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“You’re posting all these stories about empty-nesting, and I haven’t even gone back to school yetโ€”you aren’t really empty-nesters,” joked my twenty-one-year-old son.

As if I wasn’t already suffering from imposter syndrome as a want-to-be-blogger. Now, I was being called out by my own kidโ€”for my ‘๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ด๐—ต.’

“Well, your sister is fifteen-hundred miles away, doesn’t that count for something?” I tossed back. (I can’t believe I am actually having to justify whether or not I can call myself an ’empty-nester.’)

“Not really,” he shook his head, not giving an inch, “and then there will always be Johnโ€ฆ”

“Yes, that may be true,” I agreed. John is our twenty-four-year-old son who has autism and still lives with us. He does not want to move out, and we love having him here, so it’s a win-win.

However, at times I do feel like we have a renter upstairs. John has a busy life with work and daily activities, so when he’s home, he likes to retreat to the peace and quiet of his ‘apartment’โ€”“No Visitors Allowed.”

So maybe by some standard, we at least qualify as ‘quasi empty-nesters’?

All joking aside, this is a new season for us, with our youngest having just left for collegeโ€”I know it is a new chapter in many of your lives as well. For most of us, there have been years of these little bursts of energy swirling through our lives, our homes, and most importantly, our hearts. So after the whirlwind of laughter, late-night snacking, football, soccer and basketball games, tennis matches, and band practice subside, there is most definitely…a void.

Of course, they’ll be back for the holidaysโ€”thank goodness. For turkey and stuffing smothered in grandma’s special gravy, their favorite apple pie, and opening gifts on Christmas morning. Sure it’s a magical time, but it’s still not the same as when they lived under our roofs full-time…(insert ‘a sigh’ here.)

Fortunately, in an effort to help me prepare for this new chapter in my life, my mother gifted me with a golden piece of advice a few years ago. She told me to “find something you would like to try, or you would love to do and get started BEFORE your youngest leaves for college.”

And, so I did that just that when I launched this blog, I Do Part Twoโ€”Empty Nesting & More, about two years ago. Maybe for you, it’s not about writing or blogging or podcasting, but I hope you will see this time in your life as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Now, is a great time to rediscover interests you may have set aside while you were raising kids.

Ask yourselfโ€“

What did you use to like to do?

What do people ask you to get involved in or compliment you on?

What kinds of books, podcasts, and activities do you gravitate towards?

What lights you up?

What leaves you drained?

“Listen to the whispers,” a friend tells me, because everything you do or decide not to do, is leaving you clues.

I truly believe if we stay open to the possibilities, this season in our lives can be a time of amazing growth, new connections, and beautiful opportunities. The world is waiting-you are never too old, and it’s never too lateโ€”to discover who you were truly meant to be.

P.S. Just for the record, my son is back on campus. Maybe now, we can officially call ourselves ‘quasi empty-nesters.’

Twas the end of the summer,
It just wasnโ€™t right.
Every beach chair was packed up,
And so were the kites.

two empty seats

Last grains of sand,
Shaken out of flip flops.
With dim hopes that fall shoes
could be found in mall shops.

Kids far and wide were sighing,
all mad in their beds,
With visions of homework
crammed in their heads.

And papa in his lounge pants,
And I in my shorts,
Were ready for anything,
Definitely done making โ€œforts.โ€

By Esther Goetz at Moms of Bigs

When checking our phones,
To see whatโ€™s on our plate,
We couldnโ€™t believe it,
It was already past 8.

Away to the kitchen,
I made a mad dash.
To see if we had snacks.
โ€œOh no, forgot the trash!โ€

The moon was all shiny,
Its man poking fun.โ€œ
Summer is over,
caput, gone, YUP, done!

โ€When thoughts to my wandering
mind did come clear,
The fall is upon us,
There are things we can cheer.

Like football, Like pumpkins,
Like lattes, Like scarecrows,
Like apples, Like sweatshirts,
Like cider, Like warm clothes.

To the ice cream truck songs!
To the fireworks all night!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away! Thatโ€™s right!

Make room for the soup
The outdoor fireside chats.
Make room for the leaves,
Thank God, no more gnats!

As I came to my senses,
And was settling down,
A smile snuck to my lips,
No longer a frown.

Iโ€™ll be dressed in all manner of
sweatpants and hoodies,
Iโ€™ll feel so so cozy,
All ready for some goodies.

That Halloween will bring,
Thanksgiving too.
It wonโ€™t be just eats,
Itโ€™ll be lots of hugs, true.

I spoke no more words,
But went straight to my bed,
Said a prayer filled with thanks,
For what lies ahead.

