May you build a ladder to the stars

When we first arrived here last year, we came to an empty house. Greg had rented a few pieces to hold us over--a table and chairs, two sofas, and comfy beds--but really we were a bare bones operation. After the rushrushrush of selling the house, packing up, driving across the country, and booking visits with as many friends and family as we could before we left the continent...suddenly all that busy-ness came to a screeching halt and we had absolutely empty calendars and six weeks before school started.

For the first few days, it was novel. We were really tired and spent the time filling up on some rest and getting that fuzzy travel feeling out of our heads. But after that we had to go through a kind of busy detox.  My internal odometer was at odds with our new peaceful pace. It took a while to get it out of my system.  I had this vague feeling I should be somewhere and that we should be doing things, filling our days with errands and motion to justify our existence. The kids seemed to feel it, too, and got cranky and flopped around, sighing about the empty house, empty life.

[After a few days, we got into the rhythm of it, as though we had come out on the other side of a chattering detox. It felt really good. Different things grow in that kind of space--a different kind of listening and creativity, time to really pay attention, think, and look. A different kind of self discipline. It was a lovely change.]

But that's not what this post is about. No, this is more of a fangirl post.


This might sound utterly pathetic (I know it does) but do you know who accompanied us through those weeks? The Bravermans. Yes, the fictional tv clan from the show Parenthood. We watched an episode (or two) every day, starting with the first season and plowing on through until we were caught up. They were our vicarious family friends at a time when we didn't have anyone but ourselves. We were more than a little homesick for those deliciously chaotic Sunday multi-family dinners of our own that we had left behind (oh, the Braverman long outdoor table! Would we ever fill our table that way again?). We even cried cathartic tears along with them. We sang along to the theme song (Bob Dylan's Forever Young) at full volume, an anthem and prayer sung in the midst of this teen-seismic move and all its unknowns:

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young

A year later, we have schedules and friends and busyness and lessons and furniture and much less time to just sit around together. It's a case of both see-everything-works-out-just-fine and be-careful-what-you-wish-for. The Bravermans no longer serve as placeholders for future friends and have retreated like all good imaginary friends at the end of their run. Last week found me singing along during the opening credits of the new season of Parenthood with a tiny lump in my throat, a bit nostalgic for those simple, echo-y empty house days when our world boiled down to just each other for six weeks or so. Well, us and the Bravermans.

- I couldn't resist this Forever Young locket as a special gift for Maddy last Christmas. I think it makes a great graduation, birthday, Bat Mitzvah, quinceanera, or Christmas present.

- Parenthood has a terrific soundtrack.  They know their tunes, those folks.

- What shows are you watching this season? Do have a family show you all watch together? Have you had a certain touchstone show/movie/book that came along at the right time?

Guest Post: Being new in town

We've got a treat for you this week! Since Sarah and I are both traveling along the trail of tears (i.e., each launching a daughter into the big wide world), we're featuring a guest writer on Nest & Launch this week.  If you're the kind of soul who clicks on the links in posts you may already be familiar with my friend Christie, since she is the wonder woman who is my friend-making guru and who inspired my long-delayed picture hanging. She's also one of my true, move-a-body friends and I'm so happy she agreed to fill in this week in our absence. You're going to love her:

At the end of May, our family moved from St. Louis to Dallas.  For months, we talked about it with our three kids (ages 15, 13, and 11).  How great it would be, how much they would like it, and how easily they would make new friends.


A few weeks in, and we had a handful of potential friends.

A few months has now come and gone and we all realize one thing:  Mom and Dad were big, fat liars.

It has been okay, they don’t love it (yet), and it’s definitely not been easy.

But we have learned a lot of lessons that I definitely think could help other mid-stage parents out there who find themselves on the early side of a move.

The first thing we did was dive in and get involved.

Within two weeks of arriving here, I had enrolled all three of my kids in summer camps at their respective schools.  This was a scary prospect for a teen/tween – showing up to camp and not knowing a soul. 

For the boys, it became a new and exciting endeavor.  They took this opportunity as a chance to reinvent themselves and are both trying a new sport.  Happily, they are finding that they really like it.  Football is king here in Texas, and they are embracing that mentality wholeheartedly.   Something, I am sure, they would not have tried in our old school.

For my daughter, it was both a hit and a miss.  One camp was fantastic.  A sport she had never tried plus patient coaches left her feeling confident and eager.  The other camp was full of girls who have played the sport in club for years.  She came home sobbing and dejected.  Painful lessons, but great life experience nonetheless.

Secondly, we threw a party for about 20 families in our neighborhood within a week of moving here.  Yes, there were boxes that needed unpacking still.  Yes, we didn’t know any of the neighbors.  And, HOLY MESS, our house was not remotely put together the way I would have liked.  But it introduced us to families we otherwise wouldn’t have met that first week.  They fell all over themselves praising us for our outgoing attitudes, never knowing just how scared we all were to do it.  Bonus:  It motivated the Husband to get all my pictures hung up on the walls.

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Third, do not underestimate the power of the “mom card.”  I have seen these from the time my kids were little, and always thought they were a great idea, but never bothered to get some.  Having a box of them ready to go with our move has been invaluable.   Whenever we have met someone new, I have pulled one out of my purse and instantly provided our names, address, and phone numbers.  It’s a tangible reminder for new friends to keep you on the radar, too.

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Fourth, we have asked our kids to look in their church classes for someone they think they would like to know better.  Then, I’ve picked up the phone and invited that family over for dinner or dessert.  People have the best intentions, but life gets busy.  You cannot sit around and wait for people to come to you.  Put yourself out there and be proactive. 

Lastly, and most important, just keep trying.  Attend any and all church, school, or community activities, even if you don’t want to.  I have attended a book club I might not otherwise, a community fundraiser, and a “mommy & me pool group” that was definitely geared to mothers of little kids.  But all have proved to be a great place to connect with other women and, at this point, we’ll take all the connections we can get.

Be patient.  Planting new roots is a slow, laborious process.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  But when enough time has passed, and those roots are secure, you will wonder why you ever felt at home anywhere else.

You can find Christie at her blog Stie's Thoughts, where she's been keeping track of her family's adventures and hilarious sagas since 2006. She and her family have lived in Utah, Minnesota, Seattle, Boston (where our paths thankfully crossed), San Diego, St. Louis, and now lucky Dallas gets them for the foreseeable future. She knows how to find a posse of fantastic friends faster than anyone I know.