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

Dawn of a New Day

My insomnia lately has been epic. Just epic. I can’t decide if it’s because I have too much energy to burn or if it’s too many new and exciting things going on in my life that my mind just won’t rest. Whatever the reason I found myself awake to catch a completely gorgeous sunrise out at sea this morning and I was mesmerized with God’s stunning artwork…

Carnival Dream Thanksgiving Cruise 2021

The magnitude of the new days that are breaking in my life always circles back to the blessing that God has gotten me through the dark and the sun seems to be rising on the next chapter. Light is shining into all the dark places where pain has hidden and with it comes joy. Light that on the hardest darkest days I didn’t know would come again.

Psalm 143:8 says: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Even when I wasn’t very religious, watching the sun come up and bathe the world in light had the power to stir me. Reading that scripture now, and understanding it to the very depth of who I am, it is a promise that each day God will sustain me and always bring back the light no matter what harshness this ugly world brings. It gives me hope that He will fulfill the same promise to each person in my life that I love and pray for.

May He bring blessing to you today as you spend long weekends with friends and family. Safe travels home to all. – Amy

Friends Who Become Family

“Friends are the family you choose with your heart.”

Definition of Friendship — I'm Fine.

Macedonia, Romania, Greece, Italy, Belarus, Mexico, Serbia, New York, Connecticut, Baltimore, California, Arkansas… If you had asked this shy small town girl who graduated in a class with only 23 other people if she would have friends located in all these far away places she would have laughed at you. And yet….

Instagram messenger goes off and my face lights up with a message from my Z in Macedonia. It’s 4 am where he is and yet the timing works perfectly to get to catch up. I’m working away at the office and Facebook messenger is dinging with excited chatter is coming in fast and furiously from the East Coast about an upcoming trip or from the sweet lady that mothers ME who is on a ship somewhere in the Caribbean. WhatsApp goes off to let me know I have a voice message from a treasured friend in Belarus I am praying to be able to see within a couple months. All blessings I never dreamed would be part of my life. Precious communication with people who have all become part of my life in ways this small town girl couldn’t have ever seen coming.

I’ve said before Thanksgiving always makes me reflect on everything. Many many of these special people are in my life from cruising and trips that centered around the holidays. This year as I reflect back on where the year started and the beautiful place I am in now, I am that much more thankful for each of these special people. Thankful for the role they played in my healing. Thankful for knowing I can pick up the phone at pretty much any time of day (thanks insomnia!) and reconnect with someone who stirs memories that can chase away the worst of moods.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Would fight to the end of time for each of them and to protect them. But there is something so special about having people in your life that don’t HAVE to be but CHOOSE to be. It’s humbling to know I have made an impression on someone enough they include me in their life that is going on hours away. More than just keeping up with their social media posts, but really knowing how they are and missing them fiercely. Knowing they get as excited to see me as I do them.

As we go into a season that tends to bring out the worst in all of us because of stress, bad family trauma, or a variety of other reasons – I challenge you to reconnect with SOMEONE who once made your heart beat faster and a smile hit your face because their name showed up on your phone. It’ll make everything else seem unimportant.

To those who chose me simply because I’m me – I LOVE YOU!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Thankful, Grateful, and Blessed

In years past I’ve spent all of November trying to remember to post something I was grateful for each day. In all honesty, I should be grateful year round because I have blessings beyond any I thought I would have in my life. Even with the cruel cards life has chosen to deal at times God has blessed me abundantly. So I decided this year I would sum it all up at one time and turn my attention on enjoying the things this season of life and time of year is serving up.

Thankful, Grateful, And Truly Blessed Metal Sign - Christian Wall Art |  Metal Shack – The Metal Shack

I am so grateful and thankful for my tribe. They know who they are! If ever I needed a reminder as to how amazing they are the way they took care of me last week shows it. I have family members who didn’t even check on me until I’d been down for a week but my tribe, my girls, and my son in law were there in every way they could be. There is a saying that friends are the family we get to choose and mine are my family as much as anyone in my life by blood or by marriage. My life is richer because of them.

I am so grateful and I am truly blessed by the friends my travel has brought into my life. Knowing that I can step on almost any ship or go just about anywhere and have a friend to hang out with or reconnect with is humbling. The shy country girl that exists somewhere inside me is getting quieter and quieter because I truly love getting to know new people on each new adventure.

I said this to someone the other day off the cuff and when I thought about it later I realized I never really realized what a blessing it was. Holidays were hard even before the loss of my hubby. Growing up holidays were laced with family drama and usual my mom fighting with the current spouse. In 2012 Fred and I took the kids on their first cruise and we went over Thanksgiving. While that turned out to be the last time Fred would ever cruise with us, it started a tradition that will honestly probably be in place the rest of my life. While I can do the whole shebang it’s my preference to pack my bag, say peace out to the cooking and cleaning, and sail away for 7-8 days. I am beyond thankful that Fred had the foresight and the selflessness to stay home each year and let the kids and I cultivate this tradition. And in two short weeks it’ll be time for Em and I to celebrate Thanksgiving again – our way!

