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Lisa Speers

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Dear 7th Grade Moms & Dads,

With school starting up again, I want to let you in on a little secret…

I know, I know… middle school parents typically don’t get a lot of attention. You are certainly not newbies, and at least one of your offspring is not yet on their way to high school either. 

So, why you?

I am writing to you because it’s time to let you in on a phenomenon that will begin happening six short years from now. 

How do I know? Because without fail, it happens every year. 

No one wants to talk about it, but I guarantee that one day, you will hear the whispers. 

It sneaks up on unsuspecting parents, sometimes seemingly without warning.

You see, sadly, six years from now, soon after these hormone-crazed 7th graders graduate high school, you will begin to hear that “so and so” is getting divorced.

You would never guess by all the happy, smiling family pictures blanketing social media at graduation each spring. It is like a secret—hidden in plain sight.

So why am I letting parents of 7th graders in on this sad reality? 

Because multiple studies have found that “couples typically allow problems and resentment to build up for 6 years before seeking help and beginning to work on resolving their differences and improving their relationship.”

Some of you have told me how “you tried everything.” Especially when addiction, abuse, and adultery wreaked havoc on your family for years. 

You and your kids invested valuable resources and all your emotional energy into helping your spouse with their addictions to no avail. I feel for the families that did not get the results they worked and prayed so hard for. 

But there’s another group of you out there…the ones like me who never think it will be “us” getting divorced. The ones who are so busy living parallel lives as wonderful parents but are not so great at being lovers. It is to you that I hope this message serves as a wake-up call.

These “waited till the kids are out of the house divorces” pain me beyond measure because I know if my husband and I had not sought help twenty years ago for our own marriage, it could have easily been us. 

If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to find ways to reconnect with your spouse now. Do not wait until the kids are out of the house to “deal with this.” I can assure you that it’s not easy to face challenges as a couple, but it will definitely not get any easier if you wait. 

Get the help you know you need before it’s you telling a friend, “I am just done,” as one woman recently wrote to me. “I was tired of being lonely in a loveless marriage.” 

The Gottman Institute, a renowned relationship think tank, notes that “timing is an essential element in whether marriage counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait too long before reaching out for help.” 

Today, you and your spouse have six years before your 7th grader graduates from high school. There is still plenty of time to change the trajectory of your marriage. You may not know how—you may not even be sure your spouse will be on board—but you do have the added benefit of time and, possibly even more important, “awareness” on your side as well. 

If your youngest is in high school or even a senior, I assure you there is example after example of couples who have done the hard work, and their marriages are stronger today because of it. It is only too late if one of you decides it is.

Why do we think we should have all this relationship stuff figured out? 

How many of us witnessed empathic and effective communication between couples growing up? Most likely, not many.

Some of you may have had the added blessing of being raised by parents who seemed to really like each other. Regardless, the chance that they openly discussed their issues and modeled how they successfully resolved them would have been extraordinary. This is not intended to blame, but it does begin to explain each generation’s lack of problem-solving abilities.

So if any of this resonates with you, where do you start?

Based on experience, I recommend starting with a “well-timed conversation.” In the case of my own marriage, I give 100% credit to my husband for bringing up the initial discussion almost twenty years ago. Although we both now agree his tone was a bit off—we can even laugh about it—but his message was painfully clear. Something needed to change, and we could no longer figure it out on our own.

There is never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation, but here are some things to consider:

1. Timing, Tone & Intention are everything: 

  • Find a time when emotions are not running high, and neither of you is stressed out.
  • Use the tone you would be most open to when receiving this type of information. Your tone will significantly affect how well your message is received.
  • Check your intentions. If your desire is to find ways for you both to improve your relationship, then you are off to a great start.

2. Work together with a licensed marriage/relationship counselor. 

  • If your partner doesn’t want to go, you go first. The therapist should be able to help you understand why you each react the way you do and help resolve conflicts. 
  • I realize it is hard to find one; keep trying. I know it’s expensive but getting divorced is much, much more. If you are buying a coffee drink a day—STOP—and most likely, you can divert that expense toward counseling.
  • Ideally, you would each have an individual counselor to work with as well. 
  • If the first counselor isn’t a good fit, try another. It can take a while to find a good match—we’ve had at least five over the years. *Remember, we are all individuals, and none of us absorb information or grow at the same rate—have lots of patience.

