Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Meet "country girl" Erin

I used to go into the grocery store and see dirty people and wonder how they ended up in a store with dirt on them: dirty pants, dirty shoes, dirty dirt. I remember not understanding how people ended up in a store, dirty.

Fast forward.

I'm a farmer. And now, I am pretty sure every time I am in the store, I am mostly dirty.

Here's the thing: you are working on the farm. And you need lunch. You need groceries. Do you stop and shower and get cleaned up and go to the store and come back and get dirty again? Or do you just go to the store, dirty?

The answer is: dirty. You just run to the store ... dirty.

Now, enter my amazing friend Erin and her two kids: Zoey and Zach.

I'll be honest. In the months that Erin has been living with us here on the farm, I have not gotten tired of her or her kids even one time. They are simply an amazing fit on our farm. 

Things are not as we planned. We planned on them being in an RV on the other end of our property. But issues with the RV meant it got delayed in being available. So, firstly, they ended up living in our house for about a month and now are living in the RV right outside our house instead of across the property. 

Erin and I are really not alike at all. While we are devout Christians and are raising our children very similarly, Erin is from the Boston area. She mentioned "the mall" to my children the other day, and her jaw dropped when Hannah told her she thinks she has only been to the mall one time. She was a professional ballerina. While raised slightly rural, she is a city girl. Bugs? Dirt? Processing animals? No thank you!

Erin is a self-proclaimed reformed spoiled child. Today, she is so efficient with money. They try to save every single penny. But she is not a farmer. She is not a country girl. 

Erin is the girl who could not believe how people could end up at the grocery store dirty. But then, she and the girls harvested beans at the Kotynski's with us and decided to go grab lunch on the way back to the farm. And they ended up looking like this:  

Check out those boots on Zach!

And even better? Take a look at ERIN!

I'm so proud of Erin! She is officially a country girl now!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

On a rare day off for John, ice cream in the car! And a date for us!

A break

It's amazing how wonderful it feels to have my husband home. How my perspective changes. How the world just seems better. Tonight, we went out for dinner. I am not sure the last time we had a date. Months? A year? 

It isn't just John being gone. Our friends and family have had such a need for COVID questions and support. And no matter what anyone says, there is no way you can say: "Sorry, call your doctor," when a friend texts and says: "My parent is dying. Can you help."

I've been in counseling for the last few months. I'm working through some things. I've improved in the area of blame. I cannot blame people for what my husband is going through. I cannot blame them for not understanding what it feels like to have skin in the game. I can't control a global pandemic.

I've done some things, purposefully, to make life better during this incredibly hectic time:

  • With the help of my "sort-of-sister-wife" Erin, I've worked to make my bedroom more of a peaceful place that I can go or John and I can sit and talk. With 13 people living on the farm, we need a place we can go privately to have conversations or just get a break from the craziness.
  • I have gotten off of social media. For at least the time being, I'm off of all social media. And I don't miss it at all.
  • I'm working to drop any rubber ball I can. To only hold onto the glass balls that require my attention. If a ball won't break if I drop it, it needs to be dropped.
  • John and I are also discussing what the future looks like for us. What it looks like if COVID doesn't stop. What we need to keep our sanity during a Pandemic when your husband is on the front-line.
I'm sure there's more ... but for now, that's enough.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Tipton-Haynes Historical Grounds

We went and visited the Tipton-Haynes house in Johnson City. Our friend, Mauren Sparks works there. What fun we had!!! John was off work for the first time in forever, and we ended up skipping ballet and karate and spending the whole day together.

Ms. Erin and Zach and Zoey joined us -- as did our new friend Ms. Rochelle and Loreli!


Live today


I had a conversation with a very prominent attorney in town who recently lost her husband to suicide. 







Life can be hard without this beast. It is okay if it is hard. Just keep living. Keep loving. Keep reaching out for Christ.

And speak TRUTH.

Don't hide how you really feel.

We all need to know that we are not alone.

Yes, I am the wife of a doctor in town. We have a happy life with four amazing children and a group of friends out of this world.

But things are hard. And we are struggling.

And that's okay!

Today I stayed home from church simply because my sanity was stretched to the bitter end. It's okay.

