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Celebrating Love & Friendship

Someone said once that time heals all wounds. I’d be willing to bet that person hadn’t REALLY had loss in their life. Don’t get me wrong. Life is moving on. In so many fabulous ways. But as I stare down the barrel of several memory anniversaries this week I’m a little melancholy.

Turns out…time never heals grief. It eases the sharpness as you struggle to breathe. It dulls the edges in a way that makes living come back in ways you can’t imagine possible in the immediate aftermath. But time does not ever heal grief. Because grief can’t be healed. Each year the calendar rolls dates around that tug the fine hairs under the band-aid you’ve put on the pain. You find ways to brace for it. To get through it. To ask for help. But on those days the pain is very much there.

TimeHop has begun reminding me of the season of life that the kids and I were in this time six years ago. This week on Friday would have been my sixteenth wedding anniversary. As I mull that over…how many years Fred has been gone versus here a knot forms in my stomach. February 4th would have been my grandpa’s birthday.

I can honestly look back and know that these impending dates don’t send me spiraling into the hole they once did. I can proudly say that is because I’ve done the work. I’ve invested the energy in myself to know that I am a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tremendously glad that when the idea came up to run away this week that I wasn’t completely and totally on board. Spend a week away with a man who loves me and makes room for the days that I’m not quite ok? Yep. Spend a week doing one of the things I love most with friends who are like family to me? Yep. Sign me up.

Add surprising all those friends to the list (my favorite thing to do to people I love) and I’m all in.

We boarded the Carnival Celebration today. To celebrate being loved. Not once not twice but by three amazing men. My PawPaw who contradicted all the crappy awful abusive men my mother chose. Fred who took a broken girl, gave her an instant family, and was patient while she loved too hard and held on a little too tight. And this wonderful man who walks beside me now. Who quietly and patiently lets me know every day that I am worth being loved. That bruised and slightly damaged as I may be I deserve to be loved as hard as I love.

We are celebrating friendship. These that I have made in all the years I’ve traveled. The special relationships I have that I constantly confuse the mess out of Tim because he can’t remember all the names but he loves them all because they make me happy.

Love hard friends. Life is short and precious and can change on a dime.

Blessings – Amy

What Are We Doing to Our Oceans?

Have you ever seen an 8’ tall octopus made out of the trash we are putting into our oceans? What about an eagle with a 17’ wingspan? I have. And while my artist heart sings at the beauty of these sculptures my environmental heart is breaking at the eye opening amount of trash that is making it into our oceans. Truthfully there are things making it to our oceans that I couldn’t have even fathomed winding up there. Everything from toothbrushes to motorcycle helmets to pregnancy tests. Not to mention the absurd amount of flip flops, discarded coolers, and water bottles.

An organization called Washed Ashore is raising awareness through art. To date they have processed 60,000 lbs of plastic and have created some magnificent sculptures to entertain the eye while educating us on what is going into the sea. The exhibit is currently on display in Galveston (through March 5th) and the city turned it into something fun. You can “check in” at each sculpture and when you have seen 9 of the 20 you can submit it to the visitors center for some Galveston swag. We didn’t really care about the swag but searching out the sculptures took us to parts of the island even my 30 year island loving heart hadn’t been. We had tons of fun doing this but it set my brain whirring.

Octavia the Octopus

Irving has reduced it’s trash pick up day to once a week and really doesn’t promote doing recycling. I live in a neighborhood that I have several neighbors who still loyally put out their blue bags (yeah!) but since I wasn’t sure if they were actually making it to a recycling center I was hesitant. Let’s face it – it DOES take work to reduce your footprint on the environment. Much like eating organic or cutting down on driving to help pollution – it takes concentrated effort to recycle. You have to rinse food items off plastic or metal you are recycling, break down boxes, and know what can and can’t be recycled.

Edward the Turtle

But something about these sculptures this weekend reminded me how very important that effort is. As a marine life lover we’re feeding our animals trash! Why do the marine animals that are part of the circle of life that feed us and sustain us deserve that? Being frank – if it’s going in their bodies it’s going into ours in some form or fashion.

