Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas. And we are having a merry Christmas. No, really I mean it.

This holiday season has been hard. We are emotional. We've had frustrations and challenges which all seem so much larger while we are mourning. My head isn't all in the game, and I've forgotten things. We have had tears of sadness and of anger. Sometimes it has been ugly.

But we are working through it together. Mom losing her cool one particularly ugly evening unexpectedly seemed to make a breakthrough with one particular child. Nolan and I were having a hard time. There was a lot of attitude. There was a lot of tough guy covering up a wounded heart. Maybe seeing mom break is what it took to break through his shell. I don't know, but I do know since then he has been a much kinder Nolan, the big teddy bear that I knew was still there.

I am excited for presents. If you know me well, you might be surprised to hear that. We normally keep that part of Christmas to a minimum. I did still stick to our four gift strategy, technically. I just went a little bigger with it. I know any therapist would tell you I am totally trying to compensate heart hurts with things, but I don't care. I found some things I think the kids are going to love, and I'm excited to see them open them! 

I love having all the kids home this week. It has been a relatively low key week. I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen. We've baked, and I've cooked real meals. Well, dinners anyway. Frozen pizza for lunch while mom is baking cookies does happen here. We had a Star Wars movie marathon. It is nice to have the boys around. With the school schedule, we barely see them during the week. When they are home, I spend most of the time nagging Nolan to get things done. I am enjoying this more relaxed time.

I find comfort in keeping our traditions. Our traditions are pretty low key. I know for some who are grieving, traditions bring sadness, for me they bring comfort. I guess in knowing life does go on. We cut our tree from our property. This one is pretty scraggly, but it serves the purpose. It is even decorated, which is better than we did last year. I baked some of our favorite cookies. I baked a cheesecake, Tim's favorite. We will go to Christmas Eve services. We will stay home for a quiet (or as quiet as it gets around here,) Christmas morning, and travel the next day.

I am in awe of the continuing support we receive from our community of friends and family. People continue to support us with their time, money, words, and prayers. It is awesome to be loved and remembered.

I am learning to quiet my heart, and turn toward the Lord. That is what He has been teaching me through this whole process. When the emotions, the daily tasks, and the frustrations seem overwhelming there still is peace and joy. And isn't this the season of peace and joy? 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


I came across this picture yesterday. We were sitting in Huntington airport waiting for our plane to Florida. I wish we were taking a Florida vacation again, all together, all six of us. I wish I was sitting anywhere, doing anything with that man at my side.

It has been almost four months, and in many ways we have found a new daily routine. Occasionally, in the middle of this routine, disbelief will work its way through to the surface. I still can't believe he is actually gone. He was far too young. Besides melanoma, he was the picture of health. I think I could count on my hands the number of days he missed work before cancer. It isn't fair to the kids. It isn't fair to me.

Other times in the midst of our daily activities the smallest things will set the tears flowing. Yesterday, it was this picture. I don't even remember why I was looking through pictures. There were tons of pictures with Tim, but this one made me cry. A few weeks ago, it was grilled cheese that started the crying.

It was one of the first really cold days of fall. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of our favorite cold weather meals, and it was on the dinner menu. Tim loved grilled cheese. He loved to pick the little crispy bits of cheese that would fall onto the griddle. That evening there was no one picking while I cooked. That started the emotions, but when I realized I'd made too many sandwiches, the tears began to flow.

Our griddle makes six at time. I loaded that griddle up twice, just like I've done a hundred times before. But we aren't six anymore. We are five. There is always an empty space at the table, and I don't need to fill the griddle twice when I make grilled cheese.

I convinced myself that the holidays wouldn't be too bad. We never made a huge deal about things like that. Our traditions were loose and somewhat fluid. Yet, several days before Thanksgiving heaviness and sensitivity began to settle. It is still here. I imagine it will stay through the holidays. I imagine it will be with us in varying degrees at varying times forever, but it is ok. It is part of the process. We suffered a great loss. He was a great man. He is gone, but will always be part of us. We still have joy. We still have peace. We still have hope.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I hope in Him!" The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. ~ Lamentaions 3:21-26

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.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Crazy Thoughts

Two friends recently posted on Facebook how their grief just makes them want to run away. It is a feeling I share. I have a great urge to just take off. It doesn't matter where. I just want to go, but what would I be running from or to? The emptiness would still be there. The grief would follow me.

