Category Archives: The Empty Next

BACK IN THE SADDLE

My virtual-world friends David and Veronica, over at GypsyNesters, were featured on Huffington Post lifestyle page today.  I’m thrilled at their success, both in their chosen lifestyle and their growing notoriety.  I’m a firm believer in what they have to say about life after raising children being the next chapter, and not the end of the book.
On a personal level I’m happy because this latest milestone of theirs has prompted me to post on this blog, which, you might note, has not been a frequent habit of mine lately.
I’ve been following the GypstyNesters since about half-way through their first year of travels.  They are living the life I was supposed to; the life I’d been diligently preparing for much as the Nesters did, by eliminating debt, raising kids to be personally responsible, living simply, and paring down.
The details of how my wanderlust life would play out were a bit different than theirs.  My hubby was an over-the-road truck driver.  My plan was to quit my day job the minute the youngest graduated and hit the road as partner to a long haul trucker.  He already knew what living on the road entailed, and I’d gone with him for enough two-week stretches to have a good idea.
With an average of 310 days a year spent on the road, there wouldn’t be much sense in keeping a home with all its associated taxes and upkeep.  No mortgage, no taxes, no maintenance and no money spent on all of those things we fill our home with, not to mention the pastimes we pursue to “get out of the house” (think about that), AND a steady paycheck still coming in, equals saving for a damn comfortable retirement 10 years down the road.
Aside from that, I’ve been stifling the gypsy in my soul for most of my life.  While most teenagers faced with the prospect of having to move away from their high school and friends stamp their feet in whining protest, I needled my parents to pick up stakes and make the move they were holding off on until I’d graduated.
I’ve dreamed of running away with a traveling circus so often that sometimes I start to believe I did.
But fate had another plan for my empty nest years, and that’s why I belong to the portion of the GypsNesters’ audience who are living vicariously through their writing.  Hubby’s health took him off the road and the demands of long hours driving a motor home and setting up camp regularly aren’t advisable.
This leaves us with only one solution; that I must learn how to drive the truck and travel trailer we now own, or the motor home it could be traded for.
I once owned an F150 pickup. It wasn’t pretty – the situation, not the truck.  The truck itself was really quite pretty, all dressed up and everywhere to go, as I like to say – meaning fully loaded and four-wheel drive. 
The unpretty part was my inability to drive the behemoth that dwarfed me behind the wheel, without running over or backing over everything in my path.  You must understand that this comes from a woman who once backed her own Ranger pickup into the family full-size van in her own driveway.
Yes, yes.  I’ve heard all the lectures about inattentive driving and I’m not denying that I deserve them.  The point is, I am who I am and it’s probably not a wise thing to put me behind the wheel of any vehicle that’s too much larger than my beloved VW Bug.  And especially not when the co-passenger (my hubby) has a bad ticker.
Thus, my ineptness behind the wheel, along with my fears for the toll long hours of driving would take on my hubby have all but cut the wings of these empty nest birds.
So, why has reading about my friends’ continued adventures on the road got my juices going?  In the words of my beloved, departed mother – it would seem I’ve gotten “a wild hair up my ass again.”
I’ve started looking at Scamp trailers. They look like little marshmallows being towed along behind vehicles of all make and size, but can you imagine how gosh darned cute one would be rolling along behind a VW Bug?  (Don’t talk to me about engine size and towing capacity – where there is a will there is a way).  Talk about a Mickey Mouse rig – I’m sure I’d have no trouble at all maneuvering through any kind of traffic or terrain.
Back when David and Veronica were casting the net for their road warrior conveyance, one of their requirements was that it had to provide enough head room for David.  If you knew my hubby, you’d know that a little Scamp comes up lacking in both the height and girth dimensions.
This isn’t to say the ol’ boy is fat. At 6’2 and hailing from hearty European stock, my husband is a big, big man. Oddly, the Bug is quite roomy enough for him, but a Scamp’s table/bed leaves much to be desired in the stretching out department. The poor man would have to assume the fetal position to sleep.
My plan is to buy an old, worn-out model, gut it out and use it as a cargo trailer to haul our necessities, including one of those blow-up “guest” beds. Wherever we park, we can pop up the screen tent for our “outdoor” room, set up the grill, and put out the lawn chairs.  Coolers will serve double duty – when empty and dry, they will be cargo bins. Once set up, a quick trip to the nearest store and they’ll be filled with ice, food and beverages.
During the day, the empty scamp will be a roomy, walk-in dressing room.  At night, we’ll inflate the bed and have wall to wall sleeping space.  In the event of inclement weather, we can set the lawn chairs and a small table inside for the day.
If I have to say so myself, (and apparently I do, ‘cause hubby isn’t buying it) I think it’s an ingenious plan. So if you are out traveling the by ways of America keep your eyes open.  You might just see us and our Mini-Mouse-House scampering along. Don’t forget to wave!

