I'm the Mother...of an adult!

I’m the Mother of an Adult

Eighteen Years Old.

Does anyone else remember what it was like to turn eighteen years old?

I do.

There are some days when it feels like yesterday.

And days like today, where it feels as though it must have been an eternity ago.

Today, my oldest child turned eighteen.

How in the world did that happen?

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I’ve already written about the day that my eyes first gazed into the eyes of my firstborn child. I wrote that post when he turned sixteen.

About him, I’ve shared my observations on having a tall child. (he’s 6’6″)

I’ve recognized the slow release of motherhood.

I’ve marveled at that space between child and man.

There are days when I thought this moment might never arrive and others when I wanted to push away the hands of time…to hold them in their place…to fight the passage of these fleeting moments.

Yet, time still kept moving forward. We have arrived at that moment when in the eyes of the law, my son is a grown man. This moment when he owns every future decision that he makes.

And I am taken back to my own year of being eighteen.

For me, eighteen was a year of so many choices.

It was a year of love…and a year of heartbreak.

A year of finding a piece of me…and a year of losing a piece of me.

It was full of adventure and exploration.

A time of meeting new people. A time of feeling like I knew the world.

It was also the year that I would have my first experience with an anxiety attack. I finished up my degree at the community college a few months after I turned eighteen, and not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I took a break and got a full-time job. Even though I had been working since the age of fourteen, this was my first grown-up job.

I was hired while my future boss was on medical leave. It’s possible that she resented this fact. I don’t really know, but it was apparent she didn’t care for me. I remember being written up for a job I didn’t complete. A small job that she had apparently forgotten that she had switched to somebody else’s responsibility because I was still doing all other parts of my job, cross-training in another of her departments, fixing six months of errors caused by someone else, and training a new person for the old person’s job.

There were other moments…but you get the idea.

After some time at the job, I also got a part-time job in the evenings. One day, I was having tingling in my lips and down my arm and into my fingertips. I called my doctor, thinking perhaps it was a reaction to a medicine. He told me to come over and after checking me out, he had me breathe into a paper bag. That was when he told me that I was in a constant state of low-level hyperventilation.

I moved beyond that phase.

I still deal with anxiety, but I’ve learned coping mechanisms over the years.

Slowing down my breathing is usually the first one I employ.

I don’t know what the future holds for my eighteen year old.

He still has a lot to learn about himself.

But he seems to know himself better than I did at eighteen.

…and that makes my heart so happy.

 

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Let your light shine!

Amy

American Made

Photography.

Most Thursdays I bring you photography of Doors from places I’ve visited. Today is no exception. However, in today’s series, the doors are more of a subject of viewing than the subject of my words.

Or put more simply, if you’re here for only the photographs, feel free to scroll through the photos. It won’t hurt my feelings. In fact, I won’t even know that you didn’t read my words unless you feel compelled to let me know that fact. Also be sure to pop over to Norm’s blog to see more amazing doors.

I have a lot of thoughts rolling around about topics that are practically unrelated and for some reason feel like sharing these discombobulated thoughts.

If you’re curious, the photos are from the ferry ride from Ft. Fisher, North Carolina to Southport, North Carolina. The first two photos are chosen because I’ll be talking about things that deal with “breaking the rules of conventional society” (to put it mildly). The third because I like its “uniformity”. The last is chosen because it has two of my loves…plus my jeep (which also has doors).

American Made.

In case you’re curious about my title, it’s because I watched the movie by the same name last night. One of my teens is sick. In fact, I will be taking them in to the doctor today. Likely that appointment will come prior to my finishing this post. The hubby offered to take me to dinner for Valentine’s, but I suggested we wait until the weekend. Instead we had some wine and watched American Made. I didn’t know what the movie was about, only that it starred Tom Cruise. The movie is supposed to based on the real-life story of Barry Seal, who was a drug smuggler with the Medellin Cartel.

South Florida.

While movies take many liberties with a film, it was rather strange to watch the timeline play out.  The early 80’s were a time of major drug running through Florida. If you’ve read my blog for a long time, then you know that I was born and raised in Naples, Florida. Which, in itself is a broad description. If you’ve read it for even LONGER, you know that I grew up inland. My dad converted a school bus into a home and drove it out to a piece of property in what is now considered Golden Gate Estates. There wasn’t electricity or hot water (I’ve written about how we lived in the highlighted post and others from my past).

 

Drug Runners.

However, the one thing that I haven’t talked about was the fact that it was well known that drugs were being run in this part of Florida. While I’m sure my parents have more stories since they were young adults and I was between 3 and 7, I do have vague memories. I suspect that these were large drug runs, maybe even cartels involved. It was said that if they saw you when they made their drop, then they would kill you.

Landing Strip.

One of the roads used to access other roads to our home was known as “the two mile landing strip”. I don’t know if planes landed on that road while we lived there. Perhaps my parents know. I do know that if we saw a small plane circling around at night, we shut off the lights to our home. I have a vivid memory of seeing one circling. This was probably sometime in the early 80’s.

Tales.

Once when my mother was coming home, she saw cars parked alongside the road, so she shut off her headlights to creep past them and make it home. She was certain they were drug runners. Years later, my dad would be conversing with a law enforcement officer who had been around the area a while. That tale would come up and he said it was actually law enforcement and they looked around forever for the car that had driven by with its headlights off, certain it was a drug runner.

I’m sure that I thought it was scary, but I don’t remember being overly worried. That’s not to say I wasn’t, I just don’t remember it. Looking back, I wonder how worried my parents must have been. My mother got pregnant with my brother in the middle of 1981. We lived in the middle of nowhere with the closest phone being about 10 miles away and they had little kids. It’s an adventurous story to look back on in hindsight, but I’m sure it wasn’t so thrilling at the time.

Okeechobee.

