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.

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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

Scary When We’re Scared

As I continue to delve into what makes me tick one phrase jumped out in my reading. “We are scary when we are scared.” Holy heck what a statement. If you are being honest how many of you have a monster that takes up residence inside you when life is changing? When things are spinning out of control? When you are terrified? Probs more of you than can honestly admit. But please note that I am over here raising my hand.

I am scared of spiders. Snakes. Those creepy cockroaches that never seem to die. Normal things. Those things don’t make me loony. They are just normal fears that probably 90% of the population has if they are being honest.

The keep me up at night roaring monster fears?

Being homeless. There is scary monster fear. Growing up without security in where we lived because my mother was a fight AND (not or) flight kind of person leaves one with a solid fear of not having a stable home.

Dying. Not in an I’m afraid to die way. But in an I’m afraid I won’t go out gracefully and will leave my kids with enough horrible end of life memories that will overshadow the amazing childhood Fred and I fought to give them. As I watch what is happening with my grandmother that monster is fighting hard to get to the surface. Only God is keeping that one in check.

Never being loved again. Putting that one out there. Pretty sure that fear monster is going to run off any one who tries to get close simply with comparison to a man who was far from perfect but will always be perfect to me. Which leads right into probably my biggest fear of all in losing Fred and the kids getting about getting grown….

Being alone. Truly completely no one to take care of alone. Having to do exactly what I am now doing. Figuring out who I am inside and deal with all the demons from my childhood, losses, and life in general. That monster? She was a scary one who has scarred people she loves in ways that may never heal.

Some people don’t believe in out of body experiences but I’m here to tell you you have never been afraid enough to have the fear monster occupy your mind and your mouth. I cringe when I think about some of the things that have happened in my life the last two years. But I have learned to forgive myself. I have apologized and have accepted that has to be enough because I refuse to live in the past and won’t apologize for being human.

But yah. We are definitely scary when we are scared. And if you haven’t been that scared in your life God bless you. It’s easy to judge others when you don’t know their pain but it’s really different if you’ve walked even a minute in their shoes. That is one of the best lessons coming in “doing the work” as Brene would say. You learn true compassion and empathy – first with yourself and then with others. Emotions that if the world had a lot more of it wouldn’t be in the sorry state it is in.

Blessing y’all – Amy

Permission vs Forgiveness

Are you an ask permission person or an ask forgiveness person? What I mean is this…is your life bound by societal rules, childhood subconsciously learned rules, social pressure rules…you get the idea. Or is your life a Katie-bar-the-door they can forgive me later kind of life? There isn’t really a middle spectrum in my opinion.

Me? I’m a permission gal. Always have been. Always want to do the right thing, say the right thing, or BE what everyone expects me to be. Even in my travels I’m asking permission – in a way – by discussing each trip with my circle before really taking the plunge. If even one person in that circle didn’t think whatever I had dreamed up was awesome my mind would immediately start to worry. Undo. Imagine worst case scenario. FEAR.

In a permission life there isn’t a lot of spontaneity. You are too afraid of going against the grain. Standing out. Being judged. What I failed to realize is that those rules (walls) were slowing moving in on me. Inch by inch, day by day, year after year. As the roles that literally defined me have disappeared those walls have closed in hard. Wife. Mother. Caretaker. Niece. Granddaughter. Employee. Friend. Some of these roles will always be in existence but either they have drastically changed or I am no longer content to exist solely as they have always defined me. It has gotten almost impossible to be content being every one else’s version of Amy.

My idea of a forgiveness kind of life is being free. The old adage “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” is ringing in my ears right about now. I imagine a forgiveness life means you are free to not think about every conversation in your head before you have it looking for and eliminating any landmines that might cause confrontation. Free to say (as Fred would have) “F*&$ ’em and feed ’em fish heads” if they don’t like it. Free from the stress of seeing all the bad (and only the bad) the world has to offer. Free from the anxiety of worrying about all the bad the world has to offer. Free to decide I want to go somewhere or do something without checking in with anyone to make sure it’s a good idea. Free to not let that sixth sense you have about people and situations completely immobilize you. Free to not apologize for my existence. Free to have the knowledge that I can am a smart, driven, capable person who can protect myself!

Along with recognizing my dissatisfaction of my roles I have come to realize that living a permission kind of life limits me. Comparing these two – both as I write this and in all the self work I’ve been doing – I can realize that a permission life was safe for me at one point in my life. It was what I needed for survival. It gave me stability and I knew what the rules are. As the universe is saying “stop hiding and start living” the permission life now feels like a concrete block pulling me to the bottom of the ocean faster than I can scream for help.

My real dilemma now is figuring out how to make the transition. My motivation app keeps me deluged in “greatness” and “chase your dreams” pep talks but my 43 year old brain hasn’t connected how to go from waiting on permission to figuring out and leaping towards my new “hell ya” season of life. I suspect the emotional weight I carry that keeps me feeling like I’m drowning is the insecurity of not knowing what rules I am living by now. What to do. Where I am going. Who my brain thinks it should be asking for permission. Who I freaking am for Pete’s sake.

