My Empty Nest Syndrome: The Epilogue

Monday June 5, 2016 11:17 am
Thousand Oaks, California

don't cry because it's over


Truth or Consequences at The Nail Salon


“Honey, you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes”

-The Eagles

“Lyin’ Eyes”

Monday, May 30, 2016  5:20 am
Thousand Oaks, California

There was a time in the not too distant past when simple questions asked were very hard to answer.

Where just the anticipation of being posed questions about my kids kept me here, at home, preferably on the terrace, where it was safe, predictable and the population was limited to me, The Dude, Schwink and familiar inanimate objects.

It was purely my choice not to go into a world, as I began recovering from The Empty Nest Syndrome, and dealing with the fallout of the resulting eight years that followed,to face questions I didn’t have answers for yet. I trusted that time, the process of recovery and God would fill in those blanks. And that the best thing I could do was wait and say nothing at all.

One of my favorite notes from the emptied nest files is a little story called “Truth or Consequences at The Nail Salon” and it goes something like this.

As a Graceful Recluse, few things could lure me further than my mailbox or the trash bins, a rocket run to the library with The Dude not withstanding, than an occasional manicure and a pedicure with Schwink. And so, once upon a Saturday, early on in my recovery, there we were; Schwink and I, at the nail salon, side by side in vibrating, massaging chairs, having our hands and feet expertly stroked, rubbed, aromatherapied and hot rock massaged. We were practically catatonic when reality murmured its way in via the soft voice of Katrina The Nail Tech.

“So”, she asked, as she kneaded a warm, oil-covered stone along the bottom of my foot (who knew I needed a hot slippery rock to be pressed into the bottom of my foot so badly?), “How many children do you have?”

Instantly, I snapped to attention. My eyes, formerly slits of pleasure, assumed The Deer-In-The-Headlights Formation. My hands gripped the vibrating, massaging chair. My mind, which had been emptied, flooded with warning bells and flashing lights and all kinds of furious sounds.

I do believe I heard a trumpet playing reveille.

“How many children do you have?”

Such a simple question. With such an obvious answer.

But not really. Not anymore.

Over the preceding eight years, there were times when months had passed without any communication from the kids at all. Their choice. And mine, following wise professional advice, was to stand down, to “let them do their work”.

They needed space and time.

Making that space and waiting were two of the toughest, and best, mom things I’ve ever done.

In the meantime, the question was a land mine. The answer required careful vigilance. To respond was to step onto one of those mines, which would then explode into a million more questions about my children-none of which I wanted to answer.

The strategy was obvious: don’t step onto the mine field.

Or lie. Which I really don’t do. Primarily because it’s wrong and goes against every standard, value, moral and principle I esteem, both in myself and others. And also because I’m pretty much constitutionally incapable. Born that way. Not only can I not hide my lyin’ eyes, I also cannot hide my lyin’ entire body.

Katrina, Katrina, Katrina.

Karina The Nail Tech and her hot-oiled rocks.

Katrina The Nail Tech and her hot-oiled rocks and her questions.

I glanced at Schwink, in her vibrating massaging chair next to mine. She was in a vegetative state and clearly useless, being kneaded and massaged with hot-oiled stones by her own Nail Tech. Who was humming quietly to herself and not asking questions.

Suddenly, I became inspired, remembering how Schwink, a Four Star General on the Socializing Battlefield if ever there was one, deftly maneuvers her way in one-on-one conversational combat. Using her strategy of answering a question with a question, I turned back to Katrina.

“How about you,” I asked smoothly, dodging her query about my kids with a query about hers,”Do you have children?”

“One”, she smiled proudly “A son. What about you? How many children do you have?”


Katrina, you bitch.

I looked over at Schwink again and this time, Schwink was looking at me. I knew she knew what was going on. That she’d registered my Deer-In-The-Headlights and, despite still being largely clueless, was waking up to the rocket’s red glare.

The question hung in the fragrant spa air.

Katrina looked up at me, her eyes soft and curious, her slippery, warm hands kneading my feet.

Schwink’s face was tense and on mine, her brows furrowed with worry.

A beat passed. And then another.

