Amy Fitzgerald is Everyday Extraordinary

We Are EverydayExtraordinary

This week I want to remind you that this series isn’t about comparing yourselves to these women, and seeing where you fall short. It’s not about finding fault with ourselves.  Its about recognizing our similarities, and the things that bring us together as women.  Its about celebrating the aspects of our lives that make us different, and realizing that each of us is Extraordinary in our own way.

AmyFitz

Today I want to introduce you to Amy Fitzgerald.  I am positive that if you bumped into Amy in the grocery store you would immediately notice a few things about her.  #1 She has a beautiful smile that she generously shares with everyone! and #2 She is 100% Genuine in every way.  Nothing fake, no pretending.  Amy says in her interview

“I am content with what makes me happy and not what externally makes me look smart, accomplished or successful in others/society’s view.  Live Authentically”

Amy epitomizes this, she is confident and intelligent and beautiful.  She wouldn’t describe herself that way of course, but I will! Here’s a bit more about Amy.

Tell us about your family.

My husband is a professor in NC State’s College of Art & Design and an incredibly creative person. Living with an incredibly creative person is awesome but has its challenges. We have LOTS of stuff, which is “going to be made into something” (ex: the entire skating rink floor of Skate Town that is in our basement salvaged from Hurricane Fran in the early 1990’s– yeah, its still there). While I try to purge 7 things from my home a day (thanks, Jen Hatmaker)…..my  husband brings 8 things in the back door.    I am proud of his art, love his sense of humor and think he is an awesome Dad.

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We married late in life so we are “old parents.”  We adopted our beautiful daughters Phoebe Ayele (6) and Grace Aynalem “Effie” (4) from Ethiopia in 2010 and 2012. Most mornings I have to pinch myself, ensuring that my life was not just a dream and that these amazing girls are ours.  They are sweet, funny and different in so many ways.  Phoebe is my reporter (read tattle tell), empathetic, tenderhearted and funny child.  Effie is the wild child who wakes up happy and goes 150% from morning until night.  NONE of us share the same biology but the girls are sisters and we are FAMILY in EVERY way.

I thank God everyday for the gift of these girls. They have SAVED me and I am the luckiest mom in the world.

The girls :)

The girls :)

What does a typical morning look like at your house?

Chaos! With that being said, we are fortunate to have 2 parents on most mornings who can get kids going and off to two schools.  Spring and summer days mean longer evenings and we have a hard time getting kids to bed or off the playground when its still light outside.  Both my pollen-dipped girls went to bed in their clothes last night and I let them sleep in which means rush-rush-rush the next day.  Mornings are asking again and again to wake up, what do you want for breakfast and many times, eating in the car while reading the school book assignment from the night before! Its battles with hair, clothes (at the age of 4 and 6 – seriously, already?) and making sure lunch, drink bottles, books, snacks, play dough, tuition check or all the other to-dos are crossed off. It’s not a pretty sight. Sometimes it feels like an act of heroism just getting out of bed.

Do you struggle with self-steem? How have you worked to overcome this?

Doesn’t everyone?  As I age (turning the corner to 50 soon), I care less about things.  And, becoming a mother made me cares less about personal things too.  I was never a good student or thought I was particularly smart. At the age of 42, I went to graduate school to become a social worker after many years of figuring out what I wanted to do and after 20 years of working as a fundraiser.   I loved being an older student.  I didn’t care if what I said sounded stupid or about showing up in yoga pants every week or the fact that my clothes were covered in whatever my girls had on their sticky hands that day.  I find aging and parenting liberating in the fact that I surrendered my personal concerns. That is not to say that we don’t need self-care, but we have more important things to worry about including raising grounded and kind children as opposed to worrying if my muffin top is showing.

Tell us about your job-or do you stay home? Do you have a part-time job?  How do you feel about your work?

Currently I do part-time contract work in the field of adoption and occasionally fundraising for non-profits.  I love my job.  It provides me with financial means to contribute to my family and flexibility to volunteer at my kids school, go to play dates, etc.

