Monday, September 12, 2011

What I Learned on Sabbatical – Part 2

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous. All that time . . . alone?

We invited our parents to spend some time with us at the lake for the first two weeks of our sabbatical. Julia was with us too. Kate came up for a few days. The first two weeks kept us busy and happy with family.

But the second two weeks? Everyone had gone home, Julia was at camp across the lake, and we were completely and utterly alone.

Aside from a few vacations, which were wonderful, my husband and I had never spent two, uninterrupted weeks together in almost 20 years. Twenty years! I could hardly remember what it was like to be “just us.”

I wondered what we would talk about for two weeks. Did we even have anything in common besides the kids?

I wondered if he would give me the space and freedom I had become accustomed to, or would he want to spend every minute glued to my side?

And, yes, I wondered if he’d be chasing me around with “that look” in his eyes for two weeks. Help me!

Let me just say that my fears were entirely unfounded, and I learned a valuable lesson: The empty nest is going to be just fine.

Truth be told, the beginning of our time alone was a little quiet. I missed the kids. I missed the noise. I missed the activity.

But we quickly settled into a routine that looked something like this:

6:00 a.m. – B got up and went outside (he just does that). He would either go fishing or for an early-morning bike ride or sometimes just sit on the dock drinking coffee. The guy doesn’t sleep much.

7:30 a.m. – I’d roll out of bed, looking for coffee.

8:00 a.m. – I would start my work—either writing or lesson planning.

9:00 a.m. – B would come in looking for a second breakfast.

9:05 a.m. – Upon finding no breakfast, B would make it himself.

10:00 a.m. – Sick of studying, I’d get up and take a walk or a bike ride. Or maybe a shower.

Noon – lunch, usually on the dock, in the sun.

The afternoon would find us lying on the dock, in the sun, reading until we fell asleep. You should have seen our savage tans.

By around 4:30 or 5:00 we’d get dressed, maybe have a glass of wine (still on the dock), and try to decide where we’d like to eat dinner. Or maybe we'd take a drive to see what kind of crazy-and-unusual Northwoods culture we could find.

I know. Life was rough on sabbatical.

The great thing was, B and I never got tired of each other, probably because we gave each other space to do what we wanted to do. We didn’t have to spend every waking moment together, but the waking moments that we did spend together were fun. Relaxing and fun.

And you know what? We had plenty to talk about. Of course we talked about the girls, but we talked about other stuff too—ministries we’re involved with, our jobs, the future. You know, stuff.

At the end of our “alone time” I realized something really important: after 26 years, I still love hanging out with my husband. He’s just the right guy for me. He puts up with a lot, he listens to my stories (over and over again), and he still likes to be with me. Oh sure, we have our differences; what couple doesn’t? We don’t focus on those—we focus on the things that make us better people.

Our nest will be empty in just five short years, and we’re already starting to think about what that will look like. After these two weeks together I know one thing: it’s going to be just fine.

Because after 26 years (31 by then), we still like each other. And that, in itself, is a gift.



  1. How lovely is that?? And what a gift from God!! I work from home, and as I listen to my dear dear husband (whom I call 'The Package' [long story involving a tv ad]) homeschool our two kids (ages 9 & 10), (snd then work the evenings & weekend), I'm falling in love with him all over again! I truly am grateful for the broken road God used to bring us together! Your west coastie friend Cindy And no, I don't like granola. Or drive a microbus. :)

  2. Cindy, you are so much fun! But you forgot to mention your feet--do you run around barefoot all the time? :)

  3. Great piece Shelly! I laughed out loud at one point (can you guess?) It is totally scary to think of no kids for buffer but I too have found the same reassurance - thank goodness!

  4. Shelly, that's awesome! I do like hanging out with Mark, although in this particular season it seems like we waste half of our precious minutes together bickering. *sigh* We don't do well with limited access to each other! I don't necessarily look forward to an empty nest, but I DO look forward to some uninterrupted, quality time with my husband! (Wonder if I could convince his employer that he needs a sabbatical...ha!)

  5. What a lovely thing to discover and you have five more years to build on it.


  6. I love that sign!! It is meant to be I love B Road, isn't it? That's so lovely!

    This is such a gorgeously romantic post. Not in a super-slushy way, necessarily, but in a REAL romance way. That after a lot of years together, your lasting love is getting ready for your next adventure!!

    My mum and dad say that when we left, their second honeymoon began. I love that!