My Turn: A clear view from an empty nest

 

My Turn: A clear view from an empty nest
My Turn: A clear view from an empty nest

 

We have joined the ranks of the notorious empty nesters. I say this with eyes wide open, knowing that Empty Nest Syndrome is actually a diagnosable disorder, treatable with antidepressants and counseling, according to WebMD.

Somehow, my husband and I have managed to cope without a prescription or professional help – unless you count the jugs of red wine we’ve downed during Friday night dance parties for two, supplemented with frequent Saturdays and/or Sundays at the sports bar, where we drone on and on about lots of things that don’t have to do with child raising, as our therapeutic bartender dutifully listens and nods.

Of course, we go there to watch our former hometown heroes, the Philadelphia Phillies, over a burger and a pitcher of beer. That’s not the same as drowning our sorrows over our birdless nest, or drowning out the phantom chirps of the ghosts of baby birds past, who have long since flown the coop.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when Jim and I acknowledge we will never again experience anything as joyful as a crowded Christmas morning with a houseful of happy kids, or the parental peace that settles in after every child you are responsible for keeping alive is tucked in their own bed, safe and sound.

I will admit that sometimes I long for the good old days, when all it took to materialize my son for his favorite chicken casserole was a declarative text message, like: “Food!” It was magical. He’d come bounding down from his third-floor lair in no time flat and satisfy my maternal need to feed something on demand.

Similarly, I could always count on spending quality mother-daughter time with my fashion-forward daughter by sending a simple, “Want to go to the mall?” text, and before you could say “Do I look fat in these skinny jeans?” we were on the road, Julie riding shotgun in the minivan, allowing me to peek through the tinted window of her current hopes and dreams.

All that changed when my younger son moved out in January, ending what had been a pretty good 38-year run of life with kids starring our own four, plus a revolving cast of supporting characters – teenagers who unofficially adopted us as substitute parents.

Many of them stayed on full time for as long as they needed, which has added to the sense that our big, empty house has never been bigger or more empty.

I don’t know, but maybe the reason Empty Nest Syndrome is no longer the mental health issue it once was is because the technology is so much better these days than when my parents had to figure out how to go on living without children in and out at all hours of the day and night.

I don’t sit by the phone and wait around for a kid to call to let me know how their life is going.

For one thing, we got rid of our landline.

But besides, my smart phone delivers automatic text alerts whenever my oldest, Aimée, checks in somewhere near her home in Pennsylvania, including the names of everyone she’s checking in with. It’s like having a private investigator on duty.

I am also thankful that my son’s girlfriend posts frequently on Instagram. I now know when Bill is enjoying a picnic at the beach, or eating a large piece of cheesecake at a restaurant on the coast.

Without technology, I might get antsy wondering if my oldest son, Neil, has settled in to his new life in New York City, since moving back to the states from Japan earlier this month.

But thanks to his Facebook updates and occasional tweets, I know he’s staying with friends on the Upper West Side, and is still looking for a lead on a cheap apartment in a nice neighborhood. I also know he’s missing Tokyo, and that the city that never sleeps always changes.

And then there’s my youngest, Julie. I watched her airplane make its way from Portland, Ore., to Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday night using an app that also informed me of her current elevation and the trajectory of her flight as it entered an animated thunderstorm on Doppler radar.

I knew her flight was going to be 15 minutes late to Logan Airport, which gave me just enough time to park and find my way to the Spirit Airlines baggage carousel.

For all the virtual long-distance mothering I’ve done, I have to say that technology has nothing on the actual feeling you get when you wrap your arms around your well-traveled child after her long flight home.

In fact, nothing beats seeing your kids in real time. That’s why I totally understand how Empty Nest Syndrome could be a problem for someone who doesn’t embrace technology. It’s practically painless to be the mother of four grown children.

Yes, I hover over my iPhone. A lot.

And while my husband and I are enjoying our second wind as a carefree couple, I also know that whenever the nest needs a little livening up, all I have to do is tag my son in a photo of my chicken casserole on Facebook, and he will find his way home in time to finish the leftovers faster than a hungry homing pigeon.

 (Carol Robidoux is a freelance writer who lives in Manchester and editor of manchesterinklink.com).

ManchesterInkLink: My New Adventure

ManchesterInkLink.com
ManchesterInkLink.com

I’m off to a quiet start with the launch of ManchesterInkLink.com, a community hub news and info site for the city of Manchester.