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I CONFESS – I HAVE HAD A SECRET LOVE

It’s eight-thirty on a morning that is approaching the pseudo-summer days of fall and I’m enjoying a gourmet coffee and cranberry-walnut muffin. A welcome breeze is rustling the leaves of a maple tree that wraps its arms around the corner windows where I sit nestled into a quilt covered futon. I could almost reach out to pluck one of those leaves from a branch tip, yet the limbs are not scraping against the siding. They are at such a perfect distance it seems they have been carefully groomed to create this tree-house like sanctuary.

From the street below comes the sound of occasional traffic. Voices of passers-by float through the window screens on the breeze. I have read the news, caught up on correspondence and will soon be coiffed and off to a few boutiques I’ve been dying to explore. The city is peppered with such shops in neighborhoods of venerable brick storefronts; small enclaves rich with character that has not been assassinated by the blight of malls.

I have dreamed of living exactly like this, in a second floor walk-up with a porch overlooking the street below. I have dreamed of morning coffee with pastries, of lunches in a storybook bistro where I would be a fixture – the author working on her next novel.

Having grown up in a very small town, and spending all of my adult life living in a rural community where everything of convenience is at least thirty miles away, the wonder of what city life would be has been a constant companion whispering in my ear. But mine was a life of keeping a home, raising children and tending vegetable gardens – envied by my city sisters.

I’m certain this secret longing I’ve had to experience the life of a carefree woman in the city has been just that, a secret. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t write about it. It wasn’t a life goal on my list. It was an undisclosed love and yet, somehow, my daughter has turned it into such accurate reality it’s as if she knew my secret all along.

I is she who brings me to this place that I have dreamed of. It is a magical place suspended in time for me – sitting here, I feel like a young ingénue with the world awaiting. Yet, as enamored as I am of this place, I caution myself. I must not usurp my daughter’s territory. I WILL not be one of those mothers living vicariously through her progeny.

I have a hunch she doesn’t quite see the romance in all of this that I do. Like any relationship, the lure of the city grows faint with time. Battling her way to and from work on traffic clogged thoroughfares cools love’s flame. As time wears on, the warts of the city can make the once handsome suitor begin to look a lot like a frog.

I know that one day she will look back on this time with the fond memories one holds for a love than cannot be recaptured. I am hopeful that until then, she can appreciate this moment in her life for what it is; her awakening into self. And I thank her, for sharing this time with me.

As for me, I plan to visit now and then to remind her what a “catch” her life is; just not so often as to make her bar the doors. After all, this little perch in the corner of the second floor porch, overlooking the not too busy street below, is her home, not mine. I’ll have to remain content with being a secret admirer.

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WHAT A LULU

I’ve been quite busy since returning from my little island sojourn this past winter.  Living in a 28-foot by 8-feet-or-so space for several weeks was much easier than I’d anticipated.

Sure, the quarters seem close sometimes, especially when spouses aren’t seeing eye to eye, but the perks of sunny skies and mild temperatures more than made up for lack of space.  With a pool side chair and a good book, a disgruntled MAD Goddess can be a world away in a matter of minutes. 

