I know it sounds cliché but I’m having a hard time grasping that in matter of hours it will be the year 2020. Where are the flying cars? Where is my robot maid? Sure, I carry a tiny computer in my purse that connects me to anyone anywhere (although rarely by voice), instantly answers any question I can possibly dream up, and contains over 25,000 personal photographs and videos from the past ten years that I can pull up anytime I’m feeling nostalgic, but still. I’m a little disappointed about the absence of that robotic maid.
Now that we’re on the threshold of a brand new decade it’s a good time to reflect on the one that’s ending. How did things change? More importantly, how did you change? As I’ve gotten older, I’m finding that reflecting on the years past is becoming more and more of a prevailing pastime. And while it’s easy to get consumed over the thinning hair, thickening waistline, and the sudden, shocking appearance of wrinkles, veins, and age spots, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to contemplate and dissect the years of life lived. I mean, if pondering counts as exercise, I’m totally in.
A decade of change
For me, the past decade has been about change. Change in my family, change in my role as a mother and a wife, change in my identity, change in my motivation, and yeah, change in my appearance, which *ahem* we obviously will not be discussing.
When the decade started, I defined myself – and my life – by my kids. Everything I did and everything I felt I was was tied to them. In 2010 I had a 14 year old and a 9 year old, and I was thick in the soup of school obligations, taxiing to and from rehearsals, dance classes, sleepovers, and appointments. There was always a meeting to attend, an event to plan, a crisis to avert, a birthday present to purchase, and a meal to prepare and clean up after. Did I have time for anything else? Who knows, but I don’t remember feeling like I was lacking or that anything in my life was lacking. I felt complete. Being a mom was my full time job (had been for years); it was what I knew – pretty much all I knew. I was good at it, and even though I complained (often) about the piles of crap on the stairs that never got put away or the endless sink of dirty dishes to clean, I loved my job.
The biggest event of 2010 was spending our first summer at our cabin, a small lakeside home we’d purchased in the fall of 2009 after we’d spent several memorable family vacations on the same lake. For the first time, we were beginning to feel the sands of time when we looked at our older daughter, and we panicked. We crammed that first summer with magical, memorable moments: swimming off the dock, jumping off the boat, jet skiing, tubing, sunset cruises, biking into town for pizza and ice-cream, fishing, bonfires, moonlight swims, and board games galore. It was perfect, and surprisingly, despite the commitments and responsibilities that came with our growing kids, we’d be able to spend much of the next nine summers together at our little cabin doing the exact same thing.
In 2011 things kept on rolling along much the same way they’d been, except I now had a high schooler and had to start thinking of things like ACT prep and what looks good on a college application as well as listen to everyone tell me – over and over again — not to blink. Again, I was beginning to feel the cruel hands of time and the notion of my daughter growing up and moving out was, while still a bit of a dark, distant cloud in my thoughts, something that was starting to take a scary shape.
Bored and looking for something to occupy my down time and challenge my dormant brain in the early months of 2012, I learned how to crochet via YouTube videos. I was instantly *cough* hooked and filled my family’s pockets with tiny, crocheted hearts and made uneven scarves and lopsided hats for all my girls’ stuffed animals. Why crochet? I have no idea, but I do remember suddenly feeling a visceral need to have an actual hobby, something to do that was an escape from all the mom-things that were beginning to make me feel a bit brain dead.
A change in direction
A month later – still a bit bored but now with cramped fingers as well – I stumbled upon a blog via Pinterest (where I’d been spending way too much time): a ridiculous collection of one lady’s overshares about everything from how she organized her pantry to how she styled her hair. “Hey, I can overshare,” I thought. “And I could make it a hell of a lot more interesting than she did.” So, in the span of about 12 hours on March 2, 2012, I designed and started my own blog. I called it “You’re my favorite today” because that’s what I often told my girls when they did helpful things for me, like empty the dishwasher or refill my wine glass.
YMFT was started as a place to unload all the conversations I had with myself that were cluttering my brain: A place to reflect, overshare about my family, and ridicule the celebrity life I was admittedly obsessed with. More importantly? It was an outlet for me and something I had and did just for myself (even though 99% of my content was about my kids).
