We all have those people in our lives. The people we hold with such utmost adoration and admiration. For me, I can easily tell you its Amie and Michael Searcy.
I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing Amie since I was 17. I was nervous the first time I met her because I wanted her to like me so badly. Her brother, who I was head over heels in love with, told me she was the most important girl in his life. Only 18 months apart, Andrew and Amie have a bond that most brothers and sisters do not. I swear they speak their own language at times. They start a story or a quote and don't even have to finish before they are both laughing. And the rest of us are standing looking at each other having no idea what the heck they are laughing at.
Amie and Michael married six months before me and Andrew, 11 years ago. Shortly after their first child was born, they moved to Utah to pursue Michael's dream of obtaining his doctorate in Archeology and become a professor. He received his Master's degree at BYU then they moved shortly before their second child was born to Oklahoma to continue his education at OU.
With tears in my eyes, I cheered as I watched Michael cross the stage with his doctorate last Friday night.
I can't speak highly enough about this family. They have sacrificed for Michael's education. Amie is the ultimate homemaker. She is an extraordinary cook, making things from scratch daily. I've never had a meal that I didn't love (oh, and the peanut butter cookies she makes from Ritz crackers? Devine). Amie is a musician. She was an elementary music teacher before children and still plays for kids as often as possible. She created a music playgroup where preschoolers come to watch her play children's songs at a nursing home while the elderly residents sit and watch. I had the chance to go with Maggie a few years back and it was such a neat experience. Most importantly, Amie is the most loving, fun, and patient mothers I've ever seen.
Michael has worked multiple jobs while going to school. His Master's thesis is currently in discussion with a publishing company to become a textbook! Many tenured professors are not published. He's creative and artistic. My favorite--his documentary on mullet chasing at a BBQ pork festival in Memphis he made years ago. His smile is infectious. It could be because his mouth is big--when he smiles it's literally the biggest smile that you naturally smile right back. He's a cool dad--the kind who really PLAYS with his kids but is consistent and loving too.
Their children--Izzy, Max, and Elliot--are seriously some of the best children I know. I'm not just saying that as a proud aunt (which I am). These kids are terrific and such a joy to be around. Maggie's favorite people in the world. Izzy is mature, kind, and smart. Max is hilarious. He and Maggie are only two months apart in age and love each other so much. Elliot is not so much an 18 month old baby but a little man. These kids are awesome.
In the last eight years, they have lived with less income than most people could make manageable but they have done it without issues. Don't get me wrong--it's been tough and they've sacrificed, saved, and done without. They have NO debt. Michael is finishing eight years of schooling and they don't have a student loan to pay back. They aren't swimming in credit card debt like most Americans. They have no car payments, no unnecessary bills. They either save up to make a purchase or simply go without. We all keep saying they should write a book about how they've managed to raise three kids, go to school, have only one income, and come out with no debt.
On April 1st this year, our family received a major blow. Amie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Luckily, this is a HIGHLY treatable cancer that typically needs surgery and then radiative iodine treatment. Being the strong amazing person she is, Amie faced this with such incredible grace. She told us all she was ready "to get this party started" and booked her surgery for a week later. It wasn't an easy surgery and she is still feeling some side effects (her voice is still stained and it is gone by the end of each day), but Amie finished it amazingly well. Radioactive iodine was at the end of April, putting her in fairly strict isolation for several days where she couldn't be around anyone and then restricted her to no contact for a week. No hugging her children, no kisses goodnight. She couldn't be within six feet of them. A woman who has spent her last eight years dedicated to her family and home couldn't do what she loved most. But Amie handled it the way most wouldn't--with continual grace and love. Michael, in the midst of final preparations to defend his dissertation, stepped in to handle his family. He became Mr Mom and shouldered the burden of the home during that time. And just as I would expect from him, he didn't complain. He handled it with grace and love.
It is only now that we have received the word that she is cancer free and that Amie is on the mend that I am even willing (or able) to write about what happened. For the last fifteen years of my life, I have considered Amie a sister. I have so much respect for Amie and the person she is. I can only wish I am half the mother that she is.
I am incredibly proud of Michael and his accomplishments and can't wait to see the next chapter and adventure in their lives. Just so grateful that I get to be a small part in it too.
Amie and Michael--love you and admire you both so much. Thank you for being such great people in my life and the role models I admire so. Thank you for being, well, YOU.