gratitude-a-thon day 2071: off to college

I remember being pregnant (which only took me three years to accomplish and a total of 12 months of being nauseous) and slowly experiencing the dramatic changes my body was going through. The way my stomach began to protrude, how I kept spilling out of my bras, the heavy exhaustion I would feel and that deep coma like nap I would fall into daily. Oh, and the cravings: McDonald’s french fries, fettuccine alfredo and watermelon.

I think there’s something in there that correlates to sending your child off to college. You shed part of your mommy skin as you drop them at the door of a whole new world in much the same way that you shed your old body when you were carrying, around your child inside you.

Pregnancy both excited and terrified me (it also, did I mention,  made me nauseous, very, very nauseous). On the one hand, I deeply wanted a baby and on the other hand, I had no idea what being a mom might be like, or if I had the capacity to even pull off such a feat. I had no understanding of what I might be giving up in order to make this new person part of my life and yet, I knew I had to, I knew something deep within me desperately and fervently wanted a child.

It’s not that different when you take your child to college that first time. It’s both exciting and terrifying. On the one hand you deeply want your baby to experience this new phase, be able to take this important step toward freedom and adulthood, but at the same time you wonder if they have the capacity to do so. And you also wonder if you have the capacity to do so….

For all you new college parents, for all you first time empty nesters, it’s going to be alright. I got one through and the other is going into her senior year. GRATITUDE! You will cry. You will begin to talk baby talk to your dog. You will wonder why the laundry detergent is lasting so long.

You will have dozens of emotions and they will keep changing, just like your body did when you were carrying around that kid in your womb. The thing I can tell you is that the process keeps changing, too. And you and your child keep changing with it. Just when you get used to one phase, it will morph into another (just like when you got used to being a mom of babies, you were suddenly a mom of toddlers and then pre-schoolers, then…well, you know how it goes).

Be kind to yourself as you undergo the changes that come with that tiny baby being out of your nest. Just like they couldn’t stay in your body forever, they can’t stay in your home forever. And truly, this move, this change means all that you did, preparing them to go out into the bigger world for all those years, worked. They will learn a lot at college. And so will you.



gratitide-a-thon day 1074: the empty nest chronicles: part 2





That was then. Us, with the famous Halloween Spider Cupcakes.


My husband tried to fix one of the shelves of the cabinet that contains some of our heavier cookware, and which seemed to be going through a middle aged slump. Further investigation revealed a crack in the side of said cabinet, making the shelf tilt. My husband, being the unhandyman he is (good at many things, house stuff not being one of them) took the shelf out and piled all the stuff on the lower shelf.

This morning I went down and while microwaving the milk for my coffee, I saw that the shelf has, like six cupcake/muffin pans on it. I have not made cupcakes/muffins since my famous spider Halloween cupcakes back in 1999. AND THAT’S WHEN IT HIT ME, I COULD ACTUALLY GET RID OF ALL BUT ONE OF THOSE CUPCAKE/MUFFIN PANS, BECAUSE I NO LONGER HAVE HALLOWEEN SPIDER CUPCAKES TO MAKE BECAUSE NO  HALLOWEEN SPIDER CUPCAKE EATERS LIVE HERE ANY LONGER.

And I got a funny feeling in my stomach, which goddamn it, I realized was yet another moment of the kind of reality that hits like a solar eclipse–and that I would rather not look straight at, because I could burn out my eyes, or in this case, soul.

This is what I observe every once in a while–something in the house that I’ve been saving, or leaving out, or holding onto no longer needs to reside here, because it’s really a remnant of another time. A time which has passed, and is, in fact, long gone. Noticing is like a left hook to the gut. It takes my breath away. Because you cannot stop time or reverse it, and these moments of realization put me square inside that fact, and it hurts like having a root canal without novacaine, which you should never do, and I have never done, but I would imagine would hurt as much as having Trump as president.