3. Three books to consider:

  • How We Love—Book & Workbook— by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. If you are tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues, this one is for you. https://howwelove.com/
  • The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D., is very comprehensive. I highly recommend going through this as a couple or with a group. https://www.gottman.com/
  • The 80/80 Marriage by Nate and Kaley Klemp—This book offers a new, refreshing way to embrace your relationship. It is the “lightest” read of the three. https://www.8080marriage.com/   

4. Three Podcasts to consider:

  • Search podcasts with “Esther Perel”: She is a Belgian-born licensed therapist with a wealth of knowledge on preserving relationships
  • Small Things Often: The Gottman Institute offers relationship tips in 5-minutes or less. Also, search podcasts with “John Gottman.”
  • Tied for 3rd Place: Sexy Marriage Radio, The Naked Marriage, One Extraordinary Marriage, and The Stronger Marriage Podcast.

These recommendations come from my personal experience from my 30-year marriage to my best friend and are intended for educational purposes only. Please do not hesitate to reach out at lisa@evolvingnestwithlisa.com if you have any questions on how my husband and I approached a particular challenge.

My sincere hope for you is to enjoy more friendship, love, and intimacy with your most important person. Love, Lisa

🎊 Starting off the year with an introduction—I have sprinkled this page with bits and pieces about my marriage⛪, family, and myself this last year, but I have never made a bona fide introduction as the creator behind The Evolving Nest. 

Thank you so much for following along! I’m Lisa.✋ I grew up in the days when no one locked their doors and our parents had no idea where we were all day.“Just be home by dinner,” my mom would say. I went to middle, high school, and college all in the ‘80s—graduating from the University of Oregon in 1990. (If you’re a Gen❌er yourself, this alone tells you a lot about me.) 

I am 53 and met my best friend and husband of almost 30 years in college.💘 We have three grown kids—25👦, 21👦, and 18👧—two are in college, and one is working hard. Our oldest has autism🧩; he’s super independent and has the best disposition in the universe. 

Aside from my family—I love sugar-free vanilla lattes☕, travel adventures🌴, lying on the couch with my hubby binge-watching the latest, Jesus, coffee with friends/Girls Weekends, visiting our kids at college, listening to books 📘 while I walk, and connecting with other creators online. My guilty pleasures are eating nacho cheese sauce🧀 and sneaking mini-Reeses cups.

I started The Evolving Nest when our youngest was a junior in high school. (💡If you are nearing empty-nesting, and are thinking about a new venture, I highly recommend beginning something before your youngest leaves the nest.) Yes, it can be scary to try something new. I still find it hard to put myself out there at times, but rewards have been innumerable.🏆

The Evolving Nest is all about discovering YOU 💟. For many of us, it’s more about REDISCOVERING ourselves AGAIN. It certainly was for me, with some nuances that surprised me along the way. 

Our lives are made up of many chapters 📕, and at midlife, we still have exciting adventures to write about. The Evolving Nest is just a catchy way to ask, “What’s next?”

What is your Part Two❓   

This page initially started as a blog to share marriage stories from a variety of perspectives but it has grown and changed over time. (Just like us.😉) I still plan to share stories but also much more about making the most of the years ahead, adventures in empty-nesting, and so much more.

I’ll share tips from my own thirty years of marriage, as well as advice from experts on moving toward your passion, having fun empty-nesting, and keeping the passion alive and well in your marriage.

I hope this page inspires💫 you to better understand yourself, your partner 🥰, and what energizes💥 you to get out of bed each morning. 

Thank you again for joining me on this journey, lisa@evolvingnestwithlisa.com

* I’d love to hear your thoughts about marriage, midlife, and empty-nesting. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, and if you’re a writer or aspiring to be one, I’d love to consider sharing your story on The Evolving Nest—Empty Nesting & More.

Glow-ups are all the rage on social media and certainly make an excellent visual. Search #GlowUp, and you’ll see a plethora of before and after images of people who seem to have conquered their weight loss challenges, and kudos to them. 

