Reflections on Being an Empty-Nester and buying camper stuff

It’s been four weeks since Kay, our youngest daughter, left, and we officially became empty-nesters.  Simultaneously, because life for me seems to always include been long stretches of calm broken by perfect storms of change, there has been significant change in my work environment.  One thing I have learned is when life, God, the universe throws you this much change all at once you need to pay attention, so I have been.  Lee is my best friend in the entire world.  Not just because we are married, but also because his friendship is the longest continuous friend relationship I have had in my life.  So when things are changing I talk to him to get the outside perspective.  But because we are both dealing with no kids in the house and he also has some work changes taking place, it’s been tough for us to be that for each other.  Thankfully, I have my friend Jo to talk to.  Not only is she an incredibly warm and caring person, she is also a psychologist.  I have to tell you, having a friend who is a trained professional to talk to is pretty awesome when things get really tough.  Normally I try to just be friends and not rely on her expertise, but it was a very challenging week and so when I called her Friday..I asked if she had time for a “consultation.”  I laid out the last 4 weeks to her and she just listened, and then she told me what she heard in my voice which was incredibly helpful.  Because of the upheaval at work, I am facing three very different career options, and being able to talk to someone who is truly objective and have them help me work through it was really amazing.  The best advice she gave, and I think it’s a wonderful piece of advice for anyone going through empty nest syndrome, was to be careful with what I filled up this new “hole” in my life. That’s what it feels like when the kids leave.,.there is a hole there and something has to go in it.  Whether you’re the primary caregiver or not, a tremendous amount of time in a relationship is taken up with talking about, worrying about, dealing with, the kids.  When the kids are out on their own these conversations (if things are going well) become less and less frequent.  It’s not that we never talk about our girls, but we don’t need to talk about them all the time, which leaves us quite a bit of freed up conversation time.

So even though Lee and I have known each other for forever, that’s quite a bit of space to fill, and to be honest I was nervous about how I would fill it.  Lee has a lot of personality, energy, and is constantly in motion, but I tend to be quieter and more of a loner by nature.  Constantly surrounded by my girls and Lee, I didn’t have to work too hard to be part of the family unit.  They made it easy for me, and if anything the challenge was finding my own little piece of personal space.  Now it’s very different, there is lots of space left unfilled and I need to challenge myself to help fill it and not leave that totally up to Lee.  I hope this makes sense, essentially he can’t carry the weight of this relationship all on his own.  I need to participate at greater levels than I have needed to for years.  So what does that have to do with work?  Well, many empty nesters (men in particular) fill that space with their career.  I can see why that is appealing.  I am good at my job, and business relationships are so much easier than personal relationships in many ways because there are business rules and culture that govern them.  Personal relationships are messier and much scarier because ultimately they matter so much more.  So what Jo helped me remember is that I saw this coming over a year ago and we took steps to be prepared.  That’s one of the things that motivated us to buy the camper and spend more time with just the two of us, so when the day came that Kay left we would be somewhat prepared.  The last month I have been traveling and working away so much that I have lost sight of why we did this in the first place.  It’s tempting to fill that hole with work related things, especially when opportunities are being offered to you, but it’s important to take a step back and really think about what you want.

I love working from a five-year plan.  It helps you look at a choice you might make today, and then extrapolate out where that might take you in five years.  Many decisions that look great in the short-term won’t ultimately take you to where you want to be long-term, so it’s important to think ahead.  I know where I want to be with Lee in five years.  I know we don’t want to be in New England.  I know I want the space left by the kids to be filled with more things that are ours than his things and my things.  And I know that although my career has always been very important to me,  my career does not define who I am.  Our camping continues to show me this, because the skills I use at work are not really needed here.  Camping allows me to stop and reflect, it allows me to just be and enjoy, and most importantly, it allows me to reconnect with my husband on a level we have not experienced in years.  I love camping…it truly has changed my life and it needs to be at the center of my five-year plan.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest I can talk about the fun stuff.  We have been saving up our AmEx points and our list of want to haves and finally combined the two to purchase some things we have been wanting.  Most of the list came from visiting our friends out in Pennsylvania so we have them to thanks for the spending spree.

First, we bought some cloth coasters.  All the ones at the house are breakable so we have been using pot holders lol…not too cool.  I found some neat cloth coasters that go with our woodsy theme and Lee found these great new table mats that match the rig with the horse theme. It’s the little things in life!

New coasters I get the moose and Lee gets the bear

New coasters; I get the moose and Lee gets the bear

these are for the desk area

These coasters are for the desk area



Love Love these table mats...the horses even match the colors of our rig and they are sturdier than the other mats we had

Love, love, love these table mats…the horses even match the colors of our rig and they are sturdier than the other mats we had









I also bought a set of collapsible bowls.  I was using my old plastic ones and they take up tons of space, are a pain to hand dry.  So we took everything we might need for a party and put them in a tub and our using these new bowls and cups.  One of the neatest things is a tiny collapsible teapot.  I don’t make tea much, but thought this would be fun to have.  The mixing bowls work great, I  used them to make fried chicken last night.

And they even stack when collapsed!!

