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

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

13 Mothers

I have to be careful how much news I watch. How often I get sucked down the rabbit hole of his opinion vs her opinion and all that that entails. It is difficult to get any truly impartial news anymore anyway so often I just tune it out.

What I have not been able to tune out, nor would I want to, the last few days is the heartbreak that 13 mothers are facing. The overwhelming and unending grief that they are consumed by as their brains try and make sense of the news that their selfless children gave their lives for their country. I don’t think I could come close to understanding their pain; but I think that every mother has some idea on some level the agony they would feel if they couldn’t hold their babies one more time. It was instinctual for me to want to reach out to mine this morning. To assure myself they are safe and whole. It brings tears when I think about those 13 mothers that will never have that comfort again.

The solemn procession of a fallen solider to his final resting place

In April Amy and I were fortunate enough to take a trip to Washington D.C. and I will carry the sense of patriotism I felt there for the rest of my life. As we stood in Arlington National Cemetery and watched a fallen soldier be taken slowly and with all the honor he deserved to his final resting place my heart ached for him and all the lives that lay before me. As the 21 gun salute rang out in the distance I got chills. You see I have always considered myself an American. Fred and I always taught our children to thank soldiers when they saw them. Buy their meal or their coffee. Small tokens that don’t equate at all for the sacrifices they make for us. Standing in that sacred space finally gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.

13 soldiers gave their lives for us. 13 mothers will never be the same. Their hearts are forever shattered. The only way we can honor that is by remembering their sacrifice every day as we go about our lives. Lives that are preciously free because of their sacrifice. By honoring our flag and our forefathers. By uniting as a nation and staring down terrorism and those that wish us harm.

All gave some. Some gave all.

To the veterans, to those on active duty, and to the families that support them. To those that have gone on due to their service. To the 13 mothers with broken hearts that I feel so deeply today.

Thank you. And God Bless You.

Reflections of a Wounded Heart

They say everything changes when you turn 40. Actually they say it all goes to hell in a hand basket. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Things droop that didn’t before, going to bed at 8 am no longer seems appalling, the eye doctor says the dreaded “bi-focal” word. You don’t FEEL 40, heck you don’t feel 30, but the number keeps climbing.

More importantly your perspective on many things changes. For some, it happens naturally and without pain. Maturity just grows along with the number of candles on your cake. For others, 🙋🏻‍♀️, it takes catastrophic events to shake them out of the protective bubble they have cast around themselves. While I wish dearly I had fallen into group “a” my life has always dictated I do things the hard way.

If you have known me long or been reading here you know I’ve been going through massive changes in my life. Some of my choosing but most, well, not. What I didn’t anticipate as I fought, scratched, clawed, disrespected, and basically did everything but throw myself in front of things beyond my control is that God was working. He was allowing me to screw up to the “nth” degree. On purpose. Letting me get to a place there was no light. No hope. No joy. No love. Nothing at all left of the stability I craved with every fiber of my being.

Before you jump ship saying He wouldn’t do that – hang on. God had been trying to get my attention for years. Aborted journals reflect that. Times I cried out but quickly “fixed” it myself attested to that. I am a “fixer”. There is nothing (so I thought) that I couldn’t analyze for all the possible negative outcomes and navigate myself or someone I loved out of danger. I mean c’mon. If you were dealing with a human that dumb wouldn’t you let them fall as far as they could before you showed them the way?

Not saying God has any such thoughts. But I certainly would have looked at me and say “you have fun with that let me know when you need real help”. Blessedly God has abundant mercy and grace. He is patient and knew long before I did that this dark season was coming. Sometimes I wish he had given me some warning but if I look back really hard I bet I can find the warnings I chose to ignore.

Recently a co-worker told me he’s finding many people our age running into self reflection. I can’t speak for anyone else but self reflection is putting it mildly. Self analysis, soul searching, self questioning, self correction, self remodeling…you get the idea. Coming face to face with every one of my imperfections and analyzing and agonizing over how I have handled some parts of my life. How it changed relationships in my past or present. How it passed down to my children. Who my own fears and insecurities erased from my life. It’s exhausting. I’m not a bad person – I know that – but I, like any human, have places I could have chosen a different path.