The part of the movie that made us look at each other was when they decided that he should fly the drugs into Okeechobee. After moving from Naples at the age of 30, we landed in Okeechobee. You can’t live in Okeechobee and have not heard of Frank Brady. Well, perhaps, you can…but I doubt it.

Frank Brady.

Frank Brady was a rancher who, according to this article, made the country’s most-wanted fugitive list by fleeing the United States around the time of his 1983 drug smuggling indictment. According to this article, the 13,000 acres of ranch land that the government confiscated was the biggest seizure in U.S. history at the time. Investigators linked him to the Medellin Cartel. I met a lot of wonderful people during my two years in Okeechobee. In fact, I’m still acquainted with some of them. Interestingly, I actually met Frank Brady. I had to verify that fact with the hubby.

The fact that it left no lasting impression tells me that in all likelihood, he’s just a regular person, and if you didn’t know about his past, you’d have no reason to suspect it.

Our Past.

I guess that’s a semi-segway into my next set of thoughts. Unless we share with someone about our past, they really have no way of knowing what it held.

I have been having a rough time this winter. I often do. Winter makes me miss Florida. It makes me miss all my family. It makes me miss my friendships.

Friendships.

I believe in being honest and real, which I am. However, there are also pieces reserved for those who have earned my trust.

And so lately, I have been missing a variety of friends who have traveled with me through important times in my life. Two nights ago I received a text from one of those friends. Its timing and message couldn’t have been more appropriate for what I was dealing with. Something she couldn’t have known.

Naples Tribe.

It made me also think about another set of friends who were my “tribe” when I was raising babies. Two girlfriends who were my neighbors and had littles of their own. We’d wander into each others yards while the kids played on the swings and maybe order up a pizza or have a glass of wine.

They kept me sane when I rarely had adult contact.

And then I moved away.

And then another moved away.

We met for a girl’s weekend once and then as happens drifted somewhat farther apart. I still meet the one for coffee when I return home. I love to catch up with her and we text sometimes. The other I see through Facebook, but I no longer have her phone number. I realize this is entirely my fault because friendships take effort.

Yesterday, the one still in my hometown sent me a text. She was asking if the other friend still lived in the town to which she had moved. I was sitting on the couch talking with my oldest about his school day, future plans, life in general…as we often do when he comes home. I had not seen the news that she mentioned.

A school shooting.

I said “Yes, that she lived in Parkland and that “Child” went to “X” school.” Meanwhile, I was trying to check the news to see about the school shooting. I saw that it happened in Parkland about the same time that my friend sent me that text saying that it happened in Parkland, but at a different school. The town is small. Often you know people who go to different schools. I checked her Facebook, but she hasn’t posted anything. I’m sure that she is processing the horror that happened in her town.

My heart breaks for all those affected.

This morning there was an increased police presence at Miss Sunshine’s school.

After tragedies, I wish that I could wrap my children in a cocoon and keep them there forever.

To protect them from the ills of the world.

But just as I cannot control their choices, I cannot control the choices made by others.

Where do we go from here?

I have no perfect answers.

 

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

Let your light shine!

Amy

Christmas Tree and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions

Christmas Trees and Traditions.

I shared with you in this post that this was our first year traveling to a Christmas Tree Farm to choose our tree.

Our family tradition has always been to pick out a tree together as a family. Big Mr. heads off to college next year and the other two teens won’t be far behind. As the nest empties, some traditions may remain the same, but others will fall away, and during the process new traditions will be created.

I cherish these moments because I know they are finite and I can see the finish line on a horizon that is not too distant.

I shared that quite a few of the ornaments that we hang from our tree hold a special place in our memories and promised to share a few of the ornaments we hold dear. Last year I wrote about one our most special ornaments, the one placed first upon the tree.. the Christmas Nail. You can find that post here. I thought I’d share a few more precious ornaments.

And what better time to do that than the week before Christmas?

The Grinch.

The Grinch is one of my favorite characters. My first Christmas with the hubby, I found this stuffed Grinch at a Hallmark store. We didn’t have many ornaments and we definitely didn’t have a tree topper. I decided to remedy that by placing the Grinch beside the crown of the tree and wrapping his arm around. The following year, he would lose that place of honor when I found an angel to place on the top. However, he has always held a prominent spot on the tree.

In the beginning, his remaining on the tree instead of a shelf was so that babies and toddlers wouldn’t lick him or eat him or spit up on him. I treasured him and didn’t want him ruined. As time went on, that space on the tree just became his home and our tree wouldn’t be the same without him.

MOPS ornament.

MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. As a stay-at-home mom, this organization was a tremendous sanity saver.

That time in my life was my first journey into pressing outside of my comfort zones. The meetings followed the school year, September through May. I started attending when Big Mr was 2 and Mr D was 6 months. Miss Sunshine was born toward the end of 2003 and when that season of MOPS came to an end, I was asked to be on the steering committee.

To accept was well outside of my comfort zone, but I did. I worked in hospitality that year. We handled the organization of the buffet brunch. We kept fresh coffee flowing. When I accepted the position, I did not know the woman with whom I’d be sharing the job. We discovered that we lived on the same street. We became the best of friends and even took some family vacations together. We remain friends to this day.

She gave me that ornament to remember our time together in MOPS. I thought it was such a perfect theme for that year and still applies to my life today…”growing a life that matters”.

Photos with Santa.

Our tree wouldn’t be complete without our series of photos with Santa. I started with Big Mr.’s first Christmas in 2000 and we have them up until we moved away from Naples.

I chose to share this one from 2004 because this was the year Miss Sunshine didn’t like Santa. The boys never had an issue with him. In 2004, she’s almost 14 months old and she did not want to be near Santa in his chair. I am reminded of the one photo my mother has of me with Santa. I am close to Miss Sunshine’s age and am crying to get away from this scary person. Miss Sunshine wasn’t hysterical, just leery. It was his idea to sit on the floor since she didn’t mind being in the chair with her brothers. I thought that was awfully kind of him.

