Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about

M.I.A.

M.I.A.

I’ve been missing around the blogosphere.

There’s been a lot that I want to share from my earlier travels and I’ve thought…maybe I can get to that tomorrow…and then I don’t.

So today is a check-in of sorts. I’ll probably add some photos from my archives because I can’t imagine one of my posts without photos. However, I still haven’t imported the photos from my three weeks in Florida. That should be a pretty good indication of how chaotic my life feels at the present moment.

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There have been moments when I’ve thought that I should take an extended hiatus from the blog or perhaps walk away altogether, but this space is where I have grown as a person and where I have met so many fascinating people, and I don’t want to walk away from all of that.

I’ve been very open about the fact that I deal with anxiety. I probably even have tendencies toward depression. But mostly when I experience days after days filled with stressors or I am anticipating the next shoe to drop (because of the past cycle of stressors), my anxiety becomes oppressive. I’m not talking about stressors that are likely to be life threatening nor are they just the “where are my keys” kind of stressors.

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My three week trip to Florida was very much about seeing my family and friends, but it was also a reprieve from daily life. I needed some moments to just breathe. My support network in Virginia is not very strong. I suspect much of that is my own doing. I am pretty introverted. I am also the type of person who will call someone up and say “Hey, you wanna go out for coffee or lunch?” not “Hey, I’m really going through some sh*% and could use an ear.”

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about

It was a much needed break.

So where have I been since returning?

Well, I’ve had a sick teen that I’ve been tending. And when I haven’t been physically tending to them, I’ve been mentally tending to them.

Because…

Anxiety.

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Add in that we have a gutted bathroom.

Then add in that Big Mister is replacing our rotted fence and sometimes it requires a second set of hands…mine…

Then add in that school start in two weeks and clothes must be bought. Supplies as well. Food planning must happen. Days must be organized.

And.

More.

Anxiety.

Amy check-in with Yoga Crescent Pose for Yoga Challenge on the beach at sunset in Naples, Florida

I should mention that I do use meditation, breathing, exercise, time in nature, and the diffusing of essential oils to help manage my anxiety. Many times they keep my anxiety at bay. I haven’t been as consistent with any of them because I’ve been consumed with other things.

I will be back on the blog to make the announcement for the final 30 day challenge in my year of “this is 40” challenges. Can you believe that it’s already been almost a year?

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At the end of this week, I am traveling down to Florida with Big Mr. and his friend. Big Mr. plans to meet up with all of his local friends so I will be on my own quite often. I don’t mind. I plan to soak up some sunshine alongside the ocean. Even though I’ve also been less frequent on my Instagram stories, they are a quick way for me to pop in and say hello or share a view so make sure to check those out over this weekend and next week.

Amy Lyon Smith's daughter on a palm tree at River Palm Cottages in Jensen Beach, Florida

As school starts, I will be able to get back to my routines. Hopefully life will settle down somewhat and I will be able to share stories from my travels and what I’ve been up to lately.

There’s been some changes. That’s not always a bad thing.

Some I’ll be able to share and some I won’t.

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In some stories I play the leading role. They are mine to share.

In others, the stories do not belong to me and so while you may get to read some chapters, some of the parts that went into writing those chapters will be private.

Thank you so much for coming along on my journey.

This life is filled with many ups and downs.

My hope is to grow through them all.

Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. -Kahlil Gibran photoquote

Let your light shine!

Amy

Time Marches On

The Evolution of Me.

We are always changing.

Right?

Just by the sheer nature of life surrounding us, it is almost impossible to be stagnant.

I started this blog about 2 1/2 years ago.

As a journey of discovery.

A seeking of who I am outside of society’s definition of me (mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend).

I have been fully immersed in the role of mother for over 18 years. I lost myself in that role because that was role I was and am passionate about. But if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, then you know my nest will slowly be emptying. The oldest, Big Mr. heads off to his University in a month. Mr. D graduates from high school next spring. And my youngest, Miss Sunshine, starts high school this fall.

I look back over the journey that I have recorded on these pages and I see that I have indeed changed. I have evolved. And yet, in some ways I remain the same.

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Time Marches On.

Time always has a way of marching on.

It has no sympathy for the plights of man.

I last caught up with you all in my Seaside Chat IIIt’s hard to believe that a week ago I was heading out to begin my long drive home after a three week journey to see family and friends.

I left you with the fact that I’d be stopping in Gainesville, Florida for two days to visit family before returning to Virginia.

On the way down, I stayed with Jami (my dad’s sister- on the left). If you’ll recall, we are only 5 days apart in age.

On the return home I stayed with Jenni (my cousin- in the middle). I missed her on the way down because she and her fiancé were in Hawaii (lucky!).

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On Sunday, she hosted lunch and my grandparents came over.

When I was 12, my grandparents and Jami moved next door to us. They lived there until shortly before Miss Sunshine was born. Then they moved near Lake City and I saw them much less frequently. They were surprised to see how tall Miss Sunshine had gotten since they last saw her. It was wonderful to catch up and to laugh as we reminisced over my younger years.

Some of the laughing and joking was about how I was the “alpha” of a specific relative cluster that I grew up around. If you follow birth order traits, it would seem likely this was because I am the oldest of my sibling group and older than many of my cousins. However, Jami is technically older than me.

That never swayed my “take charge” personality as a child and teen.

Interestingly, I don’t see myself in that role in all social groups.

Part of that is because I am an introvert.

