Reminiscing During a Walk at the Park

I’ve been walking our local parks for years. I love them all (and we have several) for their individuality, but one close to my house has beauty, water and multiple sports fields that hold sentimental value to me.My son ran many-a-bases and threw countless pitches on the various baseball diamonds. My girls carried snack bags, watched movies on portable DVD players during the double-headers, sat on the swings and played pretend with the other sisters bored at their brothers’ baseball games. It might have registered 120* on the turf during my daughters’ lacrosse games, but we parents were also melting on the sidelines!

That was years ago and last night, I strolled alone through the very active and busy park, realizing that with every baseball and soccer game I was passing in stride, I was watching the next generation standing behind home plate.

Grandparents in their chairs, rooting on their grandkids.

Dads at first and third base yelling to their boys…

Mamas pushing and pulling strollers off to the side, rocking their youngest ones as sunset began.

Throughout my long two-hour walk, I grinned knowingly.

I was that Mama. My husband was that Dad, rounding them to home.Throughout my laps, I wiped tears from under my sunglasses. Wasn’t it just last week I was filling the cooler, packing the snacks, grabbing books and blankets? I strode past a long line of parked mini-vans and hatch-backs and trucks …  each stuffed with lawn chairs. Wasn’t I just driving my mini-van? I had mini-vans for 18 years and I loved them. They represented family life that I loved being immersed in. I can still see my kids running from the park playground into the side van door as the skies opened and torrential rain poured. Awesome giggles and real joy flowed from the back seats. Their eyes wide at the ominous clouds and shaking of thunder.

The echoes of their young laughter flooded my mind. It was a precious time before student loans and adult-jobs. My chest filled with the childhood freedom we all enjoyed together. A child’s oblivion of adult world problems… their purity… their frequent laughter… their lightness… it rubs off on the grown ups.

I was smiling at the thoughts, but wiped wetness from my cheeks again. These years are good too…really good. My twins are recent university grads. My baby duck just served the Lord for eight weeks and is finally back in the nest for the remainder of the summer before returning to her university. Even though they are young adults now, we still play games, watch movies, cheer on our Yankees (if you’re a Sox fan, we can still be friends :)), eat dinners together…these years are merely different. They too elicit special feelings and deep appreciation for all God has blessed me with as a Mama of three children. Those ‘free-years’ were just so much stinkin’ fun.

Picking up my pace, I walked far around the nasty, hissing geese…
Summer was painfully late arriving here in New York. About two weeks ago, hot weather finally showed up and it’s been glorious.

This one is a bit fuzzy off my cell phone, but I’m including it as the birds chirping throughout the park is a summer joy to me!
Oh, the happy daisies never get old, do they? Always smiling at us. As I hopped back into my car, these little flowers left me filled with gratitude for the good memories, and lifted up with joy for the good there is now – and will continue to be.
Admire each pretty flow’r
With its sweet smell;
To praise their Maker, and to tell
The marks of His great pow’r.      Thomas Traherne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining the Rat-Race Mid-Life

 

Over 20 years ago, I sat on the tarmac in Iowa waiting to take off and return home from a business trip. I was in my first big-girl job post-college, and after receiving a promotion, was promptly sent to various cities to work with administrators in the Midwest and Northeast.

Looking out the window at the night-time sky, a red jelly-like substance began dripping over the windows. I asked the flight attendant what it was, as this girl had only been on one plane ride at 18 years old and knew little about air travel.

She explained that the weather was frigid and the plane was being de-iced. I wondered if I should be worried. I was too young to be as fearful as I would certainly be today. The delay was more annoying than anything and I decided then and there to return to graduate school and become a teacher.I’ve spent 20 years in higher education and there were two main advantages for me: 1) It was truly a meaningful career when I began and, 2) It was the best Mom-gig a girl could hope for while raising children.Fast forward a couple of decades and two giant truths now dominate my professional existence: 1) While the cost of tuition has skyrocketed exponentially, our pay has not. 2) The majority of collegiate institutions are about anything and everything except teaching and learning. Of course there are exceptions. However, if you read the data, and have current affiliation with several universities as I do, you will observe a shift in the actual “education” portion that is alarming. I have also held administrative positions along with teaching, so my insight goes beyond the classroom.

With twins just graduating from college and my youngest with two years left to go at her university, well…this mid-life Mama had to get another job. In addition to kids in college…

-We are a part of a destination wedding this August where my girls are standing up and I’m part of the ceremony (more on that in August).

-My husband went through a job change a year ago and his salary dropped considerably at the new company…blah blah blah…there are too many stories like ours to count lately. You can imagine the strain.

-Then, he landed himself in the hospital for a couple of days-nothing serious but the medical co-pays for three days in the hospital blew through his very handsome severance package.