And laying my head,
And closing my eyes,
My heart felt more settled,
โ€œMy goodness! Time flies!โ€

I rose one last time,
To check on my crew,
โ€œHappy Fall, my sweet ones,
Iโ€™m thankful for you!โ€

Two birds in nest

Shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to our daughter on a campus far away, her older brother decided to join my husband and me for a few days of golf, paddle boarding, and relaxing at our cabin in the mountains.

As parents, these are the moments we breathe into with gratitudeโ€”when time blesses our hearts.

Soon he will be headed off to school as well, but thankfully at a college less than an hour away. He is close enough to golf 9-holes with us in an afternoon, then grab a bite together, and still make it back to campus in time to hang with his friends for the evening.

As our adult children spread their wings, many parents, like us, are finding unique ways to stay connected with their kids.

Our oldest son, who has autism, has chosen to continue to live with us, and we feel truly blessed. We’ve turned the upstairs into “his apartment.” When we are all home, he comes downstairs to tells us “he loves us,” and heads back up to his sanctuary. Fortunately, he’s very independent and loves his daily routine of work and activities, which keeps him fulfilled and engaged.

I saved the best of our ‘๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ต๐˜บ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต’ for lastโ€”my husband.

We. Are. Still. Here. Together.

We built this nest, and we are looking at this next phase as an exciting opportunityโ€”rather than an empty one. We have been intentional about what we would like the next few years to look like, and are excited to experience this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are looking forward to more spontaneous outings, dinner with friends, and a renewed intimacy. We also know, just as we become accustomed to living with two fewer bodies in the house, the holidays will be upon us, and we’ll all be together again.

And isn’t that what is really important? It doesn’t matter if we are all ‘home’ in the same nest or not. We are a family because of our love for each other and because we choose to stay connected no matter where we all live. And that is the kind of nest that will never be empty.

“๐™ˆ๐™ฎ ๐™๐™ช๐™จ๐™—๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™–๐™ก๐™ฌ๐™–๐™ฎ๐™จ ๐™ฌ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™จ ๐™ข๐™š ๐™ฉ๐™ค ๐™ฅ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฎ, ๐™—๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™„’๐™ข ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง๐™ง๐™ž๐™—๐™ก๐™š, ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™„ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™  ๐™ž๐™ฉ’๐™จ ๐™š๐™ญ๐™๐™–๐™ช๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ.” DM’d a reader after I posted a picture about having fun golfing with my husband and some good friends one evening.

Having successfully avoided playing golf for the first 40-some years of my life, asking if, “I really enjoy golf?” Does beg the question.

And the answer is, “Yesโ€”kinda.”

The real reason I golf is because my family golfs. My husband LOVES to golf. Many of my friends play golf. It’s all about connections and a chance to laugh and play together.

Father son golfing
Father and son golfing

My husband told me years ago one of the things he “would like more than anything is if I would learn to play golf well enough to enjoy it with him.” ๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ช๐™ก๐™™ ๐™„ ๐™จ๐™–๐™ฎ ๐™ฃ๐™ค ๐™ฉ๐™ค ๐™ฉ๐™๐™–๐™ฉ?

Well, I did actuallyโ€”when the kids were little. The thought of getting a sitter for 4-hours (to play golf) was not on my radar. Even when my husband surprised me with clubs one Christmas years ago, he could not get me out of the course except on a rare occasion.

Today, things are different. The kids are older; they can all fend for themselves, and I want to find ways to spend time with my husbandโ€”so I golf. If my husband and kids are going to golf for a few hours and they have asked me to join themโ€”and I choose not toโ€”that’s my loss.

My twenty-something son golfs and our daughter, when she’s home from school, is willing to drive around in the cart with me. It’s a win-win. I get to spend all afternoon with my husband and adult kids, and then we typically enjoy dinner afterward. What a blessing!

The reality is I am not that great of a golfer, but I am learning, and I get a little less frustrated playing the game today than I did have a year or so ago.

Do you know what I do when I’ve swung my club way too many times trying to get that little ball down the course? I pick it up and throw it. It’s called keeping up with the ‘Pace of Play’ so I am not frustrating everyone around me by playing too slow. Whatever works…

I hope by sharing this with you, it will encourage you to try something new. Consider an activity with your spouse, kids, or friends, even if you are worried you might not like it or you won’t be any good. For me, it’s more about creating memories with those I love than whether ‘I really like playing golf or not.’

“I’ve learned…that it’s not what I have in my life, but who I do life with that counts.”-Unknown

A few short weeks ago, our daughter was graduating from high school. This morning, we flew her halfway across the country to begin her freshman year in college. Her older brother came out of his room to say goodbye, singing, “Leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when you’ll be back again…” We laughed. It cut the tension we were all feeling.

I woke early. My husband said I snored so he ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ kicked me all night. I’m surprised I slept so deeply. Ughโ€”I’ll have to start using my automated snore pillow again. 

Welcome to midlife!

