On Death, Dying…and Living


As many of you know, I lost my mom after a sudden, fast-moving illness. While attempting the return to normalcy, I thought perhaps a recollection (another list) might help start the healing. Here are a few words of wisdom from the past month:

  1. While one of the most difficult jobs I ever had to do, if you have the opportunity to be present with a parent and support his or her journey to the next life, make the effort to accept this bittersweet gift.
  2. Share your final wishes with loved ones, put it in writing or have that important conversation! We were blessed with clear guidelines to follow Mom’s wishes, including medical needs, funeral arrangements, and other final requests.  Sharing your wishes reduces the burden on loved ones, eliminating the second guessing and possible arguments.
  3. I was touched by the random acts of kindness in the hospital: The nurse who stole pillows from spare rooms for me, another nurse who spent extra time on her shift the morning we removed the vent, washing Mom’s hair, putting on fresh clothes, doing all she could to help in the difficult situation, and a friend with massage training, spending almost an hour massaging Mom’s hands, trying to relieve the severe edema.
  4. There were so many acts of kindness afterward: The random stranger who purchased my breakfast in Hillsdale, coffee mugs for all the kids from the woman who ran Mom’s favorite breakfast joint, the many visits, cards, phone calls, hugs…
  5. While I only teach part-time, I was touched by the helpful response and care from co-workers at the college. Working with individuals who treat you like family is a priceless perk!

June Roche was a kind, intelligent, and cheerful woman. She endured many trials throughout her life from growing up in poverty, having to delay her high school graduation for a year so she could help support her family, to enduring a national scandal. However, she also experienced a grand adventure through her hard work and dedication to her family and the college, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in only two years, traveling around the world, hosting world leaders, influencing young minds, and helping promote quality education in America.

Throughout this adventure, Mom also never thought herself above others. If she saw someone in need, she attempted to help. I will always remember the lessons modeled through Mom’s example: respect everyone, help those in need, and remember the power of kindness and grace when solving problems.

Thanks for reading!



Remember your Roots

dad and mom

George and June Roche, Dad’s Graduation from the University of Colorado

A few weeks ago, I placed a few requests on social media, asking for comments about my parents and their time at Hillsdale College. The thoughtful responses brought back many memories from several generations of students. Growing up at Broadlawn, the students of Hillsdale College were central to my parents’ lives whether through day to day college business, a student in need of additional financial assistance (one of Mom’s many missions), or a student in need of a home-cooked meal or family movie night (usually John Wayne westerns). I loved seeing the students come and go; several of them are friends today. I’m thankful for the example my parents set regarding students’ needs outside the classroom. I think it makes me a more effective educator…

My father and your father were great friends. That friendship was formed with their evolvement with F.E.E. And The Mount Pellerin Society. I met your father briefly in the early 70’s and I could not help but be impressed by his obvious intelligence and boundless energy. Most importantly to me though was was a kind man. It was what drew me to Hillsdale. I met your brother George, who was in my class I believe, and we had some fun together. I also had the honor of introducing your father at a school business function. I was so awed by reading his credentials that I must have looked shocked, but he saved the day with his big warm smile.

~Henry Hagemann

I graduated with your brother and his wife, and worked for the college after graduation. During those years, I had the opportunity to witness your mother in a variety of social and business settings. On each occasion, she conducted herself as a great lady should, with intelligence, integrity, compassion and grace. Hillsdale was lucky to have her.

~Cheryl Lieblang

I had the pleasure of meet George Roche while attending Hillsdale College from 1993-1997. A great guy with a ton of knowledge.

~Tommy Sudduth

I attended Hillsdale from 1975 to 1979. As editor of the Collegian in the fall of 1978, I had a number of dealings with your father, all of which were cordial and even when we disagreed about publishing a story he did not like, they were still very respectful. Your mother was a wonderful woman, always warm and welcoming when I came to the house for an event.

~Benne Hutson

It wasn’t any particular story while I was there. It was after. His power of personality, immense gift of observation was mind blowing. To come back 10 years after graduation and be met with a handshake, by name with no tag, and throw my jersey number in for good measure! Wow, wish I had paid as much attention while I was in school. What he understood was how to make an environment of immense learning without many of us even realizing the absorption we were experiencing. That’s my memory and fondness for George. A name I was required to use when I attempted a meager Mr. Roche at that very meeting.