Back to what can I do different? While Tim and I were talking we sat and we ordered a dual trash can that will allow us to easily get trash where it goes and recyclable materials in those precious blue bags. Doing some research I realized that the food we throw away in the trash winds up in landfills creating gas that is getting into the air. So we also are going to begin composting again. I did this years ago and enjoyed it – just gotta get set back up again.

Full disclosure: I was already on the beginnings of a composting kick.

Rosa the Eagle

I fully admit I contribute to the water bottle problem. With the things I put in my water grabbing one and going is easiest. I am the chief supplier of water to the office – also in the form of plastic water bottles. We’ve resolved to get a Brita filter for the fridge and switch over to a reusable water bottle when at home or at the office. If we have to use plastic on the go we’ll be able to recycle it when we get home.

None of these feel like big enough changes to help with the size of the problem I saw on display this weekend but I know that if I make a small change and every other person who saw what I saw makes a change it WILL bring change. I could write a book on all the ways our oceans and marine life are in trouble but I’ll instead just ask that you check out the site and make any small changes you can to protect the world we live in.

Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea

Blessings y’all – Amy

Did You More Than Survive?

For those of you that dread the holidays – I’m talking to you! How are you feeling today? Did you thrive yesterday or just survive? Or did you, like me, perhaps find a new version of Christmas?

I woke up today reflective. Appreciative of getting through yesterday without tears and without pain that takes my breath away. Those were new. I went to bed last night without an aching back or aching feet from having cooked all day – we ordered in breakfast to chill-ax with presents longer. I didn’t stress out over “did I remember to text everyone” or “did she or didn’t she REALLY like my gift”? I think some of the easier is coming with age and some of it was from being surrounded with two people who love me beyond all things – it was about the time together. This was Tim’s first we-aren’t-leaving-our-PJ’s-today Christmas and he was all about it. With the kids grown and all doing their own thing it does lend a simplicity to the holidays that think I could get used to.

Smiling Girl Kind!

Do not get me wrong. I am very glad to put another holiday season behind me. I read one of my TimeHop posts from 8 years ago today, the first Christmas without my grandpa, and it brought a lump to my throat. If I had to pinpoint an exact moment when the holidays became a struggle that year would be it. I expected this year to be more challenging since we said goodbye to Mom in 2022. There was a moment when we dug out one of her dishes for the cranberry sauce where I know my angels were watching because Em and I both could have lost it and instead we were able to mention Mom and smile.

For those that don’t know me – surprises are my thing. Giving and receiving. This year’s gift exchange held surprises both physical and emotional. Listening to Em and Tim work together on Christmas Eve on my stocking was priceless. Opening gifts that a) I had no idea what they were and b) couldn’t have guessed if I tried was amazing. (You mom’s know what I’m talking about – we do the giving not the receiving at the holidays!)

My OCD brain gets me even when I’m not trying…didn’t mean to match his wrapping paper and PJ’s!

Tim reminded me again how very much he pays attention when I talk. Renovating the greenhouse so I can grow all the green things is on our January to do list but he got me an AeroGarden. “Something I knew you wanted but wouldn’t buy yourself.” Not gonna lie – it was set up before the cooking got started. Those moments of realizing God has brought someone into my life who loves me when I’m having a really bad day or listens when I talk are humbling.

I was asked a couple of times yesterday if I was glad I was home for Christmas. My initial gut response was still “no”. But having slept on it (or attempted to sleep on it since I’ve now been up since 3 am) I think the answer is yes. Yesterday was peaceful. And that, more than anything, was all I wanted for Christmas. To not be so lost in grief I felt incapable of breathing is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Blessings y’all – A

And the last one is 21…

She might be the youngest of my three but she was the first to make me a mama. She is the one that I see the most of me reflected back at me….the stubborn strength, the fierce protective heart of those she loves most in the world, and the rage at the injustices of the world. And Lord help me my mouth!