I am sure many of them DO feel as amazing on the inside as their outside suggests, but sadly numerous studies conclude, many do not.

So what does this have to do with marriage and empty-nesting? 

EVERYTHING! 

It’s hard to feel great about yourself when you’ve been busy doing everything for everyone in your life—EXCEPT YOU.

As our big kids leave the nest after the holidays, it can be especially hard if our identity has been primarily wrapped up in parenting. Almost overnight, the house becomes eerily quiet and a little bit lonely if we haven’t found other passions to pursue as well.

So, how does it affect our marriages? Well, most experts agree it is challenging to feel completely loved when we don’t feel loveable or at least when we don’t feel like ‘ourselves’ anymore. 

When was the last time you did something for yourself without making sure everyone else was taken care of first? For many of you, it has been way too long.

I love being a mom. I will always be “mom” to my three kids, now 18, 21, and 25, who I enjoy raising with my husband of almost 30 years. We’ve had quite a ride—it hasn’t always been ‘perfect’ but we figured it out, and had a lot of love and laughs along the way.

Even so, somewhere between playdates and PTA meetings, I lost what makes me—“me.” My life felt pretty complete with a wonderful husband (most of the time), great kids (some of the time), good friends (to laugh and cry with), a roof over my head, and two cars in the garage. Still, I felt like a little something was always missing—and honestly, I felt really guilty about it. 

Who was I to complain? Shouldn’t I just be grateful for all I have? What more did I need anyway?

I never stopped being ‘busy’ long enough to think about why I felt something was missing. I didn’t even mention it to my husband (except maybe with little passive-aggressive well-timed grunts here and there)—it was my guilty little secret. Like many GenXers, the thought of asking ourselves how “we are feeling” is like speaking a foreign language.

Friend, I am here to tell you firsthand, if there was any time in your life to learn a new language, metaphorically speaking—midlife is it. 

We have to change our internal dialog and start asking ourselves how we are feeling?
What do we think is missing in our life, or what might light us up again?

God willing, at fifty, we have thirty-five to fifty years left on this earth. If you haven’t asked yourself how you want to spend the remainder of your time yet, now is the time! 

As I began to get back in touch with who I was before I was a wife, a mom, a classroom volunteer, and an auction chair—I started feeling better about myself on the inside. 

It’s a work in progress, but I am more aware of my feelings and continue to ask, “Why am I feeling like this right now?” If this is not something you’ve already been asking yourself, you might try it. 

If you’ve also been wondering what else this season has to offer, here are some questions that might help direct you to discover your own ‘Part Two’:

1. What did you like to do in your teens, twenties, or pre-kids?

2. What would you like to do more if time and money were not an obstacle?

3. When do you feel best about yourself? Serving others or getting lost in an activity or hobby, or both?

4. What do others say you are good at? If you don’t know the answer to this one, ask a few good friends.

5. If you are not currently working outside the home, would you consider it, and what areas might interest you if there were no barriers to entry?

6. Is anything else holding you back from pursuing something new? Fear? Imposter Syndrom? 

7. What are one or two things you would like to add to your life this year that would have the most immediate and positive impact on your life?

A few years ago, I told a counselor I felt like, “I had lost the woman I set out to become in my twenties. I didn’t know who I was outside or being a wife and mother.” 

After asking me many of the questions above and I, not having a clue how to answer most of them, said, “Lisa, interesting people do interesting things. I want you to try something new—anything.” Mentally I repeated…’ interesting people do interesting things.’

What?! I was already doing lots of things. Dang it, I was busy—he kind of ticked me off!

But you know what? He was right. 

So, I started taking a few classes at my local community college, experimented with different types of exercise, joined a writing group, started snow-skiing again, and even signed up for a hip-hop class with friends. I found out I like to write, but you will not find me channeling J. Lo anytime soon.

If you truly don’t have an inkling about what you might like to do. Then, grab a friend and try ‘something.’ An evening with friends painting, creating, and sipping wine is a great place to start. 

Research confirms that learning something new forms new connections and neurons in our brain, giving us a rush of dopamine, aka “the feel-good hormone.” Who wouldn’t like more of that?

