2019 in Review, A Year of Extreme Highs and Lows

My emotions were all over the place this year. I think I cried more than I ever have before, but also smiled more. I clung to memories from the past while also making new ones I could treasure. I said goodbye to people I loved and also welcomed new people into my life.

The first 4 months of 2019 were about spending as much time with my mom while she was in the hospital and then hospice as I could. I was also recovering from knee surgery and trying to pack and downsize a 3 story family home into 3 smaller places that we could soon be moving into. It was a busy start to the year! As hard as it was to be with my mom so much and to know we were going to lose her, it was also a blessing to have that time. We had some wonderful talks and I feel like I was able to bring her some comfort and peace. The last couple of weeks were especially hard and emotionally draining. But I don’t regret a single moment.

We lost her in April and it was brutal. Thankfully I was so busy that I had a lot to keep my mind occupied. We packed and reduced our belongings by about 2/3. A lot went to our son and daughter who were each moving into their own places and the rest went to those who needed it more than we did. I also spent a solid week going through 50+ photos albums and thousands of loose pictures and scanning them into online albums. I don’t wish that job on anyone! I don’t think we were able to eat in the dining room/kitchen that whole week.

The next few months were busy with helping our daughter get settled into her new house and with our son’s senior year activities including his graduation and party. Again my emotions were running high as we watched our son walk across the stage and then helped him move into his own place. I still picture him as a 4 year old in denim overalls and a fireman’s hat. Now he is all grown up and a real life firefighter!

Shortly after that it was on to the next chapter for my husband and I; our move north to East Tawas. Luckily we were pretty much settled into our new place since we had spent the previous 15 months furnishing and making it feel like home. We had spent so much time here already. We only had a couple carloads of clothes and odds and ends to unpack. This was a very exciting time for us, we had been planning and preparing for this moment for over 3 years! We settled into our new life, made new friends, took lots of walks, planted a garden, spent time at the beach and listened to street bands from our balcony. I remembered what it was like to cook for only 2 people and we realized we had a lot more freedom. We could skip dinner if we wanted in favor of going to the beach, we could spend a whole weekend sipping drinks by the water and listening to live music. We were definitely in a 2nd honeymoon phase and loving it. We also enjoyed having our friends come up and spend weekends with us.

It was during one of these visits at the end of July that we shockingly lost one of my best friends to a blood clot. None of us were prepared and I STILL struggle with this loss. Nothing snaps you out of your perfect little bubble like losing someone you have known since kindergarten. The next couple of weeks were a blur, but my family and friends pulled together to mourn and try to move forward.

The 3 months that followed were about appreciating what you have while trying to honor those we had lost. Trying to remember them and smile and laugh instead of cry. Life continues. We took a nice, relaxing vacation in the U.P with a great group of old friends. We enjoyed having our kids spend weekends with us. We looked forward to the arrival of our first grandchild. We spent more time we with new friends and enjoyed community events. We took road trips. I started volunteering more and settling into a regular routine. Life moves on and you have to move with it.

The year wrapped up with the holiday season. I did get sad at times thinking about my mom. Thinking about Becky’s girls and their first Christmas without her. Wishing I was able to see all 3 of our kids at the same time more than once or twice a year. But I also very much enjoyed having those quiet moments with my husband. We decorated our tree without the kids, baked cookies on our own, spent many nights enjoying dinner with just candles and holiday lights shining. We held hands, bundled up and went for walks, drove around to look at Christmas lights. It was our first Christmas morning on our own in 26 years and it was great. We had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and hot chocolate and watching the town wake up from our downtown perch. We exchanged gifts and had a cozy, quiet day at home.

We will be bringing in the New Year in a completely new way, at a New Year’s Eve party! Normally we stay home and play games with the kids/friends, but this is a time for starting new traditions. This year we are getting dressed up and going out to celebrate the end to this year and to toast to what will hopefully be a brighter new year. I know 2020 will have it’s challenges too, that is life. But I feel a little better prepared to deal with what may come.

From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you for being part of this year with me. For your comments, likes and shares. For your heartfelt messages and words of encouragement. For your incredible acts of generosity. I am truly blessed. I hope the New Year brings you peace, happiness and the strength to deal with whatever may come your way.

13 Awesome things about being an Empty Nester.

It’s been 6 months now since Chad and I joined the Empty Nest club. While we sometimes feel sad and miss having the kids close by, there are definitely some perks too!

