Beaches

My husband and I went to Virginia Beach this weekend. It’s the third time we’ve been there in three years. We’ve seen dolphins each time!

It feels wonderful to be at the beach. The warm sand, the roaring waves, the blue sky.

In the case of Virginia – the people watching is fantastic! We went Friday evening as many folks were leaving, and the seashore wasn’t too crowded. We went back Saturday morning – got there at about 9:30am – and there were plenty of places to set up our chairs. But as an hour passed, the beach began to fill up. Many people had large canopies, and there were lots of little children digging in the sand and running from the waves. So many people to watch playing in the water, riding surfboards, dogs chasing balls, distant parasailing.

We can’t help but compare Virginia Beach to the beaches we used to frequent in Florida, when we lived there four years ago. Less commercialization. Less crowds. More seashells. More sunsets.

We lived in Fort Myers, and the congested tourist town of Fort Myers Beach was 45 minutes away. It was busy, with one main road going between all of the T-shirt and surf stores, passing the ice cream shops and umbrella-ed picnic tables. But once we got off the main drag, there was plenty of room.

There were other wonderful beaches, too. Delnore-Wiggins Pass State Park. Lover’s Key State Park. The beaches on Sanibel Island. Little Hickory Beach (our favorite).

On all of these beaches, we enjoyed watching the various birds instead of people.

And there was a huge advantage of facing the Gulf of Mexico – those western sunsets. We’d try to catch the notorious green flash as the sun hit the horizon. And everyone on the beach waited for the sun to go down. I was surprised the first time when all the people began to clap as the sun dipped past the ocean, but I quickly learned to join in. And I marveled at how God gave us this show every night!

I think we prefer Florida, but any beach – including a crowded one – is a good place to be!

Living far away

I live 1,188 miles away from my parents. 1,142 miles from my daughter. 1,576 miles from my son.

I live 6 states away from my lifelong Wisconsin friends and my in-laws, and 5 states away from my sister.

I’m not living in the wilderness by any means, but I’m far from family and friends (not counting those I have here, of course). I live in Virginia – the furthest East and South of anyone in our immediate families.

This is especially difficulty when someone is sick or in need. Like my mom, or one of my lifelong friends. I want to be with them, but there’s no easy way to do so. I have to plan way in advance to be able to afford the plane ticket. And I need to be there for several days – so I’m at my destination longer than it takes me to travel to and from there.

I wish I could just stop by my daughter’s for the weekend. Or plan a 3-day holiday at my son’s. But it’s cost-prohibitive.

Don’t get me wrong. I live in a beautiful part of the country – in the valley of the Shenandoah Mountains, and the views are spectacular. Our town is small, but near a couple of larger cities with college campuses, and 45 minutes from an airport, which connects us to the rest of the country within a day’s travel. We have easy access to concerts and breweries and museums.

I’ve lived further away. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Utah, far from our families in the Midwest. And more recently, we lived in Florida for a little over a year. But Florida is a vacation destination, so we saw family and some friends while we lived there, with the promise of many others to come visit.

It’s hard to live so far from family and friends. Thank goodness for instant messaging and texting and FaceTime and Facebook. For phone calls and video chats. For vacations and an understanding husband, who tells me, “Go,” when I need it.

Over the course of the years we’ve been married, we’ve talked about living overseas. Now that’s far away! And quite honestly, I think now would be the time, before the kids settle down and have families of their own. I don’t want to be far away when there are grandbabies to hold!

All this means that we probably have another move in us, sometime in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a move after that, to wherever we’d like to retire and live out the rest of our lives. That’s hard to decide, because while we long for the western mountains, we loved the beach. But neither of those are close to family! I guess our biggest deciding factor will be access to a national airport, for easy travel to all the places we’d like to visit!

“Year 2 ! It’s a tradition!”

I met my only cousin on my dad’s side last night for an event and dinner. It’s the second time in two years. Before that, it had probably been 10 years since we’d seen each other.

We didn’t grow up together with lots of cousin visits. I have a few pictures of us as kids – she’s a little older than me, and her family lived far away, so we just didn’t see each other much.

We reconnected via WordPress University – a blogging class that WordPress offered several years ago. We both blog – she about her family genealogies, and me about depression as a Christ follower. We were excited to share comments back and forth as we read each other’s blogs. She has done quite a bit of research on our grandfather, and it’s been so fun to read about our grandparents and their families.

