Believing in the Magic of Christmas

With the holidays approaching it is time for those of us that tend to go overboard to get ready. Seriously it takes time, planning, and sneaky shopping to get everything ready. Seriously, everything that goes into making Christmas magic does not happen overnight. We just want you to think or “believe” that it does.

When the time comes to get ready for Christmas I have to make it special. I have to make what happens specific to my kids. I mean think about it. Kids talk. If what happens my house also happens at your house the kids will think their parents are “sus”. Am I wrong? I’m going to share with you how I create Christmas Magic.

The first letter from Santa arrives shortly after Thanksgiving. In this letter I include events that happened throughout the year to show that Santa watches ALL THE TIME. I am very particular about what I want the letter to look like from Santa. When I think about Santa I think of the classic looking Santa with the long red coat and embrodied embleshiments.

I found several shops on Etsy that have created an editable letter from Santa (even the elves have their own letterhead). I wanted the one that was written Santa’s letterhead. I even made the envelope with brown craft paper and sealed it with a wax stamp. The wax was red of course. IF your curious there are several sites out there where you can download a free envelope template from miniature to traditional letter size.

During the Christmas season the letters come from the elves so their letters are miniature (remember elves are small).

Now it is time for the elves to show up. I will admit that I did try the “Elf on the Shelf” I will also admit that the elf is creepy looking. I also could not keep up with moving that thing every single night nor could my husband. That elf would stay in one place for days. It got to the point where I had to get creative when telling my kids why the elf hadn’t moved, “well, he is just comfortable where he is” or “he can see the entire room from there” or my husband’s reason, “he’s lazy”.

The first thing I had to do was find my own elf. Not one elf but two. Now, I could not find the elves local meaning I could not go to Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, or Target to get the elves because the kids would put two and two together and realize, “momma bought the elves from ….” because we frequent these places.

ONLINE SHOPPING IT IS! Online shopping is a love-hate relationship. During the holidays I love it because you can find so much! But then I also hate it because the question is, can I get it here in time?

I have a checklist for what I wanted in an elf. It couldn’t be creepy, not too small nor too big, it had to “sit” by itself and not be propped up (Lord help me if that elf were to fall and all the hidden strings were revealed). I found these two on Amazon together!

Now, when the pandemic hit that was a game changer like everyone else I couldn’t take my kids to see Santa and get my bluff in n how he is watching and knows everything that is going on. I chalked it up to Santa needed help because think about it. If we were in a pandemic then I bet the North Pole was too – right? The question now is how was Santa going to see everything that happened? Man, Santa needs a camera system- a Santa Cam. Now, I theorize that if I have thought of it then someone else out there has not only thought of it but created it, therefore, making it easy for me to buy it. I searched on all the online shops but couldn’t find one that suited me. I took my search to Etsy and found this little jewel. Now, there are several shops on Etsy that sell Santa Cams – I suggest you take a look and find the perfect one for you!

I was also able to find on Etsy an editable letter. In the letter, I explained how the camera is to help Santa and the reindeer stay safe and that Santa was asking for help from all the parents since he was not able to travel as much to see the children before Christmas. The letter along with the Santa Cam was the perfect setup!

Now I needed to work on the kids “files”. I loved making these! Since the elves are watching and observing then reporting back to Santa there has to be some way of documenting. I created files for both of my kids. I let my imagination run wild with what the file would include, what it would look like, how big the file would be – my brain was spinning with ideas.

I found a cute shop on Etsy, My Pourch Prints. This shop is amazing! They had exactly what I was looking for! I purchased the Christmas Mini File Folders with the vintage embleishments ( I love that look for Christmas).

What the file included:

  • photo – I selected a candid photo from my cell phone.
  • Information sheet – name, birth date, and a list of their favorites (food, color), etc.
  • Checklist of what has been completed by Santa such as letters from kids received, letters from Santa sent, etc.
  • Checklist for the kid’s behavior, being nice to each other, helping around the house, etc.

In the box are the Santa Cam, the files, and the letter from Santa. Reindeer Food that I found at Hobby Lobby. This year I think I will “make” reindeer food and have the kids help me make it. The letter also says that the elves have already arrived along with the rules.

Elf Rules

  • Do Not Touch the Elf
  • Elf will report to Santa every night
  • The Elves can be held on Christmas Eve only.

The time has come now to deliver everything to my kids. The elves just so show up. I place them somewhere in the living room for the kids to discover. But, when we get home there is a box (a Christmas box from Hobby Lobby) on the door mate. I let the kids get to the door first so they can discover the box before me. Oh, the squeals and smiles that I hear are priceless.

I have included links throughout this blog links of the items I purchased and used to create the magic of Christmas in my home.

If you like this wait till you see what I do for Christmas Eve!

Till next time!

Love and hugs!

Christmas Magic Tools I use

The Feeling of Change is Strong

So, it has been a moment since I last posted. A long moment actually. A while back I looked over my draft posts and the first thought I had was, “how sad”.

How sad! You see, if you have been following my story you know I lost the love of my life three years ago. I cannot change the past three years. I cannot change what lead me and my children to this moment. I cannot continue to live a life where I constantly thought, “I wonder what we would be doing today if Eric was here?”, because that is exactly what I was doing. I was struggling, my kids continued to struggle, and the struggle was drowning me.

I wasn’t living and because I wasn’t living my kids weren’t either. I was going through the motions doing the same routine. Wake up. Get the kids up for school/daycare. Go to work. Get lunch. Get off work. Pick the kids up. Feed the kids whatever they wanted for dinner (usually fast-food), and wait for bedtime. If we were invited somewhere we very rarely went. I was becoming a hermit and forcing my kids to be hermits too. Someone who is walking this same journey completely understands. When you lose the love of your life you have no idea how to function, breathe, or simply live.

