KATY Trail 2020 – Phil and Kai’s Most Excellent Adventure

My son Kai and I finally rode the Katy Trail. Perhaps COVID and the change in “normal” activities finally pushed us into action, but after at least five years of saying “we should ride the entire Katy Trail someday,” we completed the 225-mile bike ride from Clinton to St. Charles, Missouri. We thought we’d share some of the highlights as well a few “pro tips” (haha) if any of you are thinking about taking on this most excellent adventure!

Highlight #1:  Great bonding time. I mean, what else can a parent ask for than four days of focused, quality time with one of your adult children. The posterior pain and sore quads have gone away, but the great memories will last forever.

Pro Tip #1: If you are thinking about riding sections of the Katy Trail, or perhaps the entire route, a great resource is bikekatytrail.com. This is a very utilitarian site that allows you to plan and stay current on all things Katy Trail. The “forum” section is very helpful for gaining up-to-date information on any trail detours (including the Salt Creek detour pictured below), lodging options, bike gear and many other topics.

Detour #1 – Bridge out just west of Rocheport. This is not the trail. A side detour down the levee and across the creek which was dry due to lack of rain.

Highlight #2: I know some of our followers have been to this restaurant, but for the weekend/Rocheport Katy Trail riders, Abigail’s in Rocheport is a must. Small and quaint, the food is absolutely amazing. Lailan and I had been here before for brunch (amazing quiche). Kai and I enjoyed a fantastic dinner – Kai devoured a pork chop marinated in jalapeno sauce with a peach glaze. I had the lobster ravioli. Oh, wait, did we share a slice of the chocolate peanut butter pie?

Pro Tip #2:  3.5 days was a bit aggressive (see our route/mileage below). Mostly due to the scarcity of lodging options between Rocheport and Hermann, we decided to ride the 77 miles between these two towns on day 3. That was a long day in the saddle, but I’d probably do it the same way again.

Highlight #3  Long live the small town dive bar. Not entirely by choice, but much to our relief and satisfaction, we experienced three pretty amazing dive bars along the way. The first was Chez When in downtown Sedalia.

One of Kai’s fraternity brothers is from Sedalia and lives there now. As our tour guide, he advised that a stop at Chez When was a must. Great conversation, an actual Miller High Life, and a strong collection of Elvis dolls made this a pretty special place. We left saying, “Chez What?” 

Day 2 took us through Pilot Grove, MO where we found a package store/bar & grill open for lunch.  Deon’s serves a mean cheeseburger and tots for the hungry cyclist. These guys clearly cater to a local crowd and the Katy Trail cyclist.

Deon’s in Pilot Grove, MO

The highlight of the dive bar tour, however, was the Mokane Bar and Grill in Mokane, MO on Day 3. Once we left Rocheport, the towns we passed were very small and nothing was open. We knew we’d be passing through Jeff City close to noon and we assumed there would at least be a Casey’s General Store or something within a visual sighting from the trail. But no.  It was another two miles into town and then two back to the trail. We decided to move on and “surely find something in the next town or two.” Little did we know we were in no man’s land as it relates to food. Around 2:00 PM we rolled into Mokane, MO. Much to our delight, the Mokane Bar & Grill appeared like an oasis in the desert. Another cheeseburger and tots later, we were fortified and back on the trail!

Maybe it’s because we were on a long bike ride, but Kai and I decided we would easily return to Deon’s and/or the Mokane B&G if we were ever back in the area.

Highlight #4: Even though it was our longest mileage day, the payoff was ending in Hermann, MO. We had all heard about Hermann for many years, but none of us had ever been there. Despite COVID, Hermann, settled by German immigrants in the mid 19th century, was in full swing with Oktoberfest. Lailan, and Kai’s wife Molly, met us there and we had a great evening together. We enjoyed a post-ride beer at the Tin Mill Brewery (where we ran into some good KC/church small group friends as well as some biking friends we had met back in Sedalia) and then we enjoyed a great dinner at the Fernweh Distilling Company. This was our first glimpse of Hermann and we hope to return soon (maybe by car or Amtrak!).

