Tag: empty nest

Universal Design Seminar at Sunnyfields – Make your empty nest your happy place


Aging in place.  Universal Design. A free presentation by Sunnyfields Design Manager, Kevin Brown, CAPS.

As you transition your lifestyle to that sought after (maybe/maybe not?) empty nest stage, make your home your haven. Join us on Saturday September 22, 11 am to 1 pm. 

Aging in place.  Universal Design. A free presentation on September 22


Aging in place.  Universal Design. A free presentation by Sunnyfields Design Manager, Kevin Brown, CAPS.

As you transition your lifestyle to that sought after (maybe/maybe not?) empty nest stage, make your home your haven. Join us on Saturday September 22, 11 am to 1 pm. 

Top Stories: A Propane Tank Explodes at Scott Plank’s House, The Ward Estate Hits the Market, Penn Station Robotic Bike Storage Plan Resurfaces


Our top story this week was a doozy: an explosion, hovering media helicopters and dozens of cop cars and firetrucks, all on one of Baltimore’s wealthiest streets.

On Wednesday morning, when developer Scott Plank (Kevin’s brother) wasn’t home, a propane tank exploded behind his house. Authorities responded and transported one person to an area hospital with burn injuries.

Shots from overhead showed a blocked-off road, a hole in a service building and debris on Plank’s personal tennis court. However, as Ed Gunts wrote, it also drew attention to the luxurious neighborhood: “It’s an encouraging sign that homeowners are investing in Baltimore. The aerial shots of Plank’s tennis court and swimming pool looked impressive.”

Here were our other top stories from the last seven days:

About a Girl



In which University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik introduces her best girlfriend forever.

When I was young, I knew I would never get married. I had the whole seven dwarfs of unwifely characteristics: Bossy, Macho, Driven, Ornery, Rebellious, Intemperate, and Whack. Still, I was boy-crazy from the get-go and hormones trump all cards. I spent my teens and 20s pursuing a series of mad loves, and then devoted my 30s and 40s to two passionate, screwed-up marriages. My first husband died young; the second and I nearly killed each other.

The Cells That Got Away: A Fan’s Notes


Are we, in fact, becoming our mothers, minute by minute? University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik contemplates the question through a scientific (and poetic) lens.

“You should put your name in,” I said to my daughter Jane the other night at the Stoop show at CenterStage. The host had invited audience members to drop their names into a paper bag in the lobby. Three would be selected to get up and tell impromptu tales after the break. Though 99 percent of the human race would consider this the worst idea ever, Jane went right ahead and filled out a slip. We had a only couple of minutes to talk about what story she might tell; the night’s theme was travel. Last fall, she remembered, her sixth grade science class had gone to Luray Caverns, and somehow she missed the bus. The weird thing was, the teacher had predicted it would happen. “If you’re not there at 7:15 sharp, you’ll be standing on the curb crying,” Ms. Punch told Jane grimly. This seemed so unlikely we joked about it for months. Until it happened.


While a baby is gestating in the womb, reproducing cells created by the union of its parents’ DNA, some of its mother’s cells sneak in through the placenta. Researchers believe this may help to develop the immune system: “We all must learn to tolerate our mothers,” as an immunologist at the University of Wisconsin put it. After a child is born, these maternal cells remain, multiplying on their own.


Once I interviewed an author who had written a book about communicating with your adult children. Both of her sons are successful and well-known and she did not shy from bragging about their accomplishments. In fact she might have written the whole book for this reason. I had to forgive her. From the preschool pageant to the summer camp musical, from the high school football game to the Battle of the Bands, I cast my lot with the crazed parent groupies and enraptured cell-phone paparazzi, brows knit, smiles electric, Facebook pages open wide. There is nothing more fun.

Living in a Boomerang World


As far as new buzzwords go, “boomerang kids” sounds catchy, but doesn’t begin to encompass the complexity of 20- and 30-somethings who move back home — or the parents who are their new roommates.  Yesterday’s Diane Rehm Show featured Maryland psychotherapist Linda Gordon, Washington Post advice columnist Katherine Newman, and Johns Hopkins Dean Katherine Newman talking about just this issue. They put a face to individuals living in this boomerang world, and some of them aren’t what you would expect.  A few types:

  • The parents who suddenly find their empty nest full again.  When we talk about kids moving back in with their parents, we tend to focus on the younger generation.  But having children move back home is rough on parents, too — especially if they’d been enjoying the time along… not to mention the extra financial freedom.