One day at a time sweet Jesus!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

I feel so overwhelmed. John has to work SO much. I try to see the light at the end of the tunnel but I don’t know where it is. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Jane Eyre & Family time

I am reading Jane Eyre with my 10th graders. (I teach Gabe, Katy, and Maryah a British Literature/Christian History & Bible class.)

I am not sure if I have ever read Jane Eyre. I want to say I did, but I feel now that had I read it previously, it would be etched more firmly in my memory. 

It is brilliant! I am 7 chapters in so we will see if my opinion changes, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. One quote today really spoke to me in the situation John and I find ourselves in with this Pandemic that is ravaging our lives:

"‘Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.’"
- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

The calling upon John and I truly does feel too great to bear. And I find myself often saying to my husband and others: "I don't know if we can bear it." 

In truth, I think the reality is, we don't want to bear it. And especially, we feel very frustrated that it is taking John away from his family without his permission.

This past week, after working 9 days in a row, we got a call that John's fellow co-director was sick and couldn't work the next day. All week John had been telling the kids, "Sunday. Sunday. We will have time together on Sunday."

And now it was Saturday evening, and he was going to have to be gone in the morning before they woke up. We both started crying. It was too much to ask. To truly be forced  to work? Isn't that what this was? John looked at me and said: "If this was anything but life and death, I would simply quit. I would say no."

The weariness is truly overwhelming. To feel like you cannot quit a job is simply unexplainable. They discussed calling in the National Guard. Unfortunately, that had been tried at a neighboring hospital a few weeks ago and it was a complete disaster. Not enough people with real medical experience meant nearly more work for the doctors as they tried to hand off responsibilities.

So then what? We tell the community: we are in danger of not being able to take care of you? But in truth, what does that look like? What it looks like, I have realized, isn't the doors to the Emergency Department being locked. Instead, it is weary and overworked doctors and nurses attempting to give it their all when their all has been washed away week and months ago.

Not being able to take care of you means that they are sacrificing their loved ones to help people that they feel could have been helped more by being vaccinated ahead of time. This is hard. We do not want mandates as we have said repeatedly. But he is only taking care of the unvaccinated. And that truth is staring him in the face.

It is someone’s right to choose what they have done to them? But what do you do when that choice is teaming havoc on your home. 

So Saturday evening we find out he must go back in. His vaccinated partner had COVID. He is only mildly ill but has to stay home for ten days. There is no one else to go in. They are down to 2 of 5 doctors. We are crying. The kids are asleep. We are helplessly searching for something to make Sunday feel better. At one point I said to John: "You are getting paid hourly. They've given you a raise. Let me take that money and take the kids shopping and buy them something."

Shallow. It was shallow. It wouldn't make it better. 

John's boss stepped in and took a few hours for him on Sunday morning. It felt amazing! It was a gift from above. (Truly!) It made us feel like we can carry on again. 

And then, two doctors who do not normally work in the ER, stepped in and took John's "extra" shifts on Tuesday and Wednesday. We had two whole days as a family! It was remarkable.

I'll share pictures of that tomorrow.

But for now, we take one day at a time. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Julie Lessman CONTEST!

I've made no secret about how much I LOVE author Julie Lessman on my Blog. Her DAUGHTER OF BOSTON series followed up by the WINDS OF CHANGE remain my second-favorite Christian writings of all times. (Only legendary Francine Rivers ever shared something I liked as much.) 

I have been HONORED to become online friends with Julie. I really can't remember how we connected, but I've edited and pre-read some of her books and gladly helped spread the word about her writing whenever I can.

Julie is a Christian romance writer. However, many of her series mixes in historical fiction as well. 

I love and appreciate Julie's writing so much that I've dedicated a label on my Blog to her. That means you can read EVERY post I've ever written that includes her by clicking here.

So here is the CONTEST!

Want to win a:

  •  $50 Amazon gift card, 
  • signed paperback of The Secret of Emerald Cottage (or choice of Julie Lessman's books)
  • character named for you or a loved one (great birthday/Christmas gift!) in her next book, A Hope and a Prayer, which releases early next spring and a signed paperback of that book?
Just head on over to JULIE LESSMAN’S BLOG for all the details and GOOD LUCK!