As I hurried around the house before everyone got up, trying to clean up for ‘who knows why’ while we’re gone, all I could think about is how messy my closets are.

How did they get so unorganized? Why didn’t I organize them when we were in lockdown? I had all that time, and I didn’t get anything cleaned or organized. ๐˜•๐˜ฐ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ ๐˜’๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ-๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ.

I know what I am doingโ€”I am avoiding “it.” ๐˜ ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด.

I’m avoiding thinking about the giant void my daughter leaves behind. The one filled with infectious laughter and the funny, contorted faces she makes when she springs to life ๐™ฌ๐™–๐™ฎ ๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™ค ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š ๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™œ๐™๐™ฉ.

And the other void where she enters a room at full strideโ€”in mid-sentenceโ€”spilling the latest tea. She hates it when I need her to back it up a little, rewind. “Mom, I already told you about so and so…” ๐ผ ๐‘˜๐‘›๐‘œ๐‘ค, ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘š๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘›, ๐ผ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘˜ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘™๐‘“.

Noise and commotion also have a way of filling up spaces. My daughter’s girlfriends came over last night to wish her well and keep her company while she packed. I could hear them laughing and stomping up and down the stairs as they helped her load everything into the car for our early morning departure.

Then she yelled, “We’re headed to Taco Bell.” Laughter, chatter, and patter of feet shuffled out the doorโ€”then silence. ๐˜‹๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ.

This is how it will be, quieter, for a while anyway.

Her two brothers are still at home. They will easily fill some of the spaces she has left behind. Their friends will come over, and jokes and laughter will fill the airโ€”the TV will inevitably drone on.

The boys each have their own unique way of filling the spaces in our home. It will be comforting to have them home for at least a few more weeks.

But there are some spaces only a daughter, our only daughter, can fill. The space where she’ll let me hold her when she’s sad and hug her until she pulls away with a snarky, “Okay, now, Mom.” As if I didn’t know I was holding her just past ‘comfortable’ on her hug-o-meter.

It’s a good thing she picked Texas. Texas is a big state with lots of open spaceโ€”she’s going to need all of it. I can’t wait to hear about all the people she meets, the subjects she studies, and the places she goes.

Facetime, family-group texting, and eagerly awaited phone calls will bridge some of the space between us.

She’ll come home for the holidays. Her laughter will again fill the house. From experience with her older brother coming home from college, I know that some spaces will be forever changed. Still, new and exciting dimensions will continue to be added.

There is no holding her back, even if I wanted toโ€”which I don’t. The world is a big place, and I’m excited to watch how she chooses to fill up her own unique spaces in her life.

With much love to our daughter, Mom XOXO

Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

Marriage is not easy, my friends. And we hear this a lot. Weโ€™re told that marriage takes work. But do we really hear that message? We may know that marriage isnโ€™t a fairytale, but are we really prepared for the effort required to make marriage successful and fulfilling for the long haul?

Our 30th wedding anniversary is today and Iโ€™ve been reflecting on our marriage and marriage in general. Somewhere along the way, I went from being a Wife in the Moment to being a Mom in the Moment, and while in theory, I should have found a way to be both perfectly, in practice that wasnโ€™t so easy.

Even if we think we know what to expect from marriage going into it, there are just some things we canโ€™t be fully prepared for. We may be used to working through the obvious issues, but itโ€™s hard to be prepared for the way having children can impact our relationship. Yes, becoming parents enhances our relationship in so many ways – but it will also most likely add some strain to it.

In the early years, we moms face constant demands on our time, endure exhaustion from sleep deprivation and feeling needed all the time. This often leaves us feeling touched-out and craving time to just crash on the couch. We may feel like we donโ€™t have much left of us for our husbands, and not only does this cause our husbands to feel distanced, it often leaves us feeling guilty.

Before I became a mom, I was really good at being a Wife in the Moment.

Back when we were a couple, and before we became a family, everything was about us. Plenty of couple time, time spent with friends, time to exercise together, time for trips together. We invested so much beautiful time in each other. Of course, Iโ€™m well aware of the guidance that reminds us that a happy family is dependent upon a happy marriage. And that the marriage relationship should always be paramount. Iโ€™m just going to be honest here, and I think many moms will relateโ€ฆ.sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice.

Even after we became parents, the change wasnโ€™t immediate. It happened gradually. We slowly lost some of โ€œusโ€ along the way. Little things added up, and less time devoted to each other exacerbated other issues that would have otherwise been tended to and worked out. Spoiler: we have found our way again and worked out these issues. Where there is love, there is hope. It sounds obvious, but the first step forward in hope is to be mindful of investing consistent time in the โ€œusโ€ relationship. Date nights are great, but simple time together is recharging, too. It can vary by the week, as long as there is a conscious connection. A walk, coffee, or iced tea on the patio and eating dinner separately from the kids are all easy ways to create a connection.