My impatient immediate gratification self is going to have to learn how to just enjoy the journey. I know with work it will come in time. It’ll take repetitive conscious decisions to take actions different than I always have. Speaking openly and honestly on this blog is one of my “fuck ’em” decisions. (Ha! I didn’t do the expected thing and make the bleep ok!) You may not always like what I have to say but you damn sure are always going to know it came from my heart.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Cracks & Light

I am listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and I’ve had to learn how to drive, listen, and take notes to not forget the key sentences that grab my attention. It’s a balancing act I probably shouldn’t be doing but ya know. 🤷🏻‍♀️

One such profound sentence – “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

You know those books you read (or listen to) that make you squirm with their dead on application to your life? Brene speaks about perfectionism being a cover for shame. As a shield for vulnerability. Lots of squirming going on over here….

As one of the perfection seeking individuals Brene is directly speaking about in this book I’ve gotten quite good at hiding my “cracks”. Or so I thought. A little extra good deed here, a little extra work there, just keep it all together and surely you must have it all together – right? Keep spackling those cracks no matter what. Somewhere along the way I got the idea that if I didn’t show any flaws people would love me more. Or more people would love me. Not sure which.

The work I am doing in counseling tells me that idea stems from an abusive childhood. Being told constantly that I wasn’t good enough. To do better. To do more. To be seen and not heard. To be quiet and not cause any trouble. To not have an opinion – and if I did keep it to myself if it will hurt someone else’s feelings. To follow the rules – no matter the cost. Even if that cost is my love tank constantly being on empty. I have an 8 year old inside me starving for love. Even now. Even after having been married to the most perfect and flawed but loving man on the planet. A man that knitted together a family to bring love and joy he always craved and a family that completed me. How can that be? How can I have known the love of my life and still feel starved for love? How can I still have cracks?

If what I am taking from Brene’s words is correct (and goodness knows it’s only my interpretation) then my understanding is this…. Those cracks aren’t all bad. Those cracks left from childhood allowed the light that was my husband into my heart. Those cracks let me be vulnerable enough to be a mother – the hardest most flawed job in the world. Those cracks are allowing me to discover, finally, who I am without the responsibility of another soul except the sixteen paws that love me unconditionally. Those cracks promise to bring love and light to my life again. I don’t have to be perfect. I just need to be vulnerable and have faith. Through having faith even when I want to just hide I know the light will come again. Because I still have plenty of cracks. ❤️

Blessings y’all – Amy

Self Love What?

“You can only love others as much as you love yourself.” – Brene Brown

When this sentence came out of Brene’s mouth while listening to her audio book “Daring Greatly” I hit the rewind button. Again. And again. And again. Since entering into counseling in September 2020 one of the themes that we keep circling back to over and over again is self love. I honestly had no idea what that phrase meant. To the point I asked my counselor “what do you mean when you tell me to practice self love”?

For me, at that point of my depression, it was stuff that should have been easy like eating and showering. For anyone who doesn’t struggle with depression you simply have no idea how hard those two things are in the middle of a really bad dip into the black hole of depression. For those of you who have been there – you know what I mean. Weeks upon weeks of just daily thinking about “did I eat today”, “what did I eat today”, “when was the last time whatever I did eat stay with me”, and “when was the last time you showered” ruled my life. Feed the dogs daily? No problem. Fuss at my kid to make sure she ate? Again, routine. Show even the smallest amount of kindness and mercy to myself? Not a chance.

As I sit now somewhere about six feet above the very bottom of the place I got to in my my mind (but by no means anywhere close to out of the black hole) in the last year I am thankful that showering has become routine. Food is still a daily thing but that has extenuating circumstances that coincide with my ongoing gut issues. Some days eating really is just not worth the trouble. Having gotten somewhere a mile up the road past those issues my brain circles again to “what is self love”? My counselor now talks about thinking about the 8 year old little girl inside me who has been through physical and emotional abuse and how I would have protected her if she was my child. The things I would have done for her to make her happy. Those are the things I am to be working on now. When I get all that figured out I’ll let ya know.

But I think the reason Brene’s statement echoed like a gunshot in my head is I have always given 1000% to those that I love. Or in my mind I did. That one sentence opened up the Pandora’s box in my mind…if I had been able to take care of myself all these years could I have done better? If I could have told myself “good job”, or “it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy”, or any of those things that we should be telling ourselves when we are happy and whole…could I have done it better?

As I am in a season of my life where maturity and time on my hands has given me reflection it’s easy to armchair quarterback now. To cringe and go “geez I probably could have done that better”. Hell, it’s easy to see why others are judging and re-writing the past with no knowledge of what it was like in the moment. It’s also easy to see where those around me are struggling with loving themselves enough to be happy and whole. My “fixer” nature wants to jump in and share what I’m learning. On some occasions I do, but I recognize now that we each have to know ourselves and love ourselves enough to recognize the unhealthy cycles we are in and make the changes for ourselves. I’ve spent to much of my life TELLING people how to fix their lives instead of just leading by example.

The Happy Girl I WANT to Be

I know I’m not done fixing myself. I also know I’ve always put myself last. Isn’t the best form of self-love now to keep working on ME the way I should have done all along? Will I be able to love those I love most better if I keep on with this journey I am on? The answer is a resounding “YES”. Since I have no desire for the second season of my life to be as pain filled and traumatic as the first season…I’m gonna figure out this self love thing. I’m gonna figure out how to tell the girl in the picture that she is worth something – if not to anyone else than to the creator who made her.

Blessing y’all.

Amy