Honoring Your Top Priorities, Relieves Stress

Stress is your body’s way of fighting back to protect you, often, from yourself. Notice when you spread yourself too thin, you may get sick. When we’re run down, overworked, and not sleeping enough our body will try to make us rest. For some, stomach issues strike or for others, like me, migraines halt all work and plans for, at minimum, an entire day. In extreme cases, that are not addressed over time, stress can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, heart issues, and cancer. Then we have even more to worry about. Then we’ve missed the deadline or canceled an appointment that then has to be rescheduled into an even busier schedule. It’s a vicious, unending cycle that is detrimental to our health and creates more turmoil in the lives of many.

Keeping your priorities in balance is one way to prevent you from drowning and keep your head above water. Life is chaotic for many of us. Working full-time, two jobs, or even three jobs while trying to take care of a family and still have time for ourselves is overwhelming. Maintaining your sanity can feel near impossible.

I’ve learned a few strategies that can absolutely help you to decrease and or cope better with stress.

Almost everything I’ve written about deals with some form of self-care. And during those rare instances when I can carve out spare time, I also read about self-improvement. I then began the arduous journey of a Master’s in counseling. After several years of researching, writing, and reading on the topic, I stumbled across coaching. I was already spread too thin, but truly believed, and still do, that keeping our Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health in balance is necessary to, not just be well, but to thrive.

So, in an effort to help others, while working on my own self-improvement, I recently completed my training as a Health and Life Coach. I learned best practices in order to help others, and in the process, uncovered my own personal pitfalls and which methods work for me to create peace. I discovered so much about myself and armed myself with countless tools to apply directly to my daily routine in order to keep my life in balance. All this, in order to learn how to live my best life and help others to do the same.

I am of the opinion that we are all a work in progress. Balance may not be possible every day all the time, but working towards it can decrease feelings of overwhelm. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about the journey! Our work is never truly finished. There is always another goal, a new plan, and another dream to strive for in life. I don’t believe the day will ever come when I’ll say, “Okay, I did it. I have balance. I am stress-free. My life is now complete.” Truth be told, even after the near-perfect days when all goes well and my spirits are high, low and behold there’s another deadline at work, an unexpected home emergency, or another diet plan bit the dust.

Life is a journey. There will always be ‘something’ that causes stress. It’s the ebb and flows, the ups, and downs, the twists, and turns that make the successes that much sweeter. The ability to rise above it all and still achieve our goals is, in part, what brings us joy, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment in life. How we handle it, and how we can manage and find ways to balance the chaos is what makes the difference. The one thing that never changes, is the fact that there will always be change. What makes all the difference is how we cope and rise above it all, despite the bumps in the road.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to share three ways you can decrease and cope with your stress.

  1. List your priorities.
  2. Focus on what’s most important.
  3. Organize your calendar and stick to your plan.

List your priorities.

What are your top priorities? The most important things to you, in your life, should be prioritized. These are the things and people you should place most of your attention on.

Think about it. Why do you work so hard? What makes your heart happy? What drives you to save for that vacation? Who and what brings you the most joy and feeds your soul? Those are the things that are most important to you. That is your purpose in life. Honoring your heart’s desire will lead to fulfillment, happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, and the peace we’re desperately searching for.

My family, my health, travel, and helping others through my writing are what’s most important to me. My focus is on my kids and husband, my physical, mental and emotional health, my writing, and my job.

Focus on what’s most important.

Now that you realize what drives you, that should be your focus.

My work hours go into the calendar first. Not that I feel the j.o.b. is more important than my family or my health, but I like to get my paychecks every two weeks and keep my health insurance. So, I put those times in Monday through Friday.

My kid’s and husband’s schedules and specific days and times in which we spend quality time together are then filled into my schedule before and after work hours. Birthdays, holiday plans, dance classes, and date nights are entered next.

Since my health is a priority, I schedule times for all things physical, mental, and emotional. I schedule all my doctor appointments directly after work. My health is not an option. It’s a priority and it’s treated as such. I enter the weeks we are going on vacation, the days and times I exercise, and the times I pray, read, and write. All of that is part of what keeps me healthy, and sane. It is absolutely necessary, especially with the day-to-day stress that’s not going away.

Only then, does everything else gets squeezed in, and only if there’s time and energy to spare. And why not? When I spend any of my time on the things or people that aren’t the most important to me, I become stressed and overwhelmed. It creates a negative inner dialogue driven by guilt, shame, worry, and resentment. So… I don’t do that anymore. I give my energy, and my heart, to the people and things that fill my heart with joy… above all else.

Organize your calendar and stick to it!

