But First, Seattle!

As I sit in the airport, headed home from our Alaskan adventure, Seattle seems so long ago!!! Seattle made a huge impression on me – hard to believe it’s only been a little over a week since we landed here. While we didn’t do some of the typical Seattle nods such as the Space Needle or Aquarium we did cover a lot of ground by the market. Like literally a lot of ground – we walked about 15 miles in two and a half days!

We were blessed with a gorgeous day on the first day we were in town. The locals all said it was usually overcast. Seattle being the city with the 7th highest rainfall totals I was expecting to be wet during our time there. But Friday was literally a perfect day. We got up early (read I couldn’t sleep) and headed into the market area. This was the first thing I saw when we came around the corner. Pretty sure I almost got hit by a car stopping in my tracks to dig for my phone. 🙂

Original Starbucks!

My primary mission? To get my first Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) of the 2022 fall season at the Original Starbucks in Pike’s Market. Tim had braced himself for the line but we only waited about 15 minutes. The barista working the door said that line can be upwards of an hour and a half and when we saw it again on Saturday I believe him! The door barista also gave me a tip to get my PSL with their “reserve” blend coffee that is only available at the original SB. It was a solid tip – it took away the bitter bite that SB coffee usually has on the occasion I go for coffee. It was well worth the four days wait for that first PSL…and I had no idea that ALL merch from that first stop was brown instead of the traditional SB green. Poor Tim got to carry a bag with him the rest of the day with my goodies.

A tiny sampling of the gorgeous flowers…

We spent all day at the market just wandering. The flowers were incredible and the smell can be a little overwhelming in some sections of the market because there are so many. If I lived anywhere close to the market I would have fresh flowers in my home all the time… They were way prettier than anything I’ve seen at the store and way less expensive! Lots of vendors selling everything under the sun – but to be a market vendor you have to be selling something original – so Tim got worried about suitcase space very very quickly. I think I have more Seattle treasures/souvies coming home than I do from Alaska.

Our second main objective was to find a little hidden speakeasy called Bathtub Gin & Co. I mean, y’all know me right? Bathtub themed? Gin? This little hidden gem was practically calling my name! Tim got a little uneasy when we wound up in a back alley on a sketch side of town but once I saw the bouncer I told him to shush – we were fine. They lead you into this dark tiny place and our seats were a cut in half bathtub! Some locals spotted “tourist” on our forehead pretty quickly and started giving out places to eat and see while we were in town almost faster than I could put them in my phone. The only thing I wish I had done different was connect the mental dots of switching out their well gin for one of the special ones they had on the menu that I like. But the atmosphere was incredible.

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Saturday was pretty much a repeat of Friday. We could have gone and done other things but the market just spoke to both of us. We had a chef guided food tour of the market scheduled and for the most part they had a gluten free option for me at every stop. The ones they didn’t Tim just got to have his portion and mine! He had a lot of local perspective and stories about the market that was mingled in with our 2 1/2 hour walking tour. The market atmosphere on Saturday was markedly different than Friday – it was wall to wall people with so many sounds and smells I was quickly in sensory overload.

About 4 pm on Saturday evening we both ran out of steam. The miles of walking, most of which was on hills/stairs, plus short nights and my uncooperative stomach took its toll. We got really lucky though. The restaurant located in our hotel had an amazing menu and a very friendly bartender. We managed to kill our Saturday night there without having to leave the hotel again. It was also one of the few meals of the week that my stomach actually decided to keep. (Traveling sets off my anxiety which triggers my stomach…usually it lets up after a few days but I have been sick the entire ten days this time. It’s one of the few sour notes on the week.)

Sunday we had scheduled a Lyft to the port and other than having a few more hours to kill (I got to do one more walk through the market and Tim finally hit the line short enough to try the donuts) it was time to say goodbye to Seattle. I cannot wait to come back and spend more time in this city!

Blessings, y’all! – Amy

Not Their Choice Always…

Fair warning – soap box post!

It’s no secret I love to travel. My most preferred method is cruising. I’ve been on five since the restart post COVID and twenty two since I fell in love with it. I have crew that I consider family that I honestly love as much as my own. What I have noticed, more since the restart then ever before, is the lack of respect and warmth to the crew that should be there as human beings. Don’t get me wrong. There are fellow passengers who love on, take care of, and respect the crew the way they should. Then there are those that yell at, demand, and in general treat them like servants. Having gotten close to many of them let me offer you a perspective that you may not have…

For many it’s not completely their choice to be there. They live in countries where jobs are scarce and the jobs that are available don’t pay enough to feed a family let alone keep a roof over their head. For months and months at a time they leave behind their loved ones – many of which include their growing children. As a mom that’s not a choice I could have ever made when my kids were growing up…but I was blessed to not have to. For these moms and dads – it’s the only way they can give them a good life. They treasure their time at home and cry for days when it’s time to go back. They are keenly aware of what they are missing.

