I quit my job and went to Italy

I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’ve been pre-occupied for most of 2014…with deciding how and when to quit my job.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this.

But I did it…and I am free of the insurmountable amount of stress I was experiencing.

Six years ago I started to make plans to go to Italy.  Here’s the proof.

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Quitting my job and planning for Italy all happened in six weeks.

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Over the past year, I kept reading about fear, taking chances, freeing oneself from obstacles, being true to yourself, being closer to God, being more spiritual, and living the life you want. Reading the stories and tributes brought tears to my eyes. I knew I needed to make a change but felt stuck.

the cinque terre trail w/Bob

With the support of my dear husband, Bob, I was able to move forward.  My journey is told in what moved me in the pictures below.

Santa Maria Novella Church Florence

The beauty art and loving God.

the road less traveled

The trails.

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The pathways

stairs in Vernazza tower

The stairwells

doors in Vernazza

The doors

laundry in Volterra

The windows and clean laundry

bicycle in lucca

The ride

riding a bike in Lucca

The ride on cobblestone streets.

locks on the cinque terre trail

Locks of love.

view from Hotel Pasquale

The beauty of nature from my window.

If you are reading this and you’re stuck in your life: keep the faith, read, learn about yourself, pray, meditate, connect with colleagues and friends, and listen to life stories.

Keep Calm and Dream Big

The Circle of Life

It’s been nearly one year since our oldest son moved out after finishing college and made my husband and I official empty nesters. I had been so used to running around organizing other people’s lives for the past 24 years that I discovered that I didn’t have to do that anymore.  I heard someone say once that if you don’t know what to do, then don’t do anything. For me it has been a year of transitions and a lot of doing nothing.

At work, there has been chaos, and I chose not to get involved. Staff are leaving, transferring, and retiring. New young staff are being hired. They are old enough to be my children.

At home, my husband got a new job, our son announced he’d be moving to Australia by the end of the summer, and my daughter has a boyfriend.

So as my nest has emptied, I have watched other women fill their nests. I have crossed paths with more pregnant women this year than I can ever remember. I have purchased six copies of my standard baby gift, Your Child’s Health, a great reference book for parents. I have also crossed paths with pregnant birds.

This Canadian goose was in a median in a university parking lot. The poor dad goose was siting on the eggs and wouldn’t leave. Someone brought him a bowl of water. I ran out and brought back some tortillas for him to eat.

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At our neighborhood park there have been five Canadian Geese families that have taken over the pond.

So as to not feel left out, on my own back porch, a robin family made a nest one weekend when we were out of town.

The baby robins stick their heads up and all we can see are little beaks and necks.

Mama robin is very vigilant and busy hunting for food for the babies.

Nature took over and filled my nest again. I’ve had a perfect view of it all watching life unfold and still not doing anything…waiting for my next move.

Who loves you? I do

I’m an empty nester mother. Maybe my kids will send me a text this Sunday on Mother’s Day, if I’m lucky. But who said Mother’s Day is all about waiting for acknowledgement from your kids? I’ve never had the fairy tale, mushy thing going on anyway.

I wouldn’t  be a mom if it wasn’t for them right? So I decided to send my kids Mother’s Day cards. I went off to the store to check out the greeting card selection. I saw cards for godmothers, someone who has been like a mother to me, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, mothers-to-be, and friends.  Why wouldn’t they have a card to wish your kids a thank you  to have had the opportunity to be their Mom? Twenty-six years ago I wanted so much to be a mother. I wanted to be the best mom ever. I was given a gift that not every woman gets the privilege to experience.

So this is the card I chose. Who Loves You? I do. Because I wouldn’t be a Mom if I didn’t have you! Happy Mother’s Day to the best kids ever.  Call if what you like; reverse psychology, guilt-trip, whatever. A new tradition of expressing maternal love is born.

Your huddled masses

As middle-class, middle-aged, suburban Caucasians, it is easy to get stuck in the same routine for work, play, and leisure. Drive in the same car everyday to work, shop at the same grocery and big box store, worship at the same location, and hang out at the local coffee stand.

We are a one car couple now and we are taking public transportation for work and to the airport. It’s not that big of deal, we’ve done it before, but it is different. My husband thinks everyone should step out of their comfort zone and take the bus in order to experience the world. People of every race, creed, color, ability, economic status and age; take the bus. It is non-judgemental because everyone is treated alike. To ride you must have a pass. That can be paid in cash, disabled or senior pass (reduced cost), monthly or yearly pass.

So I was thinking, how many places in this world are an equal playing field? Where people of all walks of life come together in one place with the same goal? So I here is my little ranking:

1. Public Transportation – The goal is to get somewhere whether it be by bus, subway, train, or light rail.

2. Hospital Emergency Room – The common goal is seeking medical care in an emergency. First one in line usually has chest pain.

