Letters to Myself

Letters to Myself, #3 – Happy Birthday

I originally meant to write this blog post around my 37th birthday in mid-October, but between moving from Marietta back to Smyrna, going to Destin, spending time with my brother Caleb, getting adjusted into our new apartment, and finding and starting my new job, this post never happened past me uploading the photos included in the post. Maybe this is a good thing though because being 3 months out from turning 37, I have more to say to these younger mes.

This will be a very, very, very long post, so if I am the only one who ever reads it all, that is totally fine with me.


October 1989:

Dear 7-year-old Amy:

Oh, sweet girl, happy birthday. I wish I remembered what I got for my birthday this year, but I’m sure it was something along the line of more Barbies for our 5-year-old brother Adam to rip the heads off of, dresses from June like the one in the picture above (as she was the only one who seemed to remember you are a little girl who should have pretty dresses and not be dressed like her brother), maybe some books.

This will be the year you start writing your own short stories, stories about tornadoes that you dreamed about and had to write down as soon as you woke up. Tornadoes are the shared fascination between you and Daddy, the one thing you can talk to each other about, the topic you get his attention on as you squeeze in next to him on his Lazyboy and watch hours of the Weather Channel together. The only other time you get his attention is when you are being yelled at for misbehaving, which usually involves fights with Adam. 

You’re going to be a big sister again soon too, and you will love it. At least at first. Ben will be your twin born seven years later in so many ways. He will be your baby. You will fall in love with him at first sight and even now, 30 years later, he still holds such a tender space in your heart even as all the things you dislike about yourself drive you crazy in him. 

I know you’re already worrying about your weight. What was it this morning? 60-something pounds? Amy, I wish this number wasn’t already so significant for you, but our mom, who struggles with her own body insecurities, can’t seem but help to pass them along to you.

I want you to know right now, in the middle of everything happening now and what’s to come – like your first major crush whom you’ve possibly met by now but whom you will befriend in the coming school year – you are so perfect just the way you are. Your bangs and straight hair with the flipped up ends are so sweet. Your mouth full of transformation and emptying of baby teeth is so adorable. I love your imagination, energy, singing voice, smile, tenacity, and sense of humor. I still smile when I think of the Barbie soap operas we came up with inspired by the soap operas June and Lib loved to watch. 

I’m so sorry you’re being forced to behave as if everything is fine and no one understands that your acting out is your inability to live so inauthentically. I’m so sorry no one understands you are processing so much dysfunction between your parents and at Lib’s house and that your sensitive heart can’t help but absorb the anger, shame, and pain all around you. I’m so sorry you are characterized as the bad child because you cannot sit still and be quiet and passive like Adam. That you’re told that your stubbornness, needs for affection and attention you can’t get met, and your emotions are all “too much,” and Mama and Daddy don’t “know how to handle you.” 

This year, you have a schoolteacher named Ms. Taylor who will tell you and your parents how much she loves having you as a student in her second grade class. She will tell you how sweet and smart you are. Listen to her. Don’t listen to your dad asking you why can’t you be that well-behaved child she speaks of at home. You are that child; he just does not have the energy nor focus to see it. Ms. Taylor will plant and grow those seeds in you that develop your love for reading, writing, spelling, and grammar that you carry with you for the rest of your life. 

Please know that I see you even when Adam gets all of the attention at home, and I understand why you lash out at him even though he does not deserve to be bullied just as you didn’t. I want to spend time with you even as it seemed our parents did not want you around and always waited until you were away for the weekend with June to go out as a family with Adam. 

Mama doesn’t know how to “handle” you but that is not your fault. This is about her upbringing and insecurities. Daddy only demands perfection and quiet from you because it was beaten into him by his abusive father. You are not broken. You are not wrong. You deserve so much love that I know you don’t ever really feel, at least not from your parents. You belong even if you feel left out from your parents and Adam. You are a sweet, innocent, stubborn, fiery little second grader who is growing her own little world inside of her imagination and becoming the author of the story of her life. You are good enough. Your body is perfect the way it is, even your little pudgy belly and round cheeks. 

Thank you for plucking those story ideas out of your dreams and getting them on paper as fast as you can because you taught me that I am a writer. Your excitement for becoming a big sister again and your natural maternal instincts will help you not only raise your upcoming baby brother but the one who will follow him as well as help you nurture and care for friends and, mostly importantly, yourself. 

I love you so much just as you are, sweet girl. Happy 7th birthday. 

October 2000:

Dear 18-year-old Amy (because I couldn’t find a picture of 17-year-old Amy and had to skip ahead a year):

I still remember when this picture was taken in the student center at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. You’re a freshman in college now, living 182 miles away from home and about 45 miles from the beaches of Dauphin Island where you’re going to spend way too much time (but love the hell out of it). 

On this birthday, June drove by herself to take you out to TGI Friday’s both for your birthday and to comfort you because you didn’t make it as a Diamond Girl, basically a cheerleader for the USA Jaguars’ baseball team (because you weren’t a sorority girl or thin like the other girls who auditioned). Pretty sure June also took you to Sam’s Club and got you a pallet of Cherry Coke because she loves you and wants you to have whatever she can possibly buy you. Cherish this.

You’re physically free from all of the bullshit at home – your divorced parents who can’t seem to understand you are their daughter and not their mediator, your mom who chose her second husband over you and your brothers and who treats you like shit because you’re fat (and that’s the worst thing you can be to her) and likely because you’re now the mother she can’t be to Ben and your youngest brother Caleb, all of the fighting between Lib, Brophy, and Robert – but emotionally it’s like you never left. 