~Jim Shuster, Class of 1985

It is with great joy that I share my glimpses of June and George Roche while a student, and then an employee, at Hillsdale College from 1976 to 1983. My first memory of seeing June Roche was when I was a transferred-in sophomore in 1976. Mrs. Roche was walking with her husband and President of Hillsdale College, the George Roche, near Central Hall. They appeared to be in deep conversation and thought, walking slowly side by side, listening to each other and speaking with one another with great deliberation. They made a striking couple and that vision of them expressed many of the elements embodied at Hillsdale—tenderness, concern, beauty, listening, discussing, elegance, timeless grace. At that time I did not know who these two were but later discovered their identities. As busy as they both must have been that urgency of day to day life did not show in their demeanor as they walked and talked with each other. After that I saw June many times at Broadmoor as I would walk into town from Waterman Hall. She was often in the company of her youngest, their daughter Maggie. Seeing them together was dear to recall. June gave off the “aroma” of gracious calm that came from living a life consecrated to God, family, school and country. That kind of spiritual beauty cannot be bought, manipulated, falsified or affected. I infrequently saw June when I attended CCA lectures and cultural events on campus. My deepest memory of George was as a student, a senior, who was a few credits short of graduation requirements. I was told by the registrar that I had to go see George to obtain approval for walking across the stage with my class of 1979 in May. Having not really known him while studying at Hillsdale, this mission was daunting. I laid out to him a solid plan to attend summer school in June and July of 1979, finish the few classes I needed to fulfill the requirements of my BA degree, on a promissory note of sorts to follow through on my plan. His side of the conversation was comforting. He said I could walk across the stage with my class and would be handed the leather “holder” of my degree but no degree. That was a perfect solution. It was principled, easy, and only I would know. While this may have been a standard practice at Hillsdale, to me it was a sort of “salvation” which meant everything to me and for which I have remained every grateful. When I began working in the Admissions Office I would see June and George at various recruiting dinners held at Hillsdale, at Homecoming events and always at the seasonal CCA lectures, dinners and cultural events on campus. Their stewardship of Hillsdale College as the President and First Lady was impeccable, thoughtful, firm, compassionate and lovely to behold.

~H. (Kuhn) Bryant, 1976-1979

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. & Mrs. Roche both as a student from 1975- 79 and as an employee of the College from 1979-81.  On one occasion as a student, I was part of a group invited to have dinner at Broadlawn with Jack Kemp, it was impressive to listen to these fine American leaders.  Dr. Roche was always very supportive of our efforts on the football field.  I remember Dr. Roche and then Athletic Director, Jack McAvoy being very close and spending a lot of time together on campus and on the road raising money for the school. As a member of the Development Staff (now Institutional Advancement), I had the opportunity to watch our charismatic former president and his family interact with many supporters of the College.  They always treated me and those I observed with respect and dignity.  Dr. Roche had a presence and like he friend Coach McAvoy was an intimidating figure – together they were a powerful combination.

~Keith Otterbein

Any one who wishes to add thoughts, please share your comments! Thanks for reading!

Observations and lessons learned from living in the country

School is back in session, football season has begun, and harvest time is in full swing. Since life is so busy for all right now, I wrote a quick list, reflecting on our first year in the country.

egg pic

  1. Never, I repeat, never wear dress shoes to the barn!
  2. Farm fresh eggs really do taste richer.
  3. Living so far from town, we learned to make due with what was here instead of a quick trip to the store.
  4. In the days of teen drama and mean girls, watching my daughter embrace her inner farm girl gives us great joy and relief.
  5. That welcoming call of the goats and sheep at feeding time, so simple, such happy and friendly animals, I look forward to night time chores.
  6. A clear, country night sky for star gazing
  7. The magic of the woods: Fiddle-head hunting on a rainy spring day, the refreshing coolness of the creek in summer, autumn’s fire and beauty…
  8. Watching the garden grow and learning to incorporate endless meals with tomatoes…
  9. Peace and happiness…

MK goat selfie

Happy Fall!

veggie pic

Coconut Oil: The New Windex

coconut oil photo


Just like Kosta’s humorous uses for Windex from “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding,” coconut oil has a long list of healthy applications for our daily lives. I decided to see what all the hype was about and try a few suggestions. The kids tease me quite a bit, “Hey Mom, I broke my ankle! Quick, grab the coconut oil!” All joking aside, Chad and the kids have been patient with the many labeled containers scattered around the house. Here are some uses I have incorporated in my life:

Morning coffee-I add a small spoonful of coconut oil and splash of almond milk to my coffee. The taste is pleasant and costs much less than store bought creamers.