My baby girl turns 21 today. At 8:05 pm tonight to be exact but only a mama remembers those things. Right about now (way before dawn) I was walking into the hospital to be induced and due to a full moon and a whole lot of women who wanted babies to come before Christmas it was a long day for both me and the other doctors and mamas to be. I remember the impatience to meet her. The anxiety over the actual getting her into the world process. The enormous responsibility I knew I was undertaking. And the purest love I have ever known when I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time.

Easily one of my favorite pictures of my baby girl…

It was just Em and I for the first four years of her life before Fred and the other two babies came along. We had a hell of a support tribe in Mom, PawPaw, and Nana. We’d have been ok just us but Em and I are pretty damn glad the rest of our family came along. Especially since Em is a daddy’s girl through and through. She loves her mama, don’t get me wrong, but she’d leave me on the side of the road for another day on this earth with Fred. The only cloud on today is that he’s watching it from up above instead of celebrating it here with us today.

It took us a long time to find our way with each other after he passed – somewhere around the time the boy kind moved in he got tucked up under my wing and she under Fred’s – but she is the kiddo who protected me against the world in the darkest days I’ve had in the years since Fred died. The kiddo I still have to remind sometimes that I’m the mama and she is the baby. The kiddo who didn’t turn her back on me when I gave up on myself. The kiddo who didn’t know how many days her existence gave me a reason to not give up.

The thing about Em that I have always admired is her independence. She doesn’t need ANYONE to define who she is. She has those she lets close that she’ll go to the ends of the earth for but she doesn’t need them as a definition of herself. She’s always been able to think for herself – and tell you what she thinks – and fight for what she wants. She’ll look a grown man in the eye and tell him he’s dead wrong and not back down. She’s got a strength that comes from knowing pain and loss in her formative years. She knows the true meaning of “life is short” and doesn’t waste time on bullshit. She’s still figuring out her future but she is doing it on her terms.

As her mama I couldn’t be more proud of her. As an observer, I wish I had more of her gumption. I know she has some angels on her shoulders that will always watch over her. I can’t believe it’s been 21 years since they put her in my arms. There are days I missed too much because of work and life and illness but that’s the beauty of the second season….you reflect, you see things, and you make it better moving forward.

Tonight we’re celebrating a beautiful, smart, talented young woman turning 21!. I’m gonna drag my butt into work tomorrow and have no regrets because the smile on my baby’s face tonight is gonna be amazing! Y’all take time today to wish her a Happy Birthday!

Blessings y’all – Amy

O Holy…Yah All That

Somewhere around the time you have your first go round with grief Christmas loses it’s first piece of the magic. By the second, third, or anywhere there after Christmas becomes a field of land mines to be navigated carefully in order to get from December 1st to December 31st in one piece. To come out of it anywhere close to sane without having a) lost a ton of weight b) quit your job or your family or c) stepped off the nearest cliff. You have days where you feel good. You do all the things – shop for the presents, plan the traditions, listen to the music. And then you have the others days….

Those days are the ones you have to watch out for. The days where you hope your tribe is near and their intervention is swift. Where the tears (or the rage) come so quickly it takes your breath away.

I remember, clearly, the first Christmas that was different. It was Christmas of 2014. My grandpa had passed in May and sometime in that summer I had shut off feeling. Stuffed everything in a box because something about his death reminded me, daily, that I was going to lose Fred and Mom (my grandma). Looking back I know now that was when I should have started my counseling journey, but you know, I was busy raising kids and taking care of everyone else first. Before that Christmas I was THE Christmas person. Traditions for the kids, Christmas music before Thanksgiving, more presents than would fit under the tree, kids having to have a stocking box because I got too much for their stocking, all the things. I pray my kids didn’t notice how much had changed for me that year but I’m learning now just how astute my children were so I know they did.