3. Wal-Mart – The goal is to shop for inexpensive stuff.

4. Inner city or rural sanctuary of worship – All there to reflect on a Higher Being.

The Emma Lazarus poem, New Colossus (aka the Statue of Liberty poem), comes to mind at this time.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”

Happy Two Hundred and Thirty Fifth Birthday America.

Where do you experience “the mass of humanity”, where people from all corners come together? Do you have a ranking?

The one car couple

My husband and I are now empty nesters. Woo hoo! We raised our glasses and toasted that both our children have jobs and paychecks.  One just graduated from college and the other is halfway through. 

That is the good news. Here is the bad news. We have one vehicle.

So you ask….Why did you give away your cars to your children? They have jobs, they can buy their own vehicles?!

We decided, as a couple, that it would be easier, initially, for them to get on their way without any drama, to take the two cars and get to work. My husband and I are more flexible with working together and could share a vehicle.  And it is the summer and he makes a habit of biking to work several days a week.

Week One.  We drove in together on Monday.

 “Isn’t this nice? I really like spending the morning with you driving into work.”

After two days, “Didn’t I tell you? I need the car today, I have a business lunch.” 

 “What???” I replied, “Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?” 

After the first day, the bond of driving in together was wearing thin.

Week Two. I decided I would take the bus on the days my husband needed the car. I have a co-worker who lives on my side of town and she was glad to teach me the ropes of the bus route.  So Monday morning I walk to the bus-stop for the 100 Express. I stand there proudly. I condensed my 4-5 bags I usually pack into my car, into a backpack and a water bottle to carry.  I’m standing there with another rider and then the 100 rolls up.

 I say to the rider “Have you seen the 100 Express?”

“Oh” he said, “it already came by.”  

Deflated, I walked back home and my spouse gave me a ride into work.  After work, I summoned my courage, to take the bus home. I can do it! This isn’t that hard! So I walk to the bus stop outside my place of work and luckily one of my patients is also waiting to take the same bus. He was so kind. He showed me how to transfer at the downtown bus station to pick up my transfer home. And I made it. I even read my Time magazine and completed a continuing education form.

I told my husband if this sharing a vehicle was going to work we would have to comunicate.  I announced I had a dinner date with the girlfriends on Wednesday and a hair appointment on Thursday after work.

 “Oh” he announced, “I have a dermatologist appointment on Thursday. ”

 “Oh”, I announced, “You need to reschedule because it is so hard for me to get an appointment and my hair is really in need of highlights and I have split ends.”

He was nice and cancelled his appointment.

Wednesday ended up being a disaster. My husband had originally agreed to ride his bicycle home, but life intervened. He had just got a call that day from a co-worker in another state that her spouse had been killed riding his bicycle. This devastated my husband, who, by the way, had a bicycle accident with a light pole last summer. I think the PTSD got stirred up like a bee hive. I told him I would come and get him at work and he could take me to the restaurant and I would get a ride home. Well the traffic was horrendous. What usually is a 15-20 minute drive to my husband’s work from mine, ended up being a one hour bumper to bumper drag. I left work at 5 pm, I got to the restaurant at 6:15p m and my husband got home at nearly 7 pm. Arrrrghhhh.

By the time Friday rolled around, he was feeling less stressed and biked to and from work. It was a good thing because I felt terribly ill with a headache and left work two hours early. I also had to pick the dog up from the groomers as well.

My husband and I are extremely independent people. As my husband says, “I don’t like depending on other people as they usually let me down. ”

Last Saturday we spent a large part of the day together, driving to look at a new car and driving to get new tires on our only vehicle. While waiting for the tires, we went to lunch together. When was the last time we did that? It was a lovely walk to lunch and back to the tire store.

Week Three. Much better, The week was planned, communication happened. I rode the bus home two days, he bicycled to work two days. We car-pooled to and from work Thursday because we had a dentist appointment at the same time, together. 

A shift has happened. We are talking to each other. My independent husband is learning to trust me again. We are taking a deep breath and realize we only have each other and the dog right now. We are rediscovering each other at mid-life sans children.  

I guess this empty nest thing might be good for us….until the grown child comes home to visit? Just as long as he doesn’ t stay long term.

I read the obits

I admit it. I read the obituaries. I’m not retired and I’m not feeling old. I’m not fascinated with death and I am not morbid. My mother and father read the obituaries regularly. They check out my hometown newspaper on the internet since they’ve  lived in independent living for the past six years. Several weeks ago was tough, because several people died who they knew. When more and more of your friends and family are dying then I guess you feel like your number is coming up too?

