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

The Power of Getting Healthy

As a nation we spend our time running from one activity to the next – keeping our calendars so full that we never catch our breath – and the consequence of that is shoving every emotion and every thing we need to deal with on a shelf until the shelf, well, breaks. Most often breaks at an inopportune time that blows your life apart. When things erupt that trigger some emotion we find someone or something to blame it on so that we can move on without digging into the feeling. In the narcissistic society we live in it’s always someone else’s fault – even in situations we ourselves created. We cut people from our lives who push our buttons or make us feel more than we want to.

I know because I’ve done it. I learned it from my family and I taught it to mine. We tell ourselves it’s because they will “never” change and we “just can’t” handle them anymore. In reality it’s because we have our own growth to do it and THAT work is simply too hard. That work is uncomfortable. That work may fracture relationships that we shouldn’t have been in to begin with. We tell ourselves it’s the best thing for our family….in actuality we’re perpetuating the cycle. We’re teaching our kids to do the same running from instead of dealing with as we learned.

The thing is? When you do the work…when you find a doctor, counselor, mentor who is actually really qualified to help you…ooohhh let me tell you. That place? That healthy place where you can tell someone right then when they hurt your feelings or have a conflict? THAT is gold. That is a healing place that if we all learned how to find there wouldn’t be these hairline fractures under all our feet that is dividing our country.

The great part is that work also heals relationships. It puts people back in your life that those old voices were keeping away. It allows you to see people for who they are not for who/what all the history told you they were. THAT work takes away all the broken and clogged mental filters and just brings back clarity and sunshine.

It’s not a magic pill. It’s not an overnight change. It’s always a work in progress. As much as I’ve learned about myself in the last two years I still have days I log onto the counseling session in tears because I can’t unravel the complicated threads of my mind. But, you see, those threads don’t get nearly as tangled as they used to. I have tools now that I can use to help me come out of the dark places. I have the power to choose what I allow to rattle me and when I say “so what?”.

That is the best part. The power of getting healthy is that no one else ever has the power over me again. No one else has the power over my feelings. The power to make me feel small or like a bad person. Getting healthy means I know who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and who I will and won’t allow into my healthy space. It allows me to cut through the bullshit games and be great when I know I’m where I need to be.

That’s the place I want to be in this second chapter of my life.

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

Invisible Boundaries

It may be as simple as you buy the laundry detergent your mom always used. Using the same kind of pens your first boss did (twenty years ago). Or never doing XYZ because someone important to you told you not to. Can you think of something you “always/never” do that you never stopped to think about why or that you just accepted as a fact without asking yourself why?

I ran smack into a couple of those this weekend. Let me explain. I’ve been watching the value of my Suburban for some time now with this crazy car economy. Wanting to get out of it at the end of the warranty and while I could get dang near as much as I paid for it (!). Then gas prices skyrocketed and I watched 25% of the value evaporate seemingly overnight last week. 🙄

Cue the tedious task of car shopping. In my family “we hate Fords”. Couldn’t tell you when or why that started but it’s a knowledge I grew up with from my grandpa. Yet – I felt myself drawn to the new Bronco’s. Went to look at those Saturday and that was a disaster story for another day and suffice to say – I still hate Fords. But the sporty feeling of the Bronco was clearly a Jeep knock off. The words that came out of my mouth were “I can’t have a Jeep”. The response I got was “why”.

“Fred said I can’t” – my answer

Awkward silence. Ummm. Yah. Invisible boundary. Rule I live(d) by without question. Fred’s reason, I knew, is that I drive like a crazy person and Jeep’s roll. But alas, I am a grown person capable of a) slowing the hell down and b) deciding what kind of car I want. I also wanted a truck. Because I love my yard and if you had ever seen what I hauled in that Suburban you would understand why I needed a truck. But a truck didn’t get me away from the reason I was moving away from the suburban…a gas guzzling beast of a vehicle.

A trip to the Jeep dealership landed me in wild never before thought of territory. A Jeep Gladiator. The very car I made fun of as “a Jeep that swallowed a truck and didn’t fully digest it”. 😬 But oooohhh it rides high enough that this short girl can see. Aaaahhhh it’s sporty. Ummmmm it has a truck bed. Well hell. It also comes in my favorite color – OCEAN BLUE. Dang it.

Meet my new gal. Currently being referred to as “Dory”. As in Finding Nemo. Not sure that’s the final name but sure is sticking so far.