You wouldn’t think so when I am around my family.

I AM LOUD.

I use the “Scott” voice. That’s what it’s known as throughout both sides of my family. My mother is an extrovert and has extroverted siblings. They are exuberant when speaking…AND LOUD.

It’s a contagious thing.

Loud voices. Loud laughs. Happiness exuding.

My cousin and I have a running joke about being Grandma’s favorite.

I am the oldest of the females and she is the youngest.

She has “alpha” tendencies too, but we don’t have any frictions and I consider her one of my besties.

She and Jami and known me and loved me through all the ins and outs of my life. Each time we are together, we can easily pick up where we left off.

Emptying the Nest.

After I made it back to Virginia, the next day I went to visit my mother-in-law. She lives about 1 1/2 hours away. She had been keeping our dog for the week because the fence is being replaced at our home (courtesy of manual labor executed by Big Mr.)

On Wednesday and Thursday, we had Big Mr.’s freshmen orientation. If I’m being honest, it was overwhelming. The campus has over 30,000 students. That is more people than our current suburb. At the same time, it is quite exciting to be a part of this journey. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.

The Passage of Time.

Alas, that isn’t me in the lovely sunset shot. It is a young couple embarking on some level of the journey of their love. They just happened into my frame during my last night at the beach in Naples.

On Saturday, the hubby and I celebrated 20 years since the first lunch date that set into motion this journey together.

I don’t like that I’ve posted so infrequently. One of the lessons I’ve learned during this season of my journey is that my summertimes are filled with times that I need to set aside for motherhood. Things have come up that I have needed to deal with. When I set out on this path 18 years ago, I knew that the walk would sometimes be all-consuming. And sometimes it is.

As I continue to learn, I see that I need to have posts prepared in advance for those moments when I can’t possibly set aside any time during the day because I am consumed by my other responsibilities.

My teens return to school in a month and I will have time to sit down and process photos and gather my thoughts in a cohesive manner.

Until then, I hope you’ll bear with me and continue along with me on this ever-evolving journey.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

Seaside Chat II

The Journey.

My three week journey is coming close to an end.

It is a bittersweet moment as I prepare to leave my parents. I will miss them, but at the same time, I miss my hubby and my two sons.

I wanted to pop in for a quick chat. This post won’t do justice to all that I’ve done since my last seaside chat so I will likely revisit some of the topics in the future.

Seaside Chat. Round 2.

We did do all the things that I mentioned in my last seaside chat. The was an escape room, a celebration of the Fourth of July with food and family. Later in the day there were fireworks. The next day was a giant excursion to Tampa to Busch Gardens. That day was quite eventful!! I promise that I’ll be back to tell all about it. After catching up on some sleep, we had a lounging day on Friday.

I have missed my conversations will all of you. I did try to catch up on my emails and comments on Tuesday, but I still have quite a ways to go.

Mostly, I didn’t want you to think that I fell off of the face of the earth. I am here, but have been soaking up the last of my time with family.

I’ve just finished breakfast and most of my packing. After a quick shower, I will be jumping in the car to head to Gainesville to see family before the long drive back home on Monday.

If you’ve followed my Instagram stories, I shared a tour of the cottage on the day of our departure. I will be adding it to my Instagram highlights. There is also a small car tour of the streets where I grew up, which is much more inland than the beach.

Where the water pools along the ditches and in the low areas of the yard during rainy season.

Where the frogs sing their lullabies in the darkness.

Where the alligators roam the canals and the box turtles make their way into your yard.

Where the cypress trees indicate swampland that waist high in water during rainy season and completely dry ground in the dry months.Where the palmetto bushes, slash pines and oak trees are added by nature and the palm trees are added by man.

I leave you with last night’s sunset as seen from my childhood home.

Let your light shine!

Amy

Seaside Chat

Friday.

It’s technically Friday, although I struggle to keep track of the days.

I suppose this is sort of like a Friday Faves, but as I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, it’s more like a seaside chat.

Seaside Chat.

Miss Sunshine and I moved into our little cottage last Friday. We are some blocks from the beach, but I’ve timed it and it’s about a 7 minute walk.

Sunset.

I’ve been able to get down there most nights for sunset. The two that I’ve missed were due to rain, not laziness on my part.

The colors in the sky are always spectacular, even on the less than stellar sunset nights.

Dinner and Dancing.

My aunt that traveled to Scotland with us last year has joined some social groups and on Wednesday they go to a restaurant that has a live DJ/singer and dancing. She invited Miss Sunshine and I and my mother to join her. The singer was crazy good. I had to do a double take to make sure that he wasn’t just playing music.

Miss Sunshine declined to join us in dancing, but the three of us got out there and “shook our groove thang”.

You might be wondering about that spectacular bruise on my arm. If not, I’m gonna tell you about it anyway. While traveling down, Miss Sunshine and I stopped for gas and a bathroom break. The door to the stall was somewhat unwieldy and as I turned to close it, the purse hook scraped my arm.

It was enough that I thought I’d bruise since I bruise so easily. However, the scrape covered less than a dime sized spot. I did not expect a bruise so large. It’s so glaring that every single family member has asked what happened AND I’ve gotten to sport that monstrosity at the beach for a week. It’s fading, but it’ll still be a while.

Biking.

The cottage has two bikes so Miss Sunshine and I have done some exploring on them.

Paddleboard.

We brought our paddleboard down with us. The Gulf is pretty calm at this time of year so it’s been fun to take that out.

