Physical cost to grief…….


Nana (me) and Marshall Benjamin July, 18, 2017

I’ve been wanting to write about the price grief pays on our health for quite some time.  I also realize the impact that grief has on you is as individual as your grief journey.    Some folks turn to exercise (oh how I wish that had been me!), but in my case, it meant the first two years immersed in physical pain.  I describe those years as if I was being beat with a baseball bat everyday.  My best effort in those early days after July 30, 2012, was to get out of bed, tell my beating heart to keep on beating and put one foot in front of the other.  At the two year mark, I made a commitment to my grief counselor I would get caught up on my medical appointments.  You see I hadn’t had a dental appointment, annual check-up, mammogram etc.  since before the accident.  I followed through with that commitment only to turn around and 3 years have passed and more weight has piled on and I haven’t maintained my health appointments.  Time is an odd thing after loss.  It seems it passes so slowly……and yet you lose track of time in a larger sense.  So, during these last 5 years I have learned what it means to give grace to yourself, because as I was working on my “heart”, I had to give grace to the outward image that was looking back at me in the mirror.  I was hoping the hard work on the inside I was doing would begin to pay off on the outside.  Because like anything else…….I believe the hard stuff we need to work through is always an “inside job”.  Our outside is a manifestation of our hearts.

That realization of where to start, was overwhelming so I just didn’t.  And so it would be a gum abscess that wouldn’t go away that “made” me start this process.    Due to the overwhelming nature of everything that I needed to do… plan would be to start at the top (my eyes) of my head and work my way down to my toes.  So, off I go for an eye exam an updated prescription and new glasses.  Then came the dreaded dentist appointment.  I have never enjoyed going to the dentist.   I know, there are some of you that look forward to the 6 month cleanings.  Not me, but especially not now.  The one I had two years ago was painful.  And I have come to realize I have heightened anxiety now.  The drills, the shots……UGH!  But I went.  My teeth were in such bad shape they could not even clean them.  My abscess was a cracked crown that needed to be extracted which meant a trip to an oral surgeon!!!  Even more anxiety.  After the extraction, I return to the dentist to have a deep cleaning which means it is TWO appointments and they have to numb half of my mouth to  tolerate the procedure.  So, that meant two cleaning visits and MULTIPLE shots.  Thank goodness for my dentist and the hygienist who were understanding and patient.  I have a follow up visit tomorrow and a follow up with the oral surgeon in September to put the post in for my implant.  My lesson….your lesson:  DO NOT wait 3 years to take care of your teeth!  I won’t let that happen again!

With my eyes and my teeth checked off, it’s time for the mammogram.  I am blessed in my medical history that breast cancer has never been an issue, and I got a clean report.  Next was my annual check up with my PCP.  This appointment I was not looking forward to.  I had made progress on my weight loss, but no where I wanted to be.    Again, I have a wonderful understanding caring doctor, but I had a huge wake up call when she asks me medical history questions, and some of the things were last done BEFORE Lizz and the boys left us.  Wow.  Some of the things I couldn’t even remember a date….Heck, I couldn’t even pick a YEAR when some things were last done.  That’s when it happened.  I knew I had to change.  It was time.  I was NOT being a good steward of this temple that God had given me.  I made a vow and I am doing it publicly that I will turn 60 next year and with God’s grace and blessing my goal is to be in the best health of my life.

I left the doctors office that day and joined weight watchers.  I have a co-worker that I hadn’t seen in a while and I barely recognized her!  She had lost 75 lbs on WW and with that living testimony I gave it a try!  I have lost 13 lbs on WW……it’s not falling off….I am part of the “turtle” club.  But just like the children’s story, the steady turtle wins the race.  I have decided……I will not quit, I will not go back.  I am convinced if you stick with it and don’t quit, you will reach your goal weight.  So, here I am at 43 lbs of weight loss, 2 sizes smaller and still have 70 more pounds to lose to reach my goal.  I would love to be there on my 60th birthday, but again, I’ve learned to embrace that this is about the journey and not the destination.  I’m going to be EXTREMELY vulnerable here and post some of my weight loss pictures because I want to be accountable of where I started but also to acknowledge my success.  I am not proud of how I looked.  You don’t wake up one day and are 100 lbs over your doctor recommended weight nor do you lose it quickly.  I was overweight when Lizz and the boys died and their death accelerated my weight gain.  It’s interesting that many of the things I have learned about grief I am now applying to my weight loss journey.  The most important:  It takes time and this is going to be a life long process and I’m OK with that.

