Well hello again little blog

Well hello little blog. I have missed you.

Here I am sitting on a train from York to Edinburgh watching the beautiful late autumn colors roll by.

This time just over a month ago I would be nearly at the end of my work week, juggling too many balls. Instead I am on a three-week adventure to connect with my British heritage of early dark and late sun-rise, dazzling Christmas lights and the promise of snow.

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Those of you that have followed this blog will know that I made the decision to go back to work full-time about 9 months ago. Best work place, amazing vision, the genuinely nicest people. Yet circumstances have led me to reluctantly put that aside (at least for now) and go back to a slightly altered version of my life for the last couple of years.

Turns out just when you think you might be able to commit yourself fully to work, things don’t always go according to plan – now there’s a surprise.

The catalyst was one of our dogs developing diabetes. Diabetes for a dog is the same as Type One diabetes for a human. there is no managing it with diet, it’s straight onto twice daily insulin injections and a pretty intense schedule of working with your vet in the initial period to get the dose right.

It is not an exaggeration to say this changed our lives over night. The injections have to be given as close as possible to 12 hours apart, food must be measured, walks must be strict and the possibility of a diabetic crash lingers closely in those first few weeks.

My wonderful workplace said I could bring him into work with me as he couldn’t be left alone. He was a very popular visitor to the office as he is very cute and loves people. Deep down though I knew this wasn’t a long term plan as he was slightly stressed by the process and it was hard to juggle taking him to various meetings.

So with heavy heart I resigned my position but we developed a two day a week position that meant I could look after Bosco, and still contribute in the form of important but not so urgent projects that needed to be bought on line.

However this catalyst became a domino on the move and I found myself weighing up work with all the other things going on in our lives – a house renovation, travel, my husband’s very full-on job, the birth of yet another precious grandchild and the announcement that there was another due early year. All good things but all that meant that something had to give.

Unlike many  people I am in the weird position of not having to work unless I want to,  so for me the question is nuanced and in some ways more difficult. I have had  several other grandmothers say that if they didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t. Yet we work for other reasons than just the financial ones and that made my decision hard. I like working, making a difference, being part of something bigger than myself, workplace banter, even wearing ‘work’ clothes. But I kind of knew as I went through the praying and thinking process, that for this season it made sense to step down for a time –  maybe permanently – I don’t know.

That was just over four weeks ago and my life has been full of  getting used to having a pet with diabetes, hanging out with our children, their little ones, my friends,  and appreciating all this  in a way I didn’t before I worked full-time for the last eight months. Also time spent catching up on all those things that don’t get done when you are both working full-time!

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Which brings me up to now. The amazing  trip  I am currently on was planned while I was working but I have been able to extend it for another week now I don’t have to fit it into annual leave.

And it is ‘I’ and not ‘we’ as it is a trip to the cold dark  Northern hemisphere winter (spurred by the  promise of a visit to a friend and the desire to see what Christmas is like over this side of the world) that did not appeal to Wayne so he graciously suggested I do it by myself – but more of that in my next entry.

It is a very big solo adventure for me!

 

When the desert blooms

Quick update!

The last time I posted I said I was in a Schrodinger’s cat position – maybe I would end up with a job and maybe not. And now the box is opened and I find myself walking down a path that I did not envision at  the beginning of this process

I don’t think I would have ended in this new stage of productivity and energy if I hadn’t been in a place of being able to listen and take the time to really think about the implications.

I am now three weeks into my role as Office Manager at an amazing organisation called The Parenting Place – Christian-based  non-profit supporting NZ families in the ultimately rewarding but sometimes scary  adventure of raising children into adults.

It’s funny how God overrides your idea of what you would like to do. I was determined that I would work close to home and here I am getting up at 5:30am every day to beat the traffic as I drive across the city.

I was adamant I didn’t want to work full-time and yet I am working Monday to Friday

I vowed I would never work in an open plan office and now I sit overseeing a totally open plan space.

And I am loving it!

The job is wide ranging and challenging and at the moment my head hurts trying to take in all of the areas of my role, but I am so happy. I come home exhausted but feeling that  I have made a difference. My role  supports the work our teams do as they influence families, schools, churches and communities. What a privilege.

Of course this comes at no small sacrifice. I am needing to re-shape the rhythms of my life at the moment. I would like to keep this blog going – and will aim for once a week, maybe twice once I am more organised!

I am having to consciously carve out the precious time with those I love, especially with my grandchildren; time that I have taken for granted for the past couple of years.