Also, here is a SNEAK PEEK into The Secret of Emerald Cottage:

Excerpt From The Secret of Emerald Cottage


Lake Loon, Georgia, Late Winter

She’s going to die …

Sucking in a harsh breath, Molly Stewart shot straight up in bed from a deep sleep, chest heaving in panic like always when she had one of those dreams. The kind that were more of a curse than a blessing. 

Because they usually came true. 

Sweat beaded her forehead as she stared unblinking in the dark, eyes dry sockets of shock. All she could hear was her own wheezing while she gasped for air, almost drowning out the violent throbbing of blood in her ears.


Oh, God, no, please … 

“Miss Lilly tends to go outside when she walks in her sleep,” Chase Griffin had warned when he’d hired Molly as a temporary caretaker and companion for his elderly landlady, “so it’s best to crack your door to hear her if she does.”

No!” Hurling the covers aside, Molly vaulted from her bed, crying out as she stubbed her toe on her way to the door, the nightmare far too real to be ignored. “God, please, let her be safe …” Fingers quivering, she lashed the door all the way open so hard, it banged against the wall as she bolted through, her breathing as jagged as her nerves. Shooting down the hallway to Miss Lilly’s room, her body seized at the sight of Miss Lilly’s open door. 

A door she always kept closed at night.

Molly’s stomach bottomed out when she saw the empty bed.

Nooooo!” Her groan followed her as she flew down the steps, her wide-eyed gaze darting to the sliding doors that led to the lake.

“Now, where in sweet glory are you a-rushin’ off to, young lady?”

Molly froze on the bottom step, heart banging against her ribs as she peered into the dark kitchen lit only by a nightlight. A shaft of moonlight glinted off little circles bobby-pinned all over a small white head. Expelling a long, wavering breath, Molly put a shaky hand to her chest to calm her racing heart, her ribcage still heaving. A knowing smile hovered over Miss Lilly’s pursed lips while she nonchalantly nibbled a cookie, the eighty-eight-year-old, silver-haired imp sitting in the dark drinking from a teacup like it was noon instead of midnight. 

“I … uh … heard a noise,” Molly managed after a hard swallow that slid into a shaky, if not sheepish, smile. “Thought you might be sleepwalking again,” she said, forcing a light tone while she pulled out a chair. She shook off the fear that had gripped her heart, unwilling to divulge the nightmare that had sent her bounding into the night. A shiver rattled her spine.

Nightmares that were often omens of doom.

Sinking into the spindle-back chair like her bones were made of mush, she figured it was more likely for her to have a stroke or heart attack than the patient she’d been hired to care for. The edge of her smile hitched up. Or a sprained ankle.

“She sprained her left ankle a few months back while sleepwalking,” Chase had explained, “tripping over gardening tools while on the back deck. So when she sprained her other ankle last week missing the last step in the middle of the night, we knew she needed live-in help.” 

He’d smiled that little-boy smile that said he wanted a big, big favor. The same smile she’d never been able to resist when they were good friends in the military. And the one that made her wish he wasn’t both her associate pastor and married. To a girl named Cat, who had quickly become one of Molly’s best friends since she’d moved back to Savannah. 

And,” he continued with a wiggle of brows, “since you need someplace to stay other than your parents while you look for a place of your own and you’re a nurse to boot, well”—he shrugged—“Cat and I both thought this arrangement would be ideal.”

Ideal. Yep. That pretty much fit. Especially since Molly’s fiancĂ©—a police detective she worked with at the Charleston P.D.—had cheated on her with her roommate. 

Three stinkin’ months before the wedding. 

The moment she’d walked in on them making out—on the couch in her own apartment, no less—she knew life would never be the same. Returning unexpectedly from a weekend trip to her folk’s house in Savannah, she’d been stunned and wounded, deciding right then and there—despite their pleas and apologies—to leave everything behind. 

The city.

The job.

The fiancé.

So she’d headed back to Savannah and her family for a fresh start, desperate to find an apartment as soon as humanly possible.

Because her parents were driving her crazy. 

After all, it was no secret why she and her two sisters had moved away after college. Not that her parents weren’t great—they were. Great marriage. Great home. Great support. 