You’re numb, I know. After so many years of absorbing so much anger and shame, numb is your survival method. Well, that and your sense of humor and food. Your weight is less than it has been since it piled onto your body in high school, but it still isn’t enough for your parents to tell you that you’re worth loving and beautiful and that they are proud of you. Nothing is enough for that. Not your advanced diploma or good job after high school or getting into college or making the Dean’s List your first semester. The only person who calls and checks on you is June, who loves you but who gets annoyed because you don’t have enough going on to talk about daily. 

You have an awesome roommate named Kelly who is going to introduce you to a tall, broad-shouldered, blonde-haired junior with a nice smile and blue eyes whom she says is exactly your type. He will be. You will think “this is the guy I’m going to marry” as soon as you see him. You won’t talk to him until January 2001, but you’ll cross paths a few times. 

You will so badly want this tall former linebacker, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Christian man with a sense of humor like yours to like you back, but he won’t. Not the same way you like him. And it’s not because of anything about you, despite what your mom later tells you. Unlike what your mom says, you are not ugly or smelly, you don’t need to be thin to be loved or happy, and there is nothing wrong with your body. I know you want to dance and be more outgoing, but fear of being made fun like you have been your whole life plagues you. That’s okay. We will get there. I mean, we will actually get there, like, we will dance in front of 100+ people at a belly dance student show, and no, we won’t feel or look stupid. We will feel so proud and amazed. 

This year, you will start online journaling for the first time, mostly to write about that boy mentioned above and your struggles to lose weight, but soon it will progress to recording what is now the good, bad, and ugly of your family history. A record to back up their gaslighting that keeps you from buying their bullshit about you. The greatest gift of this blogging will be how much your self-awareness skyrockets. Yes, sometimes this makes us overanalytical, but overall, it makes us much more compassionate and empathetic. Over time, that numbness that plagues you will fade as you begin to validate your emotions and learn about your sensitive nature and what a gift it really is. 

You are so starved for attention and affection, but you will find friendships that give you some of both. You will give so much of both to Ben and Caleb that they will develop into men who are comfortable being both emotionally available and deeply affectionate. And that boy who breaks your heart so deeply is an unanswered prayer you will be grateful for in the future (though, eyeroll, I know you will think, I’m so sick of hearing this), trust me. 

You are doing so much better than you think. You are so beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. You can run circles around those skinny girls who think they’re in better shape than you because you’re heavier than them. You write like you think, and today, I’ve been told I write like I’m writing to a dear friend. This is all thanks to you. The fanfiction you’re in the middle of writing now is real writing and developing dialogue skills as well as your songwriting skills, an original in the type of fanfiction you’re writing. (Oh and guess what? You’re going to meet Nick Carter. Eeeeek, I know, right?! You won’t marry him though, sorry.) 

Keep writing those songs that come to you in the middle of the night like the stories did when we were seven years old. Keep singing in the shower and at your desk (even though you might want to keep it down at 2a). Enjoy your friendship with the boy who will love you but not the way you love him, but also don’t allow him to mistreat you because you are so much better than that (and he really, really, really doesn’t deserve you, I promise). 

Enough with this heavy shit though – happy 18th birthday, Amy! You’re legally an adult now though you’ve felt like one for the past four years! Go to the beach. Take in the quiet of the Gulf of Mexico at sunrise before you drive back to your dorm with the windows down to breathe in the salty air and pass out and miss your first of many classes over the next four years. Go dancing with your roommate and her friends. Enjoy dinner with June. Enjoy the first steps of your freedom. You are so ready for this.

And again, I love you dearly, sweet girl, just as you are. 

October 2009:

Happy 27th birthday, Amy. Wow, what a birthday. You are currently in Mobile with Mama, who invited you to come down with her for a nursing continuing education conference she signed up to attend. I know, things with her are so tumultuous right now, as they’ve been pretty much your whole life. Ugh, I also know that she is the middle of her affair with her married boyfriend and you’re trying so hard to convince to break up with him until he finally divorces his wife of 25+ years. (She won’t.)

Let’s not think about that right now. You are DAYS AWAY from quitting the state government job you’ve had since you graduated high school nine years ago, and in just about three weeks, you’re moving to Atlanta. Wow, so much going on. I really want to commend you for taking on a summer part-time job to make extra money as well as selling as much as you possibly could so that you have money saved up to help you in your first few weeks in Atlanta. I’m so grateful for Sia and Zach for taking you in and letting you live in their townhouse in your first few weeks as well because we really would not have done this without that. 

I know there are people in our family coming out of the woodworks at the news of you moving who are telling you how bad the economy is, how high unemployment is (because you obviously don’t know this working in the unemployment compensation division of the Department of Labor where these numbers originate), how you’re stupid for leaving a steady, stable government job, and blah blah blah, but their comments are about them, and these are people who haven’t seen or talked to you in over a decade so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about or who the hell they’re telling all of this to. Disregard them.

Moving to Atlanta is going to change your whole life. Amy, you are on the cusp of finally, finally, finally being on your own and living a life that is yours and yours alone. I am so excited for you just thinking about it all. Yes, it will be so freaking hard, but you are going to start healing. All of your scars and wounds will become like the broken jars in the Chinese proverb that are put back together with gold which only makes them stronger. You are being filled in with gold, Amy, with strength, determination, courage, wisdom, and beauty. It hurts, it might always hurt, but it is what makes you real and makes me love you so much. And goddamn, you’re hilarious. That definitely won’t change. 

Happy 27th birthday, Amy. Happy first birthday to the rest of your beautiful life that is beginning now as you stare out at downtown Mobile and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You are. You so are. This is the most right thing you have done your whole life, even now. Thank you for being so brave. I admire the hell out of you. 

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October 2009:

Happy 37th birthday, Amy. God, this has been a rough year. I know how tired you feel. Your lifelong faith in God has been severed completely, and now there’s a void along with a bit of anger at how Christianity has been used to belittle, demean, and shame you in every area of your life from your gender/femininity, sexuality, emotions, physical shape, marriage, finances, writing, speech, outgoing and strong-willed personality, and more.