PicMonkey Image

I wanted to share this because I have learned there is a connection to heart healing and physical healing (weight loss).  The more I learn about myself and grief the more it drives my health outcomes.  I don’t see marathons in my future but I can take care of and embrace this almost 60 year old body that even though I have not taken care of this amazing gift very well over most of my adult life……God is a God of second chances.  Our bodies and our hearts are amazing things.  They too reset and heal.  One of the best things I have learned on WW, is that we need to give our best every day.  However, since life is always changing and has it’s ups and downs that “best” is also going to be different and that is ok too.  I am learning to do my best every day and be open to see what God wants to teach me about loss….whether that is my “heart loss” or my “weight loss”.  I do believe my heart healing coincides with my health healing.

Looking forward to celebrating a 50 lb weight loss soon!

Till next time,


PS:  I also have completed my well woman exam and will spare you the details….LOL!  But to say I got a good report!  Last but not least is a colonoscopy that is scheduled for September (it was the earliest they could get me on the schedule)!  And then it will be time to start again.



2017 Scholarship Recipients…..

I wanted to provide my annual update on the 2017 recipients of the Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship and the Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Memorial Scholarship.

Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship

On May 16, 2017, I had the honor and privilege of presenting the Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship for the 4th year.    As I shared with the group that gathered on awards night,  how very much my daughter loved the Salado community and how the boys looked forward to being Salado Eagles.  This spring, Fischer would be finishing 2nd grade and Ben would be completing 1st grade.  I love this event, Salado does an amazing job for a 2A, small community.  This years Seniors have received to date $857,568.00 in scholarships!  I also have the opportunity to award a $1,000 scholarship to a Salado HS Senior that in a some small way carries their memory and legacy forward through the lives of deserving students.  Previous recipients are Chase Manning (Lamar University), Shelby Tepera (Texas A&M), and Hayden Ebeling (Texas A&M).  This years recipient will also attend Texas A&M in the fall.  She is an honor student (look at those cords!) and very involved in FFA.  Please let me introduce you to this years recipient of the 2017 Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship Ms. Kylar Combs!



Julie Diem (L) and Kylar Combs (R), 2017 Recipient of the 2017 Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship


FBH Scholarship RecipientsThere were also several memorial scholarships given this year.  Some by families who had recently lost loved ones and as the principal said, the presentations for these scholarships are always very emotional.  I am honored to stand with parents who have chosen to honor their children through these lasting legacies as we pay it forward.

Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Memorial Scholarship

Elizabeth’s scholarship is endowed with the Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) in Waco Texas.  MCH was my daughter’s chosen charity that she honored John and I through Christmas gifts prior to her death.    So, it seemed appropriate that we would honor her at MCH by endowing a scholarship.    So, I am thrilled when the MCH board informed me that they are re-awarding Elizabeth’s scholarship to the 2016 recipient, Maegan Wells!   Mae was the Salutatorian of the MCH graduating class of 2016.  I was excited to hear from the MCH board that she is progressing well.  John and I are so blessed to have a “fingerprint” of my daughter on her journey.  Here is Mae from her MCH graduation as she delivered her Salutatorian address.



Mae Wells, Recipient of the Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Scholarship for 2016 and 2017


My thanks and gratitude to everyone that has supported these scholarships by purchasing wreaths through Twentycoats Wreath Creations.  My wreath sales are the way these scholarships are funded.  You are grafted to the tree and are part of this journey.  I am honored to have you be a part of this mission as together we make an impact to others while also honoring my blue eyed daughter and three grandsons.



Mother’s Day 2017……

“Maybe our stories aren’t simply about suffering.  And maybe life isn’t separated neatly into chapters.  Maybe joy and heartache bleed together, spilling out into the binding of each page.

Because even when heartache doesn’t have a clear beginning and end, we can be certain that neither does love, goodness, and joy.

And maybe that is life and the truth of our stories; they aren’t one thing or another.  They are a glorious mess of it all.” – Lexi Behrndt

This quote describes my life everyday……but more especially on holidays like Mother’s Day when joy and heartache bleed together.  Part of this day is a stark reminder of what you have lost and the joy that remains.  There is the grief of Lizz and the boys, and yet, there is the joy of Jennifer, Lauren, Ava, Eli, Marshall and Camryn.  It truly is a messy life, with these two truths coexisting simultaneously in my heart….in this messy life of mine.  That being said, it is that messiness and sharp edges of grief and tenderness of joy that keeps me anchored to the One who redeems….to His love and His amazing grace.