So, what is the feeling of change I am speaking about. Well, for me. It is a feeling of wanting to get up and go. Get up and do something! I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I had an energy stirring inside of me I couldn’t be still. Now, for some this feeling may not be strong but for me it was POWERFUL!

The next change I noticed were the trigger dates. Now, by trigger dates I mean dates like Eric’s passing date, our anniversary, or any date that passed (or was approaching) that a couple marks as a celebration those, for me, are trigger dates. I realized that I wasn’t sitting on the couch praying my kids didn’t need me for anything so I could cry. I recognized the date for what it was and my day went on. WHOA! This feeling was new and I was not sure what was going on. Then I noticed that when memories would surface or special songs would play on the radio I didn’t avoid them. I allowed the memory to play out and I listened to the entire song. Was this me taking another step and now accepting this life I am now living?

Some may think, “oh, she has moved on and is over it”. Well, first and foremost – you never move on and you never get over it. But, what you do is learn to live differently. I have learned that yes, the world did continue to spin when I thought it had stopped. I learned that life did go on for others – and it went on for me to – I just needed to catch up to it.

So, does this mean I am now living in perfect harmony? Do I now live without days of grief, sadness, or not worry about triggers? Are the days of fighting with my children over? NO, not at all.

But, what it does mean is I confirmed that I am human. I feel, I cry, I laugh, I remember, and most importantly my kids and I are living.

How to write through grief, loss, anxiety all while writing about the happiness in our lives

close up photo of notebook with pen
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on

I started this blog shortly after my husband passed.  The intent was to tell my story of how I and my children live with grief.  Lately, it has been a struggle that has resulted in my absence from the I’m That Mom blog.  I would start to write but seeing how much my kids and I were struggling I thought, “who wants to see this?” Or “How in the world can I help anyone!  Look at me – I’m drowning!” it felt like duct tape wouldn’t even help hold me together. 

How could I help anyone else going through what I am going through?  I had returned to the early days of losing my husband.  I didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to eat, my kids and I just lumped on the couch in the living room.  I can’t clean (literally I am pretty close to being a candidate on Hoarders).  My living room is a disaster, my bedroom looks like it has been turned upside down and inside out, and don’t get me started on my bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.   My kids’ bedrooms look the same.  I hate that I feel like this still because I know it flows down to them.  I simply can’t move once I get home.  It’s not that I don’t want to because I do – I want to clean everything up.  But when I start it’s like a switch is flipped off and I can’t move.  I can’t think.  There are just piles upon piles of crap I have and I don’t know why. 

Someone told me, “Just do a little at a time” so I tried that.  It worked for a short time but I stopped.  I do not know what stops me.  Is it physiological?  Is it just laziness?  When I get home after picking my kids up from childcare my only thought is, “how long until I can go to bed?”  and then when I go to bed I can’t sleep.  I just lay there. 

I read the book Grief Observed by C.S Lewis.  Mr. Lewis wrote this book as a way to cope with the loss of his wife.    It is, in my opinion, a true account of what someone goes through after the loss of the love of their life.  I kept talking about how I have lost interest in keeping the house tidy and I don’t know why.  Until I read this paragraph in C.S. Lewis’s book,

“no one ever told me about the laziness of grief.  Except at my job – where the machine seems to run on much as usual – I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much.  Even shaving.  What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth?  They say an unhappy man wants distractions – something to take him out of himself.  Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one.  It’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy; finally, dirty and disgusting.”

WOW!  That is exactly how I was feeling.  I immediately took a photo of that paragraph and texted my dad.  In the text I wrote, “I’m normal!”  Feeling normal is a big deal to someone going through grief.  I mean – HUGE!  When you discover that all the down days, crying, and lack of interest is what is expected when grieving – it is a game-changer. 

Having some education in psychology you would think I would recognize the apathy of grief.  It’s a laziness that comes over someone mourning.  The mourner just doesn’t care or has lost interest, no motivation, or much care.  There is literally no energy that can be generated to motivate a person to move.  It is the worst feeling to have and the feeling just hangs on. 

Nothing prepares you for the days that seem too much to bear.  I have scanned through Pinterest looking for ideas as to “what to do when grieving” or “how to handle grief waves” and I think I have read them all.  Nothing prepares you for the emptiness that is always there.  Nothing prepares you for the jealousy that comes over you when you see couples or families laughing, smiling, and simply living their life.

Nothing prepares you for any of this.  All you can think when these thoughts go across your mind is “this was not how life was supposed to be.”

My outlet lately is journaling.  I have found that I look forward to the time I have alone with my journal and pen.  Being a single parent of two little ones under the age of 10 I don’t get a lot of alone time.  If I do get the time it is usually late at night, with a dim light on, my Eric bears close by and complete silence.  Except of course for all the random thoughts going on in my head. 

When I am asked, “how do you deal with your grief?”  Well, my first thought is to ask, “you, think I’m dealing?” (Insert speech “I want to thank the academy for this award for best leading actress in the role of grieving widow acting like life is A-OK).  

My real answer – I crochet.  Keeping my hands busy with counting stitches and reading patterns is a good distraction.  I do beadwork for the same reason as crocheting.  I read my bible and whatever other books catch my attention.  Then there is writing.  Not only writing this blog but journaling.

Writing in a journal can help you mentally and spiritually.  If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or like me grieving; journaling can be beneficial in so many ways.  Journaling is a great coping tool and a healthy way to express yourself, manage anxiety, reduce stress, and help ease depression.

There are a lot of blogs and other sites that list the benefits of journaling.  But, for journaling to work, you have to write.  

Journaling helps to:

  • Improve your mood
  • Prioritize concerns, challenges, and fears
  • Identifying and recognizing triggers so that you can get better control of them
  • Increase self-confidence

When life becomes overwhelming and your stress, anxiety or panic begins to increase writing in a journal becomes a tool to help you identify what could be the cause of your anxiety.  In turn, when you have identified the issue you can now work on how to resolve the issue and calm yourself. 