Pro Tip #3: – A common question is “what kind of bike do you need to ride the Katy Trail?” Well, we didn’t ride these bikes, but the Halloween spirit was sure “alive” and well just southwest of “Boo”nville:

Kai rode his Cannondale Quick hybrid bike. Yeah, it’s quick! I rode my Trek Checkpoint AL3 gravel bike (basically part road bike/part hybrid). We saw all types of bikes on the trail, but I’d say the main thing is to have slightly wider tires than most road bikes. While the trail is pretty smooth/packed limestone, there are short sections of looser gravel that are just easier to navigate with wider tires. We both have rear racks on our backs to carry our overnight gear. We also both have handlebar bags to carry tools/tubes/snacks/wallet. OK, now for our non-skeletal, real bikes:

Highlight #5:  Finish line with family at the end of the ride. As much fun as it was to spend four days on the trail with Kai, it was also pretty great riding into St. Charles and seeing the rest of our family there to greet us with big smiles and loud cheers. In the pouring rain nevertheless.

Pro Tip #4: Just do it. Whatever your adventure, quit talking about it and just do it! Would we do the Katy Trail again? Hell ya!  Feel free to reach out if you decide to ride the Katy Trail and we’ll be more than happy to help in any way we can!  

Route/Mileage:

Day 1 (half-day): Clinton to Sedalia (35.5 miles)

Day 2: Sedalia to Rocheport (50.5 miles)

Day 3: Rocheport to Hermann (77.5 miles)

Day 4: Hermann to St. Charles (61.5 miles)

A Time of Togetherness. And Not.

Just like everyone else who has been following the stay-at-home orders, the Think Beyond the Nest household has been a bit cozy these days. Togetherness has been a blessing and we’ve found many ways to enjoy this time together. We’ve reinforced those things that we enjoy doing together. Thanks to input from friends via the many Zoom calls, we’ve also discovered some great TV programming. The good news is we are on the same page on most stay-at-home-living activities.

But, hey, let’s be honest. With this much together time, we’ve also found some things where we aren’t totally seeing eye-to-eye. It’s OK. We all need our space, but the stars are definitely not in alignment on everything.

So, here’s a short recap of some of the things we’ve been doing, where we are in sync, and…where we aren’t! 

  • Total agreement on Schitt’s Creek (aka “the best show ever”). I even found a Rose Apothecary shirt online and immediately ordered one for Lailan. Just a little thank you for being my quarantine, Schitt’s Creek buddy! Thanks, Lailan.
  • Total agreement on The Kaminsky Method and The Voice (please vote for Thunderstorm – great vocalist, cool guitarist from Hawaii. He actually performed with Lailan’s best friend’s son in their Honolulu back yard.
  • Not in agreement. Ozark. Nope. Not even close. I love this series. Lailan can’t even walk by the TV when Marty and Wendy Byrde are yelling about another money-laundering crisis. Lailan’s dislike of this show is a real problem. I have two episodes left and I still have to sneak around in my own home to wrap up this latest season.
  • Not in agreement. The latest movie version of Emma. And Downton Abbey – the movie. Anything related to Victorian, obscure love stories. Not grooving. Hey, if I watch a few of these do I earn the right to watch Ozark? Well, I found out it doesn’t quite work that way. Haha.
  • Total agreement, sort of. We spent some quality time together on bike rides, walks and golf. We were on a roll. But, then the indoor sport of card playing happened. While Lailan was full of much happiness, I, on the other hand, apparently have a real phobia for cards. Just not my thing. Guess we’ll stick with outdoor sports and Lailan can get her card-playing fix with her weekly ladies’ bridge group!

