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

Grief is….

Grief is…anxiety. Fear. Guilt. Anger. Pain. Regret. Messy. Confusing. And so much more.

Death is not peaceful. It’s not something you can prepare for – no matter how much you tell yourself you can. Your journey through healing from a loss is not something anyone else can understand – even if they have experienced significant loss themselves. Grief is a deeply personal internal journey that one must navigate oneself. At the very best the love and support of friends and family will allow you to do so and at the very worst words like “just move on” or “aren’t you over it already” will be said. People say dumb hurtful things without even realizing it – death and grief make people uncomfortable so awkward encounters are to be expected.

I think when we think of someone grieving we think of someone in a state of constant crying. Maybe unable to eat, sleep, smile, or laugh. And yeah, for the first little bit those things are definitely the case. But grieving goes far beyond what the outside world sees in those early days after a loss.

Grief manifests itself in hundreds of ways. For me, grief creates great anxiety over loss. Without realizing it I push away those close to me because if they aren’t close then maybe it won’t hurt so bad when they have to leave me too. Or the alternative. I hold on so tight neither of us can breathe. Neither option is super great for important relationships in my life. Grief in another anxiety form is the inability to make the simplest decisions for fear they will be wrong. For fear they will set off some kind of chain reaction that will make this black place I am existing in worse.

Grief in the guilt form is endless questions like “did they know how much I loved them”. “Did I spend enough time with them?” “What was the last thing I said to them?” “Did I do enough?” “Was I enough?” The answer to all of those questions is YES but the sleepless endless loop of those questions can make you wonder.

Grief makes everyday life impossible for a while. Things you used to be able to handle – loud noises, high stress, weird situations – unbearable. Situations that are usually no big deal can make you burst into tears or irrationally angry. Grief in the anger form is extrapolated over many aspects of your life. Anger at traffic. Anger at the guy who cut you off in line at the grocery store. Anger at little things not realizing you are really angry because someone you loved deeply was taken from you.

Grief just plain hurts. Physically and mentally. I get stomachaches that keep me from eating. My limbs get heavy and functioning hurts. My brain starts to ache after a while from trying to settle my thoughts. It becomes easier to just go through the motions of my life than to try and sort out the volume of feelings and thoughts that I have. That is where depression takes over and the life I love starts to ebb away. THAT is a dangerous place I have to watch out for.

Most importantly – grief has no dang timeline. I don’t care what any book, expert, or TV tells you. Everyone heals on their on pace. And just when you think you have something rips it open again. It may not bleed as bad the second, third, tenth time – but it’s a wound that just keeps opening. To this day I have days where I miss my grandpa’s hugs so bad I just want to lay down in the floor and cry. Or where I would give my left arm to hear Fred make my daughter laugh, really deep down laugh, the way only he could. And most recently I’d give anything to be able to just “rest my eyes” next to Mom the way she’d make me when I was a kid to trick me into taking a nap. No one can tell you how or when to heal. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just FEEL and breathe. Best thing I can say.

And if you don’t relate to this blog post at all – you are one of the luckiest people I know.

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 Good Ones

Gabby Barrett has a song that the melody has been playing over and over in my head the last few days…the lyrics speaking truth over a blessing God put in my life I wasn’t expecting and certainly didn’t feel I would be blessed with.

“A love me like he should one
Like he wrote the book one
The kind you find when you don’t even look one
Anybody can be good once
But he’s good all the time
He’s one of the good ones
And he’s all mine
He’s one of the good ones”

I haven’t been shy about sharing the painful journey my life has been the last few years. I don’t plan on being shy about the amazing way that with a prayer, a lot of work, and faith God turned my world right side up again.

Fred made me promise I would find love again. I told him we only get one love in life and I had had mine. That I would never open myself up again to that kind of vulnerability or pain. My pastors sermon this last week was on what God does with “never”. I’ve said never about a lot of things in my life…😳

Two months ago a man who has a passion for travel that I do, who is as much a dog lover as I am, who shares love of dark chocolate, the ocean, and has a heart the size of Texas chose me. Me!

Tim & I Hot Springs Jan 2022

The days since then have flown by. We’ve got a bucket list that just keeps growing. The smile on my face when he walks into a room could supply electricity to most of the eastern seaboard. My brain is having a little trouble with the switch from survivor to thriving but he (and my tribe!) supports me through all that.

He is patient when I am down. He is thoughtful and kind. He never shies away when I mention Fred and understands how that chapter of my life shaped who I am today. He makes my detail oriented self look disorganized because he is always on top of things. But most importantly ours is a partnership. We work to share the load of whatever is going on – fun or mess – together.

Guess you can tell I think he’s kind of awesome. I’ve been blessed. If you are still single, have faith. There are still good ones. If you snagged one – hug ‘em tight. Life is short and precious. ❤️

Blessings y’all – Amy

Reflections on 2021

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

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

Prayer Journal #3

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

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

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

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

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

Amy

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