What I Learned After the First Year of Empty Nest 

What I Learned After the First Year of Empty Nest 

Sometimes you still see them as a little baby bird, not ready to leave the nest!

Last August, we experienced our first dose of empty nest as we moved one of our girls   into a college dorm.  I wrote about it here.

This past weekend we repeated the same journey.  With a much less loaded minivan we helped move my stepdaughter into the dorm.  On this trip, Instead of a knot twisting in my stomach, I felt peace and excitement for her upcoming year. 

The unloading was much easier this year!
At the dorm we greeted the now familiar staff, smiled at the other parents and gave imaginary hugs to the moms of  newbie students trying to hold it together and not cry in front of their child. 

This year is different because we now know what to expect. A year’s worth of experiences under our belts helped us to arrive at this confident attitude. 

Some more words of encouragement for parents leaving their student!
So, what words can I offer to this year’s newbie parents after my first year experience of empty nest?

It’s okay to be sad.  Acknowledge your sadness.  Cry.  You and your student are going through a huge developmental milestone. It would be weird not  to feel anything.  Also, acknowledge if you begin to feel happiness or excitement for having more time to yourself!   That’s allowed!

Your child will return to you.  As long as dirty laundry exists, you will see your child again!  (Or at least their unwashed clothes!) You might even be surprised how a weekend visit disrupts your plans!  

Your child will now know more than you do.  Be prepared. It will no longer matter that you hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, much less a post doc degree in the school of life…your child has been participating in thought provoking discussions learning new fangled ideas and better ways to live.  Suddenly  you know nothing. That new sophisticated attitude is also a developmental milestone, but bless!  Jesus be near me.

Your child will need you but in different ways.  Even though they are independent, your student still needs your emotional, spiritual as well as financial support. Supporting your student is a little trickier as they want to be independent and not get grilled about classes, lectured or told what to do.  

I have learned to let my stepdaughter lead the conversation, listen with my heart as well as my ears and suggest advice only if I believe that’s what she’s needing…another voice, another perspective concerning the situation. Sometimes your best move is to step back and let your child make their own decision even if it’s one you wouldn’t choose for them. Growing Up 101.

Be your child’s  biggest advocate.   Advocate doesn’t mean cheerleader. Although we certainly cheer on our student, we take on a different role when we advocate for her.  An advocate supports the person as a whole, or as the profs say in college…globally.  Sometimes to be your child’s best advocate, you must tell them No.  Not the easiest conversation to have with your learning to adult child, but maybe the most necessary. That’s when the adult part of you kicks in overriding the best friend part of you. 

Your child is equipped to begin the task of college!  Don’t panic. What you’ve poured into your child since their birth won’t suddenly evaporate. There will be challenges and there will be triumphs but your student is ready!

Let your student soar!

Any seasoned college parents out there?  What advice would you share to first time college parents?  Comment below, I’d love to learn from you as well!

How to Not Freak Out the First Semester of College

How to Not Freak Out the First Semester of College

Epictetus, you’ve said a mouthful!

Remember when I wrote about empty nest here back in August? Well, if you’re on a similar journey, it’s about this time in your student’s first college semester where their stress may teeter over into feelings of being overwhelmed. 

This may be the first time your freshman has experienced a difficult class, professor, 100 percent freedom and/or the real possibility of making their first bad grade. 

 If any of the above is true for your student, then it’s doubly true for you. You’ve been through college!  You’re a fountain of knowledge and wisdom! They may share the fun and mundane stuff but what about the nitty gritty?  

Your questions echo into the wasteland. Last year you had access to everything. And now…crickets.  Why won’t he call?  Is she fitting in? Why won’t he tell me his grades?  Is she making it to class?  What is going on?!? I want to make it better!!!!

Recently, I sat through a parents’ meeting on how to help your student cope through their first college semester. I actually think it was therapy for the adults, though. I looked around the room and thought to myself, I’m not the only one taking notes for myself, right?  And, as a firm believer that sharing is caring, here are my notes to help any of y’all out there on the verge. 

1. Freaking out at this point in the first semester is normal.

I was so happy to hear this strangely comforting statement.  We’re normal. This freak out is to be expected.   What we do with the freak out is the key.

