This Mom’s Empty Nest is Full

It has been six years since Sean, my youngest, graduated from high school.  At that time I was warned by another mom, who had already been an empty nester, about how difficult that time in life can be.  I can honestly say, she knew what she was talking about.  There were times, in the first year or so that I just sat in a chair, not knowing what to do.  It is a weird time for sure, and I still get very sad at times.  This is usually after I watch the TV show Bluebloods, where the entire family sits down together for dinner each Sunday.  Sure I would love all my birds close to the nest, but life does not always turn out that way.

This year Sean graduates from college (As do my other two, go figure!).  About a month ago, when I was having a pity party for myself, I started to reflect on all life has brought me since 2011 because  my boys had the confidence to forge their own path, I got to follow along, and how lucky I have been.

Scott, my oldest did not go too far.  He landed in Lansing.  One nearby at least! I get to see him at MSU tailgates and still follow his music career.  He introduced me to Soup Spoon Cafe, Brick Road Pizza in Grand Rapids, and when he comes to town, we eat together at La Marsa or Thai Express.  I actually went to Mac’s Bar for the first time (hard to believe isn’t it) to watch his band play.  I also have someone to go to IKEA with and have enjoyed transplanting some of my flowers in his yard.  Every now and then he shows up with his dog and stays in his old room.  He’s staying around Michigan for now, but keeps teasing me with plans to pursue his Ph.D. In another state.  I have him for at least 2 more years!  Did I mention we finally have a Spartan?

Alex, took a huge jump, and moved to Lubbock, Texas.  After a cross country drive in the Envoy pulling a trailer, four hours stranded by the side of the road, and a two hour drive in a tow truck (Bob, Alex, the driver, and myself all crammed in the front seat), he settled in a new city.  He is only an hour and a half from his Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary Pat, and his girl cousins.  They have taken him under their wing. (Thank you.)  Since he has been there Bob visits on business from time to time, we go together, and Scott and I have done two weekend trips together.  It is no easy task traveling to and from.  Yet, how would I have ever got to visit Roswell without our last trip?  Gotta say…it makes you wonder! I have seen cotton in bloom, hiked in a canyon, drove through New Mexico, attended a record breaking Texas Tech football game, and seen my independent son thrive.

Sean of course took us on a whirlwind adventure through junior and college hockey. He went East (the other bookend to my boy in the West).  I fell in love with Burlington, Vermont, Portland, Maine, and all things Boston.  We met too many great hockey families and players to mention.  Saw Sean play all over New England, and of course, to really make my heart happy, I got to cook some meals for his team the last two years.  I fell in love with The Freedom Trail, maple syrup, beautiful mountains, The Met Bar, Newbury Street, Walburgers, Suzanne’s Home Furnishing, the North End, small towns around Boston, Cape Cod bracelets, reconnecting with Jill and family, Quincy Market, of course Cappys, and will forever cherish the wonderful Boston accents.  I also got to meet Catie, Sean’s girlfriend, a Criminal Justice major, and incredible girl.  P.S.  Sean is staying out east so I get to still visit!

I must mention some members of our family that have been added over these six years.  We have Benny the Beagle Basset, Theo the Bulldog, and recently added Rizzo, who I still need to meet.  They make me laugh and grand dogs are pretty awesome.

Bob and I are loving all the places we get to travel to and enjoy some trips of our own.  We have been to our old stomping ground of Jackonville, out to San Diego and saw the Rutz family, Ft Lauderdale with friends, hanging out in Orlando with Mom and Dad Nelson (Disney just isn’t the same without the boys), a family trip to Colorado, and an amazing trip to Aruba recently with our long time friends the Ketners.  Did I mention how lucky I am?

If I need to fill the gaps, I have Bauer, my house and yard, a new love of hiking, friends, all my busyness, imagework, and of course Outlander!

I certainly miss having my nest full of boys and activity, but this lucky mom’s life is full!






A Place

As I am reading, I often times find a sentence or passage that really speaks to me.  Since I still read books that I can hold in my hands and turn the pages, I have the opportunity to mark in them as I see fit.  Sure I was accostumed to this from my college days as my books were full of highlighted pages, but lately it serves other purposes.  When I joined a book group, I started doing this because  I wanted to revisit parts that were meaningful or relevant, so I could share them with the group when we got together.