These sweet human beings send money home to take care of their moms and dads. Their children. Their aunts and uncles if need be. They deal with internet challenges that keep them from always being able to connect with home when they need to see their family. They work 12-18 hour days to give us unbelievably memorable vacations. They see the absolute worst examples of humanity and they greet everyone with a smile. It always astounds me that they manage to make my week with them feel like it’s the most important time to them…then they have to reset and do it all again in a matter of hours. They learn names at an amazing rate. The best of the best remember that you prefer vodka over gin or that you hate croutons on your salad night after night. On my last cruise I had a sweet lady make sure I got my most favorite Italian dish – with gluten free pasta. Some of the most amazing human beings I have ever met work in the service industry – whether on a ship, behind the bar at my local hang out, or at my favorite Mexican food restaurant(s).

I get it – we live in a time these days where compassion is losing its value. Where impatience is high and tolerance is low. Maybe I have more sympathy for it because I work in an industry where my work force has to do the same thing to take care of their families. But maybe the next time you have to wait a few extra minutes for your meal, or a drink, or a towel….remember there is a very tired human that is getting it for you. One who in all likelihood hasn’t seen their family in months and probably doesn’t know when they are going to get to with the current labor shortage. Give them a smile and say “thank you”. Because I promise you…they notice those that are kind to them. And it means the world to them.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Living on Island Time

Last weekend we made my first trek back to the island since being called back to work during COVID. (Full disclosure we’d been for a quick overnight for a cruise but not to play on the island!) I knew I was ready, I knew I missed the island, but it was not until I started crying going over the causeway coming onto the island that I realized just how much the above was true. Y’all there are places that get into your soul and just will always call you home. Galveston is one of those for me.

Weekend Beach House

We had rented an AirBnb for the long weekend. I absolutely adore the old homes on the island so to get to stay in one was PERFECT. This one was well maintained and just adorable. Period appropriate furniture yet fully renovated in the areas that counted. We didn’t spend much time at the house but when we were there it rocked.

Sunrise on the Island

Due to my annoying habit of not being able to sleep as I get older, and the ocean calling to me, I saw sunrise all three mornings we were on the island. If you want to feel God’s work watch the canvas he paints across the sky as the day dawns. It’ll remind you just what is important in life and what isn’t. I got quiet time to myself to soak in the sound of the waves, the sand at my feet, and the beauty in front of me. Then time to coast up and down the sea wall in the Jeep for a while waiting on the sleepy heads to wake up!

We did a totally tourist thing on Saturday morning and took a SegWay tour. When I say I learned things about the island I didn’t know after 26 years I am not kidding. I did not know there had been (is) a mob family on island called the Maceo family. Or that there had been a shoot out on the causeway with Al Capone. Or that the Rat Pack once owned a home on the island. The list goes on and on. We had a private tour and an amazing guide.

Our new friend Paicience

Later in the day we wandered into what would wind up being our hangout for the weekend – Texas Tail Distillery. Since the girls hadn’t arrived yet us grownups were feeling feisty. We ordered all 15 types of liquor they serve (three flights of small quantities) to be able to try everything. Then had one of the most amazing mixologists I have had the privilege of being served by whipping up signature cocktails for a few hours. We sadly had to leave to go get changed for dinner but wound up back there for happy hour before our dinner reservations. And for brunch the next day. My new friend Paicience is an amazingly gifted bartender that I can’t wait to see again!

Saturday night we reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in two years. We all have those people in life that we can be apart from and when you reconnect it seems like not a minute has gone by? Yah. LA & Todd for me. It was a good dinner of catching up and making noise.

Sunday morning the girls slept in while us grown ups went exploring. Found a new coffee dive and walked the beach for a while picking up shells. Explored Murdochs. Brunched at Texas Tail when the girls got up. Just lived on island time for a while. Sadly Monday we had to come home. Traffic definitely does NOT live on island time at the end of a holiday weekend.

Tim went into the weekend with no idea what to expect. He hadn’t been to Galveston except to leave for a cruise. I think he understands now what it means to me and how much time we’ll spend there in the future.

For my beach lovers – where is your island time place?

Blessings y’all – Amy

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

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

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

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

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