Back to the busy.  Less than a day after returning to my cozy, three bedroom cottage the weight of life’s accumulations fell down upon me.  What on earth do I possibly need all this stuff for?
Well, rainy, snowing, freezing cold, blizzard kickin’ me in the butt days are my first thought.  Winters in my northern realm are long – very, very long. They are cold, as in twenty to forty below zero for up to a month at a stretch.
Some people living here don’t mind the weather. They like to ski, and ride snowmobiles, and snow shoe and hike and winter camp.  Winter camping – nothing like s’mores that freeze before you can get them to your lips.
Anyway, I don’t like the cold and I don’t go out in it except for dire emergencies – like no chocolate in the house.  Which means I have a lot of stuff to keep me occupied for the duration.  Books, magazines, puzzles, paints (water color, acrylic and oil), needle crafts, bead crafts, and cook books.
The cook books require more stuff, cooking utensils obviously, but there’s also the fitness equipment – a failed attempt to keep the winter weight gain to a minimum.  In Florida, my fitness equipment was a five-speed beach cruiser bicycle.

After a lifetime of collecting junk and junque  – junque being the term for the flea market finds I filled half a garage and an overhead storage space with when I became obsessed with the “Chabby Chic” craze, I’m smothering!

Now that the weather has finally warmed up here, I have more than 1,000 square feet of garden beds to clean, weed and tend.  I have 360 square feet of decking, with associated railing, to stain and seal.  Virtually all of the trim on the house and garage needs painting.  My husband can keep the acre-plus lawn mowed since piloting the lawn tractor isn’t too much of a strain on his heart, but all the edge trimming is my job.
As long as we own this house, that stuff has to be taken care of.  So I’m on a rampage to get rid of the other stuff.  I want the spartan existence of snowbird – if it doesn’t fit in my RV, then apparently I don’t need it.  And the more stuff we rid the house, garage and yard of now, the less we have to worry about when we are ready to sell it.
We (that’s the collective we, here, as in you too) don’t own stuff.  Stuff owns us.  It takes our money and our time and our attention.  Free at last, free at last, good Goddess help me, I want to be free at last. 
But there’s an unhappy trend afoot here. My hubby isn’t on the same (ram)page as I. To him, all this stuff is good stuff, valuable stuff.  Let me just offer a favorite quote here:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”
William Morris

Or in the words of Red Green, “Remember, if your wife doesn’t find you handsome, she better find you handy.”

In the meantime, I’m starting with my things, the ubiquitous flotsam of 33 years of home ownership.

I love gardening and home decorating magazines.  I have stacks of them.  Can’t throw these out! they are dog eared and have notations written on the covers for things I am going to do.
Laid low with a nasty cold, bored to tears, I thought it might be a good time to tackle the magazines, at least get them sorted, organized into some kind of reference library. Between the sniffle-nose, sore throat virus and the dust laden magazines, I broke. Some of the magazines were more than five years old. If I haven’t  made the whimsical stepping stones, a watering can fountain or rain chains in the last five years, chances are I’m not going to get around to it in the next.
The magazines are now sorted and bundled by category.  I’ll offer them up to home and garden enthusiast friends first, but if there are no takers – off to the recycling bin they go.
I’m planning on tackling closets this week.  I’ve finally given up the idea that I’m ever going to workout hard enough to fit into my skinny jeans again.  Instead, I’m going to splurge and spend more than $19.99 on a pair that fits and flatters the body I have.
I don’t need a work wardrobe for the time being.  If I need one again in the future, I think I’ll buy new stuff. Long dresses left over from formal occasions.  Hhhhmm.  All but one of my daughters is married, and if she ties the knot, again, I think I want a new dress for the occasion. Out they go.

(THESE DRESSES ARE BAD ENOUGH, CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT HAIR? from Dallas Vintage Shop)

Craft supplies.  I hit the jackpot here.  A friend that works with a non-profit in a near-by metropolis is looking for donations of any craft items.  All I have to do is box it all up and give her a call.
I’m tackling one bunch of stuff every week.  Want to join me?  I’ll be posting the details and challenges on my Facebook account. 

Join us – Ladies United to Lighten Up – LULUs

. . . . . . mid
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