I typically have a pen close by so if I come across something, I can star it or put wiggly lines down the side to find it at another time.  I do go back periodically to find the marks.  Sometimes it is advice, sometimes something I want to share with the groups I lead, but most often it is something that gives clarity to who I am, what is important in my life, and how I see the bigger picture.

This happened recently as I was re-reading the fifth book in the Outlander series.  Yes, re-reading and loving every minute of it.  Honestly, I do not find a lot to mark in these books, but every now and then one of the characters says something that gets a wiggly line down the page.   I just went back and found the passage again as I was reading the book on a recent flight to Boston.  How appropriate it was too, because I am heading to “A Place” next weekend.

Let me share with you what this means.  These lines are from The Fiery Cross by Dianna Gabaldon, and come from the character named Jamie.

“He felt a peace come over him at the sight, and breathed deep, his body relaxing. Ah, he thought, and the realization stole over him that this was a Place.  He thought of such places that had no words, only recognizing one when he came to it.  He might have called it holy, save that the feel of such a place had nothing to do with church or Saint.  It was simply a place he belonged to be, and that was sufficient.”

Some of you know this to be true.  I certainly do.  I will be heading to Jacksonville, FL next weekend for my annual birthday get-away, time spent doing many of my favorite things, with two of my best friends.  Two of the nights are spent at the ocean.

All I have to do is step out onto the balcony of my hotel room and know this is a Place.  Here’s to knowing yours and being lucky enough to spend time there!image


Keeping the Messages of PEACE, LOVE, JOY & HOPE Alive in the New Year…

Each year as the holiday decorations hit the shelves I start to notice the words that appear on ornaments and signs. PEACE, LOVE, JOY, HOPE. The appearance of these sentiments is nothing new, they have always been associated with Christmas. What I have noticed the past few years is that they are more prevalent as holiday decorations have evolved. They are the mantras for the season and quite a few now deck the halls of my own home. This year I have decided to carry these words into the New Year and not just promote them for a month or two.
I have always resonated with the word PEACE. Maybe it’s because I was born in the sixties. This is the word I always look for. I have recently tried to stop purchasing anything with peace on it, but so far I have two new signs to hang on my walls. My fondness for this word actually goes much deeper than my fondness for peace signs. I believe in peace and try to lead by example. This is true for what it means for my family, friends, the students I work with, and others I interact with. Each year when anyone asks me what I want for Christmas, it is always the same: Peace on Earth.
LOVE is a word we see the most throughout the entire year, not just at Christmas. It plays a central role in other celebrations as well. If you notice specifically at this time of year, love appears to be the word that always gets pinned between peace and joy. They just seem to go together. I sign my Christmas card with Peace, Love, and Joy, and have for many years. It has a nice ring to it. Yet, love needs its own sign and as Coca Cola once told us “Share the Love”.
Last Christmas I happened to find a dish towel with the word JOY on it for a friend. When I gave it to her tears welled up in her eyes. She asked me how I knew that she had been trying to “find her joy again”? It got me thinking. We all want to find our joy, but sometimes life gets in the way. I recently learned that if we look too much at the big picture, we lose the chance to see the simple joys in the small things of everyday life. This past summer I decided to do a Facebook project called “The Joys of Summer”. I was having a difficult time with some things and thought it would help me focus on all the little things I enjoyed about Summer. It really was easy and a lot of fun. On December 21 st I plan to start a new project, “Finding the Joy in Winter”. I have a feeling I will be searching a bit harder to complete this one.
As the New Year approaches I have started to make my invisible list of what I HOPE for in 2017. Some would call it a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Whatever it is called it has always been the same: to get more organized at work and at home. As important as that is to me, the clutter is taking over my life, I plan to make my hope for 2017 a bit more significant. There are bigger things in life that I hope for this coming year.
As the decorations get packed away make sure you keep a little PEACE, LOVE, JOY, & HOPE on the shelf for 2017!

In the Rockies

I am an ocean person.  I love listening to the surf hit the shore.  Walking along the beach is one of my favorite things to do.  It is always my first choice for a get-a-way spot.  That was until I took a trip to Colorado.

