Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ever-Encroaching Empty Nester Syndrome

I was asked just yesterday by my cousin how I was handling my baby graduating from school in June and all the kids being far enough away to not having someone pop in every day.  A year ago I would have immediately responded with tears and a "I cant talk about"; however, yesterday was different.  I paused.  I had such mixed feelings.  I still have some of the emotion there, but there is also an excitment and heaven forbid I should communicate that to anyone! 

I read the Daily Mail online daily and came across this great article in the Femail section.  Nicci Gerrard, a bestselling British author, at the same point in life as I am now, summed it all up perfectly.  Why try to rewrite the already well-written!  Thanks Nicci!

Bestselling author Nicci Gerrard, 51, lives in Suffolk with her husband and co-writer Sean French. She has four children, Edgar, 22, Anna, 21, Hadley, 18, and Molly, 16.

Nicci Gerrard found it difficult to cope when her children left home.
Sometimes, in a shop or on the street, I hear a child's voice piping up 'Mummy!' and I turn around with a lurch of the heart, thinking they are calling out for me.   But, of course, they aren't. I'm 51 - and that time has gone.

Ten years ago, at the start of the new millennium, I worked full-time on a newspaper, wrote novels with my husband and had four children aged between six and 12 for whom I tried (and failed) to be the perfect mother - juggling work assignments, writing stories in the early hours, racing home to attend parents' evenings, school concerts, doctor's appointments, end-of-term assemblies.

It was a time of constant exhaustion (I used to fall asleep in the bath, while being driven in the car, on the train, in the theatre, at meals); a time of guilt (baking cakes in the middle of the night to prove I was a 'proper' mother, weeping over my children's milestones that I'd missed); of intense physical closeness (the sticky hand clutching mine, the hot body wedged between ours in bed, squabbling round the dinner table, squashing into the car); of grumpiness, anxiety.

And vivid happiness. I would often long for time to myself, be it mornings in bed or baths without someone hammering at the door - but I wouldn't have traded a single second of those breathless days of mayhem and the rowdy, botched imperative of love.

Now three of my four children are at university. One by one, the eldest have gone, leaving behind empty bedrooms, unaccustomed tidiness and a strange silence.   Yes, they return with bags of laundry, but it's not the same - and it hits me hard.

Soon, the youngest will also be gone. A few weeks ago, she said cheerily: 'How will you feel when there's no one left to wave goodbye in the morning?'   And as if someone had pressed a button, I started to weep, ridiculous snorting sobs that I couldn't control.

It's not just about missing them - which, of course, I do - but the realization that a certain part of my life is over and can never come again.   Their childhood is finished: Was it good enough? Did I do OK? Who am I now? What am I for?

Enough. I would hate to be one of those guilt-inducing wistful mothers waiting for their children's visits.

So here's my pledge for the next decade: I'm going to turn my loss (of children, teeth, youth and prospects) into my gain.   I'm going to have adventures, set myself challenges, learn languages, grow chillies, live abroad - do all the things I haven't had time for.

I'm going to turn an ending into a beginning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Temple Excursion #1

How Beautiful is the Temple!  On 12/05/09 we set out for the Chicago Temple with great friends, for Tom's first visit!  For a woman who always has enough words to more than express many a situation, I have been completely wordless.  Not thoughtless, wordless.  It is so hard to describe the experience, its uniqueness, its power, its beauty and all that comes to mind is "pure joy".  

After a 15 year absence for myself, it felt wondeful coming home, especially with those who share the moment with us. 

An experience such as what we all had, bonded already strong friendships, strengthened new ones and was the perfect prep for temple excursion #2, which is all about our family!   I feel so blessed in my life! I am so grateful!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

At This Festive Season...