2. Stress is normal, but being overwhelmed is not.  Many think once the paper’s written, exam given or project turned in, their stress evaporates.  However, anxiety can actually stack and not dissipate after the end.  This stacking of anxiety creates the feeling of being overwhelmed. Ugh, right?!  

How does one get rid of the growing anxiety?

The best way is The Big 5:

  1. Adequate sleep
  2. Eating healthy 
  3. Cardio exercise 30 minutes 3x week
  4. Hygiene
  5. Thinking Well of Ourselves

So after the freak out, take a walk or run. Get some sleep!  Give yourself a break…I didn’t get an A on this test but it’s not the end of the world. I can make an appointment to talk to the professor, study for the next test smarter, and know I’ve given my best effort. 

This advice is not just for your student, right? #amIrightoramIright

What to Do with Not Being Kind to Yourself

Honestly, a whole post could be devoted to this subject alone. Oprah has made millions off of it. 

    If your student is having negative thoughts/feelings about themselves or dealing with the expectations of others, good chance he or she isn’t thinking well of themselves. 

    College, while exciting, will expose students to their limitations.  Your student may have graduated first in his class, but is struggling in college calculus. Or your daughter may have been the It girl at her high school and now finds she didnt get a bid to her top pick of sorority. 

    Out of this meeting the most important thing I heard was you can’t make your student successful if he or she is resistant to help. 

    You cannot control your student. 

    Your job, as your student’s parent, is to offer your student a different perspective on a stressful event. 

    “People are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”     Epictetus

    You can offer helpful strategies (talking to the professor, actually studying for the test instead of going to the mixer, reading the assigned chapters in the syllabus, etc.  Getting a C on this test will not keep you out of grad school) but that is all you can do. 

    Until your student’s perspective changes over the stressful event, they will not ask for help. They may describe their situation but until they help themselves, you cannot force them. 

    College is a learning experience for parents too then. For years we may have been under the mistaken belief that we could be the hero in our child’s life, having power over all harmful situations.  

    Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher in the first century,  realized that humans have no control over external things. Humans can only control their own thoughts, emotions and choices. 

    So, be there for your student. Listen to your student. Challenge your student’s views of the troubling event. Offer strategies and people who can help. And then pray your student wants the help that’s available. 

      I’m learning so much now about how my own parents had to watch me make some mistakes. They listened, they challenged my all or nothing thinking and they offered strategies and those who could help.  But they had to watch me go through some stuff.  

      I know I’ve just scratched the surface here. I would love to hear feedback from y’all how your student’s semester is going and strategies that are working for you!  Let’s keep the coversation going in the comments!

      What I Learned in August

      What I Learned in August

      Oh look, a Smurf cottage!

      August ended being a jammed packed month of travel, celebrating, launching and moving into a new chapter of my life. August surprised me in many big and small ways, even the muggy weather abated for a brief respite of gorgeous low humidity days.  

      Here’s to small beginnings and small endings!

      I began August with an amazing trip to Brussels!

      100 percent!
       

      I fell in love with Brussels, Belgium in August and I fell hard!  Amazing chocolates, frittes & waffles don’t hurt either!

      But my first love hasn’t budged and has only gotten stronger…

      Five years!

      We celebrated our Fifth Anniversary in Brussels.  Here’s what I’ve learned about marriage with my beloved for these five years…being single for all those years was worth it, every minute…because choosing wisely trumps choosing quickly, conveniently, desperately. Nothing is more powerful than two people who stand in agreement on core beliefs.  

      While we aren’t the same by any means, it still catches me off guard slightly how well I chose, when the tough times come and reveal his strength and wisdom.  

      I helped launch Emily P. Freeman’s new book Simply Tuesday!

        

      I learned it takes a lot of people to properly launch a book these days through social media!  Simply Tuesday is teaching me so much about embracing my smallness, letting go of outcomes, and knowing God is with me in the small, as well as the big moments of my life.  

      Another launch occurred…

      Made with much love!
       

      Empty Nest is a real thing and I chat about it here.  I loved hearing from others going through empty nest as well!  Let’s keep in touch!

      High School Cross Country is a Blood Sport

      High school girls at the start!
       
      After taking a break from cross country in grade and middle schools, we experienced our first high school meet this past Saturday.  Oh. My. Word.

      Gone are the days of cheering on your runner amongst the massive sea of other runners. 

      We were shocked to hear parents yelling at their daughters to push harder, not to let that runner pass her and to not fall behind if she wanted to finish strong. Parents.  