The timing of these several things at once was comical and costly.

So, I cut the on-campus teaching, kept the online professorship, and added a three-days a week position in HR with a small company at their corporate office. Promptly after I started, the HR Director resigned. I’m essentially the entire HR department on a three-day schedule doing five days plus worth of work. I’ve already been working on my days “off”.

To say the adjustment from both a professional standpoint and a personal one has been challenging would be an understatement.Two kids (here) graduated and moved home from college. My youngest is serving in ministry in Texas for three more weeks. The change in the household has been tremendous. God bless the kids, they are doing the dishes, and occasionally vacuum…After 10 minutes of searching, I find the pasta strainer with the syrup (?), but who am I to complain?! 🙂

I’m working more than I have in a decade while still doing most everything I did prior to the new job.

I’m trying to adjust. I didn’t really think it would be that big of a deal. After all, before kids (and life in higher ed) I had a career in business. I traveled for heaven’s sake. I was a working professional!

I’ve changed and I’m waaaaay older.

Driving home in wicked traffic the other day, I was reminded of how this is just normal life for most. Sit and wait while four lights change and we creep up to finally get through an intersection. Wild morning traffic is something most people have been navigating for decades while I purposely set up early morning office hours to avoid. I taught late classes so my husband was home with the kids when I left. I graded papers and lesson-planned from my home office.

Lunch was when I wanted it and it certainly didn’t have a time limit.Oh, the schedule of “regular hours”. It’s laughable to those of you reading who’ve been in the rat race for decades. Up at 6am, on the road by 7am, work work work, eat lunch fast, back to your desk, back in the car at 5pm….

The conventional work schedule alone makes this deep thinker ponder who came up with the 8-5 workday. Why are we all bumper to bumper at 7:30am just to reach the destination by 8am? Why are we again bumper to bumper at 5:15pm? Even though more employees than ever are working from home, or have flex hours, my small company runs a tight, traditional culture with zero flexibility.

Definition of rat race according to dictionary.com: any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a….life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.The part of the rat race definition that makes me laugh out loud includes leisure and contemplation. Professors contemplate! We lead our students to think, not just answer questions. We have more opportunity for leisure due to flexibility.

In those years when I had the luxury of being “contemplative”, and particularly when I was in the evening classes with working adults completing their Bachelors and Masters degrees, I spent considerable time discussing the importance of locating the job that would be satisfying after they finally graduated. We wrote out the number of waking hours on paper, subtracting not only 40-hours in a building, but planning for work, choosing clothes for work, drive time, required social and corporate events, buying Christmas gifts for workmates, etc., etc.The ultimate point of the exercise was revealing the truth that full-time working adults work more than they literally do anything else. More time at work than with family. More time working than cooking or playing or creating. I made them take a hot second “contemplating” that stark reality. Really thinking about life in the present – but also what they wanted it to look like in a few years.

Most people work for money and few work because they love what they do.

Most are hustling in the rat-race “routine”, “competitively” working to get ahead, hoping to reach those goals of “leisure” and the luxury of living more “contemplatively”.

My Bible app devotion recently stated: “You have been entrusted with talents… It really matters how you use these.” If only we could all earn a living utilizing our true, greatest talents. I have observed most people at best use their gifts in hobbies or volunteering in ministries. Excruciatingly few can pay medical and dental benefits without a company-job having nothing to do with their greatest gifts. We use our gifts to serve as best we can-where we are.

We are old enough to know that life requires attention. If we’re going to enjoy any of it, we must leave the housework, skip the obligatory visit to the distant-relative’s house and read the book that is collecting dust because too many other things trump sitting down in “leisure”.

I miss my extended quiet time with God in the mornings. I’m way behind in my Bible reading. I catch up on my days off. Things like crafts and baking are time-intensive joys that I cannot afford. My leisure time is spent with my kids doing things together. They will only live home for a limited amount of time and I’m not going to miss these remaining moments living together.

Throughout the years, I could see how my full-time career friends had time for nothing but work. I observed at a distance their counting days off…worried about arriving 10 minutes late or leaving a half hour early to catch their kids’ game after school. Mentally tortured about missing family events and simultaneously feeling obligated to their employer.While I previously watched at a distance, I now live it and while the work is interesting, the schedule is a bummer. I’m thankful that this existence now was not the reality while raising kids. As always, a big hug and sincere admiration to those working parents who legit do it all – and well.

