Celebrating Love & Friendship

Someone said once that time heals all wounds. I’d be willing to bet that person hadn’t REALLY had loss in their life. Don’t get me wrong. Life is moving on. In so many fabulous ways. But as I stare down the barrel of several memory anniversaries this week I’m a little melancholy.

Turns out…time never heals grief. It eases the sharpness as you struggle to breathe. It dulls the edges in a way that makes living come back in ways you can’t imagine possible in the immediate aftermath. But time does not ever heal grief. Because grief can’t be healed. Each year the calendar rolls dates around that tug the fine hairs under the band-aid you’ve put on the pain. You find ways to brace for it. To get through it. To ask for help. But on those days the pain is very much there.

TimeHop has begun reminding me of the season of life that the kids and I were in this time six years ago. This week on Friday would have been my sixteenth wedding anniversary. As I mull that over…how many years Fred has been gone versus here a knot forms in my stomach. February 4th would have been my grandpa’s birthday.

I can honestly look back and know that these impending dates don’t send me spiraling into the hole they once did. I can proudly say that is because I’ve done the work. I’ve invested the energy in myself to know that I am a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tremendously glad that when the idea came up to run away this week that I wasn’t completely and totally on board. Spend a week away with a man who loves me and makes room for the days that I’m not quite ok? Yep. Spend a week doing one of the things I love most with friends who are like family to me? Yep. Sign me up.

Add surprising all those friends to the list (my favorite thing to do to people I love) and I’m all in.

We boarded the Carnival Celebration today. To celebrate being loved. Not once not twice but by three amazing men. My PawPaw who contradicted all the crappy awful abusive men my mother chose. Fred who took a broken girl, gave her an instant family, and was patient while she loved too hard and held on a little too tight. And this wonderful man who walks beside me now. Who quietly and patiently lets me know every day that I am worth being loved. That bruised and slightly damaged as I may be I deserve to be loved as hard as I love.

We are celebrating friendship. These that I have made in all the years I’ve traveled. The special relationships I have that I constantly confuse the mess out of Tim because he can’t remember all the names but he loves them all because they make me happy.

Love hard friends. Life is short and precious and can change on a dime.

Blessings – Amy

What Are We Doing to Our Oceans?

Have you ever seen an 8’ tall octopus made out of the trash we are putting into our oceans? What about an eagle with a 17’ wingspan? I have. And while my artist heart sings at the beauty of these sculptures my environmental heart is breaking at the eye opening amount of trash that is making it into our oceans. Truthfully there are things making it to our oceans that I couldn’t have even fathomed winding up there. Everything from toothbrushes to motorcycle helmets to pregnancy tests. Not to mention the absurd amount of flip flops, discarded coolers, and water bottles.

An organization called Washed Ashore is raising awareness through art. To date they have processed 60,000 lbs of plastic and have created some magnificent sculptures to entertain the eye while educating us on what is going into the sea. The exhibit is currently on display in Galveston (through March 5th) and the city turned it into something fun. You can “check in” at each sculpture and when you have seen 9 of the 20 you can submit it to the visitors center for some Galveston swag. We didn’t really care about the swag but searching out the sculptures took us to parts of the island even my 30 year island loving heart hadn’t been. We had tons of fun doing this but it set my brain whirring.

Octavia the Octopus

Irving has reduced it’s trash pick up day to once a week and really doesn’t promote doing recycling. I live in a neighborhood that I have several neighbors who still loyally put out their blue bags (yeah!) but since I wasn’t sure if they were actually making it to a recycling center I was hesitant. Let’s face it – it DOES take work to reduce your footprint on the environment. Much like eating organic or cutting down on driving to help pollution – it takes concentrated effort to recycle. You have to rinse food items off plastic or metal you are recycling, break down boxes, and know what can and can’t be recycled.

Edward the Turtle

But something about these sculptures this weekend reminded me how very important that effort is. As a marine life lover we’re feeding our animals trash! Why do the marine animals that are part of the circle of life that feed us and sustain us deserve that? Being frank – if it’s going in their bodies it’s going into ours in some form or fashion.

Back to what can I do different? While Tim and I were talking we sat and we ordered a dual trash can that will allow us to easily get trash where it goes and recyclable materials in those precious blue bags. Doing some research I realized that the food we throw away in the trash winds up in landfills creating gas that is getting into the air. So we also are going to begin composting again. I did this years ago and enjoyed it – just gotta get set back up again.

Full disclosure: I was already on the beginnings of a composting kick.

Rosa the Eagle

I fully admit I contribute to the water bottle problem. With the things I put in my water grabbing one and going is easiest. I am the chief supplier of water to the office – also in the form of plastic water bottles. We’ve resolved to get a Brita filter for the fridge and switch over to a reusable water bottle when at home or at the office. If we have to use plastic on the go we’ll be able to recycle it when we get home.

