Since the day you were born you have brought me indescribable joy. During your childhood years, we always had so much fun playing and going on outings together. You have always had such a good heart, thinking of others’ feelings, and showing kindness. As you grew older, you impressed me with your talent and love of baseball. Watching you play ball filled me with such excitement and immense pride. I’ll always miss those days. I have been equally impressed with your inquisitive nature. As a young boy talking about clouds, how cars and bridges were built, and in recent years discussing your knowledge of chemistry and engineering, which were usually over my head, but you’d patiently explain. As a big brother, there are no words to describe your love, devotion, and protective instincts for your sister, Faith. Watching you play with her and look out for her absolutely fills my heart with love and admiration. I am so proud of what an all-around outstanding person you are. You are smart, funny, loving, and capable of achieving greatness.
My days will be long without you here. My mind will wonder what you are doing, worry about whether you are okay and my heart will skip a beat when I’m reminded of you. I’m not sure who will miss you more, me or Faith. My eyes fill with tears and my heart aches just thinking about you leaving for college. Having said that, I am happy for you! You are about to embark on a new and wonderful journey; One of freedom, learning new things, developing friendships, and continuing to mature and grow into an exceptional man.
I will always be here for you!
I will always listen and support you.
I will always to look forward to every call, text or face time (hint, hint).
I will always pray for your health, safety and success.
My intention of starting this blog more than a year ago was to support, encourage and inspire other people to live their best life. So I decided today, to talk about what that means to me. To live your best life, you must strive to be the best version of yourself. It is NOT possible to be the best version of yourself without respect and kindness toward other people. Living your best life is NOT possible while hurting other people; emotionally, mentally or physically. Living your best life is more than just doing what is good, right and uplifting for me. It is about giving love, showing kindness and being of some service to others.
For several days now I’ve been thinking and praying about humanity, all people and our country during these tumultuous times. I have said nothing publicly about the horrible murder we, as a nation, witnessed. As a white woman, I honestly am not sure how I am supposed to react. But, I know how to behave AS A HUMAN BEING. I’ve been debating in my mind of how to even speak about it appropriately. There’s no question a white man murdered a black man. It’s an unspeakable, horrific action. Understandably, it creates heartbreak and rage in many of us. I believe that we are all human beings. I believe we were all created and put here on this earth by God. How any person thinks they have the right to extinguish the life of another soul, no matter what their race, is mind-boggling to me. Yes, black lives matter. I cannot pretend to understand what black people are feeling during this time but I feel as a kind person, as a human being, and as a christian, I KNOW right from wrong. Without question, this was a terrible, unspeakable wrong. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
I do NOT have the answers, but I believe I know the right place to start. I can start with speaking up, standing up and looking up. I can speak up about loving ALL people and lead by example, because I believe in my heart it is right and just. I can stand up for my friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, students and people of all races, religions and cultures when injustices arise. I can look up to the heavens and pray for peace, safety, and the good health of all people. I have always lived my life this way but I, like all of us, am flawed. My intention is to begin with myself and encourage anyone who will listen, to get your head straight, and your heart clean. My little blog is not enough. However, I hope it is a start and positive step in the right direction.
Love One Another.
Until next time… Stay well. And go ahead… Live Your Best Life!
There was a time, not too long ago, I was afraid of everything. Most of my family and friends would never believe me if I said that, but although sad, it was very true. I felt inferior to everyone around me swallowed up by my own insecurities. I questioned everything about who I was from which outfit to wear and how to fix my hair to the decisions I had to make for my children. I worried all the time and not in the mom-kinda-way but in an obsessive, falling into a depression, completed unnoticed kinda-way. I felt lost and afraid.