This one is weird but I am thankful for the hardships I’ve been through. Who I am today as a person is from withstanding the storms of life. The appreciation I have for my blessings is because I know firsthand my life could be so much worse. Life can tear you down and change you for the worst or it can claw at you and shape you for the better! It may take me a little time sometimes to see the silver lining but I always find it.

Nothing should be taken away from these next few just because they are lumped together. I’m grateful for a roof over my head, wheels under my feet, a job that I love, and the fur babies that love me unconditionally. Not everyone can get out of bed every day and go to a job that they love and where they are loved. I try not to take that for granted. I am supported in every way by bosses that have seen me through the lowest points in my life over the last ten years.

In this month of Thanksgiving – what are you reminded to be thankful for?

Blessings, Amy

Italy Memories

Two years ago I was in Rome, Italy. My Timehop is bombarding me with memories of all the beauty and wonder that Italy and Greece was. Thought I’d take a trip down memory lane…

Riomaggiore

This little village was perhaps one of my favorite stops of the week and was a last minute itinerary add based on the recommendation of my orthopedist. When we got there (after 36 hours awake!) I was instantly in love. Charming little area by the sea with steep enough hills to make you want to be sure you are in shape before you visit. Mailed my first overseas postcard from there and got to practice my Italian-that-sounds-like-Spanish with a sweet shop keeper who had the patience of a saint.

The Coliseum

Another bucket list item, the Coliseum, did not fail to take my breath away. From being inside it and having a grasp of just how long it has been standing to capturing it from a distance as we finished our tour it was just a magnificent experience.

Being overseas and seeing the structures that have stood for thousands of years and remain gorgeous makes you wonder why we (Americans) always tear stuff down and have to have bigger better more. The craftsman ship that was in every place we went in Italy and Greece just can’t be matched stateside!

The food!!!

I was sort of prepared to eat well in Italy…but totally unprepared for how amazing the food would be. Or that my better off gluten free self would be able to tolerate their pasta and breads so well. One of our first stops was a roadside “gas” station that offered up fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh bread you never want to stop eating. The food was like that everywhere in Italy and Greece. Makes my mouth water just to think about going back to that food!

I have hundreds of pictures from Italy and Greece. I know I will go back but there is something special about your first time. I am grateful for the TimeHop reminders to nudge another trip overseas higher up the must do list.

Ciao! – Amy

The Road I’m Taking Now

I have long believed that there are places that live in our heart that, when given the chance to return there, fill your happy tank in a way that is indescribable. Hot Springs as a whole is one of those places but within that magic town is a winding road up to the mountain tower. It’s tradition for our family to drive it before we head out of town. It’s also become tradition to take more than a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Hot Springs, AR

For me, today, this road had a different message. Today I could see the connection between this winding road and the path I’ve been on the last few years. I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape that masks the possibility of falling right over the steep edge. How many times have I fallen off the edge as I’ve worked on healing? How many times have I failed to appreciate the beauty that lies even in the fear and the pain? Too many to count.

Today I saw a road to follow that you can’t see the destination. I just have to start down it and have faith that around each corner or dip in the road that same road is still under me and in front of me carrying me to the next destination. I know that some of the positive message I took from this place is a reflection of the peaceful happy place I have reached in my heart but somehow it feels bigger than that.

How many time do we deviate from the path because we focus on one of the tiny details on the side of the road instead of having faith in the road we’re on? Faith is a hard thing sometimes. As humans we think we can fix, control, or change things that are out of our control. The reality is that we can’t change a thing. We have to put our faith in God and the road ahead no matter how hard.

The road I am on now has me focused on the future. On chasing dreams and having a life filled with joy and laughter. Letting go of the illusion that I could change anything about the road God set me on has cracked open my heart so wide it’s breathtaking.

Don’t be afraid of the road. Have faith and just start the journey. It’ll make you happier than you could ever dream of if you focus on the beauty instead of the pain.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Here Come The Holidays

6 weeks until Thanksgiving. 10 weeks until Christmas. 11 weeks until we say goodbye to 2021 (who thankfully has been kinder than 2020) and hello 2022.

Freakin’ mind blowing. 2020 was a “B”. No way to sugar coat it – it just was. For so many reasons I could write a book about it. But for all the ways 2020 sucked for me (and all of us), 2021 brought about equally as many positive changes to my life. Changes I didn’t know I needed. Changes that giving thanks for them every day takes up part of my prayers each morning.

Even though life is more joyful and happy than I have known it to be in longer than I can remember, my stomach still clenches a little at the thought of the months of November and December. Aside from the fact that for at least the next six weeks work will be insane, Nov/Dec always bring out unrealistic expectations of myself and are flooded with land mines of memories and special dates.