Since I’ve started exploring what lights me up and what motivates me to get out of bed each morning—my husband has noticed changes as well. He’s encouraged me to continue my journey and has become my biggest supporter. Feeling better about myself on the inside has also led to greater intimacy in our relationship, which we definitely want to continue to nurture.

We talk more often about what we both want more, or less of, in our relationship. We made a goal to put ‘fun’ back into our lives—spontaneous getaways, dinner with friends, visiting our kids, and finding new activities to enjoy together—some of which were unintentionally put aside in the busyness of life.

My only regret—is not having started my ‘Glow-Up’ sooner. The good news for all of us is that “it is never too late to start something new.” With love, lisa@evolvingnestwithlisa.com

“You’re posting all these stories about empty-nesting, and I haven’t even gone back to school yet—you aren’t really empty-nesters,” joked my twenty-one-year-old son.

As if I wasn’t already suffering from imposter syndrome as a want-to-be-blogger. Now, I was being called out by my own kid—for my ‘𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝘁𝘆 𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵.’

“Well, your sister is fifteen-hundred miles away, doesn’t that count for something?” I tossed back. (I can’t believe I am actually having to justify whether or not I can call myself an ’empty-nester.’)

“Not really,” he shook his head, not giving an inch, “and then there will always be John…”

“Yes, that may be true,” I agreed. John is our twenty-four-year-old son who has autism and still lives with us. He does not want to move out, and we love having him here, so it’s a win-win.

However, at times I do feel like we have a renter upstairs. John has a busy life with work and daily activities, so when he’s home, he likes to retreat to the peace and quiet of his ‘apartment’—“No Visitors Allowed.”

So maybe by some standard, we at least qualify as ‘quasi empty-nesters’?

All joking aside, this is a new season for us, with our youngest having just left for college—I know it is a new chapter in many of your lives as well. For most of us, there have been years of these little bursts of energy swirling through our lives, our homes, and most importantly, our hearts. So after the whirlwind of laughter, late-night snacking, football, soccer and basketball games, tennis matches, and band practice subside, there is most definitely…a void.

Of course, they’ll be back for the holidays—thank goodness. For turkey and stuffing smothered in grandma’s special gravy, their favorite apple pie, and opening gifts on Christmas morning. Sure it’s a magical time, but it’s still not the same as when they lived under our roofs full-time…(insert ‘a sigh’ here.)

Fortunately, in an effort to help me prepare for this new chapter in my life, my mother gifted me with a golden piece of advice a few years ago. She told me to “find something you would like to try, or you would love to do and get started BEFORE your youngest leaves for college.”

And, so I did that just that when I launched this blog, The Evolving Nest—Empty Nesting & More, about two years ago. Maybe for you, it’s not about writing or blogging or podcasting, but I hope you will see this time in your life as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Now, is a great time to rediscover interests you may have set aside while you were raising kids.

Ask yourself–

What did you use to like to do?

What do people ask you to get involved in or compliment you on?

What kinds of books, podcasts, and activities do you gravitate towards?

What lights you up?

What leaves you drained?

“Listen to the whispers,” a friend tells me, because everything you do or decide not to do, is leaving you clues.

I truly believe if we stay open to the possibilities, this season in our lives can be a time of amazing growth, new connections, and beautiful opportunities. The world is waiting-you are never too old, and it’s never too late—to discover who you were truly meant to be.

P.S. Just for the record, my son is back on campus. Maybe now, we can officially call ourselves ‘quasi empty-nesters.’

Two birds in nest

Shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to our daughter on a campus far away, her older brother decided to join my husband and me for a few days of golf, paddle boarding, and relaxing at our cabin in the mountains.

As parents, these are the moments we breathe into with gratitude—when time blesses our hearts.

Soon he will be headed off to school as well, but thankfully at a college less than an hour away. He is close enough to golf 9-holes with us in an afternoon, then grab a bite together, and still make it back to campus in time to hang with his friends for the evening.

As our adult children spread their wings, many parents, like us, are finding unique ways to stay connected with their kids.

