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Full Nest - The Night Before:

  • Run to Fiske's General Store to get school supplies. Shucks, I forgot the grade 2 list! No worries, they have it all on file.

  • Zoom to the grocery store to get something for their lunch. Stand in line #34 at the deli counter with other anxious kids and moms. #25? 26?

  • Rush home. Make a quick dinner on the fly.

  • Pick out clothes, organize backpacks

  • Bathe kids, into pajamas, tuck into bed. Ahhhh….

  • Anxious little students need glass of water. Tuck into bed.

  • Can’t sleep. Tuck into bed.

  • Read them a story. Tuck into bed. Tip-toe out.

  • Finally asleep.

  • Empty Dishwasher. Change laundry. Answer email.

  • Lay down. Can’t sleep- thinking of all the “to dos”

  • Doze, awaken, doze, awaken...

  • Pass out.

Empty Nest- The Night Before:

I decide to stop in Superette on way home from work.

Hmmmm…What shall we put on grill for dinner?

I listen to John Mayer’s “Stop this Train” on my way home. Feeling sentimental as I see the mom’s hurrying across the cross walk with their kids to Fiskes.

Right… Back to school tomorrow. I forgot.

Stop this train I wanna get off and go home again I can’t take the speed it’s moving in I know I can’t, but honestly Won’t someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older I’m only good at being young So I play the numbers game to find a way To say that life has just begun

I pour myself a glass of wine and slow roast the potatoes while waiting for my husband.

We relax in the family room, watching “Chronicle”, sipping wine, enjoying a leisurely dinner, catching up on the day.

We mention the kids and wonder how they are doing.

“Wonder if they have any plans for Labor Day?” I say, “Maybe we could see if they can come for a cook out?”

“I think the boys are busy, “ Scott adds, “and Erica is moving.”

“Guess we got to call ahead these days.” I remember. We both laugh and smile.

Our usual late night, starry walk fills us up. The moon is full, crickets serenade and a slight cool breeze hints that fall is here. We see lamps flicking on in the neighbor's window.

Restless kids, I bet.

Full Nest - The Morning of:

  • Alarm goes off at 6:00. Kids already restlessly moving around.

  • Dog needs walking.

  • Throw on some sweats, splash water on face, clip up hair.

  • Husband can’t find his shirt.

  • Kids up and getting dressed. Son limping with one shoe on as he looks for the other.

  • Into the kitchen. Quick bowls of cereal for all. Noisy sips of juice.

  • Momma… Can you tie my shoes? Please?

  • Make 3 lunches and pack into new zippered thermal lunch bags. Which kid picked the Ninja Turtle one again?

  • Oh my gosh… milk money! Where’s my change?

  • Everyone dressed? Slide brush through daughter’s hair and quickly clip with a barrette.

  • Dog lapping his water bowl, spills on floor. Paper towels.

  • Look at the clock.. “Got to leave in 5 minutes!”

  • “Have a nice day honey,” Dad offers with a quick wink and a smile.

  • Run through checklist. Have they got everything?

  • Glance at clock. Oh no… Are we gonna miss the bus?

  • “Lets go!” Leash on dog, cell phone in pocket, fumble for keys.

  • 3 kids, a dog and a mom squeeze out the door. Chattering excitement.

  • Brisk walk to corner. “Stay together now, and watch for cars.”

  • Rumble of bus in the distance. Are we there in time? See neighbor and her kids waiting there. Steaming coffee in hand.

  • Ok were on time. Won’t miss bus.

  • Whew. Slow down pace.

  • Kids skip ahead to see their friends. Mom’s converse. Cell phone camera freezes moments for Facebook.

  • Dog’s sniff. Sound of lawns mowing. Sun streaks through the trees as the yellow bus appears in distance.

  • Brakes squeal. Bus stops. Bi-fold door slides open. Smiley bus driver reassures.

  • Kids see friends and leap on to bus. 1st steps too high for littlest, require a helping hand. Our big send-off over too quick. Did I give him a kiss?