Tom and I have spent a few days listening to the unabridged audio version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol". There is a point early in the novel, where Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by some gentleman, receiving donations for charities for the poor. The section goes like this:

'At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'
'Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.
'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
'And the Union workhouses.' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they till in operation?'
'They are. Still,' returned the gentleman,' I wish I could say they were not.'
'The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.
'Both very busy, sir.'
'Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I'm very glad to hear it.'
'Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, 'a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'
'Nothing!' Scrooge replied.
'You wish to be anonymous?'
'I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'
'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'
'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

So what do you ask, does this have to do with anything? Well, you see, I was reading an article about the recent health care bill, the antis, the rhetoric being spout of "death panels", etc. I recently saw a report on the one-day free clinics circuiting American cities and the hard working poor, middle-class who have had to go without, to the extent that their health is declining because of lack of regular care, etc. etc. We have heard horror story, after horror story and have personally, in our own family, witnessed how when health insurance was not available, medicines were too expensive to purchase, that health fails and yet how quickly it can rebound and the quality of one's life changes exponentially with necessary prescription medications and regular check ups. I kept hearing the same line over and over in my head.

"If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.".

We are there. We are in a place, where we are arguing over who we think has the right to live or to die. We have become so greedy, so callous, so insensitive and so selfish that we cannot offer another help, open our pockets, our wallets, our hearts to offer the compassion necessary to give an individual one of the most basic rights of all, health care.

The compassionate gentleman in Dickens Story states,   "Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

What is said in Scrooge's response seems too generous to what we now even wish to offer. He asks if there are prisons and workhouses in operation. Suggesting that those in need should be isolated to institutions and separated, sentenced to a life of dread and sorrow, treated as a criminal and degenerate. That’s a good offer compared to what we now offer. Nothing. No health insurance, medicines too expensive, treatment too expensive, what do we have to offer, but suffering, sorrow, pain and in some cases, even death. But that's okay! The arguments really make me incredibly sad and seem so pathetic and most come down to an insurance company having the right to determine their level of risk to ensure that their bottom line is adequate and their profits sufficient to satisfy their greed.

I do not think we have learned much in the past 200 years.

What we do want to communicate is that while our government is failing in its charge to care for its people, we the people can become more generous, more loving, more helpful, more full of true Christian charity and shower those in need with the help, assistance and support that is needed.

At this festive season, may we all remember The One example of true Charity, and may His image be reflected in our countenance.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Temple is in clear sight!

Its already October! As I sit here typing, I notice the yellow, orange, brown of the leaves. Beautiful, but I have a lot of trees - so it means raking. I have discovered the blower is good for something other than cut grass on the sidewalk! Yipee! I do not think the City is happy when the leaves end up in the gutter (by accident of the powerful stream of air emanating from the blower and my very imprecise aiming ability to keep the leaves on the easement! - so NOT intentional!)

General conference was this weekend. I love general conference. The talks are as varied as the speakers giving them. We hear talks I think must have been written and spoken specifically for me; Then there are the talks (Like Elder Holland's) where I quietly cheer in my head, praising the Lord for giving that man the courage to say what he means, mean what he says and not be afraid of who or what will respond.

This conference, however, seemed to be focused on making sure our hearts have experienced the "mighty change" and that our lives truly reflect that change, making it clear to all in the world, who we are and where we stand in our faith.

My husband has been the greatest example to me lately of just that principle. No matter how much he has appeared to have "lost", the changes in him have surely been mighty. He holds onto that faith, so unwaveringly, even when confronted with what could easily knock the strongest of us down. He stands tall and presses forward.

We are down to the last "leg" of the race, before we head off to the temple to be sealed as a couple. This is such an exciting time for us. Sort of feels like we are getting married, all over again, only this time, in the right place and making eternal vows. I am certainly learning patience and learning how to surrender to my Father's will for me.

So, in order to remain patient and not get too anxious, wired up or crazy, I am just keeping busy. Work helps, projects help, helping others certainly helps a lot, but what helps the most is the day to day stuff with Tom, the kids and just focusing on them, our family relationships and just trying to be the best me, wife, mom, that I can be. That certainly takes up more than enough time in one day. I just get lost in my family and those things that matter most. Well, not having a count-down counter on my facebook helps a lot too!