The transition is happening AGAIN. Jake, home for a visit for the past week, left yesterday morning to fly back to L.A. and do his last semester at USC (that damn first semester at University of Barcelona did not count, thank you so much). I bring Ally to pre-season at Trinity on Wednesday. While their rooms were disgusting displays of all I failed to teach them about orderliness, I am once again going through the upheaval of having them leave again.

Again. Again. Again.

I thought once I adjusted to them being gone, I would be able to check that off my list. But it’s like Groundhog Day, the movie, it just happens over and over again. The shock, the melancholy, the terror that a part of your life has simply gone missing, and that no matter how many you appear on America’s Most Wanted, you will never find it again.



This is now. Us, a few days ago,  visiting my sister.


I am grateful for the summer I had with my daughter, who grew up a lot last year, and with who I have never had a better time than these last few months. I am grateful for my son, who although lives in L.A. comes home to see us and spend time with us, and who I believe always will love his hometown.

Today I throw out the cupcake/muffin pans and make more room on the shelf for something new.






gratitude-a-thon day 964: pupu platter parenting


There are things you have to get used to beyond the empty nest, like when the nest fills back up, which is great fun, but then just as quickly empties out again.

As happy as it is to have the kids repopulate the house, is as sad as it is to have them leave. There are transitions on both ends of a visit from the brood.

I look so forward to them coming home. But I also struggle with the rules, the chores, the sleeping schedules. Do I force them to help me with getting the holiday on, or let them rest because they need to catch up on their zzzzzz’s. Do I pretend they have a curfew, when I know and they know they can stay out all night at school. Do I force family fun, or let them be with their friends? I don’t know. I try and go with the flow. Feel it out. Do a combination of stuff like a Pupu platter at a Chinese restaurant.

I used to think parents knew everything. Turns out we just guess half the time. We’re teachers, but we’re also students. We learn as we go along. And we try, we try really hard to get it right.


gratitude-a-thon day 935: empty nest update, this is harder than I thought

Empty Nest Update: Day 37

A lot of times, I forget that it’s just Peter and Riley here in the house. My body and mind is so used to the kid’s schedules, their rhythms, their voices, that sometimes I don’t remember they’re gone. Then it will hit me like a jolt, like that shot Uma Thurman gets when she OD’s in Pulp Fiction,  and it seems wrong and I feel panic in my gut, like there are a bunch of Riverdancing butterflies in there.

I miss the kids a lot, but we’re lucky to see Ally at her weekly games, which is a little slice of heaven for us (especially with Jake 2,500 miles from here). But that’s separate from my predominant feeling, which is how a job I had for 22 year could simply one day come to an END. I feel like one of those lifers at a big corporate company who gets laid off and wanders out of the building with a box full of moments looking for his future.

I wish I was Peggy Olson-ing it here, with this loss of mom employment, but I’m not.

I’ve never understood the time continuum, and given my math skills, I’m sure I never will, but honestly, it feels impossible that all those years have left the station. I hate being so ordinary, but here it is, my kids are in college, and I can’t believe it. I mean, COULD I BE MORE CLICHE?

We are creatures of habit. I got used to being a mom, and yeah, yeah, I know that I am still one and will always be one, but the days of kids living in my house is over, and getting used to it is a lot harder than I thought.


gratitude-a-thon day 919: what to do with my extra time


As a freelance writer, sometimes I am wildly busy, and sometimes I am not. This worked really well for being a mom, because when I wasn’t busy I would volunteer at the kid’s school more, or do some kid-related thing with my extra time. But now that the kids are gone, and I HAVE PLEDGED THAT I WILL NOT BECOME ONE OF THOSE MOM’S WHO CONTINUES TO WORK IN THE KID’S SCHOOL, DESPITE HAVING NO KIDS IN THE SCHOOL, I have to decide how to structure that extra time. Here are some of the things I’m thinking of:

