Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Change of Venue!

Hey everyone! Just a quick note to tell you all that "Paper, Scissors, Keyboard" has moved! I've transitioned to WordPress so I could have a few more fun things on the blog. I hope you all will visit me there!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Got Milk? I Could Use More.

Here's a giant preface to what I'm about to write: I know that *nothing* I'm going to say is based in logic. Nothing. You are entering a logic-free zone. Enter at your own risk.

It was traumatic. For me. Tobin couldn't have cared less, but when William told me that Tobin had his first formula today, it was traumatic. I can't help it that giving the baby formula made me want to cry. It's stupid, but there it is.  And William has been nothing but encouraging and helpful, but that doesn't make milk either.

Tobin is 5 months old, we nurse in the mornings, when I get home from work, before bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night. He's not hurting for breast milk. I'm pumping during the day, but it's just not enough for him to have breast milk only and it's making me sad. He's also already eating solids, so he doesn't need as much milk during the day, but even that I can't keep up with.

I'm working to build up my supply, drinking more water, eating better, trying to get more rest. I haven't started taking supplements yet, but that's coming. I've talked with healthcare professionals about it, and there is a game plan, but it still makes me sad.

My friend, Jenna, and I have talked about how breastfeeding is almost a "macho" thing for us. A look-what-my-body-can-do-for-my-baby thing. I don't blink at parents who formula feed, but I start losing my milk? That's a whole different story (did I mention there was no logic going on right now?)

Part of the problem is that I'm comparing my two boys. With Nicholas, I nursed for 23 months, pumping for his first year with not a drop of formula necessary. Now, 5 years later, I'm having to give Tobin formula? It sucks. And I'm not thrilled that it makes me so sad...and we're back to the no logic thing. Someone asked the other day if I was under a lot of stress. Well, I guess. I mean, the normal stress of a mom with a job and a family and a home. I can't use the stress card when, during Nicholas' first year I was spending so much time in the hospital with Mark that everyone knew Nicholas and me on sight. Talk about stress.

Were you a nursing mom who had to go to formula? Did you choose to formula feed? I'd love to hear your stories...maybe you can bring some logic to my swirling thoughts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Okay if I Crash, I Have More Lives

Our friend, Lauren, sent Nicholas "Mario Kart" for his birthday in June. Nicholas loves cars and loves Mario, so it was a perfect gift. The first couple of times he played it, I watched him, and told him that it was okay if he crashed, that he needed to give himself a chance to learn the game. He's really good at it, but still crashes on the more difficult courses. I love to watch him play, because when he crashes, he's so zen about it, "Don't worry, Mommy, it's okay if I crash. I'm learning and I have more lives."

I've talked about it before, and I'm sure it's something I'll always fight with, but I'm really hard on myself. I am really good at supporting others and encouraging and giving other people a break. Not me, though, I'm supposed to be great at everything. I'm supposed to be a great mom, a great wife, a great employee, a great writer, a great child, a great grandkid. I'm supposed to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan...or something. Something great.

I'm really trying to adopt Nicholas' attitude. I need to learn to do my best and then give myself a break. I need to learn to crash and be okay with it. There are very few times in life where there isn't room to learn, and we almost always have more lives if we crash.

So, how do you give yourself a break? Are you harder on yourself than you are on others?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Watch Your Mouth!

I really hate to hurt people's feelings. As sarcastic and snarky as I can be, I am usually the topic of the snark and sarcasm, and I especially hate it when I accidentally hurt someone's feelings. I work with words for a living and I know how powerful they can be.

Because of my dislike of hurting people and my understanding of the strength of words, I try very hard to make sure my son knows how to monitor his speech. Or I thought I did.

The other day, I heard him say someone was fat. Thankfully, we weren't close enough for the person to hear. The thing is, Nicholas was just describing the person, he wasn't making a judgement (the person being fat was neither good nor bad). But, one day it will be a judgement and I hate that. I hate even more that it will be a negative judgement. And since I'm fat, that judgement will one day be placed on me. My baby will think negatively because I am fat. And I hate it.

More importantly, I don't want Nicholas (and Tobin later) to be really focused on a person's outside. So, William and I are going to work on it. We'll work on not labeling people by how they look, even if we don't "mean anything" when we say it. We'll work on talking about how nice someone is, how smart someone is, how helpful someone is. And if we talk about someone's outsides, hopefully we can find another descriptor. Also? I'm going to work on the whole being-fat thing so I can be around to teach my boys for an annoyingly long time.

How do you talk about people in your family? What do you say if your child describes someone negatively? I need tips!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I told myself, in the months and years since Mark died, that Nicholas would have some sort of memory of him. That Nicholas would have some sort of primal, basic, foundational memory of his Daddy Mark.

Nicholas was 6 weeks old when I went back to work and Mark started taking care of him full-time during the day. Nicholas was about 10 weeks old when Mark got sick and went into the hospital. Nicholas was 4 months old when Mark went into the coma that he would never come out of. Nicholas was 5 months old when Mark died.

I told myself that the time in my belly, the weeks that Nicholas and Mark had before Mark died, and all of the hours and hours of the baby and me at the hospital would make an imprint on Nicholas. It helped me feel better to think that somehow, Nicholas would still know his father in the most basic way. Now, I think I was lying to myself.