When journaling look at it as “your time” or “me time”.  This is a time to relax, listen to yourself, release what fears, worries, or feelings you have.  Remember journaling is for you and only you. 

I cannot remember if I ever really journaled. I may have written a few entries in a notebook here and there as a young girl but, I never consistently wrote in a journal or diary. At least I was consistent about being inconsistent.  Truth be known, I wanted to be writer. I wanted to be like the many movie characters I watched through the years as they would pour their heart and soul into their diaries. Characters like Gidget or the girls from Facts of Life I just did not know how to truly write. Little did I know that you simply write

As the years passed from my young girl days to my adulthood days I did journal more.

I recall running my fingers over the spins of the many diaries and journals I would see in book stores thinking one day I would be able to fill a book.  Even as I got older I still didn’t write enough to fill a diary.  I have come across some of my diaries and find that I would write a few entries and then it would be months until the next entry. 

My entries consisted of broken hearts, traveling dreams, and future plans. The only issue I had was that I would start writing in one journal then I would forget where I placed it. I was replacing journals left and right. This started my obsessions’ with journals. What I have learned about writing in a journal now and to make sure you are consistent in your writing – make sure you have a journal you enjoy writing in.  I love the vintage-looking journals that have leather covers with the leather straps that wrap around the entire journal. The journal I am currently writing in has pages with golden leaf edges – I love the feel of the pages and how smoothly my pen glides over the page as I write. I also enjoy the journals with handmade paper that have the small pulps of color throughout. What followed after my journal obsessions’ was my addiction to pens. I believe a woman can never have too many shoes, bags, nor too many pens. I have collected cheap pens from Staples, Wal-Mart and Target, colored gel pens, glitter pens, neon pens, refillable pens, pens with Swarovski crystals in it; you name it I might have it.


Usually, the first response I get from others when I say I journal is, “oh, I would have no idea what to write or where to begin”.  Well, start there then.  On the very first page write, “I don’t know what to write……” and just let the pen flow, or let your fingers go crazy across the keyboard.  Don’t think, you don’t have to follow any rules.  If you forget to put a period here or a comma there – that’s okay!  If you misspell a word – oh well!  Don’t get all worked up in following any rules because there aren’t any rules you have to follow. As I mentioned before journaling is for you and you alone. 

There are so many resources out there that it is nearly impossible to make an excuse to keep you from journaling. 

You say, “I don’t know what to write about”.  Well, there are many sites that can be found with journaling prompts.  Not only are the prompts general topics to write about you can find specific prompts for self-discovery, anxiety, worries, finding your passion, letting go (I’m sure we all could benefit from this one – I know I could), depression, prayer, gratitude, and the list goes on. 

To make it even easier there are prompt journals available! Prompt journals can be found for just about anything you want to write about. Grief, personal growth, memories – there at no limits!

So on to the next excuse.

You say, “I don’t like to write”.  Well, you do not have to commit an entire day to write.  You can start by writing for 5 minutes. Write about your day, the funny thing your kids said (my kids are always saying crazy off the wall stuff) write about the dream you had.  Most artists get their best ideas from their dreams – look at Stephen King!

I would state the next excuse but let’s face it.  For every excuse, there is a resource out there to overcome it. 

Writing is not the only way to journal.  There are many variations of journaling.  Like, art journaling, bible journaling, writing poetry, even doodling. 

My daughter had sketched or drawn since the moment she could hold a pen.  I had to make sure that when we went somewhere I always had a pen and paper with me.  As she grew I had to have a pen and sketch pad.  Now, I have a pen and journal for writing and she carries her tablet for drawing.   

When my husband passed that evening my daughter threw herself into drawing.  This was her outlet.  She would fill the pages of sketch pads faster than I could buy them.  I could tell how she was feeling by what she drew.  If the people in her drawings has faces she was in a good mood.  If they didn’t then it was a down day for her.  Watching her draw encouraged me to learn to doodle (drawing is not my thing but I can make a mean flower). 


The most profound fact that I discovered about journaling was the many benefits there are. Journaling can help reduce anxiety, help with processing major life events, remember the great times and get out the not so great times. Journaling is good medicine and there are so many ways and forms of journaling.

I am a storyteller and the way I would write my real stories (with creative license) was to write my experiences down such as my travels to China and the Middle East and most importantly the day I became a wife and a mother. I also did this with those that shared their stories with me – I have been blessed to collect so many stories from D-Day, eloping stories in the 1940’s, the Depression, boarding schools, first dates, and many more.

I’m still sad and grieving – and it is not due to a lack of faith

Grieve – to feel grief or great sorrow to distress mentally. 

Grief and I are not strangers. As a matter of fact, no one I know is a stranger to grief. We all experience grief differently, and the duration of grief is also different for everyone.
I am 22 months into grieving for my husband, and honestly, I have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But I have been told it is there. Others may not understand, especially if you have not experienced a loss of a spouse/partner. I am grieving my husband’s loss, and I am also grieving the future that will never be.
Some, in their attempt to help me move on, tell me, “Just pray about it” or “you need to read your bible” or my favorite, “just choose to be happy.”
Well, I have been praying about it for 22 months. I do read my bible to receive comfort and hope. And if I could flip a switch from sad to happy, I would.

Eric coaching Olivia

It’s not that I am not happy because I am. I am now seeing, as each rite of passage goes by, the love of my life will not be there. Eric was always there even if he was in uniform.

Eric and I had so many plans and talked about the future often. He talked about the day he would teach Kaleb to play baseball. He would think out loud about the day that our daughter would have a boyfriend and how, like most fathers, he would be on the porch cleaning his rifle. He couldn’t wait to teach them to drive or shoot a gun (Eric was a Marine, and he loved his firearms collection). We had so many plans. Living life without the other was not a part of that plan.