When we were down on Wednesday, a manatee came swimming along the coastline and later we could see a dolphin out frolicking and heading toward the pier to catch the fish that congregate there.

Shopping.

Yesterday, Miss Sunshine and I did a little shopping for her school clothes. Then we met my mom and sister-in-law for lunch. Later, we went to both of my aunt’s house to visit. Today, we will go visit my grandfather and tonight will be meeting one of my aunt’s at the beach to watch the sunset.

It sounds like go,go,go…and sort of is, but there are moments of relaxation as well. I’m still finishing up my month of writing and just realized July is almost upon me.

Time to figure out my challenge for that month. Any suggestions?

Upcoming.

Along with more family visiting, we have some upcoming fun times in the works. We are supposed to go to an Escape Room. We have a family dinner out planned with my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my two nephews. We’ll be celebrating the 4th of July. How and where is still in determination mode. We are also taking a day trip to Busch Gardens to seek out some thrilling roller coasters. I’m sure I’m leaving things out, but we will also stop once again in Gainesville on the return home and I will see my grandparents and my cousin that I couldn’t catch on the way down.

I’ll also be making sure that I try to catch as many sunsets at the beach as I possibly can!

As I mentioned before I began this trip and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I am slow on my replies and making it by to read what many of you have been up to. Most of my evening downtime is spent chatting or playing board games with Miss Sunshine. I will get through my emails and comments, just bear with me in the process.

I hope that you all are having a beautiful Friday!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

Still Here

Still Here.

Just in case you thought I’ve disappeared from the blogosphere, I wanted to pop in and tell you that I’m still here.

I think that this may the longest that I’ve ever gone without writing a post.

11 days…in fact.

I’ve missed you all, but have also found little time to sit down and write. I have fully been embracing living in the moment.

This morning Miss Sunshine is sleeping in so I thought I’d pop in to catch up with you all.

After my last Friday Faves, I started preparing for my 3 weeks journey down to Florida.

Our upstairs bathroom needs a complete remodel and the hubby and Big Mr. will be working on that while I’m gone. I picked out tiles and a few other things that I didn’t want to do via text.

Big Mr. returned from his week down in Myrtle Beach. A high school graduate. It still seems surreal.

Gainesville.

We packed the Jeep on Monday night and then Miss Sunshine and I set out early Tuesday morning. We knew that it would be a long day. The GPS said about 9 1/2 hours of drive time. Once you included stops, we were on the road for 11 hours. Luckily, it was an uneventful 11 hours.

Our destination that day was to stop at my Dad’s sister’s house.  If you’ve been following my blog for some time, then you are already aware of the fact that she is only 5 days older than me. The relationship was more like cousins and sometimes like sisters {probably the fighting part. ;)} . I’ve spoken about her Lupus and of my travels to her wedding. She is one of those few in my life who have known me since the beginning and no matter our length of time apart we can always pick up where we left off.

…and that we did. We stayed up until 2 in the morning, catching up, and reminiscing. I stayed until about 1 p.m. the next day, but then we needed to get on the road to Naples.

Naples.

It’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive to Naples from Gainesville.

In Ocala, we stopped at Chick-fil-a to grab a bite to eat. Imagine my surprise when I came out of the bathroom stall and ran into one of my girlfriends from when I lived in Okeechobee. It was one of those “it’s a small world” moments. Miss Sunshine and I continued south, but did get stuck for 45 minutes in a wreck around Englewood. It was a great relief to finally get to my parent’s house.

I stayed up until 2 a.m. catching up with my dad and brother (see a pattern here)

The next day I met a girlfriend for lunch. We were neighbors when I lived in Naples and our children are similar in ages. It was great to catch up in person.

I met my mom and Miss Sunshine over at my aunt’s house. Then my uncle stopped by. Then my other aunt showed up. And then my cousin. It was all impromptu. They didn’t even know I’d be there.

…these are some of the things I miss about home.

That night I only stayed up until midnight!

We moved into the cottage on Friday. It’s within walking distance of the beach. And so I made sure that I was there for sunset.

On Saturday, Miss Sunshine and I went for a morning run. The first photo is the view that morning. Later in the morning, Miss Sunshine and I took the paddleboard down to the beach and spent some time on it. Then my mom, sister-in-law and my two nephews met us there for some more fun in the sun.

Miss Sunshine and I had planned to go with my mom and aunt to SummerJazz on the Gulf at the Naples Beach Hotel, but the weather was rainy so we opted for dinner instead.

On Sunday, we met my mom and aunt for a kayak trip. We left out of Isle of Capri from the Fish House Restaurant. We skirted along the mangroves of Johnson Island and decided to beach ahead. I don’t think that beach has an actual name because I’m pretty sure we didn’t go as far as Sea Oat Island. We hadn’t seen any dolphins so we thought we’d travel a little farther up the coast of the beach and suddenly we saw a set. I was last in line because my mom hadn’t ever kayaked and I wanted to keep pace behind her. Miss Sunshine took off and they even swam under her boat. She was close enough to constantly see their shadows. It was very exciting for her! I love dolphins and was happy that we were able to see a set.

After that, we kayaked back and had lunch.

Monday was another morning run and then some beach time.

No rain that night meant I went back to bask in another sunset.

I am a lover of shells so I am constantly scouring the piles.

The floor of the Gulf right now is filled with thousands of sand dollars. They even turn our toes yellow because they are constantly below our feet.