When I say I went from one end of the emotional spectrum and back like I have NEVER on buying a car – geez. I was almost daring that dang sales guy to not giving me what I wanted for the suburban. Buying Dory meant crossing the invisible boundary in my mind laid by Fred about owning a Jeep. It meant letting go of driving a Suburban. Fred and I’s long time goal car and what I have driven since he died. Saying goodbye to driving a “mom” car and all the years spent shuffling kids and friends and STUFF everywhere. Saying goodbye really to that chapter of my life and this being another step towards this next chapter I’ve been working on for two years. It was dang hard.

With Tim’s sweet patient style and a few tears I got it done. And my challenge for you today is to ask yourself what you do in your life that is just because you “always” have. Or because it’s an invisible boundary someone (or you) laid for you. And then cross it. Big or small.

We only keep growing when we keep pushing ourselves. It’s hard. It takes work. Frankly it can suck eggs. But’s it’s what makes life interesting.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Over A Cliff

It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.

Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.

I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.

I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.

I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?

It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.

For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.

Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.

Blessings y’all – Amy

All or Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Difference in a Year

“Until you’re broken, you don’t know what you are made of. It gives you the ability to build yourself all over again – but stronger than ever.” – Unknown

I received a text this weekend after posting pictures of a visit to Hot Springs that said “you look so happy”! It made me smile then it made me curious. I, of course, know that everything inside has been torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Aside from the random weird days that I will always have due to having genes filled with depression and anxiety the smile on my face has become a permanent fixture. But what was it that was showing through on pictures? Thank goodness for modern technology because I was able to just open my photo app and scroll backwards.

February 4, 2021

The picture above, taken at the height of the chaos that was 2020-2021, shows me in my happy place with a smile on my face. But it’s not until I saw this weekend’s picture next to it that I understood….

January 15, 2022

In 2021 the smile was there but it didn’t completely transform my face. It didn’t reach my eyes and my body language said “take the damn picture already”. This weekend’s picture? I feel like I am looking at a different person. THIS is the woman I feel inside now. Lit with happiness, love, and a passion for doing the things in life that I love doing. Not afraid to be in front of the camera and happiest out and about with people I love.

I was told by multiple friends lately that sometime in the last six months I became an extrovert. Who me? The girl who hated parties or leaving the house? Yep. Amy 2.0 loves having a full schedule, a LONG bucket list of places she needs to see, and friends (and a handsome man) that wants to do all the things with her.

Grief, loss, life changes, outside people and forces….they will flatten you like a cement roller. Whether or not you choose to let them? That’s your choice. Mine (with a whole lot of support from a long list of people) was to pick myself up, dig in, and come out better.

If you are going through something and need an ear? Let me know. 🙂

Blessing y’all – Amy

Reflections on 2021

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

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

Prayer Journal #3

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

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

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

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

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

Amy

December 21st Thoughts

Another year has gone by…so much has changed. 65 years ago today a pair of twins was born. One is still with us and one has gone on to watch over us. Each year this day brings such a flood of emotions that the range could make a sane person look for the nearest cliff. So far this morning this year my thoughts are positive. Though I did hit the snooze button for almost an hour because I just didn’t want to get up (I’m sure the insane December calendar didn’t have anything to do with that, right?).

In the years since Fred left us this day has been one the kids and I dread. Flooded with memories, a reminder on the calendar that he is gone, it’s been another day in December we have to “get through”. Starting back in November when the girls, Zane, and I started talking about holiday plans we decided this year would be different. We’d gather tonight like we always do…but we are doing our annual family gingerbread house decorating tonight so that the tone for the night isn’t sad. It’ll be exactly as Fred loved best – his family gathered together making memories and having fun. Nothing brought a smile to his face more than that. His family being together is what made him the happiest in life.

Wedding of Zane Harrington and Amy Lanford, June 4, 2016

As I reflect on the changes this year has brought I know he would be incredibly proud that life is finally moving on. One promise Fred asked of me over and over again was that I not close my heart off when he was gone. I gave him the promise he wanted but at the time was sure I couldn’t keep it. Like so many other times, he knew me better than I know myself. The smile on my face each day now as my world blossoms again is a testament to that.

I know he’s watching over my babies and can see their lives more clearly than I can. I know there are things going on in each of their worlds that are making him “leak” as we called it and that are making him proud. I know that he is their biggest cheerleader and walking beside each of them no matter what choices they make. That brings me comfort as I learn the art of letting go that he was so much better at than I am.

As you go out into the world today, do something #fredly. Think of the sweet kind man that he was and put a little good into the universe. It’s the best way he can be remembered!

Blessings y’all – Amy