for hours and talked and laughed non-stop the entire time. That’s what we’ve always done and that tops the list of what I miss most about him being all grown up and everything – besides the hugs and smiles and his messy room and being hungry all the time — he and I can talk for hours about anything.

It was a tradition started in Kindergarten. We’d leave the house every morning around 7:30 a.m. to walk our dog  before school began at 8:05 a.m. During that half hour he’d practice arithmetic, spelling, brain teasers, chat about his day in school, and what I would be doing with my time. With a final kiss and hug from me and a goodbye from his dog, he skipped off to meet his friends. Never looking back. Self confident and prepared for learning. That was my goal, and I think I accomplished it.

It’s full circle time for my Angel Boy — he’s taught freshman and seniors at Yale.  I couldn’t be prouder. When you’re a mom of a little one, you hope to plant the seeds for future life success; it’s a happy day when you see the fruits of your labor — a magnificent, tall, strong bountiful harvest. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him terribly! Sigh…

Our bountiful garden


The view from here

  • FurFiles and I have organized a little Skype baking session–yes, we’re going to make apple pies together–my good friend and neighbor from another country are going to put on our aprons (well, I am) and slice some apples and roll out some dough! Doesn’t that sound like so much fun? Technology can be awesome, that’s for sure.
  • Hubs and I went on the Palm Spring Aerial Tram yesterday and hiked all over in the snow at 8,000 ft. Took a lot of pics and will get to that post prolly when you-know-who leaves on Sunday.
  • Tomorrow is the launch of our rowing dory and we’re having a christening party here at Casa de Enchanted Seashells. Should be fun! You can’t believe how pretty this little boat is. Pics and post to come.
  • Working on the menu for my tugboat man’s last nice dinner before he flies away on Sunday. I’d love it if you shared your suggestions. Don’t forget we’re vegetarians–hope that doesn’t limit your options!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a “hate” with you.

I hate hate hate the little plastic things that conceal toilet bolts; I can’t explain why (maybe a shrink could, but that’s a whole other topic LOL)  but they really bug me, and one day I took the plastic off while I was obsessively cleaning. My seashell-saturated mind came up with  the brilliant idea of replacing it with a seashell, which fit perfectly, and I think it’s a great improvement!

I daubed a bit of Museum Putty on the underside to hold it in place. I use QuakeHold or Museum Putty to secure lots of things that I don’t want to glue or hot glue. It works great and doesn’t leave a mark.

The view from my throne…

Hi, I see you!

Hi, I see you!

The toilet improvement…Beautiful!


And a bit closer…don’t worry, it’s clean, I promise!toilet 2

Happy Thursday!


Building a Paper Titanic

This seemed as good a time as any to revisit a previously written post.

This one’s about one of the captain’s hobbies. He def likes to keep busy. He’s gone again, missing Thanksgiving, which is one of his fave holidays cos he likes to eat and it’s a day that I don’t police his consumption.

He’s a surf-aholic and this time of year usually brings good waves. Right now there’s a High Surf Advisory from an Alaskan storm. It’s about 5-6 ft. –maybe more– and my son’s here with DIL and sister wife.

They’ve been surfing twice a day, which leaves me time to clean up from all their meals and start prepping for the next one. I’m really missing the captain but there’s so much to be grateful for in spite of his absence.

I have so much admiration for the wives of our deployed soldiers. They are apart for much longer periods of time than this wife of a Merchant Marine, and have to be incredibly brave and stoic–and hope their loved ones come back alive. Although being a tugboat captain has its elements of danger, being shot at or bombed is not one of them.

When he’s home,  after he catches up on his sleep, my captain lines up projects to keep busy, whether it’s around the house or something creative. Unless there’s surf. In that case, I become a surf-widow and only see him when the tide drops or he’s hungry.

He’s made some awesome shelves in the living room and our bedroom, done a whole lot of house painting (inside and out).  The last time he was home for a few months, he found a paper model of the Titanic (he’s fascinated with anything Titanic) called Build the Titanic at Barnes and Noble and holed up in his man cave working on its miniature parts, gluing and painting. It’s more than two feet long and pretty much to scale. There’s a great little book that came with the model written by a female captain, Meghan Cleary, who lives aboard her thirty-five-foot sailboat.

I don’t normally watch daytime TV on any regular basis since All My Children went off the air. My mom and I started watching it together when it first began.  She was a stay-at-home mom until high school and then she went back to work part-time, as an RN. She was charge nurse for Women’s Surgical at a local hospital and worked the 3pm to 11pm shift, so we would hang out during summer vacation before she left for work.

When my son was born, I used to nurse him during All My Children, One Life to Liveand General HospitalThree hours, that’s right. I would switch him from side to side every twenty minutes or so, ‘cos my mom told me to nurse him as long as he was hungry, so we  had these marathon sessions. Plus, I read somewhere that breastfeeding burns tons of calories, so it provided value added options for me. I could lose baby weight, bond with my child, feed him, and watch TV at the same time!  That’s what I remember I was doing during Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981.

I was working on a small proofing job and caught a few minutes of The View, muted ‘cos that one blonde chicka has a voice that could turn milk sour, geez, but what in the world has happened to Barbara Walters’ earlobes? I have enough of my own personal body image issues so that I do have empathy, but they are ay-may-zing specimens. I know she’s like eighty or something, and gravity happens, but WOW. She was wearing gigantic button earrings (ring, ring, 1983 is calling!) but even those monstrosities could not hide her elephant-sized lobes. It was fascinating and stomach-turning at the same time; I couldn’t turn away, I couldn’t look, I expected them to start flapping in the breeze. C’mon girl, you are obvs no stranger to plastic surgery-for the love of all that is holy, pullease nip/tuck those things! At the very least, have your hair stylist do a little cover-up. Pull-ease. It’s funny–for the hell of it I Googled “Barbara Walters’ ears” and discovered a lot of internet commentary, so I am not the only one who noticed. Like I said, aging is sad for so many, many reasons.