They are sea urchins that are brownish with many hairlike spines that help them move along the ocean floor. But they are alive, so we pick them up to stare and then return them quickly to their home. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to take a live one. Often you will find broken pieces of them amongst the shells.

However, last night I found a complete skeleton.

And then I watched a glorious sunset.

I hear Miss Sunshine beginning to stir and I am planning to cook her some bacon, eggs, and toast. Add a cup of OJ and a little sea breeze and I think it’ll be a lovely morning indeed.

I’ll be back to check in during my time here, but my posts will be more like seaside chats.

I hope that you all have been living in the moment as well.

I’d love to hear about what has been going on in your days.

She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well. - George R.R. Martin

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Life Lesson From A Dream

 

 

Dreams.

How many of you think about your dreams?

I’m not talking about your hopes and wishes, goals and ambitions, types of dreams.

Although those are important too!

And though they be ever so delicately entangled upon the mist, I sense my dreams amongst the trees…waiting patiently for me to come and release them . . .Since I always quote the author, do I credit myself for my own writing? 😂. Obviously, #imkidding #myownwritingmakesmefeelvulnerable . . .#dreamchaser #moodygrams #exploretocreate #moodynature #sheisnotlost #seekthesimplicity #stayandwander #wearetravelgirls #wildernessculture #foggyday #naturehippys #fiftyshades_of_nature #tree_brilliance #optoutside #neverstopexploring #blueridgeday #visitvirginia #letsgosomewhere #traveldiaries #travelstoke #fingerprintofgod #nothingisordinary #natgeotravel #exploremore #natureaddict #treehugger #fromwhereistand #itsamazingoutthere

A post shared by Amy Lyon Smith (@amy.lyon.smith) on

I’m talking about the ones that happen while you’re sleeping.

Do you ever stop to think about what they might be saying?

Well, I do.

Last week I had a dream.

A dream that woke me up.

And then it nagged at my soul.

It was a dream that has still stuck with me even after I worked out its meaning.

So today I’ve decided to share the dream with you.

Some parts may not make sense because dreams can be that way, but in the end I walked away with a lesson.

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My Dream.

I don’t remember the parts leading up to the moment where I was walking along the corridor of a hospital with another person. In the dream I knew this person, but outside of the dream I can’t say that I do. I am telling the person that I will show them my area of the hospital (we are both patients).

Even though I know that I am 40 year old me and the person I am with is of a similar age, the hospital has a futuristic feel. I know this because my “wing” is along the yellow corridor and the other person’s “wing” is along the orange corridor. I don’t know if they’ve actually become a patient in the orange corridor or not, but if they aren’t, they will be.

These colors are not the color of the walls. It is based on a threshold that we cross which looks similar to a parking block (or stop). I notice this because after I cross, I stop to make sure that an alarm doesn’t sound as the person I’m traveling with crosses into the “wing” that is not assigned to them. It does not go off and I notice workers passing us and not paying attention to the fact that this person from the orange wing is here.

I turn back to the person with me, but they have stopped a bit back. I call to them through the crowd to wave them toward me. They ask me “where are the toys?”. I look around at the other patients. I notice that they are in hospital gowns, have white hair, are very obviously of an advanced age, and are laughing and talking with one another. Then, I turn and tell my traveling partner that everyone here is close to death and they don’t care about toys.

Awake.

I awaken and it’s the middle of the night. I don’t know if my thought happened before or after I awoke, but there’s a realization that I am a 40 year old in a section of the hospital with people who appear to be in their 80’s and dying from a terminal illness (granted not in a painful way). My first anxiety-ridden thought is “do I have a terminal illness that I don’t know about and this is my subconscious letting me know?” I don’t feed that thought because it feels like my mind panicking, not my intuition creating a “knowing” knot in my stomach.

Still the dream eats at me because I feel like I’m meant to take something away.

Meditation.

The next day during my meditation time, I am still pondering this dream.

As I begin the meditation, I have the thought “if I had a terminal illness, is this the way I’d be living my life?”.

The immediate answer to that was “No. More often, I’d be choosing to spend time seeing the people that I love .”

Lesson.

That is the main lesson that I took away.

We are not promised a certain number of years, or weeks, or days, or even breaths.

And neither are the people that we care about.

As I pondered the rest of the dream, I came to think that the reference to “toys” was all the things we tend accumulate. The things that we’ve chased that we realize don’t matter when you can see your final days looming. I have been on a slow sail to my own personal definition of minimalism, but I think it’s time to find a little wind for those sails and continue with my decluttering process.

It isn’t always easy to work out seeing the people who mean a lot to you (family, friends, etc.). Especially if they don’t live down the street or inside your home.

I know that I often get tied up with my obligations around my home or think that my teenagers won’t survive without me accessible to them on a daily basis.

However, the reality is, I could just say “I really need to see you (loved person). Let’s figure out how to make that happen.”

In fact, I’ve already started making plans to see people this summer that I’ve missed for way too long.

Does this life lesson resonate with you?

Perhaps you should pick up the phone and call that person you love and let them know what they mean to you.

 

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. -Kurt Vonnegut

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

19 Years Of Marriage

Aruba.

I know that you all are waiting for photos from my trip to Aruba.

They are coming.

I promise.

Photography.

I’m clearing out computer space to import them. My laptop is already full and there’s the moving of things to an external hard drive.