Make sure to set those priorities on repeat. For example, my writing time is not an option. It’s what I love to do and is my time to do what makes my heart happy. Date night with my husband is non-negotiable. So I put it in my calendar on the specific day and time that works for our schedules and click “repeat weekly”, duration… “forever”. Faith’s dance class is set to “repeat weekly”, duration is set for the last night of the recital. And so on. That way my priorities are set in stone, or I should say, in google. You get the idea.

Those are the things and people most important to me. Honoring what’s in my heart creates a feeling of calm amid the chaos of life.

Keep in Touch

Have you experienced uncontrollable stress? Do you know your heart’s desire? Do you think these tips will prove useful in your life? Leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear what you think. What topics would you like me to write about next? Find your peace. Stay well.

Turn your Panic into Peace!

Weekend Getaway in PA

You may not feel as though you can tackle the world with ease at the moment. But, chances are if you decided to keep reading after seeing this title, you have the desire to actually experience joy, in life. I’m here to tell you, it is possible!

We all get overwhelmed from time to time. Unfortunately, it is part of life. Adulting is damn hard! We are part of a society of overworked, stressed, overwhelmed, and sleep-deprived people. Our moods can soar to great heights and, sometimes when we least expect it, crash in a second. Busy, hectic, and unpredictable schedules lead to terrible eating habits and before you know it we have a whole new list of issues.

As a Health and Life Coach, I hear all of the above from my clients. I get it. Believe me when I say, “I’ve been there!” One of my favorite things to do is to educate and help others help themselves. I’m going to share three ways you can better handle your stress, and you can use these methods today! But before we get to the tricks up my sleeve, I want to share how I got to this point of learning to cope.

Listen, I’ve always been completely transparent with my readers. I’m all about keeping it real. So this topic will be no different because I’m no different than any of you. After soul-searching, further education, and doing the work on myself, I learned, and was able to apply simple strategies that I now know, make all the difference!

I am a full-time teacher, help my husband run our business, raise a teenage daughter with Down Syndrome, still try to parent a twenty-year-old young man, and run my coaching and writing business in my ‘free time’. I’ve had many days of panic, crying, and bitching about everything that goes wrong in my life. I have overeaten to the point of hating to look in the mirror. I have picked arguments with my husband and those close to me because of so much pent-up frustration. I used to talk so badly to myself about being a failure at just about everything that I’ve struggled with depression. Then, I had enough.

So I began the journey of deeper self-discovery. Here are three of the many ways I’ve learned to ‘Turn my panic into peace’ and take control of my own life!

  1. Start a Gratitude Journal
  2. Know your WHY
  3. Breathe

Gratitude Journal

First of all, an attitude of gratitude is essential. I can easily fall down the rabbit hole of endless complaints I have about how my life is going. I think about the dozens of emails I have yet to answer, the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry I have to do, or the fact that I haven’t reached all my career goals yet. That kind of negative thinking causes me to hate my life and develop a ‘why bother’ attitude.

It’s too overwhelming to only think about all you have to accomplish, what you haven’t done yet and the things you don’t have. It’s exhausting. But… When you focus on what is going well in your life, first thing in the morning, you are able to begin your day on a positive note. That in and of itself is a very powerful tool. Handling the day-to-day stress becomes much easier when you recognize, first, all you have to be thankful for in your life.

When I committed to making my gratitude journal a regular morning routine, everything changed. I begin my day remembering all I have accomplished, and how far I have come. I count my many blessings, like my beautiful, healthy children, my two published books, a loving husband, and a job I love. I even write a prayer of thanksgiving and a request to guide me through my next difficult task. It gives me feelings of great joy, and the confidence and calm I need to get through my day.

Know your WHY

The second tool I recommend is to find focus. I can stand steady and feel calmer when I remind myself WHY I work so hard. Why do I want or need to do the job at hand? Is it in alignment with my big goals? Will it help me accomplish my heart’s desire?

I have always been a goal-setter. It motivates me to think of the end game. It drives me to do whatever it takes to achieve what I truly want. But first, I had to stop and really think about my priorities and what my heart wants out of life. This is another topic I write about in my journal. I have wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. I have always been a writer in one way or another but never had the confidence to put my work out into the world. When that little voice inside got loud enough, I listened. I read about it, researched, ask other authors what to do, and got to work. It was something I desperately wanted so I did what I had to do and made it happen.

What is deep inside of you wanting to come out? Your desires are based on your top priorities in life. What do YOU want? Not what you think you’re supposed to do. What does your heart desire? Ask yourself what are the things most important to you and write them down. That becomes the roadmap for your life. Write down your goals, hang them where you can see them, and create a vision board. Focus drives you and makes the difficult stressful days worth it. You feel less stressed because the end game is everything to you. Your top priorities become your motivation and make the work it takes to ‘get ‘er done’ feel more manageable. Know YOUR why!


