Not Their Choice Always…

Fair warning – soap box post!

It’s no secret I love to travel. My most preferred method is cruising. I’ve been on five since the restart post COVID and twenty two since I fell in love with it. I have crew that I consider family that I honestly love as much as my own. What I have noticed, more since the restart then ever before, is the lack of respect and warmth to the crew that should be there as human beings. Don’t get me wrong. There are fellow passengers who love on, take care of, and respect the crew the way they should. Then there are those that yell at, demand, and in general treat them like servants. Having gotten close to many of them let me offer you a perspective that you may not have…

For many it’s not completely their choice to be there. They live in countries where jobs are scarce and the jobs that are available don’t pay enough to feed a family let alone keep a roof over their head. For months and months at a time they leave behind their loved ones – many of which include their growing children. As a mom that’s not a choice I could have ever made when my kids were growing up…but I was blessed to not have to. For these moms and dads – it’s the only way they can give them a good life. They treasure their time at home and cry for days when it’s time to go back. They are keenly aware of what they are missing.

These sweet human beings send money home to take care of their moms and dads. Their children. Their aunts and uncles if need be. They deal with internet challenges that keep them from always being able to connect with home when they need to see their family. They work 12-18 hour days to give us unbelievably memorable vacations. They see the absolute worst examples of humanity and they greet everyone with a smile. It always astounds me that they manage to make my week with them feel like it’s the most important time to them…then they have to reset and do it all again in a matter of hours. They learn names at an amazing rate. The best of the best remember that you prefer vodka over gin or that you hate croutons on your salad night after night. On my last cruise I had a sweet lady make sure I got my most favorite Italian dish – with gluten free pasta. Some of the most amazing human beings I have ever met work in the service industry – whether on a ship, behind the bar at my local hang out, or at my favorite Mexican food restaurant(s).

I get it – we live in a time these days where compassion is losing its value. Where impatience is high and tolerance is low. Maybe I have more sympathy for it because I work in an industry where my work force has to do the same thing to take care of their families. But maybe the next time you have to wait a few extra minutes for your meal, or a drink, or a towel….remember there is a very tired human that is getting it for you. One who in all likelihood hasn’t seen their family in months and probably doesn’t know when they are going to get to with the current labor shortage. Give them a smile and say “thank you”. Because I promise you…they notice those that are kind to them. And it means the world to them.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Another Year Has Come and Gone…

Another year has gone by…on Friday I’ll be another year older. Wiser? Eh, in ways… The changes in my life between July 1st 2021 and now are too many to list. A year ago today I was in Memphis with Bev. Exploring Graceland for the first time. Learning about Elvis and not having any idea I was interested…left with a hunger to return. Even then not seeing the running I was doing to avoid the work I needed to be doing. Healing from the inside out – looking hard at where you are broken – is time consuming and challenging. But worth EVERY minute of the work. Life is so much bigger when you can look beyond yourself…

Sometime in the last year I found a peace inside that you can’t understand until you find it. Not a mediating yoga statue kind of peace but an I’m ok, life is ok, and everything is gonna work out kind of peace. Is everything in my world perfect? Nope. I miss my son. Always will but am proud as hell he’s living his journey his way. I didn’t learn to do that until 40+ years old. Has life moved on past a point I couldn’t see a year ago? Yep. A year ago I didn’t know who I was outside of Lee & Em’s mom and Fred’s widow. I didn’t have a real relationship with my oldest kiddo. I lived to work before and now I work to live. Sad, really, as I think about it now but I had absolutely no idea who the hell I was. My life revolved around other people. My existence was to serve others. I was used to being the nucleus of other’s worlds. When those roles didn’t exist anymore – not in a full time need to be fulfilled way – what the heck?

What I found, through counseling and prayer, was someone inside that I kind of dig. I found my girls. I found the parts of me I can see in them that I was missing before. I have some cool as hell daughters y’all! I found sunshine again. I found someone to love me who I love deeply. I found a heart that wasn’t broken beyond repair – it just needed some work. I found a heart that can love deeper when it’s healthy than it ever could when it was scarred and traumatized.

