Friday Faves Edition 61

Friday.

Who’s happy that it’s Friday?!

Since there’s no rain in the weekend forecast, I sure am!

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Friday Faves.

I’m going to delve right in to my Friday Faves.

Vacation Clothes.

I have slightly less than three weeks before I head to the U.K. and am still missing a few clothing items I’d like…namely, black leggings.

Any suggestions on brands that don’t… bunch up around the knees…look like I’m wearing opaque stockings…aren’t made for the under 5’5″ crowd…and recognize that some women have leg muscles (this is why I love shorts so much..but, alas..I need to keep warm!)?

So I’ll be heading off to peruse some shops when I finish chatting with ya’ll.

Hiking.

Last Saturday the hubby and I took advantage of the one sunny, warm day (I was wearing a tank top and shorts! 2 days later I was back in a thigh-length down coat!)

I’ve been wanting to head over to the Peaks of Otter in Bedford and hike the Fallingwater Cascades trail. It has been one of my go-to hikes since hiking it for my 21st birthday (1998 if you don’t want to do the math). I’ll be doing a post on it once I finish post-processing my photos, but you can catch another glimpse of one of the shots here.

Outdoor Photography.

I didn’t come fully prepared for the photography.

It was intentional.

I hadn’t been to the falls in a while and knew that we’d return as we delve into spring. This was mostly about enjoying the sunshine and spending time with my husband. As such, I did not carry a tripod and (though not fully intentionally) didn’t bring along my ND filter.

I still wanted to see if I could capture the movement of the water. I used shutter priority for the setting and then adjusted to capture the least overexposed shot I could manage. I was able to edit it in a way that I was pleased with, but I will be returning with the tripod and filters once it warms up!!

Peaks of Otter Lodge.

When I hike out at the Peaks of Otter, I must dine at the Peaks of Otter Lodge.

We ate there for my 21st birthday. We always returned there when we’d come to Virginia for a visit. Its interior just has something like a classic nostalgia. It feels somewhat reminiscent of Dirty Dancing (which, FYI, the filming location of that movie is within driving distance and I’ve already requested it to the hubby as a spring expedition).

Vegan.

The hubby and I watched the documentary What the Health and he decided that he wanted to give vegan eating a try. We’d already been hearing quite a bit of its health benefits prior to watching the documentary.

As I mentioned when we did the vegetarian challenge, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and thyroid problems (which may be autoimmune as well) run in my family. I have already tested positive for autoimmune antibodies, but was negative to the specific autoimmune diseases they were testing for.

The hubby had his own reasons for wanting to attempt it. We are now finishing up week two. That’s not to say we’ve been perfect. On day one, we ate a croissant and then later realized…”oh wait, there’s butter in that”. We also ordered this vegetarian meal at the Lodge. We don’t know if it included butter because we didn’t ask.

However, we took the concept and for many of our dinners, we have been cooking up pans of veggies cooked in olive oil and garlic and serving it over pasta.

I don’t know if I’ll remain fully vegan. We are doing it for health, not necessarily ethical reasons. I am not sold on the idea of there being a problem with eating eggs, although the ones I feed my teens are free-range, pasture raised…whatever I can find that’s the closest to a chicken roaming in its natural habitat.

I also won’t be putting constraints on my eating habits when I travel to the U.K. One of the experiences I love about travel is trying new foods.

Peaks of Otter.

After our lunch, we strolled around Abbot Lake. Then we sat for a bit and admired the view. The Peaks of Otter are three mountain peaks overlooking the town of Bedford (you learn something new everyday…because I only have heard of two). I’ve always known about Sharp Top and Flat Top. The third is Harkening Hill.

The view here from Abbot Lake is of Sharp Top, whose highest point is 3,875 feet. Flat Top is actually the tallest of the three, rising to an elevation of 4,001 feet.

Alex and Ani.

