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

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

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

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

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

Over A Cliff

It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.

Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.

I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.

I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.

I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?

It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.

For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.

Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Good Ones

Gabby Barrett has a song that the melody has been playing over and over in my head the last few days…the lyrics speaking truth over a blessing God put in my life I wasn’t expecting and certainly didn’t feel I would be blessed with.

“A love me like he should one
Like he wrote the book one
The kind you find when you don’t even look one
Anybody can be good once
But he’s good all the time
He’s one of the good ones
And he’s all mine
He’s one of the good ones”

I haven’t been shy about sharing the painful journey my life has been the last few years. I don’t plan on being shy about the amazing way that with a prayer, a lot of work, and faith God turned my world right side up again.

Fred made me promise I would find love again. I told him we only get one love in life and I had had mine. That I would never open myself up again to that kind of vulnerability or pain. My pastors sermon this last week was on what God does with “never”. I’ve said never about a lot of things in my life…😳

Two months ago a man who has a passion for travel that I do, who is as much a dog lover as I am, who shares love of dark chocolate, the ocean, and has a heart the size of Texas chose me. Me!

Tim & I Hot Springs Jan 2022

The days since then have flown by. We’ve got a bucket list that just keeps growing. The smile on my face when he walks into a room could supply electricity to most of the eastern seaboard. My brain is having a little trouble with the switch from survivor to thriving but he (and my tribe!) supports me through all that.

He is patient when I am down. He is thoughtful and kind. He never shies away when I mention Fred and understands how that chapter of my life shaped who I am today. He makes my detail oriented self look disorganized because he is always on top of things. But most importantly ours is a partnership. We work to share the load of whatever is going on – fun or mess – together.

Guess you can tell I think he’s kind of awesome. I’ve been blessed. If you are still single, have faith. There are still good ones. If you snagged one – hug ‘em tight. Life is short and precious. ❤️

Blessings y’all – Amy