So, I started this Mother’s Day at the cemetery.  I want to spend time at the place that marks their life and their death.  It screams to the world through the words on their headstones, that they existed, they were loved and they are still important.  I lay a wreath to honor Lizz and the amazing boymom that she was here on earth and remains in heaven today.

Elizabeth 2017IMG_7361

I then attended church to watch Elizabeth’s namesake be dedicated and blessed by the church.  Camryn Elizabeth….you carry an amazing name with you.  Your family will make sure that you know her through pictures and stories….that amazing aunt whose name you carry.    You already are the center of attention as evidenced by your dedication.  As Jennifer said, we are confident that Camryn got to meet Elizabeth before God entrusted her to us.


After church, I met Lauren for lunch and we shopped and shopped and had the best time.  Just us.  Something we hadn’t done in a long time.  It’s hard to carve out these moments with the demands of life, three children, work, etc., etc.  So this is why this was so very special.  You chose to spend those precious hours with me.


I will store both of these events in my heart forever.

So what has God taught me thus far?  There is beauty in the mess….and that my mess allows me to have a heart for other’s that are experiencing child loss.  And I am a work in progress…..even now at 59.  And He is restoring me piece by piece, like a broken pot, or an old painting.  The restoration is hard, painstaking work.  But this I know.  I wouldn’t trade a thing.   For the two daughters I still have here and the amazing grandchildren, or for the 25 years I had Lizz and the few short years we had with Fischer and Ben, I am blessed beyond measure.  I am grateful.   Some would say grateful?  Yes.  I am grateful.    I am who I am because of my children and grandchildren.  I can’t imagine my life without every single one of them in mine.  No matter how long I was blessed to have them.  Even though this is surely not the path I would have chosen for us, it is one I have been asked to travel.    And so, I carry them with me…..always.

As Lauren and I were reflecting that Ben would be 7 this year and finishing up 1st grade if he were still here with us and Fischer would be turning 9 this October and completing 2nd grade, she said:  “We have lived several lifetimes in the last 5 years Mom”……yes, Lar oh my we sure have.  And even through the bumps in the road when things were so washed in the early overwhelming pain of grief, we can now see much clearer.  Our eyes see what’s important.  What’s not.  To love hard.  To be intentional with those in our lives that are most important.  And you know what?  It’s okay to have “messy” bleed over into everything else.

To other Mom’s that this day is emotional and difficult, I hope my words and ramblings help it become a “hopeful” day.  Here’s to embracing our glorious and messy lives!


Ben you turn 7…..

Easter 177 (2)Benjamin, Benji, Ben… is your birthday.  You turn 7.  You were 2 when you went to heaven.  Your eyes so blue, just like your beautiful momma’s.  It’s hard to imagine that you would be finishing up 2nd grade if you were here.  I always wonder, what do you enjoy?  Fishing like your Dad and Mom?  Playing baseball?  Or golf like your mom hoped?  So many things I would love to know about you today, but I know one day, I will have all those questions answered and more.

Your birthday falls on Easter weekend this year.    My favorite holiday…….because it is this holiday and the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection is why I am full of hope.  Because my precious Jesus rose on the 3rd day and overcame the grave.  And He promised us that those that believe in him and are his, he has gone before us to prepare a place.  And because I believe in Him, and His words, I know with certainty who you are celebrating with today.

So, Jesus, please hug (or wrestle) Ben for me today.  Tell him, his brothers and his beautiful mamma, that I will honor him today.  The special day that God brought him to us.  So, light the birthday candles and sing Happy Birthday to a little boy that changed my life……

Ben….I made your birthday wreath.  Almost 900 balloons……I will place it at the earthly place that honors you…..

Ben 7 birthday

And lastly, I love you Ben.  To God and back……

Thank you Jesus for all the lizards, frogs, and birds you have placed in my presence this week.  It has warmed my heart with love and memories of a blue eyed sweet boy that one day we will be together forever.




Twentycoats Wreath Creations UPDATE!

cropped-logoAll things are for a season, and the same goes for my wreath business.  John and I are planning to retire and move to College Station some time around 2019.  We are downsizing our footprint in our retirement years and I will no longer have the space to manage all the wreath supplies for a wreath business.  We plan on traveling and seeing this amazing country in our Casita trailer and managing my Etsy store, creating and shipping wreaths is no longer going to be possible.  Therefore, after much prayer, I have decided that I will begin downsizing my wreath business.