I’d always had a propensity for writing and quickly found my voice on YMFT, writing about everything from my husband’s snoring to why summer vacation made my kids sad to a birthday letter written to a much younger me to that time Scott Baio knew I was alive. I wrote every single day, and by October I was publishing on average about 15 posts a month. I loved it and for the first time in a very long while felt like I had a separate purpose.
I had no idea how starting that little blog would change my life.
A change in identity
2013 began with some big news: my writing was going to be included in an actual book! A humorous essay I wrote about how difficult it is to have sex once you have kids was included in a humor anthology called I Just Want To Pee Alone, and I was ecstatic … and more than a little bit in shock. I’d only been writing for a year, and it was astonishing to me how quickly things were moving.
My family was still growing and changing – my girls were heavily involved in theatre and were in rehearsal &/or performances for most of the year – and while I remained involved and available, I now had other irons in the fire – my own fire — and it felt amazing to not only have something of my own that I felt passionate about and find success in, but to have my girls see it as well.
Write, write, and then write some more
In early 2013 I was still cranking out blog posts a few times a week as well as submitting articles to a few websites and feeling like Erma freaking Bombeck when they were published. In May I combined my love of mocking celebrities and my love of The Bachelor and began writing recaps of The Bachelorette on my blog — long, snarky, oftentimes slightly fictional, recaps. People loved them. And by people I mean the roughly 127 who read them regularly. But despite the low page clicks, I loved writing them, even though each recap took around four or five hours to write (see: long).
At the end of 2013 my older daughter began her senior year of high school and my personal writing began to reflect the terrifying time warp I suddenly found myself in. Much of my snarkiness was replaced by heartfelt, often bittersweet essays about my girl growing up and getting ready to leave home. Write what you know, they say, and believe me, I was.
An exciting and surprising change
2014 was insane. It began with more wildly exciting news: an essay I wrote about my husband thinking he wet the bed was chosen to be included in the second Pee Alone anthology (I Just Want to Be Alone) and I was contacted by an editor at Entertainment Weekly (who had discovered my Bachelorette recaps while searching the web) about writing for a new sub-blog on the EW website. “The Community” would basically be recaps and articles about TV shows — old and new — written by superfans. Not only had I been an avid reader of EW since college, but the first show I got to write about each week was Parenthood, a show I was a obsessed with and a TV family I felt a part of. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I couldn’t believe my life.
Writing for EW began occupying a huge part of my time that spring and summer. I also recapped Nurse Jackie (which was fun and made me feel super important because they sent me screener DVDs of the entire season ahead of time) and I was also able to do some cool things like interview an actual television actress (USA Network Satisfaction star Katherine LaNasa) and write fun fangirl articles about many shows and stars I loved.
Write what you know? I can do that
At the same time, my daughter was graduating high school and getting ready to fly out of the nest, and my personal writing took on a new direction as well. In the fall of 2014 I submitted a some letters I’d written for my daughter as she left home to Grown & Flown, a wonderful website I’d just discovered. They published it and I immediately began writing more for them about the things our family was going through during this difficult transition, and even though I didn’t know it then, a wonderful relationship was born.
In the spring of 2014 I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio and not only met inspirational writers but some pretty famous ones as well. I spent a couple of days in classes and left feeling motivated and, I’ll be honest, kind of like a big deal. Flying off to a conference by myself that was for something so non-mothering-related made me feel like a big girl and proud of the direction my life was taking.
You get paid to watch TV? No, I get paid to write about it.
In the late summer of 2014 my editor at EW asked me if I would recap the final season of Parenthood for the main EW recaps page. She might as well have handed me an Oscar. I was completely honored, ridiculously excited, yet also more than a little bit nauseous at the enormous responsibility I knew I had. I took that final season of Parenthood recaps very seriously, and to this day they are some of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
2015 arrived and I was still immersed in my EW writing gig; the series finale of Parenthood aired in January and I felt like I gave birth with that final recap. I was writing for EW constantly – recapping shows like Veep, About A Boy, Secrets and Lies, and pretty much any show Gordon Ramsay was a part of, as well as writing fun, weekly articles on everything from 80s movies sweethearts to which Friends episodes were the best to why Lorelai Gilmore and Sarah Braverman were my BFFs. In April they asked me to recap the two finale shows of Dancing With The Stars, which also ran on People.com (which I didn’t know was going to happen), and I honestly thought I might throw up. It was about this time I began having terrible insomnia and a touch of anxiety. Coincidence? I think not.
