Ready, set, launch! Graduation hails accomplishment and transition

Well, we hit another milestone. Last weekend, we finished up the last of the college graduation festivities. For the first time in a couple of decades, we have no kids in school. We have no college tuition payments to make.

As many of you probably already know, this is big. Huge. In many ways.

As I reflect on what this means, sure, I see home projects and travel we can now do because we might have a little extra cash. It’s also been a fun trip down memory lane. But mostly, I see a transition to a new stage of life. We will never be as involved in our kids’ lives. They’ll have so many new experiences that won’t involve us. Meet so many new people that we may never know. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now that feels a little strange.

mortarboards

There’s also a sense of accomplishment. Yay! We managed to keep them alive to “adulthood.” The oldest, who just graduated with her master’s degree, is already pretty self-sufficient. The youngest is now a young man also on his way to being self-sufficient. We’re so proud of both of them. Proud to be launching decent, functional, intelligent contributing people into the world.

I suppose the other emotion is relief. As the mom, of course I’ll still worry about them, but it feels different now. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Maybe I can relax a tiny bit and enjoy watching their progress from a little more distance. I can’t wait to see how the next couple of years unfold – where life takes them. And me.

So far, I have no big plans other than to buckle down and get some writing done, launch a few more books into the world. Maybe a trip or two. I think we’ll take some time to ease into this transition, and let things settle. And then . . .

Well, who knows? We’ll toss our mortarboard in the air and see where it lands. 🙂

As always, time marches on. Enjoy the ride!

Darlene

Move over, Martha

p1070029So this is it – the extent of my Fall/Halloween decorating. You’re jealous of the originality and effort that went into it, aren’t you? I must be the next Martha Stewart, right? Well, it did require a trip to the grocery store and some physical activity to gather the hedge apples.

Maybe some people do more lavish decorating once their “nest” is empty, but this is it for me. There’s no fake spider web material in the windows (I have enough of the real thing, thank you very much), no ghosts or skeletons hanging around, and no twinkling lights or sinister sound machines blowing in the trees.

Because, of course, there are no kids! Well, maybe. I suppose that’s part of it. I think it might just be the next phase. A transition. Decorating for all the seasons/holidays isn’t a high priority anymore. We’ve morphed into the de-cluttering phase. Scaling back. Less is more.

I visited a friend’s house last weekend and was amazed at the level of fall decorating both inside and outside her house. It was beautiful – wreaths, flowers, candles, etc., all artfully arranged throughout the rooms. Rich tones of gold and bittersweet were woven into impressive mantel and table displays. But as I looked around, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow. That’s a lot of work.” And time. And money. And storage. The truth is, my house won’t ever look like that because I’m simply not inclined to devote the time and energy to that level of seasonal transformation. That’s OK. I thoroughly enjoyed her efforts! 🙂

Which holidays do you enjoy decorating for?

Home Alone

quiet streamIt’s the middle of the afternoon. I’ve done my exercising and some housework. I’ve checked my email and social sites, and responded to a few items. The bustle of the morning is over, and it’s quiet. Really quiet. Except for the low hum of the heater, I don’t hear anything.
I’m alone in my empty nest. Unless I have a surprise visitor, which is highly unlikely. I won’t see another person for several more hours. And I’m perfectly all right with that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see my kids walk through the door. I love weekday lunches out with friends. I’m not entirely anti-social. But I really do enjoy the quiet solitude I have on a regular basis. I like having time to think, to write, to not hurry. It’s not the same quiet as being alone in the woods or the stillness of a fresh snow.  I can see the busy street, squirrels and birds outside the windows, but still, there’s a sense of peacefulness around me.