It isn't Tim's things, our home, or the things we shared here that make me sad. It is the lack of intimacy. I think of myself as a fairly independent person, but I now have begun to realize how greatly I depended on Tim. He was there when I didn't even realize I needed him. He understood how I ticked. Our personalities were vastly different, but he balanced me.Without him there is a huge gaping hole.

I also am beginning to see the wisdom behind the advice of not making any major decisions for the first year after a life changing event. That advice was first given to me in regard to a birth of child. Considering hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, that surely is wise advice. Yet, I think it is so much more important now.  With a new child there was always joy about the situation at some level. Never with a birth of a child, have I had such crazy thoughts or roller coaster emotions.

 I think about trivial things like cutting all my hair off.  I think about taking long vacations. I think about moving, somewhere, anywhere. Taking a job in a remote Scottish village is actually pretty appealing. I have found my thoughts return to unhealthy behaviors and patterns that haven't been a part of my life for decades. I find myself glad for having all the kids at home. They keep me grounded. And I realize that all these crazy ideas running through my head, all these up and down crazy emotions I feel daily, are all just an attempt to fill the emptiness. None of them will satisfy the ache within.

And I try to remember to turn my heart to the Lord and to rest in Him, and ask that my heart would see what my head knows is true.

Psalms 16:11 You will show me the path of life: In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Isaiah 40:5-8 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fade, But the word of our God stands forever."

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don't think this ache will ever go away completely, but I pray that I would be obedient to turn to Him, and that my foolish thoughts would be replaced with His light and peace.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nature or Nurture?

If you've visited the 100 Acre Wood, you've probably noticed we have a lot of stuff laying around. Dad could never pass on a good deal for something he thought we might need someday. Tim could never refuse something that was offered for free even if we weren't sure what we'd ever do with it, and we all are terrible about throwing things away. We might need it someday. We might fix it. We might use it for parts.

I am not saying that none of those things are true. There have definitely been times where our saved stuff has come in handy. Saved stuff, over ten years, creates lots of full spaces and piles. That, however, is not the subject of this post. Do you think this habit of saving stuff, making due with old things, and repurposing is a learned behavior or in the genes? I present exhibit A.

We had an old couch and loveseat in our "farmhouse." Truth be told, these were never ours. We never used them, but they sat in that house for several years. Basically, they had become shelves for us to store our farm market supplies on. At one time these were nice pieces of furniture, but they came to us needing repair. The fact that they might be repaired is probably what allowed them to find a home at our farm.

Tradition at our school holds that the senior class plays pranks throughout the school year. Their first planned prank was to remove all the desks from Mrs. Monk's room, and replace them with living room furniture. This was the motivation for that couch and loveseat to finally make a move.

Kellen and Nolan stuffed the furniture into the back of the Suburban, and off it went. By all accounts, the prank went off well. Then Kellen brought them back. In the mood to clean up some of these piles, I told Kellen not to put the furniture back where it was, but to burn it.

Nolan begged me to save them. He wanted to replace our living room furniture with that couch and loveseat. While I can not argue that our couch is shot, I hope to replace it with something in good shape, not another piece that is broken down. This is where he came up with a creative, repurposing, can't throw it away, idea.  And I agreed to it.

He took the cushions from the couch and loveseat to use like beanbags. The kids sit on the floor a lot when we are all watching T.V. These make for a more comfortable spot. We even talked about putting all four of them together to make a bed when friends come over. He stores them in his bedroom closet when they aren't in use.

So I ask again, do you think this hoarder, ultra frugal, hillbilly, save everything, behavior is nature or nurture? I'm going to need more storage space if all the kids adopt this behavior.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

And Then This

This morning was emotionally rough. We visited a new church.  I struggled to keep it together on the drive there. I cried during the worship songs, and teared up again when the pastor talked to me after the service.

No real reason I can pinpoint why this morning was hard. No triggers. It just was. My brain kept going to regrets about things I can't change, and I just missed Tim so much it ached.

The afternoon was easier. We had a good talk about church on the way home. We had lunch, and the kids were occupied. I went to work processing grapes, and it was a welcome mindless task. Nolan and Vivian were playing in the living room. They were playing so nicely together, and I was enjoying listening to them. Then it happened. 

