That Time I Took My Mom on Vacation

My mom gave me life, so the least I can do is take her on an all-inclusive vacation, right?

I’d been pushing her to do a mother/daughter trip with me for quite some time, and finally, the opportunity presented itself at the beginning of this month. Last Thursday through Sunday (Mother’s Day), we headed to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for the blue beach, to bask in the sun and bronze burn our booties.

 

Right away, it was an adventure. We were greeted at the airport and escorted to the shuttle that would take us to our resort, where we met a couple visiting Punta Cana for their third time. Turns out they knew my aunt and uncle. You may think, how does that even happen?! But growing up in a small town, and attending a small college, showed me years ago how strong connections can be and how fast they spread. I can’t say I was even fazed.

And then my mom (making conversation, of course) asked them the question: “Are the native people here really poor?” Embarrassed, I tried to shush her, but she went on, loudly. “They seem really poor.” All in earshot of our driver, who was clearly a native of the country. *face palm*

It was like that scene from Mean Girls.

 

 

A small part of me worried what I was getting into, but I just laughed. This was going to be a trip! We got dropped off at our hotel and were greeted with a flute of cold sparking juice and damp, cool washcloths to put on our necks to relieve us from the heat. My mom, as you can see, was in heaven. “I’m never leaving!” she exclaimed. Below, you can see the photos of our hotel and beach areas. (That flamingo was kind of a bitch.)

 

 

Although mom doesn’t drink, she was loving the non-alcoholic cocktails and smoothies. Every day, she’d say, Let’s get a drink. Oh gosh, I sound like such a lush! We spent the majority of our time relaxing at the beach laying out or under the shade of the bed, or hanging out in our VIP pool.

 

 

Steps to vacation: Eat, drink, relax, swim, sleep, repeat.

 

Then my childhood dream came true on Friday- I swam with a dolphin in the ocean. Absolutely everything I thought it’d be! They are such powerful, playful, and beautiful mammals.  Posters and knickknacks of them used to cover my bedroom from wall to wall growing up, and here I was, actually kissing them, swimming with them, having them jump over me. Surreal. Like a true mother, my mom’s enjoyment came out of just watching my excitement.

 

As amazing as the views were, the best part of the trip was the talks we’d have before bed. Mom told me some stories from her childhood, how her parents didn’t have money, and things she had done for fun. I told her my fears, my summer plans, vented about my “problems.” She listened intently, giving advice like only she can do. We talked about my future: traveling, kids (no), marriage. Her regrets, and aging.

We never think about our parents getting older until we notice small things- forgetting something we told them, not being able to walk as far, needing glasses to read, getting frustrated with trying to teach them technology, my mom reading lips because she was struggling to hear me, etc. I have this irrational fear that because my mom handles literally EVERYTHING for our family and constantly has a mind that never stops running, that she’ll develop Alzheimer’s, though I know that’s not how it works.

She mentioned, with tears in her eyes, that her mother would have never done something like this with her. She had died when I was six, and to be honest, I don’t remember much of her. It hit me then that my mother was also a daughter. Crazy as it sounds, I forget that beyond being a mother and a wife, she is a daughter.  She is a woman who does not need to be defined by her roles. A woman who probably, even at 61, still has those empty spaces in her heart from the ones she has lost. A woman who still has dreams and needs and sadness and really tough days where she doesn’t know what the hell to do. A woman who ignores those feelings because so many depend on her strength. That thought made me feel so guilty. I had been blind for so long. So insincere and thoughtless as a teenager, so selfish. So blissfully unaware of how lucky I am to have her.

People talk about how their mother is the glue that holds their family together…mine is the nails used to build us, the glue that keeps us, and the duct tape when all else fails. She has been my backbone in a lot of ways, and I can’t picture a world with her not in it. My parents have worked their entire lives to provide a better life for my brother and I, and even in their sixties, they are moving firewood, taking care of my grandparents, managing three properties, and still picking up the phone when I call. As they near retirement (jealous) my hope for them is that they are able to relax and enjoy themselves.

Now that we’re back in rainy PA, I’m reflecting on this trip and I know that was one of the reasons for going- for everything my mother has given me, it’s always been my dream to give back. Since I can’t buy her a house, or a brand new car, I figured my time and this experience would suffice. Another lifetime couldn’t be long enough to learn from and be loved by you.

I love you mom, hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I’m always missing you.

