Wednesday, September 30, 2015


This summer I realized that we hadn't had a family picture taken in a long time. The last professional picture taken was when Nolan was a baby. Over the years we took plenty of pictures of the four kids together. There are even quite of few of Tim and I together, but the last picture I could find of all six of us was when Vivian was a baby. That picture was hurriedly taken after church, but before lunch, which is why Tim doesn't look happy.

I called a local photographer we know, and scheduled an appointment. Tim was in the hospital the day of our appointment, and then it was too late.

I decided I still wanted a professional photo of the kids. I made another appointment. Lavender Photography did an excellent job. The kids weren't entirely co-operative, and quite frankly were getting on my nerves. Toril just rolled with it.

 When I made the appointment, I really thought I just wanted photos of the kids. The idea of being in the picture felt weird. A family photo without Tim? I just wasn't sure, but the kids (especially Vivian) encouraged me to join them. So, I went to the appointment dressed to be in a photo, but still not sure I wanted to be. In the end, I did.

I am glad I did. I wish we had gotten this done with the six of us. Like it or not, we are now five, and entering yet another transition with children becoming adults. I am glad we captured this moment in time, even if I wish this moment was different.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not as Expected

Two years ago Tim and I made a huge change to our family's life. We were homeschoolers. None of the kids had ever been in school, but we also knew better than to Never Say Never. When we made that change, we had lots of ideas about the benefits the change would bring. Benefits to our family time and finances were expected. Never, at that time, did we imagine the needs we would face in the following years, or the provision that would come when we said yes to teaching at Cross Lanes Christian School.

From the beginning, the staff and parents were friendly and welcoming. That first year was hard for us all, adjusting to a new schedule, new curriculum, and style of education. We had lots of support, encouragement, and understanding from the CLCS family.

At the end of that school year Round Two of Tim's melanoma occurred. That is when we saw the generosity of the CLCS family. Oh we'd seen it some before. The mother's prayer group puts on a fantastic show of appreciation for teacher appreciation week. Families are kind and generous to the teachers at Christmas, and overall are very giving of their time and resources for the school. But we had to make a trip to Duke for Tim's surgery, and to our surprise gas cards, gift cards and cash began to show up in our school mailboxes.

Our second year at CLCS, Tim took a leave of absence in early October. The outpouring of support for our family this year was astounding. I am afraid to make a list for fear of forgetting something, but there was help with the practical things like cash for medical bills, meals, gas cards, grocery store gift cards, and transportation. There were gifts to make life easier and more enjoyable. There were gifts that made my jaw drop at their generosity.

The support was not only shown in the tangible things. There were prayers, words of encouragement, and love. There was mentorship. I am not just talking about professionally. Another teacher in my building had lost her husband when her children were young. We had playground duty together which gave us the opportunity to talk. She was (and is) an incredible support through this difficult year.

Just last week we were blessed again by the generosity of this school family. A tree was planted in remembrance of Tim. We were again showered with gift cards and cash. Each of the children were given something special to remember their dad.

Kellen's class spruced up Tim's guitar, and gave it to Kellen. Nolan's class named a star after Tim, and gave Nolan a telescope to find it with. The girls' classes (or former classes) gave them a locket with Tim's picture, and a personalized journal.

Tim and I took jobs at CLCS, we completely uprooted the way our family did things, without a clue of the great challenges we would face, or the provision that would come. Our view was so limited. I am so thankful that His view is not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Normal

In the midsts of our pain and all the changes that come without having Tim here, I've held on to the hope that we'd get through this and find our new normal. And I suppose, in some ways we will, but I am also coming to understand that a new normal may be a long time in coming, and it will not remain.

It is a long time coming because the waves of grief catch me off guard. Just when I think I'm starting to come to some balance, a wave pushes me over and leaves me stumbling for a few days.

That new normal is a long way off because this is a season of change, and change is inevitable. Trying to hold onto my normal is like trying to hold an ocean in my hands. It can not be done. I am better off letting it go, and simply riding the waves.

