Another Year Has Come and Gone…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings y’all – Amy

Drowning in Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Em & Mom

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

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

Blessings y’all – Amy

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

All or Nothing

My counselor says that I am bad at seeing life as all or nothing. At LIVING life as all or nothing. Examples. Life is all good or it’s in shambles. I have to be perfect at my diet, exercise, work, etc or I am a failure. I have to be the best at how I do everything or I am letting down those closest to me. I have to love the best and do everything for everyone no matter what the effect on me.

Two years of counseling later and I still struggle with it. But have learned the signs of the rabbit hole enough to *sometimes* prevent myself from falling down it. Or at least enough to prevent myself from exhausting myself trying to be everything to everyone and putting my own needs last.

Here’s is the thing about all or nothing. That’s the same as black or white. But! Life is shades of gray. It’s messy and smudgy and requires a tree to bend in the wind lest it break.

It’s being patient when you’ve dieted good all week but eat a plate of Mexican food on Friday night. Diet isn’t over – you just had a treat. It’s getting back on the exercise plan after a week of coming straight home from work and watching TV and having popcorn for dinner because work is insane. It’s forgiving those closest to you for being inconsiderate and hateful instead of compassionate and kind. It’s giving someone the benefit of the doubt who you have only seen at their worst.

Living at extremes isn’t a healthy place for me. Living day in and day out terrified of my world changing caused me to hold on too tight. Finding balance, finding the gray, is still a daily challenge. Keeping a brain that is used to handling the worst life has to offer from going first to the dark place and never thinking of a positive alternative is hard as hell.

But learning that you are never too old to change? Definitely worth it.

Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.”

Never stop learning y’all. Never stop believing in yourself. In humanity. In the power to change yourself and that better things are on the horizon.

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

Reflections on 2021

I’ve heard all my life people say “what a difference a year makes”. Thought it was horse poo quite honestly. But 2021 was that year for me!

I started 2021 broken. Angry. Scared. Grieving. Did I mention angry? Sheesh. My whole world was flipped upside down. I couldn’t see daylight. I certainly never dreamed I would be where I sit today. Is everything perfect today? Nope. Would be lying if I said otherwise. Is it light years beyond this time last year? In every way conceivable.

Prayer Journal #3

Many things make up the changes. My counselor would tell you it was my own hard work. My brain would tell you it was my counselor and my tribe never leaving my side until I was steady…and unrelenting prayer. In 2021 I finished two prayer journals and reading back through them you can literally see the progression of my year. From prayers to survive the day, to prayers for my children’s health and safety, to the now thankful prayers for my blessings that start every day. 2021 took me to my knees and God was there.

I learned a lot about myself this year. I was reminded (again) that God made me a survivor and no one, not even my own family, can break me. I learned I have a voice and I am free to use it – and what it has to say will not always be liked and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I have to silently hurt.

I learned there are very bad people in this world who prey on people who are hurting (the dating world is an ugly place y’all) but with prayer God will put the right one right in front of you. I learned that despite years of telling myself people are lucky if they get one love that is not, in fact, the case if you open your heart and mind to God’s plan for your life.

Most importantly I learned happiness comes from the inside. It is not a result of anyone or anything. No one can bring you happiness or make you happy if you don’t do the work on yourself. They may make you feel that way for a short time but true overwhelming can’t stop smiling joy comes from a place inside where you have done the work on yourself and understand yourself. THAT is the biggest lesson 2021 leaves me with. I’ll never depend on another to bring me happiness. I will enjoy having a partner to share happiness, joy, and adventure with but will never lose sight of what I need to do for myself to take care of me. That doesn’t make me selfish or self centered or any of the other “self” derogatory labels – it makes me healthy and whole.

Blessings in 2022 y’all. It’s gonna be filled with love, laughter, and adventure in my world.

Amy

December Bag of Blessings

Everyone seems to hit their highest point of stress in the month that is supposed to be all Hallmark movie level joy and bliss. Overbooked calendars, to do lists a mile long, shorter days with higher demands for our time….December can leave us feeling grouchy, wrung out, and counting the days to get past the “blessed” holiday season. (Unless you are one of those who has a person in your life who does all the listed above while you just still back and LOVE all things Christmas and wonder why everyone is so over it.)

In our world December is chock full of emotional land mines to add to those lovely predicted societal stressors. December brings memories of past joyous moments with someone who is no longer here. Birthdays of both the girl kind and Fred. Christmas Day which, to be quite honest, is the crowning jewel of “hurry up and get them over with” days. The smallest things can suck any one of us, but most especially Em and I, right down the rabbit hole.

This year December is proving thus far to be a mixed bag of blessings. Admittedly a rough start, we lost Gabe last Friday. Old age and poor health just required that it was time and there was no avoiding it any longer. For me, it stirred up a storm of memories of how he came to be a family member and various things he did that made him special.

But so far December has also graced me with more joy than I have had in a long time. A new special person in my life is making the hard times a little easier. Plans for things we want to do in December are shining light on the calendar instead of darkness and dread. I even decked the halls (where I safely could out of dog reach) without kid guilt or begging.