Unlike years past this year I started working through what my expectations were of myself during these trying months before they get here. The answer? I HAVE NONE. I have committed to myself that I will not turn holiday season 2021 into a mental vortex of “gotta do’s”, tears, or judging myself for not being able to do _______________ (insert whatever). Instead I’ve mapped out the things that are important to me and with the fam and the rest will just be taken as it comes. I made plans for both November and December travel that will keep me focused on sandy beaches and frosty cocktails when I feel the stress coming on. My children are all grown so there will be no deck the halls and worrying about what the dogs eat of those decorations when I am at work. No long list of presents to buy and wrap. (hallelujah!)

The goal this year is to spend November taking a moment each day to give thanks for all I have and am blessed with. The goal for December is to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. God has so blessed my life in the last year! I want to cherish time with family and friends and keep the joy I currently can’t get enough as close to me as possible. THIS is the year I am not a crying puddle of goo by December 25th. THIS is the year that I will savor the good memories, on the important dates, and not mourn what has been lost. THIS is the year that closes a great chapter in my life but starts the next even better one.

Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Blessings – Amy

Life After 40…

Growing up I couldn’t see myself ever making it (literally staying alive) until I was 30. Was quite sure my abusive childhood would lead me into a situation that would kill me before then. When 30 came around I was happier than I had ever been in my life. I had married my best friend and had a thriving household. It was an occasion we celebrated and I didn’t give any thought to what 40 would bring.

Fast forward 10 years and I celebrated my 40th birthday without my love. My children made sure it was an amazing celebration – checked off a couple bucket list items for that trip – so I had no reason to feel sad but I was. On this birthday the future was all I thought about. All I had ever known myself to be was predefined roles. I didn’t FEEL 40! There was a part of my brain going “this can’t be right”.

Society pushes us to seek love, marriage, and the baby carriage as ultimate life goals. Most of us rush at them like a runaway freight train and then wonder a few years later why. What we don’t learn is how important taking care of your own self is to those goals. Literally we judge others who put themselves first. I learned to be afraid of judgement from others and expected to conform myself to whomever I needed to be to serve the situation. Fred pushed me to at least be able to start the process of finding myself and my voice but when love, marriage, and the baby carriage either died or started to leave the nest chaos ensued.

With a lot of hard work, making many mistakes along the way, I am starting to figure that out. I know I am not alone in this season of discovery…heck I’ve even see that there are books written on the subject about finding oneself after 40. I’m surrounded by good people that revel with me on whatever new thing we have discovered is not as we always thought it was. I’m in an exciting time of life where I am having a blast. It’s just flat amazing how empowering it is to not have to consult with anyone before making choices. Realizing that others are so lost in their own pain and survival that they don’t even notice the thing I used fear was a neon sign above my head. The most powerful discovery for me personally is someone else’s reality isn’t mine. I am not whatever label someone else has tried to stick on me. Someone else’s judgement of me is about them and their insecurity and fears, not me. Try that one on for size. It’ll blow your mind.

But it leads me to wonder why are we not teaching our children that nurturing your own self and being an individual is not a bad thing? What would it change for the next generation if they understood individuality with make them MORE not less? How do we break the cycle of caring and/or fearing what others think? That being a healthy individual capable of standing on your own two feet makes better relationships not worse ones? Lots of food for thought on those questions for a later post.

I’ll close with…don’t be afraid of the second chapter in life. Wherever you are on your journey about you, it’s a season of empowering change that your only regret will be not discovering these truths in your 20’s. Dust off the bucket list. MAKE a bucket list. Take the trip. Wear the whatever. Do something crazy and impulsive and do not care who is watching. Maybe YOU will inspire someone else!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Cruising Through Life?

Carnival Horizon peeking through the palms in La Romana

When I go too long between cruises I forget. I forget the energy that thrums through your body when you wake up on embarkation day and realize that FINALLY it’s time to get onboard. I forget how my heart races when my foot crosses the threshold of the ship and every muscle in my body screams “YES”. I also forget the way life just fades away and time slows down for a few days.

But the people? People are different onboard.

The crew you meet…there aren’t words for these amazing human beings. They make you feel like you are the most special person in their world for a week. They have some superhuman capacity for remembering they have met you before. With the thousands of faces they see I have no idea how on that one. But some of the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate gentle souls I have ever met dedicate their lives to these ships and making vacations unforgettable. It makes me physically ill when I see the few that can’t seem to leave their bad attitudes at home and abuse them like they are servants. More on that another time.

Amber Cove – a look at just how big Carnival Horizon is!

I think the most fascinating is how the guests are. 98% are more easy going and open to meeting new people than they ever would be at home. If the human race could tap into the energy and attitude you find aboard a cruise ship? Hell, we’d have no wars or division anywhere. There is something truly magical about meeting someone you wouldn’t have met otherwise (mainly because they live 1000 miles away from you) and feeling your heart click like they are your best friend. I can’t tell you how many of these friendships I have made that remain near and dear to my heart.

Prior to this week it has been 18 months since I was on a ship. The longest I’ve gone since 2012. Now that I have proven to myself I can do it alone, and love it, I can assure you that will be the longest gap I will have for as long as God provides me the ability to keep cruising through life. ❤️

Blessings y’all – Amy