Just in the past year, we've had major life adjustments from Tim's illness. In the past weeks, we've attempted to adjust after losing Tim while adjusting to me being home again, the girls homeschooling, and the boys headed off to school by themselves. Not to mention the farm transition we were in the middle of when this all happened. The changes aren't going to stop any time soon.

Graduation plans and order forms are here. Kellen is practically buried in the college recruitment mailings. He is neck deep in college scholarship and early decision applications.  In less than a year, he will likely be sitting in some classroom in some prestigious university on the East Coast.  And we will be here, and Nolan will likely be coming back home for school, and if we've found a new normal by then, it will all have slipped through our fingers and we will start again.

Looking ahead, I can only see more and more of those changes coming as the kids grow up (too quickly) and I set aside the plans Tim and I had for those years, to make new ones. This life is fleeting and ever changing. I can't change that. I'm better off not trying to fight that, or to trying to hold on tightly to things that will not last. Instead I look to the only unchangeable thing, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" Hebrews 13:8.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

This Boy

This kid.

This boy.

This middle school, pre-teen boy.

He looks like his dad. His personality is more Appleton than Miller.

Some days he is simply adorable. So funny. So tender hearted. So considerate. A big teddy bear. When we made the transition from homeschool to private school, he was the one I worried about the most. My worries were unnecessary. His teachers love him.

Other days I wonder if both of us will be able to survive his pre-teen years. He is very "middle school boy" in all the ways that can be annoying and slightly obnoxious. He is highly distracted, and you'd think every little task I ask of him is hard labor.

With he and Kellen at school, and the girls and I homeschooling, I often feel like I don't get enough time with him. He doesn't get my best time. I am past my prime when they get home, and I feel like I spend the entire evening nagging him to get off the screens, do homework, do chores, and pack his lunch.

At these times, I miss spending our days together at school. I was in my classroom. He was in his, but I'd see him through the day, check in with his teachers, and there was always the long car ride back and forth to school. The car ride where the kids fought most of the way. . . .maybe I don't miss those days so much.

And as I am writing this, I remember a post I wrote a long time ago, Dealing with the Strong Willed Child.  Nolan was three when I wrote that. The advice I gave myself then, I needed to read again. One thing that has always worked well with Nolan is #9, One on One Time.

It is something I have been trying to do in the last week or so. It is harder now than when he was three, I must say. So many distractions. Like Saturday, we went to the farmers' market together. The weather was miserable. It was unseasonably cold and alternated between mist and rain the  entire morning. Nolan spent the majority of the time on the tablet, playing a game, looking like this because he could get wifi in that spot.

Another thing he and I have been doing is reading Shiloh together. He cracks me up with his West Virginia twang while he reads the main characters dialogue. He has a very tender heart for animals. So, this has been a great book to read together.

For those of you who did not believe me when I said I basically taught Nolan to read while he was on his head, this is how he read tonight. Not on his head, but, and this was the most still he was the whole time we were reading.

This kid.

This boy.

This funny, loving, sweet boy.

I love him to pieces.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Crazy Thoughts

Two friends recently posted on Facebook how their grief just makes them want to run away. It is a feeling I share. I have a great urge to just take off. It doesn't matter where. I just want to go, but what would I be running from or to? The emptiness would still be there. The grief would follow me.

It isn't Tim's things, our home, or the things we shared here that make me sad. It is the lack of intimacy. I think of myself as a fairly independent person, but I now have begun to realize how greatly I depended on Tim. He was there when I didn't even realize I needed him. He understood how I ticked. Our personalities were vastly different, but he balanced me.Without him there is a huge gaping hole.

I also am beginning to see the wisdom behind the advice of not making any major decisions for the first year after a life changing event. That advice was first given to me in regard to a birth of child. Considering hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, that surely is wise advice. Yet, I think it is so much more important now.  With a new child there was always joy about the situation at some level. Never with a birth of a child, have I had such crazy thoughts or roller coaster emotions.