  • Tears well up in eyes. (Mom’s not kids.) Door slides closed. Each guardian closely surveying the line of windows as kids walk down aisle and plop into bus seat.

  • Smiling face up against window. Erratic waving from each side of glass.

  • A pause while bus driver asks everyone to sit down.

  • Puff of exhaust and the bus rumbles to next stop.

  • Hands in air still waving.

  • Tears still streaming.

  • Pause of quiet as bus goes out of site.

  • Turning to each other, sharing of emotion, exhaustion and laughter, as the coffee in the mugs go cold.

  • Dabbing at eyes. Glad I have my sunglasses on.

  • “Have a good day,” I mutter.

  • The dog’s tail wags in happiness and his tags jingle as I turn back home.

  • Step by step an interesting mix of emptiness and relief creeps in and more tears flow. Rattle of key in the lock. As door slides open, the dog is unleashed and I pause.

  • The quiet is deafening.

  • It seems like forever till you will be at the bus stop again.

Empty Nest - The Morning of:

Six o'clock alarm dings. I hit snooze and decide to sleep a little longer.

Stretching, I slip on my robe and greet the kitties meowing for their breakfast.

On way up the stairs , I glance toward the back windows and see the preschool photos of my kids lined up on the end table. They are among my favorite. Black and white, sort of vintage in feel, capturing my children at their sweet innocence. I reach for the middle silver frame and pull my son Mark’s picture up and need to remove my glasses to really take a look. My eyes feel wet as I remember his sweet voice, rolling eyes when he was embarrassed and tender heart.

Memories of the first day of school flood back. I smile as I recall following Jared’s bus to school that first day of kindergarten. Not because I needed to, but because it was so hard to see him go. My first son, no longer a baby, but joyfully stepping up on the bus with a backpack bigger than he was. Not looking back, only forward.

Jared's first day of Kindergarten

A mixture of embarrassment and anxiety faded as I arrived at his school and see several other mothers who have followed the bus too. All of us needing reassurance that our children really did get to kindergarten.

We crouch stealthily behind our cars, large vintage video cameras rolling. I see Miss Parker greet the kids at the bus. Jared and the other kids follow her like sheep after a shepherd down the sidewalk and into the school, disappearing into the hallway. I wipe the tears from my eyes and head home - 1:00pm seems days away. I miss my sweet boy.

Jared is nearly 38 now… Where has the time gone? A grown man with a home, a wife, three daughters and a dog of his own. Once in a while, I surprise him and put one hand on each side of his scruffy face and see just for a moment the blue eyes of my little Jared, in his teddy bear over-alls just wanting a hug and kiss.

Once in a while when it’s good It’ll feel like it should And they’re all still around And you’re still safe and sound And you don’t miss a thing ‘til you cry When you’re driving away in the dark

My precious grown up son, Jared and I

The warmth of my mug invites a sip and I glance out the kitchen window to see the yellow bus squeal to a stop. Eager children leap on the bus after quick kisses. Mothers and fathers search the windows for a glance at their child as it pulls away. Hands outstretched, erratically waving goodbye. Life has come full circle. I miss those days. Oh… to go back for a moment and relive those those crazy, hectic, precious mornings.

Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand I tried my hand John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train.

Enjoy "Stop this Train" by John Mayer and have a good cry at:

:) Cathy

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On this Grandparent's Day, I remember not only my own grandparents, who I love and miss terribly...but the many precious ones I have adopted over the years. My husband, granddaughters and I are richly blessed to have known and loved them. Here are a few of my favorite photos.

Cathy and Hadleigh Stenquist and Don LaRoche

On this warm winter stroll, Don was so proud remember his pitching days,

hitting the small tree outside with some snowballs

Phil fixing his friend Don's coffee just how he knew Don liked it.

L-R: Carolyn, Me, Don, Phil and Vinnie

Me and my dearest friend, Carolyn

Gladys meets Hadleigh

Carolyn, Hadleigh and I

Hadleigh visiting her friend Barbara and Silvia on Halloween.

Carolyn and Baby Hadleigh.