And, just for fun, let’s throw in a few other COVID-19 Lockdown 2020 activities that we’ve checked off our list:

  • Getting Cozy or “hygge” in Danish – This is a Danish/Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. Coincidentally, Lailan and I both just read a thought-provoking book authored by Helen Russell titled “The Year of Living Danishly – uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country.” During the long, dark days of winter, the Danes embrace staying inside and focusing on family time together. Pretty ironic given our current stay-at-home situation. Anyway, this is a very interesting read and maybe there is something to how their lifestyle supports happiness.
  • Closet Declutter 2020 – Goodwill and the Salvation Army must be overwhelmed (but hopefully in a good way) as America cleans out their closets. Lailan has been very busy getting rid of old clothes, organizing high school and college yearbooks, musty music books and boxes full of family memorabilia. It feels so good and our closets look great. Visitors who will someday return and stay in our guest bedroom will be happy to know you will actually be able to hang up your clothes now. There is room in the inn AND in our closets!
  • Mystery Paint Can Project – Quick contest – how many paint cans do you think we had piled up in the basement? Too low. Guess again. Actual count = 42. What the heck? We organized which ones can go to recycling and which ones we need to keep. We inspected the date on the cans to see if the paint was still from this century. The problem now? The local paint recycling centers are still closed so actually disposing of the old paint will have to wait.
  • You Know You Have Quarantined Too Long – When you decide to paint the interior of your garage. Of course, the 42 existing cans of paint did not include “suburban garage white.” And as you might predict, the painting project led to more decluttering (yipee), blowing out dust bunnies the size of  West Texas tumbleweeds, and even installing a snazzy new wall organization system. 
  • The Perfect Margarita – Perhaps most importantly, Lailan has officially perfected her unique concoction to create an amazing low-calorie Margarita. The truth is it’s never made exactly the same way twice, so this recipe is simply meant to be a foundation. If we continue to sequester, you’ll have time to give this recipe a try and add your own embellishments.

Lailan’s Hydrating and “Good for You, Haha” Margarita

  1. Fill glass completely with ice.
  2. Splash (or more) of Dulce Vida Lime Tequila.
  3. Splash (or more) of Tres Agaves Margarita Mix (organic of course)
  4. Add big splash of Vita CoCo Coconut water
  5. Squeeze a lime wedge and add lime wedge to drink
  6. Enjoy
  7. No judgement on what time of day happy hour begins

IN CLOSING: Sipping a margarita from an actual bar/restaurant, gathering with family and friends, returning to in-person church, and developing a vaccine are all things we long for. Until then, we are thinking about all of you, we thank our health care workers and other first responders, and we pray for those who have or are suffering from the coronavirus.

This too shall pass. Be well and stay safe.

It is well.

Deprivation, Quarantine, and Coping – circa 1940-1954

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The following message was written by Phil’s mother, Laura Shoffner, on March 25, 2020 and sent to all of her grandchildren in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Laura is a long-time English teacher in both public and private schools as well as a published author.

My precious grandchildren, I write the following with the hope that you will take from it strength, resilience, and hope in these strange times in which you find yourselves.  Yours has been a generation of abundance, independence, and, dare I say it, instant gratification.  To be faced suddenly with the lack of taken-for-granted creature comforts, restriction, and social distancing must be not only weird, but scary.  From earliest childhood I have been blessed with a vivid memory of my formative years.  What I share with you here is based on my recollections of years of my life when hardship, doing without, and, yes, fear were “normal.”  May you take from it the knowledge that, clichéd as it might be, “This, too, shall pass.”

In 1941 my parents built a new home in Johnson County, KS, the site chosen primarily because of the excellent independent K-8 grade school, Westwood View.  For this move to be financially viable, my family had for a time lived with my maternal grandparents.  In 1939 all of us moved to a rental home on The Paseo in Kansas City, and my parents took in a boarder, as well.  By these sacrifices, my parents were able to realize their dream of their own home.  Still, for the first year we had the same boarder, and my recently widowed grandmother lived with us.  How thrilled my parents must have been to find optimism after the dark days of the Great Depression.

That idealism was shattered by the events of Dec. 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was in kindergarten and could hardly understand my father’s relief that he had just a week prior purchased a new green Nash, a car that somehow made it through until new cars were once again produced around 1947.  Posters demonizing the Nazis and “Japs,” as we called them, filled us with concern as did the bomb drills we had in school.  Nelle Word, whom we called Nay and had been a long-time boarder with my grandparents when my mother was growing up, now had no place to live since she had to return from her job on Oahu. My parents invited her into our home.

Because everything was geared toward the war effort, rationing was put in place.  A short list of our “deprivations” included strict rationing for sugar, chocolate, rubber, gasoline, leather, cooking oil, heating oil, chewing gum, meat, and other groceries.  Each adult had a ration book with stamps (coupons) entitling them to obtain certain goods.  Here are some of my memories about rationing.

