The other week I was walking my daughter Natalie and her friends home from their middle school play to a sleepover at our place. Actually, I was bringing up the rear about 10 feet behind them - a barely seen, and certainly unheard, third wheel - as they chattered and giggled and OMG’d! the way 12-year-old girls do.

It’s here. That strange stage when your kid is starting to move out of the mommy orbit but still needs you close at hand. “Go away/come closer” is what my friend used to call it when our girls were little and having major meltdowns. This is the tween version, and it's kind of caught me by surprise. Not so much Nat growing up and eventually away, but a shifting beneath my own feet, my own sense of self. While I’ve never defined myself by motherhood, being a hands-on, always-there-for-her parent - a single one at that - has been a huge chunk of my identity for a long time. Suddenly, new spaces are opening up, and I’m not quite sure how to fill them.

But I took a great first step over spring break, flying away to my first “just me” vacation in ages while Nat stayed with her dad. The journey (the last leg by turboprop!) was to the white heart of California's Mojave desert. Talk about wide open spaces. It was fabulous, full of friendship & solitude, good conversation & vast, still silences, and ... infinite possibility.

Plus, a funny thing happened once I returned. My girl and I, always the best of buds, are closer than ever.

I know a lot of you have already been where I’m going. Tell me your stories!