I shared about snorkeling trip in yesterday’s post, but I didn’t get a chance to share my “souvenir” from Aruba. I love Alex and Ani bracelets. One of my friends has one from St. Maarten so when I saw the store in Aruba, I knew it was likely they would have some bracelets exclusive to the Island. There were a couple different options, but I prefer the rafellian finish to the shiny finish.

Soccer.

Due to some snow earlier in the season, Miss Sunshine had three soccer games in a row this week.

In one of those, she scored a goal!

Miss Sunshine and I spend a lot of car time together due to soccer and there are moments when I pause and realize how precious that time really is.

Books and TV and Movies.

I got sucked into some non-fiction books. I’m still perusing them to see if I want to invest fully into them, but I’m not abandoning the reading challenge that I’ve decided to do this year.

Are you reading any good books?

Although I don’t watch a lot of TV, I decided to join in on watching American Idol. While we were in Aruba, a series called The Crossing started after Idol. I admit…I’m hooked. Last night, the hubby and I watched the movie The Mountain Between Us. Have you seen it? I knew as soon as she asked him what type of doctor he was that he was going to say “neurosurgeon”. I even said it out loud before he did.

If you know my older backstories, then you know that we’ve had an incident dealing with neurosurgeons. While it can still be found in the search box, I don’t link to the post any longer because the story is only partially mine and has now become one of those moments that you can pinpoint as defining, but that you don’t often go back and rehash.

However, after having conversations with three different neurosurgeons and then later reading (because I love knowledge and was trying to learn everything about the brain) Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik (who, at the time, was one of only 200 or so female neurosurgeons), I knew that was the personality that they were attempting to portray.

Have you seen any good movies lately?

I hope you have a sunny weekend and many reasons to smile throughout the week.

Let your light shine!

Amy

Friday Faves Edition 60

Friday.

It’s Friday! Did ya’ll miss me last Friday? I missed all of you!

That Thursday was full day of travel for us.

We arrived at the airport in Aruba early since we knew that U.S citizens go through customs at the airport in Aruba instead of when they land in the U.S.

Based on our time waiting in customs at the D.C. airport after our return from Europe last spring, I’d have to say this process was much quicker.

We also only took carry-ons (raise your hand if you audibly gasped). I’ll be sharing some things I learned about that in a future post. We had a direct flight down to Aruba, but had a short layover in Boston on the return. After landing in D.C., we made our way to our vehicle for the 3 1/2 hour drive home. We collapsed into bed around 1 a.m. Friday.

Friday Faves.

Of course I have so many Friday Faves to share.

Aruba.

We spent spring break in Aruba.

I did share some of our travels on my Instagram stories.

I’ve saved some of them to the Aruba recap on my Instagram highlights if you’re interested in seeing those.

Easter.

We arrived in Aruba on the day before Easter.

That day we had a leisurely day.

Easter Sunday, we had a snorkeling excursion booked.

Just prior to our vacation, I read this post on Becoming Minimalist. It talks about jumping while you can. It resonated with me because this year for me is about pushing comfort zones even more. It is about learning to dare greatly.

And so I knew that I would attempt new things.

Snorkeling.

I have snorkeled before. I did not enjoy it. I always felt like I was struggling for air (which makes me feel claustrophobic). I swim, but would not consider myself a “strong” swimmer. However, when we went over the Antilla wreck, which is in 50-60 feet of water (well out of my comfort zone from a depth perspective) I decided to go in the water. I didn’t dive below the surface..and I didn’t stay in as long as everyone else

…but I jumped.

The second snorkeling spot was 10-12 feet deep and was my favorite of the three. The water was so clear and the fish were stunning. Miss Sunshine captured a video of me at this location.

Rope Swing.

At our third snorkel stop, which was about 14 ft deep, you had the option of swinging from the rope swing into the water.

I didn’t think that I was going to attempt it.

But then I remembered about wanting to push myself…I remembered how I was so fearless when I was younger

…and I jumped.