I kept my eyes locked on Schwink’s.

And then it came to me.

I knew exactly how to answer Katrina’s question without stepping on a land mine. And without a lie.

I relaxed, gave Schwink a slight “I got this” nod and said:

“My friend has two children”.

Schwink blinked. “I do?”

“You do”, I said, settling back into my vibrating, massaging chair.

“She does?”, Katrina, kneading, turned to Schwink. “How wonderful! How old are they?’

Mission. Accomplished.

Happy Trails


“Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home. 
-John Howard Payne
Saturday, May 21, 2016 5:56 am
Thousand Oaks, California

Disclaimer: I’m not complaining.

(Although Schwink says when you say you’re not about to do something, you’re going to do exactly the thing you say you’re not about to do. I’m about to prove Schwink wrong. Which isn’t, I’ve learned in 100+17 years of friendship, an easy thing to do. This time, however, I shall prevail ).

Some people get to take vacations and some people get to stay home and meticulously adhere to three pages of single-spaced, typed instructions on how to care for their cat.

Guess whose the former and whose the latter this morning.

And I don’t even like cats.

I do, however, like home.

A lot.

That is Reason Number One I am not complaining.

As I write this, my friend GordoDarls and The Mrs. are being Roadrunnered to LAX for a flight that will wing them on a vacation to New York City (Schwink’s favorite destination, her Darling City). The Dude and I will be on above mentioned Cat Beat for the next 10 days. I must say, this particular 17 year old honey colored feline, Bandit, is lovely. As far as cats go. Not that I would necessarily know a lovely cat from an unlovely cat. As I said, not a cat person. Or any kind of animal person really. Not counting my love of The Bunny, which is that and only that; a love of The Bunny. In a Bunny Appreciation kind of way. I would never own one. I wouldn’t want to own any living thing that respirates. I feel fairly sure that my days in the care, feeding and disposal of fecal matter of other living things have come to an end. Not bitter. Not jaded. Just…done. (Since The Badass Bunny isn’t likely to have any, La Belle and Beau’s children, I’ve decided, will be the exception to this rule. But don’t think a blood test for veracity won’t be required. Because it will. And once said grandchild’s authenticity is verified, it’s a limited time offer sort of thing. Two, three months max. Four at the absolute most. And that’s only in the case of conscription or overseas employment. Or if La Belle asks.)

Reason Number Two that I’m not complaining is that having traveled both domestically and internationally, I’ve seen all the pretty places. And I loved it. Every single second. I’m a fearless traveler and the thought of experiencing the wonder and excitement of new and different vistas, sights, sounds and experiences calls to me. I have an epic, grand and insatiable wanderlust.

Just not now.

Reason Number Three I am not complaining is that I am, by choice, a Graceful Recluse. (More about this later. More about everything later). (Promise). I leave the house under duress. These happy days, going to the mailbox constitutes an outing. A trip to the library with The Dude? That’s a calendared event. This sometimes worries La Belle and The Bunny, but I assure them that all is well. There’s very little out there that’s not in here and if you spent an afternoon here on the terrace with me, you’d understand why I’m such a happy little Pearl in her clam.

Reason Number Four has to do with Reason Number Three.

It also requires a Metaphor Alert.

A good part of the reason I’m happy at home is because The Fateful Eight is a vacation I’m still unpacking from.

Where I’ve been the last eight years wasn’t exactly a restful, rejuvenating sojourn, but it was definitely a motherfucking trip. Not all vacations are about having “a blue drink on the white sand” (that’s another fine “Mad Men” quote right there. Season Six, Episode One. John Slattery in his role as “Roger Sterling” said that and I think we can all agree he pretty much got the best lines in that gorgeous series. This is a fine example. In fact, that’s why this happened:

I digressed. That will happen on certain subjects, “Mad Men” being chief among them. And books. And how much I love “Vanity Fair” magazine.  And also do not get me going on Harley-Davidsons, New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde and how feminist rhetoric over the past 45 years has, ironically, more than any other single factor, contributed to the devaluation of women and the breakdown of the family structure in America.

