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Italy Memories

Two years ago I was in Rome, Italy. My Timehop is bombarding me with memories of all the beauty and wonder that Italy and Greece was. Thought I’d take a trip down memory lane…

Riomaggiore

This little village was perhaps one of my favorite stops of the week and was a last minute itinerary add based on the recommendation of my orthopedist. When we got there (after 36 hours awake!) I was instantly in love. Charming little area by the sea with steep enough hills to make you want to be sure you are in shape before you visit. Mailed my first overseas postcard from there and got to practice my Italian-that-sounds-like-Spanish with a sweet shop keeper who had the patience of a saint.

The Coliseum

Another bucket list item, the Coliseum, did not fail to take my breath away. From being inside it and having a grasp of just how long it has been standing to capturing it from a distance as we finished our tour it was just a magnificent experience.

Being overseas and seeing the structures that have stood for thousands of years and remain gorgeous makes you wonder why we (Americans) always tear stuff down and have to have bigger better more. The craftsman ship that was in every place we went in Italy and Greece just can’t be matched stateside!

The food!!!

I was sort of prepared to eat well in Italy…but totally unprepared for how amazing the food would be. Or that my better off gluten free self would be able to tolerate their pasta and breads so well. One of our first stops was a roadside “gas” station that offered up fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh bread you never want to stop eating. The food was like that everywhere in Italy and Greece. Makes my mouth water just to think about going back to that food!

I have hundreds of pictures from Italy and Greece. I know I will go back but there is something special about your first time. I am grateful for the TimeHop reminders to nudge another trip overseas higher up the must do list.

Ciao! – Amy

Here Come The Holidays

6 weeks until Thanksgiving. 10 weeks until Christmas. 11 weeks until we say goodbye to 2021 (who thankfully has been kinder than 2020) and hello 2022.

Freakin’ mind blowing. 2020 was a “B”. No way to sugar coat it – it just was. For so many reasons I could write a book about it. But for all the ways 2020 sucked for me (and all of us), 2021 brought about equally as many positive changes to my life. Changes I didn’t know I needed. Changes that giving thanks for them every day takes up part of my prayers each morning.

Even though life is more joyful and happy than I have known it to be in longer than I can remember, my stomach still clenches a little at the thought of the months of November and December. Aside from the fact that for at least the next six weeks work will be insane, Nov/Dec always bring out unrealistic expectations of myself and are flooded with land mines of memories and special dates.

Unlike years past this year I started working through what my expectations were of myself during these trying months before they get here. The answer? I HAVE NONE. I have committed to myself that I will not turn holiday season 2021 into a mental vortex of “gotta do’s”, tears, or judging myself for not being able to do _______________ (insert whatever). Instead I’ve mapped out the things that are important to me and with the fam and the rest will just be taken as it comes. I made plans for both November and December travel that will keep me focused on sandy beaches and frosty cocktails when I feel the stress coming on. My children are all grown so there will be no deck the halls and worrying about what the dogs eat of those decorations when I am at work. No long list of presents to buy and wrap. (hallelujah!)

The goal this year is to spend November taking a moment each day to give thanks for all I have and am blessed with. The goal for December is to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. God has so blessed my life in the last year! I want to cherish time with family and friends and keep the joy I currently can’t get enough as close to me as possible. THIS is the year I am not a crying puddle of goo by December 25th. THIS is the year that I will savor the good memories, on the important dates, and not mourn what has been lost. THIS is the year that closes a great chapter in my life but starts the next even better one.

Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Blessings – Amy

Dealbreakers?

I had a long convo with a close friend last week and through the twists and turns of that conversation came the idea of dealbreakers.

When we are young and chasing the youthful love that our 20’s bring we don’t think of what WE need. Life just feels good and is intoxicating. It never occurs to us that we can say “you are a nice person but not the person for me” because…. Mainly because at that stage of life we don’t know ourselves – let alone know how to really see people. Be it friends or lovers our emotions rule over our heads and the gut instinct you develop from life kicking the crap out of you just ain’t there yet.

But when you find yourself at the mature phase of life, seeking out someone worthy of your time for whatever reason, the rules are different. You know yourself (or should) better than you ever have. You know what you are looking for and admittedly it can seem like a needle in a haystack. But following the idea that there is a glove for every hand – settling for someone who only checks two of your ten boxes just to not be alone is insane.