Countdown to Christmas.

This is our official “count off the days” ornament. I wish that it counted down, but his belt buckle twists from 1 to 25. We used to have a wall hanging that you changed the tabs each day, but one of the dogs ate it when she was a puppy. The kids used to take a turn each day being the person who got to twist to the new day. Another sign of time flying by is that Miss Sunshine solely has the job this year (and probably has for a few years).

1975 Bradford Novelty Ornament.

This is a plastic ornament with a plastic decal wrap around it. The other side has a boy and girl playing with toys. My grandmother used to have this ornament and I loved it. One day she gave it to me and it has been mine ever since. Truth be told, the other side was my favorite. However, when our Golden Retriever was a puppy, she took it off the tree to chew (2002 or 2003). I was devastated when I found it on the ground because I had owned it since I was a child. I was relieved to find that she hadn’t chewed the entire plastic wrap off, there are just a few gouges in it.

Now as I hang it on my tree, not only do I think of my grandmother who passed away in 2013, I also remember my first dog, Nikki, who we lost to cancer in 2015.

Painted Angel.

My tree wouldn’t be complete without the handmade ornaments created by my children. This painted and glitter-trimmed angel was a masterpiece created by Big Mr. when he was 4. There are decorations throughout the tree and about the house that have been created during all those early years.

Imagine peace…and love.

I don’t often add new ornaments to the tree. I made an exception our first Christmas living in Roanoke. We moved to Roanoke, Virginia in the summer of 2013. We closed on this house less than a week before Christmas. I’ve shared extensively that leaving my home state of Florida was very hard on me from a mental health standpoint.

That winter we spent a day in downtown Roanoke. While there, we visited the Taubman Museum of Art. I can still remember the first time I came to visit Roanoke. The hubby had already moved up here and started his job. I was coming up to hunt for a home. I drove past downtown and the architecture of this building had me like “woah, what is THAT place!”. But back to the winter of 2013. Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace” was on exhibit and that was one of the exhibits that I wanted to see. After walking around the galleries, we popped into the gift shop. This decoupaged ornament called my name. I almost talked myself out of it, thinking I didn’t need any new ornaments.

In the end, I’m happy that I added it to our collection. I would walk through a hard winter that year and slowly emerge. It is still a conscious effort each winter to stay in that space where I don’t find myself drowning. But love is a tremendous aid in keeping me there. Each day my husband opens the blinds. When the skies spend days in gray, he will text reminders that the sun is peeking out and I should let it shine upon my face.

I am better at seeking those things I need… sunshine, fresh air, tall trees, evergreens…

…but love reminds me in the moments when I forget.

Other Traditions.

We have a few other traditions around Christmas as well. On Christmas Eve, I prepare hors d’oeuvres as our meal. It started when the children were young as a way to fit in our Christmas Eve traditions and still get them to bed at an early hour. From there, they asked about it the next year and a tradition was born. We have a variety of cheese and meats and crackers. There is also fruit, meatballs, and cocktail sausages. When you’re little, eating with a toothpick is something new and exciting. It stuck.

We also go to a candlelight Christmas Eve service. I pick from the variety offered in town. We don’t have a church that we consider home, but there are a couple that we like.

The kids began the tradition of watching Polar Express. Pausing happens right before the “Hot Chocolate” scene so that hot chocolate can be made and had along with the movie (…there’s only one rule…never, ever let it cool).

In the past, they’ve also always opened one present on Christmas Eve, a tradition that stems from my childhood.

Some of our traditions were brought from our childhoods and some were ones created by the children. It’ll be interesting to see which they carry into the future.


 

How about you? Do you have any holidays that you celebrate during December? Do you have traditions, new or old, that surround your holiday?

 

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Visiting a Christmas Tree Farm

Visiting A Christmas Tree Farm

Visiting A Christmas Tree Farm.

(Or how to choose the perfect Christmas tree).

Ok, that second part might be a little far-fetched. Is there such a thing as a “perfect” tree? And isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

I was born, raised, married, entered motherhood, and lived for 36 years in Florida. Christmas trees are trucked in from parts north and set up in tents amongst the parking lots and fields around the towns in which I’ve lived. Picking out our Christmas tree as a family is something that we have always done.

When we moved to Roanoke, I really wanted to visit a tree farm and choose my Christmas tree from its habitat. We moved to Virginia in 2013 and closed on our current home around 10 days before Christmas. A jaunt out to a tree farm was not in the cards. The following three years, I advocated going to a tree farm, but was outvoted by those wanting to hop down to the local tent stands (we did purchase from a tree farm that also trucks trees in to a lot closer to our home).

This year, I adamantly insisted planned our trip to a Christmas tree farm.

Next year, Big Mr. will be away at college and I don’t know if we will choose our tree as the entire family.

…and that is how we came to travel to Slaughter’s Tree Farms this past weekend.

Lest you be mistaken into thinking everyone was joyous about my plans, I am raising teenagers. Two of them drive and like to make plans with friends. All three of them like to sleep when they’ve stayed up too late the night before.

But after grabbing some breakfast, conversations lightened (as in grumpiness fell away) and amongst the conversations were talks of concerns behind AI…which somehow brings up Elon Musk’s warnings against it…to which I always chime in that I swear Elon Musk has figured out time travel and is from the future (perhaps he’s already seen the “rise of the machines”).

The tree farm that we visited is located at 4864-4906 Floyd Highway N in Floyd County, Virginia. The drive across Bent Mountain and a few other locations is extremely winding. I wish I had photos, but I was in the back seat, bracing myself around the curves.

I had a general idea of where it was located as I’d seen signs for it before on the few times I’d driven to Floyd from Roanoke. I knew that it was after Check and before Floyd proper. I needn’t have been concerned about finding it. As we got closer, we passed car after car with a Christmas tree strapped to its roof. The location itself was very obvious.

