Of Legacy and Loss

By on September 13, 2017

I’m not quite sure of how to begin this post as I know my words will be sorely insufficient. It’s been an upsetting week, to say the least. For the purposes of this blog, I’m framing recent events in terms of a reminder. A reminder of what really matters in life. A reminder to let go of the junk that doesn’t matter at all. 

My hometown was rocked with a huge loss one week ago. A classmate of mine passed away suddenly, the victim of an auto accident. Just an ordinary day, going about the routine, and a sixteen-year-old’s failure to stop at a stop sign changed everything. Thankfully, none of her family members were with her in the car, but my friend Emily died at the scene. 

Just like that. One moment, she was thinking of any of a thousand tasks she needed to do, as a busy wife and mother of six. The next moment, she was gone and her sweet family, plus countless other loved ones, were left grieving. What an unspeakable loss.

It’s the kind of thing that happens all too often, yet when it happens to you or someone you know, it feels completely surreal. Impossible. Not her. I first heard the news from my mom, who of course follows all of my school friends on Facebook and had seen comments that hinted at the tragedy. She called me late that night to see if I knew anything, and within a few minutes I had learned that it was indeed our Emily, and the shocking truth that she was gone. 

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms 139:16

I know my words will fall far short today, but I still want to share a little bit about this woman because she was so amazing. I hadn’t seen her or spoken to her in real life since college, but thanks to social media, we’d kept up on each other’s milestones. Just a few days before her accident, I had been pondering and for some reason realized that Emily was the only person I’d gone to school with my entire life. Kindergarten through undergrad. I thought, hey, that’s kind of neat and probably pretty rare. I can’t think of too many memories of growing up that didn’t include Emily in some way. 

Growing up in a very small town means everybody knows everybody. Our class was filled with kids who had known each other forever. We all went to school together, played together, celebrated birthdays together, did Scouts together…you get the point. In our eighth grade year, we consolidated schools with the next town over (not a huge deal, since we would have done so for high school the following year anyway). Still a small school, same vibe. 

Emily and I didn’t hang in the same core group of friends, but we did marching band and Lifesavers (peer counselor group) and cross-country together. She became a Christian early in high school, and that soon became her ultimate focus and passion. She was one of those rare people who made Christianity cool. Everyone knew where she stood, and even if they didn’t agree with her, they respected her for her convictions. She and I led team prayers before each girls’ cross-country race our senior year, and not all on the team were believers. But no one minded, and they appreciated the ritual. I’m fairly certain that was thanks to Emily’s kind way of sharing her faith. 

We ended up attending the same private Christian college (Wheaton) and crossed paths occasionally, in the dorm or at track meets. She always had a smile on her face. 

In the years since college, Emily married her college sweetheart, he completed medical school, and they began growing their family. Three biological children were followed by adopted twins, followed by another biological child. By all firsthand accounts, she rocked at mothering such a large brood. She also managed to keep it real on social media, often admitting her failures and shortcomings as a mom. She didn’t sugarcoat the challenges of adoption or of raising a large family. Always tying everything to the anchor of her faith in Jesus, she constantly maintained that everything she did was only by the grace of God. On many occasions, I found myself convicted by her posts to seek God more fervently. 

Now here we are. This friend won’t get to finish raising her beautiful children or continue loving others around her as she did so well. I didn’t attend her memorial service; a 14-hour drive each way was just too far. My heart was torn on Monday as I longed to be physically present with Emily’s family and friends to grieve. I’m thankful for the woman who live-streamed the service for those unable to attend, so we could mourn her loss and celebrate her life from afar. 

It’s so unfair. It really is. I am angry and so unbelievably brokenhearted for her closest family. I am not God, and I definitely wouldn’t have chosen this way to write this story. The knowledge of Emily’s deep faith brings comfort, and I trust that she’s rejoicing in heaven right now. But at the same time, the thought of the crushing grief her husband, kids, and all of her family are experiencing, is hard to accept. What God is doing in all of this pain, I don’t know. 

“You will show me the way of life, granting me tell joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11

No matter what, this is a reminder to me, to all of us who cared for Emily, to embrace the life we’re given. Sometimes I think we forget how, in the end, we really have no control over our fate. I don’t fully appreciate the gifts of my life or the sweet moments as they happen. Emily’s death is reminding me, all the time, to take what God gives and do my best with it. Whether my life ends in fifty years or tomorrow, am I making the most of the gift? Am I being obedient to God? Am I telling people how much I love them? Am I truly living out that love? 