For me personally? I’ve had love and I’ve been treated like a queen. The standards are high. A huge dealbreaker this time around is anyone who doesn’t have at least a little wanderlust in their heart. Seeing this huge world is the focus on the next chapter of my life. I’ve done bills and babies and hectic schedules. I want to sit on a patio in Greece and watch an incredible sunset with someone who will appreciate it as much as I do.

That someone should love animals and be able to handle craziness that comes with my nutballs. Be able to melt at a pair of puppy dog eyes as quickly as I do. Be open to the zoo that lives in my heart.

Must be a southern gentleman. Someone who makes me feel safe while making me laugh – at myself and everything else. I’ve had too many tears…laughter is required in this season.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’ve only dipped my toe back into the dating world as it is a SCARY place after almost 20 years of being devoted to one person. The world has the same number of nutballs as it always did and I’m afraid of being a magnet for them. 🤷🏻‍♀️

But it is empowering to know that with a mature heart logic can at least have a chance over lust. Fred always told me I wasn’t meant to be alone – I have too much love to give. I used to dismiss him when he said that. As I’ve healed I realize he is right. I have so much I want to do and see and while I don’t NEED anyone…having someone to share it with is how God intended life to be liven.

What are your dealbreakers?

Blessings y’all – Amy

Life After 40…

Growing up I couldn’t see myself ever making it (literally staying alive) until I was 30. Was quite sure my abusive childhood would lead me into a situation that would kill me before then. When 30 came around I was happier than I had ever been in my life. I had married my best friend and had a thriving household. It was an occasion we celebrated and I didn’t give any thought to what 40 would bring.

Fast forward 10 years and I celebrated my 40th birthday without my love. My children made sure it was an amazing celebration – checked off a couple bucket list items for that trip – so I had no reason to feel sad but I was. On this birthday the future was all I thought about. All I had ever known myself to be was predefined roles. I didn’t FEEL 40! There was a part of my brain going “this can’t be right”.

Society pushes us to seek love, marriage, and the baby carriage as ultimate life goals. Most of us rush at them like a runaway freight train and then wonder a few years later why. What we don’t learn is how important taking care of your own self is to those goals. Literally we judge others who put themselves first. I learned to be afraid of judgement from others and expected to conform myself to whomever I needed to be to serve the situation. Fred pushed me to at least be able to start the process of finding myself and my voice but when love, marriage, and the baby carriage either died or started to leave the nest chaos ensued.

With a lot of hard work, making many mistakes along the way, I am starting to figure that out. I know I am not alone in this season of discovery…heck I’ve even see that there are books written on the subject about finding oneself after 40. I’m surrounded by good people that revel with me on whatever new thing we have discovered is not as we always thought it was. I’m in an exciting time of life where I am having a blast. It’s just flat amazing how empowering it is to not have to consult with anyone before making choices. Realizing that others are so lost in their own pain and survival that they don’t even notice the thing I used fear was a neon sign above my head. The most powerful discovery for me personally is someone else’s reality isn’t mine. I am not whatever label someone else has tried to stick on me. Someone else’s judgement of me is about them and their insecurity and fears, not me. Try that one on for size. It’ll blow your mind.

But it leads me to wonder why are we not teaching our children that nurturing your own self and being an individual is not a bad thing? What would it change for the next generation if they understood individuality with make them MORE not less? How do we break the cycle of caring and/or fearing what others think? That being a healthy individual capable of standing on your own two feet makes better relationships not worse ones? Lots of food for thought on those questions for a later post.

I’ll close with…don’t be afraid of the second chapter in life. Wherever you are on your journey about you, it’s a season of empowering change that your only regret will be not discovering these truths in your 20’s. Dust off the bucket list. MAKE a bucket list. Take the trip. Wear the whatever. Do something crazy and impulsive and do not care who is watching. Maybe YOU will inspire someone else!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Cruising Through Life?

Carnival Horizon peeking through the palms in La Romana

When I go too long between cruises I forget. I forget the energy that thrums through your body when you wake up on embarkation day and realize that FINALLY it’s time to get onboard. I forget how my heart races when my foot crosses the threshold of the ship and every muscle in my body screams “YES”. I also forget the way life just fades away and time slows down for a few days.

But the people? People are different onboard.