(yes there is a video of that. no I won’t be sharing it)

I plan to do a longer post about our snorkeling trip in the future, but we absolutely loved it (minus the fact that I was the one person on the ship who got a bloody nose when jumping from the rope swing. (note to self: if you plan on holding your nose, take the nose ring out)

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Safari Tour.

If you saw Wednesday’s post where I shared some photos from Aruba, the one above will look familiar. This was from our safari tour. I’ll be sharing more about that in the future, but it was an awesome day out as well.

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Tube Ride.

Miss Sunshine had already convinced her dad and Big Mr. to go on a tube ride earlier in the week. We had loved our snorkeling tour so much that we had booked another one for the day before our departure. Unfortunately, they had some technical difficulties and had to cancel our trip. Miss Sunshine really wanted me to tube with her. I really didn’t want to tube

…but I decided to jump.

Even though I was petrified most of the time, I can say that I’m glad that I did it. The ride itself wasn’t scary…it was tons of fun. I was worried about flipping into the water (which had happened on their last tube ride).

We used to have a boat and a tube. I have a distinct memory of flying out of the tube and having the wind knocked out of me as I landed into the water.

I was in my early 30’s then…how much worse would it be at 40!

My secondary…yes secondary…fear was that a shark might be lurking below the surface. The last time I had fallen out of a tube was in Lake Placid (Florida) and my fear of alligators is stronger than that of sharks.

I held on for dear life on this tube ride. So tightly, that my biceps hurt for the next two days and I’m still sporting a friction burn on one of my knuckles.

…but I jumped (metaphorically).

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Memories.

While I absolutely loved the sunshine and the salt air, one of my favorite parts of the trip is that we made so many memories.

I cherish these moments with my children. Big Mr. heads off to college after this summer. Mr. D is only a year behind. Miss Sunshine is around a little longer, but I know that it too will pass quickly.

These are fleeting moments with all my children still living at home and I am searing them into my brain.

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Sunshine and Salt Air.

But I’m not gonna lie, the sunshine and salt air did make the memories a little sweeter.

These photos of my teens were taken at Baby Beach. I wish we’d have spent more time there, but it wasn’t in the cards that day.

 

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Instagram.

While this week has mostly been playing catch up on emails, reflecting on last month’s challenge, going to soccer games, taking care of household stuff, and finishing up some loose ends for my trip to London and Scotland next month, I did give myself a gift.

If you saw Tuesday’s post, then you already know that day was my 19th wedding anniversary.

Your Instagram bio is supposed to be important for people deciding whether or not they are interested in following you. I’ve always struggled with exactly what I’d like it to say. You only have so much space.

Not long ago, I took out the section that stated where I had lived to add the lines with #travel and #nature and the wannabe photographer and wordsmith. The hubby thought I should take out the word “wannabe”. While I did agree to some level, I also left it there to keep my fear of failure satisfied. If I said “wannabe”, I was acknowledging that I have a long way to go.

…but I also wasn’t giving myself credit for how far I’ve come.

Or giving my dreams the fair shot that they deserved.

So on my anniversary, I gifted myself with the removal of that word. In doing so, I felt that I gave myself permission to keep growing and granted my soul a belief in myself.

Do you have dreams that you want to pursue, but you let fear hold you back?

Music.

This week I’ve chose a song by Sleeping at Last. I love his music and had a hard time choosing which song. I chose this song because it reminds me of the commitment that I made when I chose to have children. Those commitments have been at the forefront of my thoughts this week.

I hope that you have a soul filling weekend and smooth sailing throughout next week.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

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

wpc: story

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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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

Friday Faves Edition 52

Friday Faves Edition 52

 

Friday.

Whether Friday comes fast or Friday comes slowly, it always manages to make its way here.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a very mentally taxing week. I’m not convinced that Friday is going to reduce any of my mental drain, but it’s likely that my support system will be more readily available over the weekend.

