In 2017, Gina Marie Byars shared her story of taking emergency custody of her brother’s four children and how this affected her life and her relatively new marriage. Now, the kids have moved back in with their mother and we are talking about the next chapter – how she and her husband are handling the empty nest.
00:06 Speaker 1: This is Do Good, Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder, who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:27 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Welcome back, listeners, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, your host, and today I’ve got the rest of the story with Gina Marie Byars. Last week we rebroadcast my conversation with Gina in October 2017. If you haven’t taken a moment to listen to that episode, I strongly urge you to do so. This conversation this week will make a lot more sense if you go back and listen. It should be the last episode in your feed if you’re listening in a podcast app or you can listen to it through our website, dogoodbegoodshow.com. It shows up as rebroadcast episode two “And Then There Were Four.” But to today’s episode, I got Gina Marie Byars back in the studio and we were able to talk about what happened next. I gave you a little context at the beginning of our conversation, so I think it’s best if we just jump right in.
01:23 ST: Here we are, it’s like two and a half years after I last spoke to you.
01:27 Gina Marie Byars: Yeah.
01:28 ST: And I have a sense that a lot has happened in that time. We really spent the whole first interview talking about the enormous changes to your life that had happened when you took on temporary emergency custody of your brother’s kids.
01:46 GB: Yes.
01:47 ST: Which was four kids, correct?
01:49 GB: Yes.
01:50 ST: Okay, [chuckle] and before that you had been living just with your fairly new husband.
01:56 GB: Yes.
01:57 ST: In an apartment.
01:58 GB: Yes.
01:58 ST: And that was quite a big change to your life.
02:04 GB: Yes, it was. It was. It was a big change.
02:06 ST: And that situation lasted for quite a while. I know when we were talking, you still were saying that their mother was trying to get so that she could start taking custody again. You didn’t know exactly how much longer you would have the kids. You had been able to move into a bigger space and at least accommodate that more. But yeah, so what’s happened since then?
02:34 GB: Well, about six months, it would’ve been just about six months, seven months, after we talked, the kids ended up going back with their mom full-time. They’ve been doing little overnights or different things. And then January 18th, 2018, they were back with their mom full-time, all four of them. And so then, another big giant change of, “Okay, going from lots of kids.” And then our 18 year old Isaac, he had been still from beginning had been with us part-time, and then he’s gone off to college. And so, we’ve… All five of the kids that had been with us have been out of the house.
03:29 ST: You’re like empty nesters.
03:30 GB: Yeah, yeah.
03:32 ST: Which is not a term you usually apply to a…
03:35 GB: 48 year old woman, no.
03:37 ST: Or to a couple that hasn’t been married all that long.
03:40 GB: True.
03:40 ST: And didn’t set out to have children together.
03:44 GB: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And it was immediate sudden empty nest. Even though yes, we knew it was coming, ’cause that was what was going on. But with other families, their oldest goes off to wherever then the next one, the next one, next one. Ours was just like, all of them, all at once. Yeah, another big change. So it’s been just over two years now and it’s probably only been in the last eight months that I’ve figured out… Re-figured out my equilibrium for us again.
04:23 ST: Do you remember back to that first morning when there were no kids in the house and what that felt like or how?
04:31 GB: It was weird, it’s still weird. Every once in a while, I’ll wake up and walk through the house and it’s just me, ’cause Scott will go off to work early. And then the other change on that is, since then, about nine months ago, 10 months ago, I guess now almost, my mom actually started living with us. And then in November, December, it was officially, she had just been kinda hanging out with us with some other family drama with my brother at her house. And then November, December, I said, “Yeah let’s just officially have you live with us.” And so, yeah it’s again, just interesting. And then, yeah, not having the kids around every once in a while there’ll be things… We still have cubbies of their stuff still there and every once in a while I think, “Oh I should go through this and clean it up and use this space,” and I’m like, “Well, not yet.” [chuckle] So that’s been a funny realization for me.
05:41 ST: How old are the kids now?
05:44 GB: 13, 11, nine and eight.
05:48 ST: Okay.
05:48 GB: Yeah.
05:50 ST: And how often do you see them now?
