Milestones and Stages
We tend to measure our children’s lives in milestones and stages. Often we are wishing for a certain stage to conclude (think terrible twos) or hoping the current stage never ends. However, it is the milestones that we really celebrate. Events like the first day of school or getting a driving permit or when they take their first step, start using the toilet, and lose their first tooth are all celebrated in a big or small way. There are the “big” birthdays; 1, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21 that have a bit more weight or importance than others. However, we put our heart and soul into making every childhood birthday special and memorable. Finally, we celebrate graduations from kindergarten, sometimes eighth grade, high school and college. When you get to the college graduation you realize that this amazing child of yours has made it through all of the childhood stages and milestones. From now on the milestones are adult level: marriage, turning 30, first house or first baby. This may make you feel old, but don’t let it make you act old!
Sugar River in Shirland, Illinois
A Big Milestone to Celebrate
On May 14th we celebrated our oldest son’s college graduation. It was a big milestone and worthy of all the pomp and circumstance. I didn’t even mind that it took center stage to Mother’s Day. This was Rikley’s day and a day for his parents, grandmother, aunt and brother to cheer him on as he strode across the stage and accepted his diploma. All of his success has been a direct result of his effort. As a side note, for Mother’s Day, I was given a fabulous new cookbook. I’ve tried three of the recipes and would make them again. Run Fast Eat Slow is written by two runners and is full of nourishing recipes. The recipe for their Superhero Muffins is reason enough to buy the cookbook. They promote it as “nourishing recipes for athletes” but I would consider the recipes to be nourishing for anyone who is wanting to add delicious real food to their diet.
Kale & Radicchio Salad with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Recipes came from Run Fast Eat Slow.
What? No Waterfall?
Back to graduation. Before the ceremony began Keaton asked me if I was going to cry. It’s a fair question because I’m known to cry over everything and anything. Any emotion, whether it is sad or happy, can cause tears to well up in my eyes. Shoot, I’ve even cried watching coffee commercials. My guys just laugh, shake their heads and say, “Mom’s crying again.” But, back to Keaton’s question. The tears clouding my vision on this beautiful spring day were from the joy I felt as Rikley took his diploma in his left hand and shook the college president’s hand with his right. Then I wondered why it was so different from his high school graduation?
The Difference Between Then and Now
Four years ago I was wiping tears from my eyes for two months. All at once it came to me. High school graduation is the end of a big childhood stage. It’s the stage that most parents never want to come to an end. Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and do it all over again? I would repeat the last 19 years in a heart beat if I could. This is the stage that starts with your child’s birth and ends when they’ll no longer be living full-time in your home. College is a short four-year stage that flies by. Nonetheless, college graduation is a triumphant milestone that proceeds new beginnings and adventures as your child begins a new stage of adulthood. Additionally, it is the end of tuition payments and that is certainly worth celebrating, right? Perhaps one other small factor to the absence of a river gushing down my cheek is knowing that my boy is coming back to Oregon where he will pursue his doctorate degree in physics at Oregon State University. One hundred thirty miles away is so much better than two thousand seventy-eight miles!
Age is Irrelevant
I wonder how it is possible that I am old enough to be the mother of a college graduate? Of course age is “just a number.” What is important is how you feel inside and out, and this comes down to the choices we make every day. I refuse to think myself “old”. Think young and stay young. Some people stay young at heart, playful and physically active. They keep their brain and body engaged in activities they enjoy. Furthermore, they participate in social engagements and belong to groups. I seriously believe that this is what has kept my mother so young. She chooses to stay socially engaged and to keep herself mobile.
When my boys were small little bumpkins crawling and playing with toys on the floor Mom would get down there with them. She said to me, “I just want them to remember me.” You have to understand that she was 75 at the time. So, it was a justified fear of hers that she might die before they had time to accumulate enough memories of her. Well, she is now 94 and they have a treasure trove of memories to look back on and remember what a remarkable Nana they have. One memory they will never forget was the day they were playing golf with her and she got her first hole-in-one! It was just the three of them and they watched the ball she hit from the tee roll right up to and into the hole. Mom continued to play golf until she was 91, getting one more hole-in-one before she quit. She still gets out 3 days a week to play bridge with friends, walks up the street to get her mail, goes to Book Club once a month, drives herself to get groceries, goes to the library to check out more books, meets with friends for dinner on Thursday nights… She does all of this even though her knee aches, it takes more time to get ready and she tires more quickly. My mom is my role model.
