Celebrating Love & Friendship

Someone said once that time heals all wounds. I’d be willing to bet that person hadn’t REALLY had loss in their life. Don’t get me wrong. Life is moving on. In so many fabulous ways. But as I stare down the barrel of several memory anniversaries this week I’m a little melancholy.

Turns out…time never heals grief. It eases the sharpness as you struggle to breathe. It dulls the edges in a way that makes living come back in ways you can’t imagine possible in the immediate aftermath. But time does not ever heal grief. Because grief can’t be healed. Each year the calendar rolls dates around that tug the fine hairs under the band-aid you’ve put on the pain. You find ways to brace for it. To get through it. To ask for help. But on those days the pain is very much there.

TimeHop has begun reminding me of the season of life that the kids and I were in this time six years ago. This week on Friday would have been my sixteenth wedding anniversary. As I mull that over…how many years Fred has been gone versus here a knot forms in my stomach. February 4th would have been my grandpa’s birthday.

I can honestly look back and know that these impending dates don’t send me spiraling into the hole they once did. I can proudly say that is because I’ve done the work. I’ve invested the energy in myself to know that I am a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tremendously glad that when the idea came up to run away this week that I wasn’t completely and totally on board. Spend a week away with a man who loves me and makes room for the days that I’m not quite ok? Yep. Spend a week doing one of the things I love most with friends who are like family to me? Yep. Sign me up.

Add surprising all those friends to the list (my favorite thing to do to people I love) and I’m all in.

We boarded the Carnival Celebration today. To celebrate being loved. Not once not twice but by three amazing men. My PawPaw who contradicted all the crappy awful abusive men my mother chose. Fred who took a broken girl, gave her an instant family, and was patient while she loved too hard and held on a little too tight. And this wonderful man who walks beside me now. Who quietly and patiently lets me know every day that I am worth being loved. That bruised and slightly damaged as I may be I deserve to be loved as hard as I love.

We are celebrating friendship. These that I have made in all the years I’ve traveled. The special relationships I have that I constantly confuse the mess out of Tim because he can’t remember all the names but he loves them all because they make me happy.

Love hard friends. Life is short and precious and can change on a dime.

Blessings – Amy

Did You More Than Survive?

For those of you that dread the holidays – I’m talking to you! How are you feeling today? Did you thrive yesterday or just survive? Or did you, like me, perhaps find a new version of Christmas?

I woke up today reflective. Appreciative of getting through yesterday without tears and without pain that takes my breath away. Those were new. I went to bed last night without an aching back or aching feet from having cooked all day – we ordered in breakfast to chill-ax with presents longer. I didn’t stress out over “did I remember to text everyone” or “did she or didn’t she REALLY like my gift”? I think some of the easier is coming with age and some of it was from being surrounded with two people who love me beyond all things – it was about the time together. This was Tim’s first we-aren’t-leaving-our-PJ’s-today Christmas and he was all about it. With the kids grown and all doing their own thing it does lend a simplicity to the holidays that think I could get used to.

Smiling Girl Kind!

Do not get me wrong. I am very glad to put another holiday season behind me. I read one of my TimeHop posts from 8 years ago today, the first Christmas without my grandpa, and it brought a lump to my throat. If I had to pinpoint an exact moment when the holidays became a struggle that year would be it. I expected this year to be more challenging since we said goodbye to Mom in 2022. There was a moment when we dug out one of her dishes for the cranberry sauce where I know my angels were watching because Em and I both could have lost it and instead we were able to mention Mom and smile.

For those that don’t know me – surprises are my thing. Giving and receiving. This year’s gift exchange held surprises both physical and emotional. Listening to Em and Tim work together on Christmas Eve on my stocking was priceless. Opening gifts that a) I had no idea what they were and b) couldn’t have guessed if I tried was amazing. (You mom’s know what I’m talking about – we do the giving not the receiving at the holidays!)

My OCD brain gets me even when I’m not trying…didn’t mean to match his wrapping paper and PJ’s!

Tim reminded me again how very much he pays attention when I talk. Renovating the greenhouse so I can grow all the green things is on our January to do list but he got me an AeroGarden. “Something I knew you wanted but wouldn’t buy yourself.” Not gonna lie – it was set up before the cooking got started. Those moments of realizing God has brought someone into my life who loves me when I’m having a really bad day or listens when I talk are humbling.