The crew you meet…there aren’t words for these amazing human beings. They make you feel like you are the most special person in their world for a week. They have some superhuman capacity for remembering they have met you before. With the thousands of faces they see I have no idea how on that one. But some of the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate gentle souls I have ever met dedicate their lives to these ships and making vacations unforgettable. It makes me physically ill when I see the few that can’t seem to leave their bad attitudes at home and abuse them like they are servants. More on that another time.

Amber Cove – a look at just how big Carnival Horizon is!

I think the most fascinating is how the guests are. 98% are more easy going and open to meeting new people than they ever would be at home. If the human race could tap into the energy and attitude you find aboard a cruise ship? Hell, we’d have no wars or division anywhere. There is something truly magical about meeting someone you wouldn’t have met otherwise (mainly because they live 1000 miles away from you) and feeling your heart click like they are your best friend. I can’t tell you how many of these friendships I have made that remain near and dear to my heart.

Prior to this week it has been 18 months since I was on a ship. The longest I’ve gone since 2012. Now that I have proven to myself I can do it alone, and love it, I can assure you that will be the longest gap I will have for as long as God provides me the ability to keep cruising through life. ❤️

Blessings y’all – Amy

Seas The Day!

Ever had an idea take root in your brain and just not let go? I mean really not let go? When I was relaying such an idea to my daughter and it reduced me to tears I knew it was more than an idea. It was a bona fide gotta do no matter what thing. Let me back up….

There are people who come into your life and you know they are meant to be there always. You may not see them every day. You may not see them every year. But they are ingrained in the fabric of your life and you miss them. Sometimes more fiercely than others.

In my life, one of those people is this sweet lady. We met Annamaria on our Carnival Vista Thanksgiving cruise in 2017. My soul was in fresh hell from losing Fred. She made me smile and laugh that cruise – turned it into a normal Thanksgiving vacation for us. Just helped me escape reality.

We flew to New York for my 40th birthday in July 2018 to join her on the Carnival Horizon. (And to check off a bucket list first trip to NYC!) It was like not a minute had passed! That trip remains one of the most epic in all 17 of my sailings. We made so many friends. Annamaria added Zoran to my list of favorite Alchemists and we partied until closing every night. Hell of a way to ring in a milestone birthday.

I didn’t get to see Anna again until a late Feb/early March trip in California on the Carnival Panorama two weeks before COVID started. A prophetic trip in so many ways. My first cruise “out of season” for me. I’m a summer and Thanksgiving cruise gal. My first cruise without at least one of the kids. I went into it thinking life was finally looking up and came off the ship with the bottom pulled out of my world.

What has followed has been 18 months of moments of pure hell. Grieving that I delayed for four years. Self discovery. Growth. Figuring out who I am when I put myself first. That I get to come first! 90 lbs gone off my body. And through it all Anna has checked on me. And Em. Did I mention she adores Em? Despite being stuck at home due to COVID she got presents to both my youngest kids to celebrate their COVID warped graduations spring of 2020. This picture below was from our day in Puerto Vallarta where she got to get off the ship. Shots of Jagger (her favorite) while we walked around and lively lunch.

Puerto Vallarta March 2020

Now back to the idea….

What is happening today is a celebration of all that has been gained in the last 18 months. Strength. Independence. Freedom. Friendship. Relationships that last despite distance, disease, or time. I am rewarding myself with 8 days of sunshine, my precious ocean, island time, and a bar stool at my favorite bar. Celebrating strength Fred knew I had but I didn’t. Celebrating my next chapter and closing the last one (can I nail that one shut?). Celebrating that God gave me life and it’s not mine to squander or let anyone take away from me.

I am embarking on my first solo vacation ever. I get to knock this one off the bucket list. I am equal parts crazy scared and excited. But even more exhilarating is I am headed to see Anna. She has NO idea. It’s a total surprise. Her sweet hubby knows. Has known for weeks. I have no idea how he has kept it from her. Truthfully I have no idea how I have kept it from her or the world. Em thought I would crack weeks ago. I think the only way I have kept it has been to just not think or talk about the trip. 8 days of smiles, laughter, and reconnecting with my sweet friend sounds like pure heaven to me. 🙂

My message today is this. Life is short. Embrace those that love you even on your worst day and let the others kiss your ass. “Seas” the day and do the things you love that bring you joy. We only get one life and it’s too damn short to let anyone or anything make you unhappy. It may sound like a bunch of trite sayings…but it’s better to live life with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face than live with regrets.