Life gets tough. Adulting is damn hard! Unfortunately, stress and overwhelm are inevitable. However, you can learn to lessen the effects and practice simple ways to cope.

I love practicing quick and easy breathing techniques that I can do whenever the stress begins to build. I close my eyes (unless I’m driving of course) breathe in through my nose for a count of five, hold my breath for five seconds and then exhale, through my mouth, for seven seconds. Sometimes once is enough, but you can repeat this breathing pattern as many times as you need to feel calmer.

Keep in Touch

Have you experienced times of uncontrollable stress? Do you know your heart’s desire? Have these tips helped you begin to feel calmer? Leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear what you think. Self-analysis is necessary at times. Just don’t beat yourself up. When we know better, we do better. Stay well!

Find Your Own Silver Lining!

My morning view!

It’s been a long time since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed this more than you know. My life, like yours I’m sure, has been a wild rollercoaster ride of change, uncertainty, fear, and also happiness. Our world is ever-changing.

It’s hard to believe I haven’t posted in almost a year! Life has taken hold of me and I, unfortunately, allowed the day-to-day stressors to overcome me. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about how to handle stress and get out of a funk. And yet I have failed to take my own advice.

I’ll fill you in on what’s new with me and share my personal struggles knowing you will be able to relate.

I’ll start off by saying, even in these crazy times we now live in, I have much to be thankful for. I have been blessed with an amazing family! Wonderful children that love me and make me feel immeasurable pride and joy. I have a loving husband that works hard and supports all my personal and career endeavors. We recently purchased a new house so that I could be closer to my family and the school where I now teach first grade. I’m so grateful for our beautiful home nestled among farm fields and vineyards. We are blessed to now enjoy peace, quiet and beautiful panoramic views. I thank God every day.

And yet, I struggle.

I have gained a TON of weight during the pandemic! Not only do I feel terrible physically, but it has a direct effect on my self-esteem, confidence, and therefore my mood. I can imagine many of you nodding right now in agreement. My entire adult life I have been a teacher. I have been a health and pe teacher, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and classroom teacher. I have always, at some level, taught other people how to take care of themselves and stay healthy. I have always been a healthy person, and for the most part, at a healthy weight. I, of all people, KNOW what to do and How to do it! So WHY am I NOT just doing it???

That alone is enough to leave anyone feeling lousy.

Okay, now add teaching a new grade level, which means learning a whole new curriculum, and the fact that I temporarily lost my mind and accepted curriculum work over this past summer. My original thought was, what better way to learn my new curriculum than to develop and write it myself?! So, although I am proud of the work I’ve done and yes, I do know my curriculum which I believe has made me a better teacher, the well-known non-teacher comments about “teachers don’t work in the summer” went straight out the window. I worked every… single… day.

Oh and did I mention, my husband and I started a new business during the pandemic for which I do all the bookkeeping, emails, and insurance. All while taking care of my teenage daughter with Down Syndrome and making time to do fun activities with her as much as possible.

To further prove my recent temporary insanity, but also celebrate a true personal win, I have completed the manuscript for my second book, Raising Faith: The Ups and Downs of Raising a Child With DownSyndrome, and have submitted it to the publisher. (YAY ME!!!)

So, to say I’ve been “a little busy” is an understatement. And now you have some insight as to why my ups and downs the past year have me now scurrying to rediscover myself.

We all have a pity party on occasion. For some people, it only lasts a couple hours and for others, it goes on for weeks or months. Let’s face it, life doesn’t always go as planned. It can be very easy to feel sorry for yourself and fall into the ‘Why me!?’ mentality. This pandemic has had a very depressing effect on me, like many of you, I would guess. Staying indoors for the better part of a year missing all the family and friends I used to gather with so freely takes its toll, especially on a people-person like myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I will forever be grateful that I married the man of my dreams, my soul mate, lover, and best friend. I will always thank God for my amazing children and loving family and friends. However, I am not just a mom, a wife, and a teacher. I am Gina, a woman that must discover and thrive on what drives my internal happiness and sets my soul on fire.

One of my favorite songs has the best line ever. “Lord help me, help my stupid self.” I’m sure many of you can relate to that. God helps those who help themselves. Sometimes we need to get out of our own way. The thing is, my friends, it’s not just us. It’s everyone. Sure some people have life-altering situations and suffer a terrible loss that can hold them down longer than others. But we all have stress and we all have to find ways to deal with the overwhelm of our own day-to-day.