A few bouts of insomnia did not help the matter. To give you a glimpse into the mind of a person who deals with anxiety…. one night this week, I awoke and began to think about a situation with which I was currently dealing…and after spinning that round…then my mind decided “hey, you’re awake. let’s think about that flight you have in Scotland. you know…the one where you have to be there by 6 am and it’s likely a 20 or 30 minute ride from your hotel. you’ll need to line up a taxi. you should probably have them come at 5, that way if anything goes wrong, you’ll still have time to try to find a remedy. it’s a small town, what if taxis don’t run at 5 am?…what will you do then, Amy? huh? can you fix THAT problem…can you?”

I have learned through my time of practicing meditation ways in which to counteract my mind running off on these anxiety inducing commentaries. In those times when I awaken at night, I go back to repeating a mantra that I learned during those initial 30 days: “I am as dynamic as my rest.” Sometimes my mind tries to wander off some more and when I find it doing that, I bring myself back to this mantra and eventually do fall back to sleep.

Friday Faves.

Even in the midst of stress, I’m still able to bring a roundup of Friday Faves. Because there are still moments of beauty in the chaos. You just have to be willing to look. This is where practicing gratitude  has definitely helped to change my perspectives.

 

(Pretoria, South Africa ) “My mom is like a person who always protects, advises, and provides, no matter what. She is the person to whom I can tell each and every one of my secrets, everything. I feel like there is nothing she wouldn’t do for us, and we could depend on her no matter what. “I want to thank my mom for raising me.. Thanks for everything that you do, for everything you give, and for always putting us first. My mom would never hold back; I know there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us. I really feel like she deserves a thank you for that. “I remember a time when she helped me with my school, and I helped her with her business. It’s how we grew up: my mom always taught us to help. I remember when I was in high school, we couldn’t afford the school tuition. I was afraid that I would have to leave school, but she said, ‘Don’t worry Ali; we’ll make a plan.’ She did whatever she had to do. She got the money for the transport, the stationery, everything. I know she sold some things, and I know it was very hard for her business; but she sent me to school, and I got my diploma. That’s who my mom is. No matter how bad things look or how impossible they seem, she would never give up; she would always fight for us. So all I want to do is to help to take care of my family, to try to be like my mother and give as much as she did. Additional information  Owns a boutique where he designs and makes clothing. He is originally from Malawi, but came all the way to South Africa to get his business started. . . . #happiness  #love #digithanks #travelstagram #photography #StayQueeky #visualsoflife #beautiful #neverstopexploring #awesome #loveislove #happy #fun #trip #exploreeverything #real #photos  #wonderful #traveling #feelfreefeed #support #travelawesome #dream #theadventureproject #travel #truth #adventure #liveauthentic #feelfreefeed

A post shared by DigiThanks (@digithanks) on

Gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, a fellow blogger, Sedi, reached out to me about checking out her Instagram page. She is the founder of DigiThanks, which is a gratitude project in which people share something or someone for which they express their gratitude. She also share quotes and scientific facts about gratitude. I think this a a wonderful project and wanted to share its existence with all of you. She has gratitude stories from more than forty countries. I think you’d enjoy checking them out. To place her Instagram on my blog, I could only choose one story. I’m a little biased towards somebody being grateful towards their mother seeing how I’m in the process of raising three teenagers and hopeful that someday they will see the reasoning behind my advice. But all the stories are wonderful.

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Bar Soap.

I haven’t actually tried these specific bars of soap, but I have moved over to bar soap. I shared my recycling journey  thus far. While I do enjoy that I’m putting out less bags into the regular trash can, I also noticed that my recycling bin is quite full each week. I began to pay attention to the amount of recyclable things where there were other choices that could just as easily be made.

One of those was soap. I have sensitive skin and have used body wash (I was told it was gentler on the skin, many, many years ago) and a loofah. Hmmm…plastic container….plastic washing thingie…OR I could use a bar of soap and recycle its cardboard container. So that’s a switch that I’ve made!