There is also fear that you will be rejected and abandoned by those you love who aren’t on your deconversion journey, including John, or that their fear for your eternal soul will lead them to intentionally or not-intentionally gaslight and shame you in the hopes of “bringing you back to Jesus.” It is so hard to write these days because you don’t have it in you to deal with the feedback of others. Not about your lack of religious faith, four months now of unemployment, 50-pound weight gain, or really anything else. And really, does it even matter when Trump is going to get us all killed anyway? Oops, can’t talk about that either.

Everything feels so hard and dark right now, I know. You and John have had some horrible fights this year, and it feels like you will forever fight about the same things – sex, communication, how you’re in touch with your emotions and he’s not so yours seem overwhelming, and money. You both said “fuck you” to each other this year when you said years ago that would be a sign that something is deeply wrong and vowed to work through whatever led to that moment before things got that bad.

Nope, he said it, you said it back, he told you to leave, you did, and he didn’t come running after you or blow up your phone with texts or calls. He later apologized for not checking on you, for saying those words and telling you to leave, but that apology did nothing to change how deeply hurt and alone you felt and still often feel in this marriage. All it brought up and back was how much you felt like you and your feelings didn’t matter growing up and you heard your own mind gaslighting you and telling you that somehow this is all your fault and, oh, because you’re so much fatter now, he probably doesn’t love or want you or to be married to you anymore and now you’re screwed because you have no money of your own anymore. It feels so far away from the way your relationship started eight years ago, when he was so excited about you and couldn’t stop telling and showing you how happy he was to have you in his life, like maybe all of that never really happened or was all a ruse or maybe you just fucked it all up because you’re not that woman anymore, whoever he thought she was.

Take a deep breath, Amy. I will pause and breathe with you because that is some really hard, painful, heavy shit.

Let me remind you of what I wrote to 7-year-old Amy: you are not broken, there is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing about you that deems you unworthy of love, your words/feelings/everything about you matter even if no one else seems to acknowledge this, especially the ones you love most.

Right now, this year, has been a really shitty one. Let me validate something for you: You have experienced a shit-ton of trauma, you have PTSD, you have survived some really fucked up shit, and none of it was your fault. How others treat you is a reflection of them, not you. You are not responsible for their behavior or words towards you. You did not and do not deserve to be abused or mistreated.

You are so strong, Amy. Stronger than I think you will ever realize when you’re so lost in all of those critical thoughts from voices in your past who could, from their own pain, tell you they loved you but somehow also how wrong and inadequate you are in one breath and without apology. You are so brave to keep pushing through all of this trauma and pain, for picking each piece of your shattered heart, acknowledging its existence and searing pain, crying with and for it, and putting it all back together again. With so many broken pieces, this is a very lengthy, possibly lifelong process, but you are here for it, and that means so much for the future Amys, however many there will be.

I know that with the loss of faith in God, everything feels so meaningless right now. Nihilism feels comforting in a way. So this is it? I’m just a product of evolution, collection of atoms, pieces of the universe, and a speck on the plane of this universe and time? Great! So everything is temporary and nothing really matters and someday I will be oblivious to it all as I was before I was born. This has done wonders for my anxiety.

But seriously…that also seems so dark and hopeless too. 

Your life does have meaning even if there’s nothing else but this (and I’m not totally discounting spirituality here, just religion).

Amy, you’re a product of evolution, such a rare miracle! Do you know how many eggs and sperm that have ever existed in the bodies of all the humans who have ever walked this earth? Do you know how much had to come together (no pun intended) at just the right time and in the right way for you to be conceived, carried to term and delivered? How amazing it is that you’re alive today in your fragile body in a grueling, lethal environment? How many lives you’ve touched and made better just by being yourself? You are made of the same materials of this vast, infinite, magnificent, astounding, beautiful universe! You, and everyone else, are just as incredible to look at as the moon, stars, and planets in the sky. 

Yes, everything is temporary, but you matter. Your life matters. Your thoughts, feelings, voice, and words matter. Everything about you matters and is a miracle. Same with everyone else, even though their behavior doesn’t alway lend to feeling as such about them.

You are so smart and so well-read. You absorb knowledge like you absorb emotions, and you are thoughtful when discussing what you’ve learned. You’re still so funny, especially with all of the songs you make up about the dogs or to make fun of those dumb prescription drug commercials. John’s right, you’ve really missed your calling here. You’re introverted and need alone time to re-energize, but man, you come ALIVE when there are people to talk to. You are so good at encouraging others and making them smile and laugh, and this is going to come in handy in your new job. You really are charming, thick southern accent and all. It feels weird to say all of this about myself, but damn it, it is about time, and if no one else will, it is up to me to make you shine. 

Your body will change for the rest of your life in size, shape, height, width, wrinkles, lumps, bumps, colors, and more, but it is always working hard with and for you to keep you alive because it loves you unconditionally. I know the weight gain is hard for you and you miss your smaller belly, leaner arms and thighs, and seeing the dimples in your cheeks that have been covered over with your plumper face. I know everything and everyone around you screams that your body is wrong and you need to make it smaller ASAP. I know you’re hearing that inner critical voice tell you that there’s no way John could love or be attracted to you at this size, and this is putting you into survival and defense mode as you await his eventual criticism and rejection of you. (That voice is so wrong, I promise you.)

I know you feel so left behind now as another job failed to work out for you and you’re on what feels like year 50 of trying to pay off your debt and you can’t afford to travel or buy clothes and you feel so much guilt and shame because you’re not currently working and all of the financial burden is on John and you remember how that felt when it was on you and…. it all really fucking sucks, I know.