Background info here: I had an overwhelming amount of stress come at me in a brief period. Doctors diagnosed my son with ulcerative colitis at 2 1/2 yrs old, suggesting heavy drugs and surgery. Through the amazing help of a clinical nutritionist and a lot of prayer and determination, he recovered and started thriving again. A little over a year later, I had a beautiful baby girl. I was, and am, very grateful for my precious gift, however, she had a severe hole in her heart and diagnosed with Down Syndrome. I went through an experimental and perilous procedure while pregnant so that doctors could stop her organs from filling with fluid. It worked temporarily and happened again. Terrified at that point. The doctors warned that we may ‘lose her’, on a daily basis. My baby girl was an emergency c-section 2 months early, hooked up to machines, gadgets and tubes in the NICU for 6 very long, excruciating. Faith finally came home (I chose that name because it’s what we needed to get through the stress). Our kitchen and living room transformed into a make-shift NICU with tubes, medicines and feeding tubes ’round the clock. It was exhausting, and worrisome, but I put on a smile and brave face for my then 4 yr old who only knew he was a big brother and so happy and proud.
Five months went by and Faith proved all the doctors wrong yet again, pulling through open heart surgery with flying colors. It was as if that was her birth. She was born anew and began thriving quickly. Although her serious heath concerns were now behind us, the challenge of how to raise, support and guide a child with down syndrome was my new focus.
As you can see, I was so worried and stressed for so many years I totally forgot about me. My marriage crumbled, and I became a shell of a person. So with my babies finally healthy I started taking care of myself. I began running, training and eating for optimal nutrition. I was feeling physically the best I had felt in years having lost 70+ lbs.
By then it was too late to save my failed relationship, and he left after 19 years of marriage. So there I was in a ball on the floor begging him not to go. Pitiful. A down right disgrace. After months of crying in secret, trying not to let my kids see, falling apart and begging God to help me, He answered my prayers.
I woke up one morning and realized I HAVE to be a positive presence in the life of my children. I wanted to teach them you can rise above adversity. I wanted to feel good again. I wanted to feel something other than self-pity and regain my confidence and self worth. Everyone always said ‘his loss’ or ‘your better off’ and honestly although well intended those comments never helped. I realized that I had to fix myself, not only for my kids but for ME! A dear old-friend did not console me or bash my ex, but said, “Gina, do the work. Work on YOU.” He was right. And so I did.
I focused on the things in which I excelled, practiced self-love and stress relieving activities and continued to pray. It wasn’t easy, and it did not happen overnight. Slowly and intentionally I held my head up high, stood on my OWN (something I hadn’t done in a very long time). And that propelled me into a life filled with regained confidence, happiness and success. I learned how to handle my finances, home maintenance and running a household, working full time, a single mom, with a child having special needs. With every task and obstacle I thought was impossible to overcome… accomplished. My confidence grew and my self-worth improved. I DO NOT say all this to brag or boast. I shared my most personal stories hoping you may benefit. I share to remind YOU you can rise from the depths of your own personal hell, just as I have.
Until next time… Stay well. And go ahead… Live Your Best Life!
Nowadays, we are all trying to adjust to an alternative way of living. It’s a confusing and scary time for many. My purpose is not to debate medical or political views on the current pandemic. However, I would like to discuss change. Something everyone can relate to especially now. At this point, I have resolved to the fact that ‘it is what it is’ and try my hardest to make the best of an awful situation.
Change is never easy. Besides this new reality, I have recently had many changes in my own personal life. If you’ve read my previous posts… I’m a newlywed! As wonderful as it is, and I am thrilled to share my life with my love, and our kids, it’s definitely a major change! I thought packing up a house of over 20 years and moving away from my hometown, family and friends was difficult. However, I now have to learn how to blend two families together. Each of us have two teenagers and they are often on different schedules. At forty-something it is difficult to adapt into an unfamiliar environment with alternative ways of doing things and a new routine, or lack thereof. I’ve had to learn my way around town, help my kids adjust and find my new normal. I have been without my family (except standing 10 feet apart on Mother’s Day) and all my friends. I teach online for over 200, middle-schoolers and homeschool my daughter with special needs. Recent changes have proved very challenging!