My new baby is 3 months old, and I can admit to myself that if I died today, he wouldn't remember me or know me. Hell, Nicholas is 5 years old now, and I don't know if he would have any real memories of me if I died today.

Nicholas has stories and pictures about Daddy Mark, but if I'm honest with myself, I know he doesn't have actual memories. It's up to me to keep the stories alive for Nicholas, but I am no longer telling myself that they are memories.

What do you think? Do you think there's a chance that Nicholas has some kind of primal memory of Mark? Do you think that a bond can be that strong?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sandra Bullock and I? We're the Same.

Sandra Bullock and I? We're the same. I know you think it's the beauty, poise and millions of dollars in salary that showcase the similarity between Ms. Bullock and myself; but, you are wrong.

I don't follow much gossip stuff (except what is gleaned from Go Fug Yourself and Mama Pop), but there are a few celebrities who I think I would like to hang out at a lake house with, with no television and we'd have stuff to talk about. Sandra Bullock is one of those, so I tend to notice when stuff is printed or aired about her.

Not that you could have missed anything about her and her scummy soon-to-be-ex since just after the Oscars.

Anyway, besides all the beauty and riches, I couldn't help but catch the similarities between her 2010 and my 2005. People keep talking about what a crazy year she has had. I mean, who has a major event happen (winning the Oscar), loses a husband and has a baby in the same year? Oh, that would be Sandra Bullock and me.

I'm making light of it, but her situation really reminded me strongly of my 2005. A lot of people said I must have hated 2005 because that's when Mark died. But, it's also the year that I spent growing a baby in my belly, turning 30 and becoming a mother for the first time. So maybe just August-December of 2005 were crap. Watching my belly grow, getting a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake for my 30th birthday, and watching the miracle that is our son being born? Those were so not crap. Neither was the Spurs winning another NBA championship, but that didn't really have anything to do with me.

It was a strange year, 2005. Strange, sad, happy, joyful and surreal. All of those, at one time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hear That? It's the Universe Screaming at Me.

I sometimes try to forget that I'm a widow. Not that Mark died, but that I'm a widow. In the last week, though, the Universe is reminding me. Often and loudly.

I've been running into things that remind me of Mark, reading about people dealing with loss, supporting fellow widows through difficult times. And then yesterday @CalifMom lost her husband Bob. Reading her tweets and posts are dragging me back to those first few days of widowhood. Those days of complete autopilot. You do everything you need to do to get ready for the ceremonies that surround death, you comfort other people, you eat and sleep (sometimes).

You do everything you have to do, and then you are swallowed by the wall of grief you've held at bay until then. And you just try to avoid drowning.

This morning I heard that a colleague's husband died unexpectedly while they were out of town this past weekend. It's Tuesday and she's trying to get her husband's body home. His body home. Not him, they aren't coming home together after their trip, she's coming home and trying to get his earthly remains back for all those ceremonies I talked about earlier.

Husbands and wives and lovers die every day. Widows and widowers come into being every day. And I can usually register the loss and move on. Lately though, the Universe has been screaming at me...

It doesn't matter that I'm happily remarried with two beautiful boys to take care of. The Universe doesn't want me to forget that I'm a Widow, and that I have two new compatriots. And I want to just hold them and make it all better and write those stupid thank-you notes that you send out because someone sent you a bunt cake. So that they can avoid drowning just a little bit longer. I can't hold them, so I cry for them instead.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bruised Ego, Bruised Foot, Bruised Heart

I passed out last week. For the first time in my life, I did the dizzy-spots-in-front-of-my-eyes-everything-went-black thing. I was out for a few seconds, and apparently I was quite graceful going down (from what I've been told by the people in the room). I went to my knees and slumped to my side, and strained the ligaments in one of my feet on the way down. It's a few days later now, and my foot still hurts and I have some lovely purple bruises on the injured appendage, but that's it. No lasting damage.

Unless you count that it's making me admit that I'm not always as "okay" as I think I am. I have a weird blind spot when it comes to my own emotions. Other people's trouble? I'm the girl you want to go to (I do empathy and tough love equally well). My own heart? I should suck it up and get on with it already.

Instead, I passed out. I was at work, escorting a photographer into an OR, I was in my own clothes and scrubs and I had that freakin' mask on my face and was getting all hot. This is not the first surgery I've seen for work and I've always been completely fine. And I was fine this time too. Until some of the prep work with the patient made me think of Mark and how horribly uncomfortable he was in the hospital. And how sick he was. And how a few days from now will be 4 years since he died. I tried to stop myself from crying, because I'm a professional, damn it.

Instead, I passed out. I know that being pregnant (and anemic), getting hot, standing for a while, and a million other reasons could have made me faint. But I know that the real reason was that wall of emotion that hit me. I couldn't breathe. So I didn't.

And I felt like an idiot. Everyone was so worried (thank goodness they hadn't started the procedure, I would have felt horrible if I'd interrupted.) As it was, they ushered me out, and I hung out in an office until the photographer was done. I couldn't really explain to anyone what had happened. I had eaten breakfast, I was careful not to lock my knees while I was standing, I've never had trouble with blood (not that there was any yet). What was I supposed to say? "Oh, don't worry about me. I'm just reliving my dead husband's last few weeks through my sense of smell and hearing and touch! I'll be fine in a bit!"