We made oleo margarine by kneading a yellow food coloring button into a Crisco-like substance. When we kids outgrew our shoes, ration stamps had to be found for new ones.  Later in life, I understood more about the cracked leather slippers my grandmother wore most of the time; clearly she had forfeited her new shoes so we kids could be shod.  The pediatrician made house calls when we were sick because only doctors and other essential providers had sufficient gasoline and rubber stamps to get around town.  Remember, cars back then had rubber tires aired up frequently.  Because of reduced driving, all of us had to use public transportation except in rare instances.  Mother could make a meatloaf last for two meals for six or seven of us, and prune whip was a frequent “dessert.”  I remember Nay making cookies using turkey fat because we had no shortening. During the war, there were no Country Club Plaza Christmas lights.  Our Yuletide gifts would seem ludicrous to you now, but even the smallest “surprise” was a delight.  Long distance phone calls were outrageously expensive, so in that way we, too, were isolated from family who lived elsewhere.  Letter writing, however, was a godsend, helping folks to keep in touch.

Looming over all of these measures was the concern for our fighting forces and fear that one day we might be invaded.  Movies often were propaganda-based, and our only lifeline to what was happening other than the radio was the newsreel at the beginning of each film.

My father was in an essential business, and while he didn’t have to go to war, he worked day and night for war-related engineering construction projects.  I can still see his drooping shoulders and red-rimmed eyes.

At school we kids could “escape” into a school full of creative and dedicated teachers who made our days fly by.  To help with the war effort, we collected old newspapers in our little red wagons.  We would pile them, grade by grade, in the school yard in an attempt to win that month’s prize for the largest collection.  All tin cans used at home were saved, stomped on to flatten them, and taken to the occasional “scrap” drives at the school.

When we had childhood diseases—mumps, chicken pox, measles, scarlet fever, etc.—the family was quarantined.  On the front door would be a large sign that said “Quarantine” in red letters.  Shortly after WWII, there were several polio “scares” during which swimming pools closed and few attended movie theaters.  In 1952 when my brother Chuck came down with polio, we were quarantined for three weeks.  I was a junior in high school, and my friends would shove my homework into our mail slot.

Small pleasures included the carton (not pack, mind you, but CARTON) of Juicy Fruit gum my Navy cousin gave me from the PX, being able to lick the bowl of brownies my mother had made (after scrimping on coupons) to send her brother in New York City, and the thrill of my very own Hershey bar when chocolate was again more widely available after the war. 

So here I sit at eight-three seeing and hearing echoes of that long ago time when our country sacrificed and “went without.”  Now, as then, we can do this.  We must do this!  And on the other side, may we be better people for the sacrifice.

Do You Meal Prep?

There are things that come up every now and then, especially for me as an empty-nester, that really make me feel old and perhaps a bit behind the times. This whole “meal prep” explosion is definitely one of them. 

The popularity and power of the meal prep craze hit me hard on a beautiful Sunday afternoon last month when we asked our 26-year-old son, Kai, if he would like to join us for a sunny afternoon of golf. His immediate reply was, “Sorry, I can’t go. Molly and I are meal prepping this afternoon.”  What? And then a few weeks later while on the phone with our other son, Ryan (28) and his wife Erin who live in St. Louis, they casually mentioned they were meal prepping for the week. I immediately thought to myself, “Well, it appears everyone is meal prepping. I feel so out of it!” I have to admit a smile came to my face when I pictured both newlywed couples sharing time and working together in their kitchens. Maybe a secret to love and romance is through food!

Anyway, as a young girl, I remember my parents making big Sunday evening meals that we would then eat off for days. In that era of my life, we called those follow-up meals “left-overs.”  And with our own family, Phil and I would make big soups, chilis, or casseroles on Sunday nights and we’d enjoy those “left-overs” for the entire week. Usually those meals would even taste better the second night. Who knew?