I’m reminded of song lyrics by Nichole Nordeman: 

I want to leave a legacy.

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering. 

Child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically…to leave that kind of legacy.

Surely Emily has left an incredible legacy of love and faith, and that’s what I hope to do whenever my time comes. 

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave in the world? How do you want to be remembered?


New Home Cons

By on September 6, 2017

A couple of months ago, I blogged about some of the fantastic things we LOVE about our new house and town. Mr. COD and I feel so fortunate to be in the place we are right now in career, location, and life in general. He’s begun his new assistant professor duties and is feeling very positive about it all, and Junior COD just started preschool today! Lots of good stuff all around! 

Junior COD meets the class fish, Mr. Blue

exploring the nature preserve in Frankfort

HOWEVER.

Naturally, no situation is perfect! We certainly have found a few negatives in our new house and region, so to honestly document our journey of changing our default, we must admit the bad along with the good. Without further ado, I present:

NEW HOME CONS 

  • Our rural road is slightly dangerous. We’re just about one mile off a main highway into town, but that one mile is fraught with several risky corners where it’s BARELY wide enough to fit two vehicles passing one another. We’ve also noticed that other drivers on this road seem to drive recklessly. Hence, we do have to be on alert when traversing the area. 
  • Along those same lines, it’s not a great location for me as a runner. While I like that traffic is light, I don’t love the blind corners or the crazy, STEEP hills! I run on my own once in awhile, but it’s tough. Dangerous and hard on my wimpy Illinois muscles!  

    This hill is 0.8 miles from our house. It’s INSANE.

  • The rural area, of course, means limited options for Internet hookup. Our neighbor across the street informed us on our moving day that no matter who you go with around here, service can be slow. Plus, she uses AT&T, but when Mr. COD contacted them, we found that our home (just across the road) was out of their service area. Hence, we have HughesNet and it’s costing us a bit more than before. 
  • You’ve already heard about us meeting a plethora of creepy, crawly critters in our new abode. A large majority of these were prior inhabitants of the house and land who had enjoyed free reign for several months while our house lay empty of human occupants. Thankfully, having us and our feline family members patrolling the premises (and Mr. COD having cut back a ton of the overgrown brush and trees) seems to have largely eradicated the presence of giant spiders in the house. We still are constantly finding new creatures to examine, though. At least one black widow has been spotted (in the garage), several enormous fishing spiders (freakishly huge, but harmless), and just last week, a “cow-killer” (a red-and-black striped wasp that races on foot like a steroid-enhanced ant). Plus side: Junior and Mini COD are getting an early education in the art of not touching any unfamiliar critters without prompt notification of Mom and Dad and a quick Google search! 
  • Poison ivy. Umm…yeah. Mr. COD had a vicious encounter with this stuff a few weeks ago and is finally starting to get relief from the itching! He admits to not being cautious and wearing appropriate clothing to protect himself while mowing and trimming, but still, it’s caused some degree of misery for his first few weeks of work. Again, the kids are learning what NOT to do! They are sufficiently scared of poison ivy now thanks to Dad’s live demonstration of its evils.
  • Coyotes. Guys, these things are SOOO FREAKY to hear late at night! We first heard a pack of them shrieking a couple of weeks ago while our friends from Milwaukee were visiting. Let’s just say, we could definitely tell they were celebratin’ something sinister. Just last night, we heard them getting all riled up again. It doesn’t make me keen on camping in our backyard anytime soon! 
  • The steep hill of a driveway and yard are a pain at times. Hauling garbage cans up to the road is a bit of work, and there are very few flat spaces in the yard for playing or gardening. We feel a bit better about this when we drive around town and see that flat areas are few and far between, so we’re not alone!
  • As far as the house itself goes, nearly everything in it is kind of worn-out or near broken. The house is perfectly livable; it just needs a lot of TLC to get to the way we’d like it. A few examples: paint needs freshening everywhere, the patio door doesn’t function very well, the roof isn’t in great shape, and the main bathroom decor is pretty hideous. However, all can be done gradually as we have the funds and time! 
  • There’s no Aldi. Shopping at Wal-Mart is far from my favorite thing to do. Boo! It’s okay, though–there’s a new Aldi under construction in our town right now! We’re so looking forward to getting our fave grocery chain back soon. 
  • Driving everywhere is a necessity, because, again, RURAL. It’s no longer a five-minute walk to the nearest supermarket, so I do miss popping the boys into the stroller to go pick up just a few things. Planning ahead is a bit more important when running errands. Still, Mr. COD is now only a ten-minute drive from work (instead of 30), which is an awesome change for him and us. 
  • While we love having a bigger house in which to entertain guests (we’ve had a lot of people visiting this summer), more space means more to clean. This is no surprise; everyone mentions this con when talking square footage of homes. It’s still preferable for us to have the room and spend a tad longer cleaning. Totally worth the trade-off!
  • Not a good space for kitty litter. One of our cats is on the geriatric end of the age spectrum and has some trouble staying in the box. Unfortunately, the best space for them is in a downstairs open closet, which is carpeted. Hence, we have some gross odor to deal with as long as she’s with us. 
  • You’ve all heard this one before: we’re farther from our family and friends. It sucks big-time, but we feel the career opportunity for Mr. COD and the other opportunities for us as a family are worth the sacrifice. 
  • We are very isolated from other people here. At our old house, we even shared a driveway with one neighbor, and it became somewhat comforting to always see them leaving in the morning for their jobs and run into them during the warmer months. Here in this rural area, we can go days without seeing another human being. It’ll require some more effort to get to know people. *One caveat to this: our closest neighbors here have dogs who occasionally wander off into our yard. We love this, as their dogs are incredibly sweet and friendly and our kids adore dogs. Our day is always brightened when Roscoe or Piper amble through our grass for a pat or two. That opens up conversation with the neighbors as well, when they come looking for the pups!
  • The amount of space we have is amazing…BUT…the view from our house is actually very closed-off. We’re totally hemmed in by trees on all sides, and it would be nice to see more of the countryside around us. Our plan is to work on clearing out more of the trees and brush that separate us from the cow pasture, so that by next summer, we could enjoy some glorious pastoral sunset views!   

