Extreme empty nest solutions

On Sunday I received a phone call from the foreign exchange student coordinator a couple hours after my daughter moved out.

Sunday was a bittersweet day.

On Sunday, my best friend became a grandma for the first time.

On Sunday, it’s been a year and a day since my close friend lost her daughter in a fiery car crash.

On Sunday, my daughter moved 4 hours away and is not planning on living at home again.

I was feeling down as you can probably imagine.

My oldest daughter moved out, my son is off pet sitting this week, and my youngest daughter is volunteering this week as a camp cook. I’m feeling the empty nest kick in. I realized that I may have a harder time with this whole empty nest thing than I thought.

I’ve been a caregiver since I can remember. I was my autistic brother’s “second mom”. I also helped with my other two younger brothers.

In college, I was a caregiver for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s and a middle aged man with Paranoid Schizophrenia. I took care of my brother Matt up until after I had several kids of my own. I also took care of my Aunt Grace when she had dementia. I provided day care for several children when my kids were little.

I don’t know what it is like to not take care of someone and the thought is a little scary.

As I was crying and feeling sorry for myself, the phone rang. The foreign exchange program coordinator called and said she had an emergency situation. One of the host parents for a student from Germany ended up getting into a serious motorcycle accident and broke her back. This student was really into music and needed a home.

I was wondering what to do with my daughter’s empty room. So we filled it. Now we will be hosting two foreign exchange students starting next month, Estelle from France and Clara from Germany.

I feel like my life has meaning again. I suppose most people get another pet once they start emptying the nest. Not me, I guess you could say I am rather extreme.

Even though it might be stressful having 3 teenagers in the house again, I am going to enjoy this last year of chaos before I have an empty nest.

By the time next year rolls around, I might actually be okay with only taking care of me.

 

Cracking open the box

Today I cracked open Pandora’s box. I am afraid to peer into what lies inside.

I spent most of the weekend feeling blah. It rained all weekend with high temps in the lower 60’s. Some of our outdoor plans got cancelled. It has been very frustrating. So far summer break has been cool and rainy. Surprisingly, the best days of the year so far fell on Alex’s graduation day and again for his grad party.

The weather has been making me feel restless and bored. There is nothing I hate more than boredom. I’d rather be way too busy. Not to mention that all my favorite running trails are underwater. Although, thankfully, my ankle is starting to feel better.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, something exciting happened though. I got a message on Ancestry from a relative on Paul’s dads side. On Father’s Day of all days too. You see, Paul never knew who his dad was. From what I can tell, this man is Paul’s cousin.

I told myself that I wouldn’t go seeking out answers. I was far more curious than Paul. But if someone came to me asking, that was an altogether different story indeed.

Today I reached back to Paul’s cousin and told him what details I knew about Paul’s dad. We’ll see what happens. Paul said he was okay if I did that.

It’s hard, Paul built his whole identity around not having a father. But what if he has a whole new family out there that wants to get to know him?

Why do I feel like I cracked open Pandora’s box? Do I really want to know what’s inside?

I can tell you one thing, life got a little more interesting.

Fortune Cookie Wisdom #19

You have many special gifts, go experiment with them!

I really like this fortune cookie.

But how do you know what your gifts are? I think the best way to find out is by trying  new things.

Last summer my mom retired at age 70. She was really quite miserable after retiring because she really loved her job. She even got an ulcer shortly after retirement. But then she started trying new things. She started a sewing project with her sister-in-law. Once a week, we work together doing genealogy research. She discovered that she really has a passion for history. She wants to start volunteering at the literacy council.

My husband’s step-dad Darryl also retired recently. He, like my mom, has a hard time sitting around doing nothing. He decided that he wanted to be a first responder and signed up to take EMT classes. He also joined his church choir which always practiced during the time he was working.

I wonder what other ‘gifts’ we will discover that we have.

I found out that I love to run when I was in my 30’s and started writing a book this year. I probably won’t be running marathons forever and as of right now I am thinking one and done as far as the book goes. We’ll see where this path takes me.

I am encouraged by the others around me that even in my 60’s and 70’s, I might still find new and exciting gifts.

 

 

May

It is finally here, the month I have been dreading and waiting for.

My son will be graduating this month. Despite his procrastination and grades that are less than satisfactory, I think he is going to pull it off.