I hate that I feel like I'm blaming Mark's death for making me pass out, it's so ridiculous sounding, even to me. But, despite the logical excuses, I know that it's the real one.

At least when I passed out, I did it gracefully and in an OR. I'm sure in the version of the story I tell later, the OR will be filled with blood and drama, and I will pass out in a more dramatic way. But I don't think I'll be telling anyone that the pain I feel when I think of Mark in a hospital bed, dying, made me fall to my knees and lose awareness. I don't think I'm strong enough to admit that even 4 years later, the week of his death can hurt so much, it makes the world fall away, if only for a few seconds.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting to Know [Me], Getting to Know All About [Me]

I wrote the following post in December 2007. I just read a different post about learning about yourself after your spouse dies, and am struck once again, by how similar feelings and life can be for widows. Regardless of geography, age, social status or any of the other labels we give ourselves. You can read my post below, and hunibuni's post here.

>Finally, at age 32, I'm getting to know myself. For the first time ever. For almost half my life, I was part of a couple. That's a pretty big defining factor; I was Mark's wife, the second half of "MarkandSherry". Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about.

It doesn't seem to matter how strong, independent, or otherwise self-sufficient someone is, when you have been part of a couple for very long, you become one (and not in a spiritual, lovey-dovey way). So one of the many things that changed when Mark died is that I became a solo entity again. Something I hadn't been since I was 16.

We all know that at 16 you don't really know yourself. What are you doing when you're 16? Hoping that the cute boy will like you? Choosing a college? Worrying that you aren't getting enough playing time on the basketball team? Copying your math homework from Tara? Choosing your life partner? I knew when I was doing the first four (yes, it's wrong to cheat off Tara, but it was math!), but had no idea I had found myself a husband! [It's at times like this when I shake my head at Mark and me, I can't believe how young we were!].

I lucked out and found a good man. Nope, he wasn't perfect (as I've written many times), but he was a great guy and I loved him. He was good to be the other half of as long as I got to be. But, we grew up together (he was 19 when we started dating), and that doesn't leave a lot of room for exploring your own interests and thoughts. I know other couples who probably have been able to do this, but Mark and I just did things as a couple when we learned new things. Also, we had a lot of the same interests already (books, music, movies), so it was a pretty natural thing for us to do those things together.

I think the first shocker for me was when I realized that I don't like to cook. I know, I know, you can't believe it. It's true though. Mark and I cooked together all the time. In fact, that was our main hobby together. We'd watch cooking shows and then find a way to experiment with what we had in the fridge and pantry. I became a wicked prep chef. I can chop with the best of them. We laughed and talked when we cooked, so I loved it. Because of my warm fuzzy feelings around cooking, it took me a little while to figure out that I don't actually like to do it on my own. I appreciate and enjoy good food that others have cooked, but I'm not a big fan of cooking it myself.

After the stunning revelation that I don't like cooking, I started really trying to figure out what I DID like. Do I like to read? Yes. Do I like movies? Love them! Do I like C.O.P.S.? Hate the show with a passion [I sort of knew this when Mark was alive, but "let" him watch it anyway]. So there are a lot of things I genuinely like to do that Mark and I did together, but there are a lot of differences.

Some of the big, more important, things had to be figured out too. Long before Mark died, I paid all the bills, so luckily I wasn't one of the widows who have no idea where policies are or how much the rent is. Even though I paid the bills, I was amazed at how often I'd "let" Mark make financial decisions that weren't great. I say "let" because it was easier to do the fun stuff or buy what we wanted if it was because Mark had made the decision even though I knew in reality that it was a bad choice. After he was gone, I went a little nuts for a few months (stupid credit card), and now I'm paying for choices we made as a couple and the ones I made right after he died. I'll be paying for those choices for a long time, but I learned that I hate to be in debt, and cannot stand to owe anyone anything. Can not stand it.

Also? I don't like to sleep with music on; but I do like to read myself to sleep. I don't like to ask people for help; but always appreciate it when someone does it anyway. Except for a few things, most of the stuff I've learned about myself is pretty simple, but it really adds up.

I have a friend who has recently divorced after a lot of years of marriage, and like me, had been with her ex for half her life. She said to me, "It is strange to realize that you are living a life you don't recognize." I have a lot of that feeling when I look back at Mark and me, man were we stupid a lot. I do know for sure, though, that I wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for Mark and the many stupid and wonderful things we did as a unit.

Now that I am by myself, I'm getting to know me. What I like, what I don't like, my strengths, and God knows my weaknesses. It's an amazing [and scary] thing to learn about yourself. Everyone should try it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Presidential Brainwashing FTW!

From the beginning of this dust-up, I couldn’t help but think of watching Nancy Reagan telling me to “say no to drugs”, of our local Congress people coming to my tiny school to talk with us about civic responsibility, of my 5th grade classroom watching the President address the nation after The Challenger explosion, and of watching the presidential debates in high school.