Face and body lotion-I made a mix of coconut oil, EVOO, beeswax, and a few essential oils. I used this through the winter on my face, under eyes, and body. I didn’t have the dry winter skin issues.

Hair conditioner-This is fantastic for hair care! Once per week, I rubbed coconut oil in my scalp, let sit for 30 minutes, and then washed with regular shampoo.

Anti-Fungal-Coconut oil is an effective preventative to rub on feet once per week, no athlete’s foot or dry, cracked heels.

Rash treatment-I was really surprised to see how quickly it healed minor rashes, in some cases overnight. It also helped soothe sunburn.

Cooking-I substituted coconut oil in some dishes. No one complained (till I told them the next day).

Dog Food-I added a large scoop twice daily to the dogs’ food, reducing shedding and giving them a healthy coat.

Low blood sugar-I have issues with low blood sugar if I don’t have a small mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Since adding coconut oil to my diet, I can usually miss these snacks and retain healthy blood sugar levels.

Dessert-While extremely messy to prepare, I made coconut oil and dark chocolate truffles (The kids didn’t complain about those). Search online for several variations of this yummy treat.

Some new items I would like to try:

  • Natural bug repellent using Coconut Oil, EVOO, and peppermint essential oil (While not as convenient as bug spray in a can, I figure if I’m working on the farm all day, spending five minutes applying this mix is healthier, and coconut oil naturally has an SPF 4.)
  • Skin scrub made with coconut oil, salt, and lime or coconut oil, sugar, and lemon

One suggestion I’ll skip:
Oil pulling (yuck!)

A few tips for working with coconut oil:

  • Coconut oil is much easier to apply when mixed with a small amount of olive oil. Whipping the mixture with a blender also helps create a workable consistency.
  • A little bit goes a LONG way! Start with small amounts.
  • I found an effective skin care routine by applying the product and letting sit for 15-20 minutes then wiping off any remaining oil.

I buy Kirkland Organic Coconut Oil, costing around 30 cents per ounce.

Consult a physician if you plan to add coconut oil to your diet.

Thanks for reading!

Date Night on a Dime


Chad and me pic


I LOVE date night! We are foodies, and enjoy trying new restaurants and seasonal specials. However, with three kids, a mortgage, and other expenses, Chad and I have to be careful balancing this in our budget. So here are a few frugal ideas that have helped us continue our tradition of a regular couple’s outing:

  • Go out for breakfast or lunch instead. The overall cost will be less, and many upscale restaurants offer meals at this time of day, so couples can visit new restaurants without breaking the budget.
  • When going out for dinner, skip or limit alcoholic drinks. Adding a few drinks greatly increases the bill by the end of the night.
  • Instead of a meal, try going out for a few drinks and appetizers. This is a fun alternative and usually combines well with other outings.
  • Look for opportunities and adventure in your area! A few years ago, we found a cocktail hour at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We received free admission, bought a few glasses of wine, sampled the complimentary hors d’oeuvre (Thank goodness for spell check!), and spent an hour or so enjoying the art work while listening to a talented classical pianist.
  • Try a stay at home date! Sometimes we purchase some of our favorite meat, cheese, and wine, and just enjoy hanging out together at home.

What are some of your fun, yet affordable outings?