I shot all my photos in RAW this time. I know all you photographers out there are gasping in horror that I didn’t shoot in RAW in the past, but I’ve only recently installed Lightroom (which I still haven’t used). And I’m sure to all the non-photographers, I sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wah…wah…wah.

Don’t worry, some of it still sounds like that to me too. I’ve got a long way to go before I find myself well versed in photography skills.

Anniversary.

However, I think there are moments in life that deserve acknowledgement. An anniversary is one of those moments. So I’m stopping my digital decluttering to acknowledge the 19th anniversary of my marriage.

I think it’s a disservice to future marriages to pretend like a marriage unfolds as a fairytale or that there aren’t hard times.

I shared a lot about my thoughts on marriage and those facts when I acknowledged our 18th wedding anniversary.

If you missed that post, you can find it here.

Eternal Optimist.

But there are fairytale moments!

That heading is tongue in cheek.

Being an optimist is not my normal bent.

Part of my journey has been learning to focus on the good.

To be mindful of the good that is happening now.

To have gratitude for all that is well.

Smile.

To smile more.

So today, I pause and share some silliness and smiles with the man who has walked beside me, loved me, believed in me, and raised children with me for 19 years of marriage.

Amsterdam.

This was on the boat ride in Amsterdam last April. We had a photo from a different time on the boat where the lady behind us photobombed our selfie with big eyes and her cookie held in her mouth. So Big Mr. photobombed us with big eyes as a play on that photo.

Carolina Beach.

This was silliness on full display during our family beach vacation last summer in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

Aruba.

Lastly, here we are, all smiles on the lunch break of our Safari through the desert in Aruba.

Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005. Unfortunately, we never saw that one. However, there is a Baby natural bridge. This photo is taken in front of that.

You can see that this coastline was much more rugged than other coast.

Stay tuned for more photos from Aruba.

In color.

We all are a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone with weirdness whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutual satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love. Robert Fulghum quote

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

wpc: smile

 

Why I Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day.

I often talk about my beliefs of the equal rights for women. I keep it no secret that while I have chosen what many consider a “traditional” role for a woman (stay-at-home mom, household manager, chauffeur…take your pick of the many of things I do), it is exactly that…A CHOICE.

A choice that I realize is a privilege.

And a choice, at varying moments over the years, with which I have struggled.

Why I Celebrate.

The question becomes… why do I celebrate?

I have spoken on reasons why this day is important to me. You can find my thoughts in 2017 hereand in 2016 here.

But perhaps to fully understand why I celebrate International Women’s Day, my own background may help, lest you think I only speak from a place of current privilege.

My background.

Many of you know that I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I found that I could relate in so many ways even though there were plenty of ways in which I couldn’t.

I recognized my dad in her father. Not in the erratic, alcoholic side of Rex Walls. My parents drink once a year, if that. It was the genius and nonconformist side of Rex. It was also his belief in his daughter.

My dad once told me that in the world there are leaders and that there are followers and that I was a leader

…and I believed him.

My parents never once told me that there was something that I couldn’t achieve.

I don’t know if I had lofty expectations.

Surely, I didn’t dream that someday I’d be sitting, in the middle of an optical illusion, on a bridge in Paris, with my own daughter.

I just did what I was good at…doing well in school.

Education.

I never assumed that I wouldn’t go to college. It felt like a given that I would. And so I did. I graduated high school in 1994, I was sixteen and the thought of heading away seemed overwhelming. I decided that I would attend community college and maybe by the time  I finished I’d know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

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College.

I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college. Actually, I was the first to graduate high school in a traditional manner. I graduated sixth in my class and since the local community college awarded a full tuition scholarship for 60 credit hours to the highest academics in the school…and everyone else ranking above me was heading off somewhere else…I received the award.

In the past, I mentioned that I also received a scholarship from a local Women’s Club, which I used to pay for my books. I was also awarded enough financial aid, that it took care of all my other costs.

Due to the fact that I am extremely uncomfortable with new situations, I never met with an academic advisor. I just moved through the list of requirements for an Associates of the Arts degree.

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Graduation.

I remember wanting to quit college. I remember telling my dad that I wanted to quit. And he told me “just quit then”. Now I’m sure most of you are thinking this is bad advice. However, my dad knew me, and he knew that I didn’t give up once I set my mind to something. Through tears, I told him that I couldn’t quit. He told me that I could and that the reality was that I didn’t WANT to quit.

He was right.

I was on the Dean’s List and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (not the first time I was asked because…again…uncomfortable).

After checking off boxes, I finished up in the fall of 1995, after a year and half, and put in for graduation for my A.A. I was barely 18.

Take Your Daughter To Work.

The spring before that graduation, my aunt had taken me with her for Take Your Daughter To Work Day. She worked for a Dermatologist. I spent the day there and I loved it. He had a transition happening, so he hired me part time on a temporary basis. I mostly worked the front desk, but I did get to be an assistant in a hair transplant surgery!

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First Real Job.

I had always loved math and science, but then I knew that I loved the medical field. The temporary basis came to an end. I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Plus, I still wasn’t prepared to leave home so I got a job at the hospital, working in a Rehab unit. I was fascinated by the Physical Therapists and talked with them about the schooling. Dissecting cadavers and the burn unit made me nervous. I know now that I would have been able to handle things, but hindsight is 20/20.

Back to College.

I decided I would become a Pharmacist. So I got a part-time job (along with maintaining my full-time job) at a 24 hour pharmacy and worked two 10 hour shifts over the weekend as a pharmacy tech. Then, I put in my notice at the hospital and re-enrolled at the community college in 1997.