It’s still in the early stages, which means I’m working out the kinks and acquainting myself with being my own tech guy as well as editorial team and sales reps.

In the coming weeks I hope to develop it into a full-fledged information hub where you can find helpful news and information, and connect with other like-minded individuals.

Wish me luck.

Ding-Dong: Stark Beer Baron Calling

Bill, the Stark Beer Baron. He delivers.

So there I was in a Google+ hangout, conducting business via my computer. I was trying to block out the lawnmower rumble coming  from across the street and focus on the virtual face in front of me when I heard the unmistakable vroooom of a motorcycle, which came to an abrupt halt as it crescendoed outside my house.

“That’s weird,” I thought to myself, without taking my eyes off the computer. “Wonder who it might be?”

My first thought was my friend Cindy, who has stopped by on her motorcycle before. My second thought was the police, because, well, because that’s just how my brain works.

A minute later, there was a knock at the door. I excused myself and went to see who was knocking.

There, backlit by the morning sun, was a divine alcohol angel descended to earth to make my day. He was holding a cold, sweaty beer.

“Hello?” I said, tentatively.

The man, who I later learned was not an angel but rather a beer baron named Bill, politely informed me that my son had entered – and won – a promotion by Stark Brewing Company (formerly Milly’s Tavern) for a free beer for the man of the house.

“He’s at work right now, but I’ll happily intercept, er, accept it on his behalf,” I said, reaching for the cold Mt. U Cream Ale in his outstretched hand.

Fortunately I came to my senses in time to tell him I wanted to take his picture, and he said he wanted to do the same, so we mugged for mutual promotional celly snaps, and then he said goodbye.

He had more beer to deliver.

About an hour later, my son Bill – not to be confused with the Beer Baron Bill – called to ask if a motorcycle delivery man had been to the house recently.

And that’s how I found out the rest of the story, that my son had to earn the beer by posting via the NH reddit page, and that Stark’s motorcycle craft beer promotion also happens to coincide with NH’s own annual Laconia Bike Week.

“I wasn’t sure if it was legit,” my son said. “He said he was a beer baron.”

Oh, he was legit, all right!

BTW, here’s what my son posted:

“My truck broke down on Friday and I wasn’t able to travel down from school to see my dad for Father’s Day — even after I took time off from work. It would absolutely make his day to receive a free craft beer by motorcycle. He might even share a cigar with you!”

So Happy Belated Father’s Day to my husband, who will love this story. Big thanks to my son, Bill, for going the extra mile even when his truck failed him.

And to Bill the Beer Baron, if you’re reading this, feel free to stop back later for a cigar.

You can visit the NH reddit thread here.

Call out to beer lovers on reddit.

 

Good Fathers Make All the Difference in the World

My father is an artist, an educator, a writer, a self-taught musician, a storyteller. He was the nurturer of my psyche, and has enriched my life beyond measure. In return, I’ve made sure he will never run out of ugly neckties.

Although I’m pretty sure I’ve been celebrating Father’s Day for as long as I’ve had a dad, I was surprised to learn that it’s only been a national holiday since 1972. Unlike Mother’s Day, the nation’s dads had to come a long way, baby, to earn their officially sanctioned collection of aforementioned bad ties.

Both holidays have historic roots in the turn of the 20th century. Mother’s Day was given a presidential nod in 1914, just six short years after the idea was floated by social activist Ann Jarvis. A reciprocal pitch for Father’s Day, made in 1910 by a Virginia church group, fizzled.

But the idea didn’t die completely. One such effort to see that dads got their due came in 1934, when a group gathered in New York City’s Central Park to lobby for “Parents Day” rather than gender specific parental holidays, a fact outlined in The Modernization of Fatherhood by historian Ralph Larossa.

But Madison Avenue won that battle, not wanting to water down the emotional-spending gold mine that was Mother’s Day.

There is actually a lot more to know about Father’s Day than I first suspected. I’d written it off as an obligatory Hallmark holiday years ago, even though it always feels good to honor my dad with an annual show of tangible affection.

He’ll be 89 this October, and he’s made all the difference in my life.

What I learned in researching Father’s Day is that long before Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote the book in 1946 on the proper care and feeding of 20th century babies, which included a call out to dads to get in the game, a social movement known as “Fathercraft” was gaining momentum across the pond, encouraging dads to embrace fatherhood as a science.