Now I gotta go get my Vitamin Sea! – Amy

13 Mothers

I have to be careful how much news I watch. How often I get sucked down the rabbit hole of his opinion vs her opinion and all that that entails. It is difficult to get any truly impartial news anymore anyway so often I just tune it out.

What I have not been able to tune out, nor would I want to, the last few days is the heartbreak that 13 mothers are facing. The overwhelming and unending grief that they are consumed by as their brains try and make sense of the news that their selfless children gave their lives for their country. I don’t think I could come close to understanding their pain; but I think that every mother has some idea on some level the agony they would feel if they couldn’t hold their babies one more time. It was instinctual for me to want to reach out to mine this morning. To assure myself they are safe and whole. It brings tears when I think about those 13 mothers that will never have that comfort again.

The solemn procession of a fallen solider to his final resting place

In April Amy and I were fortunate enough to take a trip to Washington D.C. and I will carry the sense of patriotism I felt there for the rest of my life. As we stood in Arlington National Cemetery and watched a fallen soldier be taken slowly and with all the honor he deserved to his final resting place my heart ached for him and all the lives that lay before me. As the 21 gun salute rang out in the distance I got chills. You see I have always considered myself an American. Fred and I always taught our children to thank soldiers when they saw them. Buy their meal or their coffee. Small tokens that don’t equate at all for the sacrifices they make for us. Standing in that sacred space finally gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.

13 soldiers gave their lives for us. 13 mothers will never be the same. Their hearts are forever shattered. The only way we can honor that is by remembering their sacrifice every day as we go about our lives. Lives that are preciously free because of their sacrifice. By honoring our flag and our forefathers. By uniting as a nation and staring down terrorism and those that wish us harm.

All gave some. Some gave all.

To the veterans, to those on active duty, and to the families that support them. To those that have gone on due to their service. To the 13 mothers with broken hearts that I feel so deeply today.

Thank you. And God Bless You.

Need My Vitamin Sea

As a card carrying down to the nth degree Cancer large bodies of water, salt air, and sand in my toes are the only things that calm the storms in my heart. I literally can have had the worst week and the minute my feet hit the sand the knots in my shoulders start to unfurl.

The world is churning in much the same way as an angry sea. While we all fretfully watch it giving inclinations that it’s going to shudder to a close (again) I’m holding my breath. I find myself praying, daily, for God to heal the world. To release us from captivity of fear, anger, distrust, and mistrust. For us to find common ground as the compassionate humans He designed us to be.

Selfishly I don’t want to be thrown back into the stress and anxiety that being cut off from society brought about last year. I don’t want to lose human interaction. The ability to go and do. To travel. To live LIFE. It feels difficult for us to understand just how devastating this radical shift in normal has been for each other. Maybe that’s just my perspective but holy heck it would seem we’d all be a lot more patient if we could imagine the pain we are each in and respond accordingly.

Me? I am long overdue for a dose of vitamin sea. Not sure how or when I’ll get it but it’s high on my list of priorities. To feel the sun on my face. The sea breeze in my hair. The hot sand burning my toes. It’s been way too long since I felt the sand under my toes and filled my lungs with that intoxicating salt air that calms my soul like nothing else can.

Tranquility

Vitamin sea is the best medicine in the world. And there isn’t a pharma company in the world that has figured out how to sell THAT.

Blessings y’all – A

Falsely Positive?

We’ve all been around those people who seem to have it all going their way. On top of that they are cheerleaders for life. Their social media reads like a motivation app. The little voice in your head screams “NO ONE IS THAT HAPPY. PUT TOGETHER. POSITIVE ALL THE TIME”. You are right. They aren’t.

As someone who used to flip past those messages as fast as I could, because they annoyed me, I can honestly say I used to think “I wish just once you’d post about having a bad day.” It’s not that we wish ill on them. It’s that we want to know they are human like us. That they hurt. That they tripped on the way out the door and had to wear a coffee stain all day. That the gorgeous dish in the photo took three attempts to get just right. Heck, even that they would misspell a word would make us feel better.