I had read that kids will do this. I really thought it applied to younger kids, but maybe I read that wrong. They were playing dead. Well, not just dead, like playing cops and robbers, but they were having a funeral. They had taken couch cushions and made a coffin. The coffin was open showing their face, but their legs were covered. I know it is natural to act these things out, but my stomach did a flip flop. The thought of having another family member in a coffin made me sick to my stomach. 

My emotional morning, the kids playing funeral, I know these things are just a part of the grieving process. Knowing this with my head doesn't make it any easier on my heart. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

I Missed This Too

When Lydia was born, I quit my job to be a stay at home, homeschooling mom. That was my role for eleven years. It was often a struggle financially. Two years ago Tim and I both were offered the opportunity to teach at Cross Lanes Christian School. We decided it would be in the whole family's best interest for us to take that opportunity. (And it was, but not in the ways we had thought it would be. A topic for another post.)

The first year went as planned until the end of the school year when a second spot of melanoma showed up on Tim's shoulder.  That October we found the melanoma had spread through Tim's body, and he left CLC S. This spring, the girls asked if they could homeschool. Tim was responding well to the chemotherapy, and we said they could. In June, the cancer moved in to Tim's brain and his spine. This affected his motor function, and he began using a wheelchair. I resigned my teaching position to be home to care for him. The best laid plans. . .

I find myself again a stay at home, homeschooling mom.  Only this time, I am a widow. I miss him. There are so many times when I want to tell him something, or get his opinion. So many things that remind of him. Where I seem to miss him the most right now is as my parenting partner. Parenting alone is far different than I ever imagined.

But. . . I love being home. I love homeschooling. I missed these things. Our days are much more relaxed. We work in the garden. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating healthy meals from things we've grown or gotten from farming friends. We've picked and processed pears, elderberries, and apples. We go on educational field trips, and we visit with friends. There are times, especially in the middle of a project, that life almost feels normal. As if Tim is just merely at work while we go about our day. Like we are happy again.

And as much as I know I shouldn't, I feel guilty for loving our life a little bit right now. After enjoying a few hours, the grief has a tendency to slap you back; the grief or the overwhelming amount of paperwork and decisions that need attention.

Tim and I used to say that our life after his melanoma diagnosis was like a roller coaster. The first few years the ups and downs were well spread out and only a little scary. The last year the ride was much more intense and the climbs and drops closer together. Though he has gotten off the ride, I guess I am still there trying to navigate these ups and downs. Trying to find our new normal where the ups and downs of life are more spread out and not so scary. Trying to be content and happy without feeling guilty about enjoying things without him.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Awkward Moments with a 9 Year Old

Vivian means full of life. In this case, Vivian should also mean full of questions. She always is thinking ahead. She always needs the plan. I get it. She is a shaper. So am I. We think a lot alike, but the problem is at nine, her planning priorities and mine aren't always the same. She doesn't see all the little things that need figured out before we can get to the big plan, and she has no filter about what she says. If she has a question about it, it will get asked.

The day after Tim died (it may have even begun that night) she started peppering me with a million and one questions about how things would work, what we would do, and the like. I finally had to tell her (repeatably) that I couldn't think about or answer any of those questions until after the funeral. We had to get through that first.

Since then, she still has had questions, though I don't feel bombarded with them any more. Maybe because I can think more clearly now. Maybe because some of the things she had questions about are getting answered just in the daily living of our lives. The other day in the car, however, she threw me a doozy.

"Mom, are you going to get remarried?"

Talk about not ready to think about that, let alone discuss it with my children! Talk about jumping ahead in the plan. I didn't know what to say. In fact, I am not sure what I said, but I think it was something along the lines of it being too early to think about that.

Then she says, "If you do, I won't like him."

Um, where do I go from here with this conversation? The resulting conversation was actually pretty sweet. It took a bit of talking through and clarification, but what she was trying to say was she didn't want a step dad that was like Tim. She would want someone with a completely different personality type because she wants to keep Tim's memory separate and special. She loves her daddy and doesn't want anyone to take his place.

No one ever could baby. They never could. . .