But more than all of that I found a voice. I found the wild child inside that wants to drive a Jeep and have crazy adventures and be unapologetic about it. The woman inside who was too afraid people wouldn’t like her if they saw THAT woman. That woman lives forefront now. You may not like all of my decisions but I live by what I believe is right and by what I, me, myself and no one else has to live with. What I think matters. What I have to say may piss you off but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. I could light a fire under a lot of people with issues I’ve found I am deeply passionate about.

But back to Friday. Birthdays wig me out. There is some trauma that is still there from childhood (my parents sucked!). But already the love and thoughtfulness Tim and the girls have shown has made this year different. It stinks Tim and I will be apart on our birthday (did I mention we share a birthday?!?)…but it’s been a special day already. I’ve got a big week planned with people I love dearly and that, my friends, is what life is all about.

Live LOUD peeps. Life is too short to do anything but!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Since You’ve Been Gone…

How has it been five years since you left us? Some days it feels like a lifetime longer and some days it hurts like it was yesterday. So much has changed! Some days I can hear your voice in my head clearly and other days the noise of the world drowns you out. I was in the garden two weeks ago tending the garden and your tree (that should be dead after the 2021 snow storm) has fruit on it. Between that and the wind chimes going insane it felt like you were sitting there with me like you always did when I worked in the yard.

Will always be my favorite picture of you and the kids

Kids are all doing well. You’d be proud of chicken lips. She has a job she loves (most days!), and an independent streak a mile wide that I’m pretty sure you taught her. She is fiercely protective of me and puts up with nothing from no one. We affectionately call her “Mama Spice” among her friends because she is the nurturer of her group. I have no idea where she learned that from! She literally got “Chicken Lips” tattooed on her body – thank you for that one honey. Truly. HAHA

The boy kind is about to get hitched. He is living in Florida and is making it on his own two feet with no help. I know you’d be proud of him for that!

Ames & I continue to grow together. She’d make you cry with how lovely (one of your favorite words!) she is. And with how hard she works at her business with Arbonne and how she has blossomed as a teacher. We’ve learned how to communicate with each other and she reminds me of you a little more every day. Zane makes me proud for how he has stepped into the role as Em’s friend, brother, and person who she trusts to talk to. Watching him and Ames grow together has brought me joy. Can you believe they just celebrated six years of marriage?

Always in Hot Springs

Me? It took a lot of work these last two years, and being trapped in a house from a pandemic, to dig in and work through what you leaving me did to me. What grief is and how it changed me. What grief will always do to me at certain times of the year. Who I am as a person – not as the kids’ mom and not as your wife. Counselor continues to tell me how proud she is of me. We’ve made a lot of progress the past two years. Doesn’t matter how far my life moves on – I’ll always want to make you proud. Not gonna lie – fear of the kids growing up and moving on broke me for a bit and made me someone you wouldn’t have been proud of. But I figured it out and I know you would be proud of the woman the last two years has shaped me into. The one you always saw that I couldn’t see.

It took me almost five years but I finally did what you asked. I’ve learned how to love again. Kristal and I had a conversation the other day about how clearly you saw me…you knew God made me better as part of a duo than being alone in the world. I think you’d like him. He’s gentle and protective of me – same as you were. He’s deeply respectful of the love I will always have for you. Keeps me (and Em) in awe at how patient he is when we get on a memories of you tangent. He’s good to your girls – all your girls. To be loved by two amazing men in one lifetime could only be God’s work.

Love you too!

I know you know Mom came and joined you about a month ago. That one is still raw. But I bet it was joyous to see her and PawPaw back together. You three behave up there – alright? Down here we’re trying to keep our promise – to only be sad for a little while – but it still hurts. You are loved. You will always be loved. Fly high angel of mine.

A

Living on Island Time

Last weekend we made my first trek back to the island since being called back to work during COVID. (Full disclosure we’d been for a quick overnight for a cruise but not to play on the island!) I knew I was ready, I knew I missed the island, but it was not until I started crying going over the causeway coming onto the island that I realized just how much the above was true. Y’all there are places that get into your soul and just will always call you home. Galveston is one of those for me.

Weekend Beach House

We had rented an AirBnb for the long weekend. I absolutely adore the old homes on the island so to get to stay in one was PERFECT. This one was well maintained and just adorable. Period appropriate furniture yet fully renovated in the areas that counted. We didn’t spend much time at the house but when we were there it rocked.