I work with families who are adopting domestically, internationally and occasionally through foster care.  I conduct bio-psycho-social interviews also know as pre or post adoption assessments or “homestudies” that are necessary to complete an adoption. It is an invasive process for families to complete. In addition, sorting out an adoption path can be confusing for families.  Having adopted two children of my own, I feel that I have a lot to offer families and can provide appropriate resources.

While I thought I took my fundraising hat off and threw it into the trash can…….I think fundraising is something I am naturally good at and given the right situation, I thrive. I particularly enjoy projects that help people to rise up and above their current circumstances.  I recently did a project for a workplace-training program. It was so rewarding as it helped people, many homeless, to learn valuable life and professional skills to prepare them for LIVING WAGE jobs.

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Tell us about growing up, how would you describe your childhood?  

My family was a military family but I was not a military brat as my Dad retired when I was an infant. I was born in Maryland, but really lived most of my youth in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My Mom was a southern girl and my Dad was a mis-placed New Englander of Canadian-descent.

There were 5 kids in my family and my parents did a LOT with very little.  Neither went to High School but did earn GEDs. They managed to send 5 kids to college and two earned Masters Degrees and one a doctoral.  I am particularly proud of my brother who is a physician and associate dean at a prestigious Medical School…..all this from my working class family.  My Dad was one of the most spiritual people I know. Mom was the go-getter but also very charitable.  They did not judge people. They understood that people have different circumstances and different levels of resiliency. While they were able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and accomplish a great deal, they understood that for some folks……its harder – emotionally, physically, whatever. Their example of this was the greatest gift to me and what led me to pursue working to support people through non-profits organizations.

What is a struggle you have had in your life (that you are willing to share publicly) and what did you learn from it?

I was not a good student and I think the insecurity and feelings of “not being smart” stuck for sometime.  I went through much of adulthood in a less satisfying career doing the same thing and making very logical decisions about next jobs, etc.   In time, I learned that I was smart, it was okay to take risks and try something new professionally and  that I didn’t care about being a supervisor or director.  In fact, I don’t like to manage staff and am happy being a “worker.”  There …..I said it.  I’m not Bart Simpson (proud underachiever), but I am content with what makes me happy and not what externally makes me look smart, accomplished or successful in others/society’s view.

What are creative ways you use to operate your life {organization, child rearing, marriage, etc}?

I like to think I have “created” a village or social support network of friends and family and we help one another get through the challenging days of raising kids. I am incredibly resourceful. I have folks I can call on for pick-up, drop off, un announced childcare needs and I can help them in return. They don’t judge me when I tell them I lost my cool and told my kids to “shut up” in the car. I can confess to serving my kids a trashy dinner the night before because I just couldn’t get it together.

I’ve also owned up to the fact that I CANNOT do it all; therefore, I’m not going to try. I’ve had to work on being okay with a messy house, being late for appointments or signing up for camps. My kids don’t have Pinterest-inspired valentines cards or presents for the teachers.  I am not crafty and I just don’t care.

As for creative ways to organize the household – would love more ideas!  Seems like I was much more organized when I worked outside the home.  Some things I have learned are – less is more.  I try to take a bag or 2 out of my house every week.  When new stuff comes in from friends (like clothes and toys)….and equal amount must leave. I’ve also found that the more containers I have – such as a basket on the counter – the more useless stuff I find to put in them.  One of my favorite organizers is over the door shoe holders – I use them for computer cords and other stuff. They are on the back of almost every door we have.

How do you see your life in 10 years?

Yikes!  I don’t want to think about that s my girls will be headed toward adulthood with only a precious few years remaining in my full time care. I hope that I can continue to work in the social work field, helping families and communities.  I hope that I can continue to make my schedule my own as my husband has summers off and that we have many summer adventures as a family.  My goal is to move in a positive direction spiritually and physically and to continue to be a good and understanding mom through my girl’s ages and stages.  I seem myself having lots of time to be with my girls, watching their sports games or music/dance concerts. And I want to get back to being on my yoga mat everyday!