Fast forward to Christmas 2017. The year we lost Fred. We flat didn’t do it that year. I took the kids, and one of my might as well have been my kids, and boarded a ship. Started a new tradition of running away. Though the ships always celebrated Christmas something about not being at home where all the memories were made it easier to endure. COVID forced us home for one Christmas and I am positive I cried through the whole thing.

Despite having endured the loss of Mom this year – I am staying put for Christmas. I refuse to have my baby girl go through this holiday alone. But beyond that – I’m going to prove to myself how much work I have done. That I can do this. I know I am stronger now than I have ever been though there have been many days in the first 13 of this month I have questioned that – I’ll be honest. (I also am hightailing it out of town right after Christmas but that’s my reward.)

In the meantime, I’m going through the usual cycle of drowning in memories, experiencing daily roller coasters of emotions, and learning to be patient with myself in riding it out. But what I am NOT doing is stuffing it in a box. Ignoring my pain. It is exhausting the expectations to be “jolly” when you’d rather crawl under the covers and cry.

Grief is a monster that once it has you – it never lets you go. It may ease it’s grip sometimes, you may be able to put a leash on it and contain it for a while, but it’s like a second skin you have to learn to live with. If you were lucky enough to love and be loved? That grief is an indicator of the hole their absence left in your life. I have lost three wonderful people so far in my life – each loved me beyond measure – so I’ll carry their love and learn how to ride out the tough times and cherish the memories no matter how long it takes me to learn how.

If you are grieving this holiday season, be patient with yourself. If you know someone who is grieving, love them through it. Just being there is more help than you know. The holidays aren’t the stuff they portray in magazines and on TV. For some, they are a hellish 31 days to endure. Be kind. Be sensitive. Be thankful if you still feel their magic. Most of all…blessings.

Amy

The Blessing and Curse of Being An Over Thinker

These days most of us know an over thinker. Or are one ourselves (raising my hand over here). By Merriam Webster’s definition to over think is to think too much about (something) or to put too much time into thinking about or analyzing (something) in a way that is more harmful than helpful. However, some very famous people were over thinkers – Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Orville Wright. To my way of thinking, and in my experience, it’s a blessing and a curse.

Starting with the positive – most over thinkers are great problem solvers. This comes from being able to look at most people, situations, and things from all angles (admittedly sometimes too much or too long) and find solutions that others can’t see. The 30,000 foot view if you will. They can rearrange the pieces in a problem like no one else. Some can think on their feet quickly and thrive on the challenge of being able to “fix it”.

The curse of this particular skill? The anxiety and stress when normal people need to do things their way even when the over thinker thinks they can see the disaster (ok maybe “disaster” is a strong word – how about less than ideal outcome) coming at them. When you have an empathic over thinker who wants to avoid anyone else feeling anything other than happy you have a mess. Their deep level of thinking gets them inappropriately called things like “control freak”, “nag”, or “bossy”. In reality – they aren’t any of these things. Their brain just never shuts down so they see all the worst case scenarios and try to prevent them to help the people they love.

Their thoughts are never quiet and they don’t understand the response “nothing” to the question “what are you thinking”. How can someone be thinking literally nothing?!?! What does all that quiet in your head feel like? To them things mean something, or happen for a reason, and everything is a “why”.

Don’t even think about lying to an over thinker. Due to being great critical thinkers, they have the uncanny ability to sniff out lies. Because when something doesn’t sound right to them their mind won’t let it go and they turn it over and over in their head until they pick apart the holes in the story. They are a narcissists worst nightmare because an over thinker can spot false, fake, or ill intention-ed people from one conversation with them. Over thinkers have a deep desire to figure people out and often can’t let go of that uneasy feeling someone gives them. They are great judges of character – their level of sniffing people out is on par with that of kids and dogs.

When an over thinker thinks they have hurt someone they will spend hours and hours going over every minute, every detail, of the situation trying to Monday morning quarterback what they could have done differently. Why they said what they said. One of the most positive traits of an over thinker though? When they apologize it comes from the bottom of their heart – they cannot fake apologies.