  • The “adult roommates.” Here’s one thing that previous generations never said:  “My parents are my best friends.” When a son or daughter moves back home, that best friend becomes a roommate.  The tricky thing is defining roles and boundaries for adults living together — who are also family members. Should your kid pay rent? Is it okay for your son to drink in the house? Is it okay for him to bring his friends over to drink? Is it okay for him to get really drunk?


  • The ambitious intern.  Katherine Newman notes that the path to a middle class career is longer and more expensive than ever. Young people are racking up Master’s degrees and unpaid internships just to try and get a foot in the door. And living with parents makes this much more feasible. For these kids, moving back home is hardly a lazy move; it’s allowing the family to provide shelter in challenging economic times.


  • The “failure to launch” case. Carolyn Hax points out that tough economic times make it tough on everyone — and toughest on the marginal cases.  Young people struggling with depression, substance abuse, or other issues “would’ve been able to get a foothold on their own, even struggling” in the past, Hax notes,  “But now it’s like, forget it.”

The Arrow from My Bow


I was ashamed, but I did it anyway.  Over twenty years ago, I had a daughter without the man who had told me he was my best friend.  He wasn’t at Union Memorial Hospital when she was born.  He had moved to North Carolina to reconcile with his wife.  

I have difficulty with intimacy.  My relationships with men have not been satisfying. 

When my daughter was born, she screamed.  I knew that was supposed to be a good sign, but it was painful to hear her in distress.  My obstetrician placed her on my chest.  I reached for her, stroking her.  Trying to comfort her, I called her, “Sweetheart.”  Instantly, she stopped crying.  Her little head bobbed in the hospital blanket, following the sound of my voice. 

My bond with my daughter is the best one I have.  For her, I devote my time, resources and affection.  What I knew about parenthood was this: I didn’t want my child to be raised like I was.  That is probably a standard vow that many make who have survived childhoods that lacked stability or support.  Mine was fraught with the neglect of a woman who was unable to care for or nurture me.

I did not want my daughter to ever wonder if she was loved or wanted. 

My daughter’s father moved back to Baltimore when she was a toddler and re-entered our lives.  He took us to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  To the Aquarium, downtown.  To Hershey Park. 

I craved him and eventually we resumed our romance.  But he was still married.  I told no one, but my daughter knew.  She told me she could hear her father’s voice when he visited me after she was put to bed. I tried not to think about the kind of example I was setting. 

Again, I was ashamed, but I did it anyway.

I had to work full time and put my daughter in day care, but we spent our free time together.  We took daily walks to the playground next to the Bykota Senior Center or along a wooded path behind the Towson YMCA we discovered together.  We went to Pumpkinland at Weber’s Farm.  She had her picture taken on Santa’s lap in his workshop on the promenade of the Inner Harbor.  At the end of each work week, we went out on Friday night dates; to Friendly’s on York Road and a movie at the Towson Commons.  My daughter also rode the horses on Friday nights.  She’d wave to me from the carousel, centered in the food court of the White Marsh Mall. 

We spent a week’s vacation every summer visiting relatives with children – her cousins – in Massachusetts or Prince Edward Island.  Twice, I saved enough to fly with her to Orlando.  Before we left for Disney World, she patted down her clothes that were stacked inside my suitcase.   My daughter gave me a grin I still remember, before we closed the suitcase together.  

We weathered temper tantrums, of course.  I remember one at the Carroll County Farm Museum Fall Harvest Days when I had to carry her to the car.  We stopped at a small dairy store about a mile from the farm museum, though.  Sitting on a wooden bench outside the store, we were both soothed by ice cream.

From age 10 on, my daughter was passionate about horses.  I was her chauffeur, but I was not a fan.  The barns smelled.  They were suffocating in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter.  I never enjoyed rising before dawn on weekend mornings to follow a horse trailer to a show who-knows-where.

But we did most of our talking in the car.  She spoke of the horses as though they were human.  I’d learn about her friendships.  Her schoolwork.  We talked about her uncles, aunt, cousins.  My parents, her grandparents.

We did not talk much about her dad.  He left his wife again when my daughter was twelve, for someone else.  Not me.