Do you have items that you’ve exchanged for something that has less impact on the environment?

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Houseplants.

If you’ve read my blog for sometime then you know that we’ve had a set of Peace Lilies for quite a while that were originally purchased because of their purported ability to clean the air. I have seen some arguments that assert that there is some myth to the way that it is circulated. Here is the NASA article. You can judge for yourself.

However, while I did choose plants that may clean indoor air pollution, I also added them because greenery and nature uplifts my spirits. I have been admiring photos of houses filled with plants because they make the room look so cozy. After starting my indoor plant journey, I read this article about how Amazon’s new office building is filled with 40,000 plants!

I should also note that most of you know that I don’t have a green thumb and kill all plants. My husband keeps the Peace Lilies alive and has agreed to care for any indoor plants I add to our home.

Corn Plant.

I wanted a plant in the living room that was taller than my Peace Lilies. We opted for a Mass Cane, also known as a Corn Plant.

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Majesty Palm.

Miss Sunshine liked the look of a palm (we are originally Floridians, you know) and wanted to add one to brighten up the corner of her bedroom. Winter isn’t the best time to find plants here in Virginia, but winter is also when I most need to see some green. We were looking for an Areca Palm, but this Majesty Palm was just as pretty.

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Pothos.

I wanted to add some plants to the raised counter between sides of my kitchen. We chose Pothos because it doesn’t require bright light. There are windows and doors in the kitchen, however, they aren’t beside this space. I loved the planter so much that I’ve gone back to purchase a second Pothos plant and the same rectangular planter. Those little clay pieces were made by each of my children in an art class over the years. They make me smile each time I look at them.

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Spider Plant.

When I started adding houseplants over the weekend, I really wanted a spider plant for Big Mr.’s room. I don’t know if it really helps with allergies as is credited to it, but I’m willing to try. Big Mr. has a room in the basement. In our last house, his room didn’t have carpet and I was relieved since it always retains so much dirtiness. However, this room has carpet and it was new carpet when we bought the house so we couldn’t justify replacing it.

The places where I went looking for Spider Plants did not have any. As luck would have it, after Miss Sunshine’s hair appointment this week, we popped in to Earth Fare to pick up some dinner. Lo, and behold, at the entrance were two enormous Spider Plants for sale. Miss Sunshine quickly claimed one for herself. I’m sorely tempted to keep this one for myself because I love its “extras” hanging down which remind me of the air plants that grow in Florida.

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Graduation.

Since I’m on the topic of Big Mr, one of the things that has been hanging over my head are finalizing the graduation announcements for Big Mr. I opted for the less classic version…because I don’t think anyone will really save those and it would be a waste of my money and time. We opted for ones that have photos which I knew my family would appreciate because they see my children less often now that we don’t live in Florida.

My teenagers rarely pose for photos. I mostly shoot landscapes and buildings, so most of my portrait photography doesn’t turn out how I’d like. I was planning to take some photos of Big Mr. for the announcements. However, they never turned out or he was busy and so I kept putting off finalizing the announcements. Originally, my shoot for the announcements would have shown off his beautiful green eyes, but in the end I used a set of photos I had taken on a day when he had asked me for a mini-session.

The announcements were set up for 4×6 landscape-style photos, and the other three photos were taken in that way. This one I had to crop. It looks great on the announcement, but I do love the entire photo. It was such a relief to finally check that box off of my to-do list.

Humor.

Instead of song this week, I’m offering a bit of humor. I could use some humor. How about you?

How many of you watched the Super Bowl? I would show you my favorite Super Bowl commercial (it was the Tide ad with David Harbour from Stranger Things that starts out making you think it’s an Old Spice ad…I love the Old Spice ads), but I think Bad Lip Reading will make you laugh even harder.