I am a firm believer in allowing yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t put it on the back burner or sweep it under the rug. Feel your feelings. Acknowledge the emotion. If you are sad, cry. If you’re happy, laugh out loud. If you’re confused, question. That’s how we live in the moments of life. Whatever you do, do not unpack in ‘sad town’! You are not meant to move in. Visit to discover, but remember, you are just passing through. What happened? How does it make you feel? Why do you feel that way? What, if anything, can you do about it? And then, for God’s sake, MOVE ON.

Life is hard and doesn’t always go as planned. But, there is always a silver lining! Count your blessings. Do the work necessary to rediscover yourself! Get back in touch with what makes your heart smile and your soul soar and do that! Make yourself a priority. Take care of YOU! You are worth it!

Stay well.


A Love Poem for MY LOVE!

Roses from my Love!

Right away I knew, you were about to steal my heart.

Your sparkling blue eyes and devilish grin mesmerized me from the start.

So comfortable, at ease and confident, you made me feel the same.

Honest and open, refreshing that, there was no game.

Such a gentleman, lending me your coat and opening doors.

It wasn’t long after, I was saying, “I’m all yours.”

Only a short time passed, our feelings grew and we knew we were in love.

Every day since, I have thanked our heavenly father up above.

For a man that tells me often that I’m beautiful, smart and kind.

Surely, I know, a man like this is very hard to find.

Whenever I feel sad or stressed, he quickly eases my fears.

He wraps me up in his arms, and the whole world disappears.

With every new endeavor, he provides encouragement and praise.

By my side, supporting me in so many different ways.

And now that I can proudly say, he is mine and I’m his wife.

I promise to do all I can, to provide for him a happy life!

Stuck home? Lacking Motivation?

Truth be told, I’ve struggled with my own motivation lately. I know that I am not alone. So I decided to share my personal struggles and what I’ve done to overcome the blahs. As always, I write with the hope that you may benefit from my experience.

Recognize the Problem

Recently, I had been feeling extra lazy. I worked every day and did my best, of course, but couldn’t muster the energy for much else. I still made my to-do lists. Although, every day boxes were left unchecked I felt like a failure. My self-esteem took a hard it. I started to lose my motivation. I had no energy or desire to workout, write consistently, put away the laundry or cook dinner, as I had always done before. It happens to the best of us. Life gets overwhelming and it’s easy to fall into a rut.

I, like many of you, work from home all day, every day. I am a full-time, remote, 5th grade teacher, a small business owner, a writer and an author. I am a wife and a mother. We have four teenagers. The oldest two are away right now. One in the Army and the other in college. The younger two struggling at times with hybrid and remote learning. My daughter is the the youngest. She has Down syndrome and often needs my help throughout the day. Balancing all the responsibilities of wife, mom, teacher, writer and business owner is not easy. Needless to say, I am overwhelmed and a little stressed. I’ve learned to balance and juggle it all, in the past, for the most part. But recently I felt like I had been swallowed up in quicksand, being pulled down against my will. I felt out of control. That’s when I had those self-sabotaging thoughts of “Why bother?” or “What was I thinking? I can’t do all of this!” Which, of-course, can kill all motivation!

Working from home has it’s pros and cons. It provides freedoms I didn’t have before, such as a zoom meeting in pajama bottoms. That’s right! Don’t judge. You know you’ve done it. Fancy blouse, hair and makeup done, but those glorious pjs and slippers from the waist down. Professional, yet comfortable is, for sure, a bonus! I also now have the opportunity to accomplish things I need to or want to do, during my lunch break. Some days I’m able to complete two loads of laundry and prep dinner. Some days I can get to work on my next book. And on the days that the sky is clear and the sun is shining, I can go for a long walk through the woods around the lake or take a joy ride playing my favorite music and singing as I drive. But probably, the one I enjoy the most is having the pleasure of being able to put my daughter on the bus, in the morning, and also be home when she returns at the end of the day.

However, as most of you are aware, there are downfalls to working from home as well. Some days I think to myself, “If I have to look at these same four walls one more minute I’m going to scream!” Cabin fever is a real thing! And as nice as it may be to stay in those comfy pjs or yoga pants all day, they created a new problem to tackle… weight gain! Am I right? It’s WAY to easy to grow accustom to sitting too much, for too long. Sitting to teach on zoom. Sitting to create invoices and answer emails. Sitting to write. Sitting, sitting, sitting. I found myself getting too comfortable at home and very close to becoming lazy… another culprit of losing your desire to ‘get up and go’. Especially when you don’t have to actually go anywhere.

I began to notice a negative shift. I started to feel terrible, physically, because of the lack of exercise, bad eating habits, extra weight, gray hair, and un-manicured nails. But, just as dangerous, my attitude, drive, mood and self-esteem took a nose dive. I realized I had to make changes. I knew deep down this was not me!