We've rounded the corner and the stadium is in sight.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homecomings and the Beginning of the Best Years...

Words cannot express what a wonderful experience it was to meet some of our returning missionaries, as they came home from their mission. But even more so, to be at the homecoming of Elder Horrocks. I think "way sweet" comes close. Our love for him and his family is immeasurable. It is clear to see why he was the missionary he was and why he is now the man he is. We love him dearly.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jeremiah's Birthday Present

So he waited patiently for his present and, well,
It became a family affair.
We are having way too much fun with this thing!

Father's Day

A little out of order - but here none the less -

Spent it with Doyle, Cyndi and Dave and his family. It was a lovely day with family and a nice photo of the occasion to boot! Can you tell I have started to dabble in cake decorating - my first real attempt and my family doesnt seem to mind being the guinea pigs! (ooo - that could have a mean connotation to it )

Jeremiah's Birthday

Yes - June seems to be the month of birthdays (August and November are that way too!!)

So J's was more a happy day dinner..... Freaked him out with the cake.....
The tradition goes - you get your favorite food for your dinner and he has always picked in the past spaghetti and meatballs - well this time he picked Chicken Parmesean - so I gave him both, Chicken Parm for dinner and spaghetti and meatballs for dessert. It took him about 2 minutes to figure out what was going on! PRICELESS!

Tom's Birthday - Part 2

So when he thought that he had the surprise and nothing else was to follow - we hit him with a second surprise the next day with all the family.... It was great!

It was all a secret too - as we celebrated his nephew Kevin's birthday as well. We just love surprises around here!

There, of course, was more family and Tom shenanigans - although this picture of Tom has to be one of my favorites!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tom's First Birthday - Part 1

So for those of you who dont know, Tom had never had a birthday party until this year. We threw him a suprise part to boot and boy, what a surprise it was. Occasions like this truly are once in a lifetime and he enjoyed every moment! The rest of his birthdays I am sure will have much less to-do...but it was a great ta-dah moment!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's that time of year

My kids are going to laugh when they see this post, but heck, who cares.

IT'S COUNT DOWN TO DRUM CORPS! I am such a closet fan! I look forward every summer to June and Drums On Parade. I have been a supporter and fan of Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps since I was in high school and several of our marching band members were scouts!

Its great music of course, but there is something so uplifting in watching the hard work and dedication of young people. These kids put their heart and soul into something so positive and so enriching. How can I not be in support of that! My kids will also tell you that I tried with all three of them to get them to join, but it never worked out. That's okay. We love it as a family and its one of those traditions that we will be sharing with our grandchildren one day.

If you get a chance, go support your local drum corps. Tickets to local events are usually pretty affordable and every penny goes to support drum corps.

Here's the link for Madison's Oldest Drum Corps event:

Not from Madison? Visit and find your areas drum corps! Enjoy some music this summer. I know we will!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

NOV 29 2008 - TOM's BAPTISM

Finally, pictures up from Tom's baptism. We waited to post until all family members had been told before we put them up. It has been a bittersweet couple of weeks. daily, we see the blessings of being a house united, working toward common goals and pray daily that the Spirit will bear witness to those we love who are having a difficult time understanding. I truly believe that in time, the changes in Tom, in our family, will be the strongest witness of all. I had written the post a few days afterward and held onto it. So here it is...

I had the best birthday present a girl could ever have this year. Tom was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Frankly, I had rarely even contemplated such an event. It never seemed possible. I was content with both of us worshipping separately, but still strong, practicing Christians. However, when Tom reached his own crisis of faith this summer, we both knew something had to change. The change would not be for me, for us, but for him.