I am certain that my family didn’t agree with all of the political stance of these people, but it taught me to listen to differing views and that it was good to serve your country no matter your politics. It saddens me that parents aren’t allowing their children the same opportunities now.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Dream

I started having The Dream as soon as I started dating after Mark died. The Dream is some version of me cheating on Mark. I wake up feeling sad and needlessly guilty and questioning my decisions.

The Dream used to be bad enough when I was just dating and before William and I were really committed to each other. Then The Dream was just cheating. When William and I made the commitment and after we got married, The Dream took on a new twist. Not only was I cheating on Mark, but I have to figure out how to tell him I'm choosing William.

My marriage with Mark wasn't always easy and was almost always very stressful. I have a very different relationship and marriage with William and even in waking hours, I sometimes feel guilty about how different my life is now. In The Dream, I have the horrible feeling of knowing that I want to be with William, trying to explain my marriage (because even in The Dream, Mark was dead, it wasn't that I was cheating on him when we were married, so he doesn't understand how I could have gotten married again), and knowing that I have to break Mark's heart.

I think the pregnancy hormones are making The Dream come to the forefront again. I'm not getting much sleep. And when I do sleep, I often have The Dream.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Things I Wish...

I were eating right now...

  • Fluffernutter on white bread,
  • Oreos,
  • Weinerschniztel hot dog on a pretzel bun,
  • Chips and salsa from the joint across the street,
  • Root beer float, and/or
  • Any flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream that involves caramel.

But I'm not. I have gestational diabetes and have for 8 weeks now. So, that means I'm being as healthy as possible for both the baby and me. I check my blood sugar 4 times a day, I give myself insulin before bed, and I eat my perscribed number of carbs and amount of protein at each meal and snack every two hours or so.

I'm happy to do it, but I really want a cookie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Scrapping, Here I Come!

I miss scrapbooking. I used to do it all the time,
but since I spent the last year or so doing tons of crafty stuff for the wedding, I didn't have much time to scrap. That's where Cathy Zieleske comes to my rescue!

Cathy's blog is my favorite. She's hysterical, her family is lovely and normal, and the woman can scrap like nobody's business. She's teaching a class next month for Big Picture Scrapbooking called "Me: The Abridged Version," and I'm in the class!

That's right, I'm going to do a book of 28 layouts just about me and my story. It's never been done (by me, anyway). The coolest part? I won a spot in her online class completely at random. I commented (along with more than 1,000 others), and her random number picking thingy chose me and one other person for a free spot in her class. Word.

Not only do I get to be pushed back into scrapping in a fun and creative way, I'm going to do a parallel book about Mark for Nicholas. I've wanted to do a book about Mark for Nicholas since Mark died, but for some reason haven't really been able to do it. I'm going to use Cathy's class as the template for it, and I hope I'm able to capture a small part of who Mark was so that Nicholas can know that part of him too. I think it will be good for Mark's family too, to help me capture some of the stories about him before the stories are all gone.

Who knows, maybe I'll get to know myself a little better in the process too. And all I need are some pictures, my favorite patterned paper, and my trusty computer. Way cheaper than therapy.

That's my favorite layout of N up there, typo and all.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Legal Advice for Widowed Moms

This is a cross-post from Type-A Mom, but the advice is so good I wanted to share it here as well.

So far, all of the articles I've written for Type-A Mom have been based on my own experiences as a widow and mom. While I hope that they have been helpful, I want to be able to provide you with some really practical information that can help your journey as a widow be a little less bumpy. So, I'm going to ask the experts. This article is going to address a few legal questions, I have one lined up with a friend who will answer a few tax questions, and I'm hoping to get a few other content experts to share their knowledge with us.

Meet the Expert

I find that there are quite a few common questions among widows when we are first faced with our new lives. An entire category of those questions have to do with money, legalities, and bills. I've been following Alexis Martin Neely on Twitter for a while, and have been intrigued by her approach to law and giving back to the community. When I started thinking about the content experts I wanted to give advice to widows, Alexis is one of the first people I thought of. As America's Personal Family Lawyer, Alexis guides you to see every legal agreement, challenge and conflict as an opportunity to be more of who you are or as she says, "legal matters are your chance to be the change you want to see in the world." In fact, Alexis sees your legal life in general as a reflection of your inner life. She's the single mom of 2 kids and despite experiencing a challenging divorce she has built not one, but two million dollar businesses and now manages her growing mompreneur empire from her home by the ocean and runs everything with a completely virtual team.

I did a telephone interview with Alexis (with her landscapers going outside and my son asking to color), and asked her several basic questions. We talked for more than an hour, so I'll try to distill our conversation in a useful way. A couple of things to remember when you take any of the following advice to heart: (1) this advice is general advice and certainly doesn't apply to all situations or people, so you really have to get advice for your particular situation, and (2) most laws vary by state, so while a lot of this information may be applicable to most of us, please check with local resources to find out if it's true in your state.

Questions and Answers

Q: A lot of widows are left with giant hospital bills after their spouse dies. How do we handle that? What are we responsible for?

A: Resist the pressure to pay the hospital right away. Just tell them, "As soon as I know how much I have I will call you." You aren't trying to get out of paying legitimate bills, but many times the costs of hospital treatment can be so large they can bankrupt you. You can not put the hospital bills before basic needs.