After finding out how it all worked (find a tree and then flag down a four-wheeler hauling a trailer)…we were off.

We were looking for a rather tall tree. Miss Sunshine had proposed a new location in the living room that could hold a taller tree than we’ve had in the past.

A tree in its own setting creates an optical illusion of being much smaller than reality. Miss Sunshine and I repeatedly pointed out trees whose circumference probably would have encompassed a large portion of our living room.

There are poles to carry that will help you estimate the height of the tree. As you can see, Miss Sunshine had lofty goals in relation to the height of the Christmas tree that she was searching for.

The walk to the top of the hill, seemingly went on forever. There was even another hill covered with tree after tree. I loved watching the memories being formed. Mr. D often prefers his solitude when he is home, but when he settles in to conversations, he has a lot to say. The hubby and he chatted for much of the search.

We did not travel to the second hill. Big Mr. was coming down with a cold and even though he was a trooper, soldiering on for all the hunting that we did, I felt bad knowing he should rest.

I think Miss Sunshine would have looked at every tree (if I’m honest, that’s my tendency too), but we decided on this tree. You can see that Big Mr. is slightly uphill compared to the tree and he’s 6’6″, so Miss Sunshine got her wish for a tall tree.

The view from this part of the hill was beautiful. That tiny red and white spot in the photo is the monstrous inflatable snowman in the parking lot. And this was only a fraction of the amount of acreage covered in Christmas trees.

We waved the pole a little to gain the attention of the workers and they came with a chainsaw, ferried the tree down to be baled, and then tied upon our roof.

We meandered back down the hill to complete our purchase.

They also had a trailer covered with lovely wreaths. I had meandered down more slowly than the others, stopping to take photographs along the way. I probably would have purchased a wreath as well, but the hubby had already paid.

The Slaughter’s Tree Farms location we were at prefers cash or check, but will take a credit card. We are notoriously cashless and so we used a card. Floyd proper isn’t that much farther, and we would have ran to an ATM there had that been necessary.

We weren’t quite the Griswold’s on our drive home, but it still always feels like there’s an element of that with a tree strapped to your roof.

We moved all the furniture around to make a place for the tree.

After the hubby strung the lights, he placed our first ornament, the Christmas Nail. Last year, I wrote about its placement on our tree in this post.

I watched as the teens placed the ornaments. I watched the thoughtful way they found a home for each and every one. I listened to conversations of the meanings or the age behind almost every ornament.

Miss Sunshine started with the Grinch. He requires a place that forms a seat. He holds a special place in my heart. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is my favorite show. Not the movie…the cartoon. And only the original…voiced by Boris Karloff. That stuffed Grinch was the Christmas tree topper for the hubby and my first Christmas together…and it has held a place on the tree ever since.

We played Christmas music loudly. We laughed. We reminisced. We talked about the year the tree fell over…twice! We lost many bulbs and once it landed on our poor aging Golden Retriever (she never lay in its shadow again).

Each piece a different memory.

Perhaps I should give you a tour of my tree…but that is for a different day.

The entire process of choosing our tree from a Christmas tree farm has created new memories.

Memories that will enter into our holiday remembrances.

Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell. -Louisa May Alcott

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

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Love and Death

Love And Death

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Everybody loves a good love story.

Right?!

Well, my parent’s love story got its official start (according to the court) on this day 41 years ago. I always had my mom tell me their love story when I was younger. I thought it so romantic. I was the type of girl who dreamed of lifelong love…of some deep soul connection. I did find a connection that spoke at my soul level and have been married to that man for almost 19 years. I’m so happy that my parents have loved each other for so long. They’ve taught me about the hard work that goes into a marriage. They’ve shown me about commitment through their own life together.

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I wrote about my parent’s love story last year. You can find that post here.

What I didn’t share in that post is that it also the day that my Grandma Reva died in 2013.

That was because I have this mixed emotion on this day. There is this joy for love…love that created me. There is also sadness for loss…loss that shaped me.

 

Rock Castle Gorge Trail

If you’ve followed my blog for some time then you already know that she was a major source of love and wisdom for me. She was type of person that everyone was drawn to. Her enthusiasm for people and for life was contagious. She taught me life lessons in the way she interacted with what life threw her way. She forgave people freely. I still can recall a specific conversation where I would have harbored resentment and her response was “their choices are between them and God.” I was in my early teens and that conversation still replays in my mind when I want to stay angry when I feel slighted or wronged. She was also one of my biggest cheerleaders.

I’ve shared before that I struggled as she was dying. Death had not been a big part of my experience in life before 2013. My father-in-law had lost his battle with cancer that February. That day is also associated with another memory, which I shared in this post. That, along with some other things, became the catalyst for our move to Virginia. A move that, although I knew in my heart was right, I had a deep struggle with. I would FaceTime with my grandma and did a video tour of the house we were living in at the time. She was so happy for me. She was more concerned for my contentment than the fact that she was dying.

I dreamed of her last night. A strange dream. But most of my dreams are. In the dream, I was going through photos that I had not seen. I don’t know if I had been the photographer or if I was just organizing them. I was putting them in a series and editing words on them to create a story. The photos were a series of attempts in which she was trying to do a handstand. I remembered thinking it so strange because she was in a wheelchair for many years before her death. The hip replacements had long needed replaced again, but her heart was not strong enough for surgery. What I focused on in the dream was her outfit because it was dissimilar to those of her children, who were also in the photos. She had on white pants and a multi-colored shirt. I can remember it had blues in it.

As I tried to process the dream after I awoke, the thought struck me that the outfit was similar to what she wore to my wedding.

In the photo from my wedding, she is pictured with my grandfather (whose ancestry led to our trip to Scotland) and their four children. From left to right: my uncle, my aunt, my grandparents, my mother, and my aunt, the one who traveled to Scotland with my mom and me (she was also my matron of honor).

It felt like an acknowledgement to love.