Last year, my daughter graduated from college.  She has chosen to remain in the city where she went to school.  I miss her every day and recently drove up to see her.

She called me to confirm the night before I was to come.  And then she called me a minute or so after we had hung up, to ask me if anything was wrong.  She said she’d detected something in my voice.  “Nope,” I told her.  “Nothing’s wrong.”  I cherished her concern, though.  She was emerging from her awkward, uncomfortable urge to get away from me.  An urge I’d tried to overlook. 

The summer before she left for college was the worst one for me.  By then, I no longer knew all of my daughter’s friends. 

One night in mid-August, 2006, my daughter did not come home.  I woke at four a.m. with an horrific knot in my stomach.  The pain would not subside; she was nowhere in the house.  By seven a.m., I was panicked.  I forced myself to make coffee, walk the dog, water my impatiens.  By eight a.m. I was calling every one of her friends I knew and got the phone number of the boy with whom she went out.  When I got a voice message on his line, I called the Baltimore County Police. 

The officer sat in my dining room, writing on a form that was encased in a metal box.  I tried not to cry while he asked me what happened.   Had we fought?  What was she wearing?   I’d sewed one of the straps back on her white dress just as a car pulled up in front of our house.  It was driven by a dark haired young man.  She hadn’t introduced me to him and he did not get out of the car.  Once more, shame engulfed me.  I couldn’t give the police officer a license plate number or description of that car.  I was a horrible mother whose daughter had disappeared with some stranger I hadn’t bothered to check out.

The officer asked me if my daughter had ever been fingerprinted.  I told him she had, that a criminal background check was required when she worked at St. Timothy’s riding camp.  The officer had one final question, and he cautioned me not to be alarmed.  Did my daughter have dental records?

I knew why he was asking.  I nodded my head, tears brimming.  Forcing my fingers, I signed the form allowing access to her records. 

The black techno cube on the officer’s shoulder crackled.  He jumped up, excused himself and turned around.  The voice coming from the box described my daughter’s white dress.  And then the blessed words:  She is walking down York Road.

The officer smiled at me, “Ma’am, we’ve found your daughter.  I’m going to go pick her up and give her a ride home.”

The relief.  The elation I felt was quickly extinguished when I saw my daughter: “What the hell!”  She called me a psycho mom.  None of her friends had a mom like me.  I suffocated her. 
A week later, I drove her to college and helped lug her stuff up to her freshman dorm room.  The crush of her absence hit me as I climbed back up the steps to our house.  My neighbors from both sides of my rowhouse were enjoying the beautiful summer evening.  Citronella candles glowed.  A grill was smoking.  The neighbors knew where I had been and asked me how it had gone.

I could not speak.  I simply cried.  They invited me to join them and I did. 

Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet:  “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth … Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”  I believe that I learned to nurture myself by caring for my daughter.  With her, I am content; committed.  Loved.

 Five years later, I drove to my daughter’s.   She had introduced him to me a year before.  I was pleased then that he was nervous about meeting me.

Seven months later, he spent Thanksgiving with us in Baltimore. The last time we were all together, in February, he picked up the tab of more than one hundred dollars at a delicious seafood restaurant.

My daughter chose a good man.  This early spring, they sat side-by-side at a comfortable corner table.  It was one of the first warm days of the year and the whole wall behind us was open to the sidewalk.  My daughter’s former college roommate was our waitress.  I am concerned that no one with whom she has graduated is working in the field in which they majored.  I am hopeful the recession will ebb.  My daughter is paying for her rent, utilities, and food with a hodgepodge of part-time jobs.  I am paying off all of her college loans.

But we did not talk of money when we sat together, sharing a smile over the table.  We laughed.  We toasted our threesome and I ate the best French toast I’d ever tasted.
 My daughter is beautiful.  She wears layers of colorful clothes that I never recognize.  I no longer buy her anything for her wardrobe and she has a style that exudes her originality.  Her hair is auburn with natural red highlights.  I was delighted to see these red strands again.  She is no longer dying her hair ebony. 

As I watched her, I realized with a jolt how comfortable she was with this man.  And he smiled when he talked to her.  Watched her when she spoke, nodding his head.  The devotion was natural between them. 

My daughter’s boyfriend has introduced her to his family.  They share their lives; they live together.

Choosing not to lean on anyone was the only way I knew how to survive.  But my daughter is taking a different path and I marvel at how well she is doing it.