I had already started this process by not making Halloween wreaths after last year and sold all my Halloween supplies to another wreath designer.  This February was my last time to make Valentine’s and Mardi Gras.  I also made my last St. Patrick’s Day wreath this year.  This year will be my last to do July 4th wreaths.  I am finishing my last tulip wreath this Easter and have decided that I will no longer make those.  In fact, I just sold all my tulips on a Facebook wreath de-stashing site.  (Yes, they exist and it is a busy page!)  Here’s a picture of the tulips I sold…..over 220 bunches of tulips:


I will however, continue creating wreaths with my existing inventory……which brings me to my next decision.  After I complete my current custom order requests, I unfortunately will no longer take custom requests.   This is probably the hardest decision, because I love creating special wreaths for people and families, but it takes additional time to shop and purchase specific supplies, which are never totally used on a wreath (ribbon, mesh, florals), and so it continues to add to my inventory that I need to reduce.  If I already have the supplies to create a wreath than of course I would love to do that, but I simply have to begin using up my supplies that I have on hand….which John can attest is a large inventory!

Lastly, making wreaths has been the most healing activity during this phase of my life.  I have loved putting a small piece of my daughter and grandsons on doors all across America!  I started Twentycoats Wreath Creations with the original goal of endowing the Elizabeth Anne Herro Dowdy scholarship at Methodist Children’s Home and providing an annual scholarship named after Fischer, Ben and Hayes at Salado High School.  After 3.5 years, those goals have been accomplished.

So what will I make?  I anticipate that I will continue making Summer, Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter wreaths over the next 18-24 months.

So, what does all this mean for Twentycoats?  Well, I already have some things in mind!  I want to start making signs, and I also want Ava to join me in the next Twentycoats adventure and get back into sewing!  So, I’m sure this is not the end.  God will lead me to another area to be creative.  It will just need to be something  that will not take up so much space!

Lastly, to those that bought a Twentycoats Wreath Creation (or several), thank you for your continued support!  If you need additional wreaths over the next 18 months, let’s work to make that happen!



“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” – Ecclesiastes 3:1


Beauty from the mess……

beauty in the messToday I was sweeping the floor after a couple of “wreath making” intense days/nights/mornings and as I swept all the clippings and mess from the last several wreaths into a pile to discard……(I don’t sweep after every wreath, because I will start another one and see that as wasted effort and realize that some of you are horrified at this picture!  LOL!)  All that aside, God laid on my heart something that I wanted to share:

Sometimes I think my life is just like that pile of clippings, mess, and trash on the floor.  But just like my wreath creations, those clippings are part of the process to make a new creation.  God is also shaping me into a new creation (just like my wreaths!).  He continues to weave, glue, cut, measure, all things in my life.  All the beauty, the pain, the grief, the joy, the disappointments to create something precious, special, rare and one of a kind.

I then realized yet once again, that how I (we) look at things can be so skewed, warped and different than how God sees us.  Is it a pile on the floor (my life) or simply something the artist(God) is doing to create a masterpiece?  Is this pile of mess the by product of hard work removing the excess to get to the end result of a beautiful, genuine life (wreath)?  There are days when I start a wreath creation that I am not sure where it will lead how it will come together, and yet it does.  How much more does my heavenly Father who created me knows what I need to become all that he intended.  The scripture says, He is doing a good work in us and will continue until we are called home or until Jesus returns.  (Philippians 1:6).  As I turn 59 next month, I realize he is still doing a good work in me.  Oh let me let him be the potter…….while I am the clay as the good hymn says.

Maybe you feel you are the mess of clippings on the floor…..but fear not!  God is doing a great work in you!  He is creating beauty out of the mess…….and oh what an awesome amazing wonderful creation that will be!




You turn 30 today…..



You turn 30 today.  It’s hard to believe that my youngest child, my baby girl is 30!  But even harder is this is your 5th birthday, that this world and my life is void of your laugh, your voice, your amazing eyes and those dimples and your unbelievable spirit and joy.







So much life and joy has happened these last five years without you here.  Babies, babies, babies!  We have been blessed with more grandchildren and your niece and nephews!    They all carry names to honor you, Fischer and Benjamin.    Eli Fischer, Marshall Benjamin and now Camryn Elizabeth.  Marshall has your dark hair and your blue eyes and has a love affair with everyone he meets.


Eli is so much like Fischer… spirited and he makes me laugh at the world again which is an amazing gift I am thankful for.  You should see the eye rolls he does because he know it cracks everyone up!


And then this month, on the 17th, we welcomed a baby girl……Camryn Elizabeth.  She too, has dark hair and is just so precious.  We all look forward to watching her grow.