It would be easy to blame it all on the very broken environment I was raised in. And while the lions share of it belongs there (validated by the counselor) at some point I consciously or subconsciously made choices for my own protection from pain. I willingly tucked my family in closer than it should have been (to be healthy) because I was afraid the world would break the happiness I had found. I guarded the nest Fred and I created with the energy of a tiger protecting a steak. When I suffered the catastrophic loss of my husband I somehow pulled my children in CLOSER. Unknowingly stifling their growth and happiness.

Regardless of what anyone thinks not a single choice I have made has been with ill intention. Not one. I am discovering how very hard it is for others to know that. In a society where judging comes first and any sort of compassion and understanding comes second it appeared controlling. Only those closest to me, who know my purest heart, understand who I am. As I embrace the woman God intended me to be, and get the love I need from Him (where I should have gotten it all along), I am finding myself still battling stress and regrets but with a softer tongue and a self awareness that comes with maturity and being shaped by pain. I find myself understanding which wrong turns I took and how a different path would have landed a different outcome. I find myself letting my children know where I went wrong so they can avoid making the same painful mistakes. Fully understanding that in their young immaturity they’ll probably have to make them anyway but once a protective mother always a protective mother.

I say all this to say…take time for reflection. Allow God to speak to your heart and show you the way. If you are still young avoid youthful impatience in your choices. Be mindful of the longevity of adulthood and how lasting decisions really can be. But know that if you are nursing a wounded heart? God still has plans for you. He does for me and while I’m impatient to find out what they are I know it’ll happen on His time. And that I am learning in every second that I am waiting.

God Bless – Amy

A mother’s point of view…

With Mother’s Day finally in the rear view these thoughts have been bubbling for a while.

While some would argue that only childbirth makes you a mother it is so much deeper than that. To me? A mother is defined as someone, anyone, who can put the needs of another person ahead of their own and lead them. Be that biological, foster, step, adoptive, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, niece, friend, or family in those roles by choice. A woman who sets aside her own needs, feelings, thoughts, and wants and sacrifices for your greatness. Who in a million ways you never see sheds countless tears and asks herself a million times if she is doing the right thing, if she did the right thing, if she was ENOUGH for you. Who sits up with you when you are sick, who balances a home, work, and everything in between to make sure you have the childhood she never had. The woman in your life who STEPS UP.

Perhaps one of the reasons this is one of my favorite Bible verses is it’s application to not only the love between a man and wife but also all love.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

As a mother, you catch yourself failing sometimes in the “it does not insist on it’s own way” part. As a Mama Bear there is no greater pull inside you than to protect your child at all costs. To follow your instincts on what is right for those God trusted you to care for. That doesn’t have an expiration date. Whether they are 3 or 30, the urge to run into oncoming traffic to protect never dies. The instinct to fling your arm out across the passenger seat at a hard stop doesn’t suddenly turn off because they are adults. When they have kids of their own you’ll still worry when you know you kid is sick.

At what point does that willingness to be fearless in protecting turn into a bad thing? At what point do you go from being a great mom to being the mom who is starved just for a phone call on mandatory “call your mom” holidays? Leaving you wondering – did I do it wrong? What happened?

Take heart ladies. This, my friends, is the answer. You didn’t do it wrong. You did such a good job you set them into the world where they don’t need the safety net that is you. They are now the fearless ones. You built their wings so strong they are flying high. Does it suck that they forget who made them that strong? Yep. Does it hurt like the dickens? Holy heck yes. But Proverbs 22:6 says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” They want to set the world on fire right now. They know where they came from and in times of crisis they will turn to you. It will be your voice they crave.

I spent most of Mother’s Day 2021 alone. I ached for my children. I cried when the phone rang and when the door opened. I cried at the emptiness of the house and the flood of posts on social media. I will never get used to that. But God pushed me to watch a sermon last night that reminded me of the truths I share with you today. I didn’t do it wrong. I got it so right – they are good human beings. I made them the amazing humans they are (I had some help from my hubby). And when the timing is right my home will be filled again with the love and laughter that makes my heart happy. Until then…I got it right.