I have learned to be flexible. (Or at least I’m working on it.) I remind myself often, my way is not the only way. Even though I’m used to ‘my way’ it doesn’t mean that I can’t be open to a fresh approach. Communication is crucial. Talking about how we feel, and what we expect leads to stress free days. I’ve learned that cooperation is necessary. Everyone has to pull their own weight, so to speak. Share the load of household chores, cooking and running the errands. We are good at that! I think we’re both glad it’s not all on either of us anymore. Living for years as single parents we had to do it all. Now we only do half of what we used to living apart. So that change was simple 😉 Something else I’ve learned is that understanding and tolerance are key in new situations. In my case, our home now has 6 unique personalities and moods. Four teenagers with differing opinions… God help me 😉 Accepting each other for who they are and showing kindness goes a long way. It is not always easy. But, I love my new family and they are worth the effort!
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that change is a part of life. Sometimes it’s because of a choice we have made and other times it’s forced upon us. In either case we can choose to complain and sulk or we can choose to make the best of an unexpected circumstance. Kindness is contagious. Communication is crucial. Stay safe. Stay well. And go ahead… Live Your Best Life!
Celebrating Mother’s Day yesterday was sadly inconsistent with what we have been used to all of our lives. Our close knit, Italian family is struggling to adjust to this strange alternative world of social distancing. It’s been several weeks of only phone calls, texts and google hangouts. And as nice as it is to hear each other’s voices and see my family on screen, it’s just not the same. If you’ve read my recent posts, you know I recently got married and moved out of town. As thrilled as I am to be the new ‘Mrs.’ and now living with the man of my dreams, it felt a little ‘out of sorts’ to not have my family at our wedding. The threat of this virus has many of us scared and the thought of putting my family at risk is terrifying. With various medical and news reports, it’s confusing to ‘know’ what we should and shouldn’t do.
However… I couldn’t allow my mom to be alone for Mother’s Day. We made the best of it! We took advantage of my new spacious porch and had our Mother’s Day lunch outside, each 10 feet away. I obsessively wiped everything down every five minutes with clorox and not allowing anyone near my mother. My daughter, having special needs was my biggest concern. Faith and her mommom have such a special bond. I worried that she wouldn’t ‘get it’ and just go run to hug her like she always has in the past. Surprisingly, she stayed away. It was so strange and sad that she now knows that we can no longer hug and kiss. My poor mom lives alone and talks about missing hugs. The thought of not hugging and kissing the people you love for so long, especially when you’re so used to it all your lives, is heart-breaking. Fortunately, I live with my husband and our kids so we hug and kiss each other daily. But for those that live alone, like my mom, it’s a constant need that cannot be filled. I personally cannot wait to hug my mommy again. It brings tears to my eyes to think about her not being hugged by those she loves the most.
Having said that… I’m happy to report. Our social-distancing luncheon was a success, all things considered. We got to see each other live and in person! We sat 10 feet apart and still had great conversation, played music, and laughed together. At one point, my mother played ‘the oldies’ and we all danced like fools on the porch. My poor neighbors are probably wondering ‘who is this crazy lady and how often will her family come over’!?! LOL!!! We needed that time ‘together’. For a family as close as we are, not being together was like torture. Now we know we can be together 10 feet apart and it works. I’m already looking forward to our next ‘porch party’! Make the best of a terrible situation. Appreciate the love and know that the ‘little’ things in life are really the BIG things. The emotional connection, the loved shared, and laughing through the hard times matters most. Stay safe. Stay well. And go ahead… Live Your Best Life!
The past few weeks have been overwhelmingly busy for me. As we are all sheltering in place, many of us are struggling with how to juggle working from home, homeschooling our kids and figuring out new and exciting ways to keep everyone entertained and ourselves sane. In addition, I’ve been working on my masters, packed up a home I lived in for over 23 years, moved to a new town and just got married!!! Yep, that’s right, all in the past few weeks. So, yeah…I’ve been just a little busy.
There are days, I am so overwhelmed I’m in tears. Most days, though, my new chaotic routine keeps me sane, if that makes sense?! My daily tasks keep me focused and I feel a heightened sense of purpose. I make my organized, color-coded lists that I can check off as I complete a task and chip away at it throughout the day (type A here … don’t judge me lol). Yes, it is overwhelming to have to accomplish so much in any day but I don’t have a choice. We all live in circumstances we do not fully control. So, my strategy is to only ‘worry’ about the things I CAN control. Hmmm, there’s a thought. Something I’m trying to learn from my now husband. If we cannot do anything about a situation, why worry? It’s mind-blowing to me to think about it that way but it is true.