If you missed a mini tour of my current city, you can find that here. This week, I also shared the lessons I learned during my month of being a vegetarian and some photos that I let speak for themselves.

I hope that you all have a stress free weekend and many days of happiness in the coming week.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Friday Faves Edition 51

Friday Faves Edition 51

Friday.

I’m not sure how many different ways there are to say, “Hooray, it’s Friday!”. However, I keep trying.

This week, I used google translate to give me a little help. If google got it wrong, comment the correction.

  • Hurra, es Viernes (Spanish)
  • Hurra, es ist Freitag (German)
  • Hourra, c’est Vendredi (French)
  • Hoera, het is Vrijdag (Dutch)
  • Hooray, o le aso Laititi (Samoan)
  • Hooray, tá sé Dé hAoine (Irish)
  • Evviva, é Venerdì (Italian)
  • Hooray, is e Dihaoine a th ‘ann (Scottish Gaelic)

Friday Faves. Edition 51.

I can’t believe that this is edition 51 of Friday Faves. That’s so close to an entire year of coming here a recapping my faves of the week.

So let’s get to it!

Family Date.

Since my sons are 16 and almost 18, they are rarely home. Between work and friends, they like to be on the go. The hubby and I realized that we were seeing less and less of them and yet are moving closer and closer to the day that they fly the nest (one is a Junior and the other is a Senior in high school). We decided the best way to remedy the situation was to implement a family date.

A family date will now happen at least twice a month. We all like to go out to eat, so that became the best choice for us. I know that meals around the family dinner table are promoted for this quality time. It’s not like we don’t ever have those. We just find that when we eat out, the teens are less distracted by wanting to move on from the table. Also everybody becomes fully involved in the conversations. Plus, I don’t have to cook and the diversity of the palates of five people can be easily satisfied.

This past Saturday was our first “official” family date. While we left it open for the boys to bring along their girlfriends, it ended up with just the five of us. We decided on Mellow Mushroom. Mellow Mushroom is a pizza chain found mostly along the East Coast of the United States. We dined at one in Asheville, NC many years ago. It was big news when they opened here in Roanoke in October of 2016. I hadn’t been to this location before because Miss Sunshine is not a pizza fan. However, she did go here with a friend and said their pizza was good. The teens all got pizza. The hubby and I got veggie calzones. They were much larger that I anticipated, so I ended up eating the other half for dinner.

All in all it was “first date” success.

 

Fog.

Sunday, the fog rolled in. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture some photos. I’m still processing and editing them, but I did get one up on Instagram.

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Early Mornings.

Monday, I shared about my recycling journey so far. It was a major house cleaning day. One of my least favorite jobs to do. Weekdays are always filled with way too many early mornings.

Superlatives.

One of the things that I didn’t share last week was that Miss Sunshine had been nominated for an 8th grade yearbook superlative. If you aren’t familiar with superlatives, they are usually “best smile”, “most likely to succeed”, etc. and the nominees were high school Seniors. At some point, they found their way to middle school yearbooks, where 8th graders are nominated since they are the BMOC.

I don’t know all the superlatives chosen, but there were some I hadn’t heard of. Miss Sunshine was nominated for one of those. “Most likely to become a female activist.” She wasn’t sure what it meant since all of her friends were saying it meant she was most likely to become a feminist. I knew that wasn’t the case, but we looked up the definition of an activist, which is “a person who campaigns to bring about political of social change”. So, yes, a feminist is an activist, but not all activists are feminists (which should have been particularly obvious since superlatives have a male counterpart.

I have spoken in the past about conversations Miss Sunshine and I have had surrounding feminism. I believe that women are and should be treated as equal, but I don’t think that any agenda is furthered by the bashing of males. It doesn’t accomplish anything other than spewing hatred while claiming tolerance. I find this to be the case in many social conversations, which is why I mostly avoid them.

Trains.