Alex has finally matured enough that I think he is going to be fine without us. He told me this week, that although he doesn’t say it often enough, he is going to really miss us and that he appreciates everything we’ve done for him. He also said that although he doesn’t spend a lot of time with us that he doesn’t want us to take it personally that he is leaving. He said that it is time for him to be an independent man now. I agreed. I told him that it was normal to want to leave home once you are an adult.

I am letting go and he is planning on leaving. He told me he isn’t planning on leaving the area anytime soon and will probably visit us a lot. That made me feel happy since my son is not the type to share these things.

Next month Alex is planning on moving out.

This month Angel will be coming home from college. But this summer she is not planning on staying with us like she previously did. She just put in an application for an apartment and is planning on staying here until she can move in. She will live 4 hours away.

Two out of three kids are planning on leaving home for good next month. I will be happy and sad to see them go. It is bittersweet.

We still have Arabella at home. She will be 16 this month.

We are also planning on filling the void by getting a foreign exchange student. Estelle from France will be moving in the beginning of August.

A new adventure awaits!

The ultra training starts

I just signed up for my first 50k.

There is no turning back now. Thankfully, I have until September to train. I will be running the ultra with my cousin.

It has been a cold spring here in Wisconsin. I have only been out to run a handful of times. Today’s high temps are in the mid-40’s and it is raining. Yuck! But at least it’s not snowing.

I was able to run with my new friend from the theater. I doubt we will ever run together again and I am okay with that. She is so much better than I am. What I didn’t know was that this new friend qualified for the Boston Marathon 6 times and ran it twice. She even ran something like 10 miles the day she gave birth. Talk about hard core!

She is a couple years younger than me as well which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is in the racing world. Maybe if I was 20 years younger than her, I would be able to keep up. That might even be pushing it.

Now that I am almost 45, I don’t have the stamina I used to.

I had a really bad run outside a couple weeks ago. I was several miles from home when I had to go to the bathroom really bad. I was in the suburbs and there was no where to go. I was so tempted to run up to a stranger’s house and ask if I could use their bathroom. How mortifying would that be! Every time I ran, the urge to go was stronger but walking prolonged the journey home. I called my husband to pick me up, but he didn’t answer. There were people everywhere. I finally made it home accident free.

Maybe I need to add Depends to my running supply list! That is the only thing I like about running on the treadmill at the gym. There is a bathroom close by if I need it. It is easier to stay hydrated as well. I finally broke down and bought a hydration belt with water bottles for the long runs outside.

Again, having to go to the bathroom is always an issue outside. Not to mention bugs, pop up thunderstorms, reckless drivers, adverse weather conditions, those horrible hills, chafing, injuries, dehydration, and animals. But that is what also makes for the best stories and adventures that won’t be forgotten. It’s the dirt and the grit. Determination. The testing of the limits. The long runs to think. Enjoying nature when it doesn’t call. The friendships, the camaraderie of strangers, the goodness of fellow travelers along the trail. I love it all!

I am hoping that the training goes a lot better once it warms up outside. Since I have a few marathons under my belt, what is a few more miles? Right?!??

 

BVI, day 11

The time zone in the BVI and Puerto Rico is two hours ahead of us at home.

I woke up the morning of the 11th day at 12:45 AM to shower, leave by 2 AM, and catch a plane at 4 AM our time at home. I was approached by someone asking if I would do a survey at the airport. Normally I would say no because who has time for that. But there I sat while everyone else in the group waited in an endless line for coffee.

I didn’t get coffee. Instead this time I took my anxiety medicine. I was hoping to relax and sleep on the plane since I didn’t get much rest on the sailboat. But things never turn out the way I plan. The flight from San Juan to Chicago was 5 hours long and I’d be lucky if I slept half of it.

At the end of the flight, we were warned we were headed towards some nasty turbulence but that the pilots were very experienced and would get us through it safely. Terrified I braced myself to my seat for the longest time but the turbulence never came.

Many of the passengers coughed. I thought to myself that I would rather get sick after my vacation than during. That was until I got sick and decided I would rather not be sick at all.

We reached our connecting flight with just enough time for me to get a cup of coffee. I had play practice that evening that I couldn’t miss because I already missed 4 rehearsals from the vacation. Time to wake up!

Our second flight home was very short and as we were making our descent, I was filled with dread. There was snow everywhere! No more warm weather for a long time.

