Happy Tears, Selfish Tears

Two weeks ago, my husband and I sent my youngest child off to college.

I have heard stories throughout the years of the enormity of this event, but it was not until my son slowly faded away amongst the flocks of people at the security checkpoint that it finally hit me. My time as a day-to-day, hands on mother was over.

When we got back into the car, I wept. “Are those happy tears or sad tears?” my husband asked. “Selfish tears,” I sobbed back. Yes, selfish tears, I told myself—but why?

Happy tears

Before I continue about my “selfish tears,” let me talk about my “happy tears.” My youngest has known since middle school that his passion lies in developing video games. It took him awhile to hit his stride and hunker down with all the academics involved in such a career, but once he did, he soared like an eagle.

Last Spring, he was accepted into his first-choice school—a private college that specializes in game development and computer science. No one was happier for him than me. I will always remember the look of astonishment and joy on his face when the email came in and yelled out through the house, “I got in!” I dropped what I was doing to run to him and hug him. As a mom there is no better happiness than seeing your children succeed, so my heart was full…and my tears were happy. Incredibly happy. We spent the next few months finishing all the high school stuff and preparing for Fall. I relished every moment, knowing that the time to let go was coming all too fast. Then, two weeks ago, the time came.

Selfish tears

I spent the next several days after my son left trying to figure out why I was such an emotional mess. How could I feel so happy and yet so sad all at the same time? Hence the aforementioned “selfish tears.” The answer finally came.

Because I am a mother.

Mothers are unstoppable forces of nature. We love our children fiercely and unconditionally, while simultaneously being able to put them in their place and dish out tough love. We are forever the soft place for our children to fall and the voice of reason in a cruel world. We are masters at managing chaos and soothing both “boo-boos” and heartbreaks. Having a loving mother is a great gift, and the ability to be a mother is a blessing.

For 28 years, I have been a mother.

28 years of:

Babies, bottles, diapers, sleepless nights, doctor visits, broken bones, school supplies, homeschooling, parent conferences, report cards, after-school activities, band practice, large grocery trips, helping them move apartments, making breakfast, lunch and dinner…every day, washing laundry, clothes shopping, staying up until they get home, mentoring, advising, butting in, arguing, grounding, debating, watching them succeed, watching them fail, being their biggest cheerleader, driving them to school, picking them up from school, drying their tears, holding their hands to cross the street, holding them when they are sick, sad or confused, signing permission slips, worrying, crying, laughing…the list could go on forever.

In other words, my very existence has been my children. And now my “nest” is empty.

Don’t get me wrong—my life is far from over. I have many hobbies that I can now pursue full time and I can focus on helping my husband and I become healthier. I can stay up late and sleep in if I want. We can go on adventures without it needing to be on a school break. I can volunteer, I can read, I can write, I can knit all day—I am excited about what this next stage of life will bring. That said…

I have selfish tears because:

I will miss giving my son a hug before school every morning.

I will miss hearing him yell out, “I’m home” every afternoon and then hearing about his day.

I will miss wishing him goodnight before I go to bed.

I will miss binge watching Top Gear with him.

I will miss going to the bookstore with him and getting donuts afterwards.

I will miss…him

Yes, he will be back, but as all experienced empty nesters know…it will be different. He will no longer be a young man. He will be a man. And just like his brother and sister before him, he will be different. And ya know what?

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It is the number one parenting goal: that they grow up, leave the nest, and become happy, healthy, successful human beings who navigate life and society with civility and grace. I give myself this reminder daily.

So while I may still cry a few selfish tears from no longer being that hands on, day-to day mom, I sit here today knowing those tears will soon fade. I will adjust to this new stage of life knowing that my children are happy, healthy, successful and “living life to the fullest, one day at a time.”

Snow Day Serenity


Snow days are precious in my home. We see them as special “gifts of time” to enjoy our hobbies and each other. On these days we relax, eat leftovers and drink lots of hot chocolate. Time stands still on these days as Mother Nature forces us to stop and breathe for a bit.

My favorite part of a snow day is getting up around daylight and going for a walk outside–before anyone else has tread on the snow that is freshly fallen. Carol Rifka Brunt says it best,

“There’s something about walking in snow that nobody walked on.”

I love taking in that first deep breath of crisp, clean air as I make my way down the hill and then through the snow carpeted neighborhood. The trees, so delicately decorated in white, look like something out of Norman Rockwell picture; and the snow, still falling, makes the most beautiful sound when it gently falls onto the trees and houses. It is the only sound I hear, as no else is out and about yet.

This quiet, this serenity, brings me a calm and peace that is reserved only to snow days. It is unique. It is rare. It is special. I revel in it every time.

Going back inside to the warmth of my home the coffee, freshly brewed, sends out a welcoming scent as I make myself a cup. I love how coffee just tastes better on these days, as if I have slowed down enough to actually enjoy the flavor. In fact, just about everything tastes, feels and sounds better on snow days.

After my walk outside and substantial amounts of coffee, I spend the rest of my day in the loving arms of my family, soaking in every gifted moment. But it is that early morning walk in the snow that sets me up for a calm and relaxing day and allows me to focus on and appreciate my family.

“Snow days are precious gifts of time that should remind us to slow down, breathe, and enjoy every moment with our loved ones.”—LittleMissTwitch




The Great Equalizer

Just as there are seasons in the weather, there are seasons in our lives–happy, sad, difficult, mournful, peaceful, challenging. With any luck those more difficult seasons, like a harsh winter, do not last very long and we can look forward to the welcoming warmth of Spring. It is the promise of that “rebirth” that gets us through the cold and dismal times–the hope that things will get better and life will move forward once again.

I am currently in the midst of one of those difficult seasons as my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) has decided to invade itself upon my happy little world once again. (Yes, I personify my RA.) In the more than 30 years that I have had RA, there have only been a handful of times that the disease has worsened, and the past few months it has shown no mercy. For the first time in my working career I have had to go on medical leave because of the pain, and it has taken its toll on me emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically.

Like being snowed in during a cruel winter, so is my body and mind. For the last month my body has been unable to go out into the world as it once did and my mind has been stuck pondering all the what ifs that go along with the acknowledgment of a disease that is progressing.

I have given a name to this latest season of my life and my RA–The Great Equalizer.

There was once a time that my RA was not so harsh–not so advanced. I could do pretty much what everyone else did, with only a few limitations. I reveled in the fact that I was one of the lucky few that had a very slow progressing disease. But this season of my RA has been especially unforgiving and it has made me come to terms with my own invincibility. Things I used to take advantage of being able to “do” are no longer givens, and I must learn to ask for help.

I have not been able to do much during this time except rest, which is a luxury I rarely give myself, hence the “equalizing.” This rest, while needed and helpful, has also led to some anxiety and questions about what lies next for me in life.

As a person of faith, I am told, “ do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV) How very easy it is to know this verse–how very difficult to follow through with, especially during times of uncertainty while lying awake at night.

It is in these sleepless nights, however, that I have been reminded of yet another verse–one of my go to-s in times of despair.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

My body is broken right now, and may never fully be the same. But what I have learned during this time is that I am absolutely not in control. (Hard pill for this control freak to swallow). The Lord is in control of this snow storm and it is my job to slow down and rest–something that He knows I need and would not give myself otherwise. I need to come to terms with my limitations and trust that He is preparing the way for me. I need to be content with my weaknesses so that His glory and strength can be seen and I can move towards the new life He wants me to lead.

I will weather this stormy season and faithfully await the welcoming warmth of Spring.