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.

Love,

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.

Resolution

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!

Do Good… Feel Good!

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

I love the saying, “In a world where you can be anything, be Kind”. I don’t practice acts of kindness looking for something in return, but kindness often comes back to you when given to others.

Doing good for other people, does actually make me feel good about myself. There are countless ways to show kindness to others. Something as small as holding the door for someone or as big as babysitting for a friend when she’s stressed and overwhelmed, or raking the leaves for your senior neighbor, it’s all admirable. I used to live next to a very sweet, older couple that seemed to struggle getting around at times. My son would often take out their trash and return the can to the house and I often brought them homemade dinners or desserts. I loved the look on their face. They really appreciated the kindness and it truly made my heart smile.

Sometimes I will pay for the person behind me in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. It makes me happy that I surprised someone and possibly made their day. I try to be aware that everyone has their own issues and stressors in their lives. You never know the heavy load someone else is carrying around every day. So if I can brighten someone’s day, why not!? In the scheme of things what’s another $3.50 or even $10 here and there. I’ve wasted much more, for much less.

So today was one of those days. I was waiting in a very long line. You know the kind that enters from two different driveways, at Dunkin’ Donuts. Each side typically allows the other to take turns as you approach the order speaker. (Believe it or not, some people do not know how to take turns. That’s mind-boggling to me. Are you in that much of a hurry, buddy, that you cut in front of the car that’s not as quick to move forward?! That 2 minutes will, I’m sure, make or break your timeline.) I am always aware of the other line and naturally would allow someone in front of me if there was any doubt who was there first. As I approached the bend in the driveway, I looked over at the other car to see if they were pulling ahead. It was an older couple that didn’t seem to be in a hurry and they graciously motioned for me to go ahead of them. Right away I thought, “I’ll buy their coffees.” Whenever I’ve done this in the past, I try to pull out quickly, as I feel like it’s nicer to do something kind without any thank you in return. Today the traffic was heavy so they were right behind me each waving their arms excitedly out their windows with big smiles. Turns out the ‘thank you’ is pretty nice after all. I couldn’t help but smile the whole way home. Total strangers smiled and felt happy even if only for a few minutes, because of me! There isn’t much that can top making someone else feel good in my book.

But wait, it gets better…

Later that same day, after an afternoon of writing, I decided to take a break from my computer and go for a drive with the windows down and sun roof open, on this beautiful sunny day. I ended up at the smoothie, juice bar in the next town. I allowed the man that held the door for me to order first. And as you’ve probably guessed, as I went to pay the cahier said the gentlman had already paid for me. I quickly went to my car and yelled thank you as he was leaving the parking lot. He smiled and waved. A block later, he turned as I went straight and excitedly beeped and waved, as if he was a friend.

Something so small… a kind gesture for just a few dollars, turns out it’s not so small. It’s a very big deal to be kind to others! So do good, feel good and go ahead… live your best life.

Counting my blessings!

#blessedandgrateful #thisisus

Life is hard when you think about what is ‘wrong’ in your life. On the other hand… life gets easier when you focus on all that is ‘right’.

We all have stress and issues that are overwhelming. For me, I feel like, at times, my worries paralyze me from accomplishing anything at all. My mind gets so bogged down with my concerns about my children, raising a daughter with special needs, my own health problems, financial situations such as bills, college tuition and still having a savings, my to-do list for work, basic home responsibilities like cooking and cleaning, etc. It’s enough to bring me to tears, bring on a massive migraine, have a drink or two or all of the above. Sound familiar?

So, what I’ve been practicing lately is actually ‘counting my blessings’. And because I’m a writer, I don’t just think about them, I actually write them down. I feel as though it brings them to the forefront of my mind, calms my anxiety, fills my heart with love and puts a smile on my face. You might be thinking you don’t have much to be grateful for. It can feel that way at times, I’ve been there. That’s why I create a list. Once you focus on and write down all the ‘good’ in your life, you’ll be surprised at how many more things come to mind. And when you can sit and look at that long list, in print, it is very calming. This is my actual, personal list as of today. Reading my blessings, you may be reminded of what you can add to your own list. Remember, the little things in life are often the big, important things. It’s very personal but I want to share it with you in hopes that those of you that feel defeated and have lost all hope, realize that you DO have wonderful blessings as well.