Look Within

I started reading and praying to find my answers. I often used affirmations, in the past, to stay focused on my goal, so I started there again. There is a huge amount of motivational, and inspirational quotes and prayers on Pinterest, by the way. Check ’em out! I believe positive, uplifting and encouraging mantras really do help. This particular quote spoke to me and something just clicked. “YOU WILL NEVER ALWAYS BE MOTIVATED, SO YOU MUST LEARN TO BE DISCIPLINED.” It makes total sense, doesn’t it? It’s up to me. I can decide to change. No truer words were spoken about staying motivated, in my opinion.


So, to that end, I accepted the fact that I lost my mojo. I surrendered. I felt as though I couldn’t control my blahs, given my busy schedule and stress level. However, being disciplined is something different. It comes from another place. I CAN control my thoughts! I decide to adhere to my to-do list, in order to accomplish a goal. I choose. Emotions can consume me and bring me down. They’re powerful enough to make me feel defeated. But, only I can control my thoughts. You’ve heard the saying, “What you think about, you bring about.” It’s so true. It is up to me! I don’t have to give-in to a feeling when my emotions are in a fragile state. I CAN be disciplined and use my head. So, that’s what I did. I read that quote over and over. “You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined.” The serenity prayer is my new favorite and supports my new found quote, as well. “Dear God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Those uplifting thoughts I chose to tell myself made a big difference. My heart soon followed my head. I felt good again, very quickly. Positive mantras or prayers provide hope that not all is lost. I was accomplishing more and feeling better. And the better I feel, the more I do. The more I do, the more motivated I become. And all of a sudden… I was back! The old me. The happy me. Feeling balanced, accomplished and fulfilled.

We’re all in this unpredictable, whirlwind of our ‘new normal’. Life was already hard. Now we’ve been forced to adjust to an entirely new way of doing things. If you are lacking motivation, try positive mantras or prayer. They may give you hope, like they did for me.

Keep In Touch

When do you lose your motivation? How long do your slumps last? What has worked for you to regain your mojo? Drop your comments below. I’d love to learn about you. Remember, being motivated keeps us moving towards our ultimate goals. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep on, keeping on.

Stay well!


Missing My Daddy

Me and Daddy 1990

December 30th would have been Daddy’s 78th birthday. He left this earth much too soon, only 56 years old. It seems so unfair that he has missed out on so much of our lives. He never got to meet any of his four grandchildren. He was so excited to be a grandfather. Having experienced life with him as a father, he would have, without doubt, been grand.

He wasn’t there as I feared for my daughter’s life while pregnant. He missed the emergency c-section and the 6 weeks she was in the NICU. He wasn’t there when she had open heart surgery or yanked out her own feeding tube, proving all the doctors wrong. He missed out on her first steps, playing baseball, cheerleading and her dance recitals. He missed her horseback riding and learning to ride a bike.

He missed out on watching Luke grow to be 6’9″ and a basketball star at 14. He never attended a basketball game or cheered for his grandson as he slammed dunked his way to victory.

He wasn’t there to watch Matthew protect and care for his sister. He missed the baseball games, tournaments and double-plays. He never got to see him pitch those winning games or watch him graduate high school and move out to West Virginia.

He missed out on all of Sammi’s years of dance recitals, volleyball games, high school graduation and getting her Psychology degree. He wasn’t there to meet her first boyfriend and didn’t get to scare him, like he did ours.

He wasn’t there as my mom, Dawn and I cried countless times for more than two decades as we struggled through life’s ups and downs without him. He wasn’t there to console us, pray with us and cry with us when my grandparents died.

He missed out on my job changes, finding my true love and he wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle.

Or was he? …

I cannot feel sad for him as if he missed out, when in my heart, I know he was, in fact, with us. His love transcends time and space. He was there for all of us and always managed to send a message to prove he was with us, in spirit. I know he was by our side through each heartbreak and cheering along with every victory. He has roared his boisterous laugh at every birthday, graduation and holiday party.

Every cardinal that visited at just the right time, made me feel he was there. Each sign that said “Sal” on a business, in an unexpected place , just when I wished he was with me. With every auto-correct of “dad” when what was originally typed was not even close, was him saying “Hi, Pooh! I’m here.” And so much more, all the many little things that have special meaning only to us.

But, perhaps, the most meaningful and convincing signs have been our Red Quarters.

Red Quarters he and my mother painted for us, as children, to play in the arcade he owned almost 40 years ago.

Red Quarters we never saw again or even thought of for decades, after closing the business and moving more than an hour away.

Red Quarters that only resurfaced after Daddy had passed.

