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

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

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

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

Friends Who Become Family

“Friends are the family you choose with your heart.”

Definition of Friendship — I'm Fine.

Macedonia, Romania, Greece, Italy, Belarus, Mexico, Serbia, New York, Connecticut, Baltimore, California, Arkansas… If you had asked this shy small town girl who graduated in a class with only 23 other people if she would have friends located in all these far away places she would have laughed at you. And yet….

Instagram messenger goes off and my face lights up with a message from my Z in Macedonia. It’s 4 am where he is and yet the timing works perfectly to get to catch up. I’m working away at the office and Facebook messenger is dinging with excited chatter is coming in fast and furiously from the East Coast about an upcoming trip or from the sweet lady that mothers ME who is on a ship somewhere in the Caribbean. WhatsApp goes off to let me know I have a voice message from a treasured friend in Belarus I am praying to be able to see within a couple months. All blessings I never dreamed would be part of my life. Precious communication with people who have all become part of my life in ways this small town girl couldn’t have ever seen coming.

I’ve said before Thanksgiving always makes me reflect on everything. Many many of these special people are in my life from cruising and trips that centered around the holidays. This year as I reflect back on where the year started and the beautiful place I am in now, I am that much more thankful for each of these special people. Thankful for the role they played in my healing. Thankful for knowing I can pick up the phone at pretty much any time of day (thanks insomnia!) and reconnect with someone who stirs memories that can chase away the worst of moods.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Would fight to the end of time for each of them and to protect them. But there is something so special about having people in your life that don’t HAVE to be but CHOOSE to be. It’s humbling to know I have made an impression on someone enough they include me in their life that is going on hours away. More than just keeping up with their social media posts, but really knowing how they are and missing them fiercely. Knowing they get as excited to see me as I do them.

As we go into a season that tends to bring out the worst in all of us because of stress, bad family trauma, or a variety of other reasons – I challenge you to reconnect with SOMEONE who once made your heart beat faster and a smile hit your face because their name showed up on your phone. It’ll make everything else seem unimportant.

To those who chose me simply because I’m me – I LOVE YOU!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Dealbreakers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your dealbreakers?

Blessings y’all – Amy

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

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. ❤️

The Southern Napa Valley

Venture to the heart of Texas and you’ll find a sweet little town with so much charm you just don’t want to leave. Fredericksburg, Texas has become THE southern destination for girls’ trips, bridal parties, couples weekend getaways, and childless vacations. Here you can enjoy hills filled with vineyards as far as the eye can see, a Main Street full of treasures to explore, and country air to help you relax and sleep.

With four of us traveling in from Lubbock, Houston, and Dallas meeting in Fredericksburg is almost a dead center 4 to 4 1/2 hour drive for all of us. Not an unpleasant drive and not so far that you lose an entire day on either end of a trip driving.

In a single weekend we managed to do tastings at six wineries. Five of the six were laid back relaxing experiences where the mood was quiet and we were able to converse and hear the sommelier tell us about the wine we were trying. One vineyard we could have been at a bar based on the noise level of the three bridal parties not knowing how to conduct themselves as ladies. I don’t hold that against the vineyard other than management not stepping in to protect the ambience of their establishment.

I think my favorite of the weekend was a last minute edition at Texas Heritage Vineyard. Our driver recommended it after our disappointing aforementioned stop. We were pretty late in the afternoon for a tasting at Texas Heritage but they welcomed us and didn’t let on that they probably wanted to go home.

As we sat trying wines one of the owners came and sat down with us and just made conversation. He was charming and adorable. I missed the details on the last two wines because I was enjoying a totally separate conversation with him. 🙃 When our tasting was over there was one type of wine that wasn’t offered on the menu that day that my niece really wanted to try. Our sommelier was happy to bring around a taste. It was just a Texas type experience. Needless to say, they gained a couple new wine club members before we left.

We also had amazing food experiences while here. Friday night we ate at The Club at Barron’s Creekside. While I personally didn’t care for the blues music (not my fav type of music) the place was pretty much packed. The food was amazing and the sunset view over the vineyard was stunning. A wonderful start to our weekend. With the added bonus of the owners nephew being from Austria and him setting us straight on what our Saturday night dinner plans needed to be.

Saturday night we were directed to get our name on the list at a little German place called Otto’s and to head next door while we waited to a French market called La Baruche. Both experiences were mind blowing. Starting at La Baruche…the sommelier didn’t stop until she had us paired with a wine that was perfect for all four of us. (A couple of us were just about wine-d out for the day.) We then had a warm Brie that was unlike anything I have ever had as an appetizer. Since the restaurant had slowed down we got to spend some time with the sommelier getting some more recommendations on wines we might not have chosen for ourselves normally. It was wonderful.

Our call came that our table was ready at Otto’s. Whatever personality our waiter lacked was made up for by the food and drinks. Our driver for the day had told us to get the mushroom appetizer – it was great. We also got the pretzel. Still not sure what the sauce was that came with that pretzel but I will be thinking about it for weeks to come.

I got the salmon. I haven’t finished an entire plate of food in months. Save for a couple shared bites for the others to get a taste I ate the whole darn thing. It was that good. AND we got dessert. Apparently sunshine and wine drinking makes you really hungry.

Duck Schnitzel
Beef Tenderloin
Strawberry Shortcake w/Honey Lavender Ice Cream

We got the added bonus of being able to stay at a friend of mine’s home. The kind of home I dream about owning someday. Creaking original floors, wide trimmed doors and floors, sprawling garden, chickens roaming, open floor plan. If I was more educated in architecture I could tell you year and style but I can only speak from how it makes my heart beat to walk around it. Staying in a charming place instead of a box hotel definitely added to the experience!

It’ll be hotter here than Napa this summer. But it’ll make up for it with Texas hospitality and charm. I personally can’t wait to get back here. ❤️