Home and Hearth Travel

I Wasn’t Meant to be a Homeowner

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

It’s a bill of goods we all get sold. Home ownership is the height of the American dream. Once you own a home you have security and a place to call your own. You’ve made it.

Well, I own a very beautiful home that has provided my family with wonderful memories and space to grow in. It’s a 200-year old home originally built by a former mayor of our town who went on to be a New York senator. I have loved the home since the first time I visited Bath, New York, and bought it sight-unseen when it went on the market while we were living in Idaho and knew we would be moving back.

But I don’t like owning a home.

It’s a beautiful home with a wide, majestic entryway, 12-foot tall ceilings, and enough space that even the three generations of us currently living here have plenty of space.

There are so many responsibilities that come with home ownership that I just don’t like. Like yard work. The 1/3-acre lot is great for the kids and grandkids to run around in, but it’s also so much mowing and so many weeds. And the perimeter half-mile of sidewalk has to be shoveled so often thanks to our New York winters.

But more than just the upkeep, owning a home means having to stay in the same place. As someone who has moved 25 times in 48 years, I get a little antsy when I’m in the same place for too long. We’ve owned this home since April 2008, and other than renting it out for the two-year Utah nightmare experiment, we’ve lived in this house. I do love it. I love the space, the layout, the front porch, the lilacs I planted that bloom so well every year…but I don’t like being in the same place for so long. We’ve been back since December 2015 and I’m feeling tied down.

Our youngest child will be leaving for college; our daughter and her husband and two kids are eventually going to find their way to England – and then what? Keep being stuck in this great big beautiful house in this tiny little town that doesn’t even have a bowling alley or movie theater?

I can’t see that being the right future for me or my husband. For one thing, if the grandkids are in England, you can bet I am going to want to be there as often as possible. And traveling full-time has a lot appeal, even if we stop here and there for months at a time to do some in-depth exploring.

This home has been good to us and for our family, but it’s time to be brave and let go of home ownership.

Anyone looking to buy a house?

Adult Children Keeping Marriage Strong Love On Motherhood Parenting

Empty Nest, Here We Come – Like It or Not

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I have been so blessed to have a full house from the time I met Dave. He already had three children, and they quickly became my own as our relationship developed. Once we were married, we added two more, with a total of five children occupying our time.

As kids get older, it is expected that they’ll move on eventually. My youngest son, Parker, is headed off to college this fall. Our youngest child, Anika, will be graduating next year and doing the same. Although our second-oldest, Kira, came back and then stayed after leaving for college, this is a temporary situation. She and her husband have plans to settle in England, and their time in our household is limited.

This will leave Dave and I with an empty nest, finally. However, this does leave us thinking, “What now?”

I will miss my children. I will cry (and have cried) many tears at the idea of them moving out and starting their own adventures, and I will look forward to future gatherings of our family. I’ll acknowledge that our nest will feel a little empty, and the stillness and quiet will shock both of us a little bit.

At the same time, an empty nest is something to look forward to. Dave and I have prioritized our relationship during the busy lives of our five children, and he is still my best friend. We work together, travel together, have raised kids together, and delight in our grandchildren together. We will always be there when our children need us, but once they are all moved out, it will just be us.

We can cook whatever we want, watch whatever we want on TV, go where ever we want on vacation. We will get to enjoy our time together, without the constant interruption that is a natural consequence of children. I’m sure there will still be days that I cry and miss my children terribly, but there will also be days when I rejoice in having the quiet companionship of my husband.

Dave and I have loved every second of raising our children, but we are so excited to have uninterrupted time together. I will welcome visits from children and grandchildren every day, but I will also welcome the month-long jaunts through new countries. I will welcome the brand-new adventures that are much more affordable with two people than with seven. I will welcome the quiet, and yearn for the noise, all in the same breath.

Although our children will always be our pride and joy, I am grateful that Dave and I did not neglect our own relationship over the last 20+ years. Children do grow up and start their own lives. Invest in your relationship every day, because this is your life partner. To keep marriage strong, you must be able to survive with the kids and without them. The empty nest will sting a little as your children leave, but it doesn’t mean that your home and heart won’t still be full.


Adult Children Let's Talk

Ease the Transition to an Empty Nest With Preparation & Self-Awareness

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

As a parent, you’ve probably daydreamed about your noisy, rebellious child growing up and leaving home, yet also had nightmares about when that time would actually come. The transition from full-blown parenting to only a call or two each month can be unsettling. Parents can prepare for empty nest syndrome by filling their nest with other eggs. What? Here’s what I mean.

Acknowledge the Loss

When your son or daughter packs their bags to head off to college or to embark on adulthood, acknowledge the loss, pain or emptiness you feel. The change can be unsettling and the feelings can be confusing and intense. Parents who try to avoid facing those feelings by busying themselves won’t be truly happy until they realistically acknowledge the change and release the pent up emotion.

During the transition, mourn the loss. Ride through the emotions and let yourself grieve the change. Then acknowledge with the loss of one thing you can gain another. Tell yourself “thank you” for sharing, then let those emotions go as you move on with hope.

Prepare for the Change suggests talking about the upcoming changes with your son or daughter. Regular conversations about the move will help you prepare mentally and emotionally for the days he or she won’t be coming home and the nights he or she won’t be asleep just down the hall.

Begin thinking about what you will do when he or she is gone. Consider what hobbies or career options you have been keeping on the back burner during the past active-parenting years. Look into classes that are available or support groups that meet regularly. Now is the time to reach out to old friends or make new ones so when the time comes you will already have someone to connect with.