I was still writing for my own blog and still (reluctantly at this point) recapping each season of The Bachelor, but the personal posts were tapering off. We were adjusting to our crazy new normal of having one girl in college and the other starting high school, and I felt the sands rushing through the hourglass at a ridiculous pace. I began to feel a visceral need to have things slow the fuck down.
Time for a change
2016 arrived and my time at EW came to an end. I wrapped up by recapping a season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and stepped in to finish the John Stamos show, “Grandfathered” (a show I loved, because Stamos), but due to some editorial changes and personal decisions, I chose to hang up my TV recapping hat. I’ll always be so proud of the all the work I did at EW not to mention completely amazed that I got to do it.
We spent a wonderful week in London in the summer of 2016 and also took fun trips to La Jolla (a spring break girls’ trip with my college girl), Hollywood (with the high school freshman), and, as usual, spent long, lazy weekends at our little lake cabin, which every single summer proved to us to be the best investment we ever made.
In 2016 my older daughter, now a college sophomore, rediscovered her passion for marine biology and switched her major to zoology while my younger daughter continued building her passion for the stage and musical theatre. I continued writing for Grown & Flown and found a real connection with not only the site and its content, but in the friendships I formed with the editors. I was still writing for YMFT (Bachelor/Bachelorette recaps taking up most of the space in the fall and spring) but still used writing as an outlet for my emotional state, especially with pieces like these about my husband and my daughters.
In the fall of 2016, a bit bored and lonely, I spontaneously got a part time job at a nearby clothing store (hey, it was a little bit more social than crochet). Surprisingly – as I’m definitely not a salesperson – I loved it. I loved putting on makeup and cute clothes and getting out of the house and being around the lovely, friendly ladies I worked with. I loved chatting with the nice customers. I loved the employee discount. I loved doing something else so totally different than anything else I’d ever done. I thought the new experience might light a fire under the dying embers of my writing, but it really didn’t. I think I just needed a break.
The well runs dry
2017 arrived and with it an enormous drop off in my personal writing for the blog and for Grown & Flown. I began to feel like the well was dry and I didn’t have anything fresh to say or interesting stories to tell. The energy I’d once felt and put into my writing was, sadly and mysteriously, pretty much gone.
I survived the stress of my older daughter’s study abroad trip which took her halfway around the world for almost five months to Australia where she studied marine science and had amazing experiences like participating in coral reef research on The Great Barrier Reef, as well as grappling with the disbelief that she was only a year away from graduating college.
Meanwhile my younger daughter was lighting up the stage – and flying across it – as Mary Poppins and starting to realize that this passion for performing wasn’t just a hobby but something she wanted to one day support herself by doing, so she began the first steps of research into BFA musical theatre programs. We had no idea the speed that snow ball would soon take.
Change in motivation (that’s okay, too)
In 2018 the personal writing I’d once done for the blog slowed down to basically a complete stop. I’ll be honest, it made me a bit sad, but try as I might I couldn’t find the motivation I once had to tell stories and I didn’t really see the point in it. I mean, who really read them anyway? I felt disappointed in myself, but at the same time didn’t dwell on it. I kind of viewed it at something I’d moved on from.
I was still writing occasional articles for Grown & Flown, however, and in May of 2018 was asked to write more regularly for them. I was so excited and extremely honored, and it felt good to have my writing recognized and well received again. Plus, with my younger daughter about to enter her senior year, I had material.
In the summer of 2018 we began the insurmountable process of helping her prepare for the upcoming six months of auditions for BFA Musical Theatre programs – 18 of them. It was insane and ridiculously overwhelming, but with help from a college audition coach and extreme focus and dedication on her part, she not only survived the numerous applications and pre-screen video auditions that fall, but was accepted into two programs by early December.