I’m a health care provider and I started reading the obituaries when I got reports of my patient’s deaths. I wanted to see where the memorial or funeral service was being held. In a big town newspaper, not everyone’s death is posted in the obituaries. In a small town it is common news that is posted. I live in a large metropolitan area and if someone is cremated, a funeral home isn’t involved, or the family doesn’t have money to pay for the announcement, it will never appear in the paper.

Time magazine and internet websites post obituraries of famous people. They post a picture and a guest writer who knows the person will pen a fond memory.  It’s a brief synopsis capturing the highlights of a famous life.

After reading lots of obituaries and I’ve decided that everyone is famous.  Each person has lived a life completely unique to anyone else and they touched the lives of many people along their life journey.  Where that person was born, where they went to school, where they worked, who they married, how many children and siblings they had, and what contributions to society they made.

Several years ago I asked my mother to write her life story. She sat down and wrote 9 or 10 pages. It was beautiful. My mother wrote about games she played, going to the movies, and running around with her girlfriends. Pages of happiness were exuding from the paper.  My mother was the youngest girl out of seven siblings. She was happy-go-lucky. Everyone in the family protected and took care of her. She had so much fun.  My mother is 85 years old and she is not so happy-go-lucky right now. She is plugging along trying to get through her day with her many physical ailments. Despite the tears and triumphs of our relationship, I will carry with me my smiling, laughing mom. 

As I write this, I learned of my aunt’s passing. She was my mother’s oldest sibling and she was 100 years old.  I read her obituary today. It had the basics but it also had a glimpse of her personality and her boat the “Ma Belle”. I remember seeing pictures of that boat that she and my uncle would take out on the Mississippi River. They loved talking about the fun they had. 

I’ve taken stock of my life the past year, since my mother has been ill. I’ve accepted where she and my father are at on their life journey and where I fit with them and my siblings. I have maybe a good 30 years left in my life and a large part of my life story could be written today. But then again, I’m not dead yet. I’m sure I’ll have more to add.

Parents are just people

Turner Classic Movies showed Splendor in the Grass the 1961 classic with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty last night. I sat down and watched the whole movie. I was riveted to the tale of two teenagers who fall in love during Roaring Twenties and advent of the Stock Market crash. The financial state of the country from riches to rags and recovery mirrored the tale of these two sweethearts.

The couple, Bud and Deanie, are faced with how the fairy tale of  love fades and how heartbreak changes them. Deanie experiences an emotional breakdown when she and Bud are no longer a couple. It is uncomfortable for her friends and parents to witness and accept. Her mother nearly breaks down when the experts say that her daughter needs professional help. Mrs Loomis can’t believe that what is troubling her daughter can’t be fixed at home.

Near the end of the film, Deanie is speaking with her psychiatrist about whether she can handle seeing her parents again. On a previous visit her mother talked incessantly abouting wanting her little girl back home again. Deanie acknowledged she was not that little girl anymore. The psychiatrist then uttered, “Parents are just people”.  And that was the phrase that hit me smack in the eye.

I am almost an empty nester.  I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into words until I saw that movie last night. My son graduated from college a week ago. His growth into adulthood has been painful for the entire family. He has struggled with every part of studying, taking tests, caring for himself, and social relationships.  But he had grown in many aspects of his academia. 

He lived in the dorms and an apartment the first two years of college and then moved back home the last two. I didn’t want to be the bitch of a mother, but I was. I set my boundaries that he needed to do basic things to be living with his parents in our house. He rarely accomplished taking a shower using the soap; he never brushed his teeth; and rarely did his laundry. He was loud and brash, playing his video games late into the night  just a door away from our bedroom. His mantra to me was, “Whatever you tell me to do I am going to do the opposite”.

He will be moving within a week to start his new job in the next state and six hours away. He hasn’t written his thank you cards and he hasn’t made a “To Do” list. He has celebrated his graduation by lounging around and doing nothing for the past week. I don’t want to be the bitchy parent anymore. I have advised him of my boundaries. I am available until Friday and he will need to make an appointment if he needs my help before leaving. I am planning on going to a hotel or to my friend’s house for the weekend while he packs up.  I am not going to be yelled at because he can’t find anything. I refuse to have the expectation of helping him when he waits until the last minute to throw everything together.

No parent wishes to see their child struggle. It is innate to want to prevent the pain.  I don’t have super powers to make everything right anymore, because my son has not practiced his coping skills. I think my son has been mad at me because I don’t want to take care of him any more. He does a lousy job of taking care of himself. My daughter told me that I have done everything to try and teach him but he didn’t want to do it.

But parents are just people. The last several months I have tried to accept my son for who he is. Hot mess and all, it has been hard for me. I asked him to accept me for who I am. I, like him, want to be respected and loved just like everyone on the planet. And children grow up and they are just people too.  Best wishes to you my son.