Friday, October 16, 2015

One Step then Another

I remember going rappelling with my dad. He would always say, "The first step is the hardest." Whether you considered yourself adventurous or precautious, that first step was a big one. It was easier to stay on the top of the ledge where it was safe. Where you didn't have to put in any efforts. Where it was comfortable, if not fulfilling.

Isn't all of life like that though. The first step is the hardest. I am not just talking about big life changing events. Sometimes the first step is just getting yourself out of bed to face the day.

I had been warned that at the two month mark grief often hits hard. It is at this point that reality sinks in. That you realize this is life. This is life without the person I love. There is no fix for this.

This is where I find myself. The grief is heavy again. I want to lay in bed all day and binge watch Netflix. My patience is thin, and I feel easily defeated. Taking that first step to face the day is a struggle, and even once taken my pace is lethargic.

People say I need to give myself time. I know they are right. I know the waves of grief will become less frequent, less devastating. I also know that I must push through them when they come. There is no relief in laying in bed, watching TV, or scrolling Facebook. When I can make myself take that first step, and then the second, third, fourth, there is some comfort.

I don't feel like working in the garden. I don't feel like making dinner. I don't feel like taking a walk on a gorgeous fall day. I don't feel like caring for animals. Nevertheless, when I push myself to take that first step and the steps that follow I am always glad that I did. Keeping my hands busy clears my mind and spirit in a way that I can never do when trying to sit in the quiet or numbing my brain with some sort of entertainment.

Tasks that require my brain and emotions are different though. Dealing with a difficult child, talking to a lawyer, completing paperwork for colleges or to settle accounts are things that I don't want to do, and I find no comfort in. They drain me. I find myself completely exhausted after these activities. Still, they must be done, one step after another.

Most days, I don't want to take that first step. Sometimes, I don't want to take the second or third step either. I have to though. There are tasks that must be completed and will simply become an even more overwhelming pile if I don't chip away at them. There are tasks that bring some enjoyment. I need to overcome my inertia, and participate even if it is one slow step after another.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Great Aunt Hazel 10/31/1916- 9/24/2015

1917 Grandpa (Walter) & Aunt Hazel
On Sunday we had a memorial service for my Great Aunt Hazel (Franks) Fisher. It is amazing to me to think of the history and changes that Aunt Hazel saw in her lifetime. She told stories of her childhood, of the family's first car, of how WWII rationing really didn't affect them because they lived on a farm, of the changes that she saw. 

Her father died when she and my grandfather were young. Her mom never remarried. The three of them ran the farm. I remember her telling me that farming was more of my grandpa's love. Aunt Hazel really didn't care for it that much. 

1953 Aunt Hazel, Grandpa (Walter,) Great Grandma Bessie,
Grandma (Erma,) Uncle Vern, Mom (Linda,) Aunt Nancy
A family member helped Aunt Hazel pay for secretarial school and she was off to the big city of Cleveland for her education. She married Uncle George and they settled in Akron. They never had any children, but they kept close to her family in Fredericksburg. 

1978? My brothers and I with Aunt Hazel on the farm she grew up on.
I remember Aunt Hazel and Uncle George visiting regularly, often out for a country drive. They always brought gifts. They would pick up snack foods and toiletries on sale and bring them along for the family. They were preppers of their generation. I remember their basement with shelves along every wall full of canned goods, shampoo, and other non perishables. 

As I got older, Aunt Hazel would bring me costume jewelry, and later she would slip me cash, especially if I had a trip on the calendar. Even later, when she knew Tim and I were paying on student loans and money was tight, she would help us often. We never asked, she would just slip a wad of cash in my hand. 

Aunt Hazel, the farm girl who told me she hadn't left Wayne County until she was almost an adult, went on to travel the world. She travelled to every continent, except Antarctica, and she got as close to that as she could, travelling to the tip of South America. She was always off on a trip. Her husband didn't enjoy world travelling. He stayed home, and she went with tour groups. The things she saw. 

After her husband died, she met Terry. Terry became her companion and caretaker. They moved a camper to West Virginia. At first it was their weekend place, but eventually they spent most of their time here. Aunt Hazel remained witty and sharp up until the last couple of years, and physically she was in remarkable shape for her age. 

2008 at her home in Akron with Terry
Goodbye Aunt Hazel. You and your spunk and wit will be missed. Your stories and memories will remain.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Beyond the Fog

We left our hotel room shortly after dawn headed toward Virginia and the funeral of my brother-in-law. The air was crisp. The fog was heavy.

The drive  was stressful. I didn't know the roads. I could barely see the road in front of me. I was not looking forward to arriving at our destination. Yet, we pressed on.

At times the fog hovered 10 feet or so above the ground. We could see the road a little more clearly, along with peeks of the surrounding landscape. Sporadically, the fog would lift completely, and we would see what had been there all along. The mountains were on every side. Trees, in the beginning of their autumn glory, brushed with color. Cows grazed contentedly on lush valley pastures. Quaint little towns were nestled between babbling rivers and mountain slopes. And occasionally, the warm sun would break through the cloud cover and bask the land in light.

Beyond the fog there was peace. There was beauty. There was life.

In those early morning hours, the breaks in fog were brief. We had only a moment to appreciate what we had seen, and then we were once again enveloped in the fog.

This morning reminded me of life the last five years. Well, maybe life in general, but especially the last five years. I am so often unable to look beyond the tasks that are in front of me. My focus is on the road, and it isn't pretty. It isn't enjoyable, but it must be done. The beauty, the peace, the life is all around me, and I am stuck in the fog.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of what is beyond the fog. It is splendid, but momentary. I want to see more of the beauty, the peace, life around me. I want the fog to lift, and the light to shine.

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.