“Happy” and “Home” are still two words, individually and when put together, that are still relatively new to me in my recovery from The Empty Nest Syndrome. This life I have to make feels very much like a wonderful vacation to me after the past eight years and all the unhappy places I visited, the unpleasant things I saw, the bitter pills I tasted, the awful experiences I, and as a result, those I traveled with, experienced.

And while it’s true that I’m still unpacking, I can finally see the bottom of the suitcase.

I’m fine with my terrace and my mailbox and the occasional outing to the library or Whole Foods Market.

And I love when my family and friends travel and I get to hear about their adventures. Recently some friends sent me photographs from a very solitary and quiet vacation they’re taking at a desert casita in Arizona. Breathtaking, they were. My friend George shared in his email that there were colors in a sunset he and his wife saw one evening that they’d never even seen, shades and hues of pinks, purples and oranges that they never even knew existed.

I think that’s what I love most about travel. Discovery. That feeling of awe and wonder and expansion that comes when you get to experience something new. You just feel a little…bigger…in what you know about the world. Then you did the moment before.

I feel that way here, at home, on my terrace. That there is so much more I get to discover and know, right here, in this life I have to make.

Fifth and Final Reason I’m not complaining? Bandit the cat is very soft and fluffy.


Dear Anderson Cooper


“Forward is the direction of real life”

-Cheryl Strayed

Brave Enough

Thursday, May 19, 2016  6:40 am

Thousand Oaks, California

That Anderson Cooper.

No wonder he’s Anderson Cooper.

I may just write a swoony love letter and sign it “Love Forever, Pearl.”

Or put his picture in a silver (Tiffany) frame and gaze dreamily upon his square-jawed, polished and aristocratic handsomeness.

I wonder what The Dude would have to say about that?

Knowing The Dude, who tends to be a little on the Absent Minded Professor-ish side of life, it would probably take him a good two to three months to even notice. And when he did, I would not be one bit surprised if he joined me in my sophomoric sapioromance as one of the many things The Dude and I share is Smarts Appreciation.

And Anderson Cooper is one lit bulb.

This is not an unknown fact.

Not only is he a standout in his chosen profession of journalism, Anderson Cooper is also a best-selling author, actor and model who looks so good doing all of this he’s made not only national best-dressed lists, but international ones as well. And won nine Emmy awards. And was People Magazine’s 2005 Sexiest Man Alive.

Who’s your daddy NOW?

Anderson Cooper is also a kick-ass son. He just co-authored the New York Times nombre une best-seller  The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss  with his 91 year old mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. Schwink bought me a copy last weekend in San Luis Obispo (knowing me for 100+17 years, she knew it was the quickest and most efficient way to get me out of Barnes and Noble. I can literally spend days without food, water or relieving myself when in a bookstore or a library. It’s called Dromedary Mode and I go there when I smell a lot of books. It’s instinctual. I can’t help it.) (More on this later. More on everything later.) (Promise). Anyways, it’s a lovely read-historical, touching, inspiring and funny. I’m nearly at the end so I am savoring each and every clearly and authentically heartfelt word shared between Anderson Cooper and his mother. And I’m so happy and I’m so glad, just as I was when I saw their simple, elegant and deeply moving documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid”, that both of these filthy rich and priviliged individuals didn’t miss the yacht on the mother-son relationship.

So to speak.

I’m being very serious here. Because money can’t buy everything. If it could, Mr. Anderson Cooper 360 and/or his mother, Ms. Gloria Vanderbilt, would have sent the butler out for an open, honest, close and loving relationship years ago. But they didn’t. They worked on it, together, over their lifetime as mother and son. And, before the opportunity passed to capture what only comes along only once for both of them, they did just that.

And…now I’ve got myself all choked up on Happy Tears.

In an earlier blog (Dia de los Muertos ) I wrote about a life-altering pearl of wisdom I received from Anderson Cooper. It had to do with sharks and how they have to keep swimming forward, filling their gills with water, in order to stay alive.

The pearl of the pearl being the word “forward”.

I got to share this newfound bit of wisdom with The Badass Bunny last night in a phone conversation we had. And, as a recovering wife and mother who is stringing together a strand of pearls of her own, there is nothing more wonderful, I got to learn, than sharing one with your daughter.