Remembering my special day, my parent’s special day, and a special person who was present at both.

The Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Florida from the pier

Grief is a strange thing. Sometimes it comes upon you, unexpected. Other times, like today, you know it’s going to be there. There are still moments when I want to call her up and tell her what’s going on or get her advice on a struggle that I’m having. Moments where I want to show her the photographs I’ve taken or the words that I’ve written. Moments where I just want to hear her voice or kiss her cheek.

Even though the sadness creeps into the edges of my day, I feel infinitely blessed to have had her for as long as I did.

Amy Lyon Smith with her grandma and mother

36 years of her pouring out her grace, her strength, and her peace over my life.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard

 

 

Let your light shine!

Amy

Friday Faves – Edition 34

Who else is excited that it’s Friday?!

I should be packing because Miss Sunshine and I are heading to Richmond for a soccer tournament….but I have a tendency to wait until the last minute when it comes to packing.

Remember how in last Friday’s post, I mentioned that I had a day of exploration ahead?

Well if you saw Tuesday’s post, then you know that we explored the Blue Ridge Parkway. Next week I’ll be sharing more photos and tales from our outing.

But I thought you might enjoy this photo of the countryside. There was a segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway that was being paved. This meant that we traveled very slowly through that area and I was able to snap a photo of this farm from the Jeep.

On Saturday, Miss Sunshine and I had to travel to Mount Crawford for her soccer match.

Sunday was a gathering with the hubby’s family. His oldest brother recently got married and they traveled up to see the family. The three brothers had not all been together since my father -in-law passed away at the beginning of 2013.

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I was able to get some photos of the brothers along with their mom.

After eating, we embarked on the family tradition of setting up the projector and watching some slides. We stumbled upon some slides that most of us hadn’t seen. I was in awe of the photos that my father-in-law had taken of during the time they lived in Morocco. The lighting was magnificent. Lighting is one of my biggest struggles in photography and those slides reinforced my wanting to learn it because it can add so much dimension to a photo.

Wednesday would have been my Grandmother’s 88th birthday.  Those of you who’ve been following me for some time know that she was an amazing voice of wisdom in my life. My mother interviewed her back around 2009. I have copies of those DVD’s and usually watch them a few times a year. I decided to video a couple of her memories for those of you who like to put a voice with a face.

 

These are just two snippets from her memories of being a teenager in Los Angeles.

 

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The entry deck is complete! My photo does it no justice, but you can see that we left the railing open in order to let in light. I wanted a white-washed feel to the decking. The house is gray so I wanted gray tones to the white wash. After looking at numerous choices, I opted for Behr semi-transparent in Cape Cod Gray.  The photo makes it look like there is much differentiation in colors than in actuality. I’ll probably try to take more photos of it in the future, but I’m just so happy that it’s complete!

In yesterday’s post, I shared how I fared in the September Challenge. I’ve finished six days of the October Challenge and am really enjoying it. In my need to get on the road last Friday, I neglected to mention an interesting event. After I posted about my October Challenge, I left to run some errands.  I checked my email when I returned and had an email about a meditation challenge! Synchronicity?! Quite possibly.  The challenge actually doesn’t start until October 9th. It runs for three weeks. 15 minute sessions. It’s free. It happens to be lead by Light Watkins, who I had noticed leading a meditation challenge at the MindBodyGreen website. I didn’t join in that time. I haven’t signed up yet for this one, which is being offered by Wanderlust TV. I will be perusing the information on this one once I make it to our hotel in Richmond, but I just wanted to let you all know about it, in case you have any interest.  You can read more about it here.

I am enjoying the meditation process so far. Learning how to quiet my mind just a little more each day. Which is such a peaceful feeling in this chaotic world.

A friend of mine introduced me to the song that I am sharing this week.  There is so much hatred in the world, but there is also much love.  Sometimes we just have to look a little harder through the chaos to find it.

I hope that you all have a beautiful weekend.  I’m sending smiles and beams of light across the miles to each of you. I hope that you’ll take a moment to send the same to others over the coming week!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Let your light shine!

Amy

Hurricane Irma Upate

Hurricane Irma Update

Hurricane Irma is still on the march.

But she has passed by Naples.

And she has left her ugly mark.

I know that some of you may stop by my blog today to see how my family fared. My heart has been moved by the words of concern I have received… here, on Facebook, on Instagram… so before I go any further along… I will share… they are safe.

Writing is one of the ways that I process my feelings. It’s the reason I started this blog. And so process, I will. If you’d like to come along with me as I record my thoughts from my side of the storm…keep reading.

 

Hurricane Irma.

From the beginning, I’ve been worried. This storm was big and angry. But I have a tendency to worry, so I tried to keep it at bay. That’s not to say I didn’t let my opinions be known. I just knew when to push and went to stop. It’s a delicate dance. I knew who to plead with and how hard to plead. I knew the reasons that went into the hard decisions. Reasons that, unless someone has made you privy to theirs, you have no right as an outsider to question and spew hatred about. Something I see done over and over and in such a disgusting manner and in such a public space.

On Sunday, I opted not to go to Miss Sunshine’s soccer game in Blacksburg. The continued westward shift made it appear that after it crossed the Keys, it would head right towards Naples. I couldn’t take a chance on missing a call. My mother and I exchanged calls off and on throughout the day. The winds were picking up, but it still wasn’t too bad. In a later call, the winds were stronger. The palm trees were shaking. The ground too saturated. Dad had parked his truck near the house. He might need to move it. The tree wasn’t going to stay upright. I felt helpless. I was going crazy in my skin. I am a stress eater. I am prone to anxiety. I imagine worst-case scenarios. I needed to find something else to do. I decided to run to the library and pick up some movies. Anything to feel like I was doing something.

I get there and find some movies. I am perusing through a few more. I come across a movie called Rules Don’t Apply. I am wondering if this is synchronicity.