These Red Quarters have been given to each of us, from Daddy, on the days of sadness and the days of pure joy, that one may think he missed. Received always when we needed him the most. A red quarter in the change from the Wawa, on the way to Faith’s first Dance Recital. A Red Quarter from the concession stand after Matthew’s first home run. A Red Quarter for my husband, the day before he proposed. And countless more, at sad times and special occasions. Just as he was always there for us when he walked this earth, he found a way to be with us still.

I treasure these gifts that God has allowed Daddy to give to us, so that we may feel, in our hearts, that he’s with us. The best, heavenly gifts… The Red Quarters.

Thank you for being with me… still.


Your Poohbear

How do You Handle Stressful Times? Ways to Improve.

Recognizing the Problem

C.S. Lewis once said that we learn the most about our character under stress than we do when things are good. It’s how we respond under pressure that shows who we really are. I recently read this quote and, well… it got me thinking. I took a long, hard look at how I’ve reacted in times of great stress. I’ve come to realize, I am often not on my best behavior. And not to excuse that fact, in any way, but I believe many people could say the same.

As a mom and a teacher, I see examples of this quite often. Children ‘act out’ and misbehave when they are stressed, scared or worried. There are various techniques used that can help to diffuse the situation. Some examples of useful activities are providing them with a quiet space to reflect on their feelings, calming activities such as coloring, deep breathing or listening to meditation music, yoga or a counseling session to talk it out. I found these to be very successful methods of reducing stress for my students and my own children.

That being said, adults struggle with similar behaviors in times of great stress, as well. And why not? We are, in fact, human. Yes, as adults, we are expected to set the example for our children. We have a responsibility to demonstrate restraint and be considerate and respectful to others. As we should. However, ‘acting out’ happens with adults too. Some are better at controlling their emotions than others. All too often, when we’re stressed and overwhelmed we tend to take our frustrations out on the people around us. In particular, those we love the most, unfortunately. Although common, this is not good. Arguments ensue and now we’ve just added to our already long list of problems.

Looking Within

I’ll be the first to admit, I am a work in progress. I am an emotional, passionate person and wear my heart on my sleeve. Which is a kinder way of saying, I tend to speak my mind too often and cry or raise my voice. Chalk it up to being Italian or the fact that I’m an overworked woman in her late forties. Whatever the case may be, I was forced to look within and analyze what I am doing and how I behave when my stress is all consuming. They say the first step in recovery is admission. Let’s face it, we can never solve an issue in life, if we first don’t acknowledge that we have a problem.

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with my lengthy to-do list. I will concede to the fact that I am a die-hard type-A, organized, scheduler. If you’re in the same boat, then you are fully aware of how difficult it can be to accept and adjust when things don’t go as planned. I feel like my boat is sinking and I’m out of control.

Remember what C.S. Lewis said?… “we learn the most about our character under stress than we do when things are good. It’s how we respond under pressure that shows who we really are.” This gave me a jolt for sure. A wake-up call that I need to make some personal adjustments. I’ve always felt as though I was a good person. I am a good person. I can admit my mistakes. And I’m now doing the work of self-improvement. We all ‘misbehave’ during times of stress. Many of us bite off more than we can chew and when a wrench is thrown into our plan, something is going to break. Yes, I feel badly to become aware of my character flaws. But I’m proud to say, I can admit it and now work to improve.


As I stated above, as a mom and as a seasoned teacher, there are several effective strategies I use to help redirect or calm my kids. Taking from those ideas, I’ve developed my own plan of action to better myself. My plan is to love myself enough to take care of my mental/emotional health, as I have encouraged others to do. I have a new resolve, as many do this time of year. I will look up and look in more often. I will pray for guidance, strength and peace in times of stress. I will examine my actions and adjust as needed. I have also renewed my commitment to better health; physically, and mentally. One strategy I will use is frequent walking. For me, walking is best outside. Taking in the beauty of a path through the woods and around the nearby lake is so refreshing! I feel good about doing good for my body and get such a boost of those much needed endorphins. Plan B… Days I cannot get out, because of inclement weather or the need to be with my daughter, I will begin again, my at home yoga practice. Yoga is something I can do in my living room. No membership or equipment needed. Yoga is for beginners to the advanced. There are calming, peaceful styles such as Yin or kick-butt power yoga and everything in between, depending on your physical and mental needs on any given day. The physical and emotional experience are just what’s needed and I feel rejuvenated after every session. And, Plan C (remember, I’m a type-A planner… making the best of it 😉 )… times where I can do neither, I can just breathe. One, or several, of those deep, calming breaths, in through your nose and out through your nose. Nasal breathing has been proven to activate your lower lungs, allowing you to take in more oxygen, reduce blood pressure and boost your mood and your immunity.