I am here to tell you that grief is a monster and cannot be controlled. Triggers are everywhere all the time.
Triggers like seeing a couple walking hand in hand – Eric and I use to do that. Triggers like shopping for groceries together, playing with the kids at the park, well I could go on. This is why grief stays around for so long. I’m now grieving for my husband and everything I, or the kids, will not get to share with him. It is not only scary; it is painful to think ahead, knowing that Eric will not be here. Grief is an entirely different level of fear.

When I lost Eric, I lost the person I spent every day with, and we talked about what the next 40 years would be like. I use to tell Eric, “when the kids get into high school, they will have it made. We will be too old to hear them sneak out.” He would reply with, “and too old and slow to run after them.”

Many widows/widowers mistakenly think losing their spouse is the only loss they will experience. I am sorry to inform you– there is more. So much more.

I struggle with:
The loss of who I am. I gave my heart to Eric; therefore, he was also a part of me. When he passed, he took a part of me with him. In a sense, I lost the feeling of wholeness. I was a wife. I was Eric’s wife. When I left that emergency room on May 16th, I left a different person. I will never be the person I was on May 15th. Now, it is just me.

Loss of the lifestyle we lived. Eric’s passing has forced me to change my way of living. Living without him. Living as a single mom. Wow, I am now single. I am not part of a couple. This is the first time I have seen that written. It put a knot in my gut just now because I do not feel single.

I have lost the sense of security or feeling safe. My routine and life have changed; therefore, my anxiety and insecurity have increased. The feeling of loss of security and feeling safe has nothing to do with feeling physically safe and secure. It has everything to do with not knowing what to do when issues come up. What do I do? How do I act? What do I say? Eric’s passing instantly changed the family structure, and it forced me to make a new, or another, level of adjustment. How do I do that or this? I tell people, “I could do this new life if Eric were here.”

Loss of how to relate to family and friends. When a loved one passes, family and friends do not know how to respond to someone who is grieving. When family and friends see their loved one grieving, they do not know how to react to the sadness, anger, fear, or other emotions that surface. Friends and family may feel awkward and avoid being around.

2013 Christmas

A moment that is burned into my memory the day my husband passed took place after telling the doctors and nurses to stop lifesaving measures. I somehow walked to my husband’s side and held his hand. While I was sitting there, my mother-in-law came up to me and said, “no matter what, we are family, ” she hugged me. I needed to hear that.

There is even a loss of how to communicate with my children. Now I struggle with jealousy between my children. Before, if one of our kids showed jealousy, two of us were there to handle the situation. Two of us to kiss the owes away, two of us to tuck the kids in bed, two laps to sit in for story time – now there is one. Dealing with jealousy as a single parent is challenging, exhausting –but most of all paralyzing because my kids, in a way, are screaming for their daddy.

Other grief moments will come soon, and my heart will ache again. When our kids turn 16 and then 18, when they get their drivers licenses, vote for the first time, go on their first date and sadly have their first break-up, graduating from high school and then college, when they get married, have their first baby he will miss all these moments, and I will miss sharing them with him.

So, yes, I still have moments of waves of sadness and grief that have nothing to do with my faith or whether I am happy. It has everything to do with what I no longer have: my husband or our future.

Eric has missed the first day of school, birthdays, snow days, Halloween, Christmas, and the list goes on and on…..

Their first and last Daddy Daughter Dance

Arts & Crafts Couture

Growing up I was always around arts and crafts. I come from a family full of creative people.
We would mostly craft and bake around the holidays. Even though both of my parents worked money was usually tight. We had what we needed and some of what we wanted. And even though money was at times tight Christmas never disappointed.

My mother sews she does amazing work. I did not have store-bought clothes until I was about 6 years old. Along with crafting and sewing, she is an amazing cook!
Both of my grandmothers were crafters as well. Both crocheted and needlepoint. I’m so lucky to have pieces of their work as keepsakes.

My Granny, keeping with our Chickasaw culture also did beadwork. I remember watching her slide the beads on the needle and making daisy chains or little Indian dolls to wear on necklaces.
My Mema did her crafting in her “doodle room” (which was a spare bedroom with a couch, coffee table, and a closet full of all kinds of fabric, yarn, old greeting cards, thread for cross stitching – it seemed to hold everything that was needed to start and complete a craft.

I have other family members that are talented in the field of arts and crafts. I had two uncles that beaded keychains and other cultural related pieces. I have another uncle that is an oil painter. He never had lessons – just a natural talent.

Painting by Carlon Robins – my uncle.

So, why am I telling you this? In the times we are living in, being creative is the outlet that is getting my family through this crazy time and possibly getting us through with our sanity.
The crafting my kids and I do is for fun. We love creating and making things for each other and, we especially love gifting what we make to those we love.

When I was young, we crafted and baked to pass out to others as gifts because the extra money just wasn’t there for us to buy gifts for everyone wished to. So, we crafted and baked.

I remember the excitement of baking cookies and banana bread. I remember getting sacks or boxes ready with red and green tissue paper to make the goodies presentable and nice looking. I remember one year we made so much that we had to get platters –like the large cheese platters that deli stores use).

My hope in writing this specific post is to encourage you to craft either for yourself or with your little ones. A few of the items we crafted that I remember I intend on making with my daughter for teacher gifts. I hope they inspire you to be creative with your family, and if you make one of the items below, I hope you enjoy it.

Santa pin – made years ago

My mother brought these wooden vintage clothes pins (this is where I learned how to “envision” to see what she was seeing) and placed them before me, and said we were going to make pins out of them. Then she brought out the paint. As my mother made the first pin by painting it to look like Santa Clause and then painting the next one to look like Rudolph, I was on board. When crafting you have to look at objects and see what the possibilities are and make something unique. I found the clothes pins I used on Amazon

So, when you search for “clothespin Santa Clause” or other holiday names you will see they make them into ornaments. However, we put stick pins on the backs of the clothespins so that people could wear them. I remember handing these pins out to my mother’s co-workers, friends, and family members. I still have mine from many years ago.