However, what I didn’t know and hadn’t been told, was that once you put in for graduation at the community college, you aren’t eligible for financial aid at the community college level any longer. A person in my life at the time helped me scrape together the money for that semester, but I had to withdraw from Biology because of the schedule and I needed to get another job to pay for life. I finished out my Chemistry and Trigonometry classes, but by the end had decided I was not going to become a Pharmacist.

I did not like the automation of the medicine.I would have loved it back in mortar and pestle days. As it was my favorite part was learning how to read the meniscus.

Work.

The second part-time job I got during that semester in college turned into a full-time job. It was at a MRI facility. I thought about going back to school to be a MRI tech, but then life happened along. I switched jobs. Met my husband. Came back to that job when the day shift opened. Then I had my first child in 2000.

You might think that I easily went into being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t. I wanted to be one, but I’d also never had a point in life where I wasn’t earning my own money. I’d been working since I was 14. When my son was 6 or 7 months old, I took a job in the nursery at the local YMCA because I could bring him with me.

Stay At Home Mom.

And then I got pregnant with my second son. I had complications in the beginning of my first pregnancy. Pains that made them check to make sure it wasn’t ectopic. It obviously wasn’t, but I was told to take it easy to avoid a miscarriage. When the pains started with the second pregnancy, the doctor advocated that I even avoid carrying around the oldest too much. He was 9 months old, so complete avoidance wasn’t going to happen. Since I couldn’t pick up any kids in the nursery and the diaper changes of other people’s kids were doing a number on my morning sickness, I resigned.

We would add our youngest, Miss Sunshine, in 2003. I sometimes thought about going back to school, but I also loved being home with my children. In 2010, the nearby community college changed to a state college and added some Bachelor’s programs.

Back to School.

That was how we found ourselves moving over to Stuart, Florida. I had many reasons for wanting to go back to school. But if I’m honest, one of them was because I wanted my children to realize that I was intelligent. It may seem silly, but that means something to me. It was my one claim to success in my formative years. I also wanted them to know that different choices are always possible. I enrolled for the Bachelor of Biology with a concentration on Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (I don’t know if that’s still offered), but even with 68 credit hours, I still was missing some lower level classes. So after 13+ years of being out of college, I took Chemistry and Statistics. When I aced them, I felt a real sense of pride.

At the time my dream was to go to work for some of the local biomedical facilities. They were touting the Treasure Coast as the Research Coast. If you don’t know…I love research. However, I came to realize that it’s mostly interns in many of those places. I thought I’d supplement the Biology degree with a way to actually earn income. Even though I wanted to work in a medical laboratory, the pay for that degree isn’t that well. I started considering a Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, so I thought I’d get a nursing degree. After taking Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Nutrition, and some Psychology based classes, I changed my mind. I believe nursing is a calling…and I have not been called. About that time, life changed. We moved to Virginia. I wasn’t about to pay out of state tuition.

After a year, I sent for my transcript papers. Where they still sit in the filing cabinet. Unopened. I decided not to return to school because I found other passions and we also have three teenagers to put through college. Sometimes I worry that people think less of me because of my educational background.

I have learned to live with that.

Mostly.

I don’t know exactly how many credit hours I have. Probably over 90. I think less than 100.

I’m not sure because I haven’t broken the seal.

They sit there…waiting…in case I change my mind.

Being a Woman.

That is one of the reasons I celebrate International Women’s Day.

Because nowhere in that story was the decision not mine. Nothing about being a woman changed my options.

It is because of the way paved by other women that I had the freedom to make each of those choices. There wasn’t any choice which was prevented by the mere fact that I am a woman.

I’m sure there are many out there who would have made different choices. And that is okay.

Isn’t it wonderful to have that option?

Not everyone does.

Which is why women will keep fighting to be seen as equal.

Having a Daughter.

I also celebrate because I have a daughter. I often use her as a muse in my photography. Whether its captured unbeknownst to her as in the shots of her in Paris or when she willingly helps me create my vision like in the canal shot in Amsterdam, I am always in awe of her.

Miss Sunshine has dreams and visions and goals.

She heartily pursues them without any regard to her gender.

She is even stronger than I consider myself to be.

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Soccer.

Most of my regular readers know that Miss Sunshine plays soccer. She has played since the age of seven. We went through a hard transition when she was 13 and the U.S. Youth Soccer changed the age guidelines. She went from being the oldest on the team to being one of the youngest.

The transition also made her miss the first year that the field transitions from being 8v8 to 11v11. She found herself moved from a forward to a defender and she worked hard to learn the role. I live the behind the scenes. I know all the dynamics of the shift. But she did what she does, she persevered.

I love this shot of her during warm-ups. They were playing one of their league competitors and decided to put on war paint.

It reminds me of the quote:

Fate whispers to the warrior, “you cannot withstand the storm”

The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm”. -unknown

Self Assured.

I have taught my daughter that if she finds a glass ceiling, she should break it.

She should pursue her dreams with no regard to the naysayers.

I have spoken in the past about the fact that at this time she wants to be an Engineer. She’s 14 and that may change many times before she decides on a path. It may even change many times while on a path.

There is great freedom in that reality.

Locally we have some part-time specialty high schools. She has applied to two and while she is waiting to hear from one, she has been accepted into the Engineering Based one.

Part of application process was to come up with an invention that could be patented and describe the materials, cost, building process, and usage.