What advice do you have for others on living creatively or pursuing their dreams?

I’m sure this sounds like a bunch of bumper stickers……be true to yourself. Don’t play it safe and stay in a dead-end job that you are bored of or do not like.  Go get that degree you wanted.  Live authentically.  Let go of stuff – clean house, messy kids, the occasionally unhealthy meal/snack, and your extra pounds.  You get it.

The Fitzgeralds

What is a motto you live by?

My favorite thing to tell people is “take my advice, I’m not using it.”  But as cheesy as it may sounds – “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Is your life now what you imagined it would be when you were a child or teen?  How is the reality better then what you imagined?

Not at all. I lacked confidence and was more of a “follower” than a “leader” or comfortable independent teen! I did not see myself married or with children. I did not see myself with a Master’s Degree or as a teacher (yoga/meditation).  I did not foresee that I would find a way to express myself spiritually.  So I feel pretty grateful these days.

Do you set goals and what is your process for accomplishing goals?

Good question. Grad school was a big one and so was building our family through adoption. I think goals are important but we should be mindful not to make un-doable lists.  I do have goals for continuing to build my professional work around my desire to spend more time with my family, have flexibility in the summers to do what we want and to have great travel adventures (such as taking our girls back to Ethiopia when they are 10+ years old).

What has been your greatest triumph?

Hands down…….adopting my girls. They are everything to my husband and me.

How do you work on, maintain and improve important relationships in your life?

Recently, I’ve tried to see where I am putting my time. I’ve been invited to women’s groups, book clubs, etc, but I remind myself that I have so little time to cultivate my longstanding relationship. I’m not out chasing too many new friendships and opportunities but also not closed to them. But we spread ourselves out so thin. I try to ask myself, how is this serving me, does it fill me up, is it taking away from more important things like being with my kids or cultivating my marriage. I guess prioritizing.

What is your parenting philosophy?  

No one is truly an expert.  Seek support and input from wise people, but keep in mind that there is not one and only way that has to be. My kids don’t cry it out at night and end up in my bed most mornings. I lay down with everyone until they fall asleep. They eat dinner in front of the television most Fridays as a treat.  My kids participate in one (and sometimes none) extra-curricular activities at a time.  With that said, I am interested and believe in many parenting modules such as conscious discipline but I don’t go crazy on perfection, don’t judge and do the best I can. On the flipside, I can be a stickler about what the kids eat and in talking to them about gratitude.

What is one way you live creatively?

My husband is an artist so we are surrounded by art. I forget how lucky I am sometimes that my walls are covered in his amazing artwork and the work of talented friends and kiddos.

What are your creative outlets?

I’m interested in essential oils and making stuff like household cleaner, facial cleanser, etc. So I think greening my house and cleaning up our family diet with better food/recipes is fun.

What do you like to do for fun?

Travel, yoga, spend time with friends, be outside, hang with my family.

What is one thing guaranteed to bring a smile to your face?

My energetic 4-year-old. She wakes up so happy and wild in the morning! And, my snuggly 6-year old. She still loves to cuddle with Mama!

Please share a silly or funny story with us.

I had to wear a bear costume at my high school job and dance around at birthday parties. One time, I tripped over my big bear feet and the cake came out of my hands and hit the birthday parent in the face. My bear head came off and the birthday kid cried and called me a fraud.  All that for $3.15 per hour.

Please tell us about a time you felt deep pain and how you overcame that pain.

Many times throughout our adoption process when I thought we would never come out as parents. I just relied on a higher source and tried to surrender, finally accepting that the journey, process and outcome might be different than I thought.  Letting go of control was hard but I look back on that hard time as one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot about myself. Losing my father in 2005 and then shortly thereafter having my mother diagnosed with Lymphoma was also hard beyond words. I miss Dad everyday and am so fortunate to still have my beautiful, perky and sweet Mom with me.

 

Thank you so much Amy for agreeing to be interviewed, YOU are Everyday Extraordinary!

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