    Lovely, just not as open as we’d like!

That’s about it for the negatives in this new home in Kentucky. We don’t regret the house or the location we chose, but it does have its drawbacks. So far, the pros far outweigh the cons for us! I mean, look at this peaceful little slice of heaven!

Obstructed, but still pretty gorgeous!

My office view?

Have you ever regretted a move or a house purchase? How did you fix things? 

How Not Working Impacts Your Views on Money

By on August 30, 2017

It’s been a year of not working for me. About one year ago, I received my final paycheck from my school district! A year of not setting an alarm. A year of not following a set schedule. A year of freedom to travel during the week with the kids. I find it fascinating how this has changed my views on money; perhaps I never realized how important work is to a person’s identity. While my perspectives on work and money are likely vastly different from those of someone who is not unemployed by choice, I want to explore this topic a bit today. 

Whether contemplating stay-at-home parenthood for a period of time or retiring permanently from a paying career, it’s important to keep in mind some factors. Obviously, we’re all built differently, but if you leave your work, these are a few changes you might encounter:

MINDSET CHANGES

  1. You find yourself pinching your pennies more than before. Every expense must be more carefully planned for and monitored. Non-essentials may not fit into the budget. Although I was fairly frugal before quitting my job, being out of the workforce has made me think much more before spending any money. Most of my discretionary purchases that were just for me? They’re out of the picture.  
  2. You actually crave the routine and structure of a work schedule. Even though I’m used to having long stretches of time off (yay for one of the only perks left to public school teachers!), being absent from work beyond that typical 10-week summer feels weird. Not following any required routine is always a highlight of vacation time, but I’ve found that it’s lost some of its appeal. Now that a non-routine is actually routine, any kind of motivation can be hard to muster. On some lazier days it feels a lot like being sick (staying in pajamas all day, barely leaving the house, watching the same shows again and again). 
  3. Your definition of a small or large amount of income adjusts. For me, not working a full-time, steady job with a steady paycheck makes me really savor and appreciate the occasional income I make. (Of course, Mr. COD is still working, but I’m referring to my own freelance endeavors.) Side hustles aren’t earning me enough to make a dent in our retirement savings, but they are sufficient to finance the occasional Raising Cane’s dinner out for the fam! While I (obviously) hope to eventually earn more than $20 or $25 for writing gigs, as long as it’s a reasonable trade of my time/effort for the money, I won’t sniff at that pay level. (Sometimes my devotionals only take 15-30 minutes to write, earning me $25. Not a bad rate!)
  4. Occasionally, you might feel guilty if your partner is still working to support the family. Fully retired folks are not in the same boat, but I absolutely encounter moments of guilt as I think “oh, we could save so much money if I were still working”. While that’s true, I am confident in the choice we made for me to stay home with Junior and Mini COD. 