The Unique, Worthwhile, and Memorable: A 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

With the holiday season approaching, I wanted to share some noteworthy finds. Some items I purchased as gifts, some were received as gifts, and some are on my own wish list. All are worth a glance:

victorian slide bracelet

Victorian Slide Bracelet-If you are looking for that unique piece of jewelry for a young lady in your life, check out the Victorian Slide Bracelet. These became popular in the Victorian era and later became a rite of passage token for southern ladies. My bracelet was a high school graduation gift from a family friend, Vada Pitchford. It remains a favorite and cherished piece of jewelry.

ostrich pillow

Ostrich Pillow-I’m not sure how to classify this gift, perhaps novelty. I bought one for my eldest because he would proudly use it while riding the bus to sporting events, on long family car trips, or even that unique accessory for Halloween.

sharkie pen

Sharkie Pen-Women would benefit from keeping one of these pens in their car or purse.  The steel shank provides a powerful last minute weapon if needed.  I bought these for many of the gals in my life.  On a side note, they also are one of the best pens for signing books.  The ink dries faster than any other pen I use.

Faith Bass Darling

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge-The newest addition to my reading list! Here’s a brief description from the website: “On the last day of the millennium, Faith Bass Darling, the richest and most eccentric lady in Bass, Texas, puts all her priceless belongings out on her mansion’s front lawn and commences to conduct a garage sale. Why? God insisted…Laugh and cry along with this woman as she orchestrates her final reckoning.”

All cardinals

Cardinal Themed Gifts-OK, this one is a shameless plug! I designed something unique with my last copies of Sara Dippity, creating several collections of cardinal items, including cardinal Christmas ornaments, large magnets, journals, and notecards. Check it out!

What are some unique items, great reads, or girlfriend goodies on your holiday list?

Happy Shopping! 🙂

A List Every Parent Should Make

While in the midst of settling into our new home, selling a home, teaching, and other activities, I am squeezing in a quick blog post before July departs. As a parent, I try and do my best to provide every lesson, activity, and opportunity for my kids. Coming from a family of list makers, one night, these thoughts turned into a list, a list of what, in my opinion, every American kid should experience.

  1. Spend the day at the ocean: Take your pick; there’s one on each side of our beautiful country. Kids should get the opportunity to explore the waves, sand, and see just how far our world extends.
  2. Visit a National Park: Again, take your pick! We are blessed with an affordable park system that extends throughout the country. Check them out! Which one is your favorite?
  3. Tour a Battlefield: As a 17 year old who thought she knew everything, I was dragged along one spring break to tour battlefields. At first, I behaved as a typical teen, arguing with siblings and regularly declaring my boredom. Then we arrived at Gettysburg. The best way to explain what happened was I felt a presence, which reached through my selfish, immature behavior and left me with an experience I will never forget. I felt something there. Something powerful, old, and bigger than I will ever be. It is a memory that I will never forget and one I hope my children have the opportunity to experience. Trust me! Take your kids to visit a battlefield.
  4. Hold down a miserable summer job: Every kid should have the opportunity to work one of those memorable, uncomfortable, low-paying jobs. These jobs provide the pride in a hard earned paycheck and a reminder to work a bit harder the next school year.
  5. Complete a service project: Kids can make this as formal or informal as they want. They can help through their school, youth group, or even taking the time to help a neighbor clean the gutters and rake the lawn, but every kid should know the joy in helping another.
  6. Go camping: Again, make this as formal or informal as necessary. Buy all the equipment and explore the great outdoors, or if camping is not high on your list, pitch a tent in the back yard. Look at the stars, listen to the silence, make s’mores, and make memories.
  7. Play a sport: Remember kids don’t have to excel at a sport, attend fancy camps, or purchase the best equipment. Playing a sport teaches teamwork, keeps kids busy, and promotes healthy, life-long habits.
  8. Participate in a non-athletic extra curricular activity: Pick one, any one. Encourage your child to find an extra activity, chess club, band, choir, FFA, the possibilities are many! They will make friends with similar interests, and who knows? They might just find an activity that stays with them for life.
  9. Learn to keep a budget: Kids have many opportunities to learn the basics of money management. It might be the simple task of buying Christmas presents, maintaining a monthly allowance, or being responsible for extra expenses during the summer months. Teaching kids the financial basics now will only help them as adults.
  10. Learn that important lesson, “You can’t have it all.”: Perhaps you cannot provide all these things for your child. That’s ok. Share your dreams, the things you wish to do with them. Tell them why these events are important. Maybe one day this list will be completed as adults, or you will create a new list together.

Did I miss anything? Please feel free to share what’s on your “Parent’s List.” As always, thanks for reading!