So my fresh approach… Pray about what’s ‘wrong’. Hope for the best. Then don’t worry. It’s not a novel method. I didn’t come up with it, but it helps me get though the rough days. I also feel so much better after a nice long power walk out in the fresh air with the sun shining. Ahhh….such a wonderful way to de-stress. Yoga and writing work well for me too. I talk a lot about stress relievers when I teach my Mental and Emotional Health unit to my middle-schoolers. We brainstorm an extensive list about ways to reduce stress and I always say, “Do what makes your heart smile.”
When I think about it, I have many things in my life that make my heart smile. A great new home with my new ‘Mr. Right’, more quality time with him and our four combined teenagers (yes four teens… pray for us lol), home projects getting completed, a beautiful lake surrounded by a wooden path for my walks, more time to try new recipes and a career that enables me to work from home. No it is not always easy. Yes it’s overwhelming. But if I cannot control it, I cannot let it control me. I will do what makes my heart smile. I hope you do as well. Stay safe. Stay well. And go ahead… Live Your Best Life!
What I love about a new year is the fresh start. It’s a blank canvas in which to create whatever it is YOU feel is important. YOU get to choose. So… “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?” The answer to that question IS what you should set out to do this new year. I’m not talking about money. Yes, money is necessary, I get it. But, if your answer to that question is “I want to make a million dollars.” I challenge you to dig deeper. Ask yourself, How? And Why? I believe you MUST know your why. That is yourreason. The driving force behind it all. And so that passion must drive it… your why. One of my favorite quotes is, “I trust in the next chapter because I know the author.” Again, I’ll remind you… YOU decide. You are in control of what dreams you will chase down. Ask yourself the question and BELIEVE you can do it. I know, I know it’s a clique to say I’m starting over this new year. Yeah, yeah. So what!? Clique or not, we all deserve a fresh start, a new beginning. Remember that slate… wipe it clean. That blank canvas… you are the artist… create what you will. It may be ‘small’ to some, but enormous to you. It may seem impossible to consider, but if it’s the answer to the question, it’s your heart’s desire… go for it. Don’t allow nay-sayers to derail your plans. Turn your dream into reality.
Goals give purpose and meaning to our lives. There is no direction without an endpoint in mind. We get a surge of confidence with the feeling of accomplishment. It’s human nature to want to achieve something in life, to be somebody, to do something important and meaningful. That ‘something’ is different for everyone. What’s important to you is not what is important to me. And that’s fine! We’re all marching to the beat of our own drum. What’s important is that it’s important to you. It speaks to you. It’s in your heart and on your mind, every day. To achieve your dreams, you must set goals. If you are not doing something every day to work on that goal, chances are you will not achieve that dream. You can talk about it all you want but until you do something it will not happen… you have to WORK on it!
I’m one of those people that like to write my goals down and create a plan. I like to make lists! There. I said it. Even with my daily tasks and to-do lists, yes, I get satisfaction from checking off each item and a surge of accomplishment when it’s completed. In all aspects of our lives, it helps to set goals to be sure to achieve what we set out to do day by day and in our life. It’s all about focus if you are not working towards your goal regularly it will never happen. So how you plan your goal has a direct effect whether you will achieve it. So, for example, if you are planning a new fitness routine and the goal is to lose 15 lbs or just tone and tighten, you have exercise and eat nutritiously most days to achieve that goal. So your goal might sound something like this: I will exercise for 30 minutes 4x a week or I will eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Whatever your goal is, be specific. Write it down. Write it in your journal, on a vision board or on a post it. Just make sure you see it, think about it and act on it every day.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy New Year. Here’s to making your dreams a reality! Believe in yourself! Go ahead… live YOUR best life!!!