The night before I had just finished reading the memoir the rules don’t apply by Ariel Levy. A book that I chanced upon in the new book section. Its inside cover had sounded intriguing. I finished the memoir in two days. I do not review books. I cannot tell you if this would be your cup of tea. I can only tell you that she takes you right along the journey with her. I feel like I am standing there seeing what she sees, feeling what she feels.  Perhaps this is my INFP personality… this ability to become immersed into a storyline.  Nothing like anything I have lived. But hers is a real storyline. A tragic one.

So I turn the movie case over to read the description. To see if perhaps there is this glimmer of reason that I have stumbled across this particular movie…and my phone rings. I know some people talk on the phone in the library.  The rules seemed to have changed within my lifetime, but I do not take calls in the library (in fact, my phone is typically on vibrate) or in lines to pay a cashier. I cannot miss this call. I race towards the coffee shop area of the library where talking is acceptable. I don’t know if I can take unchecked items through, so I dip down by the doorway separating the two and answer in a hushed voice. My mother asks if I am okay. I see the irony. My mom…asking if I’m okay…as she’s going through the outer bands of a hurricane. I tell her that I am and she asks if I’ve seen the text she just sent. I haven’t. She says to look at it and call her back. I go to the checkout desk and while the librarian is retrieving the movies, I look at the text.

My dad was able to secure the palm so that as it uprooted, it wouldn’t take out the power line. I am hopeful that this is as bad as it will become.

I call her on my way back to the house. I am worried about the roof. It is gabled. She says that the gables are boarded. This eases my panic… some.

She sends me a text that says the news says they are going to get the worst of the storm. PRAY. Seeing that word in caps makes the tears that I have been holding back spill over. I am frightened. I know that my mom is afraid. I cannot crawl into that space into my mind. That space of raw fear. I know raw fear. I know driving across the State of Florida late at night after your firstborn child has been medflighted to a trauma hospital fear.

But that turned out okay. This has to turn out okay. The part of the memoir that most resonated with me was her thought that nothing bad could ever actually happen to her in “her movie” because she was the protagonist. I am wondering if I will reach the moment in “my movie” where my role as protagonist no longer means that everything turns out okay. I cannot dwell in that space. I am sending out updates to friends and family. I am calling my mom to tell her what is being said on The Weather Channel. I am wishing they’d talk about Naples instead of Miami. Marco Island…Naples..that’s getting this current impact.

They are in Naples. I am watching the weatherman brace against the storm. 95 mph sustained winds. 142 mph recorded gust. I know the plaza he is standing in. I know those tree lined medians. They are saying it’s much worse to the East of him. My family is to the East of him.

The calm comes in.

I call my mom again.

She says that it is getting bad. That the house is beginning to buck. She means that the bands are strong. The house is heaving and groaning as wind comes whipping around it.

Compress…compress…

I am thinking they must be close to through it. My dad is trying to tell me the bearings of the radar map.

I am willing the TV channel to zoom in so I can see more roads.

And then The Weather Channel zooms in on the radar and I see it…

They are not almost through it. They are East of Orangtree. Orangetree, the subdivision that was nothing more than a pasture filled with cows when I was young. They are in the red. I tell my dad that the Northeast band of the eye wall is over them right now. He is not surprised. The wind is howling. The house is crying. I am panicked. How long? How long will it last? They want to know. I have no answers. The TV isn’t saying anything. They’ve mentally moved on to Jim Cantore in Estero. I tell my parents that it lasted about 45 minutes in the city, but that the eye is eroding. I tell them that there will likely be no calm, only a slightly lessening wind. They need to relay the information to my brother. We hang up.

Over and over in my mind, the scenes from Twister are racing through my mind. This isn’t a tornado, but it is fierce circular wind. I know hurricanes. I know how they sound howling through the trees. I am praying fiercely that the old wooden house doesn’t decide that it is tired and has given all it can. Protect my family. I know that they will ride  out this eye wall in the hallway. I know that hallway. That hallway that my feet have walked along since I was seven. A long, narrow corridor, just wide enough for a child to reach out and run a hand alongside each wall. Something my brother and I were taught not to do. I know which doorway leads to which room…what photos hang along the way. I imagine them there…safe. Protect my family.

I think the eye has surely reached them. But I cannot get through. A cell tower is down.

I feel in the pit of my being that they are safe. There may be damage, but I know they are alive. Surely I would know if they were not. The fact that life doesn’t always have a happy ending threatens to undo me, but I suppress it.

I worry about whether or not I said all I wanted to say. I think about my Grandma. About how she was dying when I moved to Virginia. About how I thought about going back one last time to visit. But I knew she’d want me to settle my family. Yet, sometimes I wish I’d just gotten on the damn plane and returned home once more. I don’t want this to be like that. I don’t want to think about the what-if’s. But they creep in.

I ask my husband what will I do if I haven’t heard from them by my birthday (I turn 40 tomorrow…the 12th). Every year, my mother calls me first thing in the morning and sings me “Happy Birthday”. It doesn’t seem right that on this milestone it won’t happen. He has no answer for me. I like answers. I am a person who is always seeking answers.  As a child, during movies, I would ask my mother over and over…. “that didn’t really happen, right?” “that’s just pretend”. I still find myself biting my tongue (and sometimes failing) wanting to know the answer to a question in a movie. Usually when I fail, I’m met with “you know as much as me, Amy.” But do I? Maybe you caught something I missed. Some integral piece that gives me the answer that I want to know. I don’t like this waiting. This helplessness. I need to know they have survived.

Eventually we go to bed. Monday is another day in this world I now live in. This world away from destruction. After an entire lifetime in Florida, being gone for four years has lessened the surreal feelings I have when my home, my Florida, is under threat.. but it hasn’t completely removed them.