It was a chance to go on a trip with our 3 boys.  Something that takes a lot of coordinating, but fortunately it worked out and we landed in The Rocky Mountains.  I had been to Crested Butte on a ski trip once when Scott was 2 and Alex was on the way.  The only outdoor activity I got to do on that trip was go snowmobiling in the mountains.  I remember it was beautiful.

This time I was ready to fully enjoy the outdoors and take advantage of some hiking and picture taking.  I was also hoping to see some wildlife.  I was rewarded with all three.  Fishing was also on the agenda as a co-worker of my husband’s lives in the area and took Bob, Sean, and Alex for some trout fishing.

Our first stop was a place called Twin Lakes, near the town of Leadville, altitude 14, 400.  You see in Colorado everything is about altitude.  We all fell in love with the remoteness of this location and started our mountain adventures.  By the end of our 3 days there, we had seen a female moose and calf, done some hiking, learned that hummingbirds are everywhere, road a train to 11,000 ft., had to take a 3 hour detour home from Aspen, and some of us decided we wanted to buy and run the General Store in town.  Ironically, it went on the market the day we left.

I must also mention that my 3 boys hiked to the tallest point in Colorado, Mt. Elbert, a 14er.  Go big or go home!  My biggest hike was the south part of that trail.  No small accomplishment!  If it had not been for My Peak Challenge (yes it is true) and getting in shape, I would not have made it.

After Twin Lakes we headed to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Bob had been there 40 years ago and wanted to share it with us.  Well…the mountains and park did not disappoint, but Estes Park is like the Disneyworld of the Rockies…very busy.  The ride through the mountains was stunning and we even saw a lot of Elk!  The boys are already planning to tackle another 14er.

I have discovered there is another place to go and enjoy the peace and beauty of this country.  There is more than just the ocean to soothe my soul.  A good walk in the woods can also do the trick.  It also helps that The Rockies are photographer’s dream.

Bob and I have always worked hard to make opportunities for our family to be together.  We are lucky they still want to hang out with us.  I will cherish this trip through my pictures and memories.


A Family Gathers

I am #30.  What that means is, that out of 76 Nelsons, I entered the family in the thirtieth spot.  We range in ages from the seventies to the youngest of 3 months.  My entry was by marriage, not by birth.  Regardless of how I entered, It means a lot to me to be a part of this amazing group of people.

Over the years we had gathered in various ways…Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s, significant birthday celebrations, and weddings to name a few.  Two weekends ago marked the first official Reunion/Gathering of the Nelson crew.  There were 79 people in attendance.  (We added some friends.)  I am fairly certain that this was the first time there were that many Nelsons in one location.  To say how awesome it was is an understatement.

My husband and I decided to volunteer our home, big yard, and pool as the gathering spot.  This idea came about after various discussions over the years about doing something like this.  Many had recognized that there were no weddings in the near future and we so enjoy the times we get to see each other.  So a date was chosen and emails started to circulate.  It soon became apparent that our hope for 50 some, was turning into 70 some.

You see, there was more to having a gathering than just being together.  I personally wanted all the new generation to see where they came from and what a solid family foundation looks like.  My own sons have had the privilege to be around for the days when we gathered at Great Grandma’s and to also  get to know some of their dad’s aunts, uncles, and cousins over the years.  I wanted all the kids to have this opportunity.  It also seemed important that those of us in the other generations to not only reconnect, but have a chance to get to know the younger batch.

Our gathering included a banner with numbers from 1-76 with names and dates of when you became a Nelson, a Swedish flag straight from Sweden (thank you Eric & Andrew, Grandma’s cinnamon rolls (thank you Aunt Rita and Aunt Nancy), and very impressive family trees that my mother-in-law has worked on for years and made copies for each family.  Wow!

Of course when this many people meet, there was a lot of food, some games for the young and old, a pirate scavenger hunt, crafts, birthday and anniversary celebrations, and a lot of talking and laughter.  The pool was a definite hit.  Especially when the temps are in the nineties.  There were a lot of water logged kids by the end of the weekend.

The best part was seeing everyone meet and connect in some fashion.  I knew when I first saw my name on one of Aunt Nancy’s gingerbread man cookies that I was one lucky girl.  Once this lucky #30 girl recovers, a second annual gathering may just be in store!