We have so much to celebrate this time of the year! Think about what really matters to you… people, not things, right? Many of us get nostalgic this time of the year and a little more sentimental than usual. Go with it. That’s the good stuff in life. It’s the people in our lives that give it meaning. So, it got me thinking… everyone, no matter who you are, what you believe or where you live, are very much alike. Whether you celebrate Christmas, St. Nicholas Day, Three Kings Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, any other holiday, or nothing specific, remember we are more alike than different. Whether or not they are religious, these special traditions share similar meaning. Christmas is a Christian holiday, the story of the Nativity, and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Christians give gifts like the wise men brought gifts to their savior. St. Nicholas Day honors a man that gave all of his money to the needy and was known for his compassion for children and all those in need. Three Kings Day celebrates the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration in remembrance of an ancient miracle in which one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in the temple. Kwanzaa celebrates ideals such as family life and unity. Do you notice a theme? All celebrate giving to others, helping one another, compassion, love, honor, and family, no matter what your religious beliefs or traditions. How amazing and wonderful is that?!
So, keeping with the theme of this time of the year, let’s talk about how we can give of ourselves. There are many ways to give: your time, using your talents to benefit others, donating to charities, helping those in need, meaningful gifts that show true love and much more. Acts of kindness, especially to strangers, is a sure way to brighten your mood and lift someone’s spirits and yours this season.
I’ve come up with a list of ideas. I’ve done a couple of these myself and plan to complete new ideas this year. Maybe you’d like to try one or more of these ideas. 1. Collect donations, from family and friends and or buy scarves, hats and gloves for the homeless. (We tied them to the poles or trees down the main street of our city, one year. The gift tag read: “If you’re in the cold and don’t know what to do. This is a Christmas gift of warmth from me to you. (Stay safe.) Love, A friend.”) 2. Serve food at a local soup kitchen. As emotional as that was for me, they were so grateful and I was happy to help. 3. Bring gifts to a Children’s Hospital for the sick children and self-care baskets for the parents. 4. Cook and or bake for an elderly neighbor. 5. Go Christmas Caroling. 6. Donate gifts to needy families so they may give to their children. If you have children, it’s wonderful for them to learn the value of doing for others. What a great lesson for our children to experience the joy of helping those in need!
Spending time with your loved ones is one way to make the holidays even more special. Keep your old traditions alive. Enjoy making memories with those you care most about. We’re all very busy and not everyone has off from work for more than a day or two. In the season’s spirit, I believe we should all make our family, love and close friends the real priority. Remember the feeling of excitement and joy when you were a child and allow yourself the opportunity to feel like a kid again. Renew your spirit this time of year. Remind yourself of what’s important. May you experience love, peace and joy this holiday season. So go ahead, my friends, Live Your Best Life!
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits (according to Wikipedia). All people handle stress in different ways. Ways in which people manage their stress can be healthy or damaging. There are people in our lives that have a difficult time dealing with hardships. When our world is turned upside down for whatever reason. They may be grieving a loss, dealing with a breakup, trying to handle career struggles or sometimes they will find anything and everything to complain about. It’s easy to get sucked into their negativity. Did you ever notice how your mood changes after talking with or spending time with that ‘Negative Nelly’? I’m not making light or joking about their disposition, the struggle is real. We all have people like this in our lives. It pulls us down. We can feel negative, grumpy, sad or even depressed all of a sudden. We may not realize at first that it was spending time with a negative person that affects our feelings. It alters our thinking and affects our mood in a negative way. When it becomes a real downer for us and starts to affect our own disposition, it’s time to back away. We have to protect ourselves. It may sound selfish to say we need to ‘protect ourselves’ from a loved one, I know. But when we get dragged down into what feels like an abyss, it becomes a toxic relationship. The problem is when it’s a co-worker, a dear friend or even a family member, how do you avoid them?