1– Don’t feel like cooking? No problem! We can have cereal, sandwiches, or even dessert for dinner without feeling like a bad parent.

2– My schedule is soooo much more open now. No more booster meetings, parent teacher conferences, football games, choir concerts or chaperoning. My evenings belong to me again.

3– Never walking in to find a new roll of toilet paper on top of an empty one. The toilet paper always gets replaced!

4– No more chauffeur duty. I actually enjoy driving again.

5– Things are always where I left them. No more hunting around for borrowed shoes, gloves, or phone chargers!

6– No one eats things I needed for a recipe.

7– The remote controls never get lost.

8– Eating out is a LOT cheaper!

9– My car is always clean. There are no empty water bottles, trash or clothing left behind in the back seat.

10– I never have to wait for someone to remove their day old clothes from the washer/dryer.

11– I need a lot fewer groceries so I can splurge for the good stuff.

12– The house is always clean!!

And my favorite:

13– I feel like a newlywed again. We can be spontaneous and romantic. Every night can be a date night! In the summer we skipped dinner to go to the beach, in the fall we dropped everything to take a color tour road trip up the coast. We choose how to spend our evenings and weekends based solely on what we feel like doing that day. I can’t wait to see what adventures winter will hold.

Grief is not convenient

I knew my first holiday season without my mom would be emotional. Especially Thanksgiving as that was my favorite holiday to spend with my side of the family. Sometimes her birthday fell on that day too, as it did this year. We usually hosted the meal. We’d play games, watch some football, enjoy a great meal that my husband and oldest daughter took great pride in making. The house was warm, cozy and full of the sounds of laughter. I thought by acknowledging it ahead of time then maybe it wouldn’t hit me so hard on that actual day. I was wrong.

My mom popped up in my dreams every night of the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Never in a meaningful, make sense kind of way. Once she was in the background playing a flute (which she did not know how to play here on Earth!). She was also in a crazy dream in an amusement park riding on a carousel with my adult son. Other times she was just silently there, inserted into a scene without speaking. But I felt her there. Looking back, I think that she was telling me, in her very Kathy Williams way, “I’m here and I’m not gonna let you forget it!”

I spoke to my sisters and my niece the day before Thanksgiving, we all talked about mom and how hard this would be without her. We talked about my stepdad and how he is coping. I thought I had a handle on things. Then that evening out of nowhere the emotions came flooding in. (I am sitting here now with tears running down my cheeks and I can’t explain why.) I went into my bedroom to try to get a grip on it but I couldn’t stop the tears. And of course, that is the moment my daughter and son in law arrived. Having driven across the state to be with us for the holiday she walks in to find her mom crying. I really WAS so happy to see her, I just couldn’t express it the time. I stepped into the bathroom, cried hard into a towel for a couple minutes, took a couple of deep breaths and went to let my daughter know how happy I was to see them.

This was an emotional holiday for others reasons for me as well. Our son couldn’t make it. It was our first major holiday without him. As a firefighter/EMT I know more often than not he will be working on the holidays and I am going to have to get used to it. But I still missed having him home. And I was thinking about my friend Becky’s family and how hard this day must be for them. Their first big holiday without their mom/wife/sister/daughter. I thought about reaching out to them, but I didn’t think I could find the words.

On Thanksgiving day, before the football and food started, I wanted to walk down to the lake. It is where I go when I just need to breathe and center myself. My husband went with me and we didn’t talk much. The water was incredibly calm that day. It was just what I needed. I talked to my stepdad when I got back and he let me know he was ok. Sad, but ok. I’m not sure if hearing his voice helped or hurt more, but I’m glad we spoke.

That afternoon we watched the Lions lose and enjoyed a delicious meal. We laughed and played a game. I enjoyed our small gathering. I really do have a lot to be thankful for. My daughter and son in law stayed until Saturday and we had a really good visit. There was a lot of talk about Griffin’s arrival and how much their lives will change when they become parents. I can’t wait to be a grandma and hold that precious little baby. Life moves on whether we are ready for it or not.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to check on me. I appreciate your warm thoughts and comforting words. Most of you are WAY better than I am about finding the right words! I know I am not the only one dealing with loss or other problems this holiday season. We will get through this season together. We will handle the tears that come at random times and hold our loved ones a little tighter. When it seems overwhelming I urge you to find a place where you can find your center. Somewhere you can just breathe in and out and find some inner peace. If you don’t have one, you can borrow mine.