A year ago, she told me she was coming to the area for the Virginia Festival of the Book. So I found a presentation on mental health books, and we met there. We enjoyed the panel, but had even more fun at dinner and a wine bar. I spent the night in her hotel room – she showed me love letters from our Papa Joe to his wife Kitty. We really had a great time reconnecting.

This year’s Festival of the Book rolled around, and we met for a panel last night, then went to a local pub. It was fun again to connect and catch up. And we made plans for June when my folks visit, to take a trip to Washington D.C. and see places of our dads’ and grandparents history! She’ll be the guide, as she knows the places. But we’re expecting “the trip down memory lane” to spark some stories from my dad. I’m excited!

And I’m so happy to have renewed a relationship. The older I get, the more important family is to me. So I’m thrilled that “cuz” and I have a new tradition. Two years and counting!

House for sale

My old house in WI is for sale again. I think this is by the people who bought it from us four years ago.

Friends told us, then we found it listed on Zillow. The advantage there is that we could see the MLS pictures.

Wow. That was hard. Everything was different.

New paint colors. I mean, every wall in that five bedroom house had been repainted. The vaulted living room wall. The cozy family room. The tall kitchen. Every bedroom.

New flooring. Beautiful wood kitchen cabinets – painted! A new walk-in closet, though I can’t quite figure out which room that is.

A workout room in the old hobby room. A study where my son’s bedroom used to be.

Each bedroom reconfigured. Strange large paintings on the walls. New bathroom fixtures and shower curtains.

Everything that could be changed… was.

They really made it their own. And erased us in the process.

I was surprised by how sad I felt.

Why would I have that emotional response? I mean, it wasn’t my house anymore. We sold it to another family. And they made it their own.

Maybe it just felt like the end of something. Not that we can ever go back in time, nor should we. Life moves forward.

But change is hard. And this was hard evidence of change.

The evergreens in the backyard had been replaced. There was a trampoline near the gardens.

It had all been redone.

Have I been redone? Am I different than I was four years ago? Yes. “Time marches on.”

And so part of me still grieves the move from WI, all these years later. It was the end of an era, of parenting kids at home. The start of our empty nest. Life with just the two of us now. First in FL, now in VA. What would make me think that WI would stay the same? We didn’t.

Visiting the kids

I always thought that my children would move away from home, but never considered that “home” might move away from them…even though this happened to me. Oh, how life repeats itself! My parents moved out-of-state during my sophomore year of college. I had no idea then, but am guessing now that it was hard for them to move far from their daughter.

My husband and I moved to FL two years ago during my son’s freshman year of college, then last year we moved to VA. Kids don’t come “home” for their breaks, because this isn’t home to them. They come to visit Mom and Dad for the Christmas holiday – we get to see them for a week or two then.

In the meantime, we travel to visit them. We just got back from a 5-day trip to Colorado Springs, where our son is interning for the summer. We had a great visit, and explored his new temporary home with him, enjoying Garden of the Gods, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a drive along the scenic Arkansas River, and even the Colorado Springs Rodeo Parade in the downtown.

My husband and I lived out West when we were first married, and so we really enjoyed being back in the red rock mountains.  The whole visit was good, but the best part was just being with our son.

from Garden of the Gods
son and husband, along the Arkansas River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

family graduation photo

A couple of months before that, we celebrated my daughter’s college graduation with the entire family. While it was only for a 3-day weekend, we packed it full of fun and memories.

We’ll see our daughter again in a few weeks at the annual camping trip we take with another family – we’ve been camping with them for 27 years now! This will be the first year without our son, and one of their daughters got married last year, so we’ve added to our group. But again, what I’m most looking forward to is seeing our daughter.

Our visits with the kids are not regular, but do seem to be consistently frequent. The couple of weeks at Christmas, plus these visits we can do in between. I wish it were more, but it’s the way it’s supposed to be. We raise our kids to be independent people, and then they go and do that – be independent!

I can’t help but think that if we lived closer, we might drop by more often. For one of my daughter’s shows, or for my son’s concert, or simply to take them to dinner. But we’ve never wanted to be hovering parents, so maybe this is better in the long run.

husband and me at Pikes Peak, CO

My husband and I are learning to be empty-nesters. Everyone told us it would be a challenge, they just didn’t tell us it would take so long to get used to it! But we are learning to enjoy our time together – just us – and the freedom that offers to see and explore what we want to do. So much of our lives has been about the kids – it’s good to get back to us.

But we still miss the kids.

So we’ll pack our family visits full of memories. And we’ll enjoy our kids all we can while we’re with them.

And I thank God for texting and Skype in the meantime. And visits to Colorado and camping. Good times!