I had just enough time to unpack before heading out the door again. I heard stories of how things went when we were gone. Paul’s step-dad Darryl stayed at our house over the weekends we were gone. Monday morning he overslept and Arabella had to wake him up to take her to school. He left in such a hurry that he didn’t let the dog out and there was a mess to clean up later in the day when my mom came. He also told Arabella that he was going fishing on a day that she had to work and wouldn’t be able to give her a ride.

My mom stayed during the week and things didn’t go that much better. Alex skipped school one day because he didn’t wake up in the morning. My mom and Arabella were having so much fun that my mom didn’t take her to school one day until 10 AM. My mom wrote Arabella a note saying that she got stuck in our driveway which wasn’t true. Those things made me very angry (now you can see why I worry so). But I let it go reasoning with myself that the pets and my children were still alive.

That night I felt horribly tired at play practice. Jet lag I suppose. I felt dizzy as well. For all the time I spent on the sailboat, I didn’t feel like I was on a boat at all until I got home. Everything was rocking for two days. Then I got a really nasty cold for 2 weeks and maybe only slept two nights in a full month. But, hey, at least I had a pretty good vacation.

At this point you are probably wondering if I would’ve done anything different if you are still reading this. Yes, I would’ve left the wet suit at home. I would’ve brought a good pair of boat/water shoes. I would’ve done more research online. If you decide to read any books regarding the BVI make sure they are written post hurricane because some of the things we read about and wanted to visit simply weren’t there anymore.

Also, we opted to sail the boat ourselves without a paid captain or chef. I would recommend doing that if you have people onboard that are skilled at both. Also, it does help if the crew is in good physical condition.

It is always iffy to travel with friends. We didn’t know Tim and Cara that well and didn’t really know Stan and Angela at all. Overall, we got along pretty good. But there were instances when someone felt like the third wheel. Also, we were in very tight quarters and at times under stressful circumstances which doesn’t always bring out the best in people. There is a lot of invasion of private space and necessity to work together as a team to make decisions. I guess that’s what makes it a real adventure!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

BVI, day 10

**Photos of the hurricane damage in Tortola**

The morning of the day we left, the strong winds finally died down. We were able to sail to our end point. Why?? Maybe it would’ve been too hot without the wind. (Is there really such a thing??)??? Maybe we would’ve been assaulted by monstrous bugs. With the strong winds, we didn’t have a day where anyone felt too hot nor were there any bugs. I keep telling myself this as the warm calm winds soothed us to shore.

We ran out of water this morning. Thankfully, it was after I showered. Unfortunately, it was before I washed all of the dishes. We did have several gallon jugs of water left. We had some food left and also some alcohol despite my proclamation the night before that no liquor shall be left behind. Please don’t tell anyone from Wisconsin. Once we got to shore, Paul and Tim polished off the last bottle of wine. Tim also had a corked bottle of rum that he put in his luggage wrapped in electrical tape.

We had a late afternoon flight back to Puerto Rico. We headed to the airport early and ended up getting there too early to check in. We walked to a restaurant right outside of the airport and had lunch there. Then we sat at the airport until we could check in. We wanted to get some ice cream, but the ice cream was all watery and partially melted.

The good thing is that the airport had free wifi. Or was it a good thing?? I got notifications from the school stating that school was cancelled two days of our trip due to inclement weather. Was everyone at home still alive?? I also got a text from my son saying that he had to go to court. What!?!! It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it caused a lot of extra stress while we sat waiting. Time to put the heavy weight back onto our shoulders.

The airport in Tortola was very small. We had to walk through a sliding door you couldn’t see through to get to security. We went through one couple at a time. They pulled Cara out and took her to a separate room, along with her luggage, to do a random thorough security check.

We had another small plane that seemed to be older than I am. The tickets were for general seating. Once we sat down, the flight attendant moved people to make sure the weight was balanced on the plane. Everyone was slightly nervous, but we were fine.

We got to our hotel in Puerto Rico at suppertime. We were so happy with our meal at Casita Miramar in San Juan the first time that we decided to go back. Again, the food was superb. I had the quinoa dish in an avocado. It was very flavorful for a vegetarian dish. I wasn’t disappointed as I usually am when ordering vegetarian food. I would give the restaurant a high rating. Probably the best food on our trip along with Pusser’s Myett in Tortola.

We left the restaurant to head back to our hotel room for a very early flight back home.

BVI, day 9

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Today was the best day and our last full day on the sailboat.

