Apr 8, 2017

Empty nesting? Embrace the change!

This post is dedicated to two of my sons.

Do you have children? Are they young or older? Whether or not you have kids and no matter what the stage, you need to read this post. Because it’s not about children, per se, but about how to be happier in life. I don’t have a doctorate in psychology, but if I did, this is the advice I would give.

Let’s take a step back. For the last few years, I dreaded being an empty nester, but now that I’m “there,” I have to tell you -- it’s fun. Sure, I miss the kids, . . . Raphael, Hans and . . . er. . . the taller one, but it’s a new stage that is just as wonderful as every other stage.

When my last son left, I was sad. I cried for a couple weeks. I missed the noise and activity. I went so far as to pretend the throw pillows on my couch were my friends. I even cooked for them and took them to movies. Does that make me crazy? No YOU’RE crazy!

Then two more weeks passed, and Joe and I ditched the pillows and started doing things with real friends. Suddenly, just as new buds emerge on plants despite the fact that they almost died last summer because you didn’t water them, new life emerges. Your goal is to embrace that new life.

Do I prefer when the kids were home? Yes, they’re my kids, and I love them. But who has time to be sad when you have nine cats and can barely walk through your house because of all the memorabilia you’ve stacked five-feet high in every possible crevice? There is no need to cry when I’ve got mementos, real friends and multiple personalities I’m trying to repress as I deal with the hoarding issue.

If you want to transition to empty nesting as smoothly as I did, here are six tips to make your life easier:

1. Reconnect with old friends and start spending time with them. If you broke ties with practically everyone because you can’t stand being surrounded by idiots, get a second chance by explaining you were a heavy drinker before and now you attend AA. The larger the lie, the more of a chance people will actually see you again.

2. Get rid of cable. Why are you spending your time watching HGTV, ESPN, or dumb “reality” shows about chefs, singers or survival competitions when you can watch countless hours of YouTube videos? Let the internet replace your obsession with TV. But NEVER on a Thursday night. There’s no way any sane person should miss “Big Bang.” Don’t like that idea? Well I don’t like your kid, but I wouldn’t say it out loud.

3. Take up a new hobby that gets you out of the house. I personally like to go to bars and drink alone. My husband does the same at a separate bar. But if liquor isn’t your thing, choose another hobby. You can volunteer, do yoga, go to a shooting range, take up taxidermy or join a religious cult. There are so many options.

4. All that too complicated? Get into cuisine. My friend was a compulsive health nut before her children left the nest. In her sadness, she turned to me. With my coaching, she now she goes to restaurants three nights a week. She said she’s happier than she’s ever been, despite gaining 50 pounds in five months and having trouble walking without panting. Her son told me she’s so obsessed with food that she doesn’t remember she has children. Problem solved!

5. Use technology to stay in touch. So you can’t see your children in person. Big deal, it’s 2017, people. Get on Instagram, Snapchat, call your kids at least four times a day. Do what you have to in order to be an integral part of your kids’ lives from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. No matter how far away they are, you’ll feel connected again, and surely they’ll love the round-the-clock attention. Everyone wins.

6. Travel. Now that you have more money and time because the kids are gone, why not travel? There are a lot of beautiful, amazing places you haven’t been, but don’t waste your money on those destinations. Instead travel to where your kids live, and show up on their doorstep. They will surely be surprised and admire your efforts. Tip: Don’t tell them in advance that you are coming.

Follow my tips and you will live as rich a life as I do, and your children will appreciate the new, independent you.

Jun 23, 2016

A smile worth a million dollars

To extract or not to extract. That was the question on my mind as my son Raphael sat down in the oral surgeon's chair.

We already shelled out $1,000 to extract Hans' wisdom teeth, another $1,000 for little Roberto's, and now the middle son wanted to have his removed too.

Was it because one brother had his teeth taken out that the others suddenly needed to have theirs extracted? Ridiculous! I thought I raised my kids better than that. "What's next, Raphael? You planning to join a cult?" I snapped.

I pondered my misguided parenting and the cost of all these extractions as the oral surgeon examined the boy’s mouth. I looked at the surgeon with disdain, but he looked back with fondness. The oral surgeon loves me. Whenever he looks at me, I feel like he is really visualizing a giant sack of money. Dr. Mallard looked deflated after the second son's extractions were over, but when I told him I had a third son, you could see his faith in God was restored.

Why is it that when your children are younger, they bleed you dry of time and energy, and when they get older, they bleed you dry of money? You parents with babies need to seriously consider giving them up for adoption before they turn around 16. I think that's when the wisdom teeth come in.

“Yep, all the wisdom teeth definitely need to come out,” said Dr. Mallard in a almost gleeful voice while pulling off his exam gloves. He tried to hide that visions of new golf clubs were dancing in his head, but by mistake said out loud, "I have visions of new golf clubs dancing in my head!" He tried to cover it up by coughing, but everyone heard what he said.

"Let's cut the crap, Mallard," I said sharply. "You've already have taken eight teeth from my other sons. You're only getting one this time around."

My son looked at me ostensibly blankly from the dental chair, but I knew his eyes were really saying, "You're so cheap."

