Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lydia's Little Room

Our house has four bedrooms. I took the only one with an attached full bathroom. It was also my choice because it was separate from all the other bedrooms. Momma needs her space sometimes. I gave the boys the largest bedroom because they will share when Kellen is home from college. Then I braced myself for what I was sure would be a cat fight between the girls about the remaining bedrooms.

One is decent size and attached to a 1/2 bath that is also open to the living area. The other is tiny. I think it will be a perfect laundry room for me when the kids are gone. The previous owners used it as a sitting room. It had a love seat and  TV which was mounted to the wall. It seemed crowded even then. I didn't think either girl would choose that room.

I was wrong. Lydia was quick to grab it up, saying, "I don't even care. I just want my own room. It will be cozy." In West Virginia the girls shared a fairly small room. Lydia likes peace, quiet, and alone time. Vivian wants to talk constantly, ask a million questions, and always be right there. I think it is pretty easy to see the kind of drama we had at a constant simmer in that house.

Lydia's little room does have a couple of nice perks. It has a good sized closet with shelving. It is over a stairwell where previous owners built steps that serve as shelves too.

The room also has a lighted nook. I'm not sure what the original intent of that nook was, but for Lydia it is a reading corner. She put a bean bag there, and can hide away for hours reading. You can't even see her in there when you poke your head in her room.


Lydia and I searched Pinterest for space saving ideas. One you can see by her book nook, floating book shelves. (Oops looks like she needs to fix the back cover on that one.) These are super cool. She chose her "pretty books" to put on these shelves. Functional and decorative, that is how we roll. Of course that wasn't enough book room for her. There is another book shelf in there too.

The other idea we got from Pinterest was to make a platform bed from a dresser. This project cost less than $50. Lydia and Kellen completed this project. We had to buy a sheet of plywood and we got new drawer pulls for the dresser. We used a dresser we already had, paint left from another room we painted before we moved in, and 2x4 and other hardware we had on hand.


Lydia removed two doors from the piece to leave open shelving. She painted the dresser. We hadn't figured out the homemade chalk paint yet, but she lightly sanded the dresser, used Kilz and then two coats of paint on it.

The dresser isn't quite long enough. She used another small set of drawers we've had forever (seriously I had this piece in my room in high school, painted black) to fill the gap. The dresser isn't wide enough for the mattress. Kellen attached a 2x4 to the wall behind, and then ripped the plywood to be twin size. The plywood rests on the dresser and the 2x4, and of course the mattress on top. This creates a gap which Lydia uses as extra storage, and the cats use as a hiding place.


The room is small, but it doesn't feel crowded at all. She has plenty of storage space, a sitting area, and most importantly room for all her books.

She is happy in there. Vivian is happy in her larger room. I am happy that they are happy, that the little room is very functional on the cheap, and that the drama in the house has been knocked down a level. It is a win all the way around.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Good Dirt

Since moving, I've been at a loss with what to do with our food scraps. If you've saved your food scraps for over ten years to feed to chickens, it feels like sacrilege to throw them in the garbage. I hoped to make a nice compost area, you know with a fence and all, but I just wasn't getting to that project. I would cringe every time I threw food scraps away, and finally decided I'd just make a compost pile until I got something better in place. The previous owners piled their fall leaves under some of the large pines. That seemed like a good place to start.

I don't know how long they were piling them there. The yard has roughly a dozen large maples, so I imagine (and will soon experience) the fall leaves are abundant. I just threw the scraps on top. After a few days of this, flies found the pile, and I decided I should turn the pile over some. I got a nice surprise. The top maybe three feet is pretty much leaves that have barely begun to break down, but under that was beautiful rich soil.

I miss my garden. I have enjoyed shopping at our local farmers market, but it just isn't the same (although a lot less work) as putting the seeds into good dirt, tending them, and watching them produce. I relish the fruit of my garden, but I've come to understand that although it is work and sometimes frustrating work, I really do enjoy the process.

In the last few weeks in my reading, in small groups, at the church I attend, and even in one I recently visited the comparison of faith and life in Christ to the gardening process has come up over and over again. Our faith is often referred to as a small seed. It needs good dirt. It needs nurturing. It needs protecting. It will grow. It will produce fruit, but it is a process.