And it was contagious.

New York educator Angelo Patri wrote newspaper columns and aired a radio program geared toward men, coinciding with a series of “father-to-father” books urging dads to step up their game and become Ward Cleavers – before Ward Cleaver was Ward Cleaver. Fathers, according to Patri, should be willing to lead by example, invest emotionally and help their kids grow into upstanding citizens by offering their expert advice.

Of course, backlash came from those fathers who preferred a hands-off approach to parenthood, maintaining that children should be seen and not heard, and real men don’t burp babies. Then television caught on, just in time to bring us TV’s most iconic dad, Ward Cleaver, along with other fictional father figures from programs such as Make Room for Daddy and My Three Sons – role models who brought some sensitivity to the patriarchal mix. From there, it was only a matter of time before the cultural shift in gender roles and equality actually moved us forward.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson, father of two daughters, became the first U.S. president to acknowledge a day for dads with these wise words:

“If the father’s responsibilities are many, his rewards are also great – the love, appreciation and respect of children and spouse. It is the desire to acknowledge publicly these feelings we have for the fathers of our nation that has inspired the Congress to call for the formal observance of Father’s Day June 15, 1966.”

Six years later, President Richard Nixon, also dad to two girls, fixed Father’s Day on the official calendar as the third Sunday in June, with this moving sentiment:

“To have a father – to be a father – is to come very near the heart of life itself. In fatherhood we know the elemental magic and joy of humanity. In fatherhood we even sense the divine, as the Scriptural writers did who told of all good gifts coming ‘down from the father of lights, with whom is not variableness, neither shadow of turning,’ symbolism so challenging to each man who would give his own son or daughter a life of light without shadow.”

Four decades later, Father’s Day is celebrated around the world in many ways, not always in June, and not always with neckties.

But the vital role fathers fulfill in the lives of kids has become indisputable.

The “father factor,” according to fatherhood.org, calculates that there are 24 million children living in the U.S. without their biological dads. That’s one in three. And their calculations go on to explain how it has become a contributing factor to our nation’s worst societal problems, from poverty, child abuse, behavioral diagnoses and obesity, to kids who wind up involved in crime and, ultimately, prison.

As I said, good fathers make all the difference.

My own dad, also the father of two daughters, has truly given me a life of light without shadow.

He painted animals on my bedroom walls and taught me how to craft papier mache beads from wood pulp to string into clunky necklaces. He taught me nostalgic jingles from his youth, like the Pepsi Cola and Hammacher Schlemmer songs, and timeless games, like jacks and pick-up sticks.

He was the one who brought my hand puppets to life, and read the entire collection of The Happy Hollisters in bedtime installments, for months.

He trimmed my platinum locks regularly with the same attention to detail that Michelangelo gave the Sistine Chapel. He took us to the public pool, taught us how to float on our backs and paddle our feet, then coached us from a bench on the sidelines once we got the hang of it.

My father planted miniature rose bushes he called “penny trees.” When the tiny blooms faded and hit the ground, they magically turned into pennies, which my sister and I joyously retrieved from the garden each morning.

Dad taught me to drive. He taught me to cook the world’s best french toast. He taught me that a job worth doing is worth doing right, words intended to slow down his baby girl who was always in a hurry to grow up and get things done.

When I broke the news shortly after my 16th birthday that he was going to be a grandfather, things changed for a time. He got quiet. But love trumps disappointment, if you let it. His granddaughter arrived and launched the next chapter of our relationship, one in which I would begin to understand the truth about parental love, for all its ups and downs.

These days my father lists to the left when he walks and can’t stand for long before his legs tire. When I make it home to see him, the 350 miles between us seems too far. He’s lost vision in one eye. The stories he tells, past and present, are always engaging, and I will listen to them as many times as he wants to repeat them.

I don’t know for how much longer I will have the luxury of celebrating Father’s Day, but for now, I will hang on his every word, tucking them away in my heart where they will stay, for safe keeping, long after he’s gone.

From Farm to Manchester, with Love

 

The Farmers Dinner at XO in Manchester, June 22.
The Farmers Dinner at XO in Manchester, June 22.

MANCHESTER, NH – Something new and exciting is brewing on the exploding Manchester dining scene – next in a series of farm fresh dining experiences that includes locally-distilled spirits.

The  next installment of The Farmers Dinner will take place on June 22 at XO On Elm in Manchester, featuring a five-course meal locally sourced and endorsed by a team of regional foodies.