My phone rings. I am startled awake. My adrenaline starts racing. My phone would only ring if somebody has checked on my family. I lift my phone. It reads 12:12 a.m. The number is my dad.  In the middle of the night, the air out there picks up signals from much farther away. When I was a child, on a clear night, we could listen to radio stations many cities away. I am certain that if he has managed to get through despite the downed cell tower, that the moments will be precious. He is surprised that the call has made it.  They have been trying for about three hours. My mother has stood on chairs trying to hold her phone to places where she might receive a glimmer of a signal.

He says they are all safe. He tells me that it was bad. In that moment, thoughts are racing through my head. I am hanging on this thread between reality and dream-state, having just been awakened. I am thinking that maybe the house did fall down around them. He says that the houses are fine. He tells me that it was like nothing he’s ever been through in his life. That it was way worse than Wilma.  They are telling me about the floorboards rumbling. Somebody, I think it was my brother, said it felt like the plucking of guitar strings below his feet as the bands of wind went by. That it never let up. 45 minutes…an hour…unrelenting.

I think about how it must feel to be in a petrified state of fear for an hour straight. Counting down the time. Praying for the wind to cease. Willing your house to stay together. To protect you. It makes my stomach hurt.

He tells me part of one shop is gone. It’s hard to hear. Is it just the wall? The roof? I know this shop. I ran a 4-wheeler into the side of it when I was 15. I came up the driveway with the throttle wide open, my favorite way to ride. But then it wasn’t stopping. The shop approaching way too fast. I claimed the brakes didn’t work. I still maintain that.

He says a truss from the other shop has been ripped away and thrown some ways into the yard. I’m pretty sure that he says that attached to the truss is a car frame that had been placed in the rafters of the shop. Miss Sunshine and I just watched Sweet Home Alabama the night before and I am envisioning the grandfather shooting anvils from a cannon. I am wondering if this is what their yard looks like. This yard that I trod upon as a barefoot child and teen. This yard that I laid upon as I watched the clouds race by. The one in which I counted stars and imagined faces in the Harvest moon. They are telling me about uprooted trees. I think my mom is telling me about losing one that she likes so much. The call is breaking up. She repeats it. I still cannot tell what she is saying because it is breaking up. They tell me that they can hear me fine, so I tell them about the hotspots that they should be able to get to the next day.

We hang up. I am relieved that all are safe.

After telling everyone through Facebook that they are all okay, I collapse into bed and have a fitful night of strange dreams and long periods of being awake.

My mom gets a short call through to me today. The hotspots don’t work. Orangetree had 130-135 mph sustained winds. There were 142 mph gusts. The area is a mess. The call fails before I can hear more.

Now begins the process of cleaning up.  My family is resilient. Florida is resilient.

They will emerge even stronger.

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell. -Louisa May Alcott

Let your light shine!

Amy

Plaid blanket and guitar

This Merry-Go-Round Called Life

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Any of you who have been following me for a while know that I do a lot of pondering on the meaning of my life and the meaning of life in general.

Recently, I have been feeling like this existence is just a merry-go-round…. get up, make the donuts… you know how it goes (if you don’t get the reference, it’s from a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial in the 80’s).

I follow this 22 year old photographer, @manueldietrichphotography on Instagram.  He shares spectacular photos.  He also has a Youtube channel where he sometimes shares edits from the trips.  On Saturday, I watched this particular video (3 min):

The speech is by Alan Watts.  It made me question so many of the things I seek.  To wonder what I’m chasing.  To wonder what I’m sending my children out to chase.

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The next day, yesterday, my Great Aunt Wilma passed away.

Death always seems to make me reflect even more on life.

 

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My grandma, Reva VanHoose Scott on the left, and my great aunt, Wilma VanHoose Bernier on the right.

No one is actually dead until the ripples they caused in the world die away. -Terry Pratchett

 

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My Great Grandpa VanHoose, Great Grandma Ann and the four daughters they had together (they divorced and had other children through remarriage). This was a reunion of sorts. L-R : Alma, Wilma, Frances, and Reva.

Once when one of my children was little, they said “What if we are all just a part of someone’s dream?”

Hmmm….

Deep thoughts.

In an effort to live simply and move toward more of a minimalistic style, I have become less attached to “stuff”.

But sometimes, I keep things to which I have a strong attachment.

Those earring were my grandmother’s.  They make me smile every time I wear them.

The necklace that I have wrapped as a bracelet is made of cedar (juniper) beads.  Purchased from a Native American roadside stand on my honeymoon in Arizona. They are meant to keep away nightmares.  I had terrible nightmares. They have finally become less frequent. These beads didn’t stop them, but I also don’t wear necklaces to bed (I have an irrational fear of them choking me).  I also hung them over the bed of the child who had night terrors as a toddler.  It is a special piece of jewelry to me.

And then the blanket.

I’ve carried this blanket with me from home to home.  I have owned it for 39 years.

A gift as an infant.

From my Aunt Wilma and her husband, Roger.

 

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Four sisters fishing in Naples, FL. : L-R: Alma, Frances, Reva, and Wilma

I always called it my Roger blanket and loved it so much.  Once, when I was an older girl, not yet a teen, I asked my mother why I called it my Roger blanket.  I thought perhaps it was because I watched Mr. Roger’s neighborhood and decided to name it after the show. I thought that would be an odd thing, but I was clueless as to why I called it that.

My mom told me that it was because it was from my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Roger and I must have picked up on the last name mentioned. When I was 3, my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Roger were visiting some family along with us.  My mom told me that was my Uncle Roger who I had named my blanket after.  As he walked away, I said “there goes my best friend”.

My mom still laughs when she remembers that story.  I’m sure it’s because she can envision exactly how I said it.

Isn’t that a great thing about memories?  I have so many memories of my own children and something they said or did that makes me smile, shed a tear, or laugh out loud.

I like to think I just recognized a good soul when I met one.  He doted on my Aunt Wilma and loved her strongly.  They were such kind-hearted people.