We also made ornaments for the tree. My mom would buy styrofoam balls ( about 3″ in diameter) along with straight pins, sequins, and sparkly beads. We would pick up these embellishments and stick the pin into the ball. The styrofoam ball would be covered with sequins and beads and it would sparkle! Such an easy craft.

As a young girl, I loved to bake but, now, as an adult, I like to bake; I don’t like the clean-up.
One of the first things I can remember baking was a cookie we called the Reese cup cookie. I’m sure my mother allowed us to make this cookie because there was a low chance of getting burned. She handled the cookie dough then my siblings and I unwrapped all the Resse’s cups. In 12 minutes, we knew we would get to push these chocolate cups into the middle of the cookies. These specific cookies are special to my family and, we only make them at Christmas. Maybe because it was a time we baked with my mother and made memories of sharing them with friends and family.

Along with these cookies, we would add banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and my mom’s fudge. And you know, we did not use a secret family recipe to make these sweets, we simply made them from the recipes found on the back of the packages. I believe it was the love these sweets were made with that made them very tasty and had people asking for more.

Today, I still craft but I like to think it’s a few steps above “craftwork”. I have probably done every craft there is out there or pretty close to it. I taught myself to crochet, I am recognized for my beadwork, I write, I work with Chalk Couture, paint, and well, the list goes on and on.

Tell me, do you have a craft that you love, and you have passed it down to your little ones? Do you have a favorite holiday treat that you only make on the holidays?

The Tracks of my Tears

As July 11th approaches I find myself having one emotional moment after another.  Why?  July 11th would have been mine and Eric’s sixth wedding anniversary.  These are the hard dates to get through – the dates that belong to you.  Wedding anniversary, birthdays, kids’ birthdays – these are the dates we celebrated in a big way.  Now, for me, these dates do bring up happy memories with lots of tears. 

Right now, as I try to hide my tears from my kids, I cry everywhere – in secret, in public, outside and inside. I have found myself crying in some of the craziest places as well as some common places. 

When grieving the waves of emotion cannot be stopped or slowed down.  When the moment hits I am crying rivers, sometimes creeks or streams and on the hard days oceans.  I learned quickly to keep tissues close by: in my purse, desk drawer, next to the bed, on the end tables both in the living room and on the front porch, the closets, my She Shed, the car, my bathroom….if there is a spot and I can fit a box of tissues in it I will.

Tears will come when I am waiting on a train, stop light, stop sign, on a waitress to take my order, movie theater or in the parent pickup line.  I have found myself sitting on the floor in the laundry room, my closet, a whisper room (where no one can hear you), my office, the bathroom and while taking a shower. When the moments hits, when a trigger is pulled or when a memory comes out of nowhere the tears fall. 

When my husband passed, I had ugly crying moments where I screamed for God to wake me up from this nightmare.  I would pull the covers over my head or bury my face into my pillow – and just scream “NOOOOOO.  How am I supposed to do this alone!” or “I can’t do this alone”.  Those days were the tough days. I felt completely alone, ignored, and broken.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me:  Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning.” Psalm 22:1

I mentioned in a prior post where my husband visited me in a dream to let me know he was okay.  I remember a time I was sitting on my bed and my kids were at school.  It was just me in the house. I started crying and screaming asking “why him”.  I buried my face into the pillow and continued to scream and cry.  I do not know how long I was there on the bed crying but as I sat there with my face still buried into the pillow, I felt this calm come over me and I stopped crying.  I did not make myself stop crying it was as if I did not have any tears left.  The entire house went silent. This calmness continued to come over me and then it felt as if something was being wrapped around me or I was being covered up with something. I was experiencing a warm feeling and a heaviness like being gently hugged.  Even though my face was still buried into my pillow I felt a sense of peace.  I did not fight this feeling I embraced it.  I did not think it was Eric with me; I knew it was God.  Scripture tells us two things in grieving:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they would be comforted.” Matthew 5:4


“He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Right after Eric passed, I questioned whether God heard me pray or heard me when I was lamenting.  But, this day and this time, I knew He did because He was with me comforting me and bandaging my broken heart.  He heard me the entire time. I am not alone.  As a matter of fact, scripture also tells us that,

“you must not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, they will not doubt cry to me, and I will certainly hear their cry.  My anger will burn, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:22-24

Scripture continues to tell us,

“God in his holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.” Psalm 68:5.

I will always grieve for my husband.  He is forever my always.  I am still learning how to live this life without him and learning how to be both mommy and daddy to my kids.  I still have days of uncontrollable tears; I still miss him to the point that my heart hurts and I continue to ask why.  I must accept that God does not have to tell me why.  But what I must do is trust Him and have faith in His plan for me,

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you home and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

He will not leave me or forsake me.  What a powerful sentence.  To know that He is constantly by my side especially in my moments of grief this is what gets me through my moments.  I am still taking it one moment at a time and I continue to do the next right thing, but I am not doing it alone.  He takes each step with me

The Hardest Conversation You Must Have: How and what to expect when planning a loved ones funeral Part 1

He didn’t believe there was such a thing as an M&M store. He loved his sweets

After you meet the love of your life and you discover life without them is just not possible you begin to talk about the future. How many kids will be born to this union, the dream home, the careers, vacations and the list goes on. The conversation that must be had most likely never comes to mind until it happens…..I know my husband and I did not think to have this conversation. No one wants to have the conversation where the topic is how to plan your funeral, how to fulfill last wishes, and to move on without your best friend.

Planning a funeral for your husband (spouse or partner) will be one of the hardest times in your life. It is a time where you will go through the motions while trying to maneuver through a fog – it is damn near impossible. When I was planning my husbands funeral I wished there was a list I could go down and check things off as I had completed them. Most likely I would have forgotten to carry a pen or pencil with me to mark such things off the list.

