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

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

Since You’ve Been Gone…

How has it been five years since you left us? Some days it feels like a lifetime longer and some days it hurts like it was yesterday. So much has changed! Some days I can hear your voice in my head clearly and other days the noise of the world drowns you out. I was in the garden two weeks ago tending the garden and your tree (that should be dead after the 2021 snow storm) has fruit on it. Between that and the wind chimes going insane it felt like you were sitting there with me like you always did when I worked in the yard.

Will always be my favorite picture of you and the kids

Kids are all doing well. You’d be proud of chicken lips. She has a job she loves (most days!), and an independent streak a mile wide that I’m pretty sure you taught her. She is fiercely protective of me and puts up with nothing from no one. We affectionately call her “Mama Spice” among her friends because she is the nurturer of her group. I have no idea where she learned that from! She literally got “Chicken Lips” tattooed on her body – thank you for that one honey. Truly. HAHA

The boy kind is about to get hitched. He is living in Florida and is making it on his own two feet with no help. I know you’d be proud of him for that!

Ames & I continue to grow together. She’d make you cry with how lovely (one of your favorite words!) she is. And with how hard she works at her business with Arbonne and how she has blossomed as a teacher. We’ve learned how to communicate with each other and she reminds me of you a little more every day. Zane makes me proud for how he has stepped into the role as Em’s friend, brother, and person who she trusts to talk to. Watching him and Ames grow together has brought me joy. Can you believe they just celebrated six years of marriage?

Always in Hot Springs

Me? It took a lot of work these last two years, and being trapped in a house from a pandemic, to dig in and work through what you leaving me did to me. What grief is and how it changed me. What grief will always do to me at certain times of the year. Who I am as a person – not as the kids’ mom and not as your wife. Counselor continues to tell me how proud she is of me. We’ve made a lot of progress the past two years. Doesn’t matter how far my life moves on – I’ll always want to make you proud. Not gonna lie – fear of the kids growing up and moving on broke me for a bit and made me someone you wouldn’t have been proud of. But I figured it out and I know you would be proud of the woman the last two years has shaped me into. The one you always saw that I couldn’t see.

It took me almost five years but I finally did what you asked. I’ve learned how to love again. Kristal and I had a conversation the other day about how clearly you saw me…you knew God made me better as part of a duo than being alone in the world. I think you’d like him. He’s gentle and protective of me – same as you were. He’s deeply respectful of the love I will always have for you. Keeps me (and Em) in awe at how patient he is when we get on a memories of you tangent. He’s good to your girls – all your girls. To be loved by two amazing men in one lifetime could only be God’s work.

Love you too!

I know you know Mom came and joined you about a month ago. That one is still raw. But I bet it was joyous to see her and PawPaw back together. You three behave up there – alright? Down here we’re trying to keep our promise – to only be sad for a little while – but it still hurts. You are loved. You will always be loved. Fly high angel of mine.

A

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