If one could overlook parental kissy-face, that is, between two adults who acted more like teenagers than parents. Then there were their mother’s matchmaking tendencies, which drove her and her sisters up the wall. From endless awkward fixups and nonstop probing about their love-lives, to not-so-subtle commentary about her longing for grandchildren, her mother couldn’t seem to help herself. “Is it a crime to want my daughters to be as happy as we are?” she’d always ask, and it took everything within Molly not to scream, YES! Because after chronic bad relationships endured by she and her sisters over the years—including the breakup with Tyler—she feared the bar was just too high. The last thing she wanted was to face day in and day out the fear that she’d never have what her parents did. 

And Chase knew it. Reverting to puppy-dog eyes, he’d apparently taken her silence for a negative response. “Come on, Mol, this will give you a break before you look for a job and an apartment. Plus, it would be a really Christian thing to do for a fragile little old lady in need, your devoted pastor, and an old buddy from the Navy. Besides,” he’d said with a crook of his brow, “living with Miss Lilly will give you lots of time to curl up on a comfy chaise in front of the lake to indulge in your secret obsession—reading all those cozy mysteries you love and maybe even writing your own like you’ve always wanted to do.”

Her eyes had narrowed. She’d give him one thing—he had the arm-twisting thing down real good. She’d stifled a grunt. Probably Chapter Three in the Pastor Manual.

“Magnesium.” Miss Lilly popped up from her chair with a whole lot more energy than Molly at 12:15 a.m., the old woman’s spry movement and gravelly voice disrupting Molly’s reverie.

“What?” Molly blinked as she watched her patient—who’d become more like a grandmother over the last month—snatch a cup from her cupboard and fill it with hot water from her tea kettle. Steam rose as she steeped the tea infuser up and down in the cup before bustling back to the table. 

“Magnesium, I said.” Clunk. Miss Lilly set the cup down none too gently, promptly retrieving a cookie for Molly from her famous pig cookie jar. “The way you were just a-starin’ off into space, missy, I thought you might be the one sleepwalkin’.” 

She delivered a wink as she sat back down, grinning like a pixie over the rim of her cup. “And for your information, young lady, I haven’t sleepwalked since Doc put me on magnesium. Flat-out alarmed at how low I was, he said, claiming that can trigger a body roaming at night in their PJ’s.” 

Her eyes twinkled as she took a sip of her tea, looking like a tiny leprechaun for all her emerald-green satin duster and wrinkled grin. Which certainly fit. Despite her backwoods air, Miss Lilly was as Irish as the Blarney Stone itself, according to Chase, married to a full-blood Irishman, no less. And not just any Irishman, apparently, but the only grandson from a prominent Irish family in Savannah. A family that had not only owned the lake and all the rental cabins around it, but almost a thousand acres of prime Georgia land as well, which now belonged to Miss Lilly.

Molly blew out a weary sigh and bit into her cookie, pretty sure she needed way more than magnesium. She bit back a grunt as she pushed her tea away with a sad smile. Like sleep. “Thanks for the cookie, Miss Lilly, but I’ll pass on the tea. Haven’t been sleeping all that well, so the last thing I need is caffeine.”

The twinkle in the old woman’s eyes softened with sympathy. “Still frettin’ over that two-timin’ polecat, sweetheart?”

Tyler. The polecat who stole her heart. Her smile took a tilt. Otherwise known as the “womanizing skunk lower than a snake belly in a wagon rut,” according to Miss Lilly. Nope, at least it wasn’t about Tyler tonight like it’d been the first few months she’d moved back to Savannah. “No, just restless, I guess.” 

“Then dunk that tea ball real good and drink up, missy, because that there is my own magic potion for sleepin’ like a baby.”

“Really?” Molly leaned to sniff at the tea. “What’s in it?”

“All natural things from God’s green earth, don’t you know. Chamomile, lavender, magnolia bark, blackberry leaves, and what not.”

Molly dunked the tea ball up and down several times before she finally took a sip, the warm taste of spearmint soothing her nerves. “Mmm, it’s good. ‘Whatnot’ must be spearmint.”

“Yes, ma’am, and blue skullcap.”

Molly blinked, the tea pooling in her mouth. She swallowed it in a hard gulp. “Skullcap?” she said weakly, the name immediately conjuring images of death, which did not bode well for her peace of mind. Not after the dream she’d just had.

“Yessiree,” Miss Lilly said, “calms a body down and quells that restless spirit so you can rest in peace.”