Some good news though: You’re about to move out of that almost literal sewage dump of an apartment in the middle of nowhere Marietta that you’ve hated for the past two years, you’re about to go to the beach (though that feels undeserved because John has to pay for it on top of all the moving stuff), and soon, you will have a new job, one that you really enjoy even though you will wish it paid more. And Amy!! You have stood up for yourself so hard in these past two “failed” jobs because after the office job before you moved to Chicago, you said no more to asshole bosses and jobs that don’t fulfill you, and you stood your ground and made the best decision for yourself: no more shitty, toxic office jobs with mean, narcissistic bosses. You saved enough money to help you pay your car payment and minimum credit card payments for these four months of unemployment too! And paid off half of your credit card debt before quitting!

I just had a thought: Do you remember your final summer semester at South Alabama when June promised you that if you put in the hard work, went to all of your classes, and made good grades, she’d take you to the beach? Do you remember how even though you put in more effort than the last several semesters combined, you still failed one class by merely not going to it enough and your grades, minus your nutrition class, were still shitty, but she took you anyway because she knew you needed the trip because she knew how fucking depressed you were and how you were hanging on by a tiny shred of a thread? 

That’s love and grace, Amy, and I am here to tell you that even though you feel like a loser, burden, and failure because you keep comparing yourself to everyone else and falling short, and you’re certain that you’re repeating all the mistakes you swore you never would growing up and that everything gone wrong is all your fault…you are loved, you’re not falling short, you’re tough as shit, you’re brave, and you deserve a fucking trip to the beach, no matter what else is going on right now.

What you don’t always see – and I totally understand why – is that no matter how much you feel like pain and sadness have filled your body, mind, and heart to the brim, and then some, you always have room for joy. Your smile always lights up any room you’re in. Your laughter is contagious and melodic, as cheesy as that sounds. You always find something to laugh at and something to admire. You rarely forget to look up at night, and you always notice something beautiful in your daily path, from the colors of the sky at sunset to your dogs’ sweet faces to how good and at home it feels when John puts his arms around you and holds you close whether it’s in bed as he’s falling asleep or you’re cooking dinner in the kitchen and how beautiful his eyes, smile, voice, and laughter are. (Remember how I said earlier that you dodged a bullet with that guy in college? John is everything that guy could never be and more even when there are struggles like you’re going through now. Also, he’s way better looking than that guy.)

Nothing is perfect, yet everything is. I know I am rambling on now, but I also know I tend to talk to you less in this way during these more introspective times; instead, echoing the vitriol, anger, and shame that still sits deeply within me though it has been over a decade since I unwillingly soaked it all up like a bone-dry sponge dropped in a basin of dirty water and filthy dishes. 

I’m only three months from this birthday, so I am still in the trenches with you, but I can feel things improving little by little. This is yet another mountain to climb and I am trudging along, knowing I can’t stop because continuing to move forward is the only way I will get home.

I love you so much for the girl you were and the woman you are now. We are one and the same. You matter, you are perfect just the way you are, and all that matters is how you think and feel about you. You are my most important relationship, and I will continue doing all I can to make it the best one. Here’s to many more birthdays and many more versions of us to come.




Letters to Myself, Showing Up

Letters to Myself, # 2 – Slow Down (They Don’t Love You Like I Love You)

Quotes about gratitude

(Thanks, Beyonce, for the title inspiration from your song, “Hold Up” from your best album yet, Lemonade)


Dear Me:

Hey there, it’s me again. I want to thank you for your response in the first letter when you reminded me throughout a really stressful, busy week last week to find and hold on to my joy.

Thanks for allowing Happier Us to stick by my side through apartment A/C issues (and getting the property manager & maintenance supervisor to realize we needed a new unit), babysitting two small, very fun and active girls two days in a row, traveling to and from Savannah in about a 36-hour period (and keeping Cynical Us from screaming “We’re going to die!” as a very exhausted us and John tried to navigate the last 30 miles home in early morning Atlanta traffic), not getting really good quality sleep, and it being so damn hot outside.

In this letter, I want to talk about something else I’ve noticed directing our life and decisions: Scarcity Mindset. The feeling that there is never enough and we are never enough. The way it makes us settle for shit we don’t want, ignore our intuition, mistreat our body, envy others whom we think have what we can’t have because they have it, pushes us so hard to try to make money any way we can to pay off our debt and be financially secure (knowing that in this mindset, no amount of money will ever make us feel secure), and keeps us trapped in comparison and feeds our feelings of inadequacy.

It isn’t our fault. We were raised in a scarcity-based environment. In America, it is called capitalism. Being shamed for our so-called inadequacies, told we can have “it all” if we just work hard enough or have enough money to buy it (ignoring all of the privileges many have that a lot were not given or born with), and being told to rest is to be lazy, worthless, and dumb.

In our family, we were taught that money is scarce as we watched our family members go into massive credit card debt and then one bankruptcy after another and saw no one ever had enough to be happy. We were taught to fear money or see it as evil. We were never taught how to be responsible with it or how to give ourselves the power over it and not the other way around.

We were taught that appearances matter most. Not who we truly were or how we truly felt, but what we and our lives looked like.

Our family tried so hard to seem financially well off and like everyone had their shit together and there were never any conflicts or issues.

Don’t you remember how Daddy was so mean to Mama, the boys, and us on the way to church and how as soon as we got out of the van and walked in the church doors, he became the man all our youth group girl friends wished their father was like, who the women Mama knew in their Sunday School group wished their husbands were like? And how as soon as we were back in the van, his friendly, warm smile returned to a sneer and his honey-dipped words returned to venom?

Or how Lib, June, Brophy, and Robert congregated on the porch, laughing and talking whenever the police showed up because someone (sometimes us) called 911 because their violent fights were so loud and frightening?