Sunrise on the Island

Due to my annoying habit of not being able to sleep as I get older, and the ocean calling to me, I saw sunrise all three mornings we were on the island. If you want to feel God’s work watch the canvas he paints across the sky as the day dawns. It’ll remind you just what is important in life and what isn’t. I got quiet time to myself to soak in the sound of the waves, the sand at my feet, and the beauty in front of me. Then time to coast up and down the sea wall in the Jeep for a while waiting on the sleepy heads to wake up!

We did a totally tourist thing on Saturday morning and took a SegWay tour. When I say I learned things about the island I didn’t know after 26 years I am not kidding. I did not know there had been (is) a mob family on island called the Maceo family. Or that there had been a shoot out on the causeway with Al Capone. Or that the Rat Pack once owned a home on the island. The list goes on and on. We had a private tour and an amazing guide.

Our new friend Paicience

Later in the day we wandered into what would wind up being our hangout for the weekend – Texas Tail Distillery. Since the girls hadn’t arrived yet us grownups were feeling feisty. We ordered all 15 types of liquor they serve (three flights of small quantities) to be able to try everything. Then had one of the most amazing mixologists I have had the privilege of being served by whipping up signature cocktails for a few hours. We sadly had to leave to go get changed for dinner but wound up back there for happy hour before our dinner reservations. And for brunch the next day. My new friend Paicience is an amazingly gifted bartender that I can’t wait to see again!

Saturday night we reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in two years. We all have those people in life that we can be apart from and when you reconnect it seems like not a minute has gone by? Yah. LA & Todd for me. It was a good dinner of catching up and making noise.

Sunday morning the girls slept in while us grown ups went exploring. Found a new coffee dive and walked the beach for a while picking up shells. Explored Murdochs. Brunched at Texas Tail when the girls got up. Just lived on island time for a while. Sadly Monday we had to come home. Traffic definitely does NOT live on island time at the end of a holiday weekend.

Tim went into the weekend with no idea what to expect. He hadn’t been to Galveston except to leave for a cruise. I think he understands now what it means to me and how much time we’ll spend there in the future.

For my beach lovers – where is your island time place?

Blessings y’all – Amy

Taking Back MY Island

COVID took a lot of things from a lot of people. While Galveston was my retreat from a house here that closed in on me with memories and grief – running there cost me it being my sanctuary. 2020 and early 2021 were eighteen months of my life I hope to never repeat. That being said there is some truth to what they say about rising from the ashes. While I couldn’t see it at the time, when it felt like my world was crumbling, it was a blessing. The woman I am today, while grieving again after losing Mom, is stronger. Happy. In love. Fiercely proud of the work I’ve done and what I know about myself now.

So it’s time. It’s time to take back MY island. It’s time to pack away the sadness and unhappy memories that last plagued me there. From my young adulthood, from my family life, and hopefully now in this new season there have been so many happy memories on that island. And Tim hasn’t been. So I’m loading up my youngest girls, Bev, and my man and we’re gonna soak up some sand and sunshine for four days this weekend.

We’re gonna get the chance to *finally* reconnect with cruise family and be that obnoxious large loud table in the corner Saturday night. 🙂 We’re gonna cruise the seawall with the top down on the jeep and the radio all the way up. I’m going to take sunrise walks on the beach (most likely by myself) and sunset walks with Tim.

We are going to have root beer floats at La King’s. Shop on the Strand. Go by and see the cruise ships in port and count the days until our next one. (39 for me but who’s counting!!) Eat seafood until we can’t stand it. Fly a kite. Sit and shoot the breeze on Murdoch’s porch. Show Tim all our favorite haunts. Play mini golf. Maybe take in Pleasure Pier. Hunt down the renovated houses on Renovating Galveston that Tim and I have been watching. Basically do anything we want and have a blast kicking off the summer!

We’ve got four days of work and then we’re hitting the road. I can’t wait.

Where’s your go to place you run to in happy times?

Blessings y’all – Amy

Grief is….

Grief is…anxiety. Fear. Guilt. Anger. Pain. Regret. Messy. Confusing. And so much more.