Nana has been there every Christmas morning of their life.
Milestones to Come
This is why I want to stay healthy and fit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I want to take them on hikes, play games, and chase them around a playground. However, that stage is years away, so I think I will savor the stage my boys are in right now. I know that I am taking care of myself not only so I can run, ski and hike with my family now but to ensure that I can still do those things twenty years from now. Choosing to eat real food (not processed) and choosing to exercise is my insurance for a healthy future. Be thankful for the milestones and celebrate them. However, don’t forget that what we do now will determine how we will enjoy all the future milestones.
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I’m So Grateful For My Son
I have a lot to be grateful for in my life. As we head into Mother’s Day weekend I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be the mother of two brilliant boys. However this post is about my baby who turns 19 today. All parents will say, “Where did the time go?” and wish to turn back the clock. How is it possible that the cute little cherub who completed our family is 19 years old? So, while I miss my little boy I realize how lucky I have been to be present in his life and experience all of the changes with him.
I am excited because our family is together on his birthday. Not only are we celebrating the start of Keaton’s last year as a teenager and Mother’s Day, but we are in Beloit, Wisconsin for Rikley’s college graduation. So, I’m grateful that we get to be with our baby on his 19th birthday to celebrate him. Keaton, we would have missed out on so much joy in our lives without you. You have given me so much to be grateful for. Happy Birthday!
I am grateful for this baby who captured my heart on the 12th of May and slept in my arms all sweet and warm.
I am grateful for this baby with the dimple on his cheek and a spark in his eye.
I am grateful for this toddler whose laughter was frequent and filled our home with beautiful noise.
I am grateful for this happy little boy so full of humor and positive energy who loved to be silly.
I am grateful for this boy who adapted to change with ease and was eager to try new things.
I am grateful for all the fun moments we’ve shared that led to the beautiful memories I cherish.
I am grateful for every hug I received from this strong and lovable kid.
I am grateful for this competitive and skillful athlete whom I have been blessed to watch and call my son.
I am grateful for this secure and wise young man who loves his family.
I am grateful for this son of mine who grew into an ambitious, admirable and compassionate man. As I reflect back through the years watching him grow and change into the remarkable and confident person he is today, my heart is full.
Keaton, this is one of my favorite birthday pictures of you. It was your second birthday and you were so excited for your cake. You couldn’t wait to blow out the candles and once you did we had to relight them so you could do it again and again. Thank you for all the fun memories that I will hold onto forever.
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Of all the things I’ve saved through the years memorabilia has to be my downfall. It’s a crazy obsession I have and one my husband will never understand. Memorabilia includes souvenirs I collected on trips, boarding passes, brochures, rocks, shells, foreign coins, postcards etc… My memorabilia was also programs, awards, report cards, certificates, team rosters and schedules, calendars, birthday cards, Christmas cards, art work, school work, more cards… it’s endless. It takes up a lot of space and during all of our downsizing, packing and moving it has created way more stress than it’s worth. Carting all the memorabilia from one place to the next is a burden.
Packing up my home office for the second time. Notice, in the foreground, I’m still filling a bin with memorabilia to recycle.
On the Move Again
At the beginning of February Rob and I were presented with the opportunity to lease a condo in Bend, Oregon. It is in the exact location we’ve had our eyes on for a couple years. It’s near the river trail we love to run. We’ll have a view of six mountains, and it’s within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and breweries. Skiing on Mt. Bachelor is about a twenty minute drive away.
Bend is an active outdoor community that fits the lifestyle we want for our future. As empty nesters and with both of us working from home, moving away from Portland was possible. However, it wasn’t an easy decision. Portland has been our home for most of the past twenty-five years. Our friends and community connections are in Portland, therefore, leaving is emotionally difficult.
Change is an Opportunity
Ultimately, we decided that change is an opportunity for growth, and new experiences are exciting. This one year lease is a trial period for us. We will see if living in Bend provides us with more opportunities to live the active lifestyle we want and to experience life with a smaller footprint. At the end of the year we can reevaluate and decide if we want to make Bend our home, try another location, travel around the country in a Sprinter van, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or move back to Portland.
We spent February continuing to purge even more of our belongings including some furniture. With this move we truly are downsizing. I wrote about our move and the process of getting rid of things after Christmas in the post STEPS ALONG A PATH TOWARDS CHANGE from January 19, 2017.