Spare time is now again precious and not to be squandered. Time for me has to be actively sought. Space for creativity needs to be scheduled or it won’t happen.

And all of this is OK.  I feel that I have made this decision from a position of strength and most certainly not on a whim. I will also watch and listen carefully  to relationships around me as ultimately they are still my priority, and adjust accordingly.

On a side note, ironically I have decided to re-connect on FB early as I think my desert time has served its purpose and I now need to use all avenues to stay connected. I definitely feel differently about Facebook after my time away and will use it slightly differently accordingly.

So as Lent draws towards Easter, I am not wandering aimlessly out of the desert and the wilderness picking up things exactly where I left them, but walking purposefully and somewhat joyfully into an unexpectedly new phase.

 

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Transmission has tentatively resumed

According to my stats I haven’t blogged for over two months – to be honest it feels longer!

Have been processing this new ‘non-working’ life and actually haven’t been able to put the journey in words. I haven’t been able to even look at all the blogs I love to read cos they just made me feel bad about not writing anything!

I have been in a bit of a limbo-like state –  I’m not sure what this new phase looks like, or how to describe it to people. I’m not retired, but I’m not working either. Choosing not to be in paid employment is such a luxury these days that I feel bad about admitting it. I have picked up a couple of volunteer days, partly so I have something to say when I’m asked what I do. Having said that – I’m really enjoying my volunteer work, especially at the SPCA.

Somewhere in the process of feeling like everything is shifting and not quite knowing where I fit at the moment, I lost sight of why I started this blog (and several other projects that are also not progressing anywhere fast.) A paradigm shift as to how I spend my time is very necessary. It’s going to take a lot more discipline on my part than I envisaged. Being one of the world’s great procrastinators is not helping (I’m looking at you Monster Busters).

I have spent an huge amount of time thinking about what happens now. I have pretty much said to myself and God that everything is open for change  if necessary. I do feel a it like the clichéd chrysalis at the moment. Have no idea if I will come out as a butterfly or a moth though, or how long it will take.

At the same time life  is still rocketing along – our latest grandchild is now three months old and it’s been great to get to hang out with him a lot. Our youngest has finished his first year at Cambridge and has been rewarded with a ‘First’ for the year (proud mum moment). We are just over 6 weeks from embarking on our big 8-week overseas adventure where we will start by catching up with him as he interns for the summer in San Francisco. Bit of a travel flavour to blogging coming up I think!

To all of you who have been kind enough to follow my fledging blog, my apologies for dropping the ball. I do have a lot of ideas jotted down in a file so hopefully I will start to be able to get some of them out finally.

It’s good to finally write something again – and now I need to catch up on all of the blog entries I have missed!

 

How do we do it?

So yesterday we said goodbye to our teenage son and his gorgeous girlfriend as they  headed back to the UK  after spending Easter with us. Way harder than leaving him at Cambridge University in October last year.

They arrived earlier this month on the morning his sister had her baby boy  in the evening. And  we have had just over a month of our family basically spending  every possible moment together. So much eating and laughing and connecting! We are a close unit so to be together has been amazing but to say goodbye yesterday has was very very hard.

I have spent the last 24 hours tracking their plane back to the UK all the way from NZ and have just had the FB messenger post that they are safely ‘wheels down’. I know for them that they are back in their other home and that the rest of the year holds excitement, challenge and adventure.

We have our house back to ourselves – and it is already quieter (and tidier!). And I  miss them so much already. A lot of tears last night after we farewelled them. I realised  this is different to sending him off on a holiday or an OE. He is studying and making a life on the other side of the world. He isn’t going on a holiday – he’s going back to his other home. As is his girlfriend (not the right  word for such an important person in his life). They are carving a significant path together at a very young age – watch this space for these two!!

And so to the title – how do we do this as parents? Letting our baby adults leave the nest, fly away – to other cities and countries. Wondering if they will be OK, remember all the things we told them and taught them. Airport hugs and goodbyes. Spoiling them while they are home. Grabbing any moment to chat with them about important things. Still being a slightly nagging parent…

I know that our experience is probably a minor one on the scale of letting them go. We have already  been inundated with messenger alerts and they only landed 30 minutes ago. (Let’s hear it for flight tracking apps). And we will see our boy in San Francisco when we visit him on his internship in August and he will be home for Christmas.