Counting MY blessings today:

  1. a home to live in and share with my family
  2. plenty of food to nourish my body
  3. clothes and shoes to wear daily
  4. good vision to see my family and enjoy my surroundings
  5. good hearing to hear laughter, birds singing and great music
  6. a strong body that chase my daughter, workout and play
  7. beautiful, sweet, healthy children to enjoy
  8. a loving, supportive, thoughtful husband to share my life with
  9. family and friends that I can count on
  10. both of us have a good job, decent pay, health benefits to support and take care of my family
  11. the ability to help others on a regular basis
  12. publishing my first book very soon, dream come true
  13. children doing well in school, smart and happy
  14. date nights for the romance in my life
  15. this beautiful fall day to enjoy
  16. good neighbors that chat and lend a hand when needed

There is so much more I’m sure, but that’s a great start! With a list like that nothing will keep me down for long. Give it a try. So go ahead count YOUR blessings and… live your best life!

Anxious? You are NOT Alone.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Many people are struggling with their mental and emotional health now more than ever. I am no exception. I haven’t written in a long time trying to make sense out of all the stress and worry. Then I realized, it makes little sense. I further realized, after hearing from so many people about their struggles, that I’m not the only one. So I thought if I shared my feelings of anxiety it may, in a small way help others to not feel alone. If I can help even one person, then my writing means something. It fulfills my purpose. So today, I will allow myself to be vulnerable, hoping some of you will feel like it validates your own torment.

I have been on an emotional rollercoaster for weeks now. Okay, truth be told, months. I have been emotional, worried and stressed. I glanced through my personal journal today and for far too long I’ve sounded like a broken record. Almost every entry is about worrying, feeling unsafe, physically feeling ill, depression, anxiety, self-doubt and fear. That’s just awful. How sad that my life has been so consumed with negativity. What’s even worse, after talking to friends, reading other blogs, and online posts, I am not alone. It’s terrible to say, but knowing other people are having the same struggles is a relief. Please don’t misunderstand, I want no one to feel bad, scared and filled with anxiety. But as I’m sure you can understand, when my feelings are like so many, it validates my concerns and then I don’t feel so alone in this mess. All the mental and emotional issues causes me to not sleep well at night, which just leaves me cranky and exhausted the next day. Then I get little accomplished which leads me to beat myself up because I haven’t accomplished my goals for the day. It’s a frustrating, vicious cycle that has ultimately brought me to major self-reflection and sharing my feelings today. I lack confidence, questioning every decision I’m about to make. I feel afraid to go in public some days in fear of getting sick. I worry incessantly about my children’s health. I question my response to a work email, overly cautious not to offend or insult someone. I doubt my own ability to work, write, teach or homeschool my daughter. I second guess my appearance, trying on 3 or 4 outfits before leaving the house and then wonder if my husband is mad at me for having to wait for so long. UGH!!! Ew… who is this person?! Am I crazy?! That’s the ‘old Gina’. She hasn’t been around for a very long time. I don’t like her. She makes me sad. I’ve worked diligently for years to get rid of that insecure girl.

So, the self-reflection began and ‘the work’ ensued once more.

First, I had to recognize what was going on with my thoughts and feelings. The world is crazy right now. Living during a pandemic, so much hate, crime and turmoil affects our emotions, our stability, our sense of well-being. So I had to begin with forgiving myself for the regression. I gave myself the grace, understanding and compassion I give to others. A wise person once said, ‘treat yourself like you would treat your best friend’. I would never yell at, disgrace, shame or put down another person. I will not do it to myself anymore. Self-love is key!

Second, I needed to relinquish control. Yes, fellow control freaks, let it go. I’m right there with ya. I like to control as much of what happens in my life as possible. Truth be told, we gotta let that stuff go. My mind went to the Serenity Prayer… “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.” You may not be the praying kind, but lately many are that were not before. If you’d rather, meditation and positive mantras will help. Whatever it takes for you to find your inner peace and calm in the chaos of life.

Finally, I needed a plan of action! What can I do to feel good, even great about myself again? How can I regain my confidence in a world with no guarantees? What works for me may not work for you. The solution is very personal to each of us as we are all different. I’ll tell you what I do and maybe you’ll use some of these and add your own to suit your life. I started with doing the things that make my soul happy. For me, that’s journaling in the morning, praying and getting in a great workout! It sets a positive tone for the entire day. Then I love to do fun activites and play with my daughter, write and enjoy my family. They are activities that make me feel good about myself and it’s what I CAN control! When I take care of myself, I can take better care of my family. Remember, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I do my best to do good for other people. I practice acts of kindness and pay it forward when good is done for me. It’s amazing how good I feel when I can do something that pleases or helps another person, expecting nothing in return.