I was asked a couple of times yesterday if I was glad I was home for Christmas. My initial gut response was still “no”. But having slept on it (or attempted to sleep on it since I’ve now been up since 3 am) I think the answer is yes. Yesterday was peaceful. And that, more than anything, was all I wanted for Christmas. To not be so lost in grief I felt incapable of breathing is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Blessings y’all – A

And the last one is 21…

She might be the youngest of my three but she was the first to make me a mama. She is the one that I see the most of me reflected back at me….the stubborn strength, the fierce protective heart of those she loves most in the world, and the rage at the injustices of the world. And Lord help me my mouth!

My baby girl turns 21 today. At 8:05 pm tonight to be exact but only a mama remembers those things. Right about now (way before dawn) I was walking into the hospital to be induced and due to a full moon and a whole lot of women who wanted babies to come before Christmas it was a long day for both me and the other doctors and mamas to be. I remember the impatience to meet her. The anxiety over the actual getting her into the world process. The enormous responsibility I knew I was undertaking. And the purest love I have ever known when I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time.

Easily one of my favorite pictures of my baby girl…

It was just Em and I for the first four years of her life before Fred and the other two babies came along. We had a hell of a support tribe in Mom, PawPaw, and Nana. We’d have been ok just us but Em and I are pretty damn glad the rest of our family came along. Especially since Em is a daddy’s girl through and through. She loves her mama, don’t get me wrong, but she’d leave me on the side of the road for another day on this earth with Fred. The only cloud on today is that he’s watching it from up above instead of celebrating it here with us today.

It took us a long time to find our way with each other after he passed – somewhere around the time the boy kind moved in he got tucked up under my wing and she under Fred’s – but she is the kiddo who protected me against the world in the darkest days I’ve had in the years since Fred died. The kiddo I still have to remind sometimes that I’m the mama and she is the baby. The kiddo who didn’t turn her back on me when I gave up on myself. The kiddo who didn’t know how many days her existence gave me a reason to not give up.

The thing about Em that I have always admired is her independence. She doesn’t need ANYONE to define who she is. She has those she lets close that she’ll go to the ends of the earth for but she doesn’t need them as a definition of herself. She’s always been able to think for herself – and tell you what she thinks – and fight for what she wants. She’ll look a grown man in the eye and tell him he’s dead wrong and not back down. She’s got a strength that comes from knowing pain and loss in her formative years. She knows the true meaning of “life is short” and doesn’t waste time on bullshit. She’s still figuring out her future but she is doing it on her terms.

As her mama I couldn’t be more proud of her. As an observer, I wish I had more of her gumption. I know she has some angels on her shoulders that will always watch over her. I can’t believe it’s been 21 years since they put her in my arms. There are days I missed too much because of work and life and illness but that’s the beauty of the second season….you reflect, you see things, and you make it better moving forward.

Tonight we’re celebrating a beautiful, smart, talented young woman turning 21!. I’m gonna drag my butt into work tomorrow and have no regrets because the smile on my baby’s face tonight is gonna be amazing! Y’all take time today to wish her a Happy Birthday!

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Blessing and Curse of Being An Over Thinker

These days most of us know an over thinker. Or are one ourselves (raising my hand over here). By Merriam Webster’s definition to over think is to think too much about (something) or to put too much time into thinking about or analyzing (something) in a way that is more harmful than helpful. However, some very famous people were over thinkers – Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Orville Wright. To my way of thinking, and in my experience, it’s a blessing and a curse.

Starting with the positive – most over thinkers are great problem solvers. This comes from being able to look at most people, situations, and things from all angles (admittedly sometimes too much or too long) and find solutions that others can’t see. The 30,000 foot view if you will. They can rearrange the pieces in a problem like no one else. Some can think on their feet quickly and thrive on the challenge of being able to “fix it”.

The curse of this particular skill? The anxiety and stress when normal people need to do things their way even when the over thinker thinks they can see the disaster (ok maybe “disaster” is a strong word – how about less than ideal outcome) coming at them. When you have an empathic over thinker who wants to avoid anyone else feeling anything other than happy you have a mess. Their deep level of thinking gets them inappropriately called things like “control freak”, “nag”, or “bossy”. In reality – they aren’t any of these things. Their brain just never shuts down so they see all the worst case scenarios and try to prevent them to help the people they love.

Their thoughts are never quiet and they don’t understand the response “nothing” to the question “what are you thinking”. How can someone be thinking literally nothing?!?! What does all that quiet in your head feel like? To them things mean something, or happen for a reason, and everything is a “why”.

Don’t even think about lying to an over thinker. Due to being great critical thinkers, they have the uncanny ability to sniff out lies. Because when something doesn’t sound right to them their mind won’t let it go and they turn it over and over in their head until they pick apart the holes in the story. They are a narcissists worst nightmare because an over thinker can spot false, fake, or ill intention-ed people from one conversation with them. Over thinkers have a deep desire to figure people out and often can’t let go of that uneasy feeling someone gives them. They are great judges of character – their level of sniffing people out is on par with that of kids and dogs.