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Funny Little Things

In the middle of grief none of the things we do quite seem right. Everything has a little cloud of gloom hanging over it. We get through our days by making ourselves do what needs done. We try to distract ourselves with fun (and uncharacteristic) things like a new inside kitten, or a trip to D.C. for a long school weekend. We think we are doing ok, but then something little or funny brings the pain back to the surface.

Today I spent my morning writing thank you notes. This is a task that you might think would be painful since it involved rereading a lot of cards and sweet sentiments about Tim from people we've known (and some I don't even know) throughout our life and marriage.  I'll admit to it being slightly overwhelming. There is a lot of people to thank, and appreciation to show, and I don't have the words to express it well. The task was not at all painful, though.

Later in the day the girls and I ran some errands. One was to a farm customer, Butter it Up. They serve breakfast and lunch. They just added a new breakfast sandwich, The Tim, which features our products. For some reason that got me all choked up. I had to spend a few minutes in the bathroom composing myself before the girls and I could get lunch.

The rest of the day went like that. Small things hit me hard. The empty chair at the dinner table bothered me even though it didn't just yesterday. Tim's shoes were at the door. Kellen wore them. They wear the same size. I saw Tim "liked" a Facebook photo album of a friend that popped up in my feed again for some reason this evening.

His phone keeps popping up "I love Stephanie Appleton." Tonight I finally figured out why. He had set an event on his calendar, "I love Stephanie Appleton" back on July 22. The event was set for all day everyday, and to send a reminder.  That is why it was constantly on the display every time I picked it up. And that is what fully opened the flood gates that cracked this afternoon at Butter it Up.

So that is why I am sitting here crying even as the new kitten tries to love on me. Even when she walks on my keyboard as I try to type. Even as I am texting with a dear friend checking up on me,  I'm ok. It is just those funny little things tugging at my heart today.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fading Flowers

The flowers from the funeral are fading. The focus on the services, the constant stream of beautiful stories about Tim in my Facebook feed, and the visiting family are gone. The dust is settling, and I find myself glad for some time alone, but at the same time lonely.

You, my friends and family, have been great. You've done what you can do. You've called me. You've messaged me, and I know I haven't responded. Know that I do appreciate your love and concern, but I don't have an answer for the question, "How are you?" I don't have it in me to respond with more than, "Ok." Really, I'm grieving. It hurts, a lot, but I'm ok. There is nothing to make this better. I miss my best friend.

There is no fix for this save time, and even that won't ever completely heal this hurt.  The kids and I have gone places, and had fun with friends, but it seems a bit hollow right now. At home we go about our basic daily routine, but it isn't the same.  The motivation to do anything beyond the basics isn't there, and we are all content to sit and pass our time with Netflix and Facebook. There is a huge hole in our family, and we all feel it.

Tim was my best friend for 21 years. It is so odd to not have someone to bounce my thoughts off of, to have someone to vent my frustrations to, to dream with. Bedtime is the hardest time.
For 20 years, Tim and I almost always went to bed at the same time. That time was our talking time. It was the time we would rehash the day, discuss the next day, and share our hearts with one another. I miss that so much.

And then there is the mommy guilt. Why do we do this to ourselves? Despite knowing that I am doing what I can, that I can't fix this for them either, and that they need time just like I do, it is so hard not to feel like I'm failing them, like I'm not there enough for them, like we should be doing something more than Netflix and Facebook, and like I lean on them too much.

So, we are ok. This grieving process really sucks. It hurts, a lot. I wish it would go away. I wish we all didn't have to feel like this. But I know it hurts this much because we had a really good thing, even if it was all too short. We had what so many families don't. I cherish that, even if it hurts right now. We have amazing friends and family. We have each other. We have an ever faithful Lord and life abundant in Him. We are ok. We will be better.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Farm and The Future

Many people have asked me, have asked my mom, "Will you keep the farm?" The truth is we can't answer that question. Truth is I'm not sure exactly what that question means. The farm is a business and the farm is also a home. Wise advice has been given to me over the years at different points in life. That advice is to wait a year to make any big decisions after a life changing event. That is advice I am taking to heart at this time.

Changes were already in the works for the farm as a business, before Tim died. Even though we downsized after Dad was gone, we have been struggling for the last five years to keep up with the farm. After Tim became unable to walk, we knew it was time to make some more changes.