  1. Pole/exotic dancer. Once upon a time, I actually had the body for this, believe it or not. I had the moves, too. Sadly, this bus has left the station. But the hours seemed so good……
  2. Grocer bagger. Secretly I love it when the baggers at Whole Foods are busy and I get to bag. It’s sort a sort of fun geometry project, trying to fit different sized items together. This is as mathematical as I get, by the way.
  3. Toll taker. I have a lovely “hello,” and I’m good with my hands. But what’s this, I just heard they are abolishing the tolls and using some electronic system? Toll taker job: taken.
  4. Waitress. I have a resume for this one. I loved this job because I would sit down with customers, and talk. It takes advantage of my excellent people skills. The only thing is, I was terrible at it. This was confirmed by a general manager at an unnamed restaurant in Faneuil Hall. He said, and I quote: “You are the nicest person in the world, but the WORST waitress I have ever worked with.” Yes, that happened.
  5. An Über driver. I cannot read a map. I would need a GPS that said, “Take a left at the CVS and a right before the Citgo sign.” Hey, maybe this is an App I should develop?
  6. Dog groomer. I love myself a dog. Any dog. They are my preferred company. I wonder if I could avoid the  “anal gland cleaning?” Like maybe bill myself that way. “No assholes allowed.”
  7. .A salesperson at a boutique. Let’s face it, this could break us financially.
  8. A chef. My daughter would laugh at this one. She’s psyched about the college food compared to my cuisine.
  9. House cleaner. As long as nobody has to see my house as proof of my skills.
  10. An organizer. Haaahaaaahaaaahaaa. Now that’s a funny one.


gratitude-a-thon day 917: empty nest update

Ally Lansbury, #19, her mom misses her a lot.

I keep thinking Ally is going to burst in, with a raucous roar, tromp through the kitchen, turn up the tv and leave 10 pairs of shoes in the entryway. But so far, it’s just Riley and Peter.

And Riley doesn’t wear shoes.

It’s quiet.

I notice it most in the afternoon, when Ally would be home. It feels unusually quiet then. Instead of asking my daughter what I have been asking her for the last 14 years–“How was your day,” I just think it inside my head–“I wonder how her day is?” Nobody answers. It’s troubling. HOW IS SHE?

Her texts are brief. Yes and no. Her dad gets a little more, but not much. I want to know things like how she is doing with her laundry and the gang bathroom. What it’s like for her to have have to wake up on her own, and go to a dining hall. Is it loud? Can she sleep? Are the boys cute? You know, the important stuff.

I have done some cleaning in their rooms. I am more used to Jake’s room being unoccupied. It doesn’t feel as strange. I know he will come home again. But Ally’s loud room is so silent. I am changing the curtains and putting down a different rug. I see that I need some changes to make me feel the bigger change at bay. To make me understand that what i have here is an empty nest and a momma bird who hasn’t gotten the text that the kids have flown.

It’s not the same house, so it shouldn’t look like the same house is what my heart is telling me. But it’s not really in the budget to paint right now. I will just keep shifting stuff around until it feels like a house where all the kids are at college and the mom talks to the dog.

I might be a little sad today. I think that’s why I’m crying. Or maybe it’s just the weather. But more than likely it’s because I miss my girl.

A lot.




gratitude-a-thon day 914: possibilities, but no pencils


I did not shop for school supplies this year. No number two pencils, desk organizers, cute notebooks, or white boards. For the past 16 years I have taken a first day of school photo, posing my two kids on the front porch and forcing them to smile for the camera. But not today. I’m not going to lie, it’s a little bit weird, but it’s not bad weird.

This is the fifth day of everybody’s-at-college, but-the-dog. I find myself ensconced in cleaning, happy to wake up to a neat kitchen–a kitchen just the way I left it the previous night. I’ve reduced the front hallway shoe pile to four pairs, and dinners have been a no-stress affair with lots of veggies and NO COMPLAINING. My Whole Foods bill has been reduced by one million dollars. All in all, it’s sort of been ok.

So far.

But I imagine I could freak out in a week or so, when the relief of getting Ally packed and moved in has worn off and I find myself wandering around the house looking for kids to mother.

Or not.