When an over thinker thinks they have hurt someone they will spend hours and hours going over every minute, every detail, of the situation trying to Monday morning quarterback what they could have done differently. Why they said what they said. One of the most positive traits of an over thinker though? When they apologize it comes from the bottom of their heart – they cannot fake apologies.

Over thinkers are perfectionists. They pride themselves on being great at what they do and strive to do their best. But when they don’t get everything right and come up short, they are their own harshest critic. They have to make lists of what needs done, so they can cross things off said list, and feel accomplished. Sound sleep is a rare thing for over thinkers. They cannot shut the machine that is their brain off – it is constantly swirling and contemplating. And there is always that list running through their heads. 😉

Why write about this now you ask? Over thinking lol. It’s busy time at work and it’s the time of year my brain works extra hard putting out fires and solving puzzles to get everything that needs done done. We’re also doing some deeper stuff in counseling that has me puzzling over why I do some of the things I do – good and bad. So yah – over thinking.

Hug an over thinker in your life and thank them for the amount of time they spend over thinking about you!

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Last Frontier

I have no idea why but as I’ve sailed the Caribbean this week my Alaska adventure has been heavy on my mind. Maybe because I’ve been hopelessly cold….the AC works well on this ship. Maybe because of the comparisons I’ve drawn in my mind between the Holland ship I was on then and the Carnival one I am on now. Such different environments and both pull at my heart.

The breathtaking view from our boat

Alaska was….magnificent. As someone who doesn’t like the cold I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t like Alaska. I hate….I mean HATE….being cold. Bundled up like a snowman is my least favorite thing to be. What I wasn’t prepared for was that Alaska would pull at the small town girl that lives in my heart.

Seals hanging out on the iceberg chunks

We ported in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and alongside an iceberg. All three of the little towns had that straight from a Lifetime movie quaintness that only a Texas girl can fully crave and appreciate. So much so I actually checked out real estate up there for a little while. But did I mention cold? We went whale watching in Juneau. To see bears and bald eagles in Sitka. Shopping and wandering in Ketchikan. The most majestic of those was the hour and a half we spent on a small boat a half mile from an iceberg watching it calve. Seeing the sea lions sprawled on the ice bergs. Listening to the sea lions tussle as they sunbathed. I wish I had the right words to describe that. Even as good as I am with words I just can’t describe it. You have to experience it.

One of my fav pictures of Tim that week

The quiet and calm that reigns in Alaska was perhaps the biggest surprise. Everywhere you go you can just breathe. It’s peaceful. It gives you a sense of just how small you are in a big big world. Floating in a bay with the engine cut on the boat listening to the whales breach the surface was the calmest I think I have ever been in my life.

I have told several people this….I had the absolute most picture perfect Alaska adventure. My first trip to the last frontier couldn’t have been any more perfect. But I literally cannot wait to go back. And take my Em.

Have you been?

Blessings y’all – Amy

But First, Seattle!

As I sit in the airport, headed home from our Alaskan adventure, Seattle seems so long ago!!! Seattle made a huge impression on me – hard to believe it’s only been a little over a week since we landed here. While we didn’t do some of the typical Seattle nods such as the Space Needle or Aquarium we did cover a lot of ground by the market. Like literally a lot of ground – we walked about 15 miles in two and a half days!

We were blessed with a gorgeous day on the first day we were in town. The locals all said it was usually overcast. Seattle being the city with the 7th highest rainfall totals I was expecting to be wet during our time there. But Friday was literally a perfect day. We got up early (read I couldn’t sleep) and headed into the market area. This was the first thing I saw when we came around the corner. Pretty sure I almost got hit by a car stopping in my tracks to dig for my phone. 🙂

Original Starbucks!

My primary mission? To get my first Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) of the 2022 fall season at the Original Starbucks in Pike’s Market. Tim had braced himself for the line but we only waited about 15 minutes. The barista working the door said that line can be upwards of an hour and a half and when we saw it again on Saturday I believe him! The door barista also gave me a tip to get my PSL with their “reserve” blend coffee that is only available at the original SB. It was a solid tip – it took away the bitter bite that SB coffee usually has on the occasion I go for coffee. It was well worth the four days wait for that first PSL…and I had no idea that ALL merch from that first stop was brown instead of the traditional SB green. Poor Tim got to carry a bag with him the rest of the day with my goodies.