Taking another healthy glug of the tea, Molly figured she needed a little quellin’ right about now. 

Over keeping Miss Lilly safe.

Over finding a job.

And over a nightmare about drowning that felt way too real …

Rest in peace. Eyes slamming closed, she upended her tea in one jerky bottoms-up, hoping and praying that it related to Molly and a good night’s sleep.

And not to Miss Lilly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Wee-wind Wednesday

 Last year about this time, I did a video to show what dinner in our house looks like. Here it is:

Mr. Lloyd and the ginseng

There are so many things to learn living where we do, in the country, with good ol' folks like our neighbor Mr. Lloyd. This is a picture of him with some ginseng. Mr. Lloyd often goes out ginseng hunting. This piece he is holding is worth about $100 for Mr. Lloyd. The person he sells it too will end up selling it for about five times that much on the market. 

Mr. Lloyd used to be able to find this pretty easy, but it's been harder and harder to find as of late.

So fun to see and learn about new things all the time!

Notes like these …

…. Make us feel just a tad better about what we are going thru.

Monday, September 20, 2021

a Facebook note from JB

Over the last few weeks, we have had days where we are exceedingly busy and understaffed in the emergency department here in Greeneville, Tennessee. 

 But it is in times of adversity that a person’s character is highlighted. 

 Eric Carroll, our hospital’s CEO (chief executive officer) has been in the ER multiple times, for hours at a time, transporting patients, cleaning rooms, taking out the trash, and answering phones. 

 Daniel Lewis, MD, our hospital’s CMO (chief medical officer), has done the same. He’s also worked a morning for me, so that I could spend some extra time with my family, as I’ve been having to pick up shifts to keep the department covered. 

 These men didn’t do this for a photo opportunity. They did this because they understand leadership. They are servant leaders. As we used to say in the military, they lead from the front. I am thankful these men are in our community. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

This year at co-op

JB is teaching science this year to Sidge, Isaac, and my niece (Kari). Poor guy has worked so many shifts that we had to squeeze it in during a few hours off he had on Friday morning. Here are some pictures of him talking about Newton:

For my own records, I wanted to remember what we did for this year's homeschool group. So here it is:

Isaac (Grade 7)

  • History/Language Arts Bible/Science (HLB) Sunlight Level H
  • CTC Math 8th grade pre-Algebra
  • Typing (Keyboarding without tears)
  • Language (French)
  • Piano
  • Karate
  • General Science (with John teaching)
  • Civics (with Mrs. Bales at co-op)
  • "Adventure Time" (PE class at co-op)

Elijah "Sidge" (Grade 7)

  • History/Language Arts Bible (HLB) Sunlight Level H
  • CTC Math 7th grade math
  • Typing (Keyboarding without tears)
  • Language (Spanish)
  • Piano
  • Karate
  • General Science (with John teaching)
  • Civics (with Mrs. Bales at co-op)
  • "Adventure Time" (PE class at co-op)

Abigail (Grade 4)

  • History/Language Arts/Bible/Science (HLB) Sunlight Level B (doing complete unit with Aunt Hannah -- Genevieve, Eoin, and our Hannah are doing it too, but Abigail is doing different reading then they are.)
  • CTC Math (online)
  • Sewing (with Ms. Anni)
  • Typing (Keyboarding without tears)
  • Piano
  • Ballet
  • Write-Shop (5th thru 7th grade) with Ms. McCoy 
  • Art (with Kim Clark)
  • Explore Greeneville (with Kristin Girton at co-op)
  • Girls Club (at co-op)

Abigail (Grade 4)

  • History/Language Arts/Bible/Science (HLB) Sunlight Level B (doing complete unit with Aunt Hannah -- Genevieve, Eoin, and our Hannah are doing it too, but Abigail is doing different reading then they are.)
  • CTC Math (online)
  • Sewing (with Ms. Anni)
  • Typing (Keyboarding without tears)
  • Piano
  • Ballet
  • Write-Shop (5th thru 7th grade) with Ms. McCoy 
  • Art (with Kim Clark)
  • Explore Greeneville (with Kristin Girton at co-op)
  • Girls Club (at co-op)
I am teaching a Brit Lit/Christian History class to Gabe, Katy, and Maryah.
I am teaching the 7th & 9th grade HLB.