Hello friends from near and far and welcome to this special Oscars-themed, 50th edition of Reflections from the Road. Today, for the first time in a really long time, nothing appears to be on fire (so far) and I am taking a few deep breaths to catch you up on life behind the scenes while I have the luxury. (And it is such a luxury.)
Without exaggeration, I confess the past 90 days have been some of the hardest, saddest, most shocking and frustrating days of my life. I wish this 50th edition of Reflections from the Road wasn’t so gloomy, but I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. I keep reminding myself that even if it’s raining, the sun is still shining somewhere. So let’s start with the highlights.
Two wonderful things happened at home this month. After four months driving back and forth to the building inspector’s office downtown for permitting purposes, my gorgeous new She Shed was delivered. (But I may change her name to Casita since I finally watched Encanto this week).
And after seven months with a dirt pit in the backyard, we finally were able to get the concrete poured and the gazebo built. I’ve been having coffee back there every morning listening to the birds chirp while Skywalker and Leia dig holes and chase squirrels. It’s the oasis I’ve been craving and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Much more to come on She Shed progress and the back porch finished product once I get a minute.
HOUSE OF GUCCI
For the first time in a long time, Rae, Ben, Rick and I snuck away for a dog-free, kid-free, drama-free weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. While it was a content project for Rae and me, it really was just the low-key getaway we all needed. The guys golfed, Rae and I were professionally styled at the Mall at Millennia and we ate very, very well. I need about 40 more days at the Ritz spa and I think I’ll be right as rain.
A huge highlight this quarter was my visit to the brand new Star Wars Hotel at Walt Disney World! My buddy Rob brought me along as his +1 to experience the Halcyon Galactic Starcruiser, the pure escapism my life required at this very moment.
Despite my dogs being named Leia and Skywalker, I’m not a Star Wars superfan, but y’all. I was blown away by this experience. Part live theater, part immersive game, part escape room, part cruise ship… all in 48 hours. If you’re even a little bit into Star Wars, I really think you’d love this adventure. And even if you don’t know the difference between the Tin Man and C-3PO, if you’re a fun lover, you’ll find fun on the Halcyon.
If you’ve been keeping up on social media, you’ve seen the news that my brother’s girlfriend’s parents were murdered in Daytona Beach earlier this month. Nothing else on my long list of lows can compare to this, probably ever. I won’t share the gruesome details here, but it’s been all over the national news so you may already know. As if losing your parents in such a brutal way wasn’t enough, now Sara is trying to navigate the aftermath. Hearings, indictments, conversations about the death penalty and illegal immigration, media requests for interviews, figuring out a convoluted estate and attempting to come to terms with this trauma that makes absolutely no sense – all at once. Oh, and they had to euthanize her 16-year-old chihuahua about three days before the murders. I am struggling to process all this so I can’t even understand how she’s making it through every day.
So many of you have contributed to her GoFundMe and I can’t thank you enough. It means everything to Sara and Alex that they can handle everything that’s coming up and not have to worry about how to pay the bills. Please continue to pray for peace, comfort and justice.
WE DON’T TALK ABOUT BRUNO
I don’t really know how to share what’s been going on since Adoption Day back in December without invading privacy and just over-sharing really sensitive stuff. I want to tell you everything – it’s kinda what I do – but for so many reasons, I mostly have to keep it all to myself. How do I tap dance around this so you can pick up what I’m putting down?
If you have kids, imagine the worst possible outcomes for their young lives. That’s where we are. I’m sure it could get worse, but I don’t even want to imagine what that would look like. God is working in all this even though it feels hopeless right now. If the tomb is empty, anything is possible, and I believe that wholeheartedly in this situation. It’s still really hard and we’re still really… stressed, I guess is the word?
THE POWER OF THE DOG
Skywalker and Rick have both found themselves in the ER this year. Skywalker wound up with 4 staples in his head and Rick got 6 stitches for a nasty cut on his wrist. I almost want to put this in HIGHS just because things could’ve been so much worse for both of them. With Rick’s injury, as he missed the artery in his wrist by a millimeter and could easily have bled out in minutes. I am more grateful than anything in this situation. And we all learned a lesson about being more careful with saws. And Skywalker learned not to harass his big sister because smashing his skull onto her tooth, even accidentally, did not go well for him.
Can you imagine going your whole life not trusting your intuition and then eventually figuring out that your intuition is actually your superpower?! That’s where I am right now. Digging really deep into what makes me tick outside of just being really wildly productive and helpful. Apparently we’re human beings, not human doings? That sounds ridiculous to go-go-go me, but it’s a theory I’m looking into.
NO TIME TO DIE
And on that note – hey, look, another goal! Where would I be right now if not for cardio?! We turned one of the bedrooms into a home gym with a bike, treadmill and weights, and it’s seriously the best decision we ever made. Now I’m training for a 10k, something I sure never thought I’d say, and alternating running with Peloton classes. No matter how painful it is to push through a workout 4-5 days a week, endorphins are keeping me mostly sane.
THE LONG GOODBYE
Do you have a will? If not, may I implore you to make that a priority?
Get your affairs in order long before you think you might have to. Make sure your wishes are known, clear, notarized, easy to find, legal – whatever it takes – to make an impossibly sad time a little easier on loved ones.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
I’ve learned more about childhood trauma in the past 6 months than I thought there was to know.
Lesson No. 1 – do everything in your power not to traumatize your kids. I’m not saying kids should have an easy life, but they need safety, security, unconditional love and nurturing from birth.
Without that? They’ll spend their whole lives trying to heal those wounds.
Lesson No. 2 – Love and safety from a new family isn’t enough to repair a lifetime of trauma.
Figuring out boundaries in this new context has been trying. (And there have been no shortage of know-it-all nosy Nellies getting all up in my business – but that’s a whole other story.) It’s hard not to cry every day knowing that there are millions of kids without a strong foundation in the US. It’s no wonder we have the mental health crisis, drug epidemic and other societal issues that we do.
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
Of course, in the midst of this valley, I’ve been neglecting the blog something fierce. That’s never my intention – I always have big plans for content creation here but it’s all I can do to keep up with Instagram / TikTok for now. It’s also particularly demoralizing when I’m fighting algorithms designed to make sure you don’t see anything I create unless I pay for the privilege. If I didn’t love creating so much, I’d really think about changing gears and doing a job whose success didn’t depend so much on factors I just can’t control. Sigh.
I’m still pushing forward with Angie Away and Jacksonville Traveler, The Jet Sisters video series and every other little project in between. So thank you for all your likes and shares. You keep this boat afloat!
DON’T LOOK UP
I’m really excited about the travel projects I have coming up in the next 90 days, and then I’m hoping to coast through the summer, working on deeper writing, some new book proposals and maybe even my screenplay — ideally, in La Casita if we can ever get it finished. Rick and I could really use a long, romantic vacation somewhere where WiFi is scarce, but we’ll see how things play out. For now, it’s a few more months of grinding before I can stop and take a breather.
SOMEHOW YOU DO
I’ve been blessed with support from some surprising places over the past few months and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. From my friends who’ve contributed to the GoFundMe to people dropping off food in the adoption aftermath to everyone who just shows up when we are frantically waving the white flag – thank you. Life is hard enough, I’m just glad we aren’t going solo. The Lord provides.
Fortunately, I’m going into a busy season at work with some TV projects, some travel and some speaking engagements, things are finally cooling off post-adoption and despite it all, we are still standing. Shakier than before, but still standing nonetheless. I hope and pray you and yours are in a happy, healthy and safe season, and if not, I’m keeping you in my prayers even more.
Tell me something wonderful that happened to you in the past 90 days!
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