Your precious Ava has changed dramatically during these past 5 years, she turns 10 in a couple of weeks.  She is growing into an amazing young woman.


Time flies and then yet it doesn’t in this time of life without you.

To celebrate your 30th, your family gathered yesterday to have a meal together, at your favorite places.  Top Notch for those cheeseburgers and onion rings and then went to Amy’s ice cream, where Eli had so much fun playing on the playground he didn’t want to leave.


You and God have taught me so much over these last 5 years.  And like so many painful things we go through in life, you can either use those moments to change or remain the same.  So, I chose to let your death in the hands of the Almighty potter, mold me and hopefully make into a better person than I ever hoped to be.  I try to love harder, to be more intentional, and even though my physical eye vision is worse I now see things and people through my spiritual eyes like never before.  And all the while always remembering that we are not promised tomorrow.

Days like today, the pangs of grief, of our separation and of missing you are hard to escape.  As a mom, your children’s birthday’s are significant.  It is the experience of giving birth you never forget and so, this day brings to the surface your life and death and a reminder of my loss.  But I have also learned that it is these pangs of physical separation that also drive my immense moments of joy and it is this time “in between” that I have become more proficient at living.  It is a strange dichotomy for sure this life of joy and grief.

So, I will go visit the earthly place that honors you and lay your birthday wreath.


I will be nice to myself today…..and rest in the hope of heaven and our reunion one day.

Until then, this momma loves you, misses you EVERY single day…..and longs for your hug and your voice to say:  “Mamacita!” like you use to do.  Until that glorious day, I will hold you and our love in my heart….always.

I love you, my Elizabeth….to God and back.


4th Heavenly Birthday…..Hayes William


Baby Hayes “official” due date was January 2nd.  So, the first wreath, I make every year is to honor my grandchild that I will meet in heaven one day.    Today, Hayes William, the child that we didn’t hold this side of heaven, turns 4.  You have made a profound impact on my life Hayes and yet I never held you or saw your face.  Thank you for helping me understand how precious some things are in life and the importance of family and relationships.


Jesus:  Please give Hayes a hug and kiss him for me and tell Elizabeth, Fischer and Ben I love them.


Happy Heavenly 4th Birthday Hayes…….I love you… God and back.


Christmas 2016

christmas-2016Late this afternoon as the sun was beginning to set, my Beloved and I went to the cemetery to lay Lizz and the boys wreaths.  It’s hard to believe we were sharing our last Christmas with the family 5 years ago.  As I shake my head writing that statement, it feels like yesterday and then it’s hard to believe we have passed 5 years, but so is the calendar of the bereaved.  Fischer would be 8 this Christmas, Ben 6, and Hayes a few weeks shy of turning 4.    I got this Facebook memory today and it filled my heart with their love and again the reminder of the loss.


So, what have the last 5 Christmas’ taught me that I wish I knew previously?

  1.  We spend too much time on the commercial aspect of this holiday.  We should spend it with our family and those relationships that matter most.
  2. Christmas should become less and less about the decorations and the shopping.  Through these last 5 years, I prefer not to get gifts.  The best gift is sharing the gift of Christ with family.
  3. Hug tighter
  4. Linger Longer
  5. And let the tears of joy and sorrow flow as a gift to Jesus.

It is this day that begins the journey to his purpose……the cross…the suffering…..but oh the love.  I don’t comprehend His love totally, but I do understand love and the suffering of a different kind.  It is that Christmas promise of his love that has tremendous meaning.  You see, without the birth, there is no cross, without the cross there is no Easter.  Without Easter there is no resurrection.  It is that amazing love that continues to humble me.

So, on this day I am so thankful for the love that came down.  Emmanuel, God with us.  Oh what amazing love….to step out of eternity and heaven to be born in a barn because we, I needed a Savior.    It is that love and his amazing grace that continues to support me moment by moment, day by day and year to year.  The words of “Merry Christmas” are tough at times, but, the Peace and abiding Joy of Christ is very present this year.

For those that these holidays are difficult, may the peace of Christ draw near and may you peer in the messiness of the manger and see the face of a Savior who will heal the blind, raise the dead and walk on water.  I don’t want to be like others in Bethlehem that night……they missed him.   I have missed him in the past.  I don’t want to miss him and the significance of this day anymore.

As John and I left the cemetery this evening, this song came on the radio, and it stirred my heart and the tears began to fall.  I’ll close with the title of the song that speaks to my heart…..All is well.

All is Well – Michael W Smith/Carrie Underwood

May the joy and peace of Christ be with you,