None of these feel like big enough changes to help with the size of the problem I saw on display this weekend but I know that if I make a small change and every other person who saw what I saw makes a change it WILL bring change. I could write a book on all the ways our oceans and marine life are in trouble but I’ll instead just ask that you check out the site and make any small changes you can to protect the world we live in.

Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea

Blessings y’all – Amy

A Whale Named Barnacles

My timing is always crazy but as I sit in my steamy beach town my thoughts are on the whale I met in September in Alaska. Hahaha. Maybe because this 2000+ lb whale made enough of an impression on me that we named Tim’s car after her. Let me tell you about our whale excursion and a whale named Barnacles.

The tour we took in Juneau in September was a whale watching tour and my greatest wish was to see an orca. When we boarded the bus our guide said that while it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility he had only seen orcas six times since April (and it was September). But the whale gods were with me. We weren’t on board the boat 15 minutes and the captain got a call that an Orca named Captain Hook had been spotted. Named such because his dorsal fin had gotten caught in something at one point and was curved over in an unnatural way. He was a scout orca for a transient pod – scouting food for his pod while they were safely some distance away. There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings that went through me when my eyes landed on that whale. There were tears and there was a video sent to my baby girl. Like most ocean things whales are OUR thing.

Back to Barnacles. After Captain Hook moved on they took us into a cove a few minutes away and there were numerous humpback whales breaching the surface. Even with many whale watching boats in the area the silence and the majestic-ness (yes that’s a word lol) of being still and listening to these huge creatures blow out of their blowholes was amazing. The air was still, the scenery behind them just stunning, the eagles soaring above them, and these huge creatures closer than you can even imagine was a once in a lifetime experience. The guide had told us to take as many pictures as possible. We were on a scientific type tour where they tried hard to match the whale tails to their records to see which of the whales they had identified were in the area so they can track their patterns, babies, etc.

Never did I ever anticipate that I would get a good enough picture of a whale’s fluke to be able to match one in the book. Mind you, I was using my iPhone. But after an hour of watching these amazing creatures breach and swim around us we headed back to shore. While we did they passed around a book for us to compare our pictures with the known whales in the area. I was stunned to realize I had a picture of a mama whale named Barnacles. (For that matter so was the guide!). She is a 57’ whale, one of the largest in the world, identified in 2007. They didn’t say if she was identified as a baby whale or not but geez that makes her at minimum 15 years old.

I went into the Alaska trip skeptical I would like the cold. Knowing the whale excursion would likely be my favorite. I was wrong on one and right on the other. I can’t wait to go back to Alaska. Made a promise to the baby girl that we wouldn’t go back without her. One I am already chomping at the bit to fulfill.

If you have nothing else on your bucket list – put Alaska on it. It’s worth it.

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Last Frontier

I have no idea why but as I’ve sailed the Caribbean this week my Alaska adventure has been heavy on my mind. Maybe because I’ve been hopelessly cold….the AC works well on this ship. Maybe because of the comparisons I’ve drawn in my mind between the Holland ship I was on then and the Carnival one I am on now. Such different environments and both pull at my heart.

The breathtaking view from our boat

Alaska was….magnificent. As someone who doesn’t like the cold I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t like Alaska. I hate….I mean HATE….being cold. Bundled up like a snowman is my least favorite thing to be. What I wasn’t prepared for was that Alaska would pull at the small town girl that lives in my heart.

Seals hanging out on the iceberg chunks

We ported in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and alongside an iceberg. All three of the little towns had that straight from a Lifetime movie quaintness that only a Texas girl can fully crave and appreciate. So much so I actually checked out real estate up there for a little while. But did I mention cold? We went whale watching in Juneau. To see bears and bald eagles in Sitka. Shopping and wandering in Ketchikan. The most majestic of those was the hour and a half we spent on a small boat a half mile from an iceberg watching it calve. Seeing the sea lions sprawled on the ice bergs. Listening to the sea lions tussle as they sunbathed. I wish I had the right words to describe that. Even as good as I am with words I just can’t describe it. You have to experience it.

One of my fav pictures of Tim that week

The quiet and calm that reigns in Alaska was perhaps the biggest surprise. Everywhere you go you can just breathe. It’s peaceful. It gives you a sense of just how small you are in a big big world. Floating in a bay with the engine cut on the boat listening to the whales breach the surface was the calmest I think I have ever been in my life.

I have told several people this….I had the absolute most picture perfect Alaska adventure. My first trip to the last frontier couldn’t have been any more perfect. But I literally cannot wait to go back. And take my Em.

Have you been?

Blessings y’all – Amy

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