05:54 GB: Often. Obviously not as often as it had been, of course, but like for tonight we’re going to the NAU Women’s Basketball game. I’m taking the whole family, taking all of them. And then the youngest will come over in the mornings a couple of times a week before school, and we hang out for half an hour maybe and then I take her to school, and starting after spring break, we’re gonna restart Monday nights have one of them spend the night with us each week, and so… We’re still pretty connected. And then Scott gets to see the two oldest every day because they go to school with him, they’re in seventh and sixth grade, and he teaches sixth grade and one of them actually gets to be in his class and so that’s a lot of fun for those three, they get to see him.
06:51 ST: Was there anything, I don’t know how much mental space you had to prepare for them leaving, but was there anything you intentionally, you and Scott did to try to say, “Okay we’re gonna take some time for ourselves,” or “We’re gonna re-figure out what we wanna do now that we have more space and time and ability to do that.”?
07:19 GB: We tried. We tried planning, but it was so unconceivable not inconceivable, but not being able to conceive and what’s the word I’m looking for? Predict. Not predict it’s along predict…
07:41 ST: Foresee…
07:41 GB: Foresee, yeah. We weren’t able to foresee what that would look like, what that would feel like. And yes, we’d had days when the kids would be with their mom or somebody else other than us for several hours or overnight or something, but that’s one day. So extended period of time, I was saying, “Okay here’s now just us again.” And it really was, and is, continues to be a really interesting piece of saying, “Well hey, it’s Sunday morning and Karma has their all day, happy hour, should we go do that today? Yes let’s go.” Like, “Oh, okay, yeah, that works.” So I think we’re still trying to figure that out.
08:33 ST: Yeah, I think that in a sense of figuring out what it looks like to be you as a couple, and how you negotiate your lives is something I think we can all relate to and deal with on a regular basis. My best friend and I joke about this, she was a guest on the show, Rachel, she has four kids. And so we’re always joking about the differences of how you relate to your husband when you have four kids versus how you relate to your husband when you don’t have any kids.
09:02 GB: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
09:03 ST: She’s always telling me like, “I don’t understand, what do you talk about?” Like, “What do you do at this time of day?” Or like, “What do you do on weekends?” And I’m always joking with her, “I listen to podcasts. We listen to podcasts.” She’s like, “No, no, no, but I mean what do you talk about over dinner?” I was like, “We don’t. We listen to podcasts.” [laughter] “What part of this don’t you understand?” Yeah, ’cause she can’t conceive of what that would be like. [chuckle]
09:29 GB: Yeah and it’s been one we’ve had to actively practice again, and going, “Oh, here’s talking about this,” and we’ll find little things, like just this past weekend I found a little card game, and it’s called Serenflipity and it has three different things, you can either… There’s an activity pile or a connection pile, and it tells you something to do to connect to some random person or a self-reflection type of things. We’ve pulled one of those, and go, “Oh.” And the first one we pulled was, one of the observation ones. And pay attention to the things, to all your senses today and find something that really is beautiful to each of those senses. So then we chit chatted about that a little bit. And sometimes like in the car, I’ve in the last period of time, I’ve just had my radio off. I don’t listen to anything, no music, nothing and just let the silence be there and let my brain do whatever it’s gonna be. And so then when I have somebody in the car and sometimes I’m still in that mode and I don’t think to talk. And I’m like, “Oh, should I ask? Oh I will just let it go?” And then of course, Scott will say something or, well one of us will say something, and we talk to each other about that. So it is, it’s one that we’ve had to actively practice doing. We’re actually starting a writing project together. I don’t know if I mentioned it in our first interview but I’m still about a quarter of the way through completing a novel.
11:12 ST: Nice.
11:13 GB: I know. From that, it’s actually expanded and so it’s in my head, it needs to be three novels. And so that lowers that…
11:21 ST: So you’ve gone backwards.
11:23 GB: That percentage. I’ve gone backwards. But Scott is super excited and about either doing a side project or there’s some pieces of the world building that we’ve been talking about. And he’s like, “Oh we could do this. And would you be okay if I did this?” And I said, “Yes.” And then every once in a while he says, “Oh what about this story? This would be a great story in that room realm.” And I always tell him, I say, “You should write it.” [chuckle] “Because I have the story that I wanna tell. You need to write that one.” But so that’s… That’s just little bits.
