Buying school supplies has launched a new hobby for an empty nest – The News Herald


I have a hunch that fall will come early this year. Maybe it’s the angle of the sunlight on the faded black-eyed Susans in our perennial garden, or the crunch of the acorns under my tires as I ride my bike around the neighborhood.

Whatever the trigger, I can’t ignore the annual temptation to buy back-to-school supplies — even though there hasn’t been a student in our house for several years.

Our only child did exactly what most parents hope their kids will do: grew up, graduated from college, and left home to start his career after graduation.

Looking at the young moms in my neighborhood now—the ones buying new Crayolas and lunch kits—I remember the exhilarating sense of newness I felt when my boy started school each fall.

After driving the morning carpool, I would drive home to meet my writing deadlines or enjoy a few hours on my own. Back then, the calendar on our kitchen wall was a rotating list of music lessons, Mother’s Club meetings, band concerts, and school events. Looking back, I still don’t know how I juggled it all, but I enjoyed it too.

Color the empty nest blues

Determined not to become a long-distance helicopter mom, I knew I had to find ways to redirect my mother energy during the first year of empty nesting. I needed to explore something different – something just for me. Was it time for a puppy or a whole new hobby?

The late summer ritual of shopping for school supplies provided a clue.

A week before his freshman year of college, my son and I headed to the nearest office supply store. As he made his way to the IT department, I was magically drawn to a colorful display of calligraphy pens, markers, stamps, and drawing pads.

And that’s when my inner artist finally reasserted itself. I had no idea what she planned to do with all the watercolor pencils and glitter glue she threw in our basket, but she refused to leave the store without them.

I think the painter Georgia O’Keeffe explained it best when she said, “I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t otherwise say – things that I had no words.” This was exactly how I felt as a parent whose role had suddenly changed.

The first year as an empty nester can be difficult. Exploring new hobbies can be a welcome distraction for those struggling with change. (Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Connection)

A month later, I purchased more supplies at a local craft store, where I also discovered several magazines with how-to articles on multimedia collage and art journaling. I couldn’t learn fast enough. While my son studied (and partied) his freshman year in college, I happily painted, stamped, and pasted a whole new path.

Rediscover your inner artist

It’s never too late to make creative discoveries, after all.

Regardless of your age, the ringing of school bells could inspire you to start a new profession or rekindle a dormant artistic passion. And it doesn’t have to be a major project requiring expensive tools or supplies.

To get started, you can enroll in a scrapbooking class, learn to knit, or even explore the therapeutic benefits of adult coloring books. Let your imagination guide you. Visit your nearest craft store for inspiration – and don’t overlook the school supply section of your local drugstores.

Anticipating another creative season this fall, I’ve already started looking for art supplies for my two-year-old grandson. It’s the perfect time for Grandma to open the Play-Doh and finger paint again.

Cindy La Ferle is a nationally published lifestyle columnist and author in Royal Oak. Visit his “Life Lines” blog at


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