From around kindergarten up, we learned that food wasn’t a security either. It isn’t that we were really ever short on food, but it was the shame around being told we couldn’t eat the food we wanted because it was “making us fat” and being a fat girl was a vicious, dreadful sin. It ruined our “appearance” of how a thinner body was seen as beautiful, smart, hardworking, and cared for, and our fat body only showed neglect, laziness, gluttony, and lacking self-care, self-respect, self-esteem, and intelligence.

The more food was held as forbidden to us and the more we were told our body was “wrong,” the more scarce food felt to us and the more we rebelled, binged on it, and hated our self.

And in puberty, not developing breasts or round hips and instead developing rounder, broader shoulders and a rounder version of the pot belly we’ve had since infancy made us even more of a disappointment and eyesore. Here, we learned that love, acceptance, desirability, and attractiveness was scarce, and we were to blame for it.

In these times of scarcity, or perceived scarcity, we are conditioned to rush. Rush to sneak the “forbidden” food and shove it down our throat thoughtlessly, without enjoyment, and riddled with shame and self-loathing. Rush to lose weight in whatever means possible so we can finally be considered attractive, lovable, and worthwhile. Rush to do whatever we can to please others, regardless of the way we neglect our self and our needs in the meantime. And then rush to numb our pain, shame, sadness, and anger by whatever means necessary, which for us was/is food and spending too much time scrolling through the internet and social media.

There is no slowing down in this scarcity mindset. No time to think. No time to consider. There is so much to do to finally get enough so we are finally considered enough, and with every step we take, the ruler measuring success, achievement, control, safety, adequacy, and being considered worthy of love and acceptance is pushed a little further out.

Driven by this mindset, we went to a college we didn’t really like, settled on toxic behavior by men we were attracted to and wanted to feel noticed and wanted by, accepted the crumbs of attention from toxic friendships out of deep loneliness, a deep mother and father wound, and always being taught to feel worthless and like we had to take whatever we could get.

We settled on one job after another because we were told it was “smart” and secure even though they stifled our creativity and left us feeling miserable and lost.

This scarcity mindset taught us love is scarce and we could lose it at anytime so we better not do anything to “rock the boat.”

Things like:

  • Don’t speak up about your hurts and anger.
  • Don’t do or say anything that could be seen as critical or he’s going to leave.
  • Always be pleasant.
  • Don’t talk too much.
  • Don’t be needy.
  • Don’t speak up for yourself.
  • Squelch those emotions, you know you have too many of them.
  • Don’t do anything that could make you seem like a burden.
  • And for God’s sake, lose the fucking gut already, no man wants to look at that.
  • Always remember that whatever has been given can and likely will be taken away.
  • Don’t get too comfortable.

You know, this mindset keeps me up at night worrying about dying and never getting to live the life I want many years to live. Makes me so afraid we will die young and miss out on all life has to offer us. Makes me feel sick to my stomach at thinking about John moving on, finding someone else, and realizing we were never the woman he thought we were or that he ever really loved.

I get angry too, thinking about everything we want to do and how we never seem to have the money to do it because we can’t find or keep a job in a healthy, fun, creative environment. It makes me think of friends and family who are traveling where I want us to travel, doing jobs I want us to do, having money I wish we had, and comparing way too much of myself and life to everyone else.

Where there is a scarcity mindset, there is a focus on what we don’t have and a furious impatience to get it. To have control. To know what’s coming next, how to get it, when it’ll arrive, and how happy we’ll “finally” be when it arrives. I mean, isn’t that all the lie of every diet and/or exercise program we ever try? Every book or movie or TV show about finding “the one”? The sales pitch behind every beauty product and fashion line?

Scarcity mindset is the mindset that sells and makes billions of dollars in marketing and advertising for every possible thing you can think of from diets to religion to fashion to cars to homes and etc. “Let me tell you what you lack, how others perceive your lacking, and how buying this product will finally make you happy.”

Where there is scarcity, there is depression, war, greed, famine, sexual/physical/emotional violence, addiction, infidelity, genocide, treating people who don’t look like us as an “other” and dehumanizing them, anxiety, power-grabbing, fear-mongering, and depravity. Scarcity makes us take whatever we can get, however we can get it, no matter who – including ourselves – gets hurt.

Most of all, it takes us out of the present and robs us of joy, peace, love, and gratitude. It clouds our intuition and depletes the quality of our life. And quality always matters more important than quantity.

Amy, we are enough. Our life is happening as it is meant to, in the timeline it is meant to be on. There is no one set timeline for everyone. There is no need to rush.

We don’t have to worry about not having enough or being enough. There’s nothing we need to do or change about us to be worthy of love. Our very name, Amy, MEANS “beloved.”

If there is anything we can hold on to in our constantly evolving spiritual faith and what we learned in church growing up, it is to not allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the trappings of this world. Everything is temporary but it doesn’t mean it is scarce. Being weighed down by all of the stress that scarcity brings mean not being able to see the constant flow of joy, opportunities for new beginnings, love, and good still alive all around us.

Let’s slow down when we think, rest, eat, and dream. Our body is worth trusting and wants us to trust it. We are so privileged and lucky, Amy, we really have no idea. Let’s focus on our abundance so we can share it with others. When we know what we have, we know what we can give.

There is enough food to fill our belly and to give us pleasure and we don’t have to feel ashamed of what we eat. We can enjoy, savor, and be mindful of how and what we eat and why we are eating. We don’t need permission to feed our body when it is hungry. We don’t need to eat past fullness out of fear we will never get to eat that food again. We don’t have to restrict anymore.

We can move our body for the sheer joy of it and in appreciation of all it has done, is doing, and will do for us however many years we are meant to live.