So here’s my question…is meal prepping the new left-overs?  From what I’ve read, meal prepping is basically a nutritional and controlled portion-size way of eating. The more I think of it, Phil and I could really benefit from this method of eating. I’m just not sure I have the patience to spend the time preparing a week’s worth of meals, or the will power to only eat what’s in my container. Ha! We would love to know if there are any empty-nesters out there who have gotten on the meal-prepping band wagon. We’d love to learn and share your ideas with others!

Here’s another consideration – if you are considering meal prepping or have been meal prepping, you know the meal storage containers are an important part of the “prep.” There are quite a variety of meal prep container options and they are everywhere! I literally almost ran into this display at our local HyVee grocery store just last week. 

The different container options have their pros and cons especially as it relates to BPA levels, environmental concerns, keeping food fresh, and budget friendliness. Just take a peek online for a few ideas!

Conventional wisdom suggests older generations can learn a thing or two from our own kids and/or the millennial generation. I think the concept of meal-prepping is one of them. I’m still not sure I can change my ways and commit to ongoing meal-prepping, but I think we should at least give it a try. It might even turn into a good conversation topic to bring up with our kids on Sunday afternoons!  “Hey, what are YOU meal-prepping this week? Send us the recipe.”

Do I Need a Shingles Shot?

Happy New Year and welcome back to “Think Beyond the Nest” where we cover topics related to life as empty nesters. We’ve been a bit busy in the back half of 2019 with two weddings and a run for a local elected office (all good fodder for more blog posts), but in an attempt to be helpful and informative as it relates to our life stage, we wanted to share some info on the super fun (haha) topic of, wait for it…Shingles.

It starts with my dad who lives about three hours away. We talk every week and catch up on a variety of topics mostly centered around the current state of the Kansas City Chiefs or the Kansas City Royals. In terms of more personal topics such as ones health, he seems to be of the generation where you take life in stride, push through, and never complain much about all of the health issues that come with getting older. So I knew something was up when he mentioned how much pain he was in due to something called “shingles.”

Without getting too grotesque, he described a big, itchy and painful rash that had spread across part of his back. Medication helped a bit, but he suffered with this rash and the pain for quite a while. Finally, it went away and he’s fine, but I remember thinking, “Man that sounds pretty nasty. I hope I never get shingles, whatever it is.”

SO WHAT IS SHINGLES?

According to the MayoClinic.org: Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who’s had chickenpox may develop shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus can enter your nervous system and lie dormant for years.

Eventually, it may reactivate and travel along nerve pathways to your skin — producing shingles. But, not everyone who’s had chickenpox will develop shingles.

The reason for shingles is unclear. But it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older. Shingles is more common in older adults and in people who have weakened immune systems.

We have an elderly neighbor who lives right across the street from us. We hadn’t seen him come or go in a while, and after checking in on him, we found out not only did he have shingles, but the infection and the rash was so bad especially around his eyes, that he had two hospital stays to help with his recovery. Thankfully, he’s made a full recovery and he was lucky the shingles did not cause any permanent vision damage. In speaking to him recently, he shared with us that he never had a Shingles vaccination.

Then at my latest “over 50” (closer to 60!) annual physical, my doctor said, “You’re at the age where you need to get the shingles vaccine. Shingles is not something you want to get.” Thinking back on my dad and our neighbor, I jumped on his recommendation and went and got my first of two shingles shots. Yup. You need to get two shots approximately two to five months apart. I got the Shingrix vaccine. The actual shot doesn’t hurt, but my arm was definitely sore for about three days.

In talking with other empty nesters who have also had the shingles shot, it appears people react in different ways in the 24 hours following the shot. Two friends of ours received the shot on the same day and both spent the next day in bed with flu-like symptoms. My first shot was OK. I felt slightly nauseous later in the day, but I was fine the next day. When I got my second round, I thought it would be about the same, but as the day wore on, I kept feeling more tired and a bit flu-like. So much so, that I had to crawl in bed, wrap up tight to stay warm, and luckily fell off to sleep. As expected, I was back to 100% the next day!

So, while you have to have two rounds of shots, endure a sore arm for a few days, and possibly feel a little crummy for a day, the experts say all of that is still much better than actually getting the shingles. The Shingrix vaccine can be in short supply, so you need to check with your pharmacy for availability. I was able to reserve a dose at our local CVS pharmacy.

