Taking Back MY Island

COVID took a lot of things from a lot of people. While Galveston was my retreat from a house here that closed in on me with memories and grief – running there cost me it being my sanctuary. 2020 and early 2021 were eighteen months of my life I hope to never repeat. That being said there is some truth to what they say about rising from the ashes. While I couldn’t see it at the time, when it felt like my world was crumbling, it was a blessing. The woman I am today, while grieving again after losing Mom, is stronger. Happy. In love. Fiercely proud of the work I’ve done and what I know about myself now.

So it’s time. It’s time to take back MY island. It’s time to pack away the sadness and unhappy memories that last plagued me there. From my young adulthood, from my family life, and hopefully now in this new season there have been so many happy memories on that island. And Tim hasn’t been. So I’m loading up my youngest girls, Bev, and my man and we’re gonna soak up some sand and sunshine for four days this weekend.

We’re gonna get the chance to *finally* reconnect with cruise family and be that obnoxious large loud table in the corner Saturday night. 🙂 We’re gonna cruise the seawall with the top down on the jeep and the radio all the way up. I’m going to take sunrise walks on the beach (most likely by myself) and sunset walks with Tim.

We are going to have root beer floats at La King’s. Shop on the Strand. Go by and see the cruise ships in port and count the days until our next one. (39 for me but who’s counting!!) Eat seafood until we can’t stand it. Fly a kite. Sit and shoot the breeze on Murdoch’s porch. Show Tim all our favorite haunts. Play mini golf. Maybe take in Pleasure Pier. Hunt down the renovated houses on Renovating Galveston that Tim and I have been watching. Basically do anything we want and have a blast kicking off the summer!

We’ve got four days of work and then we’re hitting the road. I can’t wait.

Where’s your go to place you run to in happy times?

Blessings y’all – Amy

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

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

Grand Turk

I have three favorite ports of call. Three that are my favorite for a variety of reasons…in no particular order….Grand Cayman, Grand Turk, and Cozumel. Last week I was returned to the beauty and peacefulness that is Grand Turk. The minute the ship pulls into Grand Turk it is blue water as far as the eye can see. Blue water that is an indescribable color I have tried to replicate in my home, my office, and in just about every aspect of my life because it brings me such joy and peacefulness.

Staring Out Into the Ocean

Astrologically I am a Cancer (Tim is too but that’s another post!). As a water sign as soon as I get around water my souls stills and my body relaxes. Every knot in my body unfurls and I can breathe again. I truly think the reason cruising appeals to me so much is that I can breathe out on the open water. Nothing, absolutely nothing, phases me when I am near the ocean.

Standing Listening to the Surf

Grand Turk, the cruise port, is pretty commercial. It’s designed to part you with your money. If that’s your thing, they get you taken care of. Blessedly, unlike other ports, you can get your beach/water fix as well within a few minutes walk of the ship. Some ports require you to be taken by bus to the beach and that’s never really fun. I’ve done excursions in Grand Turk but sometime a couple of years ago I found that just getting off the ship, wandering around, and then sitting in Margaritaville watching all the people was much more relaxing. I make sure that I get back on the boat before the masses and it makes for a very relaxing day.

Carnival Cruises built the port center on Grand Turk in 2006 which is why it feels so commercial. Unlike other Caribbean cruise stops, Grand Turk is a very small island, and offers a different atmosphere than other destinations. It’s just a laid-back little town with amazing beaches and a little British Bermudian Colonial heritage.

When you stand in the water you can see straight down to the bottom (about the only kind of water I will stand in!) and it’s beautiful. The sand doesn’t hurt your feet like other beaches. The surf is beautiful and relaxing.

Tim & I at the beach

Anyway, if you get the chance get to Grand Turk. It’ll surely become one of your favs too. I’ll be back to it in July and I can’t wait!

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

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