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

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

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

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

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

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

Need My Vitamin Sea

As a card carrying down to the nth degree Cancer large bodies of water, salt air, and sand in my toes are the only things that calm the storms in my heart. I literally can have had the worst week and the minute my feet hit the sand the knots in my shoulders start to unfurl.

The world is churning in much the same way as an angry sea. While we all fretfully watch it giving inclinations that it’s going to shudder to a close (again) I’m holding my breath. I find myself praying, daily, for God to heal the world. To release us from captivity of fear, anger, distrust, and mistrust. For us to find common ground as the compassionate humans He designed us to be.

Selfishly I don’t want to be thrown back into the stress and anxiety that being cut off from society brought about last year. I don’t want to lose human interaction. The ability to go and do. To travel. To live LIFE. It feels difficult for us to understand just how devastating this radical shift in normal has been for each other. Maybe that’s just my perspective but holy heck it would seem we’d all be a lot more patient if we could imagine the pain we are each in and respond accordingly.

Me? I am long overdue for a dose of vitamin sea. Not sure how or when I’ll get it but it’s high on my list of priorities. To feel the sun on my face. The sea breeze in my hair. The hot sand burning my toes. It’s been way too long since I felt the sand under my toes and filled my lungs with that intoxicating salt air that calms my soul like nothing else can.

Tranquility

Vitamin sea is the best medicine in the world. And there isn’t a pharma company in the world that has figured out how to sell THAT.

Blessings y’all – A

Nashville Nights

When I see the title “Nashville Nights” that song from Grease starts playing in my head…”oooh, those summmmmmmer nights…”. You know the one! LOL That is about where I would put the nights we had in Nashville. I am 43 years old and I am still a little kid when I discover the fun that is to be had out in the world when I loosen up a little and just let go. On one hand I hope I always have that naivety as it brings appreciation…on the other damn I wish I could let go more often.

Holland Gray of Whiskey, Cash, & Roses

We arrived in Nashville on Monday. We spent Monday evening at The Stage listening to a newfound fav band called Whiskey, Cash, & Roses. Lemme tell ya – the lead singer Holland Gray? That girl has some pipes. Didn’t matter what the audience threw at her as far as requests…she nailed it. One of my favorite things to ask of these singers is Fred and I’s song – Pat Green’s ‘Wave on Wave’. I’d never asked a female singer to sing it before but I was so impressed with this lady I requested it. She moved me it was so good. My Fred would have been “leaking” as we call it.

Now I can’t even tell you who the next band was because at that point the evening got even better. Somewhere in all that a group of people showed up and started talking to Bev and I. I got pulled out on the dance floor – without time to do my usual “I have two left feet”. Before I knew it I was literally doing the old “whirling and twirling to a steel guitar”. We were having a blast. At 1 am Bev insisted it had been a long day and it was time to go. Pretty sure this old girl would have gone until closing time but ya know… 🙂

Don Schlitz – Song Writer of The Gambler (and many more!)

Tuesday night we had tickets to the Opry. Gotta admit I was excited to see it as far as it being something any country fan knows about but less than excited because I literally knew nobody on the bill for the night. I was pleasantly surprised at how the evening went. Don Schlitz, writer of The Gambler and several other songs I recognized, came out and played and it was moving to see an old man reduced to almost tears when Larry Gaitlin came out and sang with him as a surprise and the audience gave him a standing ovation. Love and Theft (a duo) had a row of friends in the row in front of us and one half of the duo came out after they sang and sat with his friends – clearly thrilled to see it from the audience perspective. It was even more cool when he was spotted during intermission and he spent the entire intermission taking pictures with fans.

We, of course, wound up back on Broadway after the show but it was a short night. A long day plus too much gin made for bedtime. LOL

Kalie Shorr (and a kick ass friend named Stephanie that I didn’t catch her last name)

Wednesday evening we hung out with these two ladies in the hotel lobby for a couple hours. It wasn’t very crowded and they asked for requests so we threw it back to 90’s female country. It was the most up close and personal chilled out evening of the week. Both of these two ladies can sing their little behinds off AND entertain with jokes and running dialogue.

Of course we made another run at Broadway hoping for more of that Monday magic but other than watching more than one drunk bridal group hit the floor (literally) it was slow evening. The bartender we met earlier in the week had already warned us that Wednesday’s were slow…she wasn’t kidding!

Cory Farley – my fav of the week!

Thursday was my BIRTHDAY 😳! I had warned Bev to get a nap in…we weren’t going to the hotel until closing. Or until I couldn’t hold my liquor respectably anymore. LOL. We had dinner at Dolly Patton’s White Limozeen in The Graduate Hotel to kick off the night. Food was good, concept was overdone. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Back to Broadway to get the music going in my veins! We bar bounced between The Stage, Second Fiddle, and Tin Roof. We wound up finally sticking to Second Fiddle. The band playing was the same one that closed Jenn and I’s weekend in February. And he is SOOO good. Now, normally, I’m the shy one. Can’t get me in front of a crowd to save my life. But when Cory called for the birthday girls I was up on stage before Bev could blink. We danced and laughed and sang until closing. I can’t remember another birthday so fun!

Broadway looking all innocent in the daylight

Before leaving town Friday I wanted one more look at Broadway. It had been such a great time in Nashville. Something about good music and a sweet spot in the South just made this Texas girl’s heart so happy. ❤️

Blessings y’all!