It’s now 9pm and I’m watching So You Think You Can Dance. Got a call from my captain, but it was such a bad connection and kept breaking up, so we didn’t get to have any kind of conversation besides the usual, “How are you, is everything OK?

“Yes, I’m fine, are you all right?”

“I can’t really hear you, I’m breaking up, I better go, I’ll try and call again in the morning if we’re near a cell tower. Love you.”

“I love  you, too. I miss you lots.”

At least we were able to get the important things said.  I am fanatical about ending conversations with “I love you”. With my son, ever since he spent his junior year abroad and continues to travel all over the world,  I always end every single telephone call or Skype that way.  No matter how brief the conversation, I want those to be the last words and the last thought I leave with him.

Bleeding car and chirping house, Part Two

Use your imagination!

I’d like to introduce you to my husband. He’s right there inside that cell phone. Yeah, you’re seeing it correctly. Even if you’ve had a few too many glasses of wine or whatever else you might do in the privacy of your home,  you still see it clearly. And I don’t want to know what you do; don’t make me an unwilling accomplice. (But tell me anyway, you know you want to.) Yes everyone, my little confession du jour is that I do not have a smart phone; it’s a dumb phone–well, a stupid phone really–and yes, it’s hot pink and covered in silver stars. I don’t have an iPhone to go with my MacAir. It was on the To Do list while the captain was here, but we didn’t get to it, so that chore carries forward to the next homecoming. 

Watch what you say; he’s listening. Check out his snazzy captain’s hat. He looks really cute when he wears that…and nothing else, if you know what I mean.  Stop. That. Right. Now. It’s inappropriate.

My captain is quite the problem solver. Even in absentia, he’s worth his weight in gold. (Although less gold than before ‘cos he’s lost a bit of weight under my watchful eye.)

We were so close last night. It lasted for forty-five minutes, the longest its been since we first met. He leaned against my head, whispering in my ear in that special way. I was pleasuring him the same way, my lips to his…EAR. What did you think I was talking about? We were on the phone, for goodness’ sake, get your mind out of the gutter!

He called and systematically solved my two pressing dilemmas. If you’re wondering why we didn’t Skype, it’s ‘cos he doesn’t have the bandwidth to do anything complicated like that. It didn’t matter. It was almost like he was right here instead of just being a disembodied voice emanating from a happy pink phone. I put him on speaker so he could hear the beeping and chirping sound that had me once again straddling that tenuous line of crazy. It seemed to come from the garage area so we went into the garage together. At first I thought it was coming from my new car radio he installed last week. Could it be a type of alarm that was beeping even though the car wasn’t running? He didn’t think so. Then I hauled him over to the driver’s side door that he’d been messing around with, and it’s electronic and all so I thought he had screwed something up. He didn’t think that was it. I set him none too gently on the stool and the beeping stopped. Weird. Then it started up again. He told me to open the hood, so I did, ‘cos I’ve been taught how. Maybe it was a bird that got in there somehow! Nope, that wasn’t it either. (Check out my cool diesel engine.)  He shared some thoughts about the possible sources of beeping. I think he said it could be a sensor to something called a vacuum booster but to me it sounded like “Blah, blah, blah, vacuum, blah, blah, blah.” I actually asked him if he remembered who he was talking to and did he think that while he was gone I magically turned into someone who gave a shit about stuff like that. I really said that. I was joking (sort of). Most of the time he thinks I’m really funny and I think he has a great sense of humor ‘cos he thinks I’m funny. We’re a great team. There I was, being my witty self once again. His new thing to say is, “Are you going to blog about this?” “Well, DUH, Captain Dorky, of course I am!” Keep reading, I’m almost at the end of this part of the story. Even if you think you know how it ends, continue reading, please. He put me on hold for a minute while he checked with the engineer. After they conferred, they came to the conclusion that it could not have been the whatever he thought it might have been. We were back to square one. The sound stopped. He told me to check the time. OK Captain Kirk (he was sounding very StarTrekky to me.) There goes the damn chirpy beepy crap again. He said to time it and I said it was just like timing contractions and he said I should try to stay focused. We counted together….thirty seconds and another one. Thirty seconds and another one. He said he was totally stumped. Then I got a cosmic message from the universe and looked up on the wall near one of his quivers of surfboards. Oh. My. God. There was a smoke alarm up there. I said, “Hey, there’s a smoke alarm in here, did you know that?”

“Are you kidding me? Didn’t you check the smoke alarms before all this? I thought you would have done that days ago!!”

“What? How was I supposed to know there was a smoke alarm in here?”

I stuck him in my pocket and climbed up on the big somekindofsaw table so that I could reach the smoke alarm. I’ll be darned if that stupid thing wasn’t beeping and chirping his little heart out! Now he has a new battery and all is quiet at Casa de Enchanted Seashells. At least we didn’t tear the walls apart to find the source of the beeping like that couple in the UK (see article below).

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew worked together and solved the mystery; what a great team we are! Now on to the next problem-my bleeding car. The captain had me describe to him in exquisite detail about the little drop under my car. It was about the size of a contact lens, blood-red, and kind of oily. He determined that it was probably a bit of transmission fluid and not to worry unless there was so much gushing out that it looked like a burst carotid artery.

Seashell tree atop a seashell table

All of that took a lot out of me. I so deserved a bit of retail therapy. I found a simply awesome seashell tree to kick off  the holidays.

It is a daunting task to be married to me. I raise my glass to the captain for maintaining his even temperament and composure through every screwball situation.