There are a number of things that will take place after your loved one passes that you may not realize and there are additional stressors that take place in the days, weeks, and even months after your loved one passes that will make you feel and believe you are going crazy. I have approached post many times and pushed it away because I just was not sure how to write it. What do I write, what do I cover first, what if I leave something out or the opposite what if I put too much in? What I do know is if you are reading this because you are faced with planning a funeral I am sorry. Your life has been turned upside down and inside out. You are numb and hurting at the same time. You feel like you are in a nightmare and you want out of it. You feel any moment you will wake up and life will be as it should be. Now, if you came across this blog by chance I hope you have many years with your loved ones before you need this post.

This post is going to be in parts because there is so much I want to say. I will break this up in what to expect after your loved one passes, how to plan the funeral and what will help you get through, links to help figure out the Veterans funeral benefits application and where to find grief support.

Here is what I know:

Shock Shock can sometimes be your best friend. It keeps you from feeling all the pain when faced with trauma. Shock can also be your enemy because you will not be able to remember a lot if anything at all. I just passed the one year anniversary of the husbands passing and I am just now remembering only tiny bits and pieces of the day he passed. I remember everything around me was in slow motion and when people spoke to me it sounded like I was trying to hear them while under water. I also remember when I was escorted to the Trauma room before my husband was taken away I felt like I was floating – not walking. It was by the grace of God that I was able to walk for the rest of that day.

Organ Donation Within the hour of your loved one passing you will receive a phone call from a tissue/organ donor organization (in Oklahoma it is LifeShare of Oklahoma). You will be taken off guard, even though I am telling you right now this will happen, because why in the world would this happen right after your loved one passed! Well, it happens because they are in the business of saving lives (of all ages) and they have a short window of time to do this and get things in place. I am not making light of what they do. Just know the representative on the other end of the phone is kind, patient, and willing to explain everything. You will have to answer personal questions about your loved one so when you get this call if you need a few hours to try and pull yourself together they are more than happy to do this. I did this. Be prepared to answer questions such as: did your spouse do recreational drugs (oral or IV), had same sex relationships, test positive for any STD or other illness, did you loved one travel to other countries where they came into contact and etc. Finally, the tissue/organ donor organization arranges everything and there is not additional cost. So, part of your conversation must be – does your loved on want to be an organ donor?

Anger: This is in addition to the different stages of grief. This anger comes from seeing that people around you a living life link normal when your life stopped. The anger is coming from not being able to control what has happened and what you are feeling. You could also have a feeling of being left especially if your loved one died due to an accident or self-neglect or self-destructive behavior. It is important to not keep feelings in. It is normal to aske someone going through grief how they are doing and we are brought up to not bother others with our problems therefore we replay that we are okay. When honestly we are broken, hurting, and lost. Long periods of stress can be detrimental to your mental health. Please seek help if this happens to you.

During this time it is easy to not take care of yourself especially if you have children (mine were 2 and 6 at the time their daddy passed). It is critical you take care of yourself by staying hydrated, eating, exercising, and resting every chance you get. In addition allow others to help with wherever you need help and have a “buffer”. The buffer can be your best friend, sibling, sibling-in-law or other family member. This individual mostly likely will be by your side for the most part of the day. They will answer your phone, door, accept food baskets or plants that are dropped off. Mostly, and this is important, they will keep the toxic family members from you.

Pain is mental, spiritual and even physical Not only is the heart broken and your faith possibly on the fence but you could experience physical pain that was not felt before. Grief can impact you in so many physical ways and if you ignore them the pain can only increase and eventually cause more harm. The GoodTherapy website states that a study in 2014 found that older adults experiencing grief, especially due to the loss of a spouse, could not maintain a stress hormone balance. Because of this they experienced reduced neutrophil function. This translates to few white blood cells being produced leaving them prone to infections. Most grief suffers have complaints of body aches and pains, digestive issues, unhealthy coping mechanism, lowered immunity, headache, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

Image from WebMD

Widow’s Fog I am more familiar with this type of memory loss than I want to be. It’s no pregnancy brain, nor is it the loss of memory due to age or multitasking. Widow’s Fog is an entirely different monster that interferes with the prefrontal cortex (Executive Brain (EB)) of the brain. Simply put your EB is connected to the other parts of your brain and can be labeled as the “command center”, receiving, processing and sending information throughout the rest of your brain. Now add the stress of losing your loved one and basically this part of your brain is overloaded and exhausted. A brief definition for widow fog is a disconnected, autopilot state of mindless motion. The duration and intensity varies from person to person. Symptoms of widow fog are:

  • Disconnected
  • Not able to focus on a single thought
  • Inability to organize
  • Compromised ability to recall, reason, or plan
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Exhaust easily
  • Not able to think rationally There is so much to understand about widows fog that it cannot all be explained here in one post. I will continue to include widows fog in the parts to follow.

What you need: I discovered the day my husband passed that I needed to make sure I had items in hand, or close by, at all times. I also discovered the following days and even weeks I would be adding to this list.

  • Notebook and pen: This notebook needs to be with you at all times to write down everything you need to remember. I wrote in every notebook I could find wishing I had kept just one with me. It was not until later that I started carrying a notebook with me and a designated pen.
  • Binder with sleeve protectors: A binder will make carrying all certified documents easier for you instead of several ripped envelops. You will find you will need to carry with you: certified copy of death certificate (get several the funeral home you choose can assist you with this), birth certificate, marriage license, cause of death (typically not needed but there will be that one time), loved ones social security care, drivers license, military ID, tribal ID (military and tribal ID does not apply to everyone), military active or discharge papers (if your loved was currently in the military or a veteran), and children’s birth certificate.
  • Tissue: Make sure to have a box in your car, home, and your purse. The tears will come unexpectedly and fast (I call this my ugly cry).