Over thinkers are perfectionists. They pride themselves on being great at what they do and strive to do their best. But when they don’t get everything right and come up short, they are their own harshest critic. They have to make lists of what needs done, so they can cross things off said list, and feel accomplished. Sound sleep is a rare thing for over thinkers. They cannot shut the machine that is their brain off – it is constantly swirling and contemplating. And there is always that list running through their heads. 😉

Why write about this now you ask? Over thinking lol. It’s busy time at work and it’s the time of year my brain works extra hard putting out fires and solving puzzles to get everything that needs done done. We’re also doing some deeper stuff in counseling that has me puzzling over why I do some of the things I do – good and bad. So yah – over thinking.

Hug an over thinker in your life and thank them for the amount of time they spend over thinking about you!

Blessings y’all – Amy

A Whale Named Barnacles

My timing is always crazy but as I sit in my steamy beach town my thoughts are on the whale I met in September in Alaska. Hahaha. Maybe because this 2000+ lb whale made enough of an impression on me that we named Tim’s car after her. Let me tell you about our whale excursion and a whale named Barnacles.

The tour we took in Juneau in September was a whale watching tour and my greatest wish was to see an orca. When we boarded the bus our guide said that while it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility he had only seen orcas six times since April (and it was September). But the whale gods were with me. We weren’t on board the boat 15 minutes and the captain got a call that an Orca named Captain Hook had been spotted. Named such because his dorsal fin had gotten caught in something at one point and was curved over in an unnatural way. He was a scout orca for a transient pod – scouting food for his pod while they were safely some distance away. There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings that went through me when my eyes landed on that whale. There were tears and there was a video sent to my baby girl. Like most ocean things whales are OUR thing.

Back to Barnacles. After Captain Hook moved on they took us into a cove a few minutes away and there were numerous humpback whales breaching the surface. Even with many whale watching boats in the area the silence and the majestic-ness (yes that’s a word lol) of being still and listening to these huge creatures blow out of their blowholes was amazing. The air was still, the scenery behind them just stunning, the eagles soaring above them, and these huge creatures closer than you can even imagine was a once in a lifetime experience. The guide had told us to take as many pictures as possible. We were on a scientific type tour where they tried hard to match the whale tails to their records to see which of the whales they had identified were in the area so they can track their patterns, babies, etc.

Never did I ever anticipate that I would get a good enough picture of a whale’s fluke to be able to match one in the book. Mind you, I was using my iPhone. But after an hour of watching these amazing creatures breach and swim around us we headed back to shore. While we did they passed around a book for us to compare our pictures with the known whales in the area. I was stunned to realize I had a picture of a mama whale named Barnacles. (For that matter so was the guide!). She is a 57’ whale, one of the largest in the world, identified in 2007. They didn’t say if she was identified as a baby whale or not but geez that makes her at minimum 15 years old.

I went into the Alaska trip skeptical I would like the cold. Knowing the whale excursion would likely be my favorite. I was wrong on one and right on the other. I can’t wait to go back to Alaska. Made a promise to the baby girl that we wouldn’t go back without her. One I am already chomping at the bit to fulfill.

If you have nothing else on your bucket list – put Alaska on it. It’s worth it.

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Last Frontier

I have no idea why but as I’ve sailed the Caribbean this week my Alaska adventure has been heavy on my mind. Maybe because I’ve been hopelessly cold….the AC works well on this ship. Maybe because of the comparisons I’ve drawn in my mind between the Holland ship I was on then and the Carnival one I am on now. Such different environments and both pull at my heart.

The breathtaking view from our boat

Alaska was….magnificent. As someone who doesn’t like the cold I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t like Alaska. I hate….I mean HATE….being cold. Bundled up like a snowman is my least favorite thing to be. What I wasn’t prepared for was that Alaska would pull at the small town girl that lives in my heart.