At that time we only downsized by about 600 square feet, but this move to a condo will give us almost half of the space we are used to. To prepare for less space we sold furniture and decorations. We donated countless car loads of stuff we no longer need or have room for. I spent a weekend scanning and recycling twenty-two years worth of saved memorabilia from traveling, school, cards, awards, sports, and summer camps. Needless to say, moving twice within two months is exhausting. It consumed our time and energy in February.
These two bins were overflowing at the beginning of my beach weekend. What’s left are a few things to save and a little more to weed out.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Memorabilia
I have learned some important lessons while sorting through my mounds of memorabilia. I’m not kidding about the mounds. The amount of paper I saved over the years was astonishing. I’m a scrapbooker. In fact, I sold scrapbooking supplies as a home based business for twelve years. I saved everything from birth announcements to teeth (eww) and ticket stubs to Christmas wish lists. Anything that I thought would help me tell the story behind my pictures when it came to writing about all of our picture worthy experiences was stuck into a file. I realize that not everyone has this compulsion. If you are one of those people who doesn’t save and hang onto things then you might laugh at my lessons. You will have no use for them because you were blessed with the ability to live in the moment and not attempt to hang onto the past. Your job to downsize someday will be much easier and less emotional than mine has been. Now that I’ve lived through the storing, organizing, filing, moving, moving again, digitizing, tossing, etc, here’s an enlightened approach that I wish I had figured out 22 years ago.
1. Make a decision right away
Don’t file everything thinking you’ll weed it out when the time comes. There’s an old adage; “Out of sight out of mind”. I think I was out of my mind for saving some of the things I did! Teeth? Really? Oh, well I have a laughable picture of them now.
The problem was, I knew how full my files were. I knew I had piles tucked here and there. I knew there were some bins in the attic full of memorabilia. Just knowing they were there was stressful. Thinking about the time I needed to organize and put all of these memories into albums with the pictures made my heart race and my chest tighten. I almost needed a paper bag to keep me from hyperventilating. I could have saved myself a lot of angst and time had I just been more selective to begin with.
2. Weed It Out Every Year
At the end of a school year pick out a few pieces of your child’s work to show their academic progress, writing, and artistic style. Keep a couple of pieces that touch your heart and remind you of your child at that age. Take a picture of large items and get rid of everything else! I kept school lunch menus and the teacher’s weekly reports from Keaton’s entire first grade year! Yes, I kept too much.
3. Don’t Save Every Christmas Card You Receive
Send the Christmas cards to the recycling bin in January! The stack of all the Christmas cards I saved could quite possibly have reached three feet high. This goes for most other cards as well.
4. Scan and Take Pictures of the Important Things
A good scanner can be your friend. Set aside a few hours in January to go through everything you saved the previous year. If you follow 1-3 there won’t be so much. Thin it out even more and then scan what you can. Save the scans in the folder with your pictures from the year or the pictures from that event if you sort that way. As I said earlier, I spent a weekend with girlfriends at the beach scanning some “treasures” that I pulled out from two big bins. I love my scanner. It is an Epson flatbed scanner that scans photos, documents, negatives with a high enough resolution to make enlarged prints. It also allows me to make color fixes on faded pictures. You can take pictures of three dimensional items or those larger pieces of children’s art work.
5. Don’t Save for Some Day
Don’t save something just because you think you might do something with it some day. I can almost guarantee that “someday” will never come. When it came down to it I never had the time to get to all of those scrapbooks that I imagined in my head. I have many completed albums that we enjoy now and then. It is fun to reminisce and look back at the photos and stories that document the events and adventures of our family. However, in the grand scheme of things how important is it to remember the price of a movie and when you saw it? I think that time spent in the present is more valuable. The experiences we had as a family are a part of us and important memories are there without the pieces of paper that show what we did. When you save it all the decision to keep or toss has to be made all over again. Of course, it is easier when you realize you don’t have room to save those things and you are exhausted from sorting through it all. Toss it! You’ll feel a little lighter and a little less stressed and more capable of enjoying the present.
Why did I feel compelled to save it all?
Did I think I would forget without the memorabilia? Mostly, it came down to scrapbooking. I thought I could write a better story if I hung onto the details. My big life lesson here is that the time in our lives is precious and slips away much too quickly. Fill your time with what is truly important.
Are you a saver or a tosser? If you are a tosser I’d like to know your secret. If you are a saver what is the most embarrassing or ridiculous thing you have saved? For me it is my children’s teeth and school menus. Or, maybe it’s the bandaid from Rikley’s first shot and the sticks from the popsicles Keaton ate after his adenoid surgery. I told you I was a compulsive saver. One last take away, I don’t need the bandaid to remember how I cradled Rikley’s head and sang into his ear when he got shots.