And how do they do it? They will miss out on what is going on here, just as much as we will miss out on what is going on there.They  leave behind three nieces and nephews who won’t remember this visit. Well one of them might 🙂

As we left the airport yesterday we realised this is our new normal – saying goodbye to our youngest as he heads back overseas, but we know that he will always come back at least for a while and for now that’s something to hold onto.

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Empty nest?

At the interesting  and definitely enjoyable stage of life we find ourselves, we often get asked about what it’s like having an empty nest, especially as our nest was such a big one!  ‘Empty nest’ to me is quite a negative phrase and always seems to be accompanied by images of forlorn nests slowly falling apart, tufts of baby feathers the only reminder that this nest once was full of bustling life and energy. We even describe it as  Empty Nest Syndrome  and there is a lot written about it, much of it dire.  I’m certainly not saying that this isn’t a difficult and challenging time as we learn to let our children go – but the connotations of an abandoned nest don’t help.

The analogy breaks down pretty quickly too – don’t most birds build a new nest every year? Do the newly flighted fledglings come back for dinner/budgeting advice/free laundry/more dinner? Do the adult birds visit the nests of their children to check out their eggs and chicks?

Our adult children and our one remaining teenager are definitely carving out their own paths – spouses, houses, babies, overseas study –  but our home is still full of people coming and going. Lots of celebrations and family dinners with those living in the same town as us; endless FB messenger conversations, photos,snapchats  and videos with the teenager and his girlfriend so many miles away in the UK.

This weekend we hosted 40 people for a baby shower for our daughter  and son-in-law  (It was more of a full-on party as the guys were all invited too. As our son-in-law said – it’s his baby too!) We  got to talk to  some of their friends we had not seen before, or had only said a quick hello to at church. It was a wonderful occasion, helped by a beautiful Auckland afternoon – community being extended and strengthened, lots of laughing and connecting, toddlers staggering around, new babies being admired.

The last thing our home felt like yesterday was an empty nest. Yes today the house is very quiet (just me and the animals) but I know that this nest isn’t empty, isn’t forlorn, and hasn’t lost its purpose as a hub for our family. While part of me misses when they were young and I was essential to their lives; another bigger part of me loves being the parent of adults. I don’t want to spend the next few years mourning the loss of one facet of parenting, huge though it was, and risk missing out on the richness of the next phase.

So I’m looking for a new analogy to describe a family where the children  have left home – something more positive than the dreaded empty nest. Anyone got any ideas?

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Chasing Lemons

Those who know me will know that one of the loves of my life is our Cavspoodle Bosco. Having some Cocker Spaniel genes in the more usual Cavalier/Poodle makes him a delightfully complicated  and slightly neurotic little being.

One of the loves of his life is tennis balls. He has a running file in his head of where they are stashed, where one might have been hidden, which bed one is stuck under. if he finds a trapped or inaccessible one he will not stop whining and worrying until it is safely set free.

Recently I bought a ceramic lemon for the new bookshelves in our new house – no particular reason except it is pretty, matches our curtains and has a nice feel when you pick it up.

Bosco lemonUpon spying it, Bosco went into full-on lost tennis ball mode. He was so excited to meet this new companion. I took it down and showed it to him and he was obviously shocked, then confused and then devastated – how could this be? He tried biting it and licking it and eventually settled for eying it with disgust. Back onto the shelf it went.

Bosco is a pretty smart little dog and usually learns things quickly.
Not so with the ceramic lemon. It’s been in our house for a month and I  will still often catch him staring at it longingly, or laying beneath the book shelves. Every time I take it down he is again surprised andIMG_1706 disappointed that it isn’t a tennis ball. I have even let him try to play with it. I am assuming that eventually he will realise that it is not, never has been and never will be  a tennis ball. But he can’t tell just by looking – he has to taste it and lick it to be convinced.

Despite a  similarity in colour and a vague likeness in shape these are not the same. One will break if dropped, one will bounce. One is flexible and one is unyielding. One will roll and travel, one will not. One has potential and energy, one does not.

There’s a few things in my life  that I thought were tennis balls that have turned out to be ceramic lemons. I have spent a lot of time re-examining and picking things back up and, like Bosco, being surprised to find out that they are useless inflexible items rather than the bouncy ball full of potential that I thought they were.

This year I’m keen to learn to leave the ceramic lemons  on the shelf and focus on getting on with ferreting out some of the tennis balls under the couch or buried in a pile of leaves, or even opening a tube of brand new ones.