We wanted to get as close as we could to our end point without actually going there. It was still very windy and a very rough ride. There were 6 ft waves that were close together. Everything creaked and loose stuff shifted position. It was hard to walk without falling down.

It seemed to take forever to reach our destination. Paul brought a bottle of Chardonnay and two glasses out after we moored while I was sitting on the bow. We shared the wine only to find out that it was only 10:30 AM. Whoops! Afterwards, we ate a huge lunch. We had a lot of food and drinks left over.

After lunch, we all went snorkeling. For the first time, I put on my wet suit. Just a quick bit of advice, leave the wet suit and flippers at home. They take up tons of luggage space and are not necessary. The water was cool and refreshing, but not at all cold. The only thing nice about a wet suit is that it provided a layer between my skin and whatever was in the ocean. It gave me a feeling of protection, but not enough to take up a quarter of my suitcase. The charter company had flippers to use. Save the room for extra clothes because laundry is a pain. Invest instead in a nice pair of full face goggles.

I felt indigestion after feasting, so I decided to go to shore. It was rocky, not sandy. It hurt to walk on the stones, they weren’t very smooth. At one time, someone was camping on shore. There were a couple of old boat cushions, remnants of a campfire, and miscellaneous empty bottles. At any time I was expecting Tom Hanks to come out with his ball Wilson. Behind the beach was hilly terrain and thick foliage which was rather creepy.

To make things more unsettling, I heard the intermittent crying of a kid in the distance. A kid?? Did someone have a child on their boat? Not that I knew of. Yet the crying continued. It was a while later that we spotted goats. It was a kid after all, just not the kind I originally imagined.

Later in the afternoon, we decided to visit the legendary Willy T bar for drinks. On the second story of the boat, people were jumping off into the water despite the no jumping, no diving signs. I watched several people jump and debated for at least an hour whether or not to give it a try. I spent enough time in my life watching other people have fun and decided I couldn’t forgive myself if I left without jumping. Paul, Stan, and Tim already dove off the platform.

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This was the picture of the Willy T I posted earlier that was shipwrecked from the hurricane on Norman Island. The new Willy T is located on Peter Island.

I was utterly terrified as I stood on the platform overlooking the 15 ft drop. I talked Angela into jumping with me but Cara could not be convinced. Strangers cheered us on as we stood on the platform in fear. We couldn’t wimp out now! Jumping was utterly exhilarating! I convinced Angela to jump in from the water. After jumping once, we jumped in several more times. It was so much fun!

The hardest part about jumping was getting back onto the boat. There weren’t any steps, just slimy dock poles. The guys had to give us a hand. Angela and I bought hot pink Willy T t-shirts to remember the day. Then we decided to head back to our boat for supper. We had a lot of food left. Our adventures of the day bolstered our conversation that evening. But our adventure wasn’t over yet!

Later in the evening, the guys caught another shark. It took Tim 2 hours to fight the monstrous beast. They decided to bring the shark onboard for pictures then set him free back in the water. I thought it was a crazy idea. The shark was huge, almost 7 ft long! But by the time we brought the shark onboard, he was sick of fighting. I was kind of glad I wasn’t planning on doing any more swimming though.DSC_0386

Sorry the pictures aren’t the greatest. It was dark and I didn’t want to get too close!

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What a great way to end our sailing adventure!

 

 

BVI, day 8

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**This is a picture of the sailboat we stayed on.**

I was very happy that we awoke this morning without fish poisoning!

As the week progressed, my mood improved. We only had a few more days left. Any problem that might have occurred while we were gone was only a few days from a possible solution. My anxiety abated kind of like a reverse homesickness.

Our plan for the day was to sail to Little Harbor 2 1/2 hours away. It is Valentine’s Day. Stan surprised Angela with a big heart shaped box of chocolates. Kind of made the other gift less guys feel bad.

The wind was still very strong. When we got to Little Harbor, there wasn’t much to see and it was getting hit directly by the wind. No other boats were moored there. We decided to go to the next harbor. The next harbor was very picturesque, however there wasn’t an empty mooring ball to be found there. We decided to go to Tortola instead.

The harbor in Tortola was the busiest place we stayed at. We could see signs of hurricane damage there. A powerboat was laying on its side on shore. There was a crane working on the shoreline. There were houses without roofs with boarded up windows.