While I’m not sharing her invention…I have to say…I love how her mind works.

So today I celebrate all those women before me who fought and all those women who continue to fight to be acknowledged as equals.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Let your light shine!

Amy

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Carolina Beach Sunset Photos Relax

Relax

Relax.

Re•lax (verb). Make or become less tense or anxious.

Reminder.

Today I needed a reminder to relax. I thought that perhaps some of you might need the reminder as well. One of my favorite places to relax, to become less tense or anxious, is along the shoreline of the ocean.

Just Breathe.

According to stress.org, to effectively combat stress we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. When we activate this response our metabolism decreases, our heart beats slower and our muscles relax, our breathing becomes slower, our blood pressure decreases, and our levels of nitric oxide are increased.

Abdominal breathing for 20-30 minutes a day reduces anxiety and stress. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.

The website lists a variety of techniques. Personally, I typically practice deep breathing during my meditation time.

Blue Space.

While many of the studies are still relatively new, the results of the studies show that living close to blue spaces (lakes, rivers, and the sea) report higher levels of physical activity, and that interaction with blue spaces can have a positive effect on mental health-especially in the areas of stress reduction and perceived well being.

Ocean Views.

According to this article, staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us in a mild meditative state.

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Sound of Waves.

According to same article, the ebbing and flowing that you hear destimulates the brain. The noises along with the visual activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

Calm.

Remember that system from the deep breathing information?

Yeah, the one that is responsible for slowing us down and helping us to relax.

It’s also thought that the negative ions that are found in the air at the ocean and around waterfalls may also contribute to our sense of calm.

It does state that along with these scientific facts, there may be a level of placebo effect that takes place since we are conditioned to find the ocean calming.

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Tranquility.

I know that it isn’t as wonderful as actually walking along the shoreline, but are you feeling more relaxed?

I sure hope so!

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." Background - boardwalk through a salt marsh in Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Friday Faves Edition 54

Friday Faves Edition 54

Friday!

We’ve once again arrived at Friday. This week has been much better than the last two. Not without its stressors, but substantially better!

I think it was because the sun came out. Is that springtime peeking its head into Virginia?

I think maybe yes.

 

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Friday Faves.

This week I’ll just dive into the Friday Faves.

Obviously, #1 is that the sun came out! Hallelujah, I was rejoicing. I once mentioned that I’m like the clingy friend when it come to Vitamin D. I need the sun WAY more than it needs me.

Mill Mountain Star Trail.

The hubby and I decided that we could not waste the sunshine. We went and hiked the Mill Mountain Star Trail. You can see a map of this an surrounding trails here. Since we were hiking round trip, you can begin at the Star (210 Reserve Ave, Roanoke) or from the car parking lot (1208 Riverland Road, Roanoke). We started from Riverland Road, so it is uphill to the Star, which sits atop the summit of Mill Mountain. The summit is Roanoke’s highest point at 1,703 feet.

I didn’t bring along my camera, just the phone. I wasn’t sure what the trail was like and didn’t want to lug it along. Next time I’ll bring it and maybe can make the hike a post of its own as I have done with some other areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I knew there were many components to better mental health when spending time in nature. I had recently read an article about how time in nature (green space) reduced teen depression rates. A few days after the hike, I would read this article,which also mentions that knowledge. It also goes into the scientific backing of forest bathing. It talks about how the forest air is like an old friend to our bodies. One of those reasons is because mixed into the air are terpenes released by plants. Some of these terpenes have been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and neuroprotective activities.

I’ve always known that I feel better when walking through a forest. It’s amazing to read about the scientific reasoning behind much of it. The article shares even more about how forest air affects us. If you’re interested in Science, I recommend checking it out. They always link to the articles in which they are deriving the information, which is always a good source for even more knowledge.

 

 

Editing.

I worked some on editing my photos. The photo above is from Amsterdam and was in my archives. I really loved the pop of colors on the boats and the reflection in the water and in the windows. It made me realize that I really want to focus on learning how to use Lightroom.

I am still editing through an app on my phone even though I did sign up for a Lightroom/Photoshop package. I’ve been intimidated by the program and so I haven’t set aside the time to learn how to use it. I noticed when I was editing this photo, that while I’m very happy with the result, it’s also likely that in a program like Lightroom I would have been able to focus on exactly the spots I wanted versus the broad stroke of the selective tool that I now use.

I realize it’s time to press outside of my comfort zone in order to continue to grow in executing my creative vision.

 

Instagram.

I mentioned in last week’s Friday Faves that I was working on changing my Instagram grid to sets of three. I also have been trying to post more on my Instagram stories just to give people a little realistic glimpse into my life.

On Tuesday, I posted the above photo of Miss Sunshine. That photo was from her travel soccer season, but she had tryouts this week for the school season. I also talked on the Instagram story about how lovely the day had been. So lovely that I was able to throw open the window and the back door. Which was wonderful because the warm up and had made the house smell musty. I also started up the diffuser with a blend of lemon, eucalyptus, and tea tree essential oils. This was to help air out that musty smell…or as I shared on the story “the smell of dog butt”.

Photography.

