Christy Spivey has spent her adult life working in various retail leadership roles. Until 2012 that was all in the state of Florida, where she was married and raised two children. Nearing the age of 50 Christy had no idea how her life would change. We spoke with Christy in April 2017 and asked her to share a bit of her personal story – and how life doesn’t stop at age 50.
AIAA: Tell me a little about Christy Spivey – before your “Age 50 Adventure.”
Christy Spivey: Okay. So I was born in Ashland, Kentucky and lived there until I was in the third grade and then we moved to Lexington, Kentucky where I lived there until I was in my thirties. Then we moved to Florida and lived in and around Jacksonville for about 20 years.
I have an older sister who lives in St. Petersburg, FL. I have worked in retail most of my life. I was married twice before and have one child from each marriage – a son who is 35 and a daughter soon to be 25. And three grandchildren.
AIAA: And where are your children living now?
Christy Spivey: My son lives in Lexington and my daughter lives in North Carolina. She has a daughter and my son has two children, a boy and a girl.
AIAA: Before we get into the specifics, tell me about the life event that we are profiling that would qualify as a challenging, new Christy Spivey adventure.
Christy Spivey: So that adventure started the year that I turned 50. I was working at Stein Mart corporate office in Jacksonville as a buyer and they realigned businesses and I no longer had a job. I found a job with an airport retailer called Paradies, where I worked as a Brand Manager. In managing multiple stores I met a lot of people. One of those people was a warehouse manager and there was a spark between us, which I did not expect because she is a she. I was completely taken aback in being drawn to this woman. At the time I had been unhappily married for 20 years. So my life changing event was meeting and falling in love with a woman – as a 50 year-old mother of two.
AIAA: I can imagine.
Christy Spivey: We worked together and I was actually her boss, which made things more complicated. I got a divorce and we have been together ever since. We moved to the Grand Canyon area in 2013, I continued to work in retail, and we were married a couple years ago.
AIAA: Okay, and from the time you met until you considered yourself a couple, how much time went by?
Christy Spivey: You know, it was probably a few months, it wasn't even a year. I think we met in May, just right after my 50th birthday and I would say by October, November we were pretty much together as a couple.
AIAA: You were still legally married but-
Christy Spivey: I was still legally married but in December, well ... I guess it was right after Thanksgiving, I couldn't take it anymore and told him I needed some peace in my life and it was not happening at the house. So then he moved out and she moved in and it was just kind of a crazy time because I had a 16 year old daughter at the same time and it was quite a challenge.
AIAA: How did that go with your 16 year old daughter?
Christy Spivey: Well, she and her father weren’t getting along and I said to her one night “Listen, I can make a change but you have to back me on this. I'm ready to move and make a change in our lives but you have to be on the same page.” Her response was "I'm ready for it, too." There was just a lot of tension in the house. She was 16 and had a lot of friends who supported her. At first we didn't tell her we were a couple. It was just like, this is my new friend and she's gonna move in and stay in the other room and all this other stuff. And she was okay with that. And then after she realized what was going on, she was fine with that too.
AIAA: So that wasn't something she knew right away. You kind of let that evolve a little bit?
Christy Spivey: Correct.
AIAA: And then did you end up having a conversation with her?
Christy Spivey: She confronted me at one point and said "Hey, if you two are gonna be together then be together and be out there about it" and I was just in such a turmoil because I knew what I was feeling and what I wanted but I couldn't come to grips with telling people about it.
AIAA: And what state did you end up getting married in?
Christy Spivey: We got married here, in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
AIAA: During this significant change in your life, what was the darkest hour for you in that whole evolution?
Christy Spivey: You know, I would say having my ex-husband say some really nasty things about me.
AIAA: To your kids or what?
Christy Spivey: Just to me, to my face. Calling me names and just not being nice. And that was probably the darkest time, I didn't really have ... I was going through this life change, I was selling a home, I was moving to a new city, really kind of starting a new position, this was all in Florida and I had a lot going on and my mother passed away in 2010, so all of this was kind of mulling around at the same time and it was a whole lot of stress. My mother passing away was the darkest hour but it didn't have anything to do with my relationship. AIAA: And through those dark times, what made you stick with it?
Christy Spivey: Having Fran by my side.
She's a huge supporter and just loves me. She wants the best for the both of us and she was definitely my rock during my tough times.
AIAA: And what's been the most gratifying aspect of this experience for you?
Christy Spivey: When we decided to get married it was before the law was changed in Arizona. Then we got our marriage license when gay marriage became legal. We had a beautiful, fabulous wedding with our friends and family, including my children, my sister and her family. It was a beautiful time and the support of our friends and family has been wonderful.
AIAA: So how many people were at the wedding?
Christy Spivey: Between 40-50.
AIAA: Okay. So, these next questions are not specific to that life change. I just like to ask these questions of everybody I interview.
Christy Spivey: Okay.
AIAA: Do you have a favorite quote of any kind that you adhere to, aspire to, like to think about?
Christy Spivey: You know, I don't know the verse but I love the Bible verse "Be still and know that I am God". I think of that, you know, when you are going through so many things, if you can just be still and let Him have the upper hand, I think that that's helped guide me a lot.
AIAA: That's a good one. What advice would you give a young adult today?
Christy Spivey: Okay. Just to not hold yourself back, don't get so worked up in your career that you think you want, and you know, experience a lot of different things.
AIAA: Okay. Talk to me about one of your proudest adult accomplishments.
Christy Spivey: Proudest adult accomplishments. Well, I guess most recently in my job, when I came to the Grand Canyon Association, it's very intertwined with the park service and we're the official non-profit partner of Grand Canyon National Park so everything that I do has to be approved by my chief of interpretation here in the park and I think that I have been able to ... one of my proudest moments is that I've been able to form a really strong trust with her and she knows that I'm not going to be trying to push the envelope too much to bring in crazy products. I know it sounds silly but it's a big deal. She knows that I will be conscious about what I present to her and put in the stores and we've been able to grow this relationship and I don't think she's told me "no" more than a handful of times on different items and I've brought in a whole lot of stuff and our sales last year were at record, we had record sales of 8.8 million which was a huge increase over the previous year of 7.2.
So I say this past year, 2016, was one of my proudest moments in my career as far as being able to get the right products in and just have everything stocked and being able to work with her. We created a whole pottery line that was based off Native American pottery that was found here in the park and that was a very exciting thing. I actually won an award for that. So I think, just everything that's happened here, the Grand Canyon National Park these whole three years, has been a highlight for me.
AIAA: What is a value that you want to embody?
Christy Spivey: Let's see. Integrity.
AIAA: Tell me more about that.
Christy Spivey: I think that you need to have a high standard on that, you need to always be honest and in my business, you need to be able to work with the vendors and uphold your end of the bargain. I'm always looking for the best price but I want to make sure that the vendor's gonna make money too. I think just being a true and honest person is having integrity.