I’m Okay

Growing up knowing my Chickasaw ways [beliefs and superstitions] my Granny taught me to pay careful attention to my dreams.  When I had a dream I was not sure about what I would tell her and she would ask me questions like, when the person was speaking was their mouth moving, or did you feel anything for example if I was hit with something in the dream did I feel it.  After my Granny passed I continued to study with my elders about dreams and what my dreams were telling or even showing me.  I was taught to pay attention to the vivid dreams, and if the lips of the person speaking were moving that meant they were simply there in the dream.  But, if the lips were not moving but I could hear them talk then that is the message I need to pay attention to.  Eric would always give me a hard time when I talked about my dreams.  His theory was they are just dreams nothing more nothing less.  Eventually came around when his dreams were getting vivid.

When my husband passed I worried so much wondering if he was okay.  I didn’t know and it was gut-wrenching.  You see, growing up whenever I went somewhere I always told my parents where I was going, what time  I would be home, who I was going to be with, and if I was going to be late I called. This, of course, was before cell phones.  That practice continued into my adult life as well.  In my previous job, I traveled a lot so  I would call or text when I left town, boarded the plane, arrived at my hotel and when I was returning I provided bread crumbs to my mom, sister, and Eric until got home.  

When Eric and I got together he started telling me when he left for work, when he was headed home or if he was going to be late coming home.  I needed those messages because at that time he was a police officer so I welcomed a text message at 2 a.m. letting me know his shift was running long or he was headed home. 

This is just something we did.  It would be strange or suspicious if we did not get a message or a phone call from one another when going to work or on travel.  So, when he passed that is all I could think about, “when will he let me know he is okay” or “when will he let me know he made it”.  Not knowing drove me crazy for days. 

There were so many days I felt Eric’s presence around especially on the days that I was so emotional with pain and grief I felt like I was not going to make it through the day.  So when he finally came to me in a dream you can believe I did not want it to end.

Here is my visit:

I was in an oddly shaped living room it was more rectangle than square and more narrow than wide.  There was a couch, an end table with a lamp and a chair.  Opposite the couch was a large picture window and the light coming in was bright.

I was sitting at the end of the couch and Eric comes in and plops down next to me and just smiles his big amazing smile.  I look at him because even in the dream I know he is gone.  He looked so good and happy. 

I asked him, “what are you doing here?” He replied, “I came to see you.”

I was still in shock and asked, “how are you here we buried you?” He replied still smiling, “that’s not me.  I’m okay

I continued to ask questions because I was still confused, “if it wasn’t you then who did we bury?” He replied, “I don’t know.  It wasn’t me.  I’m okay.

Finally, I had to know, “how did you get here?”.  He told me, “I drove my car?”.  I looked around and said, “what car?” and he pointed out the picture window. 

I stood up to walk to the picture window and there was this black shiny two-seater car.  It was shaped like a futuristic sports car with straight lines. There were not any curves on this car at all.  The front of the car came to a point and got wider going towards the end of the car.

I complimented how nice the car looked and how I wanted to drive it.  I even asked, “Can I drive it?  I want to try it out.”  He told me with his big smile, “you can’t drive the car.”

I looked back at the car and turned to look back at him and he was gone.  I was alone in this oddly shaped living room.  The dream was short and sweet.

My take-away from this dream I did receive his message that I have been waiting for.  Eric is okay and he made it home safely.  And the last take-away – it is not my time to drive the car yet. 

The next morning I walked with a little bounce in my step. I smiled and was happy because I knew Eric was okay.  I could not wait to tell others about my dream and they came to the same conclusion I did – it was not time for me to drive the car yet.  Just knowing he was okay made my heart happy.

I have not had a visit like that since then.  He has been in some of my dreams telling me a message that “it will be okay” or “you’re alright” but nothing as vivid as my first dream.  I do not pray or ask for him to come to me I figure he will come back when he needs to.  But, I would welcome a visit anytime.  He is Forever My Always.

Jealousy and Grief

 I never thought I would experience jealousy while grieving for my husband.  But, I am…..and doing very poorly at it.  The last thing I want to do is be jealous!

This part of grief is challenging to explain to others.  I have to remember that I cannot explain the impact of this loss to someone who has not experienced first hand, and even then, my grief is different from another. I do not even understand the “traps” until I have stepped in it.  I cannot explain the questioning, disorientation, the helplessness that comes from facing the world without that piece of myself that died with my husband.  (I wasn’t ready to say Goodbye. 2000)

This time in the world is scary…..and lonely.   It has brought up a strong jealous feeling when I get on social media, go to the store, working on a hobby, or watching my kids play.  The jealous monster makes its appearance, and it is not pretty.

Some may wonder, “what am I jealous of.”

  1. Couples walking hand in hand
  2. Date night
  3. Couples shopping together
  4. Seeing daddy’s play with his kids
  5. Seeing a daddy and daughter bond, pushing her in a swing at the local park, or working in the yard panting sunflowers
  6. Seeing a daddy teaching his son to play catch, how to mow the lawn, how to fix something.
  7. Family pictures
  8. Partnership parents have when dealing with kids
  9. Partnership couples have when doing housework
  10. Seeing families have dinner together
  11. Seeing photos of father-daughter dances

Jealousy revolves around everything my kids or I no longer get to experience or never will experience.  I am already grieving the day my daughter gets married – who will walk her down the aisle?  The day my son hits his first home run or makes his first touchdown or has his first broken heart.

Oh my gosh!  I just thought of this!  Who is going to talk to my son about the birds and bees?  Dang! (Mental note:  search for a book, Explaining the Birds and the Bees to boys for Dummies).

Jealousy is real, and it comes when least expected.  I miss the bantering my husband and I did with each other.  We filled the room with laughter, even with our silly arguments talking about conspiracy theories.

I remember the time our daughter was taking a nap, and we were watching TV.  Eric started asking me questions about what was going on and what was happening, and I answered.  A few beats later, I looked at him and said, “you know you are asking me questions about PJ Mask, right?”  We did crazy stuff like that all the time.