Turtle Summit Holiday Decorations 2021

I have spent a long time praying over moving forward in my life. Asking for someone who could replace the sorrow with happiness and laughter. It seems fitting to me that God chose to answer that prayer at the beginning of one of the hardest months of the year for me….maybe saying it’s time for December to be about Him, the birth of His son, and the joy of the season instead of sorrow and tears. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m choosing to look forward not back and it’s looking so merry and bright. ❤

Merry Christmas y’all and God Bless – Amy

Dawn of a New Day

My insomnia lately has been epic. Just epic. I can’t decide if it’s because I have too much energy to burn or if it’s too many new and exciting things going on in my life that my mind just won’t rest. Whatever the reason I found myself awake to catch a completely gorgeous sunrise out at sea this morning and I was mesmerized with God’s stunning artwork…

Carnival Dream Thanksgiving Cruise 2021

The magnitude of the new days that are breaking in my life always circles back to the blessing that God has gotten me through the dark and the sun seems to be rising on the next chapter. Light is shining into all the dark places where pain has hidden and with it comes joy. Light that on the hardest darkest days I didn’t know would come again.

Psalm 143:8 says: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Even when I wasn’t very religious, watching the sun come up and bathe the world in light had the power to stir me. Reading that scripture now, and understanding it to the very depth of who I am, it is a promise that each day God will sustain me and always bring back the light no matter what harshness this ugly world brings. It gives me hope that He will fulfill the same promise to each person in my life that I love and pray for.

May He bring blessing to you today as you spend long weekends with friends and family. Safe travels home to all. – Amy

The Road I’m Taking Now

I have long believed that there are places that live in our heart that, when given the chance to return there, fill your happy tank in a way that is indescribable. Hot Springs as a whole is one of those places but within that magic town is a winding road up to the mountain tower. It’s tradition for our family to drive it before we head out of town. It’s also become tradition to take more than a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Hot Springs, AR

For me, today, this road had a different message. Today I could see the connection between this winding road and the path I’ve been on the last few years. I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape that masks the possibility of falling right over the steep edge. How many times have I fallen off the edge as I’ve worked on healing? How many times have I failed to appreciate the beauty that lies even in the fear and the pain? Too many to count.

Today I saw a road to follow that you can’t see the destination. I just have to start down it and have faith that around each corner or dip in the road that same road is still under me and in front of me carrying me to the next destination. I know that some of the positive message I took from this place is a reflection of the peaceful happy place I have reached in my heart but somehow it feels bigger than that.

How many time do we deviate from the path because we focus on one of the tiny details on the side of the road instead of having faith in the road we’re on? Faith is a hard thing sometimes. As humans we think we can fix, control, or change things that are out of our control. The reality is that we can’t change a thing. We have to put our faith in God and the road ahead no matter how hard.

The road I am on now has me focused on the future. On chasing dreams and having a life filled with joy and laughter. Letting go of the illusion that I could change anything about the road God set me on has cracked open my heart so wide it’s breathtaking.

Don’t be afraid of the road. Have faith and just start the journey. It’ll make you happier than you could ever dream of if you focus on the beauty instead of the pain.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Another Trip Around The Sun

43. Who knew? For a girl that literally thought when she was 18 she never would see 30…43 is like getting bonus years.

In all seriousness, some of you know (but many don’t) that this time last year my depression was so bad I would have told you I didn’t want to live to see another birthday. I was locked in a battle of wills between a past I couldn’t let go of and a future I didn’t like or want. The result was a paralyzing soul crushing “there is no point” place. Only the thought of leaving my daughter with no parents on this Earth kept me here. And I’ll tell you openly there was more than one day even that was a slim slim thread. The darkness and pain had life so unbearable I honestly would have rather have been dead to have relief from it.

Many toss around terms like “crazy” or “nuts” for covering their own inability to understand the effects that depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have on a person. It is so much easier to judge than wrap your brain around how terrifying it can be. “Just doing it for attention” or “all talk” are two of my least favorite pass offs I hear when someone is talking about someone else’s suffering. It is because of that type of non-understanding that those who suffer from those illnesses push them down. Hide them. Keep them away from the people who love them and need them despite the voices in their head telling them all those people would be better off. It’s those types of judgements that led the great Robin Williams to leave us instead of face his fan’s judgement if he told anyone how unhappy he was. Despite how far society has come in understanding mental illness it has SO FAR to go in grace, compassion, and kindness for those who suffer.

Through so much love and support this last year – support coming from places I didn’t expect – I am deep in counseling and medical treatment of a disease I will never be rid of. It was a genetic “gift” from both sides of my lineage and one I finally understand I’ll never escape. I can manage it. I can ask for help on the bad days. I can watch for signs I’m hurting the ones I love in my own pain. I can be open and honest in my struggle so someone else will make the right choice in that darkest hour.

But I’ll always be a little bit broken. God made me that way. Perfectly imperfect! I may not know or understand His purpose for me every day but right now I think some of it is to use my voice to share my journey so maybe others have a shorter path to recovery. Life is messy. It’s ugly. Feeling alone and hurting in the agony is excruciating.

As I reflect on starting another year on this planet I can tell you I have hope. I believe God has me exactly where I am supposed to be. I have faith each of my children are firmly in His hands and that God can protect them far better than I can. I have peace that Fred and I raised good kids who will put good into the world. I have hope there is someone out there for me to share my life with. Not someone to replace my Fred – there is no replacement. But someone who can love me understanding all that I have been through before him. I have God protecting me and the ability to talk to Him daily for probably the first time in my life. I have a job I adore that supports all the changes this past year has brought me and pushes me to follow through with taking care of myself. I am grateful that I am still here. I have far to go but from where I was a year ago? Sheesh. I feel lucky to be alive.

Ok.. enough pontificating. Birthday celebrations about to happen.

Peace y’all. Love each other. Be kind. Life is precious and short. Make every moment count. ❤️