Monday, July 25, 2011

in {her} shoes...sheri

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well, lovelies, it's moMMa moNDaY again!!

i'm super-excited about todays in {her} shoes guest post!  sheri is a doll and has been a friend of mine for awhile now.  she's so encouraging and inspiring.  she's a beautiful soul and i hope that you enjoy reading her post!

Hi there. My name is Sheri, and I am guest blogging today for my friend Andie’s blog series “In Her Shoes”. I have two different blogs out there in the bloggy world. It started with, which is about life with not only our first dog ever, but our first rescue dog. My second blog is my photo blog, Both of these were born after my kids were booted from the “nest”.

The empty nest. We all dread it, and welcome it at different times in our life. In order to fully explain how I feel about being an “empty nester”, I have to go back a few years and give you a little information that formed how I feel about my life today. I always hesitate in doing this, fearing that people will think that I’m looking for sympathy, or singing the “oh poor me” song, but I’m not. What we went through made my husband and I grow in to the couple that we are today.

So, to fill you in, we have three children who are actually now adults, ages 25, 23 and 20. The two oldest are boys, and our youngest is a girl.

The oldest was the typical first child. Over achiever, well behaved and bossy to a fault, but he seriously never gave us any trouble, and was for the most part an absolute joy to raise. Child number two was the typical middle child. Sort of a day dreamer, an absolute love, and just naughty enough to constantly keep us wondering if we were going to live through to his 18th birthday, but “good” enough to never get in to legal trouble. He was silly and funny, to a fault. Child number three, our daughter was a dream, and I mean a DREAM. I seriously thought I had died and gone to heaven, until THAT DAY.

OH, that day. When child number three came home from school, and instead of telling me about one of the many books that she had read on the bus on the way home, she went in her room and shut the door. I couldn’t believe it. When I knocked on the door to see if she was OK, the girl that faced me wasn’t my daughter. She was this person that I didn’t know. If I thought you would believe me, I would say that her head was spinning on her body and green goo was oozing out of her eyeballs, but that might be taking it too far. But, that was how I felt, and it continued for two years. No kidding. At first we thought that it might just be the transition in to adolescence, but after a few months we knew that we were in for much more than that.

Child number three had always been a straight A student, and at this point she was in her Junior year in high school, and was finishing high school at the local community college like our boys had. Typically, this is an awesome thing because the students not only get high school credits, but transferrable college credits too. The bad thing? The parents no longer have any right to any information about the student, and I mean ANY information. So, we had no idea that our daughter had started to skip school. She would get up every morning and shower and leave at the normal time, and come home every day “after school” and go to her job at the coffee shop. We also didn’t know that she was doing drugs. What had happened is that depression had wrapped its ugly fingers around her soul, and she didn’t know it, and we didn’t know it. The way that she was dealing with it was to go to her girlfriend’s house in the morning, smoke pot to self-medicate her feelings away and go to sleep for the day. Somehow she managed to always make it to work at the coffee shop, but she could no longer concentrate at school. I knew in my gut that something was terribly wrong, but because she was so defiant, I was at a loss as to what to do. Finally, the day came when she hit bottom. An actual friend of hers brought her home to us and said that she needed to go to the hospital. Our baby girl was sick, and wanted to die. As all of you parents out there can imagine, it was a nightmare. My heart has never ached for anyone more than it did at that moment, watching my baby girl hurting so badly. All I wanted to do was fix her, but I knew we had a long road ahead of us.