Knowing the road Tim was on, knowing that Kellen will likely be leaving in a year, we made plans to bring the farm back down to a more manageable level. We only raised one batch of meat chickens, and didn't order any more. We sold our boar and all the piglets we had and expected, except the ones we are saving for the kids' ham, bacon, and egg projects. We decided in order to pay off some farm debt, we needed to sell the rest of the hogs as meat cuts. The plan was to have all the hogs gone by winter.We planned to keep the current number of hens as long as we have pork to sell. We planned to keep the rabbits. This is all still the plan.

So what does that all mean? Our farm products will be available (except for chicken) like normal through the winter I expect. We will probably have sausage and eggs longer than that. We will probably add some rabbit because the processing laws on rabbits have finally changed. After that, I am not sure. The only thing I can say is that if the farm as a business continues, our products will be different.

This is our home. Though right now it seems to hold a lot of broken dreams, it also holds a lot of precious memories, not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears of this family. Can we keep up with this property? It will be a challenge.  We have a lot to do just to get the property back into shape. There are messes that need cleaned up. There are projects that either need finished or abandoned. And for those that have been asking to help, yes we plan to have some work days as soon as we can get things on our end organized.

I can't imagine us living anywhere else though. There are still dreams I'd love to see through here. I still love the lifestyle of raising food, children, and animals in the woods. I can't imagine having neighbors. I adore the peace and quiet of our woods, and still long for the simplicity of the life here we seemed to have set aside somewhere in this 10 year journey.

Are we staying? Ask me in a year. In the meantime, I will be taking it one day at a time waiting to see what the next step holds.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My Sweet Vivian

The service for Tim included a time of sharing. When Vivian heard this she declared that she would like to share. I had my doubts. I was Vivian's teacher last year at Cross Lanes Christian School. In the spring, students gave weekly book reports. Some students have a natural flare for getting up in front of people to speak. Vivian did not.

Every week we would write her report, and practice it at home. She did well at home, but when called upon to speak in front of the class, she struggled. She was nervous. She couldn't hold still, and tripped up repeatedly on her words.

So when she asked to speak at the funeral, I thought it would never happen. I didn't tell her no. I told her to write out what she wanted to say thinking she would see the crowd and decide she didn't want to speak. She would then have what she wrote as a keepsake.

She wrote a rough draft, made some corrections, and rewrote the whole thing. The morning of the funeral she forgot the paper at home. When we realized that we were already at the funeral home. I tried to encourage her that it was ok. She would still have the paper at home, and it was ok if she didn't speak at the funeral. I thought it would save her the stress of deciding if she could get up in front of the crowd (which I was pretty convinced she wouldn't want to do.) Grandma Gail saw the situation differently.

She said to Vivian, "Well we have an hour. Let's find you a pen and paper, and you can write it again." That is exactly what they did.

When the time for sharing came, Vivian was not hesitant. She didn't even seem nervous. In fact, she was chomping at the bit. We had asked Uncle Jake to help her when she went up. She kept looking back to him like, "C'mon!" Finally there was a pause in the testimonies, and she made a beeline to the front. She didn't even wait for Jake. I'm not sure he was even out of his seat.

Then my baby girl, who couldn't speak in front of her class of 14, got up on a bench so she could reach the microphone, with her Uncle behind her for moral support,  and spoke about her dad to well over 100 people.

My dad was a good man. He was nice. He was generous, and he was kind. He was happy. He was loving, and he was awesome! I love him, and my family loved him. Even though he was very sick, he was happy. Even though he was in the hospital, he acted normal. He was always peaceful. He was always fun! He always had a list of work to do. He made my family so happy! He loved music. He loved the farm. He loved all of his family. When the family was scared, he said, "It will be alright." When times were rough, he said, "It will be all right." He had a great school to teach at. He loved the school, and the school loved him. He was an amazing dad! 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Next Step

In my high school and college years I was a little wild, a little rebellious. Life had taught me men were users. They couldn't be trusted.

When my big post graduate plans fell through, I returned to my parents home a little lost, a little broken. In my absence my parents had become youth pastors. There were lots of kids at the house all the time, but one boy in particular was there a lot. He was very close to my parents.

He was sweet and funny, and soon it was obvious he had a crush on me. "How cute," I thought. I also thought, " I hope I meet someone like him someday." You know someone older and a little more experienced with life.