      And not only parents but I witnessed a grandmother yelling at her granddaughter berating her as she ran.

      At the finish line I witnessed way too many girls in tears not because they were in pain, but because their pain in the butt parents put way too much pressure on them. 

      PSA:  Parents, runners run against themselves. Their time. Yelling at them unmercifully as they race actually demotivates them. So for the love, stop it.  Now.  

      I know there’s college scholarship money in cross country; but seriously, you try running a race with a loved one yelling what you yelled to your child and see how well you perform!

      End of rant.

      What did you learn this August?!!


      On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

      On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

      Last week we hit a new milestone.    

      A new adventure awaits!
       

      We loaded the minivan and moved my stepdaughter into the dorm.  Even after a week, I can’t even begin to write the words of how that day, the whole experience felt; but, if you’ve already passed this milestone, you know.

      We are now practically empty nesters. A quick Google search for empty nester always mentions freedom!  Celebrate it!  

      Serendiptiously, I had binged Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcasts while flying back from Belgium and one her quotes lept into my brain:

      “Secret of Adulthood:  Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better don’t make us feel worse.” -Gretchen Rubin

      Admittedly, when you’re an adult, there’s lots of things that can make you feel better in the moment but later on will definitely make you feel worse. 

      During the college’s move in weekend, my husband stop by the grocery store near the campus and commented to the checkout cashier that soon the students would be back. The cashier agreed and commented, “This week, it will be all the moms coming through buying ice cream because they’ve left their babies at school!”

      Hmmm…many of us adults seek comfort in food, staying up too late or other vices and eventually pay the price.  

      Empty nest isn’t an excuse to be careless.  It’s time to be the adult. 

      As if this quote didn’t wake me up to the pitfalls of extra time on my hands, we also got the message from the school!

      We went to the parent meeting and this was one of the handouts: 

      Nothing like facing reality head on!
       

      Sitting there in the college’s auditorium, flipping through this homesickness brochure, I quickly realized that although it was meant to be a resource for the parents… a roadmap on monitoring their student’s homesickness, I realized it was also for the parents on how to navigate their   homesickness away from their student. 

      Contained within the trifold paper, the seasoned counseling professor had this gem Pillars of Good Health. Again, written for the parent monitoring their student but also good advice for the parents as well.  

      Here are the Pillars of Good Health:

      • Proper Sleep 8-10 hours a night
      • Exercise At least 3 times per week
      • Eating Small healthy meals more often
      • Thinking Correctly Positive self-esteem
      • Proper Hygiene Use those showers…brush those teeth!

      Given hygiene is normally not a problem for adults, the rest of the list looks like pretty sound advice.  How often do adults follow the first 4 pillars of good health?  

      This new season motivates me to get more sleep, exercise more, and thoughtfully plan healthy meals.

      Empty nest can also bring about negative emotions as well.  Parents can fall into depression or even lose their sense of purpose because she was Living. For/Through. The. Child. 

      Adults need to self manage their own health.

      I’ve been flying some lately and was reminded of the safety instruction to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others.  

      Perspective is everything!

      Self care combats against depression or loss of purpose.Heck, self care is needed for every parent of kids out there, whether at home or at college! 

      Practicing self care is blogged about almost daily, but how many of us in real life actually practice it?
      Of course, I must take care of myself first. But when my agenda is interrupted by a phone call to pick up a child because the plans have changed, self care pretty much gets shoved aside. 

      Empty nest is the perfect time to begin the habit of self care. And guess what?  I’m actually doing it because I do have that extra time in my days to take care of myself!

      Intentionally, I finally drew that Epsom salt bath (after buying the salts over a year ago)!  My husband and I biked the entire Mammoth Cave bike trail!  We are getting 8-10 hours of sleep now! Yippee!! 

      If your nest isn’t at the empty stage yet but the kids are headed back to school, I feel you too. 

      Embrace the new {school} routine.

       Sit down with pen and paper and analyze how your day/week is divided up.  Use Gretchin Rubin’s quote as a jumping off point. Ask yourself “are these activities making myself/my spouse/my child feel better or feel worse?”  Eliminate one activity that makes you feel worse. If you are in the mix, with no empty nest in sight, also eliminate one activity that makes your spouse/kid feel worse. 