The key is to find a way to buy time so that I think before I speak! My ‘plan’ is to utilize these methods so that I don’t snap when stressed. The more I can balance my stress levels the less-likely I’ll be to bite someone’s head off or say something I’ll regret, during overwhelming times in my life. I’m sure my mother, sister and husband will appreciate that!

Keep in Touch

Have you experienced times when you noticed your own character flaws? What are your stressors? Have you decided on a New Year’s Resolution? Drop your comments below. I’d love to hear what you think. Self-analysis is necessary at times. Just don’t beat yourself up. When we know better, we do better. Stay well!

That Christmas Feeling

I’ve always been a sucker for Christmas! My friends and family know that I love everything about this magical time of year. I cannot get enough of the twinkling lights, baking our traditional, Italian Christmas cookies, blasting Christmas songs and singing off key as loud as I can and, of course, decorating the tree. Yep, that’s right. I’m THAT person. Honestly, I can’t help myself.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate the little things more and more. Traditions make me happy. The nostalgia of it all brings me so much joy. I’ve been blessed with countless wonderful memories throughout my lifetime. At Christmas time especially, the memories of cherished gatherings growing up with family and friends, only make me want more than anything to provide the same feelings of laughter and love to my own children, husband and the people in my life.

I know many people struggle this time of year and even battle depression. Most commonly because of having lost a loved one, or maybe lost their job and worried about not being able to afford gifts, maybe because of a broken heart from a relationship gone bad. In my lifetime, I’ve been in each one of those situations. I can absolutely relate.

I’ll never forget my first Christmas after my father had passed. Christmas 1999 was only four months after he lost his battle to cancer. And although I had my mom and sister and a beautiful, new goddaughter, we all struggled immensely going through that season without him. How did we get through it, you ask? How were we able to handle the cheer when our hearts were so saddened without him? It was because of him actually, and by the grace of God. You see, I know that I am the Christmas fanatic I am because my daddy was all about showing love and giving to others, without expecting anything in return. He painstakingly wrapped each thoughtful gift in coordinated wrapping paper, each of us had our own design (and still do). He and my mother always played Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand Christmas albums as they wrapped gifts, cooked, decorated and entertained for others. Those were, by far, some of the most wonderful days of my life. As difficult as that first Christmas was without him, I felt compelled to do Christmas right… for him, in his honor. So we carried on the traditions from year to year, ever since always making sure to share his memory, with his grandchildren.

This Christmas we all NEED cheer more than ever! It has been a terrible time of missing parties, skipping special occasions and no hugging. Many of us have to juggle work, while homeschooling and climbing the walls!?! I must say… I have seen more lights, on houses, up sooner than ever before. I myself put my tree (pictured here) up before Thanksgiving this year. I needed it. One of my Christmas wishes, my prayer, is for the good health of my family and friends. I am so grateful and have truly been blessed. I actually got two of my Christmas wishes, already this year (became the Mrs. in May and published my children’s book). Now wait… That does not mean my life is perfect. It never was and I’m quite sure never will be perfect. There are and always will be problems in life I want to fix, or struggles of one kind or another. Being joyful, especially at Christmas, is my choice. I could mope and complain about the things that are wrong (and sometimes I do), or I could revel in the beauty that surrounds me and be glad. I choose the latter.

When times are tough, as they often are, I feel down and struggle like everyone else. The thing is I make a conscious effort to notice God’s blessings all around us. There is wonder and beauty everywhere. The twinkling lights of house decorations. The acts of kindness by strangers more often than before. The sound of our children laughing. The old-timey Christmas carols that remind us of love, family and traditions. The handmade ornaments from many years ago and the new ones to commemorate special memories and love.

Take notice of the beautiful decorations. Listen to the words of an old-fashioned Christmas song. Snuggle with your love, watching Hallmark Movies with hot chocolate. Spread love and kindness by doing something for someone else. Allow someone else’s cheer to brighten your day and then pay it forward. I believe it truly is a season of miracles. So go ahead my friends, live your best life. And Merry Christmas to all!

Blended Families

All families have their struggles. Some more than others. It’s only natural with differing personalities for conflict to sometimes arise. But when you are a blended family, things are even more complicated.

When parents remarry and children have to go back-and-forth between two different households, especially when expectations are different in each home, there’s definitely going to be resistance.

If the divorced parents have different rules, then it has to be made very clear to the child that they are to behave a certain way when they’re in your home. Clear expectations of behavior and consequences can alleviate confusion, but still not eliminate resistance from the child.