We became great friends over that summer. By fall, our relationship had taken a romantic turn. By spring, we knew we wanted to spend forever together. We were married the next winter. I can't believe our forever was so short.

Our 20 years together were not perfect. As with any marriage, we had our stressful times, and times of frustration with each other. Never in any of those times did I ever doubt Tim's love for me, our family, or the Lord. Never did I doubt his genuine concern for what was best for us. We could always tackle things together as a team. We fought side by side.

He worked hard. He saw the good in everyone and every situation. He could make me laugh even when I didn't want to. He brought out the best in me. He brought strength to my weaknesses, and loved me unconditionally.

He was an wonderful example to our children, and had an amazing way of being their buddy while still maintaining his parental role. His goal always to point them toward Christ, and toward adulthood.

There are so many stories and  memories. We were a team, and I feel woefully inadequate to complete the dreams and jobs that we began together.

Friday morning, as I was writing this, and at this point of inadequacy, I was feeling rather hopeless. A devotional came across my Facebook feed. The verse was Philippians 3:13-14 "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on." The devotional included this quote, "He will show us our next step, and that is all we have to be concerned about now."

We mourn our loss. We remember our precious times with Tim, and we wait for the Lord to show us our next step.


I have neglected this blog. The demands of working, farming, and parenting caused me to set this aside for a season. It is time to bring the blog back. Writing for me is therapeutic, and I need a little therapy right now.

As most of you who will read this know, despite all we did with alternative and traditional treatments, and all the prayers, Tim passed away August 4th.  Below is his obituary:

Timothy James Appleton, 39, of Ona, WV, passed away on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House, Huntington. Tim will be remembered for his bright smile, optimistic words, humor, helping hands, and listening ears. He was your friend, even if you had just met. In the face of cancer he had peace and hope, and was quick to quote Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." He was a musician, educator, farmer, and loving father and husband who touched peoples hearts and lives wherever he was, whatever he was doing.

Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday, August 8, 2015 at the Wallace Funeral Home & Chapel, Barboursville with Jason Henderson officiating. He was born April 21, 1976, in Wooster, Ohio, a son of Jim Appleton (Dinah) and Mary Gail Hanna (Jeff). He was preceded in death by his father-in-law, Paul Miller. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife Stephanie Appleton; two daughters, Lydia and Vivian Appleton; two sons, Kellen and Nolan Appleton; four brothers, David Mitchell Appleton, Kent Hanna (Kerri), Josh Appleton (Jennifer), and Scott Appleton; grandmother, Norma Hanna; mother-in-law, Linda Miller; and many uncles, aunts, and cousins. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Wallace Funeral Home, Barboursville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Wild Ramp or to Cross Lanes Christian School. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hills and Valleys

I found this draft, begun in April, just today in August. I never did finish it, but am publishing it now just to keep the story together. 

Tim's battle with melanoma has been an emotional up and down since the first diagnosis for years ago. After that first surgery, and a tough year of treatment we hoped it was over. But the ride doesn't stop. The hills and valleys just seem to get closer together.

Stage 4. It is hard to say without tears coming. No cure. It is a harsh reality. For six months the medicines, vitamin C and supplements Tim takes were doing the job. He felt better. He looked better, and his three month scan looked great. The last few weeks though, he has been tired. It is easy to blame spring busyness, but last week's scan showed there was more to it. The first spots of cancer look about the same, but new spots are popping up.

It isn't a surprise. That is how we were told this would work at this stage. You find something that works, but it only works for so long, and then you try something new. Surprise or not, it is still hard news to hear.

It is hard to find the balance in the daily responsibilities of this life like laundry and bills, and the truly meaningful. It is all the more

Monday, March 30, 2015

No Explanation

There are some things in life that just don't make sense. Try as you might, there is no explanation. Consider these chickens.

They are out enjoying the spring weather, scratching around, looking for greens, grains, bugs, and other chicken delights. Makes sense. That is what you expect from chickens.

What you may not be able to see in the photo is that they are scratching up a pile of "stuff" that was just shoveled out of the chicken house. 