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When children are young the focus of their birthday is on the party with friends; invitations, theme, games, decorations, cake, gifts….. And maybe a separate celebration with family. I always tried to make my boys feel special on their birthdays, but a lot of work went into the celebration.
When children get older and celebrate their birthday away from you it’s different. For me, I get more reflective and sentimental about their life. I realize how much my life was enriched by them, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. That’s what I’m doing today on my first baby’s 22nd birthday. He is far away, but he is very present in my heart and mind.
This post is in his honor, but also for all the moms out there who are missing their children.
Cheers to My Son on His Birthday
Cheers to this day, January 31st, the day when I became a mom. It’s the day when my life was changed beyond my comprehension and in ways I could not believe possible.
Cheers to this tiny baby whose light head rested softly in the space between my neck and shoulder.
Cheers to this baby who snuggled in my arms and cried when I put him down.
Cheers to this baby who climbed before he could walk and who started walking at ten months old never to slow down again.
Cheers to this toddler who moved ever so quickly and whose hugs were given on a quick flyby as he chased after another adventure.
Cheers to this little boy who transitioned seamlessly when we moved to England. Cheers to this little boy who, without hesitation, let go of my hand to join a new group of classmates.
Cheers to this boy who learned to read and comprehend math so easily. Cheers to this same boy who loved baseball and soccer and always checked to make sure I was watching.
Cheers to this boys who cultivated strong friendships, loved his family and was a positive role model for his brother.
Cheers to this boy who embraced life with vigor and excitement and who played with such passion.
Cheers to this kid who had more than his fair share of scrapes and bruises. Cheers to this kid who announced so valiantly that he thought it was time to make yet another trip to the ER to stitch up the newest gash in his skin.
Cheers to this teenager who shares my love of skiing and who races down the slopes while flying, twisting and turning off jumps.
Cheers to this young man who has compassion for others and deep loyalty to his teams.
Cheers to this young man who graduated from high school with high respect from his teachers, family and friends.
Cheers to this young man who left home to pursue a higher education and continue his passion for playing soccer and lacrosse.
Cheers to this man who grew up much too fast and will graduate this spring with a degree in Physics and Math.
Cheers to this man whose hugs are now longer and stronger than ever.
Cheers to this man whose sense of humor warms my heart because it is so reminiscent of his grandfather’s.
Cheers to this man who will always be my little boy, full of spirit and action, love and dreams!
Happy birthday, Rikley, as you turn 22 I know your future is as bright as you. Always know that you are loved beyond measure and my pride for you is monumental. Thank you for all the joy and memories you have blessed my life with.
PS. Remember to call home.
As the mother of two boys I’ve had two fears. The first is for their safety as they fearlessly tackled physical challenges. If you have boys you know what I’m talking about. They’ll climb on counters and jump off, luge on a skateboard down a steep neighborhood road, or sail off of every jump they can find on a ski hill. The second is that they will move far away and never come home to me. Now that my nest is empty the second fear is becoming greater than the first.
What are some of your favorite memories of your children?
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Steps Along A Path Towards Change
I’ve been taking steps along a path towards change. I’m not talking about the kind of change that jingles in your pocket or falls between the seats in your car. I’m talking about the changes that happen in our lives. Life is all about changing, and change is all around us. It’s inevitable and little changes happen every day. It’s the big changes that challenge us, create stress, make you struggle and make you realize what is truly important.
Sometimes the path looks dark and lonely.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
What I’m learning is that change isn’t necessarily bad, It’s just different. Most importantly, it’s our response to change that determines its impact. It’s a path we all travel, and one thing I have learned from all my years of hiking is that there can be a lot of beauty at the end of a particularly challenging or scary path.
“Life ain’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s just plain hard. Life can knock you down…but the struggles make you stronger and the changes make you wise. No, life ain’t always beautiful. Tears will fall sometimes. Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride” song by Gary Allen and written by Tommy Lee James and Cynthia Evelyn Thompson
A Decision for Big Change
In my blog post, Obstacles; Two Weeks to Declutter, I wrote about our decision to sell our home of eleven years. We started the process in September with the goal to be out of it by the end of the year. While we were excited with the sales process and getting a step closer to our empty nest simplifications, I now realize just how much stress this change brought on. Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas, which we hosted, and you could say we had the lion’s share of stress.