On that note, it’s time to enjoy the weekend and family…

I wish each of you a Happy Weekend! 🙂

Photos: 99designs.com-woman; aviation.stackexchange.com-plane; nyfa.edu/Harvard/-Harvard; robbreport.com/lifestyle/news/would-you-pay-6-5-million-to-get-your-kid-into-yale-2843748/-Yale; ft.com/content/804b928e-6cde-11df-91c8-00144feab49a-RatRace; Cnn.com-man on desk; Colossians: Pinterest

2 Ducks. 2 Universities. 2 Weeks.

My daughter graduated from college on Saturday and my son will graduate in two weeks. If you read this blog regularly, you know they are twins and we were jumping with joy a year ago when my daughter’s university finally listed the graduation date and it was different from her twin brother’s! (Whew!)

We arrived home Monday from traveling two states away for her special day. My youngest flew up from Virginia to the Midwest to see her sister graduate, flew back for her final exams and will return home later today. My son drove from his university to meet us. It was a whirlwind few days of travel for all of us. The coordination and planning culminated in a joyous weekend of eating, celebrating, shopping and just having all-around family fun. My son and husband even squeezed in a round of golf before we jumped in the car and headed home.As I was looking at the photos from graduation weekend, I zoomed in on my husband’s eyes which looked really tired. Every photo I’m in with my precious graduate…well, this Mama’s had better hair days. Let me mention that the school decided at the last minute to hold graduation outdoors (we assume due a popular commencement speaker drawing a larger crowd) where it promptly began raining and held tight to a solid 49 degrees. I cursed myself for rising out of the cozy hotel bed at 6am to bother curling my hair :).

I suppose I could blame the rain and long road trip for our fatigued images in the photos, but this past weekend was our 5th travel weekend out of the last six. While I largely work from home, my man had to be up and out every Monday morning following lengthy road trips and one trip by flight. The flight was to see our youngest in Virginia, which truly held multiple blessings for which I thank God for them all. One of course was the weather, which I couldn’t help but share with you here. We watched her play field hockey for her university and we also had fun spending time with her friends who are hilarious and thoughtful kids who are really making an effort to honor God in their young lives.Then, other than one weekend at home, we drove back and forth, staying in hotels another three weekends to see graduating daughter in all her “final” celebrations. Last major competition for her DII lacrosse team. Senior day for lacrosse. The fashion show where she designed and sewed two complete outfits for the runway where two models wore her clothes. She’s a business graduate with majors in fashion and entrepreneurship. While she attended a private university, she spent last year attending FIT in Manhattan and interned with an international fashion house as part of her program. The girl who couldn’t wait to move to NYC has decided that she will never live there again :). And, she was in a trendy, very nice area… but still too noisy for her!

Two weeks from now, her twin and my son, will take his turn walking across the stage, graduating from his university an hour away from hers (thankfully, an hour closer to home!). All three ducks will be home together only for 24hours before my youngest leaves for her 9-week summer job down south. In the meantime, the nest has already filled in with my graduated daughter having piles of clothes, etc., strewn everywhere. This afternoon, the house will close in even more as my youngest pulls in the driveway with her own mountain of dorming stuff. The homecomings bring me happiness as the nest fills with life and action again. Being the deep thinker that I am, this change and activity also makes me marvel at the speed of it all.

I mean, seriously? Four years have passed since moving my twins into their respective universities? There is much to think about and reflect upon, and I already shared a bit of those thoughts with you here.  Since that post, I’m feeling less melancholy which might have something to do with them arriving back in the nest (wink).

This summer will hold another adjustment as my daughter moves out of state to her new career (after she just moved back in Monday) and my son has decided to live at home permanently while working in his first big boy job and saving money.

As I consider these upcoming “adjustments”, my mind travels to the young years when “adjustment” meant moving from baby food to solids…dropping them off for full-day Kindergarten…leaving them in the Sunday School nursery even though they were crying…

Those were small potatoes. At the time, they were monumental potatoes, but not compared to the reality that these are the final few years (if that) before they move out for good and eventually marry, building their own nests: When Your Kids Near Marrying Age.

As we embark upon yet another new parenting season of having adult children – college graduates – who now live at home for a time, I’m grateful. I’m thankful for card games and board games. Summer dinners on the backyard table. All the usual things we tend to do during the summer and I don’t stress over too much any more. I think I wore myself out during the teen years (wink) and learned the hard way to trust God at every turn.  I’ve learned that the only steady, ever-present Rock that will never change or shift or move is the One Who knows us best. Who loves us just as we are, right where we are. Ready to help us navigate and enjoy all the fresh waters we’ve yet to explore as parents of adult children.

Thanks for catching up with my nest-news today. I wish you a happy weekend :).

 

 

 

Monday Gratitude

God blessed us with an awesome long weekend visiting our youngest at college. The flights were smooth, the family time precious, and the weather…warm and sunny!

“Give thanks with a grateful heart.” Henry Smith

Photo: time.com