Our oldest son, who has autism, has chosen to continue to live with us, and we feel truly blessed. We’ve turned the upstairs into “his apartment.” When we are all home, he comes downstairs to tells us “he loves us,” and heads back up to his sanctuary. Fortunately, he’s very independent and loves his daily routine of work and activities, which keeps him fulfilled and engaged.

I saved the best of our ‘𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵’ for last—my husband.

We. Are. Still. Here. Together.

We built this nest, and we are looking at this next phase as an exciting opportunity—rather than an empty one. We have been intentional about what we would like the next few years to look like, and are excited to experience this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are looking forward to more spontaneous outings, dinner with friends, and a renewed intimacy. We also know, just as we become accustomed to living with two fewer bodies in the house, the holidays will be upon us, and we’ll all be together again.

And isn’t that what is really important? It doesn’t matter if we are all ‘home’ in the same nest or not. We are a family because of our love for each other and because we choose to stay connected no matter where we all live. And that is the kind of nest that will never be empty.

“𝙈𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙨𝙗𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙖𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮, 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙄’𝙢 𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙄 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙠 𝙞𝙩’𝙨 𝙚𝙭𝙝𝙖𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜.” DM’d a reader after I posted a picture about having fun golfing with my husband and some good friends one evening.

Having successfully avoided playing golf for the first 40-some years of my life, asking if, “I really enjoy golf?” Does beg the question.

And the answer is, “Yes—kinda.”

The real reason I golf is because my family golfs. My husband LOVES to golf. Many of my friends play golf. It’s all about connections and a chance to laugh and play together.

Father son golfing
Father and son golfing

My husband told me years ago one of the things he “would like more than anything is if I would learn to play golf well enough to enjoy it with him.” 𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙄 𝙨𝙖𝙮 𝙣𝙤 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩?

Well, I did actually—when the kids were little. The thought of getting a sitter for 4-hours (to play golf) was not on my radar. Even when my husband surprised me with clubs one Christmas years ago, he could not get me out of the course except on a rare occasion.

Today, things are different. The kids are older; they can all fend for themselves, and I want to find ways to spend time with my husband—so I golf. If my husband and kids are going to golf for a few hours and they have asked me to join them—and I choose not to—that’s my loss.

My twenty-something son golfs and our daughter, when she’s home from school, is willing to drive around in the cart with me. It’s a win-win. I get to spend all afternoon with my husband and adult kids, and then we typically enjoy dinner afterward. What a blessing!

The reality is I am not that great of a golfer, but I am learning, and I get a little less frustrated playing the game today than I did have a year or so ago.

Do you know what I do when I’ve swung my club way too many times trying to get that little ball down the course? I pick it up and throw it. It’s called keeping up with the ‘Pace of Play’ so I am not frustrating everyone around me by playing too slow. Whatever works…

I hope by sharing this with you, it will encourage you to try something new. Consider an activity with your spouse, kids, or friends, even if you are worried you might not like it or you won’t be any good. For me, it’s more about creating memories with those I love than whether ‘I really like playing golf or not.’

“I’ve learned…that it’s not what I have in my life, but who I do life with that counts.”-Unknown

My parents, Richard and Susan Reinhart, on their wedding day—1962

Who could have known you would play a pivotal role in an almost 60-year love affair that’s produced 6 children, 6 sons or daughters-in-law, and 13 grandchildren. Goodness, if you hadn’t been at the party that night, I wouldn’t even be here to tell this story…

It was the spring of 1961. Think Mad Men. Dark, single-breasted suit jackets with narrow notch lapels. Crisp white dress shirts, dark ties, and matching slim pants, complete with wingtip dress shoes. 

It was the launch of a new season for Jantzen Sportswear. An iconic clothing and swimwear company and Jantzen spared no expense. As all the salespeople were men, who else would they invite to a new clothing launch at the then renowned Heer’s department store in Springfield, Missouri? None other than the lovely, Miss Missouri.

Fresh out of the Air Force, my dad was eager to start his career as a newly minted Jantzen sales rep—he also was keen on ‘meeting special someone’ who would eventually share his life. Walking into the pre-launch party that evening, my dad had every intention of meeting Miss Missouri. 