It’s certainly a different lifestyle, not getting up and heading to a job every day. I miss the paychecks and the sense of security they gave, but I can keep in mind that this is only a short period of time. My kids will only be little once, and I want to enjoy this brief sliver of life with them as much as possible. It’ll feel like a blink of an eye, and suddenly my kids will be grown and on their own. As long as Mr. COD is still on board, I can deal with these adjustments to our financial situation. As with most things in life, they are temporary. 

Have you ever been out of work for an extended period of time? How did that affect your views on money? 


    Budget-friendly Moving Tips: Guest Post

    By on August 14, 2017

    Hey everybody! Mr. COD started his job at EKU last week, and we have a few budget-friendly moving tips for you all. I’m featured over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff today! Thanks to my friend Crystal for having me there at BFS once in awhile! 

    Click on over to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff to read our top ten tips for moving on the cheap! 

    Us on our weekend hike…pay no mind to our slightly weird expressions ?

    Any tried-and-true moving tips to share, fellow frugal friends? 


    Missing Old Friends, Making New Friends

    By on August 9, 2017

    If I had to choose one aspect of our out-of-state move that is the hardest, it would definitely be missing old friends and family. We have NONE close by. Of course, close is a relative term, but for us, we are now between 5-12 hours’ drive from any of our family and friends. I’m enjoying the summer with my kids and Mr. COD, but at times it’s been hard being so far from our loved ones.  (more…)


    Mrs. COD’s First Kid-Free Weekend!

    By on August 2, 2017

    I got to enjoy a much-needed kid-free getaway in Nashville this past weekend! Read on to get the lowdown on all the fun!

    Nashville’s pretty popular among our Illinois friends, who are always heading there for family trips or a long weekend (I hear it’s renowned for bachelorette shenanigans as well). However, I had never been there except for one brief trip with my family as a kid, from which all I remember is eating Goo Goo Clusters for dinner in our room, so this was different. The major “first” for me this weekend? The FIRST TIME AWAY FROM MY KIDS OVERNIGHT. Whoa. 

    Lovely Opryland Hotel!  

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    Quick post – Get Outdoors

    By on July 28, 2017

    Mrs. COD and I enjoyed the outdoors before we had children….and we still do, but it’s not as easy as it once was. At times, I have longed for the days when we could go kayaking on the spur of the moment. WELL LONG NO LONGER! We’ve gone kayaking with our little guys 4 times in the last few weeks and once even by ourselves (thank you Gma COD in-law).

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    Career Identity and Uncertain Next Steps

    By on July 10, 2017

    This whole past year of being primarily a stay-at-home mom has provoked a great deal of introspection regarding my career identity. Who am I, apart from my identity as a teacher? It was such an integral part of my being for so long, I almost don’t know how to view myself apart from that identity. 

    Surprising, how much of what I think about myself revolves around what I do. It’s a development I hadn’t anticipated when I walked away from teaching. Blinded by the thrill of quitting, of leaving a career I only halfheartedly cared about, I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I derived from that label: teacher.  (more…)


    I’m Back…

    By on June 26, 2017

    So to say the least, it has been awhile. In the last year I have taught my first graduate class, or any class, since I taught ELL classes in South Korea in 2004. It was part side hustle and part “Am I ready to move to a new career?”.  I really enjoyed teaching the career class to future counselors so much that I decided to explore teaching full time at counselor education programs.

    For those who don’t know, counselor education programs are graduate programs which train counselors for mental health, higher education, or school counseling positions. I limited my search to certain locations that met living criteria for my family: location, size of community, not too far from family, etc. Fast forward October to June: 12 applications, 6 phone interviews, and 2 on-campus interviews….say hello to a new job at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. I really took the changing our default to heart and decided to uproot my entire family.

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    New Home Love

    By on June 14, 2017

    We’re feeling a ton of New Home Love around the COD place lately. There are so many things about the new house that are vast improvements over our previous house, and we’re enjoying it! To be sure, there are also negatives, but I’m not even going to address those here today. Mr. COD’s and my seventh wedding anniversary was this week, and it was lovely to be celebrating it in our new home. Nearly two weeks in, I wanted to record a collection of things we LOVE about our new Kentucky home!  (more…)