11:53 ST: Yeah, I love the importance of having a project that you can work on together and then also having that time and space to have your own projects that you get to work on and supporting each other in that. I’ve recently started, what I’d consider a project of going backpacking by myself on the Arizona trail and it’s been nice to see, I mean Jay’s had some apprehensions about that, not for necessarily my safety or anything like that, but for just maybe more even so how he’s gonna survive when I’m not here, [chuckle] for longer periods of time. But he’s supportive of it and he knows that that’ll be, that I need to do my things and I need to be able to go and do something independently, if it’s something I’m really interested in and so that’s kinda I think sparked something in him where he’s wanting to figure out, “Well, what do I wannna do and what would be fun for me?” And so he’s trying to get back to mountain biking more.
12:56 GB: That’s really cool.
12:57 ST: Yeah.
12:57 GB: And that’s really cool ’cause you’re just off the trail, ’cause you were on the trail last week, weren’t you?
13:01 ST: I just did my first trip alone, so that was four days.
13:05 GB: Okay.
13:05 ST: 40 miles, and then that was preparation for this longer trip, we’re starting at the Mexican border and then hiking to Tucson, which is like 150 miles, two weeks, and then I don’t know if I’ll wanna do more after that. [chuckle]
13:19 GB: Great, yeah that’s exciting.
13:21 ST: I haven’t really committed to doing more than that, but that seems like enough for now. [chuckle]
13:25 GB: Yeah, absolutely.
13:26 ST: Just a quick break to remind you that you can find show notes from today’s episode, including a full transcript at dogoodbegoodshow.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow, and I always like to encourage you to subscribe to this show, it’s free and it allows you to easily see every new episode when it’s released. Typically, we release a new episode every other week. You can do that in your podcast purveyor of choice. Now, back to my conversation with Gina.
14:03 ST: I know that before you were taking on four kids, [chuckle] you were involved in children’s theater and you had lots of different activities that you, particularly, non-profits or arts things that you were involved with and drumming and other stuff. So have you picked back up on any of those things or has it given you any perspective on what kind of things in the community you wanna be involved in?
14:31 GB: Well, some of them, like the drumming, I had continued that. That was actually a really good continuation for me, and it was fun ’cause every once in a while the kids would participate, and that was one that Scott periodically participates in.
14:44 ST: Okay, so you are getting back into some…
14:48 GB: Theater.
14:48 ST: Theater and stuff.
14:49 GB: Yeah, yeah.
14:50 ST: And writing your novel?
14:51 GB: Yeah, and I’m writing my novel and I’m starting to get excited about it again. I’d been writing it and I was excited about it, and then life and got sidetracked from it. And true to form, I’m not just writing a novel, there’s also this other little side project that has nothing to do with the novel, that I’m also writing and having fun with that. It’s more of a daily inspirational book.
15:22 ST: Nice.
15:23 GB: And I will tell you the title just ’cause it makes my heart happy. It’s Too Blessed To Be Dressed. [chuckle]
15:31 ST: Oh, is it like a nudist inspirational book?
15:33 GB: Yes, yes.
15:33 ST: That’s awesome. [chuckle]
15:35 GB: Yes, and it was, I had seen Too Blessed To Be Stressed or something at some book store and in my head, that’s what I saw was Too Blessed To Be Dressed and I was like, “Oh my gosh” and it made me laugh and I thought, “Oh, actually that could be a really interesting spin and what does it mean to be naked?” And doing research on just even just word study stuff has been fascinating so far, I’m like, “Oh, okay, there’s some things,” and I’m practicing writing paragraphs or sentence worth of here’s something to contemplate throughout the day has being a fun little, almost pre-writing project ’cause I can do that super easy, just kind of flip through the day, and then get into some bigger writing after that.
16:22 ST: Well, I’ve seen sometimes you will do it on social media like Gina’s Random Musings, which I’m often laughing at.
16:28 GB: Yeah. [chuckle] Yeah.
16:29 ST: So I like the creative and quirky way that you can see things sometimes.
16:34 GB: Yeah.
16:35 ST: Cool, so sort of on that note, but transitioning, I think, going through the backpacking experience for myself, I’m trying to figure out how do you transition between whether it’s a event you were planning on that takes over your life for a while or whether it’s something that you even planned on that takes over your life for a while and then you’re trying to get back to those things you know you like and your creative pursuits and stuff that maybe you had to put on the back burner. So, you mentioned getting back into it and maybe that being a little difficult to get the writing spark again. Is there anything in particular that you did to get back to it?