You have to look at every bill you get, you can't ignore them. If your spouse had health insurance, you have to match up every bill with the insurance company and make sure that they are paying everything they are responsible for.

Do not pay for anything with the hospital until you have pursued every avenue of payment (including health and life insurance). Familiarize yourself with the hospital records because if your Social Security number is not on the records, you may not be liable for the bill.

Sometimes it can take a while to work through all of the avenues to get the bills paid. Because of this, there are cases where the hospital sues for payment before the survivors of the patient have exhausted all options of payment. If you haven't already gotten a lawyer involved before this point, now is the time to find one.

Q: Many widows get a lump of money after their spouse dies. The sources and amounts of money vary greatly. How should a widow decide what needs to be done with that money? For instance, do you pay off the house, the hospital bills, invest it?

A: When a widow is given a sum of money, she should look at it as an opportunity to be in control of her financial future.

First, don't pay off the house or the hospital bills right away. Assess your needs by figuring out how much you need every month to meet your housing, food, utilities and any other necessities. Before you think of paying off any major bills or buying anything new, make sure you have enough to meet those basic needs.

Second, after you have established the costs of your basic needs, figure out where your money is. Find out if there is retirement, what the value of your home is, what your liabilities are. We recommend a Family Financial Freedom Notebook that can help you organize that kind of information, but finding all of your expenses and all of your resources is key. Once you know your monthly expenses, you need to consider where your income will come from. Will you start a business? Invest the money you do have in income generating investments? Or will you keep your money in CDs and get a job?

Third, get some advice. If you have a Personal Family Lawyer® in your community, start there. If not, find a trusted advisor who will guide you objectively and not based on the commissions they'll be paid for your buying decisions. Make sure you've got your own financial house in order and don't expect to be able to know everything yourself.

Q: When a widow is ready to change records over, how does she make sure that she's caught all the accounts (everything from bank to credit cards to titles) that have her husband's name on them? Once you find them, how do you make sure everything gets changed over to just her name?

A: This is another instance when working with a trusted advisor, like a Personal Family Lawyer®, is a time and money saver. If all of your accounts were held jointly with your spouse or best yet, in a Trust, you may avoid the court process altogether. But, if accounts were held in your spouse's name alone, you may have to open up a probate with the Court.

Begin by contacting each of the account holders (banks, brokerages, credit cards, etc.) and let them know your spouse has died and ask them what to do. Each account custodian will send you paperwork to complete. If you are confident completing the paperwork on your own, you can. If not, contact a Personal Family Lawyer® in your community for guidance.

Q: Many widows qualify to receive widow benefits, and the children qualify for survivor's benefits, from the Social Security Administration. What's the best way to go about getting those benefits set up?

A: The Social Security Administration has a great web site that gives you all the information you need about collecting survivor's benefits. If you do end up getting survivor's benefits for your children, and don't need to use the money for daily necessities, you may want to look into tax-favored college savings plans for your children, such as a 529 plan. A 529 Plan is a great way to save for college because the money you put into the plan accumulates tax free. Alternatively, you will want to set up a guardianship or trust account for your children to receive their benefits.

Q: How quickly does a widow need to set up a new will?

A: You can really answer that question yourself by asking "What would happen to my kids right now if I died?" If there is no plan, especially a legal one, you need to visit a lawyer. At the minimum, even if you do not have any financial assets yourself, you need to have a Kids Protection Plan to provide for the care of your children in the short-term and the long-term in case something happens to you, and a power of attorney for financial matters and a health care directive/living will for health care decisions for yourself. A good lawyer will guide you to make the very best financial and legal decisions for your family throughout your lifetime without charging you hourly fees and not just set up a set of documents for you and send you on your way.

Q: Obviously, it's important to have a relationship with an attorney. How do you establish that, or even just find a lawyer?

A: If you go to my web site, you can find a lawyer in your area who has gone through my training and works with clients in a whole new way. A Personal Family Lawyer® will be there to help you make the best choices for your life on an ongoing basis and provide objective, trusted guidance without charging you any hourly fees. Our most difficult job is finding lawyers who are willing to work in this new client-focused way, so if we do not yet have a lawyer in your area, get our free article with 7 Things to Ask Before Hiring a Wills, Trusts or Estates Lawyer from our site.

Q: What other advice would you give widows?

A: There are some practical things I'd like to offer.

  • Find an insurance advisor you trust, this is as important as a trustworthy lawyer. You need an insurance advisor who learns about your entire situation before selling you insurance, you don't want one who is just an order taker or doesn't treat you like a person. You want a strategic advisor so you know your family will be covered if something happens, but know that you are buying unnecessary insurance. Always have your personal lawyer double check the insurance recommendations before you buy - it's best to have two sets of eyes on your situation and that one of them is not going to get a commission based on what you buy.
  • For most of the things you need to do, like getting your husband's pension or applying for Social Security, start with the phone call where you say, "My husband has died, I need to know what to do now." If you can't make that call, have someone make it for you and get the basic information out of the way.
  • When you are ordering death certificates for your husband, order 10-20 because there are many times when you will have to prove death.
  • It may seem the opposite, but if you have a fairly complicated situation (a lot of accounts with your spouse's name on them, an estate going through probate, etc.), having good legal counsel will end up saving you both time and money.
  • The biggest thing to remember now is to be prepared for anything.