And they even nest when collapsed!!


Collapsible spoons, cups, and a liquid cup measurer

Collapsible spoonscups, and a liquid cup measurer

Collapsible teapot

Collapsible teapot  (Update:  I have only used this a couple of times.  Cool concept but a pan works just as well if not better)


Yep it’s official I am hooked on collapsible stuff! (Update: Teapot aside this is absolutely true.  I love my collapsible stuff) 

The next three items we bought because we had camper envy when we visited our friends in Pennsylvania.  It’s funny because I was never much into “keeping up with the Joneses” when living in a sticks and bricks, but camper envy is insidious..and our “must have” list grows as we see what’s working well for our friends.

Gravity chairs, because Kelly and Bill had them and they are wicked comfortable

Gravity chairsbecause Kelly and Bill had them and they are wicked comfortable (Update:  Lee loves his but I really never warmed up to mind.  Best advice try them before you buy them)

Dyson Slim Line sweeper which Jo and Ben have and loved. The price tag was high but it works great and fits right in our little coat closet area

Dyson Slim Line sweeper which Jo and Ben have and loved. The price tag was high but it works great, and fits right in our little coat closet area!


Finally, we replaced our cookware with a nesting Magma set that Cori and Greg have.  Everything nests neatly together in one cabinet and there are removable and interchangeable handles and lids.  Really smart and fits in a very small space…plus they work on an induction burner which we are planning on getting sometime in the future…again because Cory and Greg have one…it’s a sickness!


All wrapped up and perfect for moving in an RV

All wrapped up and perfect for moving in an RV

Everything separated

Everything separated


So we were happier (but much poorer in AmEx points) this weekend with all our new stuff.  One thing though is whenever you buy something you need to get rid of something else and some reorganization was called for.  The cookware is in a bottom cabinet where it is easily accessible, and some other items were moved around.  It’s a good rule of thumb for us that whatever comes in something else has to go out!!

Saturday night I tried a dinner with three brand new items.  Usually I don’t take on that many new recipes at the same time, but I have been wanting to try fried chicken in cast iron skillet I got at the rally in Tennessee and thought “Why not?”.  Lee declared the meal an A+ and every recipe made the cut.  Plus I was really proud the chicken turned out so well.  I have never made fried chicken in a skillet in my life, seen it done often but never taken it on myself, and it turned out really well. Can’t wait to try it again and experiment with other recipes.



Classic Southern Fried Chicken 

  • 4-6 chicken legs (smaller legs are better)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TBL Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 TBL pepper
  • 16 oz solid Crisco vegetable shortening
  1. Rinse chicken and pat dry place on baking sheet
  2. Whisk eggs and milk until well blended in one bowl
  3. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl
  4. Dunk a chicken leg in the egg mixture then dredge in flour mix.  Place leg on baking sheet and repeat until all legs are coated
  5. Place coated chicken in refrigerator for 30 minutes – 12 hours the refrigerator time helps seal the coating to the chicken
  6. In a 12″ cast iron skillet melt shortening and heat until 365 degrees (I heated until water drops in the oil caused a pop)
  7. Add all chicken; brown on side then turn and brown.  Watch closely and turn frequently once initial browning is complete.
  8. Use meat thermometer to ensure chicken is at 170 degrees internal temperature.  Takes 20-30 minutes
Chicken in the cast iron skiller

Chicken in the cast iron skillet


 Baby Carrots with Dill

  • 12 oz baby carrots
  • 2 TBL butter melted
  • Fresh Dill
  1. Cook baby carrots in boiling water until tender 10-15 minutes
  2. Drain carrots and place in serving bowl
  3. Add melted butter and toss until carrots are coated
  4. Place snipped fresh dill sprigs on dish
Baby Carrots with fresh dill

Baby Carrots with fresh dill









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3 thoughts on “Reflections on Being an Empty-Nester and buying camper stuff

  1. Tracy – you know I can 100% relate to this post (the first part anyway – we have not gone on an AmEx shopping spree – but sounds fun!). I have been very aware for a long time, since my kids ;were small, that if I didn’t plan time/stuff for just Bill and I, when the kids were gone and it was just us again, we could have ended up looking at one another saying “Who are you again?” We always did date nights, and did anniversary weekends by ourselves to keep the “spark” alive and well. I can tell almost every time which couples do this and which don’t. It’s sad when they don’t. My Grandmother told me when I first had my daughter, the most important relationship in the family is the husband/wife – and since my grandparents were the most happy couple I knew at that time, I heeded that advice and made it a priority. I don’t mean to make it sound like Bill wasn’t involved, but he always worked a TON of hours, so the planning was up to me. I am happy for you and Lee that it is “your” time again, but I also am right there with you in that it is a mixed bag of feelings that come along with that. I find that if I give myself a bit of time on my “down” days, maybe a half hour or so, to just remember the good times with the kids, etc. then that helps me to be able to have the rest of my day without having those feelings become overwhelming.
    Anyway, I am getting very long winded here, so I will end now, just know you are not alone!
    Love you guys!

  2. Pingback: First Year – The Emotional Arc | Camper Chronicles

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