17:22 GB: Being stubborn and being like, “You just need to it.” [chuckle] That’s part of it and then the other part was that even the whole time throughout all of the transitions is really paying attention to what I like to call the sacred mundane, and then that daily stuff is as important and essential as the ceremonial and ritual times that we celebrate whatever it’s gonna be. The making coffee in the morning can be as much of a sacred ritual as going to some celebratory ceremony, they each have their purpose and they each have the piece that holds who we are and so trying to be very aware of that and very mindful of the day-to-day things and then saying, “How do I make sure that these pieces are connected to my everyday life and to the things that I want to continue?” And using that sacred mundane pieces as a vehicle to then say, “Yes, I do want to write. Yeah, it’s important, it’s important.”
18:29 ST: But what I hear in what you’re saying though you haven’t said it explicitly is being able to have that grace with yourself, to let yourself move through those transitions with whatever it is you need to or to know like, “Okay, I’m going to be sad about this or I’m going to have low energy for a little while or I’m not gonna feel guilt that I put my writing to the side during this time, I’m going to just accept that I needed to do that and then now is the time when I can pick it back up and I don’t need to over-think or put a bunch of judgment on it.”
18:29 GB: Yeah, yeah.
18:29 ST: I struggle with that. [chuckle] I have a lot of admiration for people who can make those transitions without also feeding in the should haves or I love the term shooting all over yourself.
19:39 GB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s been a lot of work that I’ve personally done with myself, of knowing all the circumstances that brought me to a certain point, and not excusing but knowing the reasons and saying, “Ah, here are the reasons.” And so acknowledging and realizing my own responsibility in a place without feeling, yeah, like taking on the fault. Being like, “Here’s my responsibility, it’s not my fault but I did play a part to be here.” And being able to be okay with it. And if I’m not okay with it, saying, “Okay I’m not okay with this, so am I gonna change it?” And then depending on that answer if I’m not gonna change it, then I have to be able to accept it. And getting to that point is always a interesting journey. [chuckle]
20:39 ST: Yeah. Kinda going back with your experience now of the foster system, and of course, you were entering it from the family side rather than from the signing up to be a foster family side. Do you have any thoughts on whether you would want to go through and become a foster family for other foster kids, unrelated to you?
21:13 GB: Yeah. I’ve thought about it. I know Scott isn’t as keen on it. It’s interesting ’cause I go back and forth, there’s times I think about it, and then there’s other times I’m like, “Oh my God.” It makes me tired just thinking about it. I’m like, “Okay, I don’t know how much energy I have to be able to do that.” And things like that, and other people being in the community, I’ve been practicing saying, “Thank you. Thank you for participating in our community, thank you for being a part of it,” and truly meaning it.
21:50 ST: Yeah, it really made me wanna figure out, “Okay, how can I support those who are taking on this responsibility?”
21:57 GB: Right.
21:57 ST: ‘Cause it’s so important.
22:00 GB: Right.
22:00 ST: Yeah.
22:00 GB: Yeah. And something that I’ve been feeling my desire to still participate in foster system at some level, and then going, “Okay, that’s not really feasible right now.” Random list of reasons. But participating in things like coaching with girls on the run, then coaching the girls basketball team for Pine Forest and really paying attention to places that I can support in a side-ways way and not necessarily being like, “Okay, I’m right here supporting them.” Being like, “No here’s one more little piece.” That’s so important for everybody in the community to be able to know that there’s connections.
22:54 ST: I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Gina. A big, big shout-out to Gina, for being willing to share her story and for making the time to come and talk about it again. Thank you so much, Gina. Thank you for listening to Do Good, Be Good. For show notes on all of our episodes visit dogoodbegoodshow.com. Today’s episode was edited, produced, and everything else by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Don’t forget, you can always subscribe for free to this show in any podcast app of choice. Be that Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcast, any of them that you like, you can just click the button to subscribe and you’ll get each episode as soon as it is released. Music in this episode is Bathed in Fine Dust by Andy G. Cohen, released under Creative Commons Attribution international license and discovered in the free music archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, signing off.