I also shared my promised post of Views From the Top of Princes Street Suites in Edinburgh Scotland filled with photographs of from the rooftop.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. -Winston Churchill . .as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am doing my photos in a series of three. If you know me, you may know what this series is about. If you know me really well, then you may know why…if not, stay tuned . . .#seekthesimplicity #helookslikemyside #nothingisordinary #visualsoflife #fromwhereistand #darlingescapes #sheisnotlost #stayandwander #naturehippys #beachlover #pocket_beaches #visitnc #optoutside #modernoutdoors #exploretocreate #exploremore #tlpicks #saltlife #natureaddict #natgeotravel #travelstoke #traveldeeper #doyoutravel #letsgosomewhere #thediscoverer #roamtheplanet #lifeofadventure #staysalty #wanderfolk #fiftyshades_of_nature

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My Children.

The trio of Instagram posts for this segment were photos of my children.

Day #2 was Mr. D.

The sun was shining brightly enough that I did my reading out on the back porch that day. I’m on book #5 for month in case you are wondering.  On Wednesday, it was so warm that I wore flip flops to my Pilates class and we broke weather records that Roanoke hadn’t seen since the 1930’s.

I also participated in the weekly photo challenge and Wordless Wednesday by sharing some photos from my archives of my trip to Amsterdam.

Happy 18th Birthday to my oldest, @hunter02222 ! Rounding out the trio of photos of my children, if you hadn’t already guessed my theme. I am the mother of an official adult. I’m not sure how that happened! I remember the days when he was so little and I had to carry him around on my hip. And then, the day his shoe size surpassed his age. I don’t recall the day when he grew taller than me, but now standing at 6’6”, he towers over me by 10”! It’s been a fun journey watching him grow into a man…I can’t wait to see where he goes from here . .if you’ve made it this far and are looking for my daily quote: “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18” – Mark Twain . . .#happybirthday #18thbirthday #seekthesimplicity #fromwhereistand #visualsoflife #optoutside #wildernessculture #theoutdoorfolk #folkscenery #rsa_folknature #lifeofadventure #travelstoke #traveldeeper #blueridgeday #stayandwander #exploretocreate #exploremore #letsgosomewhere #nothingisordinary #liveoutdoors #theglobewanderer #neverstopexploring #sonyalpha #loveva #roamtheplanet

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Mother of an Adult.

Yesterday was Big Mr.’s birthday. He turned eighteen. I wrote a post about how strange it feels to be the mother of an adult.

I talked like crazy on my Instagram story. Much more than I usually do.

I did what every good mother does when it’s her child’s birthday….I went shopping for myself.

Actually, I had already planned that errand for the day. I am slowly looking for clothes to take to Aruba and an outfit for an upcoming party that I’ll be attending. As my final stop before returning home, I planned to pick up a cake for Big Mr. I saw that I had missed a text saying the check the website for an important message from the middle school.

Guns at School.

My stomach dropped. My immediate thought was is the school on lockdown. There wasn’t a message on the website. I went in to buy a cake. The hubby texts me and asks if I got the phone call that a student had brought a gun to school. I had missed a call from the school, but the voicemail hadn’t come through yet.

I was stunned.

So I checked the school website again. And there it was. The important message that a student had brought a loaded handgun to the middle school. It was in the student’s locker and had been brought in on a dare with no intent to harm. This was the message.

When Miss Sunshine came home we discussed the situation. She wasn’t visibly shaken, but some of my children tend to repeat elements of a story when they are bothered by something…whether that’s real life, a news story, a scene in a movie, etc. It is their way of working through and processing something.

I will state right here that my website is not a place for a debate on gun control. Most people involved in that conversation get ugly pretty quickly…on both sides. I don’t promote hostility and won’t be starting today. Any commentary to that effect will be removed.

I do believe that we need to keep our school children safe.

I read a commentary by the Sheriff in Lee County (a county in Florida beside the one in which I grew up). He talked about how we feel safe when we enter a courthouse or when we fly and it due to increased security procedures. You’re welcome to read it here.

I thought about sharing what I wrote on my private Facebook page, but I’m still leery about even telling you guys about the fact that we had this scare. There are some people out there who seem to have nothing better to do than attack and my mental health does not do well with that. I will share that a snippet referred to the fact that we need not reminisce on the good ol’ days when this didn’t happen and instead focus on how we are going to address the current reality.

Our kids deserve to not live in fear.

Birthday Dinner.

Even though it was a mentally distressing and highly disturbing event, we weren’t going to let it stop life. It was Big Mr.’s 18th birthday, after all. The five of us along with three of his friends all went out to dinner. He chose a restaurant called Texas Roadhouse. Even though he didn’t want them to, his friends shared that it was his birthday. They have you climb on to a horse saddle and have everyone yell “YeeHaw” for you. It was quite hilarious. I was only able to share a little segment of the entire thing on my Instagram Story, but it was quite funny.

If you hurry, it’ll still be on my story until around 8 p.m. EST.

Motorcycles.

Big Mr. had a motorcycle permit and he took a class which means that once he’s turned eighteen…aka yesterday…he can legally drive a motorcycle without being followed by an adult.

Lord help my soul!

Honestly, I do love that my teenagers are daredevils. They live life to the fullest. I could learn a thing or two from them.

Music.

Since I talked about what life was like for me when I turned 18, I also got sucked in to what songs were popular when I was that age. This week I’ve chosen a song that came out near the end of 1995, shortly after I turned 18. I owned the CD and played it repetitively. It’s probably pretty apparent that I’ve always hated being told I couldn’t do something just because I’m a girl.

 

I hope that you all have a light-filled weekend and week up ahead. Hand out hugs freely to those that you love, smile at the shy person in corner, spread your light as far as you can.

 

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