Anyway! Miss Sunshine won the nomination. My heart is quite proud. I think it’s an excellent superlative. Hopefully she does change the world. She had to be taken in to school early on Tuesday for photos (which didn’t happen, but that’s a different story). On my way home, I got held up by the train crossing. I’m never first in line, so I took the opportunity to grab a picture.

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Riverdance.

Wednesday, the hubby and I had tickets to see Riverdance. I was so excited!! We saw it live when we were dating. I got all dressed up (a rarity), put on makeup (even rarer), and even put on fake eyelashes (for the first time). The lighting wasn’t good, but we still snapped a few selfies.

No photos were allowed during the performance. There were those who chose to ignore it. The lights from their phones was rude, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. There are those who will answer a phone in the library and carry on a full conversation. I’m talking about people of all ages…even some old enough to be my grandparents.  I’m still questioning when this became acceptable.

But I digress. If you can see the show, you definitely should. My hands hurt the next day from clapping so much. It was phenomenal!! I can’t rave about it enough!!

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Classic Novel.

Speaking of libraries…I have started on my February Challenge. I’m about 1/4 of the way through my first classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. I’m really enjoying it. It still seems strange to me the formal way that people spoke to each other. Even amongst girlfriends. I wonder if they really spoke that way or if that was only in writing. I suspect the former.

We went to the library last night and once again they are having “Blind Date with a Book”. I love surprises and couldn’t pass it up. I chose this one because it said “heartwarming classic”. That meant that it should qualify for my challenge. The book ended up being Random Harvest by James Hilton. I had not heard of it before and looked it up. Apparently, it was made into a film not too long after it was written. That film is considered a classic. I suppose that makes the book a classic as well. It will be my next read.

Microwave.

My microwave died. Appliances hate me. Don’t believe me? Read some of my older posts. They definitely hate me. End of Story.

Pilates.

I went to Pilates today. I don’t do Pilates on a Reformer. It is at my gym and is considered mat pilates. We sometimes use a small or large ball, light weights, therabands, and/or rings. Each instructor has a different style. What are the odds that after reading this article, questioning the benefit of burpees, that a day or two later I’d be doing them for the first time in a Pilates class? I will say that there was an option of stepping back with one leg a time to a plank and then walking it in and standing. The exercise wasn’t done nearly as fast as in some higher intensity classes. I appreciated the harder workout because “beach season” is coming. I just thought the coincidence was strange.

Music.

Also when I went to the gym, I heard a familiar song playing on the speakers. It was because I shared the song (by Tom Walker) in Edition 38 of Friday Faves. Today’s song is by Mondo Cozmo. The singer is from Philadelphia and is now based in L.A.

I hope you have an amazing week.

See the light in other and treat them as if that's all you see -Dr Wayne Dyer

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

The Thing About Silence - a view of freshly fallen snow

The Thing About Silence

Silence.

I wasn’t going to post today.

Silence.

I’m having a melancholy day. It happens to me sometimes. Usually when things are racing along at too frantic of a pace, or one of my teens is causing me internal angst, or it’s winter (sometimes all of the above). As is often the case with melancholy, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reasons…if any. I suspect SAD (seasonal affective disorder) may play a role, as well.

Silence and withdrawing are my tendencies on melancholy and high anxiety days.

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The Thing about Silence.

The thing about silence is that sometimes it’s best to speak.

This space with my blog is to spread love and kindness, to share the beauty of the world through my words or my photos, but it’s also a place for me to process. A place to pour out the reality of me. I am often able to look through a lens of gratitude, to focus on the beauty, to remind myself that this too shall pass.

Then there are days when this process of growth on the journey is a little harder.

So today, I write.

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Memories.

After running some necessary (and semi-unneccesary…I discovered bathing suits are in stores …and I have an upcoming trip to Aruba) errands, I decided to pop on Facebook. My nephew’s birthday was yesterday and I had left a message over there. One of the things (and there are really only a few) I do like about that social media space is when it brings up past memories.