Have a plan for your child’s possessions too. Whether it’s their high school letterman’s jacket or their stuffed animal collection from childhood, certain possessions can hold a lot of memories. Discuss with your child what they plan on taking with them, what you need to hold onto for later, and what you can put in a storage unit or donate to charity. If the move is permanent, consider repurposing their bedroom into a space of your own.

Redefine Yourself

Change your daily job description from strictly “Erin’s mom” or “Brian’s dad” to something that describes your personality creatively, spiritually, socially or otherwise. Wellesley Weston Magazine suggests getting to know yourself again and taking the time to redefine yourself and how you spend your time.

Get involved and be active in a new hobby or in doing something you haven’t been able to put your energy and time into because of your child. Take a class of interest and hone your skills. Find a hobby and join a group that feels the same way as you. Travel with friends or solo. Make use of your new found freedom by volunteering, exercising, adopting a pet or pursuing personal goals in the workforce.

Now is the time to refocus your energy on friends, family, coworkers and neighbors and rediscover your commonalities, interests and love. Connect with old friends and plan to meet monthly or bimonthly. Realizing you have something to offer other people can greatly improve your happiness and feelings of worth.

Celebrate the Successes

Despite the loneliness or loss you may feel, having a child attend college, join the workforce or get married isn’t something to be sad about. Count that as a success and pat yourself on the back for raising good kids. Celebrate the joys and stay connected with your son or daughter through the changes, challenges and successes they find as they discover their new identities as autonomous beings. This time of change has great potential for personal growth — enjoy the opportunity.

Health Let's Talk

Nature at our Back Door

by Shadra Bruce

This spring, our family has been privileged to be a special kind of host. On the small ledge above our back door, in the window, a beautiful little bird made a nest. We believe she is some variety of dove, but if you can identify her and let us know, that would be fabulous!

Shortly after making her nest and making herself at home on our back porch, we realized she had laid eggs and was diligently protecting them. She rarely left the nest, and when she did, it was never for very long.

We use our back door (it’s right off our kitchen) all the time, but she was never perturbed by our comings and goings – except for one scolding we received while barbecuing when the smoke came her way.

Over the weeks, our family became more and more eager for the birth of “our” babies. We all were more careful about closing the door without slamming it, about keeping our distance, and generally respecting mama bird’s roost. But every day, we looked up at the nest hoping to discover baby hatchlings.

One evening while cooking dinner, we looked up to see two little baby birdies vying for food from mama bird.

It was a delight to watch the little babies so eager and hungry – and slightly disgusting to watch her feed them. We had a mini vocabulary lesson about the word “regurgitation.”

Mama bird would feed her babies, then swoop them back under her wings where they stayed warm and protected throughout the night. We rarely saw the babies. She was a very protective mom. We were pretty protective, too. Over the next few days, we watched over our little family, worried that one of the babies might fall out of the nest and be targeted by the cats that wander freely through the neighborhood.

Then one morning, we came out and mama bird was gone. The birds had grown so quickly from the tiny little babies clamoring for food to miniature versions of mama bird. First one bird left the next to perch in a tree in our backyard, and then the next day, the other one left. Once the birds were mobile, they came back a few times, and then they were off.

The empty nest made us sad, but it was a pretty extraordinary experience watching the life cycle in action. Each morning, I would look up at the empty nest and realize how fast time flies – for mama birds and for mamas in general. I look at my kids and how much they’ve grown and how independent they’ve all become and realize they’ll soon be flying on. Hopefully, I can swoop them under my wing for a little while longer, but we’re heading steadily toward our own empty nest.

There’s a lesson in all this, you know: grab your babies whatever their size and hold them close every chance you get. Like our mama bird, you’ve nurtured and protected and treasured them, and they’ll fly off – but with any luck, they’ll take all the wonderful things you taught them about love and compassion and caring and pass it on.

Postscript to this story: The other morning, I stepped outside and there was mama bird, back on her roost! It looks as though she’s got more eggs she’s keeping warm. Our whole family is thrilled at this second chance we’re getting to experience nature up close. It is so much fun!


Back to School Time

It’s back to school time here next week, and as Parker will probably tell you, I am all emotional about the prospect of another school year starting. I think it’s worse this year because we just took our daughter, Kira, off to college. She’s 20 years old, so I should feel lucky we got the extra two years to enjoy her at home while she attended community college, but now the house is a little bit quieter, and I’m aware that the kids are all at an age now where they are more independent.

This is also a transitional year for Parker, who will be starting middle school. We live in a small town, so the adjustment is minor; he will simply move to a different wing of the same school he was in. He will still use the same gym, the same choir room, and eat in the same cafeteria.

But still!! My little guy is heading into MIDDLE SCHOOL – the place where the boys start talking and thinking about sex and the girls get boobs and start their periods!! Is it any wonder I’m slightly insane at the prospect??

Do other moms have a tough time seeing their kids grow up? As much as I love seeing my kids’ personalities develop and how much I enjoy watching their individuality establish itself, there are times when I would prefer to simply freeze time and keep them small enough that they will always let me cuddle and kiss them.

For the first time, it dawned on me that we are on the downhill side of parenting. Three of our kids have safely reached adulthood, and while our youngest is only heading into second grade, it sure seems like she is growing up fast and that it won’t be long before we’re taking her off to college too.

I know I can’t stop time. I guess I don’t really want to. I am excited to see what my kids do with their lives and what impact they can make on the world.

And hopefully, they’ll understand if I hold them extra tight and hug them just a little more often over the next few days.