For such a long, long-ass time during The Fateful Eight (the years I spent struck and stuck by The Empty Nest Syndrome) I had no idea how to move forward. I moved around a lot. I just didn’t really go anywhere. I created a tremendous amount of chaos, havoc and mess. And basically stayed stuck. Which is a paradox, moving around and staying stuck, if ever there was one.

I’m not proud to say this and I’m really glad it’s over, but I’m pretty sure that I just spent eight years of my life being The Mother of All Paradoxes.

Yay. For. Me.

It wasn’t until I began to move forward, like my new friend the shark, that this life I have to make began to be made. That “The Fateful Eight” Volume ended, found its place in the Encyclopedia Britannica of my life and I began a new Volume, the one I’m now writing (literally, figuratively, metaphorically and in every other gee-dee way).

I’m very full of thankfulness this morning to be moving forward at last.

And to Anderson Cooper for his bit of shark wisdom, which has not only become a pearl on my strand, but has proven to become my very badly needed compass as well.

A strand of pearls and a compass that points in the direction of forward. Not a bad start in this life I have to make. Not a bad start at all.

For a girl who not so very long ago, who weighed 98 pounds and was mostly dead from sad.

So I guess it’s not really a love letter I’d write to Anderson Cooper, so much as it is a thank-you note.

But I’d still sign it “Love Forever, Pearl.”

No Fresh Hell


Wednesday, May 18, 2016  5:13 am

Thousand Oaks California

Sometimes, for me, recovery happens in a moment.

The moment, when you’ve put the downstairs to bed and come upstairs, knowing what comes next-reading in bed with The Dude, goodnight kisses, lights out and sleep-and that actually happens.

The moment, in your softly lit bedroom, night settling quietly and peacefully around you, when you realize-nothing happened again today.

And the moment your still “not-looking-for-trouble-but-expecting-it-heart” okays the thought of how great that is. And then moment that follows that moment, when you breathe, gratefully, and think: no fresh hell today.

No upsetting phone call, voicemail, email, text, post, Tweet, Dribble  or otherwise one-sided, impulsive, digitized sharing of thoughts. No disturbing news. Not a single bell rung, no “you-might-not-want-to-look-at-this-one” clip from the unpleasant highlight reel of your past. No terse words, defensive stances or tense moments. Not once did you find yourself at an indecisive crossroads or did an unfortunate past decision throw up an unexpected consequence. A day free of regret and remorse. A whole 24 hours without a moment’s unhappiness, not a single tear shed. It wasn’t your fault, today. Not even once did an “I’m sorry” leave your lips.

No. Fresh. Hell.


Perhaps there was.

Maybe there was a toad in the road.

A toad in the road is a lot like a bump in the road. Only it’s a toad. I don’t know why. It’s just what I call life’s unexpected, unforeseen obstacles. The upsetting news, the flashback that rings a bell, the tough decision to make, a difficult moment or a challenge to rise to. Perhaps you had a moment’s unhappiness. Perhaps you had an hour. Maybe you Ugly Cried.

Either way, fresh hell or none, it’s a win.

Because you did it, before, during and after, differently than you would have before you stepped onto your path of recovery.

These are the moments I keep to myself, moments that I realize that my recovering as a wife and mother is paying off. When the cumulative effect of day after day after week after week after month after month after year after year of first discovering, then remembering and now living this newfound wisdom, post full-time wife and motherhood, is becoming the life I am making.

When I feel like I am finally getting somewhere.

Where I say no thank you to drama and so there is no chaos. Where peace prevails over anxiety, and calm  soothes frantic all the way away. Freedom isn’t just about nothing left to loose, but about everything to gain and choices present in bright, sunny rooms that were previously shut tight; their doors gently swing open, waiting for me to step in and discover.

Where “perfect” and words like it have outlived their uselessness and I’ll take a word like “better” instead, please and thank you.

Because I’ve learned a very important thing, in this life I have to make, and that is this: better is better…for better or worse.

Given my illustrious (albeit voluminous and dubious) marital history, I would say that, wouldn’t I?