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

Remembering Always

There are dates that live in our heads that have the power to make us smile…or knock our world off kilter. Sometimes we have control over what that reaction is and sometimes not. TimeHop keeps some of those memories fresh that we might not want while reminding us of others we want to cherish forever…

Most of y’all know December is a month full of emotional land mines. The last week of January and the first week of February has a few of those too. It was late January five years ago when we wound up in the ER with an unexplained fever for Fred that led to the discovery of the hole in his ankle…thus beginning the change to our world that would indescribably change the kids and I. To this day I can’t stand hospitals. Granted I realize they are no ones favorite place to be but since we more or less lived in one from that day until late March I have a special loathing for them.

February 3rd is/was our wedding anniversary. It would have been 15 years this year. Feels like a lifetime ago a starry eyed 29 year old said “I do” without a care to what a 22 year age gap would mean in the grand scheme of her life. The adage “love is blind”? 100% true. Whether it’s failing to see what everyone else around you can see about who you have chosen or refusing to acknowledge you have chosen the absolutely hardest path you could for your life. Love is an intense wonderful blind free fall that guts you and yet sometimes, if you are lucky, gives you strength when you need it.

When it became clear that Fred’s health was failing he asked me over and over again to promise I would marry again. With the absolute naive certainty I had then I told him the heart can only love once. He would just smile and say “not yours – you have too much to give”. I could write a book on the things he was right about…

My heart is very conflicted this week. I struggle with still missing Fred. Grief knows no bounds even when life is moving forward. I feel guilt at having found love again. Despite knowing it is what Fred asked me to do when you have carved out a place in your heart for someone as special as Fred you always carry a piece of them. I am beyond blessed to have found someone who understands I was not single by choice and is deeply respectful of the myriad of emotions that can tumble over me at any given time. How on earth I managed to find not one but two amazing men in my life is a question I’ll never have an answer to….but I am grateful.

February 4th was my grandfather’s birthday. He’s been gone 8 years in May and I still wish he was here. I was a grown person who could still climb on her PawPaw’s lap in times of need and I miss that lap!

And as if those two days together weren’t enough Feb 4th was the day chosen for my kid to move across the country. Leaving behind everyone who loves him. A year without my charismatic, kind, compassionate, center-of-attention-in-any-room son has been hard. Beyond hard. Anyone close to me will argue and tell you it has been incredibly good for me but a mother’s heart will always prefer her kids be close enough for a hug. This year has pushed me deeper into my faith, deeper into my tribe, deeper into understanding myself, and to find love again. It has also pushed me deeper into understanding my role as a parent of now adults – the joys of letting go and just enjoying them as human beings instead of worrying about protecting them all the time. Life will teach them things I can’t and my only job now is to enjoy my next season. Those things I will celebrate instead of being sad. Those that hold me accountable won’t allow anything less.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. Mostly that the strength that got me through losing my father figure (my grandpa) and my husband is still there. It may hide from me some days – behind anxiety, tears, and a general heaviness I can’t shake. But for whatever reason God carved my life with as many great joys as he did deep sorrows. I have much to be grateful for and to focus on those joys every day is the best way to honor them. I will try not wallow this week….but I will remember those I have lost and miss…always.

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

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

Thankful, Grateful, and Blessed

In years past I’ve spent all of November trying to remember to post something I was grateful for each day. In all honesty, I should be grateful year round because I have blessings beyond any I thought I would have in my life. Even with the cruel cards life has chosen to deal at times God has blessed me abundantly. So I decided this year I would sum it all up at one time and turn my attention on enjoying the things this season of life and time of year is serving up.

Thankful, Grateful, And Truly Blessed Metal Sign - Christian Wall Art |  Metal Shack – The Metal Shack

I am so grateful and thankful for my tribe. They know who they are! If ever I needed a reminder as to how amazing they are the way they took care of me last week shows it. I have family members who didn’t even check on me until I’d been down for a week but my tribe, my girls, and my son in law were there in every way they could be. There is a saying that friends are the family we get to choose and mine are my family as much as anyone in my life by blood or by marriage. My life is richer because of them.