      Review the 5 Pillars of Health and honestly ask yourself how you can improve in at least one area and one concrete step towards that improvement. 

      Above all, give yourself some grace. Nobody’s life is lived perfectly, so embrace the messiness and let go of your outcomes of what it all is supposed to look like! 

      I’d love to hear your strategies in coping/thriving through empty nest!  Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

        What I Learned in July

        What I Learned in July

          

        Beary representing ‘Murica!
          
        July is the jewel of Summer and begins with fireworks and seemingly endless long sunlight days and languid lightening bug summer nights.  

        Unbelievably, July is now at an end, and for us, the end of summer break. The end of July has collapsed into muggy, humid and insufferable days here in Kentucky. #LordHaveMercy #sorryJuly

        So, I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman and friends sharing what I’ve learned this July.

        1.  4th of July fireworks  in a rainstorm still    sparks joy!

        Soggy viewing of Nashville’s fireworks!
         

        Although less than optimal conditions, we joined the crush of humanity down on Broadway and watched the 30 plus minutes of fireworks and, had a blast!  I’m learning to let go of outcomes, (thanks Emily P. Freeman via Simply Tuesday) and it’s freeing!

        2.  Empty Nest is a Real Thing!

        So many shades of gray in bath mats!

        Dorm shopping is not for the faint of heart (so many choices, so many price points) and we accomplished it in one week’s time. I’m so excited for this new chapter but totally unprepared for the rush of emotions that hit me in the middle of an aisle at Target where I had to hold back tears.   

        As a stepmom, I came in the middle of my stepdaughter’s childhood, but these last seven years have sped by and I realized how many of her major developmental milestones I’ve witnessed. 

        My only advice to parents trudging through 4th grade homework, arguing over teeth brushing and showers, and attending endless school assembly programs is enjoy it now.  This time passes too quickly.  Such a cliche but so much truth. 

        Embrace the drudgery and exhaustion because one day you might have a breakdown in Target’s storage section. 

        3. I’m late to the podcast party!

         

        A partial list of what’s up on my podcast app. Not shown are Hopeologie and The Influence Network!
           
        Many of you already know about podcasts, but for those who do not, podcasts are simply audio recordings of interviews/discussions on any topic/person.  Like how do ocean currents work?  Helen Hunt’s storytelling process, why reading aloud to your kids matters, etc.  They are free (!) and informative besides entertaining!

        Somehow I thought the only way one could listen to podcasts were via a desktop computer. But no, iTunes (and other podcast apps) allow one to download the podcast onto your iPhone where you can listen as you go! Yay!

        I listen to podcasts when I go for a walk, a long drive or household chores. I especially love finding interviews of favorite authors or bloggers and their insights. 

        4. Water is necessary for life. (My husband is a Rockstar)

        The beginning of the dig…

        We lost water pressure to our house and after checking with neighbors realized we had a leak somewhere on our property. Not so much fun considering our house sits way back from the road and smack dab in the middle of muggy July.  So, after a few miserable days without water we found the break in the line near an outside field faucet, and my  husband began digging.   

        That’s alot of digging!!

        The culprit…tree roots. And, after a quick trip to the plumber’s supply store, my rockstar husband fixed it for $9!  I’ve never been so happy to take a shower in my own house or flush a toilet!  

        5. Madeleine L’Engle is a Kindred Spirit.  

         

        So good and timely!
         

        I kept seeing this book pop up on Emily P. Freeman’s blog and social media and finally broke down and ordered it as the local library didn’t have a copy. 

        I’m so glad I bought my own because I’ve underlined and written on every page. This book came to me at the right time…a book for your soul, for the writer and for the follower of Jesus. I’m such a huge fan of her books but now I’m even more fascinated by her life and insights into writing and God. 

        6.  This Quote.  

        -Theodore Roosevelt

        I’ve seen this quote countless times but when I recently posted it to my social media, it took off and resonated with others as well.   Here’s what I posted with my hand lettering quote:

        How many times have you compared yourself against someone else?  You’re robbing yourself of joy, you know that, right?  We each have different talents and gifts and that’s a good thing!! Celebrate your ordinariness and smallness (remember nothing impresses God) and thank Him for what He has given you!

        The above insight is a synthesis of life events, Emily P. Freeman’s Simply Tuesday (releasing in 2 weeks!) and my sweet Mama!

        What did you learn in July?  Comment below!!