Empty Nest Prepper

Image taken at Luna Liquida Hotel, Puerto Vallarta

I am married to a doomsday prepper. Our basement is filled with vats of powdered emergency food stuffs, oxygen bags, industrial outdoor gear, large plastic containers of water, hazmat suits, and more. There’s even an ice pick hanging on the wall, which he used for mountaineering with a friend, but I’m pretty sure that it’s part of his apocalypse arsenal. He’s researched generators and studied blueprints for bunkers. At one point he ordered numerous books on urban farming and off-the-grid how-to manuals in case the internet ceased to exist. This survivalist mentality started decades before the pandemic was even a sniffle in our collective nostrils.

It’s hard to explain, but this quality is both disturbing and endearing to me. I don’t subscribe to the intense fear that drives prepper-ism, but I’m a planner by nature so I get it.

In fact, I’ve been doing my own doomsday prepping these days. My particular doomsday is tied to K’s imminent transition from high school to college. In the fall, she’ll be flying from the Pacific Northwest coop and going to the Midwest — Chicago to be exact — which feels so far from Seattle. My identity is unapologetically ensconced in motherhood, and since she is my one and only child, things are about to get funky for me.

My new identity will be as an empty nester. It’s interesting: K reported that according to her psychology teacher, empty nesters are the happiest people. I’m willing to consider that as a possibility, but I’ll have to go through a stage of deep grief first. For the last almost eighteen years, I have been perpetually tracking and managing her schedule, strategizing what to feed her, analyzing her needs and wants. There will be a giant hole in my brain and heart when the tracking and strategizing and analyzing become unavailable and obsolete.

How am I prepping? For one, I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating about who I am and who I want to be without mothering at the forefront. Sure, I’m a wife and daughter and sister and friend and creator of books and sewing projects and such, and these will continue to be important roles. And it’s not as if I won’t have any maternal duties once K is off to college. I don’t have definitive answers yet, of course, but I’ve been dreading/enjoying the contemplation. I also often wonder whether I’ve equipped my daughter with sufficient life skills. And I worry that I’ve saddled her with my neuroses. Only time will tell.

I’ve been continuing to purge as well. As I’ve mentioned M and I may or may not move when she leaves, but I’m preparing nonetheless. K and I went through the bins with her childhood toys and stuffed animals and clothes. Oh, the clothes! Remember the hundreds and hundreds of garments I sewed? We’ve kept only a handful. I am ridding the collection of cookie cutters from the days when I used to make cute pancake shapes (insane, now that I think about it). We have dozens of volleyballs from all the camps and teams she participated in. Do we keep any? A deluge of emotions…and at the same time, liberating.

How could she have been so little! And oh, she was clearly meant to be a musician…

I’m in the thick of prepping, and I may have more to say later but for now I’m going to make a list of all the other items to tackle: K’s schoolwork from kindergarten to high school; her music paraphernalia (what should we do with her piano?); her room! Will I finally stop sewing in my bedroom and use her room as a studio? Or maybe it would be a moot point if M and I move. He hasn’t quite let go of the mobile home idea, but is keenly interested in boat-living now. I’m not on board, pun intended. Not the least of which because I get seasick.

Anyway. Empty nest prepping. It’s happening. If you’ve gone through it, I welcome any words of wisdom and anecdotes of the experience! 

Empty nests and flying the coop reminded me: have you ever seen a peacock take flight? It’s startling and not as graceful as I expected. Quite shocking in its blustery-ness, to be honest. I guess all those feathers are somewhat cumbersome…

In other news:

  • Sashiko’s. Stitches releases on April 2nd!! Pre-orders are available wherever books are sold. I’ll share some behind the scenes next time.
  • I’m starting on a new book, so I will be in focus mode for the next few months. I may not be on social media much, not that I’m too active regularly.
  • I’m still de-stashing my ample fabric hoard and am sewing, sewing, sewing (okay, mostly planning on sewing, but some sewing is definitely going on). I’ll try to share as much as I can in the next month or two.

That’s it for now! Hope you’re having a lovely, lovely end of February (a leap year, which makes it feel extra special)!! It’s almost spring here, can you believe it?

2 thoughts on “Empty Nest Prepper

  1. Our youngest of six is the last child still at home. The fifth of six is getting her graduate degree at a university several hours away from home, so we see her now and then, but the others all live thousands of miles away. Technically, after several decades as parents we are not yet “empty nesters.” But it can be earth-shaking when each one leaves the nest, even if that one is not the last one.

    It helps to see ourselves, the parents, as individuals stepping out into a new life, just as we hope we see our kids doing. In a sense, we too are just venturing back out into the world after however many years of our lives being centered around raising that kid. There may be sorrow and grief because of what has passed by, but there will also be interesting things to discover. (I realize that I am condensing some very strong emotions into just a few seemingly matter-of-fact sentences.) Meanwhile, the kid may not be home any more, but they are still our kid. They may or may not be good at keeping us updated on what’s going on with them, so we make it as easy as possible all round. “Whatever works” is the important thing to remember.

    Our youngest, who is the technological genius in our family, has set up a family Discord channel for parents, siblings and partners where we can easily leave messages for everyone in the group, or private messages for individuals. We have sub-channels for political discussions, religious discussions, media discussions, cute pictures, and jokes, to mention a few. We can share files (someone’s thesis, their latest writing project, a work of art, a theater review). This past January, when we got snowed in, I shared pictures of how deep we were buried. When one daughter had her (parked) elderly car totaled by a passing driver, she sent a picture of the sporty convertible the insurance company paid for her to rent for a couple of weeks, with her best friend standing next to it doubled up with laughter. When one son and his partner got a new young dog to be a companion for their older one, he sent pictures of the look of appalled martyrdom on the old dog’s face as it attempted to ignore the interloper. (I understand they get along fine now.)

    We even have a “Christmas” channel. Who is going to be going/coming where, when and how, and a spreadsheet where each person can list “suggestions” in case anyone needs help picking out gifts.

    Youngest son, the technological genius, even set up a channel for each family member that that member can’t access. There’s a “No Mary” group, a “No George” group, a “No Mom” group, etc., so that the rest of the family can plan surprises or discuss sharing the cost of some gift one would-be giver can’t afford on their own…and of course his own “No (Himself)” group has to operate on the honor system.

    How much each person uses the shared platform is up to them, but it’s useful to have information in a place where it can be accessed when needed. Someone’s estimated time of arrival and the flight number, for example. Find something that works, whether it’s a social media platform, phone text messaging, whatever.

    And don’t forget snail mail. Even the most dedicated digital communicator loves getting snail mail.

    1. So much goodness here, thank you, Barbara! Six kids! I’m in awe and love how you keep the connections strong — that’s my goal for sure. 🙂

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