One of the memories that Facebook shared for today was actually an Instagram post from two years ago.

This one in fact:

Blog.

I wondered which blog post this was referencing. It was interesting that the post that I wrote on this day two years ago should be about silence. Not only, silence, but the silence brought about by a freshly fallen snow. If you saw my Silent Sunday post, then you know that my take on the weekly photo challenge theme of “silence“, was our most recent snow.

Sometimes I cringe when I read my older posts, but this one was a perfect read for my melancholy spirit. I thought I’d reblog it, but that button seems to have disappeared for the moment. If you’d like to read my post, Silence is Golden, just click on those words.

The post was a reminder to me to search for the beauty in the midst of chaos, to stay in awe and wonder at the gloriousness of it all, to smile along the journey…because this is life.

I hope it offers the same reminder for you.

So, if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me, because, I, too, am fluent in silence. -R. Arnold

Let your light shine!

Amy

Forging through life's curveballs

Forging Through Life’s Curveballs

 

Forging Ahead Through Life’s Curveballs.

Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes you’re cruising along and think that life is wonderful and you are following the path that you were called to follow…then life throws you a curveball. What can you do when this happens? There is only one thing to do. Keep forging ahead through life’s curveballs.

I have dealt with many of life’s curveballs during my 40 years on this planet. But this story is not about me. I don’t often share other people’s stories, but am making an exception because the woman behind the story is my niece. And also because she has publicly spoken about parts of her story.

My niece, Azalea, amongst the many hats that she wears, is a vlogger on YouTube at Way Crunchy. Like me, her online journey has shifted over time. She originally wrote on a blog.

She is the person who helped encourage me to move past my fears of rejection and start this blog. Also, like me, she considers her role as a mother to be one of her most precious jobs.

Divorce.

About 5 months ago, life threw her a curveball. Divorce. It was not how she saw her life going, but it was the new reality. She did share on her Instastories that she was going through some heavy stuff, but it wasn’t until her YouTube video last month that she was prepared to share that she had spent the past 5 months as a single mom. I had been aware of this before she was ready to share it publicly and my heart hurt for her. Watching the YouTube of her announcing it made me ache with sadness for her again.

I have no experience in single motherhood. I do know that the two times that my husband traveled ahead of us to begin new jobs, the time on my own was hard.  Raising children is hard. I have had plenty of hard moments in raising teenagers. She does have a support system, but that doesn’t make the journey easy. She was a stay-at-home mom for the most part and suddenly found her life being upheaved.

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Another Curveball.

Even though life kept throwing her curveballs, she kept up her spirits and kept forging ahead. I’m sure she had her moments… who wouldn’t? Then life decided to throw her another curveball. Her vehicle died…needed the engine replaced and wasn’t worth the repair. She felt like that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That no matter what she did, things kept going wrong. A friend of hers set up a go fund me to help with the car situation. This is her most recent YouTube video.

I’m sure that her stress is exacerbated by the fact that her daughter will soon be going through some major medical things. As a mother, I know that alone is enough to make the waters rise and threaten to engulf you. When you add all the other things that she is going through, I can’t begin to fathom the overwhelm.

Learned lessons.

However, I did recently speak with her and while I’m sure she would never have wanted to walk this journey, she has been able to reflect and find learned lessons. One of the lessons that she mentions in the video is learning to accept help. This resonated deeply with me because I am so reluctant to accept help. In this realization, she became open to possibilities she wouldn’t have considered. Being open to accepting help is why she asked that her YouTube video be shared. If you have a media channel that you’d like to share it on, please do.

It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story. -Iyanla Vanzant

I admire the strength that she continues to show as she walks along this new journey of single parenting.

I have do doubt that all of the lessons learned will be very helpful as she continues her journey as a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Have you ever been thrown one of life’s curveballs? Did you find strength that you didn’t know you had as you forged through the curveball? Do you had advice for navigating life’s curveballs?

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