I appreciate the time and knowledge Alexis shared with me so that I could share them with you. You can connect with Alexis on Twitter at @alexisneely and if you fan her on Facebook she'll give you her monthly Play a Bigger Game Mindset and Motivation audio program free.

You can connect with Sherry Carr-Smith on Twitter @prCarrS

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gratitude, Use It!

During the few months that Mark was sick and for quite a while after he died, I was amazed at the goodness in people. At the people who sent me flowers, at the people who called, at the people who sent me nail polish when I couldn't find my favorite color, at the people who cared. I was grateful in a way I had never been grateful before. I wasn't taking anything for granted. Now, almost four years after Mark's death, I'm working on getting that level of gratitude back in my life.

Obvious Gratitude

It's easy to be grateful about the obvious things like a casserole someone has brought you or someone watching your baby for an hour so you can nap or take a bath by yourself. I'm pretty good about expressing that gratitude, and even though it's a little fuzzy, I think I even wrote thank-you notes to people for different kindnesses after Mark died. Even if those notes were in the form of e-mail.

Now the things that I should be obviously grateful for are things like a colleague who makes a couple of calls for me when they see I'm swamped, or my husband making sure that I have an hour to myself to write a post. I'm usually pretty good at both expressing my gratitude for those things and reciprocating when the chance comes.

Obscure Gratitude

I think most of the not-so-obvious moments come when you aren't aware of them. Or you are vaguely aware of them, and they hit you in hindsight. For example, I am immensely grateful to my former boss, Christie, for the work she had to do to pick up my slack while I was either physically or mentally gone from the office. And the part I am most grateful to Christie for is that she was never anything but worried for us as friends, and I never heard a word from her about where something was or when I might be coming back or why I was sitting at my desk crying.

I'm working to be more aware of the things people do for me so that I can thank them, or at least do the same for someone else some day. I'm also working on awareness of things around me that are going well so that I can be grateful for them (the weather, my car works well, air conditioning, air conditioning, and also air conditioning).

Struggling for Gratitude

The one place I always have to struggle for gratitude is my own health and my body. If I were truly grateful for it, I would take better care of it, it's as simple as that. I can use all the excuses I can think of (I'm going to start exercising tomorrow, I'm not that overweight, I need this 837th can of diet soda to help me stay awake) but it all boils down to my lack of gratitude for my body. Right after Mark died, I hit panic mode, and tried to get healthy so that nothing would "happen" to me and Nicholas wouldn't be a total orphan. That lasted a few months until the complacency kicked in again.

I thought I was a grateful person, but now I know how far I've got to go. I've got a few people I really love who are fighting cancer right now. Awesome, incredible, smart, tough, I-want-to-be-them-when-I-grow-up women. They are moms and wives and daughters and they are fighting harder than anyone I've ever known to live good lives and enjoy every minute of their lives while fighting the disease. I'm proud to know them and I'm trying to take their attitudes and apply it to my life.

I'm trying to be grateful that I can get up in the morning without being sick, that I can feel an ache in my hip and know it's because I need to get fit and not because there may be a tumor in my bone, that I can pull my hair back in a clip. I'm also trying to be grateful for movies, music, books, blogs, art, friends, ripe nectarines, naps and time. And I'm trying to do it in the matter-of-fact way that those people I really respect do it. There is no show of "look how grateful and evolved I am!" They are just aware of all of their blessings (and yes, the crap they are going through too), and are happy to have them.

Forever Grateful

I hope I can say with some truthfulness that I don't take the most important things for granted. I am aware of how spectacular my child, my husband, my family, my colleagues, my country are. I am also aware of and grateful for the time I had with Mark. I hope that I can use my own example and always be grateful for those people and things while trying my hardest to become more aware and grateful of all of the other spectacular things I am and I have.

This is a cross-post from Type-A Mom.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Home, Sweet Home. Please?

We live with my husband's parents, and we are paying off a lot of debt. It's been incredibly helpful and Nicholas loves living out in the country. He gets to run and play and explore. W is getting his master's degree right now and we're going to live with his parents until he's done and has a job. It's possible that we'll leave the town we live in now, but it's equally possible that W will find a job here and we'll stay. Regardless, we won't be moving for at least 8 months or so, and his parents have been great to ask us to live with them to save money and try to get ahead. Those are all wonderful and important things. [Do you hear the "but" coming?]

But, I am so ready for a house. I've never lived in my own house. I want a space that we can paint and arrange and care for. Something that we are going to own. Something we aren't renting. I have always liked the apartments I've lived in, and they fit my needs at the time, but I want a yard. I want us to be responsible for mowing and watering and battling worms and aphids. I want a home.

Living in an apartment, and now with W's parents, has never bothered me before. The feeling I have about having a house right now is a lot like the longing I had when we were trying to get pregnant with N. Every time I saw a baby back then, it hurt that we hadn't been able to have a baby of our own. While I don't hurt when I see houses for rent or for sale, I sure do notice them.