We went to shore to explore and asked where we could find a nice place to eat for Valentine’s Day. Someone said what sounded to me like My Ex which was rather troublesome considering the day. I apparently misheard the man because when we got there, it was called Myetts.

We checked out the restaurant by getting a drink at the bar. Then each couple reserved their own table for the evening meal that night. The girls left the guys at the bar and went shopping. The store within the restaurant area was very fancy and overpriced. We didn’t buy anything and wandered out the back door.

There were a couple local vendors set up outside. I found a cool red sailing shirt for Paul and decided to get it for him for V-day. I also bought a little gift for my mom for helping out at home. The vendors were very nice and told us about life after the hurricane. They said that some people still did not have roofs. There were many houses we saw with tarps for a roof. They said not only did the hurricane destroy their property, it kept tourists away for the season that they rely on to make a living. They were very thankful for the small purchases we made.

On the way back to the sailboat, we saw many chickens and kittens wandering the streets. The animals congregated at a dumpster that was overflowing with both garbage and recyclables together. A man walked by and pitched an aluminum can at the dumpster that scared a rooster from his task of finding food. There were two watch dogs that were tied up guarding a beautiful house that was damaged and had building supplies outside. They looked bored and didn’t bother to bark when we walked by.

I gave Paul his gift when we got back to the sailboat. He felt bad that he didn’t get me anything. Paul asked Tim if he wanted to take a quick trip back to shore with him. That evening as we got ready to go out we could hear the music of the steel drums on shore. Paul and Tim came back from their little trip bearing gifts. We got all dressed up and took nice couple pictures as the sun was setting.

Paul and I had the best dinner yet. He had lobster and I had the lobster mac. The restaurant had a DJ that played the sappiest love songs of the 70’s and 80’s. It was a little much and we were looking forward to getting together with our group to listen to the steel drums afterwards.

On the way back, we passed the nice house with the watch dogs. One dog was sleeping on a pile of lumber. I (of course!) worried if the dogs had food or any water on the hot day. I wasn’t going to go any closer to find out. There were times I had to remind myself that I was in a foreign country. I couldn’t save the people from their poverty. I couldn’t take the dirty dumpster kittens home. But I wanted to.

We made a quick stop at the small store for provisions. I scooped up whatever craft beer I could find which amounted to 4 bottles of British Island’s Summer Ale. We talked to the local people. Then we headed to the steel drum bar for a drink just as they were packing up the steel drums. Bummer!

After today we will only have one full day left on the sailboat.

 

BVI, day 7

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We saw another rainbow this morning as we were leaving Scrub Island.

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This morning Stan caught a shark! We decided to eat fish tacos for lunch with the fish the guys caught (not including the shark). By doing so, we took the risk of fish poisoning. Fish poisoning is from a toxin found in certain reef fish. We had an illustrated page that told us what our risk would be if we ate certain fish. The problem was that there were a lot of fish that looked very similar.

Fish poisoning is not like any regular food poisoning. It is like food poisoning on steroids. It can last for years, cause hospitalization, and in some cases death. This was something that I didn’t want and I was nervous that someone else’s interpretation of the guide for safe fish could be subject to error. I suggested that perhaps someone who knew how to sail the boat should abstain, but I didn’t get any takers. We all risked eating the fish.

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Monkeys Point is paradise. It’s the kind of place I could stay at forever. It had a secluded white sandy beach and the bluest water. I am glad that we did not go there the night before, the weather wasn’t the best for the beach. I would’ve liked to stay here longer, but our trip was coming to an end and we had to make our way back.

Paul and I explored the beach while the others went snorkeling. We were hoping to find a place for supper, however the only building on the beach was the property of a private resort. That night we would be eating supper on the boat as well.

We hooked up to a mooring ball that was not maintained. Tim reinforced the mooring ball with rope. It was still very windy and we did not want the wind to whip the boat into shore. The sand swirled around into our eyes on the beach. But at least today is warm and sunny.

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We still had to pay a mooring ball fee of $30 to stay at an unmaintained mooring ball. That is what we had to pay every night for a maintained mooring ball.

This cairn was located at the end of the beach. There were coconut trees on the beach. The guys were entertained by trying to take a stick and knock one down. They were unsuccessful in their efforts.

This spot had the best beach by far. It was very secluded, but on the flip side there really wasn’t anything to do there as far as restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

Would I go back again? Absolutely!