 I think about trivial things like cutting all my hair off.  I think about taking long vacations. I think about moving, somewhere, anywhere. Taking a job in a remote Scottish village is actually pretty appealing. I have found my thoughts return to unhealthy behaviors and patterns that haven't been a part of my life for decades. I find myself glad for having all the kids at home. They keep me grounded. And I realize that all these crazy ideas running through my head, all these up and down crazy emotions I feel daily, are all just an attempt to fill the emptiness. None of them will satisfy the ache within.

And I try to remember to turn my heart to the Lord and to rest in Him, and ask that my heart would see what my head knows is true.

Psalms 16:11 You will show me the path of life: In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Isaiah 40:5-8 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fade, But the word of our God stands forever."

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don't think this ache will ever go away completely, but I pray that I would be obedient to turn to Him, and that my foolish thoughts would be replaced with His light and peace.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nature or Nurture?

If you've visited the 100 Acre Wood, you've probably noticed we have a lot of stuff laying around. Dad could never pass on a good deal for something he thought we might need someday. Tim could never refuse something that was offered for free even if we weren't sure what we'd ever do with it, and we all are terrible about throwing things away. We might need it someday. We might fix it. We might use it for parts.

I am not saying that none of those things are true. There have definitely been times where our saved stuff has come in handy. Saved stuff, over ten years, creates lots of full spaces and piles. That, however, is not the subject of this post. Do you think this habit of saving stuff, making due with old things, and repurposing is a learned behavior or in the genes? I present exhibit A.

We had an old couch and loveseat in our "farmhouse." Truth be told, these were never ours. We never used them, but they sat in that house for several years. Basically, they had become shelves for us to store our farm market supplies on. At one time these were nice pieces of furniture, but they came to us needing repair. The fact that they might be repaired is probably what allowed them to find a home at our farm.

Tradition at our school holds that the senior class plays pranks throughout the school year. Their first planned prank was to remove all the desks from Mrs. Monk's room, and replace them with living room furniture. This was the motivation for that couch and loveseat to finally make a move.

Kellen and Nolan stuffed the furniture into the back of the Suburban, and off it went. By all accounts, the prank went off well. Then Kellen brought them back. In the mood to clean up some of these piles, I told Kellen not to put the furniture back where it was, but to burn it.

Nolan begged me to save them. He wanted to replace our living room furniture with that couch and loveseat. While I can not argue that our couch is shot, I hope to replace it with something in good shape, not another piece that is broken down. This is where he came up with a creative, repurposing, can't throw it away, idea.  And I agreed to it.

He took the cushions from the couch and loveseat to use like beanbags. The kids sit on the floor a lot when we are all watching T.V. These make for a more comfortable spot. We even talked about putting all four of them together to make a bed when friends come over. He stores them in his bedroom closet when they aren't in use.

So I ask again, do you think this hoarder, ultra frugal, hillbilly, save everything, behavior is nature or nurture? I'm going to need more storage space if all the kids adopt this behavior.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

And Then This

This morning was emotionally rough. We visited a new church.  I struggled to keep it together on the drive there. I cried during the worship songs, and teared up again when the pastor talked to me after the service.

No real reason I can pinpoint why this morning was hard. No triggers. It just was. My brain kept going to regrets about things I can't change, and I just missed Tim so much it ached.

The afternoon was easier. We had a good talk about church on the way home. We had lunch, and the kids were occupied. I went to work processing grapes, and it was a welcome mindless task. Nolan and Vivian were playing in the living room. They were playing so nicely together, and I was enjoying listening to them. Then it happened. 

I had read that kids will do this. I really thought it applied to younger kids, but maybe I read that wrong. They were playing dead. Well, not just dead, like playing cops and robbers, but they were having a funeral. They had taken couch cushions and made a coffin. The coffin was open showing their face, but their legs were covered. I know it is natural to act these things out, but my stomach did a flip flop. The thought of having another family member in a coffin made me sick to my stomach. 

My emotional morning, the kids playing funeral, I know these things are just a part of the grieving process. Knowing this with my head doesn't make it any easier on my heart.