Over the last 4 months I have watched him struggle, persevere and overcome so many obstacles that have for years, prevented him from seeing himself as our Heavenly Father sees him. He tackled each obstacle with fervor and determination. He never gave up, never turned back, never gage in. My accounting of his journey seems to pale in comparison as to when he bears his own witness. I will refrain from doing that here and let him write and post himself. I can say that there has never been more peace, more joy, more happiness than I have ever seen Tom, let alone our family, possess. I think the pictures sing that song quite well! A few years ago I started praying that the joy and happiness we had in the beginning would return. My prayers today were answered 100 fold. I have/we have never felt happiness such as this!

A heartfelt thank you to all his "angels", who selflessly gave of themselves; who shared their testimony of the gospel by their actions of love and friendship. Our gratitude is eternal, as well as our love for all of you.

Addendum, four months after I wrote the above, those words could not be more true or accurate. I have often said throughout the past 8 months, I feel like I am in a constant "pinch-me" mode. I have resigned myself to idea that I will always be in a "pinch-me" place!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chicago and a temple preview

Tom and I were so lucky last weekend. We went to Kenosha, picked up a special Elder and his companion and got to shuttle them to the temple for the Hale sealing.

What a trip! It was wonderful, since both Elder Thomas and Elder Horrocks were there. It was Tom's first visit to the temple and it was a beautiful experience. A nice preview for our families trip in December! To see the joy of the Hale's and all of their friends and church family was so uplifting and encouraging. We felt so blessed to be able to be a part of things.

Elder Thomas is a short-timer now. Only a few weeks til he heads home.
Elder Horrocks has a few more months (AUG), but we are all definitely looking forward to reconnecting this summer!
We are so proud of them!

The musical

Its done and Jeremiah is in withdrawl. He did so well and it was quite the production. I was especially tickled that he had a chance to work with my director from my first high school production over 34 years ago. How is that for scarry. Mr "C" as they call him (Cerutti) was the best. His apples hasnt fallen far from the mother tree!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Trip to Bountiful...or should I say Provo

Tom and Kaitlynn's trip out west was almost a month ago. Slow getting the photos out, but I no longer have the luxury of working from home. I must now venture from my home office, and of all times to start a commute, in the frigid cold. Remind me why we are in Wisconsin? I am quickly forgetting! Their trip was a wonderful experience for them both. I am so proud of her right now. As time passes, the calls become less frequent, which means she is doing well. For all who follow, stay tuned to the March CES Fireside. Her Institute choir is singing and Elder Bednar is speaking. She/we are excited. I know to some that's just normal, but for us and for her, its just another way of reminding us she is in the right place and doing the right thing.

I am so glad that both Tom and Katy shared the journey together. What a memory they will have for a lifetime.

As a side note, right after the trip out west, we said our final goodbyes to our "adopted" Elder Thomas. The cycle is complete and we are all onto the next cycle. Its been an adjustment, but they both/all remain in our hearts and our prayers. They certainly shall not be forgotten and will always be with us! Our lives are forever changed by their love, their dedication and their service to their Father in Heaven!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Butterfly is Free...

The first was second and now there is only one left. This butterfly is free from her cocoon and flitting away for a season. Can I flit away too? I have always been a gypsy at heart, waiting for the winds to blow and tell when it is time to leave. This time, however, I am staying and they are leaving.

I am excited for Kaitlynn. She has an adventure unfolding. Dreams to work toward, experiences to have, new people to meet. She just called and they are near the Wyoming/Utah border. She feels the way about mountains that I feel about the ocean. There is something comforting and awe-inspiring about them. They are bigger and grander than you could ever possibly be and they are humbling. Its her adventure and now I can live vicariously through her, until that is, we start out on our own in 18 months.

Yes, 18 months til the last butterfly flies off. (I think he is in the cocoon stage right now, if you ask me!) Then its a new season of life for Tom and I . We were just reflecting about not having ever had a chance to "date" and be alone in our married life. We dated with children, we married with children. So in a short time, we get our time together. I do say, for as hard as it is watching them leave, in the back of my mind I keep thinking, wow, we wont have to plan vacations around school breaks anymore, will we??? We can just pick up and go for a long weekend without worrying who was going to have to get where when? I can get used to that!