Amazon.com: Be the Change You Wish to See Inspirational Quotes Wall Art  Prints World Map Artwork Unframed (12x16) : Handmade Products
Words to Live By

What I am learning as I dig into this season of self discovery in my life is that those messages aren’t trying to nauseate us all. Ok, there are probs some fakers out there but I’m speaking about the good humanity I believe in as a whole. Speaking for myself, I have been surrounded in the last year by faith, apps, books, and truly good people that have encouraged me to change my way of thinking. To receive a positive motivation on my app, feel it deeply, and want nothing more than to pay it forward. It may not be as well received as the coffee I paid for for the guy behind me but the intent is the same.

Ghandi told us “Be the change you want to see in the world”. It is said that Ghandi’s full intended meaning behind the saying was to set an example and implement the right kind of changes in order to make the world a beautiful place. Left, right, polka dotted, yellow, or striped I think we all agree where the world is at this very minute could use a little change. No matter how small.

BE the change WE want to see in the world.

The best thing we can do when we read or hear things that touch our heart or that change US is share it with others. So the next time that inclination to flip on by comes over ya, I dare ya to stop and read instead. The message just might be something you needed at that exact moment to change YOUR world.

And there is nothing falsely positive about that at all. It’s just positively beautiful.

Blessings y’all – Amy

False Evidence Appearing Real

Ever hear something once and it registers but your brain kind of dismisses it? Then when you see it again…in big letters on the motivation app on your phone…it smacks you in the face? Sometimes I wonder if that’s because the way it is presented is different or if it’s because we’re in a different headspace on the second or third (or thirtieth) time of being presented with a message.

F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real.

Ask an anxiety sufferer and they will tell you their fear is VERY much real. To them (us/me) it IS. You “normal” folks think we have a screw loose. But you can tell me that the spider that is outside my front door is NOT going to somehow climb out from under my shoe and bite me while I’m squashing it and I’m still going to be safely inside the house trembling. It’s a SPIDER. They kill people with their bites. That’s the only bit of evidence my worried brain has retained and the logical “you are 135 lbs to his .05 lbs” never gets a chance to weigh in. (Huge shout out BTW to my bestie Becky for driving over with her spider spray and killing it for me!)

Another example. Ever walk into a room and conversation stops and you are SURE that everyone in that room had to be talking about you? No evidence to support that other than that fretful voice in your head saying “do I have a spot on my shirt, is my hair sticking up, did I put on pants”? It’s the F.E.A.R. of judgement, condemnation, and standing out that makes us sure that ill timed pause in conversation pertained to us. In reality, as humans, most of us are too involved in our own mess to notice anyone else’s.

A more personal example? I was adamant from the time Fred died that I couldn’t live alone. I didn’t know how, my world centered on my family, I am deaf enough that I am not safe, etc etc. That F.E.A.R. for four plus years damn near stopped my life. Alienated parts of my family. Made me so anxious, stressed, and afraid that my body turned on me. Like to the tune of 85 pounds lost in 11 months turned on me. Guess what? 99% of the time I prefer to be in my house by myself. I have no one to clean up after, my house never stinks, laundry “day” consists of about one load, I always have groceries and my favorite cookies in the pantry….you get the idea. Do I still wish I had someone to kill the spider/roach/whatever creepy crawly? Yep. Is that reason enough to live in fear trying to control everything out of my control to stop time? Nope. (Do I miss the time when my husband was alive and my kids were little? Every damn day.)

I was brought up taught to be afraid. Taught in childhood and young adulthood either by example or being told “don’t do this – it’ll hurt you”, “don’t say that – you’ll hurt my feelings”, and “do xyz – or something bad will happen”. Sometimes presented as rules but more often than not just presented as punishment when I did the “thing” I was being taught to be afraid of. Also taught later in life by trauma and loss that the world was something to be afraid of.

So how do we keep F.E.A.R. from running our life? I don’t have all the answers – I’m still a work in progress. Learning to push against those fears is HARD! But one thing I am finding that works is when I feel that familiar surge of panic/anxiety in my chest I stop and breathe. I ask myself “do I have any evidence that what I am afraid of can happen”? If I do – what is the worst case scenario? What is the best case? In most situations we land somewhere in the middle. (I did lose the battle on the spider!)

But it is a choice. It’s a choice to question, every day, until your curiosity and your heart are open and F.E.A.R. isn’t your driver. It’s a hard choice, the safe corner F.E.A.R. pushes you into is WAY more comfortable, but every time I’ve stared it down I’ve been dumbfounded at what I found on the other side.

See you there! Blessings y’all! – Amy