 

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Leave nothing but footprints,

take nothing but pictures,

kill nothing but time.

25 Things I Wish I Knew Before 25

  1. You will actually miss nap time when you’re older. Milk it.
  2. Your mother will become your best friend. Treat time with her like the treasure it is.
  3. Quit wishing for happiness, create it.
  4. Every second you spend wondering what someone else is thinking is a second lost.
  5. Next time your mom cooks dinner, let her show you how.
  6.  Just stop trying to sneak out- you get caught every time.
  7. The more you chase boys, the more they elude you.
  8. It will take a LOT of failed attempts before you find your way, don’t worry.
  9. Sometimes your accomplishments will not make other people happy.
  10. Crush those goals, anyway!
  11. Remember when your brother bit his nails? Don’t try it. You won’t be able to stop.
  12. Never, ever stop writing.
  13. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life. Learn to let them go.
  14. Hot Pockets are not dinner. Neither are Reese’s Cups. (See #5.)
  15. Start and keep a journal. Take pictures. Your memory is terrible.
  16. Drinking isn’t always fun.
  17. Those things you hate: taxes, bills, insurance? They’re frustrating, but important.
  18. Learn to love yourself before you give so much love away to the wrong people.
  19. Someone is always prettier/smarter/luckier. Stop comparing, you still have things they don’t.
  20. Friendships ending can hurt worse than breakups. Despite everything, you’re worthy of the best love.
  21. Take that damn trip!
  22.  Stop spending so much money on stupid shit. Seriously.
  23. Start running. It will teach you more mentally & physically than you could ever know.
  24. You are never too young or too old to change your life. Do what your heart wants.
  25. You’re going to be just fine. Laugh it off or learn from it- it’s all going to be okay.

 

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The Post-Op Post

Exactly two weeks ago, as many of you know, I went to the hospital to get a pacemaker. It came as a shock to my 25 year old/heart healthy/marathon training self and many others.

I arrived at 9:30 a.m Friday, March 18th. A million things were running through my exhausted mind. I hadn’t eaten anything for over 12 hours, so I was already hangry. Immediately they took me back to prep me, although my surgery wasn’t scheduled until 12:30 p.m. I changed into my gown and clutched the gaping back to cover my bare ass, as not to give a show to everyone else in the room.

A urine sample, IV insertion, and EKG test later, after my vitals were checked and paperwork signed, I waited in my corner hospital bed with my mom and boyfriend until they came for me. At this point I just wanted to get it over with.

And then, it was time. I ignored the way my voice cracked when I said, “I love you,” to mom as they wheeled me out of the room and down the hall. I could not look at my mother. I knew she was already crying. Instead, I looked at my feet, took a deep breath and recalled many of the messages you guys had sent, along with the comments,  words of encouragement, prayers, and well wishes. I was still completely overwhelmed with all the support and love I’d received when I first revealed what’s been going on with my health. I knew everything was going to be fine.

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Before surgery.

 

As soon as I shifted onto the operating table, I was already feeling the anesthesia kick in. One of the male nurses said, “Are you a NASCAR fan?” I looked at him like he was drunk. Why was he asking me this now? “Um, not really,” I replied. “Why?”

“Well, you know when the car pulls in to the pit, and there’s a lot of people working really fast? That’s what we are going to do.” Suddenly, there were bodies in scrubs and face masks everywhere, grabbing things, moving around me, and then- blissful sleep.

When I woke up in the recovery room, I instantly knew something wasn’t right. Was it just my body adjusting to this foreign device? I was having spasms on my right side- it felt like being kicked in the stomach. I panicked, of course, because my breaths were coming out weird.  The nurse shouted for my doctor, and then there were three middle-aged men around my bed. One of them put his hand on my side to time out the pulses as the other recorded it on a machine. I (unfortunately) remember joking, “It’s because you’re all so handsome, it’s taking my breath away” or something cheesy of the sort.  (I was a little out of it, okay?!)

Anyway, they knew exactly what it was: One of the wires from the pacemaker was against a nerve that was pushing into my diaphragm. I would have to go right back in so they could redo it and move the pacemaker over. So, anesthesia took me off to dreamland once more.

After what I’m told was another hour and a half, I came out of surgery again. And I had the dreadful realization that I had to pee. Bad. I called for the nurse, and she brought over a bedpan. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

“Have you ever used one of these before?” she asked. I shook my head no. This was going to be interesting…

I still don’t really know how I did it, or managed not to spill it on myself or the bed. And then, I heard the best words: “Do you want me to bring your family back?”