Let’s not be inactive because the diet mentality is so deeply ingrained and twisted around exercise in our brain that it is hard to separate moving our body from the hope of weight loss, which is really just a hope of being seen as worthy of love and acceptance.

Our body is strong and still somewhat flexible (let’s try some yoga for this, okay?) and healthy, let’s focus on the abundance of this and move our body out of that mindset.

We aren’t our family. Their money issues aren’t ours. Their inability to have healthy relationships and marriages and live authentic lives don’t reflect on us. We are not doomed to repeat their mistakes. If anything, we have learned from them. How about we stop living from all the “what not to do’s” we learned from them and start focusing on what we have overcome, let go, forgive, and move on to the healing and the abundant future awaiting us?

Perfectionism is another scarcity mindset lie. It doesn’t exist, nor should it. We are free to make mistakes and learn and grow from them instead of feeling ashamed of them.

We were not born evil and in need of being made good and lovable by someone else. We were born in the image of God, who is all things love and goodness. Forget all of the fear-mongering, shaming, narcissistic religious bullshit shoved down our throat as children. That was all about control, another scarcity mindset tactic, and Amy, we are free. We are so fucking free to be exactly who we are.

Our marriage to John is beautiful because it is real. It is raw, vulnerable, and ever-growing, and it is authentic, transparent, and real. Don’t compare it to someone else’s marriage. We can’t see into the lives of others.

Let’s not rush the healing, depth, effective communication, and intimacy in our marriage. God willing, our marriage is growing into a mighty oak wrapped in decades of rings with unbreakable, replenishing roots that sway with the wind without snapping.

Right now, it is still a young, vulnerable sapling, only eight years old. It needs love, care, grace, understanding, forgiveness, nurture, trust, faith, rest, unity, sunshine, and patience. It needs time and it will need storms. Don’t be afraid of this.

Let’s not worry so much about money. We have enough to get by on. Let’s not be in such a rush to pay off debt, save money, buy a house, or whatever we see others doing that it’s not yet our time to do that we settle again for work that isn’t right for who we are, forces our self to stifle who we really are and what we really want, and lie awake at night in such unnecessary fear, anger, envy, resentment, and frustration. And remember, just because someone else has what we want doesn’t mean there’s now less of it left for us.

Amy, the way out of this scarcity mindset we’ve lived our whole life in is trust. Trust in ourselves. Trust in God or destiny or the Universe or whoever created us and is running things. Trust in our body to work and look as it was written in our DNA. Trust that we are always abundant in love, even if rejected, abandoned, and hurt by the ones we love. Trust that pain and suffering are a part of life and not to be feared because we also trust there is an abundance of good and joy in the world, no matter what our Twitter feeds tell us daily.

Slow down. Take deep breaths. Live in the present. Feel emotions and know none of them are wrong and all of them are valid and valued. We are not too much. We are not a burden. We matter. Our dreams and passions matter.

Our purpose is to live as our authentic self, love who we are exactly as we are, love others exactly as they are, and know our purpose will shift and change as our story weaves, waxes, and wanes through everywhere we’ve been and everywhere we are headed, no matter how long or short the story is.

Everything is happening as it is meant to. Listen to your gut. Listen to your heart. Take care of yourself. Be responsible for how you treat yourself and others and how your words and behavior affect others. And live in gratitude because really, we have been through hell, but we have never been defeated and we’ve truly never been unloved. There is nothing scarce in who we are, what life has given us, or what life still has left in store for us.




Goodbye, Louie


John and I said goodbye to Louie Thursday morning after a rapid decline and a horrific night of suffering physically for him and emotionally for me Wednesday night. He was about 14 or 15 years old, and he lived an amazing life.

He found John in Savannah back in 2004. He lived down the street from the house John grew up in and kept coming over to play with the dogs they had. John took him back a couple of times and he returned over and over again. Finally, the last time John took him home, the owners told John he could have him. John named him Louie and they were immediate best friends forever.

He was the most charming, sweetest, friendliest dog ever and had so much personality and the biggest, saddest eyes that made you want to endlessly feed and pet him. You knew what he wanted and when and most of the time, it was food.

He had a stomach of steel. One time, when John and I were dating and they came to spend the weekend with me, I made some cream cheese chocolate chip cookies and left them on the table to go watch a football game with John. When we came back, the Ziploc bag the cookies were in was ripped open and there were no cookies to be found. Not even a crumb. Missy, our Jack Russell, was sick as, well, a dog for the rest of the night, but Louie just pooped a lot after and was fine.

Before John and I met, he was in the army and stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. At the time he and his ex-wife Angel left for Alaska, Louie could not fly because he was not adjusted to the cold of Alaska. Instead, John and Angel found a couple on Craigslist who were horse trainers and driving their horses from Savannah to Fairbanks and for a small fee, they were willing to drive Louie up there with them.

This is how freaking charming Louie is: he was supposed to ride in the back with the horses the whole time, but not too long into the road trip, he found his way into the lap of the wife and rode there the rest of the way to Alaska.

Louie was KING of loving car rides. Sometimes when we took him outside to go potty, he roamed around to each car trying to figure out how to get in. When we lived in Smyrna, he ran out of our apartment when we left the door cracked accidentally and scared this poor woman to death when he ran in front of her car. When she stopped (thank goodness) and opened her car door to check on him, he ran to the driver’s side and jumped in the car with her. John and I ran out and John had to pick him up out of the car and bring him inside. He was not happy.

He always knew when we were going to leave too and worried so much he would get left behind. In his younger years, he sang an opera every time we walked out the door and didn’t take him with us even if we were just going to put bags in the car before we came to get him and Missy and take them with us.


