From the Desk of Ellen Fisher - September 2009

Empty Nester - not anymore!!

I want to thank everyone who sent notes of encouragement in response to my last column regarding my fears and trepidations about becoming an empty nester. Well, the long-dreaded moment arrived on August 15th at approximately 3:05 pm when my husband and I left our son, Seneca, (who was so excited to be at college that he didn't even continue to wave good-bye as our car drove out of his line of vision) at American University. It was nothing like I had anticipated. I felt footloose and fancy-free, without a burden in the world (other than tuitions at 2 private colleges), and we immediately headed to the beach for the remainder of the weekend. It was quite a lovely beginning...

... To what is probably one of the shortest empty-nest terms on record! You see, my father who is 83 years old, is moving into our house on August 28th (and hopefully will be settled in by the time you read this).

Ever since our return from American U, my husband and I have been cleaning out my son's room, turning it from a shrine of sports memorabilia and trophies into a nice sitting room for viewing old movies and having lots of visitors. Truth be told, I have been enjoying boxing up 18 years of baseball cards, old piggy banks, and flat soccer balls that have been collecting dust ever since my son discovered computer games and Ultimate Frisbee, not to mention youth group, camp, and a huge circle of friends. I was flying though the packing until it came to removing the duck light switch cover in his bathroom. It has been in there room ever since we brought my daughter (almost 21 years old) home from the hospital. I could not force myself (nor would I let anyone else) to take screwdriver in hand and remove it. I know it's an odd little thing, but that ducky light switch has become the symbol and holder of many, many memories. So, when my Dad moves in, he is just going to have to live with the ducky.

After the light switch nostalgia struck me (and struck me hard), I stalled out on clearing the rest of my son's bathroom. The job eventually fell to my husband. One evening he dashed into the kitchen holding a squeeze bottle shouting, "Do you think Seneca really believes this works?" He kept looking at the bottle exclaiming how it was impossible to believe our son could be so gullible to think he could rub something on his body to help him build muscles. When I read the label on the bottle, I nearly burst an artery from laughing. It was, indeed, 'body builder volumizing gel,' but it was from Pantene - for hair!! Boy was my husband embarrassed! That burst of laughter was what I needed to get back on track with redecorating.

My father is now in rehab, building HIS muscles the old fashioned way through exercise and physical therapy. No volumizing gel required!

I keep thinking of that line from Of Mice and Men, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." I spent so much energy and time making arrangements so I wouldn't feel lost in my empty house and now, in a matter of days it will bursting with people once again when my Dad and his entourage of care-givers and visitors arrive. What a great lesson I have learned about how life happens in spite of plans.

This is true for work, too. Having a business plan is a great tool, but unless it (and you) remain fluid, many opportunities will be missed. I am thankful that my business plan is malleable enough so I can alter my work hours without sacrificing my productivity to be able to enjoy this bonus time I have with my father. What a gift!

I hope you, too, are flexible enough to take advantage of surprises that life has to offer.

Ellen Fisher, Publisher who went from empty nester to sandwich generation in the span of two weeks

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