Be sure to check our follow-up posts on the exciting topic of shingles as we follow Lailan through her two rounds of shingles vaccinations.

Homemade Almond Milk – the best gets better!

Phil and I have been almond milk drinkers for quite some time now.  We like its health benefits and the way it tastes.  The little boxes we purchase(d) from Costco are easy for storage and the milk lasts forever!

However, just when you think things can’t get any better with your almond milk, they certainly can, and did!  When I was in Hawaii a few months ago, my dear friend, Polly who is by the way, the poster child for healthy and environmentally-conscious living, shared with me her homemade Almond Milk recipe.  “Why would I want to make my own almond milk when the store-bought almond milk is good?”  Well, like I said, things can get better even when you think they can’t.  This recipe is so easy and everything in it is natural with no preservatives (ever wonder why the store bought stuff lasts FOREVER)?  The homemade almond milk tastes so fresh and only lasts a week, but we go through a batch of it in about that amount of time, so it’s perfect for the two of us!  Also, I feel like I’m helping the environment by reusing a glass milk jar! Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup raw almonds (I buy the big bag from Costco or Sam’s)
  • 3 pitted dates (also the big bag from Costco or Sam’s)
  • Water

RECIPE: Soak 1 cup almonds in water for 10 hours or over night. 

Discard the water the almonds were soaking in and pour almonds into blender with 5 cups water.  Add 3 pitted dates.  Blend on high for 3 minutes.  Slowly pour milk through nut milk bag  and squeeze out milk into bowl.  It’s kinda like milking a cow. Ha!

Funnel milk into quart-size glass milk bottle and place in refrigerator. 

And voila’ – you have your very own, fresh almond milk!

You can also use the almond pulp from the bag to make almond pulp muffins and crackers.  I’ve made the muffins, and they are really good. I have not tried the crackers yet, but I hope to very soon.

So there you go!  A fun, easy, healthy and environmentally friendly recipe for you!
The nut milk bag may be purchased here.


Yummy Winter Meal Prep

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So this just happened. Our “living-at-home-soon-to-be-married adult son,” Kai, totally earned his keep the other day. I think the Millennials call this “meal prep,” but whatever you call it, I’m loving it. And we’re not talking McDonald’s here. All in one day, during another cold Kansas City weekend, Chef Kai cranked out a giant Crockpot full of soul-warming chili AND a melty, golden, mouth-watering Pyrex-filled pile of chicken enchiladas. He even shared his work with dear old dad.

The empty nest is a bit wonky at the moment as Lailan has been in Hawaii for an indeterminate amount of time to be with her rapidly declining, 93-year-old mother. So, with her out of town, I find myself staring at the pantry wondering what I can do with various cans of corn, beans, tomato paste, olive oil and other basics.  So, perhaps you can appreciate my complete and utter joy when Kai steps up and knocks out the chili and enchiladas!  If you’re interested, here’s an untouched photo of the enchiladas and the simple recipe below.  Enjoy!

Kais Enchiladas

SOUR CREAM CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

Prep Time:   10 minutes                                                                                                Cook Time:   20 minutes                                                                                                Total Time:   30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb chicken, boneless/skinless, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8-10 flour tortillas
  • 1-1/2 cups Mexican cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 15 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 C sour cream (or greek yogurt – yes!)
  • 4 oz. green chiles
  • Optional: add some spinach (always Lailan’s idea). I say chop of some jalepeno and throw that in.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium skillet, cook chicken and onion in the vegetable oil until chicken is cooked though and onion is tender. * Add 1 tbsp taco seasoning for added flavor!
  2. Divide chicken evenly between the tortillas.
  3. Place 1-2 tbsp cheese on top of chicken in each tortilla. Roll tortilla closed and place seam side down in a greased 9×13 baking dish.
  4. In medium skillet, melt butter.
  5. Add in flour to create a roux. Kai says “it’s like gravy.” Allow to cook about 2 minutes.
  6. Slowly add in chicken broth and heat until bubbly and thickened.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream (or yogurt) and chilis. Pour sauce evenly over tortillas.
  8. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of sauce.
  9. Bake in preheated oven (400) for about 20 minutes, or until bubbly.