The icon Jantzen “Diving Girl”

He spotted her across the room and nonchalantly worked his way in her direction. Looking very Sophia Loren meets Annette Funicello…dark hair, captivatingly-sexy brown eyes, and a figure any woman of the day would envy–my dad made his approach. Minutes into their small talk, he realized this “gorgeous woman” was one of Jantzen’s few female marketing representatives at the time. At that moment, he no longer cared if Miss Missouri was even in attendance. 

Little did he know he would travel all the way from Furstenfeldbruck Air Force base in Germany to Missouri via Oregon only to meet a beautiful woman who had grown up down the street from him in Portland.

There was just one little problem…she had an engagement ring on her finger.

As dad has often recounted, “She wasn’t married yet.” 

So he asked my mother for dinner the next evening…and she accepted. (Which was a little scandalous if I do say so myself.) They both recall having “such a lovely time.” When my dad took her back to the hotel, he made sure to walk her all-the-way-to-her-door. Ironically, in the ultimate plot twist, Jantzen had set my mom up to room with no other than—drum roll please—Miss Missouri.

My dad shrugs dismissively whenever I bring up what it was like to finally meet Miss Missouri? “Well, she wasn’t as good-looking as your mother, that’s for sure.”

Not wanting the date to end and knowing my mother was a devout Catholic, this dapper protestant asked my mom to Mass the next morning…and then to lunch. “I wanted to spend more time with her, and I knew she would want to go to church on Sunday. So, I asked if I could escort her to Mass,” my dad explained with a wink of his eye.

The next day, my mom flew back to Portland, Oregon, with a lot on her mind. For starters, what to do about a fiance. “Such a nice man,” my mom recalls whenever the story surfaces.

A week or so later, my dad flew back to Portland and asked my mom out to dinner—on one condition—she not wear her engagement ring. 

In a daring move, my mom took her engagement ring to the jewelry store to be cleaned, and when the jeweler said, “it would only take a few minutes,” my mom replied, “No worries, I’ll pick it up in the morning.” 

Needless to say, my mom called off her engagement a few days later, and this week my parents celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary—and the rest is history.

-Dear Miss Missouri, thank you. I’m sure you are a beautiful woman, and I hope you have lived a happy life, but still, I’m grateful it wasn’t you who caught my dad’s eye across a crowded room in the spring of ’61. 

Happy 59th wedding anniversary!

With love, your daughter, Lisa (Reinhart) Speers

A few short weeks ago, our daughter was graduating from high school. This morning, we flew her halfway across the country to begin her freshman year in college. Her older brother came out of his room to say goodbye, singing, “Leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when you’ll be back again…” We laughed. It cut the tension we were all feeling.

I woke early. My husband said I snored so he 𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺 kicked me all night. I’m surprised I slept so deeply. Ugh—I’ll have to start using my automated snore pillow again. 

Welcome to midlife!

As I hurried around the house before everyone got up, trying to clean up for ‘who knows why’ while we’re gone, all I could think about is how messy my closets are.

How did they get so unorganized? Why didn’t I organize them when we were in lockdown? I had all that time, and I didn’t get anything cleaned or organized. 𝘕𝘰 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘦 𝘒𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘰-𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦.

I know what I am doing—I am avoiding “it.” 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘰 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴.

I’m avoiding thinking about the giant void my daughter leaves behind. The one filled with infectious laughter and the funny, contorted faces she makes when she springs to life 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙩𝙤𝙤 𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙣𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩.

And the other void where she enters a room at full stride—in mid-sentence—spilling the latest tea. She hates it when I need her to back it up a little, rewind. “Mom, I already told you about so and so…” 𝐼 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤, 𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙 𝑚𝑒 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛, 𝐼 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘 𝑡𝑜 𝑚𝑦𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓.

Noise and commotion also have a way of filling up spaces. My daughter’s girlfriends came over last night to wish her well and keep her company while she packed. I could hear them laughing and stomping up and down the stairs as they helped her load everything into the car for our early morning departure.

Then she yelled, “We’re headed to Taco Bell.” Laughter, chatter, and patter of feet shuffled out the door—then silence. 𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘧𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦.

This is how it will be, quieter, for a while anyway.