We use the deep litter method which essentially means we add bedding material (mostly shredded paper in our case) to the house floor. So there are layers of bedding, manure, and feed waste that piles up for awhile until we need to clean out the chicken house to fertilize the garden or the litter has simply just become too deep. 

Today Kellen cleaned out part of the chicken house to prepare for chicks. So  this litter has literally been sitting in the hen house for the entire winter. The hens have been content to walk on it and poop on it, but I have never seen them scratch through it in the hen house. 

But shovel it into a bucket, and pile it near the garden, and suddenly it is a hot spot of hen scratching activity! There is no explanation. 

And just because we all need a little cute in our day, I give you baby rabbits. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

A Beautiful Day

We woke up this morning to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It really was gorgeous outside. As many in the area commented, it was like a scene from Narnia. 

These pictures were taken with my phone and haven't been edited. The sky really was that blue. 

Sadly this beauty has also been brutal. Many are still without power, and the melting snows from a few weeks ago, and heavy rains before this snow, have caused widespread flooding. I hate to see what may happen when all this snow melts this weekend. I am afraid the messes have just begun. 

I love these snow days with the whole family home. We worked puzzles, played checkers, completed homework, and relaxed. This morning I worked on one of my favorite snow day activities.

The 2015 garden is officially started. It felt good to have my fingers in the dirt again, to browse through the seeds, and imagine the taste of those summer vegetables. There is something deeply satisfying about beginning that process in defiance of winter. Who cares that there is a foot of snow on the ground? I'm going to grow something. Take that winter!

Clicks spring forward this weekend. Spring is coming. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Birthday Snow

Today is Vivian's ninth birthday. Today we are also looking at the most snow we have seen since living here. Over a foot fell over night and it is still coming down. 

Happy Birthday Vivian! No school!

We also woke to no power. Tim said it went out around 2:30 AM. We haven't found a restoration estimate, but others near us have heard 3:00 PM. 

This morning we ventured out to check on animals, clear paths, and pull out the "no electric" supplies. 

Tim got the generator running. It doesn't run the house, but it is enough for the important things like the refrigerator, a crockpot, and the blower on the wood burner. (And those other important things like the coffee pot, the wifi, and the phone charger.)

Vivian was able to celebrate her birthday a little last weekend. She and Mamaw had a girls' day out. Viv got her nails done. 

The next day, she got her ears pierced. 

Our baby is growing up so quickly. If the weather clears she will have a couple friends over this weekend.

For today, we are sitting near the wood burner cuddled up doing homework, reading, and watching the snow fall. We may bundle up and go out and play before the predicted bitter cold comes. At the least we'll be going out to tend animals. 

It looks like we may have a couple days like this. I don't mind the quiet days at home. They'd be nicer with electric, but it could be worse. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quiet Winter Days

A three day weekend has turned into a five day weekend that likely will become a week long break from school. This winter storm has dumped over 8" of snow, and is bringing bitter cold temperatures with it. In many areas of the country this might be an average winter storm, but here it is enough to shut things down for a while.

Normally, I am the first to complain about snow and cold, but right now I am thankful for it and the days off school it has brought. Life in the last months has not been what I planned. It is not what I wanted. Tim is home. The kids and I are going to school each day. This, in fact, is the opposite of what I envisioned our life to be. I'm not bitter about it. In many ways, considering all the circumstances, we couldn't be in a better position. I am grateful, yet sometimes it is hard to not throw myself a pity party about all the things that aren't the way I want them, about all the plans and dreams that have taken detours, and about the big changes we made in our life only to be thrown an even bigger curve ball.

But this extended weekend, life is just as it should be. The entire family is home. There is a warm fire and good food cooking in the kitchen. We've gotten things done, including some pesky nagging projects that have been long neglected. We've worked on puzzles, played games, read books, watched movies, gone to bed late, and slept in until we've felt like getting up. We've worked together to care for animals, keep the house in decent shape, create delicious meals from things we've grown ourselves, and clean up afterward, Yes, this is what I envisioned ten years ago when we began this homesteading and homeschooling adventure.

These days won't last forever. The kids and I will soon enough return to school and our hectic daily schedule. Tim will still be home, and nothing in our situation will have changed. But today (and hopefully tomorrow and the next day) I am going sit here by the fire with my family watching the snow and enjoying this time together. Life may not be as we planned, but we are going to enjoy it anyway.