Two weeks ago (oh how time files) we dropped Kellen off in New Hampshire to begin his new adventure as a college student. For months I've been looking toward this milestone with mixed emotions.
I am so incredibly proud of Kellen. We all used to mention him attending an Ivy League school tongue in cheek, but it happened. It actually happened for this no town farm boy, who was mostly homeschooled by a mom who was often too busy to know what he was really doing, and who finished school at a small private school that didn't offer all academic bells and whistles many of his current classmates had.
I worry about him. This is going to be a challenge. I remember the rude awakening I had my freshman year of college. It was different. I actually had to work for my grades. I found I really didn't know how to do that. I imagine Kellen is going to have a more intense version of that experience.
I worry about him keeping his focus and his priorities straight. Ivy League or not, school isn't everything. It isn't even the most important thing. College is pretty much synonymous with distraction. I pray he keeps his heart soft and turned to the Lord.
It is hard to let go. Kellen is incredibly responsible and wise for his age, but still a momma doesn't want to let her (18 year old) baby go. He truly is functioning as an adult now. He has to manage his time and his money. He has to make decisions and face challenges that may have long lasting consequences. He is too far away for me to rescue, even if I wanted to. He is on his own with my advice only if he asks me for it. I am entering the empty nest stage, and that transition is hard to swallow.
It is even harder alone. I am sure if Tim was still here we'd still be a little sappy about our first born leaving and our family dynamic changing, but we'd also be cheering a little on the inside. We had big plans for those empty nest days. Maybe not specific plans, but plans to enjoy our job well (we hoped) done. Plans to enjoy each other without the constant interruptions where we could do what we wanted without the input and opinions of four others. We loved our kids and we loved our family time, but we loved being us even more. Tim always said we were raising them to leave us, but we never got to see that side of it.
People have asked me repeatedly if I cried when I dropped off Kellen. I didn't, but I am now.
With Kellen being so far away in a part of the country I have visited little and the other kids not at all, I decided we will make a mini vacation of taking and picking up Kellen from Dartmouth. Driving there will likely happen just twice a year. He will fly back for the shorter breaks. This trip out we went to Niagara before dropping Kellen off. The younger kids and I stopped at the NY Finger Lakes on the way back. We did have fun, and it did break up the very long car ride.
Kellen will be fine. I am confident he will thrive there. I will be fine. It is just another life change that I have no power to stop even if I wanted to. It is just this life.
The last few weeks have been. . well let's just say intense. New schooling, a mini vacation, and taking a kid far far away to college has been. . . an adjustment. I intend to post about these things sometime when I can get my head wrapped around them, and find a few minutes to compose them into legible sentences. but I just had to share this.
Lydia's first writing assignment was to write a memoir. I love her take on this story, even if she has taken a bit of artistic licence with some details. She is just a gem.
Moving To West Virginia
“Well, I’ve done it,” my grandfather announced, proudly, during dinner one night.
“Done what?” Mother replied.
“Bought land to build a farm, of course,”
Mom and Dad dropped their fork. “Did what now?” Dad said in shock.
“Bought land to build a farm,” Papaw answered, simply, as if he were discussing the weather.
In the year 2004-2005 my mother’s parents decided to pick up their belongings and move four hours from Akron, Ohio to Wild and Wonderful, West Virginia. This subject had been on the table for mere months, but Papaw, being Papaw, bought it without a second thought. And so began our new adventure.
I remember one time Mom and Dad took me and my two brothers to visit the new farm. The mini-van had about a fourth of a tank of gas. So poor Mother, having no clue about country life vs. city life, decided to pull into the first gas station she could find. There were, of course, no gas stations unless you went into town as all the locals knew. We, predictably, ran out of gas before reaching the land that was to be our new home. Papaw and the neighbor, John, had to come to our rescue with a can of gas and snacks.
Not long after our visit, my father took a job selling music, pushing him to join my grandparents in West Virginia. My mother began packing up our little duplex with the help of Kellen, my eldest brother. Three months later we were settling our lives in a single wide we shared with my grandparents. Soon after that we switched to tents on our new 104 acres of land and finally graduated to our own separate mobile homes. By that time Mother was hugely pregnant. My baby sister, Vivian and spring had come with them hundreds of oak, maple, and ash trees leaves.
Our first animal was small mutt puppy, named Pac. Pac was the first of many creatures to join the team. My favorites will always be the ones that ran around in John’s barn and pasture. Papaw had left early one morning to pick up a sofa from some odd town a few hours away. When he came back that afternoon he had twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.
“Lydia,” he whispered to me, “I have surprise for you, but you must promise to share it with your Mamaw, OK?”
“OK,” I replied.
Everyone piled into the car and headed to the barn. Instead of a sofa, Papaw brought home a tall brown horse, who was very pregnant. I was beyond ecstatic. Mamaw named her Sophie to remind Papaw that the horse was not part of the plan. After Sophie gave birth to Biscuit, Papaw decided that he should have a friend, and so came along Diamond and eventually Diamond gave birth to Ruby.
Years passed and we had acquired piles of junk, that no one had any use for. Cows were constantly escaping the fences that we had no time to fix. The goats were heavy with milk because we had no time to milk them. The sheep were sweating bullets because we had no time to shear them. So we downsized to gardens, pigs, and chickens. We battled them for another four years.
In late fall of last year we went back to Akron to visit some friends. The day after we got back Kellen and I caught Mom looking at houses in Wadsworth, Ohio. And so began a whole new adventure. By spring we had house and two acres of land.
My father always said that “Failure is your friend.” We had failed many times in our years of farming. Small failures such as a cow escaped the pasture, a raccoon hunted a couple of chicks for his dinner, or the mothering sow lost a few piglets after giving birth. There were big failures too like not ever building proper houses and just living in mobile homes that were way past their prime, not going through our messes that piled up after eleven years of living there, or not being able to keep up with the farm after Papaw and Dad passed away. We may be back where we were in the first place, but we’ve learned and we’ve grown and now we are living the life in front of us.
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.
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.
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. . .
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