I've been impatient with the process. The verse that has been on my mind the last couple weeks is James 5:7-8.
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Before I probably would have read the "coming of the Lord" as the second coming, but now I am seeing that to be more of the coming of the Lord in my heart. I can't make the tiny seed of faith in my heart grow, but I can nurture it while I wait patiently for it to grow and produce fruit. Like gardening it may be hard, painful, and sometimes frustrating, but it is a beautiful process.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

One Year

One year.  As with so many other life events, it seems like another life time while it seems like yesterday. This life moves on. It doesn't allow us to hold onto what is gone. Kids grow up. Things change. You learn to function in the new and unfamiliar.

But I still miss us.

I wake up many mornings with Tim on my mind. I wish I woke with happy memories, but my mind seems stuck on those last few days. It almost makes me angry. Over twenty years of memories to pull from, but I can't get the worst of our days from the forefront of my thoughts.

Looking back I realize how much denial we were in those last few weeks. I wish we had realized the point we were at much sooner.

I look back on those last days and true to my personality, I was busy taking care of the practical and neglected the things of the heart, Tim's heart, my heart, and the kids. Though I know there is no sense dwelling on any of that, my mind goes there unbidden. It is almost like I dream about it before I wake.


Our life in the last year has changed dramatically, yet in many ways things don't change. Moving to a new place with old friends has been an incredible blessing. I am so thankful for our new home and fellowship. You may remember I did a lot of second guessing about the move. I can say I have no regrets about the move. It has been good for all of us.

There is still laughter. Kids still bicker. We have fun times. Sometimes things are difficult and frustrating. This life moves on, and keeps changing but as a family it seems to move on off balance, sometimes slightly, other times grossly so.  I think we will always feel off balance without Tim.

We have learned to function as a family of five. We are pretty good at the practical things, but I worry that we aren't very good at heart matters. I wonder if I should do more for the kids there, but don't even know how to.

A year later, the grief is less acute. At times it hits me like a wall, but mostly it is just a constant undercurrent to our lives. That undercurrent is what pulls us off balance.

A year without Tim. . .

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Worth It


For the past couple of weeks I've had words swirling in my head. Words I was sure would come out in a blog post titled, "This is the Hardest Time of Parenting." This time is hard. Watching older children become adults struggling with things you can't help with, making decisions you question, and trying to decide when or if you should say anything is so difficult. Mix in Mr. Middle School, Miss Preteen, and of course doing this solo, and yes, this is a very challenging time in the parenting journey.

But aren't they all?

I was reminded of that today at Goodwill of all places. I went alone. (Going places alone is one aspect of this time of parenting that I must say is GLORIOUS!) I was trying on some things and there was a woman next to me with several young children in the fitting room with her. (Later I saw there were four girls roughly 3 to 10.)

It started rather calmly. It sounded like they were all trying things on, but of course every child was talking to mom and each other all at the same time in that tiny room.

I remember the days of shopping with four children. It was simply overwhelming. Sensory overload is the best way I can describe it. You are trying to think, accomplish a task, and manage four little ones who are fighting, asking you to buy things, running away from you, and sometimes just simply talking to you.

You could hear the noise level escalate. The mother's hushes got more annoyed. The oldest child tried to help with the youngest to no avail. The mother's frustration grew until she finally bursts out with, "Will you just shut up for a minute?!" Then the youngest child started crying. Oh, I have been there.

And it made me laugh, to myself of course.

I wasn't laughing at her, and I guess I wasn't laughing with her either. She surely wasn't laughing. I guess I was laughing at myself for forgetting that stage of parenting. It was the hardest time of parenting, in a different way from this time.

I remember fussy babies, non stop nursing, and no sleep. I remember stopping at every public restroom in sight during potty training. I remember trying to teach a kid to read while the toddler tore apart the house. I remember (and am still living) kids going through puberty, hurt feelings, attitudes, and becoming a taxi service for children. You know what? Every last stinking minute of it was the hardest time ever, and it was the most wonderful time ever.

These four, they are the best things Tim and I ever did, and every stage of parenting came with challenges, but it also came with many joys. These four are worth it!