"Oh no," Dr. Mallard said with the smile and guile of a seasoned salesman, "It would be unsafe not to extract all four. You don't want to put your good-looking son's smile in jeopardy, do you?" He was a smart negotiator . . . playing the "love" card right in front of my child.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo, and Raphael is mediocre-looking at best (see picture, far right), so I knew Mallard was just dancing the dance. "TWO is all you'll get, and we're putting off the procedure for six months," I snarled.

"THREE teeth," he countered. "And you can use my latte machine during the extraction." Darn Mallard was more cunning than I expected. He had observed my weakness for sweet caffeinated beverages.

"Well played, but I'm taking a latte TODAY too," I said. We shook hands while my son shook his expensive little head.

I know what you're thinking -- Dr. Mallard is a much better negotiator than I am. But what you don't know is that I slipped an entire box of creamers into my purse as I waited for the latte to brew in his reception area. Take that, Mallard! I didn't even need the lousy creamers!

Kids might be expensive and incredibly demanding, but when I look into the eyes of any of my sons, I am so filled with joy that I would do ANYTHING for them. Even extract three out of four teeth when it's medically necessary. And that, my friends, is the definition of unconditional love.

Mothers give birth and fall in love with their babies, and no matter how old children get, just one look at their faces melts our hearts the way it did when they were born. That's why kids are the greatest gift of all.

This post is dedicated to my childhood cat, who we never named. I now regret not naming it.

Mar 23, 2016

Whining about March Madness

March madness. To me, the madness is that they preempt my TV shows with some dumb basketball game. This is America -- don't we have a right to count on our regular programming not being interrupted? I plan to pen a strongly worded letter to the networks to complain, and we'll see how the fans like it when their sports shows are canceled.

But even putting sports on regular TV channels can't get me down tonight. I went to the store after work for groceries like a normal person, and that's when I happened upon something peculiar. There was a large crowd surrounding the liquor section. I figured it was just a regular, pre-Easter family liquor run (there were many toddlers there), but it wasn't. People were actually holding wine glasses and drinking out in the open, rather than from concealed flasks like the rest of us.

Turns out the store sells wine samples weekly right there in aisle 4. You pay only $1 to sample four generous half glasses of wine, plus free cheese and crackers. What a marketing strategy. I'm going to be all over that, and not because I'm cheap or weird.

It was actually very entertaining. I saw buzzed shoppers happily stumbling all around the grocery store, without a care in the world, pushing carts into other people and little children and not even noticing. And the drinkers were stocking up on items that don't even make sense. Like kale. Who buys kale unless they are intoxicated? It was like Disneyland for alcoholics.

The crowd just got bigger and bigger, and people were standing outside, waiting to get in (see photo). Everyone was relaxed, in a good mood, laughing and talking to perfect strangers. I imagine this is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he said he had a dream. People of all races and ages come together to hang out in a grocery store where booze is really cheap. This is why America is the greatest country in the world.

The other great part about this discovery is that I now have a venue for my son's celebration when he turns 22 this weekend. It'll surely top his 21st birthday party, where Ronald McDonald paid a visit to his celebration at at a local, unnamed fast food place. All two of his friends had a great time and ordered off the dollar menu. I thought I'd never find another caterer that was so inexpensive, but now I have.

Anyway, I hope that wherever you live, you will get to experience something as wonderful as this. You can keep your fancy cars, your fancy lawn ornaments . . . heck, you can even keep my kids. None of that matters to me anymore now that I have discovered Kroger wine tasting nights. And I don't even like wine. And a special shoutout to our beloved son, Raphael, whose birthday it is on March 26. We love you more than anyone in the world, Raphael, including your brothers. (Shhh! Keep that on the down low.)

Jan 31, 2016

2016: Off to an Interesting Start

2016 has been a crazy year for me. Lots of things going on. First, I’ve got great news. I bought a bunch of lottery tickets a few weeks ago when the Power Ball was approaching $1 billion and, guess what . . . I won the Power Ball! I was so excited when the clerk handed me my $7. I haven’t decided what to do with all my winnings yet.

Between our new-found wealth, my new job, and my youngest son moving out, “It’s been a $h--storm of changes!” as Gandhi said. Oh, to fill you in, I got a new job. But my littlest one moving out was like a knife in the spleen, which means it was kind-of bad, but not lethal bad. Then, a couple days later, my middle son returned to college, which deepened the cut. Then I cried even more when I realized Hans still lives with us. That latter part made Joe cry too, and he’s a grown man. We’re trying to repress our sadness by taking on new hobbies, like binge eating and collecting valuables from friends’ homes.

While these activities take a lot of time and effort, we still made time yesterday to celebrate our wedding anniversary at the local Hilton. Joe said he would spare no expense in taking me to a fancy dinner, but what he meant is that he would spare all expense. Our special dinner was actually a work party thrown by my employer. Joe said he has a strict rule that you must celebrate on the day of the event, so we really had no options. I guess he’s right. As Gandhi also said, “Without rules, there’s nothing to separate us from savages,” and I certainly don’t want to be perceived as a savage.

Anyhoo, that’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. We’ve got our health, our anniversary, and that binge hobby we’re exploring. Life is good. Hope you are enjoying the new year too. Have a great February.

P.S. Happy anniversary, Joe! You're the best!