Death is not peaceful. It’s not something you can prepare for – no matter how much you tell yourself you can. Your journey through healing from a loss is not something anyone else can understand – even if they have experienced significant loss themselves. Grief is a deeply personal internal journey that one must navigate oneself. At the very best the love and support of friends and family will allow you to do so and at the very worst words like “just move on” or “aren’t you over it already” will be said. People say dumb hurtful things without even realizing it – death and grief make people uncomfortable so awkward encounters are to be expected.

I think when we think of someone grieving we think of someone in a state of constant crying. Maybe unable to eat, sleep, smile, or laugh. And yeah, for the first little bit those things are definitely the case. But grieving goes far beyond what the outside world sees in those early days after a loss.

Grief manifests itself in hundreds of ways. For me, grief creates great anxiety over loss. Without realizing it I push away those close to me because if they aren’t close then maybe it won’t hurt so bad when they have to leave me too. Or the alternative. I hold on so tight neither of us can breathe. Neither option is super great for important relationships in my life. Grief in another anxiety form is the inability to make the simplest decisions for fear they will be wrong. For fear they will set off some kind of chain reaction that will make this black place I am existing in worse.

Grief in the guilt form is endless questions like “did they know how much I loved them”. “Did I spend enough time with them?” “What was the last thing I said to them?” “Did I do enough?” “Was I enough?” The answer to all of those questions is YES but the sleepless endless loop of those questions can make you wonder.

Grief makes everyday life impossible for a while. Things you used to be able to handle – loud noises, high stress, weird situations – unbearable. Situations that are usually no big deal can make you burst into tears or irrationally angry. Grief in the anger form is extrapolated over many aspects of your life. Anger at traffic. Anger at the guy who cut you off in line at the grocery store. Anger at little things not realizing you are really angry because someone you loved deeply was taken from you.

Grief just plain hurts. Physically and mentally. I get stomachaches that keep me from eating. My limbs get heavy and functioning hurts. My brain starts to ache after a while from trying to settle my thoughts. It becomes easier to just go through the motions of my life than to try and sort out the volume of feelings and thoughts that I have. That is where depression takes over and the life I love starts to ebb away. THAT is a dangerous place I have to watch out for.

Most importantly – grief has no dang timeline. I don’t care what any book, expert, or TV tells you. Everyone heals on their on pace. And just when you think you have something rips it open again. It may not bleed as bad the second, third, tenth time – but it’s a wound that just keeps opening. To this day I have days where I miss my grandpa’s hugs so bad I just want to lay down in the floor and cry. Or where I would give my left arm to hear Fred make my daughter laugh, really deep down laugh, the way only he could. And most recently I’d give anything to be able to just “rest my eyes” next to Mom the way she’d make me when I was a kid to trick me into taking a nap. No one can tell you how or when to heal. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just FEEL and breathe. Best thing I can say.

And if you don’t relate to this blog post at all – you are one of the luckiest people I know.

Blessings y’all. – Amy

Drowning in Memories

I have come to the conclusion that the dark side of this second season is that as we age the losses come with more frequency. When we find our footing after torrential grief the button gets pushed again. And again.

My grandmother is making her way home to heaven. Towards the man she was married to and loved for over half a century. To a place she believes in with every fiber of her being. She’s given us several close calls this last year but the hospice staff tells us we won’t be granted a reprieve this time. Though I think Em and I will hold out hope until that final call comes.

My brain has become a time machine of memories. My grandma, I call her Mom, was a huge part of my childhood. My 17 year old mother had no idea what to do with a newborn born with a birth defect in need of constant medical attention. I was raised in my grandparents home during my formative years thus learning to call my grandma “Mom” from hearing my mother do so.

I have years of memories of being sent to stay with my grandmother when I was sick. When I was recovering from any one of the 50 surgeries I had before my 18th birthday. When I needed to be taken to endless doctor appointments. It was always Mom that I remember taking me. I am sure my mother was there somewhere but it’s Taco Bueno and Bennigan’s lunch dates with Mom that I remember across the street from Memorial City hospital. It’s ENDLESS pots of our families “slumghetti” recipe she would make when I was sick. (She swore after the third pot when Em was born she would never make it again. She did – she just didn’t eat it after that!) Recipes that can’t be recreated because they are missing the touch of love I’m sure she put in them.