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When I was 16 and graduating from high school, I had no idea what type of career I might pursue.  One that I considered was an accountant.

My Aunt Wilma and Uncle Roger had a friend who was an accountant and they arranged for me to spend a day shadowing him.  I remember at one point he needed to take a meeting and I spent some time with another gentleman in the practice.

The one thing that other man said that I’ll never forget was that he loved what he did.  He never wanted to retire. That you see people out on the golf course all day and that would never be him (this was in Naples, the land of the snowbirds, who come down to play golf {and enjoy the sunshine} after they retire).

I knew that I wanted to have that type of passion about whatever I pursued.

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Aunt Wilma with her fish haul

Are we supposed to follow “traditional” paths? To chase dollars or prestige? Should we send our kids to chase those things?

What if their path is not a straight line? What if mine is not? Do we keep doing the same thing just because it’s what we’ve always done?

Is our time better spent creating memories and seeking joy? Finding those things that make our souls sing?

The merry-go-round will stop.

Maybe not today. Or tomorrow.

Will it be because you chose to get off?  Or because you have no time left to make a choice?

The powerful play goes on and you will contribute a verse. -Walt Whitman

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Don’t wait until it’s too late

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The trouble is, you think you have time. -Jack Kornfield

I have never professed to be a good housekeeper.  Indeed I am far from it. But I am trying. Part of that is working on the process of decluttering.  I could talk all day about that process. And I may… but on a different day.

A few weeks ago, while going through a box of “where in the world does this stuff belong”, I came upon a letter written by me in 2013.  A letter written to my father-in-law.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you may remember that his passing away on February 9, 2013 was the major catalyst for us seeking a move to Virginia.  I touched on this somewhat last year in this post.

My father-in-law joined the Navy as a fresh out of high school, 18 year old. He and my mother-in-law were high school sweethearts and would marry in 1952 when he came home on leave. He would spend 20 years in the Navy, starting as an enlisted man, and working his way to Warrant Officer and then as a Lieutenant, serving as a Nuclear Weapons Officer on the USS Saratoga. He would then go on to become a teacher of elementary and middle schoolers, eventually getting his Master’s and becoming a school counselor.  He would work with children for 20 years before retiring.

When I met my future father-in-law, I was 20 years old and he was already retired from two careers.  I would celebrate my 21st birthday during that first trip to Virginia.  We would sit on the back porch every morning drinking coffee.

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On that trip, we took in a football game at my husband’s alma mater and where the first born grandbaby (my niece) was cheering.

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He would be my husband’s best man at our wedding.  Making everyone laugh during his speech with his request that we give him some more grandbaby’s (to add to the four he already had).

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And we fulfilled that request.

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Later, he would end up having leukemia. He had it for years. I usually spent two weeks every summer at their home, driving up with the kids and then my husband flying up for the second week. We often visited over Christmas Break as well. The Christmas of 2012, he was not feeling well. We opted not to go up because he was sick enough that all the germs we would bring would not be good.  They said it was now lymphoma. He was not getting better. A few weeks later my husband would be traveling up to help his brothers and mother set up hospice. At that point, I knew that I would never see him again.  And so I wrote him a letter.  I had hoped he’d be able to have it read to him.

That did not end up being possible.

In my college English class, I read the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.  I can’t even begin to explain why that poem struck me so deeply.  I was a 17 year old girl who had not even begun to taste the sting of death.  And yet, that poem became my favorite poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

My father-in-law did not go gentle into that good night.  The end was not easy.  He asked to speak to me once on the phone.  There was closure for me in that he remembered me in those moments.

So today I share the words that he was never able to hear (abbreviations have been used in place of some names).

In Case I Never Told You

In case I never told you I wanted you to know:

That I noticed when you made sure to spend time with each of the kids separately- whether it was teaching H to drive, teaching D about the mighty power or taking S to feed the neighbor’s pets, amongst all the other things.  I appreciated the fact that you took the time to make them feel special and create memories.

That I admire the fact that you taught for 20 years.  My patience level is low and you have always been so calm with my kids.  I imagine all those students felt special.

That I think it’s great that you love science so much because I find science fascinating.  Your innate curiosity about all the wonders of the world is inspiring because I feel like I can never get all the information I want to gain.

That I love your library.  In it, I discovered Ludlum, that there is more than one Oz book, and a plethora of other great books.  Because of our mutual love, one of my kids’ favorite place is a bookstore and they love the smell of a library.

That I’m glad that you passed on to M what he calls the “Smith family curse”.  The one that makes you repair everything yourself.  I can’t imagine being married to a man who couldn’t fix things.

That I’ve loved our talks by the pool- watching the kids swim.  You always added a fresh perspective on my struggles in raising children.

That I thank you for serving our country.  I don’t come from a military family so that was all foreign to me, but how amazing to share such tradition.

That even though some of the jokes you tell make us groan, they are you.  And when M tells one that makes us groan, we say that sounds like a joke your dad would tell.  And when our kids tell one, they are like M and so on and on it goes.  What a privilege to witness not just a physical passing down, but also personality.

That I love you for accepting me wholeheartedly into your family. You have given me such a blessing just by knowing you, but also in raising a man that is a man who takes his vows seriously because that was modeled by you.

I have done my part in evolution.

I have evolved from the 21 year old that you first met, but a lot has stayed the same and one of those things is that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you even when our views differ.

I will help out with the survival of the fittest though because I think M and I have produced some pretty amazing kids.

Keep Strong and I love you.

There isn’t anything earth-shattering in those words.  We did communicate regularly over the years and he knew that I loved and respected him.   I share them because they are still things that I wish I had said.

Don’t wait until it is too late to say those things you want to say to people you care about.  Don’t hold on to grudges that you might later regret.  Tomorrow is never promised.  I leave you with my father-in-law’s words, written 18 years before he would leave this earth.

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Let your light shine!

Amy