Seals hanging out on the iceberg chunks

We ported in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and alongside an iceberg. All three of the little towns had that straight from a Lifetime movie quaintness that only a Texas girl can fully crave and appreciate. So much so I actually checked out real estate up there for a little while. But did I mention cold? We went whale watching in Juneau. To see bears and bald eagles in Sitka. Shopping and wandering in Ketchikan. The most majestic of those was the hour and a half we spent on a small boat a half mile from an iceberg watching it calve. Seeing the sea lions sprawled on the ice bergs. Listening to the sea lions tussle as they sunbathed. I wish I had the right words to describe that. Even as good as I am with words I just can’t describe it. You have to experience it.

One of my fav pictures of Tim that week

The quiet and calm that reigns in Alaska was perhaps the biggest surprise. Everywhere you go you can just breathe. It’s peaceful. It gives you a sense of just how small you are in a big big world. Floating in a bay with the engine cut on the boat listening to the whales breach the surface was the calmest I think I have ever been in my life.

I have told several people this….I had the absolute most picture perfect Alaska adventure. My first trip to the last frontier couldn’t have been any more perfect. But I literally cannot wait to go back. And take my Em.

Have you been?

Blessings y’all – Amy

But First, Seattle!

As I sit in the airport, headed home from our Alaskan adventure, Seattle seems so long ago!!! Seattle made a huge impression on me – hard to believe it’s only been a little over a week since we landed here. While we didn’t do some of the typical Seattle nods such as the Space Needle or Aquarium we did cover a lot of ground by the market. Like literally a lot of ground – we walked about 15 miles in two and a half days!

We were blessed with a gorgeous day on the first day we were in town. The locals all said it was usually overcast. Seattle being the city with the 7th highest rainfall totals I was expecting to be wet during our time there. But Friday was literally a perfect day. We got up early (read I couldn’t sleep) and headed into the market area. This was the first thing I saw when we came around the corner. Pretty sure I almost got hit by a car stopping in my tracks to dig for my phone. 🙂

Original Starbucks!

My primary mission? To get my first Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) of the 2022 fall season at the Original Starbucks in Pike’s Market. Tim had braced himself for the line but we only waited about 15 minutes. The barista working the door said that line can be upwards of an hour and a half and when we saw it again on Saturday I believe him! The door barista also gave me a tip to get my PSL with their “reserve” blend coffee that is only available at the original SB. It was a solid tip – it took away the bitter bite that SB coffee usually has on the occasion I go for coffee. It was well worth the four days wait for that first PSL…and I had no idea that ALL merch from that first stop was brown instead of the traditional SB green. Poor Tim got to carry a bag with him the rest of the day with my goodies.

A tiny sampling of the gorgeous flowers…

We spent all day at the market just wandering. The flowers were incredible and the smell can be a little overwhelming in some sections of the market because there are so many. If I lived anywhere close to the market I would have fresh flowers in my home all the time… They were way prettier than anything I’ve seen at the store and way less expensive! Lots of vendors selling everything under the sun – but to be a market vendor you have to be selling something original – so Tim got worried about suitcase space very very quickly. I think I have more Seattle treasures/souvies coming home than I do from Alaska.

Our second main objective was to find a little hidden speakeasy called Bathtub Gin & Co. I mean, y’all know me right? Bathtub themed? Gin? This little hidden gem was practically calling my name! Tim got a little uneasy when we wound up in a back alley on a sketch side of town but once I saw the bouncer I told him to shush – we were fine. They lead you into this dark tiny place and our seats were a cut in half bathtub! Some locals spotted “tourist” on our forehead pretty quickly and started giving out places to eat and see while we were in town almost faster than I could put them in my phone. The only thing I wish I had done different was connect the mental dots of switching out their well gin for one of the special ones they had on the menu that I like. But the atmosphere was incredible.

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Saturday was pretty much a repeat of Friday. We could have gone and done other things but the market just spoke to both of us. We had a chef guided food tour of the market scheduled and for the most part they had a gluten free option for me at every stop. The ones they didn’t Tim just got to have his portion and mine! He had a lot of local perspective and stories about the market that was mingled in with our 2 1/2 hour walking tour. The market atmosphere on Saturday was markedly different than Friday – it was wall to wall people with so many sounds and smells I was quickly in sensory overload.