More than exquisite food, The Farmers Dinner aims to up the ante while promoting a sense of community and focused awareness about the importance of knowing where your food comes from. 

Organizer Keith Sarasin explains that home-style seating is a deliberate and essential element of the fine dining series.

“We set up the dining room with a home-style seating plan and have guest speakers and local farmers interact with the diners between courses, which encourages interaction among the diners and speakers,” says Sarasin.

Family-style dining enhances the sense of community for The Farmers Dinner.
Family-style dining enhances the sense of community for The Farmers Dinner.

The menu is crafted from ingredients that are in season and picked fresh. Since this is the first time The Farmers Dinner has been planned in Manchester,  Sarasin has added a special twist.

“We decided to bring in award-winning mixologist Jared Bracci who will be pairing New Hampshire made spirits from Djinn Spirits in Nashua with courses using local in-season flavors. This spirit pairing is optional but we think the customers are going to love the amazing flavors that Jared is mixing up,” says Sarasin.

The Manchester Food Co-Op will present a progress report on efforts to bring a co-op to the city, and how that will also work toward building community.

Generation Farm of Concord will be on hand to discuss organic produce, including how to grow organically in your garden, and why it’s important to understand the benefit of organics.

Great Harvest Bread Co. of Nashua will be discussing how they incorporate locally sourced flavors into their bakery, and Rickety Ranch of Hollis will be talking about their efforts to help rescued animals in our area.

The Farmers Dinner allows diners to meet the people who are growing and preparing their food. In addition, diners receive recipes listing local area farms and information on how to prepare the dishes they have that night. Vegetarian options are always available.

For additional information, email: info@thefarmersdinner.com

Tickets are $65 per person and can be purchased at www.thefarmersdinner.com [an additional +$20 for spirit pairing.]

LaFrance: ‘I’ll Debate Dennis Hogan Right Now’

Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance. Courtesy photo
Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance. Courtesy photo

Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance welcomes the challenge from her former boss, Dennis Hogan, who on June 3 announced his intention to run for re-election as County Attorney, a post he lost to LaFrance in 2012.

“Dennis says he cut spending, but he didn’t. The legislature did that. What he failed to say is that those cuts devastated our office. The workload increased dramatically, and I don’t believe he fought hard enough to retain jobs,” LaFrance said. “That’s why I made the decision to run, based on his failed leadership at the time.”

LaFrance, who plans to run again in November, was responding to information posted on Hogan’s campaign website , announcing his candidacy, which reads: “I created budgets that spent 8% less money than when I arrived and I increased efficiency by studying then changing the work flow. That was done while the office handled a record amount of cases.”

LaFrance said Hogan does not have the experience needed as a prosecutor to do the job, and welcomes the chance to defend her record as county attorney.

“Maybe this time Dennis will be willing to debate me – he wouldn’t debate me last election. I’ll debate Dennis Hogan right now,” LaFrance said. “I’ll gladly compare my record with his.”

Filing period for the November 2014 election cycle opens June 4.

 

 

Hogan Ready to Run for County Attorney

Dennis Hogan, left, announced his intention to run for Hillsborough County Attorney in the November election, while on the air at WSMN radio June 3.

Republican Dennis Hogan has announced his intention to run for Hillsborough County Attorney in the November election.

Hogan, of Nashua, served as county attorney from 2011-2012. He lost his bid for reelection in 2012 to Democrat Patricia LaFrance.

Hogan says while serving as county attorney he cut spending  in the department by 8 percent.

Under LaFrance, Hogan says spending has increased by 2 percent, a point which LaFrance countered shortly after hearing about Hogan’s intention to run again.

Hogan has handled criminal defense, bankruptcy and personal injuries since beginning the private practice of law in 2002. Hogan established his own firm in 2005.

Hogan served as Ward 2 Delegate to NH’s 17th and last Constitutional Convention in 1984. He represented Ward 2 in the NH Legislature after the 1984 election. He served in 2005 on the Nashua Board of Education, and in 2006, Hogan prevented “Cop Killer Advocate” Tom Alciere from becoming the Republican nominee for State Senate District 13 by mounting a successful write-in campaign for which he received 89 percent of the vote.

You can learn more about Hogan’s campaign at hoganforcountyattorney.

The filing period for candidates running in the November 2014 election begins June 4.