Self-care is essential. Doing what makes your heart happy is crucial to your own well-being. Prayer and mediation provides calm and a sense of peace. Taking good care of and enjoying your family, helping others and doing your best day to day keeps your mental-emotional health in balance. Hang in there friends. Be kind to yourself and others. Go ahead… live your best life.

Family Struggles

I believe every family has its struggles. We all go through different stages in life that present unique challenges to overcome. I remember years ago dealing with a baby, a toddler, running a household, and working full time. There were also times in my life while staying home a few years with my children, that financial issues arose and created enormous stress and conflict. Recently, my current life phase is recently getting remarried and desperately trying to combine two families after divorce. Whatever your case may be, every family deals with growing pains.

Let me just say, getting remarried is probably one of the absolute best things that has ever happened to me! If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I recently married the love of my life. I feel blessed and grateful to share my life with a thoughtful, affectionate, fun, sexy man I’m grateful to call “my husband”. Having said that… the blending of already set-in-their-ways families, especially with older children, presents its own challenges.

I have 2 wonderful children of my own and he has 2 great boys of his own, all of which are teenagers. I could stop the post right here because as most of you know, teenagers can be difficult, so having 4 at different times or all 4 at once can make life challenging. One thing I have learned is to be very aware of unique personalities and opinions. Because our children were older at the point in which we got married, it’s not like raising small children and shaping little minds and growing together as a family. It’s coming in late in the game and trying your best to adjust and keep everybody happy. To paint a better picture, both our oldest sons are about to go off into the world. My stepson just enlisted in the army, and my son is going off to college. The 13- and 14-year-old will be with us as much as possible, yet both are on mismatched schedules with their other parent. I’ve been in the picture for almost four years, and it’s been a wonderful journey. We’ve done a lot of things together with each of our kids and sometimes we find something fun to do, all 6 of us together. However, those times are few, as each of the teens have contrasting interests and, as mentioned, are also on different schedules.

I realize it’s important to continue the special bond between a child and their birth parent, so there are many times when my husband wants to be alone with his boys and sometimes I also appreciate time alone with my kids. However, being raised with a “family is priority” mindset, my intention was to combine all of us together, most of the time. I’ve learned that being all together, all the time, is just not possible. My stepsons want to be with their mother, and there are times they want to be just with their dad. In addition, my children go to spend time with their father. There are times I feel left out. I’m also a person who wears my heart on my sleeve and get my feelings hurt pretty easily. I’m aware of that, so I work on it and I try not to make it all about me because frankly… it’s not just about me. But day-to-day, I struggle. Let me explain why…

Being in education for over 20 years, I should know better. I’ve studied child development throughout my many years of teaching and continue to do so while working on my masters in counseling. So intellectually, I know that the teenage years can be tumultuous. It’s a constant struggle of them wanting independence and freedom and time with their friends and trying to deal with the fact that they are still kids and have rules to follow. Then add to that three more people now living with you you have to cooperate with and six varying opinions and personalities. It’s a lot for anyone to adjust to. It’s important to respect and have consideration for other people. I struggle with feeling like I’m not included. And I desperately want everyone to feel loved and get along.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

It is essential to practice the following to survive these growing pains unscathed: 1) act with love, 2) have patience, 3) practice understanding others’ perspective, 4) excellent communication and 5) private married couple time. I want all of us to get along. It’s important to me that ALL the children know, without question, that we love them. There has to be a separation in my mind between my husband as my partner, and my husband as their father. I also believe it’s very beneficial for the kids to have alone time with their birth parent, just as much as family time all together. By the same token, it’s crucial to have alone time and date nights as a couple. Making each other feel like a priority and fostering our romantic relationship will enhance our bond and our friendship and make handling the ‘tough times’ a little easier. So I’m now learning that there has to be a lot of give-and-take, compromise, patience, and understanding. Families aren’t perfect nor are they all the same. This is just my story and my new family and I love them.. warts and all 😉

So, for anyone else out there having family ‘issues’. Hang in there. Keep an open mind. Family is family whether traditional, blended or otherwise. Act with love. Show kindness and understanding. Do your best. And by all means, live your best life!

“A letter to My Son”

My son, my heart!

Matthew Salvatore,

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.

And, I will ALWAYS love you with all my heart!

Love Always,

Mommy