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

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

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

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

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