For me the best way to handle it all was to break it up into parts and take on one piece at a time. First, we dealt with selling the house and the work of getting it ready, an Open House, inspections and the appraisal. Second, after we had a signed agreement, we started to conquer getting rid of the things we didn’t want to move. Next, we packed up things we didn’t need for the month of December and I focused on being ready for Christmas. Finally, on the day after Christmas we begun the final packing and moving.We were completely out of the house on December 28th.
The Steps I Took
Most of my stress came from making decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. Then there were decisions and work that went into how, when, and where do we disperse SO MUCH STUFF! These were the steps I took.
DECIDE ON WHAT TO KEEP AND LET THE REST GO
Selling our house was an opportunity to have less clutter in our lives. Rob and I started to look around at new places to live. We asked ourselves, “Where do we want to be?” Since we are not currently tied to a location for its proximity to work (we’re both working from home) or school boundaries we, could quite literally go anywhere.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo suggests to her readers that they should have a very clear picture in their head of what they want their living space to look like and what lifestyle they want. My picture does not involve a big house with lots of rooms. It used to, but now I want less space to manage. I want more time to do the things that bring me happiness and the activities that bring vitality into my days. My vision of our empty nest is one where we will have the ability to do more while having less.
So, we went to the Portland RV show in November and dreamed of working while traveling the country in a Sprinter Van, which appeals to me on many levels. Then we started to look at condos in the Portland Pearl district. I saw a couple I liked and this gave me a concrete visual feel for what less than 1500 square feet looks like.
Kondo’s philosophy is to keep the things that bring you joy and discard everything else. So with the vision of a small and clutter free space in my head and the questions, “Does this bring me joy?” and “Will this fit in my new space? resonating, I filled our garage with items to discard. Fortunately for Rob he is still on the keep list.
2. DECIDE HOW TO GET RID OF THINGS
We decided that a garage sale should be our next step. We already donated a closet full of clothing in August. However now, given the amount of items we had, it seemed reasonable to try to sell what we could in a garage sale. December first doesn’t’ seem like the wisest time to hold a garage sale, but given our timeline, we couldn’t wait for spring.
I have amazing friends who jumped in to help me sort, price and organize it all. As we did this I came upon some items that have more value than what they’d get at a garage sale. I saved these to post on sites like Nextdoor, Craig’s List and maybe Ebay. We worked for four days and this is what my garage looked like when it was all set up. We could not have pulled this off without the tireless help of friends.
Even though our garage sale was a December success, we were still left with an enormous amount of STUFF!
3. REEVALUATE AND COME UP WITH ANOTHER PLAN OF ATTACK
Anyone who has had a garage sale knows that not everything will sell. Therefore, you must have a plan on what to do with what remains. You certainly don’t want it back inside your home! I identified some items that I thought could sell at a local consignment store and took those there. We donated boxes and boxes of items to charity. Then there are the higher value items that I set aside for selling online. It’s a long and arduous task. Even with everything I cleared out to sell and donate there was still plenty left inside our home. When it came time to move we were surprised by how much we had to pack up and take with us.
Looking Forward to the Changes Ahead of Me
We decided to rent a house close by and take some time to evaluate our next step. It’s a lovely home, and although it is smaller that the one we left, it is still much bigger than where we plan to land. So, as I continue to weed out the things I don’t use or that don’t speak to my heart, I’m keeping two thoughts from Marie Kondo in my head.
- “No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
- “Does it spark joy?”
I truly believe that the whole process of clearing away the clutter will bring new energy to my life and help me live with vitality. After all, my goal is to live well as long as I possibly can. Taking steps along a path towards change, and meeting the challenges along the way with an open mind, is one step towards achieving my goal.
What challenges you most when trying to tidy up your home? Are you currently challenged by a particular change in your life? I’d love to hear from my empty nest friends and how your empty nest has changed your everyday life.
Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Marie Kondo’s book. You can share this post on Facebook to earn 2 more entries. If you follow Vitality in Focus on Facebook like this post and leave a comment there for another entry. I will draw a name on January 26, 2017.
About the Pictures
The pictures in this post were taken during our recent heavy snow storm. This kind of snow is very rare in Portland. After the snow fell we were graced with days of sunshine and cold temperatures. The snow lasted a week and I enjoyed every day of it. These pictures were taken on a walk through the Tualatin Hills Nature Park. My fingers were numb, but it was worth every step I took.