People are sometimes surprised that I don’t have the television on. Or the stereo. Something in the background at least. Nope. What I don’t need is noise in the background. I like the silence. I missed out on a weekend home alone this year. For the past few years my husband has been a chaperone on a ski trip for our church’s youth. And both kids have been on the trip. Now that the youngest kid is in college, that didn’t happen. It was something that I looked forward to almost as much as they did. It’s funny, my husband will avoid coming home to an empty house. If I’m not going to be home, he’ll dream up errands, or go get a haircut to keep from coming home. Have to say, I really don’t get that.
After years of working and raising kids, keeping my eyes on the calendar, and rushing from one activity to another, it’s nice to slow down a little. It’s kind of amazing how few things I actually have to do. I’ve given up all of the school volunteer activities. Been there. Done that. And done it some more!
My calendar isn’t entirely empty, but as I look at the boxes for the rest of the month, I see a lot of blank space. The squares that are filled in? With the exception of a couple of doctor’s appointments, the things written on my calendar are things I want to do. A wine-tasting event, lunch with a friend, an interview with a librarian, a writer’s group meeting. Fun stuff!
There are, of course, things I miss about former years, and the busy-ness of raising kids. but for the most part, I think I’ve adjusted to the change in my life this year. I’m okay with quiet. I don’t mind a little time alone. It’s kind of nice to hear nothing but my own thoughts!

2014: An intersection of fiction and real life

P1040474I have to say most of the time I’m not all that giddy-excited about ending one year and starting a new one. Most years have been pretty good. I suppose, though, it’s a good time to take a moment and reflect.
A couple of weeks ago, I went through the year in photos to create the annual custom calendar for my dad for Christmas. Turns out, we had a lot going on in 2014. As a family, we went places and did things. We had a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The biggest event of the year was my son’s high school graduation. Not only did that mean we were sending our awesome son off to college, it meant my husband and I became empty nesters. That’s been very strange, and kind of sad. But it’s also been fun to see him mature and thrive, to deal with new situations and responsibilities. For me, his graduation also meant the end of an era – years and years of volunteering in the kids’ schools. No more band concessions, book fairs, debate boosters, tennis banquets, etc., etc.
It was a year for vacations that included spring break in California and a trip to Joshua National Park near Palm Desert. And our daughter was able to fly in to join us. Made our annual trek to Colorado in July and then headed to the east coast in October for a little beach action and visit with our daughter who’s now out in the working world. Lots of fun times.

Of course my real life intersected with a life of fiction! In 2014, I published my fourth novel. Have to say that is really cool. There were times I doubted I could finish even one. I strengthened ties with critique partners, sold a few more books, and created a new website. I met other authors, made connections with retailers and readers and librarians. As Three Writers of Romance, my critique partners and I were guest speakers and spotlighted in a local magazine.

Looking to 2015, I see a lot more activity. I’m kicking off the new year with my fifth novel – yes, FIFTH. “Second Wind,” the second book in my Women of Whitfield small-town trilogy, launches Jan. 10.
The months will zip by, and once again we’ll be in California for spring break. This time, we’ll get to see our son play college tennis in an invitational tournament there! Hopefully, shortly after that, our daughter will be accepted to a PhD program and will take a huge step in furthering her education and career. The pace won’t slow down at all in April, as my husband and I will join a friend at the Final Four in Indianapolis (Come on, Jayhawks, let’s get it together!), then I’m scheduled for a book sale and signing at a women’s event in Dallas.
In what promises to be a highlight of the coming year, my book club is planning a girls’ retreat in a lovely natural area near Branson, Mo. I’m going to need those four days to unwind, rejuvenate, relax and write. A change of scenery always seems to get the creative juices flowing.

I can’t say what the second half of the year will bring, but I know I can count on a busy schedule. I’ll look forward to seeing what opportunities unfold for my kids. I’ll keep writing – hoping that 2015 will be a two-book year. I’ll attempt to keep up with the changes in the publishing industry, and working to connect with readers. I’ll probably fight with technology and be overwhelmed by social media and marketing.
My goals for the year, I suppose, are to enjoy the travels and times with my family. To eat lunch out with friends as often as I can. To read, and to write books that resonate with others who love to read and get lost in a world of fiction.
Happy New Year and happy reading to all!