Sydnei and her love of 30+ years

While time is an essential building block of a strong relationship, another important factor in strengthening our love and relationship is good communication. Being tuned in to how we are feeling and then being completely open and sensitive in how we share that. Sometimes thereโ€™s accumulated resentment over past disagreements or negative patterns that make it harder for us to communicate from a place of love. When this happens, there is no shame in seeking help. I can attest to the healing power of coupleโ€™s therapy. Having a neutral person listen and guide us back to healthy communication, and facilitate us sharing and working through our feelings and needs, was less complicated than it sounds. And it was transformative for our relationship. As couples, we should never stop working on our relationship. Life will throw us curveballs, but itโ€™s up to us how we choose to deal with them.

Love changes over time. We may know that with our minds, but feeling it with our hearts is a whole different thing. What begins as butterflies and dreamy love transforms into deeper, through-the-ugly, intentional love. We took vows on our wedding day and we must choose to keep those vows. We must consciously choose to love each other each and every dayโ€ฆand strive to be both a ‘Wife in the Moment’ and a ‘Mom in the Moment.’

If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didnโ€™t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and thatโ€™s so farโ€ฆwho knows how many more we have in us).Read more of Esther’s story that inspired our interview: The Tale of Our Three Marriages

All About Estherโ€”

Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28).  She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. Sheโ€™s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led.  Sheโ€™s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise.  Sheโ€™s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama

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Photo credit Anna Shvets via Pexels

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜† ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜‚๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—ฐ? The ‘Perfect Mom’ mask, the ‘Successful Business Person’ mask, or the ‘I Got It All Together’ masks…Almost everyone wears some sort of mask.

One woman shares her storyโ€”

Itโ€™s Time To Take Off The Mask by Faith in the Mess – Melissa Neeb, Writer

I wear a cloth mask everywhere now. It doesn’t really bother me.

What did bother me was the metaphorical one I wore for years. I wore a smile but it was a lie.

No one knew the pain I was in. It was difficult to even admit it to myself. I stuffed it down. Locked it up tight in my heart.

It was my box of darkness. Only mine.

So in the world, I pretended. I faked it. I told everyone I was fine. I was ok. I was good.

Those masks, layers of them, kept my secrets and tears hidden.  I hated who I had become but I didn’t know who to be anymore.

I came to the end of myself, the edge of the proverbial cliff. Dangling. Desperate. Alone.

Then I walked into a room and sat down with a bunch of strangers who could see the face behind the mask because they recognized the pain. They had worn it themselves. They had put it down and left it behind.

So slowly, my masks came off. One by one. Ever so carefully.

I didn’t have to be afraid of my reflection anymore. I could change. Grow. Transform into something I never imagined.

I could learn to love myself again.

And so, my smile turned real.

I was accepted. I was welcome here.

And so my masks stayed off.

And I never want to wear them again.

Well, let’s find out together as Christopher D. Connors, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, sits down for a conversation with I Do Part Two to discuss what an emotionally intelligent marriage looks like in 2020.

Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com

Mr. Connors references a talk that Brenรฉ Brown presented on “empathy.” Brenรฉ Brown, Ph. D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is known world-wide for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is also a gifted story-teller. There are numerous versions of her talk on empathy available online and due to copyright laws, I Do Part Two encourages you to search for them on Youtube or on Brenรฉ Brown‘s website.

I so hope you enjoy I Do Part Two’s conversation with Christopher D. Connors,

Is now the perfect time? What is holding you back?

For years, fear held me back from starting a blog, writing, or pursuing any projects I thought they might appearโ€” “frivolous.”

Who am I to start a blog?

There are so many accomplished writers out thereโ€” I’ll never be good enough.

How will I ever overcome all the technological hurdles of building and maintaining a website?

Well, something happened when I turned ’50’โ€”I let down my guard. I stopped trying to be perfect. I realized I didn’t want to look myself in the mirror on my 60th birthday, having still not launched the blog I had wanted to start in my early 40’s. The time is now!

What about you? Do you have a passion you’ve been wanting to pursue? I will tell you a secret…there will never be a perfect time to start, but it’s never too late and you are never too old.

Join me in my conversation with Amy Schmidt, the host of Fearlessly Facing Fifty about how I finally got the courage to pursue my passion.

Click on the link below: “EP 72: Making deeper connections with I Do Part Two…

Amy launched her business and brand six months before turning 50. Her mission is to encourage women over forty to push fear aside and find that hidden treasure of confidence that may have been pushed aside for a while and not let this time of life allow them to lose their identity. You can also find her on socials:  Fearlessly Facing Fifty on Facebook, and Instagram: Amy.K.Schmidt and https://fearlesslyfacingfifty.com/

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