Minutes later, my mom and boyfriend were in the room with me. Our reunion was brief, as they had to take me down for x-rays and other testing. “This is like a less fun roller coaster,” I said awkwardly as a nurse wheeled me away on the bed.

I don’t know if it’s then that reality set in, or if it was just the anesthesia wearing off, or a combination of the two, but they put me in a hallway next to two elderly men watching Judge Judy and it was miserable. It felt like I was stuck there for an eternity. Finally, I was all done and brought to a different room for out processing. They were letting me go home! I ate small bites of a turkey sandwich and cried when I saw these two enter the room.

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All done & waiting to go home.

*Side note: About .02 seconds after he took this picture, my boyfriend dropped his cell phone right on top of where the incision was made for my pacemaker. Ouch.

The rest of that night and the weekend basically consisted of me sleeping, throwing up, trying to eat, and not moving. I got very sick Saturday because of the pain medication, so I stopped taking it Sunday and felt less nauseous, but obviously was in more pain. I read poetry, watched movies, and ate Chinese food.

My mom had to help bathe me, as I couldn’t move my left arm or get the site wet. (I was advised not to raise my left arm above my head, make repetitive movements, or lift much for a month after.) How humbling that was… I’m 25, an adult. And here I was, not being able to do this on my own. We had to wash my hair in the kitchen sink. Monday afternoon was my first time leaving the apartment. Mom and I went to a couple stores and had lunch. She left later that evening and we both bawled. It was such a blessing having her there with me.

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The incision site a few days out.

 

It’s been two weeks, and all of the gauze and bandages are off. I am going for much longer walks, and I’m pretty much back to normal. I still keep my arm in a sling at times- just because for this next month I know I’m going to forget to not use it in the capacity I am used to.

I still get winded going up a flight of stairs, and I had to sit down in the middle of Wal-Mart while grocery shopping because I thought I was going to pass out, but the incision is healing nicely and I hope to be 100% in no time, and (hopefully) even running again.

Thank you again to everyone who wished me well and kept me in their thoughts. And a word of advice: be really, really nice to your mom and to nurses. You can’t imagine what they’ve done for you or what they may have to help you do in the future.

Oh, and find yourself a guy that will help blow dry your hair and put it in a ponytail even if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. You won’t know that kind of love until you’re shown it.

 

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The Beating From Within

As I sit here, I am still processing what has transpired over the past couple weeks… I debated sharing something so personal this publicly, but it is the easiest way to let my friends & family in and inform them.

As I mentioned in an earlier post here, there were several reasons why my presence on this blog has wavered recently, and the main reason is this:

On a Monday evening in late January, I passed out after getting out of the shower.  Fainting was never uncommon for me (as I have passed out maybe once or twice a year since high school), but back then it wasn’t made into a big deal. When it first happened, they took blood work to see if I was anemic, and I wasn’t. I didn’t really follow up, and neither did they. People fainted all the time, right? So, so what? It did not happen enough to interrupt my everyday life, and there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for what caused it in the first place.

But this Monday night was different. Luckily, this particular time, my boyfriend was there with me and witnessed the episode. (Usually, I am by myself.) He actually caught me before I hit the ground. From that point, he said I went into a seizure, and then stopped breathing. He immediately did CPR and within a couple breaths/pumps I was okay. When I finally came to, I knew where I was (lying on the bathroom floor) and could sit up.  We called my mom and told her what happened. The fainting was obviously familiar to me, but to stop breathing? Maybe he was mistaken. Maybe he was scared and just overreacted, I wondered. As I felt a little weak but otherwise fine, I went to bed and into work the next day.
Later on that next afternoon, I went to my doctor for a procedure. I passed out from the pain of the procedure- not much of a big surprise as pain can trigger fainting, but it took me a long time to recover and feel well enough to sit up. I could not do anything for nearly 20 minutes. They would not let me leave to go home alone, so I called a friend, Debra, to drive me home. However, after I told the doctors what happened to me the night before, they thought it best to go straight to the ER.

After taking my vitals, they did an EKG test and a CT scan on my head. Everything came back normal, but they still wanted me to see a cardiologist and follow up with my PCP. So I did that, more EKG tests, and had an echo cardiogram (ultrasound, basically) done on my heart. Again, everything was coming back normal. I was getting frustrated. Maybe nothing was seriously wrong, and we all just overreacted.


