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