I'm sure the feeling has intensified since we moved to sharing a space with other people that isn't our own (or even our own rented). The trick will now be not to go overboard and when we have the chance to have a home of our own. I have a feeling I might just jump at the first place that presents itself!

I probably should stop watching the Style network and HGTV. It just makes my home envy even worse. Excuse me while I turn off the television.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Pretend Daddy" vs. "Real Daddy"

I thought we had the labels pretty well defined, Daddy Mark is the daddy in Heaven and Daddy is the daddy here. My son, Nicholas had just turned 2 when William (a.k.a Daddy) and I started dating and we’ve been married a couple of months now. Nicholas will turn 4 tomorrow, and suddenly the ease of knowing the difference between the two daddys is sliding a bit.

We’ve had confusion about Daddy Mark in the past year. We have photos up in N’s room of Daddy Mark holding N, and there are two particular photos that N is fascinated with. They are both of Mark holding N just after delivery (see left), and N loves for me to tell him about his birth. For a while, N would get confused between his birth story and the story of Mark’s time in the hospital when he died. N thought that the picture of Mark and him was when “Daddy Mark was so sick in the hospital that the doctors couldn’t make his body better.” I spent quite a bit of time explaining the difference in why we were in the hospital for N’s birth and why Mark was in the hospital when he was sick. Nicholas seems to get it for the most part, but is still confused about it sometimes.

William and I began referring to him as “Daddy” after we got engaged. Nicholas didn’t seem to have any trouble with the transition (I’m sure it helped that he wasn’t quite 3 yet), and William has been Daddy ever since. In the past three or four months though, Nicholas has referred to William as “Pretend” Daddy a few times. When asked what he meant, Nicholas said, “Daddy is Pretend Daddy and God is the Real Daddy.” And who can argue with that. We had a brief discussion about how God created us all and so he is parent to all of us but that doesn’t make Daddy pretend Daddy or Mommy pretend Mommy. I should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it.

Now Nicholas is saying that when Daddy Mark gets better, Daddy won’t be his real daddy any more and that will make Nicholas sad. I think part of this stems from the conversations we’ve had where I told him I believe that Daddy Mark is healthy and happy in Heaven and his body isn’t sick any longer. But who knows, Nicholas could be making this up from whole cloth.

I probably wouldn’t think too much about it, and just keep reinforcing that William is Daddy and that Daddy Mark is in Heaven, but I know it’s painful for William. I try to help him see that it’s not a preference or judgment on him as a father, that N is just confused; but, I can see how it would hurt. William is N’s Daddy, and nobody who sees them together would doubt it.

Any thoughts on where you think the origin of the confusion might be? Do you think there is a better phrase for Mark? Is it confusing for N to have two daddys? I would love to hear what you think!

*Photo of Daddy and N courtesy of Rebel With A Camera.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What's In A Name?

I like the name of this blog, it seems to convey my reasoning...not much logic with a little tentativeness thrown in for good measure. But, it's been used fairly often. So, I'm trying to find a new one.

I think I'm having identity issues. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in this world? Wait...I think I'm just trying to figure out what I should call a blog. Nothing earth-shattering, eh? Still, I want it to reflect me.

Something about scrapping? Motherhood? Writing? Cupcakes? Pajamas? Sass? Ladybugs? Luck?

How about... ScrappingWritingMommyEatingCupcakesInPajamasWithSassWhoThinksLadybugsBringLuck? Too long? Not descriptive enough?

You give me a suggestion then!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Feeding the Boy. And Us Too.

The first year of feeding the Boy was easy (minus the first week when I didn't have any milk yet). He nursed like a champion, and it was heaven-sent for me since having to nurse Nicholas was the only way I was okay with leaving the hospital when Mark was there. Funnily, there was one physician who never had a conversation with me that I wasn't nursing N. The doc must have thought N nursed 24 hours a day.

Even the second and third years were pretty easy, the Boy wasn't very picky and loved fruits and veggies. I didn't worry too much that he was getting all the good calories he needed.

Fast forward to now, to my sweet Boy who is going to be 4 soon. He still likes broccoli, and will usually eat a couple of bites of veggies without too much fight. But, the kid would live on pizza, doughnuts, and hot dogs if it were allowed. I'm not completely freaked out, and I know he's getting a fairly balanced menu since I know what he has for breakfast and dinner and what we pack for lunch.

Dinner is a different story. I am not a big cook. I am trying to cut out stopping for fast food for everyone. I really am, but it's been harder than I thought it would be. So I'm looking for quick, nutritious ways to feed my Boy and my Fella. Oh, and me.

I heard a great interview on NPR yesterday from the author of Hungry Monkey and I just bought the book. I can't wait to get it, if nothing else, I think it will be fun read. It has more than 50 recipes from the author that he and his 5 year old both like. I'll let you know how it is!

The Type-A Mom site also has a ton of great advice, and I just read a helpful article about to the caloric intake a toddler should be getting.

I have the tools, and the knowledge, and a beautiful family who needs the nutritious food. My husband and I now have to get off our duffs and get all those things working together to make it happen!

How do you get nutritious, good-tasting food into your family? I need a plan people!

