Living Outside the Stacks

Navigating through life away from the library


Life After Kids: Get Physical

Life After Kids - Get Physical {Living Outside the Stacks}

“Mommy, Brandon’s getting me wet!”

I look at my daughter with disbelieving eyes. “B-b-b-but you’re in the pool,” I stammer. Then I look at my son and half-heartedly reprimand him, “don’t get your sister wet.”

I think his 4-year-old eyes are mocking me.

I wanted nothing more than to go back inside to the way-too-cold discomfort of the air conditioned living room and relax, but when you become a mom your needs are sometimes secondary to the wants of your kids. Especially in summer, when they want to not get wet in the wading pool.

I was never an athletic person. Or an outdoor person, for that matter. People who knew me in high school were flabbergasted to find that I’d joined the Army. I was the girl who’d turned getting out of gym class into an art form. In fact, I was so bad at PE that a couple of my high school phys ed teachers actually asked my mother to ask me to drop their classes. Seriously.

Then I had kids and gained weight. Then I had Thyroid Cancer and gained more weight. Then I woke up one day and needed to do something. I didn’t know what, I just knew I needed to challenge myself. So I signed up to run a 5K, which I ended up walking and not running. Long story short, I temporarily lost my vision in one eye and running was near impossible for me.

I hadn’t really run a day in my life, except for those half-hearted attempts in high school that helped me squeak through class with a “C” because the teachers liked me. And the forced Army runs because, well, Army. I’d been a non-running civilian for almost 4 years by then. I used to say: “Even if someone was trying to kill me, I’d only walk really, really fast.”

Skip ahead a few years and the desire to run hit me again. This time, I signed up for a C25K program with the city parks and recreation division and, lo and behold, a runner was born. There were no freak blindnesses to contend with, no sprained ankles, no achy knees… Just me, my headphones, and the pavement.

Best feeling ever.

Over the years, my daughters have joined me on various run/walks but running/walking/slogging continues to be a thing that I enjoy doing just for myself. And, honestly, by myself. I like running with a group but I also like the solo aspect. When I put on my headphones, I tune out the world. I listen to praise music and, for that 30 minutes or so, I’m focused on my stride and mentally singing praises to God.

Yes, I still struggle with my weight. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to get out there. And, no, I don’t always run the entire route but I’m out there and I’m taking care of me.

Physical activity, no matter what it is, is key to making it as an empty nester. Think about it, this is the time for you to go out and explore the world, you know, see the things you want to see. How fun is that if you get winded trying to enjoy it? Not very.

Are you physically active? What do you do to stay healthy?


Life After Kids: Find a Hobby

Life After Kids Find A Hobby {Living Outside the Stacks} #EmptyNest #Marriage #Parenting

“Jazmine’s mom…”

I look at the little hand tugging at the hem of my shirt, smile, and respond.

For the past 22 years, I’ve been “______’s mom”, “Tony’s wife”, or some variation there of. I will always be their mom and I will always be “Tony’s wife”, but I’m also “Daenel”. Daenel is who I was when I came into this world and Daenel is who I’ll be when I leave it. Somewhere in the middle, I became this person whose identity was dependent upon the people I was caring for. Now I’m at that time in my life when I should be remembering who I was and discovering who I want to be.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to tell stories and change the world. I wanted people to read my words and think I’ve got to fix this… I don’t think I ever really lost the desire to tell people’s stories; I just changed the way I needed to tell those stories. When I was raising my kids, those stories were told with the voice of a mother who wanted to encourage her children to explore the world around them while still staying safely nestled in her arms. Gosh, there’s so much conflict in being a mother.

Now that my kids are exploring the world on their own, it’s time for me to get back to the art of storytelling. Only now I’ll be using my camera.

Making pictures is cathartic for me. And frustrating. But I enjoy it. I like that there’s a moment – good or bad – that has been preserved. There’s something about having an image in my head and then seeing it come to fruition.

Burfordville Covered Bridge Bollinger Missouri {Living Outside the Stacks}

Fungus {Living Outside the Stacks}

There’s also something to be said for those candid moments.

Little Boy with Attitude {Living Outside the Stacks}

Life After Kids Coffee {Living Outside the Stacks} #EmptyNest #Marriage #Parenting

I’ve found that having a hobby is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with who you are as a person. The act of doing something that you enjoy because you want to and not because you have to is renewing. There are no expectations, you’re not meeting anyone’s needs but your own. For a half hour or so, your focus is on making yourself happy and doing something that you enjoy.

Trust me when I say that this time that you take for yourself will not only make you a better {and, dare I say, more interesting} person, but it’ll also make you a better wife, and, yes, mother.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? Now that you’re older, have your dreams changed? Have you found a new passion? How are you maintaining or creating your identity?

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}



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Life After Kids: Where’s the Kool-Aid?

Life After Kids: preparing to be an empty nester {Living Outside the Stacks} #EmptyNest #Parenting #Marriage #Family Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Someone is always gonna want Kool-Aid.

I leaned against the kitchen counter and stared at the four pairs of eyes looking back at me, tears streaming down their little faces, empty cups being shoved at me. I’d had enough of the crying, the fighting, the wanting, the needing… I wanted to run away from home. And, as soon as my mother-in-law walked through the door, that’s exactly what I did.

I grabbed my purse and my keys, hopped in the car and started driving. I had no destination in mind. I just needed to get out. I drove for a couple of hours before I finally pulled the car over, had a good cry, turned around, and went back home. I won’t say that’s the last time I thought about running away, but it was definitely the last time that I actually went through with it.

When my kids hit their teen years, I started to understand why some animals eat their young. I have a theory that the teen years are difficult because it makes it easier for parents to release their children into the wild when they come of age. But then something weird happens…

The closer you get to letting them go, the more you want to hold on to them. You start to remember the neck nuzzles when they were babies. Memories of them on their first day of school… The funny lisp from missing teeth… Shopping for the first formal… Bowls of ice cream used to mend a broken heart… Resisting the urge to stand up and yell “That’s my baby!” on graduation night. It all comes back, the good stuff, you know? The bad stuff is forgotten. Kind of like labor pains once you hold your newborn for the first time.

The kids are leaving home now. The Hubs and I are moving away and becoming empty nesters. I lean against the kitchen counter, eyes closed, ears straining…

No one wants Kool-Aid.

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}



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Beginning this week, I’ll start sharing a weekly series on how The Hubs and I are preparing for our new lives as empty nesters. I’d like to thank my friend, Madison, for speaking into existence an idea that has been flitting about my brain for nearly a year.

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