John was his absolute favorite person, through and through. When I first met Louie, he made it clear I was not his “real mom.” He and I went round and round as I tried to get him to back away from me when I ate at the table or to get out from under me whenever I was in the kitchen. He preferred John’s sister Sara, who took care of him in both Savannah and Alaska when John was shipped to Iraq for a 16-month tour of duty, over me, and he always had so much to “say” to her whenever he saw her. I always said he had to tell her how horribly I treated him because I didn’t let him sit in my lap while I ate dinner or didn’t just give him my dinner every night.

I never had indoor dogs growing up, and I never understood the close relationships people had with their dogs. I just thought they were cute and fun to play with but that’s it. It took me a long time to warm up to both Missy and Louie.

It was hard for a while because they were both so needy. Before they and John came along, I could go places at a moment’s notice and not worry about coming home in time to feed or take the dogs outside. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night because one of the dogs really had to potty. I didn’t have to deal with dog hair, vomit, accidents, or incessant whining and barking.

When John first moved in with me after he was out of the army, he joined the national guard and wound up spending 4 months at Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. I came down with the flu the day before he left, so I spent the first week he was gone feeling near death on the couch. This was probably when Louie and I first started bonding because he jumped up on the couch and laid at my feet nearly the entire time.


The first picture on this entry was taken on April 23, 2017. We lived in Chicago at the time, and that morning, he woke up and could not use his back legs at all whatsoever. They just dragged behind him. Everything I read said once a dachshund’s back goes out, that’s it for them because of their body structure.

He looks happy but he was in tremendous pain.

That day was the first day I began worrying about losing Louie. I thought he might die that day or that we would have to put him to sleep as he laid on the couch with his head in my lap, panting heavily in pain. We took him to the vet and she gave us some anti-inflammatory medication for him and told us to shorten his walks, keep him from jumping up on or down from furniture, and make sure he got lots of rest.

His life slowed down considerably after that point, though he still went to the dog park in our neighborhood with Missy and ran around to all the dog owners and requested they pet him and tell him how cute he was and barked his tail off.

Thankfully, he returned to Georgia in October 2017 with us despite several scares. The second picture in this entry is from our road trip from Chicago to Atlanta. He was the best passenger ever. He occasionally looked out the window or leaned his head over for me to pet him, but he mostly slept in the seat for the duration of the trip.

Life slowed down even more so for Louie once we got settled back into Atlanta. We got him a comfy bed for his crate and my mom bought him a nice bed to have in our bedroom, and he often slept next to John’s side of the bed. If I ever closed the bedroom door while John slept and did not let Louie in the room with him, he cried and cried. He also cried and cried when he was ready for John to get up and pet him and feed him, haha.

He had quite a routine down. He was supposed to eat dinner around 5 or 6p, then sit and watch us eat dinner, then clean our plates. After about 9p, it was time for him to go outside, then come in, go to his room, get his treat, and go to bed.

He got to where we could open the door and let him go outside, do his business, and come back inside without a leash and without us watching him every second he was outside. Unlike Miss, we never worried about him taking off for the parking lot, especially because it involved running up a pretty steep hill for an old dog with a bad back and short legs.

Last Christmas, my friend Sia bought John and me a little Christmas tree and decorations because we didn’t have the money to buy a big tree and didn’t have any decorations. John had to work Christmas Eve and it was just Lou, Miss, and me, so I decided to try to take a picture of them in front of the little tree.

It took some wrangling but miracle of miracles, I got the third picture in this entry. When I looked at it, I started crying because I knew it was going to be our last Christmas with Louie.

While we were in Chicago, we noticed Lou had a mole on his chest but didn’t think anything of it because he had a lot of bumps and moles all over him. I called them his old man liver spots.

But then that mole started growing and the growth picked up rapidly over the summer of this year and it started oozing and bleeding. We thought it was some sort of fatty cyst and harmless for a little while, but in late August, I decided Louie had to get it checked out because it was almost as large as a tennis ball.

The vet biopsied it and said it was cancerous and needed to come off so we scheduled the surgery. The morning of his surgery, the vet called and said while examining Louie before his surgery, she noticed his belly was really rigid and Louie, normally calm and quiet, yelped when she pushed on it. She then did some other tests and determined his prostate was enlarged.

The surgery was postponed for early October and he was given anti-inflammatory medication as well an antibiotics to see if the swelling in his prostate would go down. This was when I noticed he started having a lot of poop accidents in the house and then, once on the antibiotics, he seemed to almost stop pooping entirely.

He had the surgery on October 2nd and everything went well. His prostate had reduced in size so the medicine seemed to help but he still could not poop. He tried and tried. I gave him canned pumpkin and it didn’t help.

When I took Missy to the vet two weeks ago because she’d developed another mouth infection (her third in the past year), I told the vet my concerns about him not pooping as well as how lethargic he’d become and that I think he had a seizure a few nights before the appointment. She was most concerned about the constipation and said his prostate was enlarged again and pushing down on his colon and bladder, making it hard for him to relieve himself. She gave me some more anti-inflammatory medication to give him to see if it helped.

Last Monday night, Louie was restless all night long. Usually, the only time he was like that before was if John was at work, but John was home and in bed. Neither John nor I slept that much Monday night because Louie could not get settled. Tuesday morning, we got up and took Missy to the vet to have four more teeth removed, and when we came home, Louie was still restless. When the vet asked us about Louie that morning, we told her he still couldn’t poop and how restless he had been the night before. She said we were at the point of keeping him comfortable, that he didn’t have much time left.

We didn’t realize then how little time there really was left.

He kept following both of us around when we got home so I sat with him on the floor and hugged and petted him then John put him on the couch with me so he could vacuum and I petted and hugged him some more. He wanted John more than he wanted me but John wanted him to go to his room so he could settle down and rest. We gave him some medicine and he finally laid down and rested.

Everything began going downhill Tuesday night.