When children are forced to adjust to new living arrangements it can create frustration and anger. If the children are teenagers it makes for a very challenging situation. It definitely gets complicated. When dealing with hormonal teenagers, emotions are high and patience are low for both the teen and the parents. Obviously dangerous territory.

The most important thing is to have ongoing and honest communication. Communication is key in every relationship. Having family meetings or a sit down conversation, can really help clear up any misunderstandings. How often these meetings should occur depends on how everyone is getting along within the family household. Possibly bi-monthly or weekly, if needed. Whatever is necessary. The catch? All parties need to be completely honest and willing to cooperate for the betterment of the family unit.

When the teenager raises their voice, refuses to make eye contact, or repeatedly make serious, hurtful comments, it’s best, at that point, to let the conversation rest. To pursue the meeting any further when emotions and tempers are high will only escalate the situation. Once you’ve planted the seed, let them be alone a while. Allow time for the ideas to sink in and give them time to sort it out in their own mind. Then, revisit the conversation at another time.

It’s important to make it very clear to the teenagers that disrespect will not be tolerated; whether it’s directed towards the parent or the stepparent. Healthy relationships require boundaries. Even though the emotional teenager wants to be respected, listen to, and make their opinions heard, they must be required to show respect. If not, there is a consequence.

As a teenager myself, I remember my parents saying, “As long as you live in this house, you will follow my rules.” Rules are not made in the home to be dictators and take complete control. Rules are put in place with all family members being considered. In every situation in life we all have rules to follow. If you don’t show up to work on time repeatedly, you will most likely lose your job. If you are often disrespectful to your boss, because you don’t like their rules, you will lose your job. If you speed, you’re going to get a ticket.

There are countless examples in every day society in order to function as a responsible mature adult in life. The expectations, whether at school, work, in society or at home are made to keep the peace, maintain safety and consider all people involved. So not imposing rules for your children and not being consistent with enforcing consequences, in your own home, will accomplish nothing.

As parents, we truly want what is best for our child. As a step parent, you want him or her to like and accept you as part of the family. Consistency is crucial. Show love, care, and respect. Set clear expectations and consequences when rules are not adhered to. Continue to have open communication and remind them that the home is a safe place with people that love them.

Hopefully this helps. Family is very important; to me it is everything! So act with love and keep the communication between you and your children open. If your intentions are good and your heart is in the right place, you are doing all you can. May you always have peace and a happy home. And go ahead, my friends, live your best life.

How to get through Tough Times

“If you’re going through Hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there… ” -Rodney Atkins

I heard this song on the radio today. Whether you’re a fan of country music or not, the song “If you’re going through hell”, recorded by Rodney Atkins, may strike a chord with you, if you’re going through a difficult time right now.

For me personally, I got chills when I heard those lyrics. It couldn’t be more true. When I’m going through a rough patch in my life, I feel like I’m going through hell! It’s devastating. Whether it’s financial, work related, health issues, relationship problems or all of the above, it feels like hell! Struggling with a rough patch myself, I got to thinking. I thought about the stages of grief. To some extent, I go through these stages when terrible things happen.

Denial is first. That’s the ‘What the hell? I can’t believe this is happening! Are you kidding me?!’ thoughts.

It may be my Italian roots, but I quickly move to the next stage… anger. I get mad at the world. Of course, i try not to and I’m careful not to take it out on the people around me, but it happens. After all, we’re only human, right? I rant on and on about my problem, with several choice words and the occasional slam of my hand on the table. Not a pretty site.

Then the bargaining begins. Praying and begging ensues, “If YOU just take care of this for me God, I’ll do…”. Usually a desperate plea, promising something deep down I know I won’t do. Sad but true.

Which leads to sadness or depression. For me, I’ve learned that I tend to stay in this stage the longest. I believe this is a dangerous zone and I am aware of that. My solution… I have a good cry and talk to ‘my people’. You know your people, your inner circle. I lean on those I love the most. Talking to my loved ones, who I know will listen, validate my feelings, show true care and concern is how I get out of this stage as quickly as possible.

Finally, acceptance is key. Life happens and it’s not always good. I then realize that ‘it is what it is’. These are the cards I’ve been dealt and I need to play my hand. That’s where Rodney Atkins’ song comes into play. When I feel like I’m going through a tough period in my life, I need to push through. Don’t stop and hang out in the anger or depression stage, keep on moving. The devil likes for us to stay sad and depressed, so move on quickly. This also reminds me of my favorite quote, “You have a choice. You can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face.” Take care of your mental emotional health. Do what you have to do to progress to acceptance and come up with a solution!

I hope this helps, at least in some way, if you’re struggling with something right now. Remember to turn to loved ones for support, take care of yourself, give yourself a little grace, keep on moving and go ahead… live your best life!