I am so grateful and I am truly blessed by the friends my travel has brought into my life. Knowing that I can step on almost any ship or go just about anywhere and have a friend to hang out with or reconnect with is humbling. The shy country girl that exists somewhere inside me is getting quieter and quieter because I truly love getting to know new people on each new adventure.

I said this to someone the other day off the cuff and when I thought about it later I realized I never really realized what a blessing it was. Holidays were hard even before the loss of my hubby. Growing up holidays were laced with family drama and usual my mom fighting with the current spouse. In 2012 Fred and I took the kids on their first cruise and we went over Thanksgiving. While that turned out to be the last time Fred would ever cruise with us, it started a tradition that will honestly probably be in place the rest of my life. While I can do the whole shebang it’s my preference to pack my bag, say peace out to the cooking and cleaning, and sail away for 7-8 days. I am beyond thankful that Fred had the foresight and the selflessness to stay home each year and let the kids and I cultivate this tradition. And in two short weeks it’ll be time for Em and I to celebrate Thanksgiving again – our way!

This one is weird but I am thankful for the hardships I’ve been through. Who I am today as a person is from withstanding the storms of life. The appreciation I have for my blessings is because I know firsthand my life could be so much worse. Life can tear you down and change you for the worst or it can claw at you and shape you for the better! It may take me a little time sometimes to see the silver lining but I always find it.

Nothing should be taken away from these next few just because they are lumped together. I’m grateful for a roof over my head, wheels under my feet, a job that I love, and the fur babies that love me unconditionally. Not everyone can get out of bed every day and go to a job that they love and where they are loved. I try not to take that for granted. I am supported in every way by bosses that have seen me through the lowest points in my life over the last ten years.

In this month of Thanksgiving – what are you reminded to be thankful for?

Blessings, 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

Here Come The Holidays

6 weeks until Thanksgiving. 10 weeks until Christmas. 11 weeks until we say goodbye to 2021 (who thankfully has been kinder than 2020) and hello 2022.

Freakin’ mind blowing. 2020 was a “B”. No way to sugar coat it – it just was. For so many reasons I could write a book about it. But for all the ways 2020 sucked for me (and all of us), 2021 brought about equally as many positive changes to my life. Changes I didn’t know I needed. Changes that giving thanks for them every day takes up part of my prayers each morning.

Even though life is more joyful and happy than I have known it to be in longer than I can remember, my stomach still clenches a little at the thought of the months of November and December. Aside from the fact that for at least the next six weeks work will be insane, Nov/Dec always bring out unrealistic expectations of myself and are flooded with land mines of memories and special dates.

Unlike years past this year I started working through what my expectations were of myself during these trying months before they get here. The answer? I HAVE NONE. I have committed to myself that I will not turn holiday season 2021 into a mental vortex of “gotta do’s”, tears, or judging myself for not being able to do _______________ (insert whatever). Instead I’ve mapped out the things that are important to me and with the fam and the rest will just be taken as it comes. I made plans for both November and December travel that will keep me focused on sandy beaches and frosty cocktails when I feel the stress coming on. My children are all grown so there will be no deck the halls and worrying about what the dogs eat of those decorations when I am at work. No long list of presents to buy and wrap. (hallelujah!)

The goal this year is to spend November taking a moment each day to give thanks for all I have and am blessed with. The goal for December is to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. God has so blessed my life in the last year! I want to cherish time with family and friends and keep the joy I currently can’t get enough as close to me as possible. THIS is the year I am not a crying puddle of goo by December 25th. THIS is the year that I will savor the good memories, on the important dates, and not mourn what has been lost. THIS is the year that closes a great chapter in my life but starts the next even better one.

Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Blessings – 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