Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life Changes, and New Experiences


The last few months have been a time of introspection for me.  My days have changed so drastically and I am still trying to figure out what, exactly, I should be doing with my life.   J and I are spending much more time in our two favorite places (Colorado and North Carolina), now that H has graduated and flown the nest.  J works wherever we are, so we have a freedom that years ago, we only dreamed about.  Here in Colorado, I try to go to the gym as little as possible, getting my exercise in the great outdoors.  Snow skiing, snowshoeing, uphill hiking, running with ice cleats...it's so exhilarating that the benefits go far beyond the physical.  It also gives me lots of time to think.

Spending time in Colorado is like a dream.  But it also removes me from the day to day activities that I always have in Nashville.  And now that H is not home, I also don't have the school volunteer responsibilities that occupied my time for the last 13 years.  But starting all over in a new community, and one that has a large percentage of part-time residents, has a lot of challenges.  We're meeting people...mostly people who work in the art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses that we frequent.  But to them, since we're not full-time residents, it's hard to make lasting connections.  I miss meeting other parents of kids H's age...something that is more difficult than ever.

Being an empty-nester is definitely a paradigm shift for me.  If I am completely honest, I have good days and bad days.  I have shifted from full-time mom to part-time mom.  On one hand, J and I have the freedom to live our lives in a way we had only dreamed about for the last 19 1/2 years.  Going from micromanaging someone else's life to watching from afar is kind of like a breath of fresh air.  Some days I can go all day without wondering if she has done her homework, gotten enough sleep, brushed her teeth, or made it home before 2 a.m.  Some days.  Other days, I see parents with their little ones on the mountain, or in a restaurant, or at church, and I ache inside for those days.  Those days when she couldn't go to sleep without "cuddling" with me, when she wanted to ski with us, or when we sat at the dinner table and shared our "highs" and "lows" of the day.  Last night I watched "Les Miserables" and all I could think (as I cried my way through the entire thing) was how Cosette changed Jean ValJean's life.  His quote "To love another person is to see the face of God" resonated throughout my body. 

SO...all that is to say that I have been thinking about this blog, and what it really is, now that my job description has changed.  Even though I'm not doing Mommy things full-time, I will always be her mom.  I will always worry about her, pray for her, think about her, try to guide her in little ways, and most of all, be here for her.  But in order not to wallow in the wistful, lonely moments that can creep up on me, I have to STAY BUSY.  I thank God every day for the life I am able to live.  J and I are closer than we've ever been.  To be married to my best friend, and share most of our hobbies, is amazing.  I don't want to look back in four years and think I wasted an opportunity to grow, make new connections, and give back to my community.

So that's my focus, in life and in my blog.  I haven't written in awhile because I wasn't sure exactly what to write, or if my life without H at home was worth writing about.  I started this as a journal of things I was going through as a parent.  That won't change.  The things I do might, though.  Instead of living my life around H and her schedule, I have the freedom to do new things.  So I will write about them and share with you my journey as an empty nester, and hopefully you'll stick with me.  Feel free to comment with your own experiences, questions,  worries, or success stories about kids who've flown the nest.

Today I signed up for a photography class at Colorado Mountain college.  J and I signed up for a locals ski clinic on Saturday.  And yesterday I took my stairmaster workout outside!  It's been so very cold here...about 5 days of negative double digit temperatures, and no sun.  It's hard to explain just how cold -22 degrees is.  But yesterday, the highs reached almost 20 degrees on the mountain, and the sun was shining.  So I grabbed my Icetrekkers, a traction cleat that straps onto my hiking boots and hiking poles, and headed out to the mountain.  From our back door we can hop onto a groomed ski run and go multiple different directions.  I like to have a destination, (like LUNCH!) in mind, so I headed towards the Lower Alpine lift where I could take Coffee Pot up to Gwen's High Alpine restaurant.


I turned around on my way up and this is what I saw!



Going down...this photo doesn't do it justice.  I wanted to sing!




View from 11,775 feet!


It was amazing!  Sunny, not very crowded (thanks, January!), and STEEP!  I just put my head down and imagined I was on the stair machine.  I have to say, those hours I spent in Nashville, mindlessly climbing to nowhere must have helped me in some way, because before I knew it I was at the top of the lift!  It took me a little over an hour to go 2 1/2 miles, but the views every time I turned around were so mind boggling, that I didn't want to stop.  I wasn't hungry yet, because I didn't know how long it would take me to get there, so I didn't feel like eating lunch.  I started down Turkey Trot, a meandering blue/green trail that leads to the Elk Camp Restaurant on my way home.  But I looked up to the right at the High Alpine lift, and wondered how far up I could make it.  I didn't want to go up Reidar, under the lift, so I headed to Cookies, a very steep groomed trail and started going up.  I gave myself a 15 minute goal.  It was so steep at times my cleats weren't helping much and I was sliding halfway down for every step I took.  I leaned forward, and felt like I was going horizontal.  People looked at me like I was crazy.  After 15 minutes I tried for another 15.  By then I was within sight of the top so I couldn't turn around.  I reached the top, took a few snapshots, ate a bite of my energy bar, and headed back down.

BAM!  When I turned around to go down, the views were almost heart stopping!  I had this unbelievable feeling of euphoria...The cool, crisp, clear sunny day, surrounded by wide open views of snow covered mountains, my health, my family, a great workout...I almost couldn't contain myself.  Some places were so steep that I had to just let go, put my arms out, and run down the hill.  Needless to say, I had the best lunch of my life at Elk Camp that day.  Everything just seemed...great.

Views from Upper Alpine


I had tried not to text H all day...(I'm still working on giving her space), but before I went to bed I asked her how her day went.  Her reply to me, "Doing phenomenal!" was the icing on the cake.  I went to bed with a smile on my face.