Her two brothers are still at home. They will easily fill some of the spaces she has left behind. Their friends will come over, and jokes and laughter will fill the air—the TV will inevitably drone on.

The boys each have their own unique way of filling the spaces in our home. It will be comforting to have them home for at least a few more weeks.

But there are some spaces only a daughter, our only daughter, can fill. The space where she’ll let me hold her when she’s sad and hug her until she pulls away with a snarky, “Okay, now, Mom.” As if I didn’t know I was holding her just past ‘comfortable’ on her hug-o-meter.

It’s a good thing she picked Texas. Texas is a big state with lots of open space—she’s going to need all of it. I can’t wait to hear about all the people she meets, the subjects she studies, and the places she goes.

Facetime, family-group texting, and eagerly awaited phone calls will bridge some of the space between us.

She’ll come home for the holidays. Her laughter will again fill the house. From experience with her older brother coming home from college, I know that some spaces will be forever changed. Still, new and exciting dimensions will continue to be added.

There is no holding her back, even if I wanted to—which I don’t. The world is a big place, and I’m excited to watch how she chooses to fill up her own unique spaces in her life.

With much love to our daughter, Mom XOXO

Lisa Reinhart-Speers at 50-something…

I am turning 50-something…

I am grateful.

I am energized.

And I am optimistic.

I’ve been slowly unraveling lately—letting go. 

Letting go of the illusion of perfection.

When did I adopt this mindset—this burden—and why have I been carrying it around for so long? I’m not sure, but it has become too heavy to lug around any longer.

I feel lighter now. 

I was always striving for what I can now see was an unattainable goal. For years, I’ve been waking up every morning thinking about all the things I didn’t check off my to-do list from the day before, or how I ate too many carbs and didn’t get in enough steps. I’ve allowed that pesky, small voice to whisper in a hundred different ways, “You are not enough.”

I am done. I’m letting go of all this negative self-talk. Finally realizing that I can do great things, just not all at the same time.

I’ll get done what I can today; the rest can wait till tomorrow. I am exercising for me—not to count steps and then feel crappy because I didn’t walk 10,000 steps. I’m flipping the switch. I want to walk those steps to stay healthy, feel better, and to keep up with my active family.

I’m grabbing hold of my life. 

I’m waking up grateful to be alive, healthy, and excited to be here—in the now.

Of course, I still need my caffeine-fix to get going, and some mornings my joints ache. I still have tough days that suck the life out of me, but I am also starting to listen to a kinder voice that has grown loud enough not to ignore. 

It’s gently urging me—You got this! While graciously reminding me that time is precious. Time has a beautiful way of showing us all what really matters. 

I have known this all along, we all know it, but it’s hard to wrap our minds around. We always feel we’ll have more time. Some of us will, but sadly, some of us will not.

So, I’m pursuing my passions and discovering new outlets for my creativity. I look forward to traveling and exploring places I’ve never been—I am excited for the world to open up again.

I am also grabbing hold of my 29-year marriage. I love my husband more passionately and with more depth than I ever thought possible. I didn’t know I could love him more today than twenty-plus years ago. 

We’re focusing on creating more intimacy in areas of our relationship that might have been a bit neglected while we were raising our kids. We are also more mindful of how we communicate our wants, needs, and desires with each other. 

We’re envisioning what the next phase of life might look like as our youngest heads off to college. We are asking ourselves, “how do we want to ‘fill our nest’? Especially since our nest might look slightly different as our oldest son, who has autism, will continue to live with us. We know that sometimes it may be just my husband and me, but there will be three of us more often than not.

We are also considering with whom we want to spend our precious time? This is an important question. Of course, we hope our two adult children will continue to come home to visit, and they are always welcome to stay awhile. We miss not always being together.

We enjoy spending time with family and friends who support one another and lift each other up. This is what makes life interesting—deep conversations around topics that really matter. We don’t always get to see our friends and family who are scattered across the country, but that only makes getting together so much sweeter.

Turning fifty-something has been surprisingly good to me. I’m enjoying this unraveling of sorts—this letting go—while still holding on tight to what’s really important to me.

“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at The Evolving Nest is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @The Evolving Nest

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