In my own life, there have been a few times this has happened. Actually, truth be told, it’s happening right now. As I write this I am heartbroken for someone I love. It pains me to see her hurting and watch her struggle. I want to listen. I want to to do anything and everything I can to stop her pain. My heart hurts to watch her hurting. So, like most of us, I listen and I empathize. I offer advice thinking that I might just have a positive impact. I’ve been exactly where she is now. I truly understand the emotional struggle and the mental torture she has to endure on a daily basis. The thing is people only change when they are ready to do so. We all have to go through heartache, grieving or disappointment in our own way and in our own time. I noticed lately that even after trying to help, I sometimes turn angry and upset after a phone call or time spent together. My whole mood changes and not for the better. I feel myself getting pulled into the relentless complaining. That’s when I realize I have to set boundaries. I can not allow her to turn me negative as well. Especially since I have my own daily struggles, stressors and worries (we all do) and can easily get on that ‘complain train’ myself. Knowing that about myself, I have to be careful. I listen, truly empathize, show concern, validate her feelings and even offer advice. After that it’s up to her to make a change. As painful as it is, there’s nothing more I can do.
This is truly a difficult situation. I hesitated to even write about this topic. I actually worry about her reading my blog and knowing it’s all about her. (If you’re reading this right now, I’m so sorry for all you are going through. I love you.) However, knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with this, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. Setting boundaries is not about avoidance or creating conflict. We don’t have to tell the person off to protect ourselves or even explain that you need to ‘set boundaries’. We certainly don’t want to hurt them further or make them feel we’re turning our back on them. They are not in the proper frame of mind to ‘hear’ what you’re saying. So what CAN we do then? HOW do we set boundaries? Simply step away. We can still show our concern and continue to support and love them, but we must set a time limit to protect our own mental state of mind. We know the point in which it starts to affect us poorly. Maybe we can only withstand talking twice a week, a quick coffee date or maybe our limit is only 10 minutes on the phone. When we’ve reached that point, it’s time to remove ourselves. Quietly, exit stage right (so to speak). We can plan talking purposely right before we need to be at an appointment, or right before the kids get off the bus, or prior to entering work. That way you can be honest in saying you MUST leave or get off the phone. Personal boundaries are crucial. Creating limits of acceptable and healthy behaviors are needed. Be sure to take part in positive mental-emotional activities. Many of us are people please-ers and love to help others. Love yourself that much. Take care of you. Go ahead! Live YOUR best life!
Frustration rears its ugly head from time to time. Often situations lead to annoyance, disappointment and the stress that makes us feel like we will explode! There are many aspects to our lives, which all together make up who we are as a person. The people in our lives and the way we spend our time have a direct effect on our contentment. Work takes a majority of our time. For many, that’s well over 40 hours a week. With devoting that much energy to one area in life, hopefully its rewarding and fulfilling. Family is high on the priority list and impacts all we do. Family is often the driving force, our reason for doing what we do. Love is more powerful than many people like to admit. Whether your love affairs are amazing and bring you pure pleasure or devastate you unexpectedly, it can lift you up or tear you down, in an instant. Last, but shouldn’t be least of all, our general health and wellbeing. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are crucial, but even more neglected is the time to unwind, destress, you know… ‘me time’. I believe all of those areas make us who we are and whether they are in balance will determine our level of happiness.
I’ve learned that when one facet of my life gets ignored or neglected, even in the slightest way, it throws me ‘off’. I feel out of balance. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m grumpy and irritable. Snipping at others and a lack of patience affects my social health in a negative way. When I miss my regular workout, I feel bad about myself and guilty, which directly affects my self confidence. A lack of confidence then affects my work or whether or not I feel sexy in that new dress on date night. I’ve learned that maintaining balance is extremely important. And when my life is out of balance it leads to stress and frustration. Sound familiar?
The good news…there’s hope. Stress and frustration can be prevented, or at the very least nipped in the bud before it gets way out of control. How you ask? Simple. Take care of yourself. ALL of yourself. Remember, you are made up of all the things you have to do in life. Think of it it as your 3 ‘R’s: Responsibilities, Relationships, Relaxation! Your responsibilities such as work, chores, paying bills and parenting are necessary. Not always fun but must be done. Relationships with your family and your love are important priorities for happiness. Spending quality time with those you love brings you joy and feeds your soul. Last, but certainly not least, relaxation is to remind you to take care of your mind and your body. Eat well, get and stay active and allow yourself that much needed ‘down time’. Yes it’s a tall order to maintain balance but, if you do, you will feel calmer, more focused and happier with your life. You are worth it. Go ahead, Live YOUR Best Life!