Monday, July 11, 2016

New House Love

The days are a blur of friends, family, boxes, and driving a moving truck up I-77. What day is it anyway? Oh yes, Monday, of course. Friday so many showed up in WV to help us load our entire house into a 20 foot truck. It was quite the puzzle, but they got it done in about an hour and a half. Amazing.


The next morning, another group of wonderful friends and family unloaded the truck in what seemed like no time at all. Then they stayed. They put furniture back together, unpacked boxes, cleaned, and made this house functional. I can't thank all the helpers in both states enough.

Since then mom, the kids, and I have been busy unpacking, organizing, running for supplies, and turning this house into our home. We still have a lot of details to finish, but we have made a lot of progress. Here are some of my favorite things so far.

Today my mom helped Vivian organize her room. Awhile later mom found Vivian had tweaked the room a bit, including this scene.


One thing I've always wished my house had was a laundry room/mud room. This house doesn't exactly have my dream, but with the help of a friend, it is pretty close. The laundry room is in the basement, but is easily accessible from the garage, and has a utility sink and shower. Close, but I was still longing for a space for kids to organize coats and shoes in such a way that we aren't all tripping over everything at the entrance. I showed a friend a picture on Pinterest, and he built me this.


I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am for this! This is in the garage. The door to the right goes to the back yard. The door to the left goes into the house. The steps there go down to the laundry room. I plan to put some bins on the top too for hats, gloves, ect.

Turning left through that door takes you into the dining room. I love my dining room. I love the original hardwood, the natural light, and the fireplace. We were a little concerned about how all that wood and brown would be with all the wooden furniture we have, but Kellen and Lydia helped me pick out a rug that we think just is perfect for the room and furniture. I love this room.


The living room is very comfy cozy. Again there is a bunch of natural light. Funny thing about the living room, the couch, love seat, and coffee table were given to us right before we moved. All of the rest of the furniture (except one thing) came from Aunt Hazel's and was never in WV. I had no idea if all this would work together, but it does very well.


The main bathroom is beautiful. It has a fancy shower, a tub, and a hands free toilet. The walls however, were a very vibrant blue. I assume the previous owners liked that color, but no one else who saw that bathroom did. The blue wasn't a bad blue, but it didn't work with all the brown tile. We got probably half a dozen paint samples trying to find the right color for that room. Then a friend suggested a burnt orange. I never in a million years thought I would like a burnt orange, but I really do. Another friend painted this room for me too. I have some amazing friends!


One of my favorite things about this house when we saw it was the basement. It is a walkout basement set up as a mother in law suite. In fact, the first time we saw the house we had in mind my mom living with us. The walkout basement adds so much to the house, but the green paint was the topic of many discussions. Truthfully, I just couldn't decide if I liked it or not. It really came down to the fact that it would be a huge space to paint that we didn't want to paint. We decided to stick with it.

The previous owners had black furniture down there, and I think I didn't like the green and black together. In the many discussions about the green paint in the basement, we decided earth tones would work well with the green. Again Kellen and Lydia helped me pick out a rug that helps pull it together, and it looks very nice with our recliners. I need to get more furniture for down there, but I am pretty sure we are going to love that space.


So that is mini tour of some of the places I love in the new house. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us get there and make this home!







Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beneath the Busy Surface


We are quickly approaching a year without Tim. I guess in this time we've found our new normal. We are still in the process of some major changes (moving, Kellen leaving for school, new school for the other kids) but we are functioning. Life is busy and it pushes you along. Life with four kids at home is nonstop and drags you whether you want to come or not. We have found a new normal, but I am finding it is not a normal I like.

The kids and I have had some good times. We've made some special memories. It isn't like we are all miserable, yet it feels so hollow sometimes. If you knew us, you might say I was the nuts and bolts of this family while Tim was soul of it. He was the one who could hang out with the kids (or anyone for that matter,) and kept those communication lines open. He was the one that brought the pizzazz to my practical efficient way of thinking. We brought balance to each other, and this family feels horribly out of balance now.

I miss family meals. They still happen, but on your own meals are much more frequent. I hate that the older kids have had to step into so many more adult responsibilities, including listening to me try to weigh decisions. I feel like most of our structure and discipline has gone out the window. I miss the togetherness we had. It seems like we are all in our own little worlds doing our own things a lot of the time. I got a strange look when I expressed this to one of the kids. They said it is the same as it was before. Then I realized they were probably right, but before when they were off doing their own thing was when Tim and I were talking. I don't know what to do with myself in that time now.