A tiny sampling of the gorgeous flowers…

We spent all day at the market just wandering. The flowers were incredible and the smell can be a little overwhelming in some sections of the market because there are so many. If I lived anywhere close to the market I would have fresh flowers in my home all the time… They were way prettier than anything I’ve seen at the store and way less expensive! Lots of vendors selling everything under the sun – but to be a market vendor you have to be selling something original – so Tim got worried about suitcase space very very quickly. I think I have more Seattle treasures/souvies coming home than I do from Alaska.

Our second main objective was to find a little hidden speakeasy called Bathtub Gin & Co. I mean, y’all know me right? Bathtub themed? Gin? This little hidden gem was practically calling my name! Tim got a little uneasy when we wound up in a back alley on a sketch side of town but once I saw the bouncer I told him to shush – we were fine. They lead you into this dark tiny place and our seats were a cut in half bathtub! Some locals spotted “tourist” on our forehead pretty quickly and started giving out places to eat and see while we were in town almost faster than I could put them in my phone. The only thing I wish I had done different was connect the mental dots of switching out their well gin for one of the special ones they had on the menu that I like. But the atmosphere was incredible.

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Saturday was pretty much a repeat of Friday. We could have gone and done other things but the market just spoke to both of us. We had a chef guided food tour of the market scheduled and for the most part they had a gluten free option for me at every stop. The ones they didn’t Tim just got to have his portion and mine! He had a lot of local perspective and stories about the market that was mingled in with our 2 1/2 hour walking tour. The market atmosphere on Saturday was markedly different than Friday – it was wall to wall people with so many sounds and smells I was quickly in sensory overload.

About 4 pm on Saturday evening we both ran out of steam. The miles of walking, most of which was on hills/stairs, plus short nights and my uncooperative stomach took its toll. We got really lucky though. The restaurant located in our hotel had an amazing menu and a very friendly bartender. We managed to kill our Saturday night there without having to leave the hotel again. It was also one of the few meals of the week that my stomach actually decided to keep. (Traveling sets off my anxiety which triggers my stomach…usually it lets up after a few days but I have been sick the entire ten days this time. It’s one of the few sour notes on the week.)

Sunday we had scheduled a Lyft to the port and other than having a few more hours to kill (I got to do one more walk through the market and Tim finally hit the line short enough to try the donuts) it was time to say goodbye to Seattle. I cannot wait to come back and spend more time in this city!

Blessings, y’all! – Amy

Not Their Choice Always…

Fair warning – soap box post!

It’s no secret I love to travel. My most preferred method is cruising. I’ve been on five since the restart post COVID and twenty two since I fell in love with it. I have crew that I consider family that I honestly love as much as my own. What I have noticed, more since the restart then ever before, is the lack of respect and warmth to the crew that should be there as human beings. Don’t get me wrong. There are fellow passengers who love on, take care of, and respect the crew the way they should. Then there are those that yell at, demand, and in general treat them like servants. Having gotten close to many of them let me offer you a perspective that you may not have…

For many it’s not completely their choice to be there. They live in countries where jobs are scarce and the jobs that are available don’t pay enough to feed a family let alone keep a roof over their head. For months and months at a time they leave behind their loved ones – many of which include their growing children. As a mom that’s not a choice I could have ever made when my kids were growing up…but I was blessed to not have to. For these moms and dads – it’s the only way they can give them a good life. They treasure their time at home and cry for days when it’s time to go back. They are keenly aware of what they are missing.

These sweet human beings send money home to take care of their moms and dads. Their children. Their aunts and uncles if need be. They deal with internet challenges that keep them from always being able to connect with home when they need to see their family. They work 12-18 hour days to give us unbelievably memorable vacations. They see the absolute worst examples of humanity and they greet everyone with a smile. It always astounds me that they manage to make my week with them feel like it’s the most important time to them…then they have to reset and do it all again in a matter of hours. They learn names at an amazing rate. The best of the best remember that you prefer vodka over gin or that you hate croutons on your salad night after night. On my last cruise I had a sweet lady make sure I got my most favorite Italian dish – with gluten free pasta. Some of the most amazing human beings I have ever met work in the service industry – whether on a ship, behind the bar at my local hang out, or at my favorite Mexican food restaurant(s).

I get it – we live in a time these days where compassion is losing its value. Where impatience is high and tolerance is low. Maybe I have more sympathy for it because I work in an industry where my work force has to do the same thing to take care of their families. But maybe the next time you have to wait a few extra minutes for your meal, or a drink, or a towel….remember there is a very tired human that is getting it for you. One who in all likelihood hasn’t seen their family in months and probably doesn’t know when they are going to get to with the current labor shortage. Give them a smile and say “thank you”. Because I promise you…they notice those that are kind to them. And it means the world to them.

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

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