First, he kept trying to go outside and go to the bathroom and couldn’t and then about 6p, vomited twice outside, something he almost never did. He came back inside and did not want to eat or drink any water. He just laid on his side by the back door. I laid on the floor and petted and talked to him for a while. We tried to see if he could get up to go outside, but he could barely hold his head up.

John and I stayed up til 3a hoping to find out who the next governor in Georgia would be and gave up around that time. I picked Louie up and carried him to his bed in our bedroom because I was worried about leaving him alone in the living room all night in case something happened.

I woke up to Louie vomiting again Wednesday around noon. He managed to walk over to my side of the bed then flop over on his side again. I woke John up and told him, “Louie is dying and he is in a lot of pain now.” He’d started panting Tuesday afternoon too but by Wednesday morning, he was just lying on his side and breathing in short, quick bursts.

The vet closed at noon on Wednesday, which now makes me wish I’d woken up earlier in the day because of how much he suffered Wednesday night. I emailed the vet and told her what was going on and she said to bring him in first thing Thursday morning.

Wednesday night was the worst night of his life and mine. John had to go to work so I sat watching Louie off and on. We gave him some anti-inflammatory medication to help him rest and it worked for a while before he vomited it up. Nothing was being digested and he did not go to the bathroom, even as an accident, all day.

I guess the gift in not being able to take him to the vet Wednesday morning was that he had more time to say goodbye. I laid on the floor next to him and petted him, kissed him on his forehead, and told him how much I love him and how good a dog he has been. I joked how I knew he didn’t like me at first because he and John were supposed to live the bachelor life once John’s first marriage ended and I ruined that, but I knew he secretly loved me because I fed him so many snacks and rubbed his belly and back for him and took him on car rides to Montgomery to run and bark freely all over Mama’s backyard.

I called Caleb over FaceTime on my iPad and he and Mama both talked to Louie and told him how much they love him and what a good, sweet boy he is. He visibly relaxed seeing Caleb’s face, as Caleb became his second favorite boy in his final year of life. Not surprising since Caleb and John are a lot alike.

Louie dozed off some while Caleb and I talked but then opened his eyes and looked around for me. I caught his eye and reminded him I was with him.

I went to bed around 3a again and I found a relaxing playlist on Spotify to play to help Louie relax and maybe rest and help me rest. I was just falling asleep finally when he started dry heaving again. He’d done it once towards the end of my call with Caleb, but then calmed down, but around 4a, it started up again and the whole room smelled acrid and the smell burned my nostrils.

I had to get up and go lie down on the couch in the living room because of the smell and the sounds Louie made when trying to vomit again and again.

Thankfully John got home about two hours early Thursday morning and was able to go sit with Louie and pet him and talk to him. I sat with Louie while John went to put a towel in the backseat of my car for Louie to lie down on and Louie started wildly looking for John.

John carried him out to the car and got in the backseat with him and I drove us to the vet.

I could barely talk when I walked into the vet’s office and told them why I was there. The vet tech had me come into one of the rooms and she closed the blinds. John carried Louie into the room and held him in his lap. He was completely slumped over. Didn’t raise his head or wag his tail. You could see in his whole demeanor he was done.

The vet tech asked if we wanted the vet to examine him to see if there was anything we could do to prolong his life. I looked at John. He looked at Louie and then told the tech, “No, I’ve never seen him as bad off as he is right now. It’s time.”

She said okay and took him to the back to put the IV catheter in.

She and the vet came back a few minutes later. The vet told us how sorry she was about Louie, that she knew he didn’t have much time left but didn’t realize his decline would come so quickly. She laid him on the table and told us she would first give him the anesthetic and make sure he was out. His eyes were open the entire time, but she waved her hand in front of his face and there was no movement in his eyes. I think he stopped breathing then too because I had my hand on his side and watched his belly and there was no movement.

Then she gave him the barbiturates that stopped his heart and checked for a heartbeat. Within less than two minutes, he was gone.

His eyes were still open and he was still so warm. I couldn’t stop running my fingers through his fluffy salt and pepper hair. He was so soft, like a fluffy pillow. I kissed his forehead several times and told him we love him and will miss him so much. The vet hugged us both and told us he will be in good care, that he will be cremated and his ashes will be spread around a communal garden.

When we left our apartment with Louie, it was sunny and so beautiful outside. We went and got breakfast at Chick-Fil-A afterwards and when we came out of there, it was cloudy, gloomy, and grey like it had been all day Wednesday.

I realized Wednesday night while talking to Louie that I have known him almost exactly half of his life. He was so full of energy when I met him. He loved talking shit to his cousins (much larger cousins, I might add) whenever we visited them in Savannah. He was so passionate about food, car rides, his schedule, squirrels, and John. He is so lucky John was able to take him in when he was still so young and give him the long, amazing life he would not have gotten otherwise. John is so lucky he got to be so dearly loved by such a sweet boy.

Louie isn’t just a dog. When I met him along with John and Missy, he became my family and stole a big chunk of my heart. I had no idea how much he would steal when I met him 7.5 years ago. I have cried more in the past three days than I have in a very long time. So much of it is because of how deeply I miss him, but also, there’s a sense of relief because I’ve held my breath for the past year and a half. I knew when his back went out, his time was coming to a close, but I didn’t know when. He held on for so much longer than we expected, and I am thankful for all the borrowed time we got with him.

Our apartment feels so sad and heavy and empty without him, but he isn’t gone from us. I can’t stop talking about him. I still think I hear him at times and I keep looking for him every time I go into the kitchen to get something to eat or drink. It is going to be so hard to adjust to life without him.

I told him Wednesday night, when he gets to Heaven, please look for June and keep her company. She’s not a big dog lover and she probably won’t give him her bacon at first, but keep working on her. Not even June can resist his charm.