My older daughter graduated from college in May of 2018 with a degree in Zoology and began the long process to become a marine mammal trainer with an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. In the fall she learned she’d gotten into the Disney Professional Internship program working with the dolphins and manatees at Epcot and would be moving to Orlando in January.
As for me, I cut my hours at the clothing store by about half, didn’t really write much, and just dedicated my time to soaking in the days and moments with my family living under one roof, as I knew it would most likely be the last time that would happen.
A year of big changes, like it or not
2019 began with a girls’ road trip moving my older daughter from Minnesota to Orlando. What we didn’t know then was that she’d take a second Disney internship in June and would only get to be back home a handful of days in the entire year. My younger daughter spent most weekends auditioning for BFA programs out of state (my husband accompanied her when I didn’t) and by March had narrowed her choices down to two schools.
I was still writing regularly for Grown & Flown (and by regularly I mean about 3-4 posts a month) and in early March was introduced to another Minnesota writer who’d written for them who also had recently started a cool co working space in Minneapolis called ModernWell. In the span of one phone call and then a thirty minute coffee, we clicked. She invited me to join her weekly writing group where I met some of the most inspirational and supportive women I’d ever known. Their passion, excitement, and encouragement lit a (small) fire under the smoldering embers of my writing life and I began to slowly feel the energy I’d lost in the past few years return. It felt good.
I turned 50 in March and spent the morning of my birthday in urgent care with a nasty virus that knocked me out for a week. We visited our Disney daughter over spring break and I got to celebrate by walking off the residual illness approximately 13 miles a day in the Florida humidity surrounded by roughly 25,000 other people, which didn’t bother me a bit because my family was together — something that would only happen a handful of times the whole year.
My baby graduated high school and then we blinked and she was 1,300 miles away in a BFA Musical Theatre program in Connecticut. It was every bit as hard as I imagined it would be. My husband and I took a reverse Babymoon to Cape Cod where we tried to deny the fact that both our girls were grown and flown and that we’d be returning to an empty and very quiet nest. It was fun, but let’s be honest, that sudden emptiness is real, and no quaint Nantucket cottage or bowl of savory clam chowder can erase it.
Changing my mindset
The fall of 2019 flew by in a blur of visits to Orlando (three of them) and Connecticut (two of them) and us learning how to adjust to dinners for two, empty evenings and weekends, and how to accept the reality that from here on our family would only all be together for visits and vacations.
About this time I began thinking about creating a new site (or changing things up a bit on this site) to one with content relating to this new phase in our lives: how life can still be full when the nest is empty — a “nest of possibility” if you will. It’s still an idea in progress, but with enthusiastic support from my writing group (and my husband) it’s one I’m planning to keep on the front burner and toy around with as we move into 2020.
I also took a memoir writing class in the fall and began the (often difficult) process of getting some things out of my head where they’d been taking up too much space for far too long. Coincidentally, I began seeing a therapist at the same time and the synthesis of these things was, while often a bit mentally agonizing, something that also felt fortuitous at this time in my life. Telling these stories is something I’m planning to keep working on going forward. I’m not sure who the audience is or who it ever will be, but at this point it’s good enough — and important enough — for it to just be me.
Bring on more change? Sure, why not?
So, now that the never ending reflection is over, it’s time to wonder what will 2020 bring. I think that if looking back at the past decade is any indication, I can say with certainty I just don’t know. I hope that I will continue to change. I hope I will change in my motivation to not only write new, interesting content, but also accomplish new goals I’m setting for myself. I’m excited to continue the relationship I have with Grown & Flown and hope to develop new connections with other inspirational women I’ve recently met and explore new possibilities in my writing.
In my personal life, I want to keep working on myself — my physical and mental health — and instead of feeling blue about my forever changed family, embrace the shift. I want to grow (but hopefully not any more in my waistline) and be open to new adventures and possibilities. Bottom line? I want to make choices in all areas of my life that I’m happy with, and ones that I’m proud of.
So cheers to a brand new decade.
I’m ready for it.