When Your Nest Isn’t So Empty Anymore

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We started our blog, Think Beyond the Nest, after both of our grown boys had flown the coop. We’ve shared our experiences, thoughts, ideas and activities along the way. The nest we built many years ago was down to two. 

And just like that, after becoming perhaps a little too cozy, we have found our nest to be not so empty any more.  Our son, Kai has returned and has brought along a furry friend with him named Bennett!

After spending several years working in St. Louis, Kai moved back home in July to begin the process of eventually building his own nest with his now fiance, Molly. Molly recently finished nursing school in St. Louis and has also returned to Kansas City where she will begin working soon at a major academic hospital. They were engaged in July and will be married in October 2019.

In order to save money for their own house, Kai moved back in, stored his stuff in our basement, and is now a very welcome inhabitant of our home. He gets up earlier than he ever did before (haha), does his own laundry (most of the time), cooks dinner (occasionally), does dishes (a lot), and even shares the remote control (OK, never). He has a great job (yahoo), thinks about things like 401k’s, health insurance and all of that grown-up stuff.

But wait… did I mentioned a fourth member of the Bressler nest? We got Kai back, and we also welcomed Kai’s puppy, Bennett into our home. Bennett – an eight-month old, 65-pound black lab puppy.  Of course, I have fallen head over heals in love with Bennett, our “grand puppy.”

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We really thought we were getting a sweet, little puppy, but after living with Bennett for a few month now, we really think Bennett might actually be a Velociraptor. A year ago, I never would have understood this cartoon, but my bloody arms and bruises can attest that the following is very true.  Thankfully, his baby teeth are gone and the blood on my arms has subsided.

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We’ve always rescued adult pugs, and so the Lab puppy experience was all new to me. It’s just like having a toddler in the house again – irregular sleep patterns, lots of curiosity, toys strung out all over the house, and even a sibling rivalry with our grandpa pug, Edwin.

 

 

It’s been a lot of work, but it really has been fun. We get to walk dogs around the block together, we have another golf partner, and we’re very excited about getting our drummer back for The Bressler Band.

thebresslerband

Many of you have probably had birds return to the nest. In fact according to the Pew Research Center:

As of 2016, 15% of 25 to 35-year-old Millennials were living in their parents’ home. This is 5 percentage points higher than the share of Generation Xers who lived in their parents’ home in 2000 when they were the same age (10%), and nearly double the share of the Silent Generation who lived at home in 1964 (8%).

The experts are also correct – it’s good to establish some expectations on the front end, but once you build a nest, we hope it’s always a warm, welcoming and loving place to return. Even if a 65-pound Velociraptor is part of the package!

 

 

Opening Up On the Anxiety Conversation – I Know I’m Not Alone

Anxiety Image for TBTNWow! August is over, and I made it through! I have to admit that all year long I have been secretly dreading the month of August not just because of the heat here in Kansas City, but because of what I experienced at this time a year ago. I’ve always been a pretty easy-going, happy, and optimistic person. My faith in God is strong and I’ve always been grounded spiritually. But something really strange, and frankly quite scary, snuck up and literally bit me last August.

After visiting with my doctor about it and opening up to friends, I have learned that there are many of us empty-nester, 50-something gals experiencing some form of anxiety. I felt compelled to share my experience with anxiety and what I have learned from it in the hopes it may help you or someone you know. Here’s my story:

Phil and I had returned home from a wonderful trip to Park City, UT for a wedding. After a few days home, I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold. I just didn’t feel right. I actually spent some time in bed and forfeited attending a few social events with Phil thinking that I would start feeling better soon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any better and my symptoms worsened. I struggled with focus, memory, irritability, and fogginess. I felt as though I was in a tube or in another world all by myself and couldn’t get out. I was dizzy and my vision was blurry which really scared me.