*yummy doughnut photo by me...because someone brought them to the office last week and I was playing with the "food" setting on my new camera.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

We're a military family. My Grandpa retired as a Chief Petty Officer from the Navy, where he earned a Silver Star during WWII for saving fellow sailors after their ship was torpedoed. My Grandma is a Navy wife (I think that spouses are just as much in the service of the military as their husbands or wives are). My father and two uncles were also sailors. My aunt and her youngest son are ex-Marines and her oldest son is a Marine. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are both Captains in the Marine Corp, and my other brother-in-law is in the Coast Guard. My younger sister is in the Army National Guard. We are most definitely a military family.

I am the most liberal of my cousins in all things political, but the one place none of us differ is supporting the women and men who defend our nation. It is an amazing thing for me when I see someone volunteer to join a branch of the armed forces, especially now in an active time of war. While it wasn't a choice I made, one that wasn't right for me, I am always grateful for those people who make that choice.

And I pray every day that we get to continue to celebrate them on Veterans Day without having to celebrate them on Memorial Day. For those who have fought and died, and their families, you are all in my prayers today. Thank you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Well, hello there! Have you been waiting long?

I am fairly sure I don't have any actual followers, er subscribers, on this blog. Regardless, I should have been updating. I'm starting now. I can feel the excitement that was generated by that statement! Electric!

A few updates:
  • William and I got married in April! It was perfect and exactly what we wanted. Except for the distinct chilliness during the ceremondy from the bizarre cold front that came in and for missing a few key people who couldn't make it; it was really a perfect day for us. You can check out the incredible photos from Rebel With A Camera. Just look for our names in the Wedding Gallery, you won't be disappointed!
  • Nicholas is still amazing and wonderful and smart and handsome. He turns 4 in a couple of weeks and I'm amazed he's my son.
  • Work is great, I still love the work itself and the incredible women I work with in my department. Represent!
  • I'm still writing for Type-A Mom weekly, for This Mommy Gig monthly (allegedly), and for PRSA San Antonio (a lot more often than I actually do). Check the sites out, they are wonderfully helpful!
  • I've also committed myself to getting my APR sometime before December 2009. This is a big deal for me, and I'm scared. I'm not joking.

So, that's what we're up to right now. I'll let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Engagement Photos Rock!

We went up to Austin a couple of weeks ago and had our engagement pictures taken by Travis and Megan with Rebel With A Camera. If you'd like to take a look, visit the gallery. Just look under Engagements for Sherry & William, and check them out.

We had such a great time with Travis and his trusty sidekick! I absolutely can't wait for them to capture our wedding day too.


Happy New Year!

I'm sitting here, in the study/office, amid a huge pile of stuff. We're in the middle of moving, and even though a majority of our belongings are in storage, it still seems that the piles multiply when we're not looking.

There is an old-wives' tale that says that what you are doing the moment Midnight comes on a new year is what you'll be doing the rest of the year. I like to be asleep at that moment so that my year is a peaceful one. And because I'm just a tad superstitious, I'm going to go into our room now and clean the hell out of it. I want to be sleeping in a clean, ordered, good-smelling room when Midnight comes so that I can have a clean, ordered, good-smelling life for 2009.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2009!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Zany: Seven Things You Don't Know About Me

My good friend, and Wedding Fairy, Lauren Vargas tagged me for this Zany list. I'm honored to be tagged and will do my best to make it interesting.

Seven Things You Don't Know About Me

1. When I drive past the cemetery on the road to my Grandmother's house, I have to hold my breath from the beginning of the fence to the end, or the dead people will get me. I have no idea why holding my breath will protect me or why I thought (at around age 6 when I started this) that the dead people even *wanted* to get me.

2. I blush, easily and often. It doesn't take much to make me blush and saying, "Oh my goodness, look at how much you're blushing" only makes it worse.

3. My Mom sort of named me for her mother but also let my big sister pick out my name. Grandma's name was Mary Jeanette and my name is Sherry Susette. Sis thought it would be cool if our names rhymed.

4. I hate pine nuts. They make me gag. I used to like them (especially in pesto), but then I popped one in my mouth and it was rancid...and it was all downhill from there.

5. I worked at TCBY the entire time I was in college, and I can still make a kick-ass banana split.

6. When I'm stressed, I dream of a tidal wave sweeping me off a beach as I walk. This dream got more vivid after I almost drowned at the beach when an undertow dragged me beneath the water. Because my imagination wasn't good enough without the experience to back it up?

7. I love photography, fashion, decorating and crafts and often get frustrated when a concept I can see perfectly in my head doesn't translate to real life. I'm working on giving myself a break!

Here are people I'd like to hear from:

Christie L. Goodman, APR; Jennifer Milikien; Kelby Carr; @orangesprocket; Holly Hoffman; Diane Cordell; Kristen Keller; and Kami Watson Huyse, APR

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Welcome to my thoughts!

Hey. How's it going?

I'm Sherry, and I contribute to a few group-written blogs, so I thought I'd create a central gathering place for those thoughts. Come by when you get a chance, I've got lots of questions...

Some of the fantastic folks I write for and with are PRSA San Antonio, This Mommy Gig, and Type A Mom. You should come by and visit, there are some great people in those three groups.