I spent most of yesterday trying to remember the last time she made me any “slumghetti”. I can’t. I didn’t know it would be the last time. When we broke down her house last year the memories were packed away in boxes. Boxes I find myself wanting to open and just rewind time.

Mom and I’s relationship changed after PawPaw died. She swore it was because we loved him best. She just didn’t know how hard it was to be around her without him and with the knowledge that she too would leave me. First PawPaw, then Fred three years later, now her five years after that. I look around at people that I love dearly who aren’t getting any younger and I know this is one part of life I’m going to have to get a little stronger at. Does one ever really get good at saying goodbye?

Em & Mom

This picture is one of my favorite of Mom. That joy? She always had it when Em was around. I have siblings that would tell you she had it with me too, and I’m sure she did, but our bond was forged deep on the years she was there for me when people who should have been weren’t. With Em? She got to just do the joy. She knew I had Em in all the ways my mother let me down so she just got to love her the way a grandmother should. Even if she was her great grandmother. So precious for those two to have 20 years…how many great grandmothers get that? I know Em is drowning in more memories than I am but I also know there is a part of her that will be glad when Mom gets the one thing she has wanted for eight long years. To be with PawPaw again.

You have heard this from me more than once. You’ll probably always hear it from me. Life is short. Precious. Getting more so by the day. Hold those you love close. Appreciate those who are there for you because they want to be not because they have to be. Love HARD. It’s the only way to survive this life.

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Power of Getting Healthy

As a nation we spend our time running from one activity to the next – keeping our calendars so full that we never catch our breath – and the consequence of that is shoving every emotion and every thing we need to deal with on a shelf until the shelf, well, breaks. Most often breaks at an inopportune time that blows your life apart. When things erupt that trigger some emotion we find someone or something to blame it on so that we can move on without digging into the feeling. In the narcissistic society we live in it’s always someone else’s fault – even in situations we ourselves created. We cut people from our lives who push our buttons or make us feel more than we want to.

I know because I’ve done it. I learned it from my family and I taught it to mine. We tell ourselves it’s because they will “never” change and we “just can’t” handle them anymore. In reality it’s because we have our own growth to do it and THAT work is simply too hard. That work is uncomfortable. That work may fracture relationships that we shouldn’t have been in to begin with. We tell ourselves it’s the best thing for our family….in actuality we’re perpetuating the cycle. We’re teaching our kids to do the same running from instead of dealing with as we learned.

The thing is? When you do the work…when you find a doctor, counselor, mentor who is actually really qualified to help you…ooohhh let me tell you. That place? That healthy place where you can tell someone right then when they hurt your feelings or have a conflict? THAT is gold. That is a healing place that if we all learned how to find there wouldn’t be these hairline fractures under all our feet that is dividing our country.

The great part is that work also heals relationships. It puts people back in your life that those old voices were keeping away. It allows you to see people for who they are not for who/what all the history told you they were. THAT work takes away all the broken and clogged mental filters and just brings back clarity and sunshine.

It’s not a magic pill. It’s not an overnight change. It’s always a work in progress. As much as I’ve learned about myself in the last two years I still have days I log onto the counseling session in tears because I can’t unravel the complicated threads of my mind. But, you see, those threads don’t get nearly as tangled as they used to. I have tools now that I can use to help me come out of the dark places. I have the power to choose what I allow to rattle me and when I say “so what?”.

That is the best part. The power of getting healthy is that no one else ever has the power over me again. No one else has the power over my feelings. The power to make me feel small or like a bad person. Getting healthy means I know who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and who I will and won’t allow into my healthy space. It allows me to cut through the bullshit games and be great when I know I’m where I need to be.

That’s the place I want to be in this second chapter of my life.

Blessings y’all – Amy

And Two More Makes….SIX?!?

Y’all know me. If it has four legs and wags it’s tail at me I melt like butter on a Texas sidewalk in July. Since the addition of Lilah after Fred died my pack has always been comprised of four monsters….I mean dogs. They rule my heart and my home.

With Tim spending more and more time at the house we’ve introduced his pack to mine. His babies are just as spoiled as mine are. True dog lovers treat their dogs as their kids and the line between four legged and human kid can be kind of blurry….

