Hitting the Empty Nester Lifestyle Hard


Sitting in the airport waiting to board our Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, Florida, I felt a mix of excitement and guilt. We were traveling to the Happiest Place on Earth without our kids. It was definitely a weird feeling. When John and I talk about our happy places, it is different for each of us. Mine is a pool or Spain. His is Disney World. We hadn’t been back since 2010. How was that possible? It didn’t seem like it could be that long ago. Sheesh. How old are we? The short answer is old, but not too old for Disney World!

We were quickly struck by how much had changed. We had wristbands that contained our park passes and room keys, which, it turns out, was very convenient. We later found that the bands also held our photos from rides and character encounters. Wow. It was awesome. A little freaky for privacy seekers, but overall very cool and useful. Also, the refillable cups are now equipped with sensors that know when your stay is over, so no more bringing back last year’s cup and getting free soda for a week. We were never that organized but other people must have been to lead the Disney powers that be to put chips in those cups. That can’t be cheap, can it?

We began our week with the excitement of our recently married selves when we last visited Disney without kids. The approximately 25 years difference was almost immediately obvious by our earlier bedtime and willingness to call it a day sooner than our young selves would have. We were logging over 20,000 steps daily and feeling every one of them. We noticed a plethora of motorized scooters and can proudly and gratefully say that we are still young and healthy enough that the many, ever-present scooters annoyed us.


We also took the opportunity to go on a mid-week bike ride. As you can imagine, Florida has a number of wonderful trails from which to choose. John’s research lead us to two trails that both sounded great. One trail went through an area that was described as having a lot of opportunities to see wildlife and sounded more isolated. Readers of this blog know how I feel about wildlife… I thought that it sounded like there was a distinct possibility that one or both of us could be eaten by an alligator and no one would know. So, while in theory I’d love to see a bunch of animals with a variety of diets up close during a scenic bike ride, in practice, the answer is actually (as kids these days say) a hard no. Which nudged us toward the West Orange Trail. It is a flat, paved, rail trail that included key points such as, 20 easy miles and restaurants along the route. It was also closer to our vacation accommodations in Orlando, and offered a conveniently located bike rental shop, Bikes and Blades, at the Killarney Station trailhead.


We set out with our newly rented bikes on a really nice, sunny and warm day. We peddled along feeling proud of ourselves for taking a break from the happiness of Disney to ride. But mostly I was feeling grateful to be doing something other than walking. We enjoyed the peaceful ride with few other people on the trail. We managed an ambitious 24 + miles total. We were tired but very pleased we were able to ride in February.

We were back in Disney World by mid-afternoon and moving onward with our agenda of fun. We took a quick trip to Epcot to ride Soarin’. Twice. It was different than the last time we did it, and still very fun. We then raced off to the Magic Kingdom for a quick dinner and reservations for the Fireworks Dessert Party at the Tomorrowland Terrace. It was a delicious dessert buffet and front row seats for the fireworks. It was all quite fantastic, and the next morning I couldn’t move. I was so sore and tired, I decided I needed a day by the pool. John, however, did not want to chill by the pool, but instead went off to see Stars Wars things in Hollywood Studios.


Two additional big changes we noted were how much Disney Springs (which was called Downtown Disney the last time we were there) had grown. There were a lot of new restaurants and shopping! It was fun to spend the evening there. We went almost every night. We also decided to try Animal Kingdom again.


The last time we were there it was maybe a year old, and I wasn’t impressed. This time, it was very enjoyable. We saw a lot of animals and really thought it was worth the trip.


We decided we could have easily stayed another week, which means we may be back in Disney sooner than last time.



Our Empty Nest Game is Strong


We had a chance to take a page out of our Empty Nest playbook this weekend and it was fantastic, dare I say, glorious. As a couple, John and I went into empty nest-hood with a basic survival plan, some vaguely articulated hopes, and a determined flexibility. We did great! Although, I didn’t fare as well, at least initially, but that’s a topic for another post.

Since that momentous August two years ago, the kids have come back and gone again and come back and so on. Thus, the parenting territory has become murky or murkier than pre empty nest. It has required many adjustments on our part. Currently, the biggest one being how to handle the limited amount of “empty” in our house. We have found ourselves being less motivated to be the foot loose and fancy free empty nesters we were in the beginning, in exchange for spending time with one or both of the kids. Despite the soundness of our thinking, we were a little stuck.

That is, until this past week. We learned that very dear friends were going to retire on Friday. We knew immediately upon hearing the news that we wanted and needed to be there. “There” being Buffalo, NY. We were able to clear our schedules in under a week and head up to Buffalo. Our friends, Tom and MaryJane, have owned a pizzeria in the town my husband grew up in for 31 years. He actually worked for them 30 years ago. They are about our age, and when John finally moved to Maryland, he kept in touch with them. My first trip to Buffalo included a required stop at the restaurant and introductions. MaryJane and I hit it off instantly, and I would look forward to getting together with them during our Buffalo visits. To think that we wouldn’t have their restaurant as a stop during future visits was so sad. We had to get there one more time. Plus, they were planning a big party Friday night.

We ended up making the trip without the kids, which was a little strange since they were both technically at home. But it was also really empty nesty of us. We realized how much we had needed to get away almost the minute we arrived at the restaurant, which was our first stop upon arriving in town. We had a great visit and we’re thrilled to get to Torella’s one last time to wish our lovely friends happiness and lots of spur of the moment fun!







This Time It’s Not Me

Hearth and Home

Hearth and Home

I started out having an exceedingly difficult time accepting that my son is going to be leaving for Spain for his semester abroad program soon. But, I was not having a difficult time for reasons one may expect from an Empty Nest mom. No, I’m not worried about missing him too much. Of course, I will miss him a lot. I’m not afraid for any struggles he may have getting accustomed to living in a foreign country, as that is part of studying abroad. I’m not concerned about being able to keep in touch with him, as there are dozens of ways we can communicate these days. No, my problem is me, actually. I have been struggling to accept that I am not the one going. I had tried to figure how I could go and stay for the semester, too. Although, like the mouse who gets a cookie, I was definitely going to want more. Like staying for the whole school year. I know this because I’ve done it before. I spent my Junior year abroad in Pamplona, Spain. Am I excited about my son’s upcoming experience? Yes! But, it’s an excitement that is tinged with what I must admit is jealousy. 

Lladro From Spain

Lladro From Spain

Fast forward a month or so and I think I’m finally making the transition from being jealous and bummed it’s not me going to being very excited and happy for my son. The excitement is stemming from the waves of memories I’m having about my Junior year in Spain. I’m remembering details about the people, and lifestyle, and how different I found it from my own; realizations I made while abroad that haven’t occurred to me in years (decades, actually).

The memories began flooding back to me at a rate in which I honestly did not think my brain could produce, from the minute Alex came home from school for the summer. Dozens of them. Some with accompanying advice. And, I am so excited to share them I can barely contain myself. As we sit at the dinner table a memory will pop into my head, and I will say, “You may want to start listening to a Spanish language radio or television station to get your ear accustomed to hearing the language. It’s really hard to get the feel for how fast Spaniards speak in real time from the classroom.” And, “Don’t be alarmed by the crazy dreams you may have in the beginning. It’s just your brain trying to process your second language.” And, then there are the stories of what I experienced and how funny or charming or nerve wracking it was.  

Now, although it has taken several weeks for me to reign in my zeal about Alex’s trip, I think I’ve just about come to terms with it. It is his trip after all. And while I can’t wait to find out what aspects of Spain and Spanish life my son notices, likes, appreciates, and Etc. I must stand back and let it unfold as it did for me all those years ago.

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982


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