So now we get more in to how this affects how my feelings about being an empty nester started to form. My way of dealing with crisis is to DEAL with it. My husband’s way of dealing with crisis is to look the other way. He didn’t want his little girl to get mad at him. We have always parented on the same page, but suddenly, we were on very different pages. Thankfully, we both agreed that she needed to be admitted to the hospital. I don’t know if you know this, but when a child is fourteen years old, they can make their own medical decisions. Our daughter was sick enough the night we took her to the emergency room that she signed her care over to us. If she wouldn’t have done that, she would have been out of the hospital the next day. As it was, the hospital kept her for two weeks. During this time, the fighting with my husband continued, and I was really beginning to FEAR spending the rest of my life with this man! I wanted my daughter drug tested weekly. There was absolutely no way I was going to let her continue to drive on our insurance if she was going to be under the influence of drugs. My husband felt that this was harsh. She was so far behind in school that there was little chance of her graduating from high school on time, which was devastating. We had already visited three colleges that were out of state, and this girl had big dreams. All of those dreams seemed to be floating out of her reach. My husband thought I should lay off her, but I wanted her to stay on her school work, and work with the guidance counselors at the school so she could at least graduate during the summer and have a chance to still go to college. I found that not only did my daughter hate me for everything, but my husband and I were fighting about everything too. No matter what I did, he was taking her side. I felt ganged up on, and it wasn’t cool. At this point, my vision of being an empty nester consisted of me living alone some place on an island in the middle of nowhere! The next several months were hell.

To wrap up a very long story, she was able to graduate, and she was able to still go to one of the out of state schools. I would have preferred to have her closer, as I didn’t feel that she was out of the woods with her depression yet, but at this point I just wanted her in school. Once she was moved and settled, my husband and I started the healing process. Thankfully, I’m a person that talks about everything, and eventually I was able to tell him how much it hurt me that he couldn’t support me or my decisions during that time. His point was that he couldn’t explain it, but she was his baby girl. He was afraid of losing her. In his defense, he comes from a family that has no qualms about not talking to you for years if you do something to make them angry, so I can understand his fear.

Our life now as empty nesters is really good. Our oldest son has one year left in the PhD program for mathematics, our middle son just has an internship left to do before he graduates with a social services degree, and even though our daughter realized after her first year at school that she wasn’t quite ready for college, she found a full time job in a bank, still out of state, and is feeling very successful at her job. All three of the kids are wonderful adults, and we feel so proud of all of them. And the very best part? They are all our friends now. When they come home to visit, it isn’t like one of the kids is coming home. They are our guest, and it is awesome. We really enjoy their company and personalities. None of them have had to move back home since leaving for college. We tried to raise them to be independent, and all of them were taught budgeting and how to pay bills and do laundry. Sometimes I think that those lessons are lacking for some kids when they leave home.

My husband and I enjoy splitting our time between our actual home, and our lake home. He bought me a wonderful camera and encouraged me to explore my love for photography. That is how I met Andie, whose blog, Crayon Freckles, I am guest writing on. I could seriously take pictures and edit pictures for hours a day. My husband will need to stay in his job for a few more years, and then we will probably move to the lake. Unfortunately, college isn’t cheap, and we really wanted to be able to help our kids with their education. We aren’t paying for the whole thing, but we are definitely helping. College costs are out of control, and it’s hard to imagine kids having a chance to even get started with the looming debt of four or more years of college loans over their heads.

The other thing we did after our daughter moved out was adopt our first dog. We had decided that we would like to save an older dog from a rescue shelter, and after some searching, we found Brutus. He was “around” two years old, which is younger than what we were thinking, but he had been thrown away. When he was saved, it was the day before he was to be killed in a gas chamber. I didn’t even know that such a terrible thing still existed. An animal rescue saved him and brought him to a foster home in our home state, and put his face online. His foster mom broke her ankle, and the rescue was looking for emergency foster for him, but we just simply wanted him. He has been with us for a year and a half now, and we have no regrets. When he joined our family he didn’t know his name, and had no training. We are happy to say that he is now a very happy boy, and MOST of the time when we are outside with him, he can be off leash. He loves going to the lake, and swimming and going fishing with his dad. He will be spoiled rotten for the rest of his life. When his human brothers and sister come home, he practically knocks them over with kisses and love. He doesn’t do that to other people, so somehow, he knows that they are his family.

If I was to leave you with some sort of words of wisdom or advice from my own experience as a mother, it would be this: Love unconditionally, because there is no such thing as perfect. Kids are going to make mistakes just as us parents do, and you don’t want to set the bar so high for them that they are afraid to come to you if they fail or need your help.

I also want to thank Andie for letting me share my story on her wonderful blog. Andie, you are a gem, and your daughter and son are very lucky to have you for a mom.

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