And I have to admit that the undercurrent of dissatisfaction I've been feeling simply is loneliness.

I have amazing friends and family. I have four kids at home. I am rarely alone. Sometimes I wish I were alone more, but I am not talking about being around people. I am talking about intimacy, and I realize I've been looking to the wrong things to fill the gaping hole left by the loss of my best friend.

When my pain was fresh, sharp, and constant, it was easy to turn to the Lord. I was at my end. He was always there. Not that the pain was taken away, but under that pain there was a solid peace and joy.

The pain now is duller. It is easier to push away even when it is trying to stab me. I'm back on my feet a little again. And it is easier to fill my time with entertainment than to turn my heart to the Lord. That entertainment doesn't satisfy though, only numbs, a bit.

So many times the Bible talks about providing for widows, and I have been well provided for. Then it occurred to me a few weeks ago that in Christ that provision for widows means more than food on our table and a roof over our heads. That peace and the joy is still there. He doesn't change. I did.

I am like the Israelites in the wilderness forgetting the wonderful things He has done, turning my heart away, only to turn back when I "needed" Him. Then Psalm 78 was part of my reading today.


When He slew them, then they sought Him;
And they returned and sought earnestly for God.
35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
And they lied to Him with their tongue;
37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;
39 For He remembered that they were but flesh,
A breath that passes away and does not come again.
Psalm 78:34-39

Yep. Me. Thankfully He is compassionate and patient. He doesn't change.

This new normal may not be what I'd like it to be, but I do know where to turn to find that peace, rest, and joy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Things I Learned on Vacation

My nephew Miles is quite a remarkable young man. He and Kellen are very close in age and growing up spent a lot of time together. Miles has been in Florida for the last five years, and we haven't seen him much. He moved there with family, but chose to stay a couple of years ago when the rest of the family he lived with left Florida.

Though the details are different, his story is an echo of my dad's story. My dad also supported himself (with the help of friends) while finishing high school. The two even look alike.

My parents. I think dad was 20 here.
Miles and his girlfriend Danielle. He is 17 here I think.

Miles graduated June 3rd in the top 10% of his class. He is headed to Appalachian State to start classes this summer.

Sarasota High School class of 2016


Miles and Ashley after graduation was postponed for rain.
There is a state park not far from Sarasota called Cayo Costa.  My parents went camping there many times with foster children. My family and my brother Jake's family went with them a few times too, but Miles and Ashley never got to go. When my mom asked Miles what he wanted for graduation, he said he wanted to go to Cayo Costa.
  
So last week the kids and I, Mamaw, Ashley, and Ashley's boyfriend, Jarett loaded ourselves and a lot of stuff into two vehicles and headed toward Sarasota. We spent two nights there and attended Miles' outdoor graduation where we got completely soaked in a downpour. Then Miles and Danielle joined the caravan headed toward Cayo Costa.

The park is on a barrier island. It is beautiful and quiet. Accommodations are primitive, either in tents or in very basic cottages. No electric. Shared bath house. I always loved being there, but all our previous visits were in March. We learned a few things on this trip.

1. A 14 hour car ride with the family can be very relaxing and enjoyable when you have a teenager who likes to drive and the family dynamic is changed slightly by one family member riding with Mamaw.

2. When your family leans toward being food snobs, the cost of feeding them on the way could pay for a couple of plane tickets.

3. Florida in June is very different from Florida in March. The heat is oppressive, the storms severe, the bugs brutal, and the sun stronger than the sunscreen generously applied to our pale West Virginian skin.

4. I never want to camp in Florida in June again, or July, or August. Actually, I don't want to step foot in the state during the summer ever again.

5. It is possible to find a bit of fun and relaxation even when it is oppressively hot and the no swim flag is flying at the beach.

6. Time with family is worth it even if it isn't exactly what you hoped for.


I am glad we went and spent time with Miles. I am sure someday we will look back and laugh about the vacation where we sweat buckets while dodging rain and hostile bugs. Today is not that day, but someday, maybe.

Congratulations Miles! We are proud of you.