Not the best pic but all six in one shot is hard!

Guys – four dogs I have mastered. We have a routine. They know where the line is on my sanity and when not to cross it. We know each other’s routines and moods. We know bed time and chill time and get the heck out from under my feet time.

Add two more to that and chaos ensues.

It’s not all bad. The first week was a little rough. No one, and I mean no one, knew where they belonged in the house. Not even me – and it was my house lol. The second week of six was amazingly much better. Poor Tim works from home so he deals with the monsters more than I do…and they play him like daughters doing doe eyes at dad…but we’re getting a routine. Everyone is finally getting some sleep. Which helps tempers and destructive tendencies. (More than a few toys have lost their lives the last two weeks though.) If anyone has a recommendation on TRULY indestructible dog toys please let me know!

We love each of them for their quirks and personalities. We are blessed that the blending of that many of them has gone as well as it has…it could have been a disaster. We are both animal people and I never thought there was a limit on the amount of animals a home could hold.

There is. That number is…SIX. 😂

How many furry friends make up your pack?

Blessings y’all – Amy

Invisible Boundaries

It may be as simple as you buy the laundry detergent your mom always used. Using the same kind of pens your first boss did (twenty years ago). Or never doing XYZ because someone important to you told you not to. Can you think of something you “always/never” do that you never stopped to think about why or that you just accepted as a fact without asking yourself why?

I ran smack into a couple of those this weekend. Let me explain. I’ve been watching the value of my Suburban for some time now with this crazy car economy. Wanting to get out of it at the end of the warranty and while I could get dang near as much as I paid for it (!). Then gas prices skyrocketed and I watched 25% of the value evaporate seemingly overnight last week. 🙄

Cue the tedious task of car shopping. In my family “we hate Fords”. Couldn’t tell you when or why that started but it’s a knowledge I grew up with from my grandpa. Yet – I felt myself drawn to the new Bronco’s. Went to look at those Saturday and that was a disaster story for another day and suffice to say – I still hate Fords. But the sporty feeling of the Bronco was clearly a Jeep knock off. The words that came out of my mouth were “I can’t have a Jeep”. The response I got was “why”.

“Fred said I can’t” – my answer

Awkward silence. Ummm. Yah. Invisible boundary. Rule I live(d) by without question. Fred’s reason, I knew, is that I drive like a crazy person and Jeep’s roll. But alas, I am a grown person capable of a) slowing the hell down and b) deciding what kind of car I want. I also wanted a truck. Because I love my yard and if you had ever seen what I hauled in that Suburban you would understand why I needed a truck. But a truck didn’t get me away from the reason I was moving away from the suburban…a gas guzzling beast of a vehicle.

A trip to the Jeep dealership landed me in wild never before thought of territory. A Jeep Gladiator. The very car I made fun of as “a Jeep that swallowed a truck and didn’t fully digest it”. 😬 But oooohhh it rides high enough that this short girl can see. Aaaahhhh it’s sporty. Ummmmm it has a truck bed. Well hell. It also comes in my favorite color – OCEAN BLUE. Dang it.

Meet my new gal. Currently being referred to as “Dory”. As in Finding Nemo. Not sure that’s the final name but sure is sticking so far.

When I say I went from one end of the emotional spectrum and back like I have NEVER on buying a car – geez. I was almost daring that dang sales guy to not giving me what I wanted for the suburban. Buying Dory meant crossing the invisible boundary in my mind laid by Fred about owning a Jeep. It meant letting go of driving a Suburban. Fred and I’s long time goal car and what I have driven since he died. Saying goodbye to driving a “mom” car and all the years spent shuffling kids and friends and STUFF everywhere. Saying goodbye really to that chapter of my life and this being another step towards this next chapter I’ve been working on for two years. It was dang hard.

With Tim’s sweet patient style and a few tears I got it done. And my challenge for you today is to ask yourself what you do in your life that is just because you “always” have. Or because it’s an invisible boundary someone (or you) laid for you. And then cross it. Big or small.

We only keep growing when we keep pushing ourselves. It’s hard. It takes work. Frankly it can suck eggs. But’s it’s what makes life interesting.

Blessings y’all – Amy