Phil finally suggested I see my doctor. I could tell he was really worried. So, I made the appointment, and Phil drove me there the next morning. I sat hunched over in the exam room holding a piece of paper where I had jotted down notes about what I was experiencing. When my doctor walked in, she calmly asked, “So, what’s going on?” I started rehashing my symptoms and then the floodgates opened. Tears started streaming down my face, and I couldn’t control them. As she calmly guided me through a conversation, I found myself telling her about everything that was going on in my life at the time. One thing that was really weighing heavy on my heart was my 92 year-old mother who was (and still is) in a skilled nursing facility in Hawaii in the final stage of Alzheimer’s. She has been on hospice care for almost two years. I shared with my doctor the guilt I felt at not being able to be with my mom every day to check on her. I also confessed that at the same time I actually dreaded visiting my mom and witnessing her in the bed-ridden, constricted, and mute state that she is in. Along with my mom’s situation, it seemed like I had no control over my life and everything just wasn’t going right!  My favorite yoga instructor was leaving the yoga studio I attended, my eye doctor who I loved was leaving, and my favorite nurse at my mom’s facility was leaving. Everything at once seemed to be going wrong!

I continued sharing my symptoms with my doctor. I told her about my inability to focus and think straight. I felt as though people were looking and staring at me all the time. I was pretty paranoid. I remember playing Bridge with my friends, holding my cards and not knowing what to do and thinking “everybody” was watching me and wondering what was wrong with me. I felt totally out of control in my thoughts! I had trouble getting a good deep breath. As my doctor guided me through a bunch of standard mental health questions, it finally occurred to me that what I was experiencing was anxiety – my inability to focus, dizziness, vision issues, not feeling well, sensitivity to light and sound. It all started making sense to me. When I told my doctor I hadn’t been to yoga in a while because I had been too busy trying to catch up on work since getting home from our trip and then also not feeling well, she immediately exclaimed, “Get back to yoga!” She ordered blood work to check certain blood functions including hormone levels and then she asked me if I needed to talk to a counselor. She also asked if I needed medication. I told her I didn’t think I needed either of those two things just yet. I had this overwhelming feeling of, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening to me.” Yet, at the same time, I felt a huge wave of relief in the realization that I wasn’t losing my mind and going crazy! My doctor helped me see how much I had going on emotionally in my life right then. I couldn’t see it myself until I was able to talk through it with someone.

A few weeks later I had a follow-up visit with my doctor. Gratefully, I was able to report to her that I was doing so much better. I had started back to yoga! I did not miss a day! I played golf and just walking the course really helped clear my mind. I had always heard exercise is so good for one’s mental health and I believe it now! I think the biggest comforting and reassuring aspect for me in this whole experience was talking to other empty-nester women my age that had surprisingly experienced the same thing that I had! I can’t help but wonder if hormones and menopause play a part in all this. From what I have learned, they very well could.

All I know for sure after what I experienced last summer is that I simply have a whole new outlook and healthy appreciation for mental health issues because it certainly snuck up and caught me by surprise! Anxiety is real and I am so grateful to my doctor who was able to talk with me and help me understand what I was experiencing. I am also so grateful to my friends who were able to open up and share their experiences with me. It’s always comforting and reassuring to know you’re not alone.

Benefits of Simply Taking the Stairs

 

You land in Chicago. After hitting the first available bathroom, you walk through the concourse on your way to baggage claim. As you near the end of the concourse the signage directs you down a level to baggage claim. There’s an escalator. Usually full of other travelers headed to the same baggage claim. There are stairs right next to the escalator. Usually only a handful of people are on the stairs. And in this case, the stairs are going DOWN! So which option do you normally take?

You have a doctor’s appointment at the five-story medical office building. Your health is clearly already on your mind. Perhaps you’re not feeling well, but let’s assume you are there for your annual physical. You go through the main entrance, check the directory for the doctor’s office remembering that it’s still on the third floor. Right in front of you is the bank of elevators. Perhaps a bit harder to find is the sign around the corner that says “STAIRS.” You’re only going up to the third floor. So which option do you normally take?

As empty nesters, most of us are still active, but probably not quite as athletic as we were in our younger years. Given all of the health benefits a simple thing like taking the stairs offers, we’re up for the climb (or even the descent!) here at Think Beyond The Nest. Check out the visual below for a few stair climbing benefits or check this short article for even more info! And next time – let’s all take the stairs!

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