About 4 pm on Saturday evening we both ran out of steam. The miles of walking, most of which was on hills/stairs, plus short nights and my uncooperative stomach took its toll. We got really lucky though. The restaurant located in our hotel had an amazing menu and a very friendly bartender. We managed to kill our Saturday night there without having to leave the hotel again. It was also one of the few meals of the week that my stomach actually decided to keep. (Traveling sets off my anxiety which triggers my stomach…usually it lets up after a few days but I have been sick the entire ten days this time. It’s one of the few sour notes on the week.)

Sunday we had scheduled a Lyft to the port and other than having a few more hours to kill (I got to do one more walk through the market and Tim finally hit the line short enough to try the donuts) it was time to say goodbye to Seattle. I cannot wait to come back and spend more time in this city!

Blessings, y’all! – Amy

If You Knew Then?

If you knew in your 20’s what you know now would you have done anything different? What about in your 30’s? For some reason as I absolutely thrive in this season of life that question pings around in my head sometimes. I am surrounded by co-workers who are in all the seasons of life and while I miss parts of those seasons I can admit there was a lot about those seasons that were HARD.

Counseling has shown me that what I wanted most in my 20’s was to be loved. To have the security and stability of a family that I did not have growing up. Whether it was from how I grew up or just how God made me – I was always born to be a mother. Em’s arrival in my life, while hard as a single parent, was a season in my life where I knew who I was. It was a role I was comfortable in after how I grew up taking care of my siblings. Fred’s arrival in my life brought a best friend then eventually instant family.

But what didn’t happen was any sort of learning or growth about myself. My identity centered on others. That continued into my 30’s. Paralleled in who I was in the work environment. What I couldn’t see then, that is so clear now, was that I was slowly going backwards in growth, progress, and happiness while everyone else was moving forward. Add in a couple of major losses and…most of you know the end result.

Back to my original question. I’m 44. The four years since I have turned 40 have been tumultuous and packed in at least two decades worth of catching up with the rest of the world. I have been asked if I would do it all again if I had known. The short answer is yes. I think God makes us young and dumb so that as we grow we appreciate the process. We learn to appreciate the stories being told around us and those that learned the lessons so we don’t have to (though in our 20’s most of us need to ram our own head into the wall, right?). We learn to feel the keen sense of loss that happens more and more as we age and we lose people who mean something to us. While I know I would have missed my grandparents if I had lost them in my 20’s I am not sure I would have felt it as sharply as I do now when I want my grandmothers’ slumghetti the way she made it when I was sick.

Aging takes patience. It takes maturity. In your 20’s and 30’s you think you are invincible. You are busy running the rat race of your career and keeping up with the friend group. You are busy surviving the toddler years and teenage years with your kids. More than once you may (if you are being honest) have the thought “how many years until they turn 18”? You are just busy being BUSY.

But your 40’s? You literally finally learn to stop and smell the roses. Partly because your body starts to slow down and partly because you just, for the most part, reach a different time in life. You appreciate those moments when your kids call YOU when they had a bad day and it’s your house they want to seek refuge in. When it’s your fridge they want to raid. You have time to travel and appreciate the artwork that is this world God created. You may have regrets – wish you had slowed down a little and appreciated it all more while it was happening – but you have plenty of time left to do just that now that you know not to take it all for granted. Life is a gift that God gives us.

So would I do it all again? Even now knowing all the loss and pain and heartache that was scripted for my life? Yep. Those things carved me into who I am. They will continue shaping me for the rest of my life. Every bit of my story brought people into my life for a reason whether they were just part of a chapter or part of the whole book. Those etchings on my heart make me appreciate who and what I have now and remind me not to take a precious moment for granted.

We are not promised tomorrow. We can only live in today. Blessings y’all – Amy