West Michigan knows Terri DeBoer as the morning meteorologist on WOOD-TV8, letting us know each day about the rain, wind, snow, storms and sunshine coming our way. Now she can add “book author” to her weather report with “Brighter Skies Ahead: Forecasting a Full Life When You Empty the Nest,” releasing in early November and published by Morgan James.
She’s been forecasting the weather for decades, but she couldn’t forecast how she’d feel when her last child left for college in 2016. After 30 years of raising kids — attending their numerous school, church and sports events — and being there for them 24 hours a day, suddenly she went from too many responsibilities and too little time to too much time on her hands with too few things to do.
“The empty nest was a punch in the gut. I didn’t expect to feel so sad,” she said. “I thrive on having a lot of stuff to do, but I felt like nobody needed me anymore.”
So, as all avid readers do, she looked for books on the topic of dealing with the empty nest. She wanted to know if her feelings were normal. Did other mothers feel this way? Would the sadness end? Would she ever feel normal again? She found some comfort in a few of the books she read, but they weren’t what she wanted.
“I set out to write the book I wanted to read,” said DeBoer, who confesses to having started writing maybe 10 books over the years that all had offered metaphors on weather and life. “But I didn’t really have a driver for those books. I needed to have a pain point, something personal.”
The feelings of loss, loneliness and lack of purpose provided the pain points DeBoer needed to finally get serious about writing. She attended an event in 2018 at Baker Book House featuring author and actor Candace Cameron Bure, where she met several local authors and Tom Dean, Zondervan publicist for Cameron Bure. She took Dean’s card and set it on her desk, where “it stared at me every day I went into my office.”
Finally, in January 2020, she decided to write the book and contacted Dean, who explained the publishing process to her. He eventually brought the proposal to Zondervan, which offered her a contract. But because of changes within the company, DeBoer’s contract was canceled (along with a good number of others) and she got the edited manuscript and rights to the book back. Dean, meanwhile, had left Zondervan and started the literary agency A Drop of Ink. He helped DeBoer secure a publishing agreement with Morgan James.
“All the relationships I made along the way made the book better,” said DeBoer. “Everyone who touched it had a new insight.”
DeBoer, thanks to a suggestion by Baker Book House Executive Vice President Sue Smith, also has written the “Brighter Skies Ahead Companion Journal,” releasing at the same time as the book. The journal is divided into three sections: 50 pages of journaling prompts that coincide with the 50 chapters in “Brighter Skies Ahead,” prompts to write letters to yourself at different ages, and a Why I Write section in which guests talk about the importance of recording the moments of your life. There is much space to write and record thoughts throughout. She’s also working on a devotional to accompany the book and journal.
Naturally, the book contains much symbolism related to weather, something DeBoer realized early on is a metaphor for life. “There is a rhythm to life like there is a rhythm to the weather. The atmosphere is in a state of constant change and sometimes storms happen. Most of the time we see them coming, but sometimes not,” she said. “Life is that way, too. We can plan and prepare and think we’re ready for what’s next, but sometimes we’re not ready.”
She’s eager for readers to understand that “when you feel sad or empty, it’s a temporary time of transition. Life is so much like the weather — it can be stormy, rainy, windy or just great. You’re not going to like every kind of weather, but it’s always temporary,” said DeBoer. “I also want readers to reconnect with who they were before they filled up the nest. To not let those empty nest days turn into empty weeks, months and years.”
She also points out that people have the tendency to look back on life and think it’s better or easier than it really was. “If we spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, we don’t experience life in the present,” she said. Which is why she focused on writing “Brighter Skies Ahead.”
“I just couldn’t let another year go by without writing it,” DeBoer said.
Empty nest: What’s next?
Terri DeBoer, author of “Brighter Skies Ahead: Forecasting a Full Life When You Empty the Nest,” offers advice to others experiencing the ups and downs of a newly empty nest.
- Know that the children you raised to be independent, self-confident adults will likely leave you. But when they leave, they aren’t going away from you but toward their new lives. “If we do our jobs right, they are becoming independent adults,” said DeBoer.
- Give yourself a whole year — go through all the stages and seasons — to experience the emotions that go with an empty nest, knowing that after about a year you’ll come to a new reality. “I had such deep emotions because I loved being a mother,” she said.
- Ask yourself what you like to do and what you have always wanted to learn. “I always wanted to write a book, learn to play the piano, learn to juggle and do the Rubik’s cube,” DeBoer said. Think about volunteering at a church, a preschool, a nursing home, etc.
- Get moving. DeBoer encourages empty-nesters to take long walks, go to the gym and walk the many trails in the area. “When you’re out there walking with the many people on the trails, you realize you’re not alone,” she said.
Join the party
WOOD-TV8 meteorologist Terri DeBoer will talk about and sign copies of “Brighter Skies Ahead” at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9, at Baker Book House, 2768 E. Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids. Books and the companion journal will be available for purchase.
DeBoer also will greet readers and sign books on Nov. 16 at Myrtle Mae’s Chic Boutique Ladies Night, inside Harder & Warner Landscaping, 6464 Broadmoor Ave. SE, Caledonia.
Visit terrideboer.com for more details on upcoming events.
This story can be found in the November/December 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.