I don’t know exactly what this year will be like. But so far, it doesn’t feel like I am going to take to my bed and mourn the role I have spent much of my adult life starring in. Does this mean I don’t love my kids? NO. It doesn’t mean that at all. I think it means I am trying to take in this change and see what it is all about, see what kind of opportunities it might present. I’m open. This next part of life isn’t scripted, and I’m wide open to welcoming the same kind of possibilities all those new school supplies have always represented each September. Gratitude for the unknown. Every time there’s an ending, there’s a beginning. We’ll see, won’t we?



gratitude-a-thon day 913: shopping for a new self

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.20.19 PM
This is sort of similar to the necklace that is falling apart, but I realize it’s too big. Good thing I didn’t press that “buy” button.

On the eve of my daughter leaving for college, I was alternately doing her laundry, ironing (yes, people still do that) her myriads of teeny tiny shirts that would inevitably wrinkle by the time they reached her new dorm closet, and online shopping.

I was going to all my favorite sites to troll for sales. And googling my face off in an effort to replace one of my most favorite necklaces, which I’ve had for three years, and has recently begun losing beads. I can’t bear when I love something that breaks. It makes me feel vulnerable and like I must replace it right away. This necklace pooping out on me, as my daughter was leaving, felt somehow symbolic.

“How in hell do you figure that?” you ask.

I have an admittedly weird thing with jewelry. I wear it all the time, and it sort of becomes part of me, like a leg, or an eye (There’s no judging here, go away if you’re judging). And I have worn this necklace a lot for the past several years. It’s kind of my go-to necklace (and if you are also saying, “Who has go-to necklace?” I will tell you that, too. ME).  So, having it say sayonara just as my daughter was jumping ship, and my new role as empty nester was entering stage right mades me feel like it was telling me to say goodbye to the old and bring on the new.

When your kids leave, they take one identity, and you need to find another. Apparently, I was shopping for one, instead of packing.

Do you see that, or is it just me? Really, you don’t? Hmmmm, maybe it is just me. But I think if you listen carefully, and put your keen observation specs on, you an see all sorts of things the universe is using to communicate to you.  Because you know, being the universe and all, it can’t speak, so it has to use symbols, like, earthquakes, and toast (you know how people see Jesus in toast–boom–universe trying to communicate), and, well, broken jewelry.

Francis-Orr Summer Sale

Anyway, I was perusing all sorts of retail sites, judging the new fall looks and the old summer ones.  I was like frantically jumping from one site to another. It was  like the house was on fire, and I had to buy a fire extinguisher, but I was looking for it at Barney’s.

Maybe I  was shopping for a way to be without my kids. Subconsciously, I mean. I don’t know. But I should have been doing other things and yet, I could not stop shopping. What do you do when you’re at the end? Hang on for dear life to the way it’s been, or look for a new path? I think it’s smarter to embrace the new path. Maybe I don’t need that necklace. But MAYBE, just maybe, I need a new leather jacket…..

gratitude-a-thon day 909: what matters



Ever notice how sometimes, if you are looking, you see things that feel like a message?

Take my bulletin board  (I don’t know what you even call it, anymore. It’s a chalkboard that’s magnetic, when I was a kid I called it a bulletin board, so I still call it that, even though it doesn’t have cork, or push pins, but let’s just go with that, or like, you can sue me for mislabeling).

ANYWAY, I decided, with the kids leaving, I should probably clean it. There were a million papers and report cards and postcards and business cards and addresses, and tests and menus and announcements on that thing, all jammed one on top of another.

I ripped everything down and put it in a big pile. And look what was left (NOT EVEN KIDDING, THIS IS WHAT I FOUND):


There in the corner of the bulletin board/chalkboard/magnetic junk collector board was my family. Jake made these figures in some grade I’ve now forgotten, and I thought they were so darn cute that I always kept them. During all the emotional turmoil of having the kids leave, it felt like the simplest message in the world to see. Underneath it all (the mess, and layers of family stuff) was the four of us with a message above that said “today matters.”

And it does. Everyday matters. And the four of us, imperfect and crazy, matter to each other. No matter what.