L-R: My dearest friends Tom and Scotty on one of our many visits with Hadleigh.

Our last visit with Tom.

New friends!

Tom loved to buy Hadleigh a strawberry ice cream.

L-R: Me, Tom, Scott and Carolyn

Hadleigh telling her adopted grandmother, Carolyn she loved her.

Look at this photo...

The kind of precious love that can grow between strangers

is what adopting grandparents is all about.

We miss you all more than I can say

and are better for having know and loved you all.

Happy Heavenly Grandparents Day!

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Yesterday, step by step, He led me to just where he needed me.

  • My husband and I were supposed to leave to go on a walk right away, but we found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest.

  • Instead of taking our usual walk around the block, we decided to drive to the rail trail.

  • Of all the paths on the rail trail, we took the the one that lead to the Shrine.

  • Along the way, we were delayed because a large branch was precariously hanging over the trail, and I stopped to email someone about it.

  • Further down, we decided to take a different route off the trail than we normally do.

  • When we visit the Shrine we never stop, but follow the path right through. Because I saw the crucifix and needed to pray for a friend, I said, "Let's sit a minute,"

  • Of all the benches, we sat on the one near a chapel filled with candles lit in prayer.

If any one of these things had not happened,

I would have missed her.

The crucifix at Fatima Shrine

On the grounds of the Shrine, there are little chapels with a stained glass image of Christ, where you can light a candle for a special intention. Sitting there quietly on the bench I saw a woman exiting the chapel.

Many heartfelt prayerful intentions.

"Beautiful day, isn't it?" I offered.

She forced a weak smile as she glanced over at her shoulder to me and shrugged. I could feel her heart and see her sadness. I couldn't help but watch her as she walked away. There was something that tugged at my heart, urging me to reach out.

I watch for another minute feeling a connection to the complete stranger. Walking slowly down the path, she reached in her pocket pulling out a tissue and began wiping her eyes.

"I'll be right back," I said to my husband.

I walked briskly to catch up with her, all the while wondering what I was going to say. When I was a few feet away, I said, "Excuse me." She turned around wiping those same eyes, brown and wet with sadness.

"Are you okay? I couldn't' help but see your sadness when you left the chapel." Barely able to speak because of emotion, her shoulders softened and she cried, almost as if she needed some one to notice and ask. She nodded her head yes, and began to cry.

"I don't speak good english... My mother," she sputtered..."in the hospital. I come to pray."

"I'm so sorry that your mother is ill, " I said, " I understand how you are feeling, My mother just passed after a long illness. It is so hard."

My precious mother, Nancy.

"I believe in God so much. I know He is with my mother," she said.

"I believe in God too," I said. "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.' I think He brought us both to this place for a reason. Would you like to pray for your mother?"

"Oh, yes..." she said.

Closing her eyes, she lifted her hands and face up to heaven and took in every word that I prayed. When I was done, we both stood there crying for a minute.

I asked her what her name was and gave her mine.

"Is it alright if I give you a hug?" I asked.

Without a word, she reached out her arms. And there, on a quiet path in the holy shrine, two complete strangers were strangers no more. I could feel her relax in my arms; Hours? Days? Weeks? of pent up worry and sadness melting away.

"Cathy you are my angel, Thank you. Thank you." she said over and over again.

I told her I would continue to pray for her and her mother this week, and watched her turn and walk away. As I headed toward the bench, tears of gratitude flowed. I headed directly to the same chapel where she had a lit a candle for her mother and fell to my knees.

The chapel with the bench to the right where I sat.

"Thank you God, "I prayed, "Thank you for all the little things that delayed me this morning so I could be just where you needed me: for the baby bird, the right path, the hanging branch, the fork in the road, the peaceful bench that called to me all so I could be your hands and heart to another.

I truly believe that opportunities like this for a bit of compassion and kindness are all around us. What a wonderful world it would be if we keep our hearts open to where God needs us; To simply offer a smile and some compassion- like a ladle of cold water from the well - to quench what we all thirst for most days.. kindness, compassion and connection.

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A Little Bit of This & That

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