I am jealous of celebrations, whether it be a birthday, anniversaries, or family reunions.  I find myself making excuses not to accept invitations.  I would rather be home with my kids than go to a party and see all the “family happiness” taking place when I am still so broken.

Jealousy is not a place I want to stay in and live, but it is something I have to go through.  You have to walk through the yuck and the pain to get past it. 

What gets me through is knowing that God is with those who are hurting and grieving.  He meets us where we are – not where we act like we need to be.

He has sent me Jesus….to comfort all who mourn

Isaiah 61:1b-2

We have to be true to ourselves as to where we truly are. 

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crush in spirit”

Psalm 34:18 CSB

I have to trust I am not walking on this road alone, and neither will my children.  

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

Proverbs 3:5

“Your love means more than life to me, and I praise you. As long as I live, I will pray to you.

Psalm 63:3-4

Jealousy will be a; I pray, a small part of this journey.  It is part of this journey I know I can conquer – in time.

Coming up on I’m That Mom; I will be posting a series of blogs listing what helped me or what I wished I had known when my husband passed.  I will talk about the hard conversations that must be had between spouses, especially when children are involved. 

The series will include;

  1. How to plan while in a brain fog
  2. What has to be done now; what can wait till a later time
  3. “Checklist of what to do when planning the funeral of your loved one



Triggers – The Struggle is Real

Let’s talk about triggers.  Triggers are real, and they are everywhere, and they slap you in the face when you least expect it. There have even been moments I faced a trigger, and it caught me by complete surprise.

Even living with anxiety and PTSD, I never really experienced too many triggers until after Eric passed.   

Triggers are defined as flashbacks that take us back to a specific place, usually to when the original trauma took place.  There is no safe place away from triggers unless I stay home and never go out in public again.  Experiencing a trigger can be paralyzing and emotionally draining.

As hours, days, weeks, and the months past I had to learn tricks to help me go to the movies shop for groceries, listen to the radio, or listen to a truck with loud mufflers go down the road.  Everything was a reminder This is the last month of my first year of firsts. During the fist year a few triggers can be identified; the first birthday, wedding anniversary and holidays. It’s the unknown triggers that knock the breathe out of you.

When Eric and I first reconnected, we enjoyed going to the movies.  The one vice Eric had I disliked and always tried to get him to quit.  He loved to dip Copenhagen.  When we would get our snacks at the movie, the theater provided “spit cups” they were the small dixie cups. There was one date he asked me to grab a cup for him, and I looked at him and said, “no, I would be supporting your habit.” We chuckled, and he did get his cup.  Years later, I gave in and always grabbed a spit cup for him.  Recently I went to the movies and standing in line getting ready to pay for my popcorn I looked down and there they were.  Neatly stacked, ready to be picked up.  This time, I would pass it up like this little cup had never been a part of my life.  I cried through most of the movie that afternoon.

I knew the first year without Eric would be a difficult time for my children and me, especially around the holidays.  Eric loved the holidays, especially the part where he got to eat!  I knew the holidays were going to be full of triggers.  My anxiety increased even before the holidays hit.  I believe I started to look at the calendar daily in October and counting down the days till Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The other triggers I found that affected me were hearing the heart monitors on TV shows, participating in a CPR class, the song on Disney’s Frozen Two “The Next Right Thing,” and the movie Onward brought me to tears.  Don’t get me wrong; both films were and are great, but these are examples of triggers coming out of nowhere.  I’m sure I will come face-to-face with more triggers on this journey as there are days this journey has no end. 

My first public trigger not only took my breath away; it made my heart stop (at least that is what it felt like).  I felt a sharp “thud” in my chest, and I just stood there staring at the chocolate covered cherries.  Eric loved chocolate-covered cherries.  I would always get a box for him once the stores started selling them.  The smile on his face would go ear to ear.  He would recline in his chair with the box of chocolate-covered cherries watching whatever conspiracy show he could find.  From that day on, I would do whatever I could do to avoid walking past the chocolate covered cherries.

One of our many last minutes outings to the movies 2018

Triggers are very personal.  Not every widow or widower has the same triggers.  Knowing that a trigger may present itself can reduce the effect it has.  American Psychological Association state that triggers can be more stressful if they are revealed as a surprise, like seeing the chocolate covered cherries being sold be Thanksgiving.  It is important to remember that after the loss of a loved one, triggers are going to happen, so be prepared, recognize what the triggers are, and breathe, when a trigger is experienced journal about it.  Record what it was, how it made you feel, and the memory it brought back. Writing about it gets it out and helps with healing and allow for the next right step to be taken.

In the article “Dealing with Grief Triggers after a Loss,” the author, Louis E. LaGrand, Ph.D., created a list of what to know when you are faced with triggers:

  1.  Remember, the experience is normal.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. 
  2. To help reduce the impact of the sudden onset of grief, tell yourself that what you are experiencing is normal.  IT’S NORMAL.
  3. Triggers that lead to grief episodes also can have physical and emotional components such as headache, upset stomach, sleeplessness, fatigue, body aches, short temper, or endless crying.
  4. Let the experience happen and the pain you feel in your chest to move out of you.  My therapist shared this statement with me, and I share it with other every chance I get, ” You have to walk and be in the yuck to get through it.  Only you can do this, and no one can do it for you.” 

On the 16th of every month, I recognize how many months Eric has been gone, and in May, I will face my biggest trigger – the first anniversary of his death.  On May 16th at 3:24 p.m., it will have been one year since I heard his voice, his laugh, seen his big smile, or held his hand.  On this date, I am already feeling the anxiety of this anniversary.  The best way for me to face it head-on is to have a plan.  I did this for the holidays, and it helped tremendously.  Having a plan does not mean to hold a party or massive celebration (you could if you wanted), I am referring to be mindful of the day and know that emotions are going to be raw.