By the time you read this, I will officially be an empty nester. And I don't quite know what to do with myself.
My daughter has been home from college over the summer, but she's already packed up all her stuff into totes again, ready to move into her first real apartment in Ashland. But currently she's on her way to Alaska for a trip through Denali (lucky girl). She's growing up more and more every day, and becoming more of a strong, liberated woman than I knew was possible. She amazes me. I'm going to miss her (again).
Likewise, my stepson has received his national EMT certification, and has just signed the lease on his first real apartment in Eugene, heading out into the real world to make his mark. Jesse has only been in my life for the past 8 years on random weekends and holidays, and he's only recently come down to hang with us for a more extended time. But in that short time, I've become so fond of this amazing young man, and so proud of his motivation and dedication. He's going to do well. I'm going to miss him just as much.
While I've had them here over the summer, ticking off the days until they both leave, I've been working hard to teach them everything I know about cooking so that they won't starve (or worse, exist only on cereal, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and frozen pizzas). I've also stocked them up with some of the important things they'll need to survive in a real world kitchen (a toaster and rice maker, mixing bowls, a pyrex baking dish, measuring cup and garlic press for each of them). Jesse is now a master at barbecuing burgers, ribs, tri-tip and chicken. Meanwhile, Sophia has been focusing on making anything involving the word chicken. Orange Chicken? Check. Chicken Piccata? Check! The strangely-amazing-yet-so-simple-even-a-college-student-could-make-it Teriyaki Ranch Chicken Bake? She's got it down, and it's delicious. And here's the recipe, for those of you bold enough to try it for yourself. Keep in mind that there are no measurements listed, because you really don't need them. You make as much or as little as you want, and put in as much of each ingredient as you feel like. But maybe take it kind of easy on the teriyaki sauce.
COLLEGE KID TERIYAKI RANCH CHICKEN BAKE
Chicken Breasts or Chicken Tenders
Fresh Garlic, crushed
Mozzarella or Cheddar Cheese, grated
Green Onions, diced
Set oven to 350. Lightly oil pyrex baking dish. Arrange chicken pieces along bottom of dish. Mix garlic into small cup with teriyaki sauce. Brush chicken with teriyaki sauce/garlic mixture. Drizzle ranch dressing over breasts. Don't drown 'em, but don't starve 'em either. Place sliced tomatoes on each piece of chicken. Top chicken with cheese. Sprinkle green onions and bacon crumbles if desired over the top.
Bake for 25 minutes for tenders, 45 minutes for full breasts.
Serve over rice or pasta.
As of a few weeks ago they both now have drivers licenses and their own vehicles, as well as all the responsibilities that come along with it…or as I like to say, I have all the worries that come along with my kids owning cars and licenses to drive them.
I've been trying to cherish every moment I've had them, but now…it's time. Both of my little birds are really jumping out of the nest and spreading their wings, and while I worry for both of them, I think secretly I've been more worried about myself. Because what am I going to do without having someone to cook for? Without having someone to nag about cleaning up their room or folding their laundry? Nobody to ask "What time do you think you'll be home from the movies?"
I'll have nobody to boss around and give chores to, so I'll be dealing with all the dirty dishes myself (but then again, I'll be the only one dirtying them). I'll be the one taking out the trash and doing all the laundry (and once again, it'll be just my trash and my laundry) until my husband comes back from his working season up at Crater Lake in a couple of months. And I'll have no one to help dispose of the dead bodies. You think I joke, but…
For awhile there I was feeling like a mob boss, texting my stepson every morning for about a week during a brief, but critical rodent infestation, asking him to ditch the dead rat and reset the trap because it freaked me out a little too much to do it.
So here I sit, alone, just me and the fish and the dogs. I don't even have anyone to listen to my column and serve as proofreader. I don't even have the rats anymore.
Another long sigh.
OK, now that I'm done pouting and feeling sorry for myself...I'll tell you about my plan. Because I do have one. I need to formulate something so that I don't dig myself a little hole that I don't come out of until November. But it's going to be up to you guys to keep me on task. Whenever you see me, galavanting about town in the next couple of months, feel free to ask me if I'm still on task. Deal?
First, I'm going to be more active and eat healthier. I only have myself to cook for, so why not eat salad? That's my plan. Salad, salad, salad! I'll be getting so much fiber in my diet that you'll never see me because I'll always be in the bathroom. And I'm going to try to ride my bike to work again. I was doing that for awhile, until it got too hot, but I can do it again.
Second, I'm going to choose a room of the house...one room at a time...and start some deep cleaning. If I'm the only one messing up the house from now on, I have no one to blame except for myself when I see cobwebs in the corner and gigantic dust bunnies floating across the floor.
Third, I'm going to write my novel. Its a love story, but its also filled with grit, grief, loneliness and all those other things people have to go through sometimes to find true love. Its a story that's part Nicholas Sparks, part Shawshank Redemption. Some of it is based on recent and not-so recent historical fact. And some of it isn't, mainly to keep the peace... because I've made the hard decision not to wait until certain people kick the bucket to write a story that may or may not resemble certain events that may or may not have actually occurred.
A few weeks ago my mom and I went on our first trip together - just the two of us - in years and years. We went to the Cabrillo Music Festival in Santa Cruz, taking the godawful late Amtrak train both ways. One night we shared a bottle of Chardonnay at the Babbling Brook Inn, and I told my mom about the book about I wanted to write, why I wanted to write it, and why I need to get the story out of me to share with the world. She told me I needed to do it, and do it now. That was her advice.
There have been a few pivotal moments in my life when my mom has given me exactly the advice that I needed to hear. The first time was when she said "You can't make a man change for you." The second was when she said, "You have to go to Greece. If you don't go, you'll regret it for the rest of your life." The third time was when she said, "Write it."
I got back to Redding on the 3:06am train (although of course, it didn't get here until 5:30am), and started writing that very day.
That's all I'm saying for now, because I've got a chapter to write. And an Empty Nest playlist to share with you today about my birdies flying the nest, about feeling a little sad about it, and how I'm planning to cope with being in the hole for the next few months. Hope you enjoy it, and if you've got my phone number, don't forget to reach out and nudge me every once in awhile.