My cardiologist still wanted to do a tilt table test as a next step. During this, you are strapped to a table and moved slowly into an upright position. They monitor your heart rate and blood pressure and try to induce fainting so they can see what happens. I had this done on President’s Day, Feb. 15th. I passed out shortly into the test (a good thing, actually- otherwise they wouldn’t have found anything). But when I fainted, my heart stopped for 20 seconds. Because of this, my doctor recommended a pacemaker. He said that my blood pressure is fine, and normally my heart is fine, but when I faint, there’s something that is not sending the signal to my heart to keep beating. It is a necessary precaution.

As you can imagine, I was in shock. I am 25 years old, with a completely healthy heart. Pacemakers, I thought, were for the elderly and people with severe heart conditions. And then the realizations hit me in waves. I’m in the middle of training for the full marathon on May 1st, so I have to stop running? I was working so hard to accomplish that, and had wanted to cross that finish line so badly… And for travel, can I still go through metal detectors? How will this limit me? I know I’ll have a visible scar spreading across my chest someday in my wedding dress. The thought of something being planted inside my body to keep me alive freaked me out, and as I am writing this I am still scared, but I’ve decided I am ready to take it on. My health is not something I am willing to gamble with. Pacemakers have been around for many years, and in my condition, the potential benefits outweigh the risks. My doctors are incredible, and my family & friends have been wonderful.

So, after a second opinion and a lot of thought, I have agreed to get a pacemaker, and will undergo surgery this week.

Since coming back from Minneapolis, reality has begun to set in. I can no longer push this to the back of my mind, but I still have tried my best. Last night,  I attended PostSecret: The Show in Cleveland. (You can learn more about PostSecret here.) It is something that has always been close to my heart ever since I discovered it. We made a last minute decision to go, despite how tired we’d be (especially thanks to Daylight Saving Time) and how big of a week I had to prepare for. Since I will be cooped up in my apartment recovering, I want to do as much as I can before the surgery.

In the bathroom at the theater, there were post-it notes decorating the walls and lining the mirrors and stalls, exposing secrets of strangers.

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Some were funny, some haunting, some sad. What I love about this is that it is okay to be vulnerable- we all are. And yet, we are all in this together.

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You never know what someone is going through. You also don’t realize sometimes how blessed you are. I am nervous for Friday, and that’s okay. I’m allowed to be. And while I could easily sit here and feel sorry for myself that this is happening to me and that I can’t run the race I’ve been training for, I’m lucky to have run at all, and to have the chance to keep going.

In closing, while I don’t know how a pacemaker may or may not change my life, I know if it is what I need to do, then I have to get it, even if it seems unfathomable at 25.

My surgery is scheduled for this Friday, March 18th. Four days from today. It’s simple and I’m sure to be successful, but I’d appreciate your prayers nevertheless. They’ll keep me overnight, and I’ll be released the next day if all is well. Some people have asked, and yes, of course- I’m dreading it. I don’t do well with hospitals, IV’s, any of that. There’s no guarantee that this will even work, and I have to be aware of that fact.  My amazing mama is coming down to stay with me for a couple days, as I’ll be out of work for some time. I will do my best to give an update when I’m feeling better, but this is probably the last I will write for a while.

 

Before signing off, I want to give a tremendous thank you to both my boyfriend and especially my wonderful parents, who take such great care of me and help me always. I love you more than you’ll ever know. 

I’ll see you guys soon.

 

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Salt

My poem “Salt” was picked up by Construction magazine & published in their 2016 Winter Issue, which was released today.

 

You can check it out here and read below:

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Salt

 

I will eat paella and pan con tomate until I die, if you want me to,

salt clawing and clutching corners of my mouth
like your newborn child’s tiny hands around her mother’s finger.

But we don’t speak about it in the kitchen. We let infidelity churn
in wedding pots and knead curved skin like bread dough.

We savor a kiss. You feed it to me in spoonfuls, in haste
and wipe the edges neatly with your napkin before you go.

Your apron is burned in the morning. I do not ask why.

 

 

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Prose Before Bros

Yes, I said it.

I thought I was in love when I kissed my first crush, Seth, on the cheek when I was seven. We were behind a tree during a family camping retreat for the Boy Scouts, which both he and my brother were part of. (Smart girl-learning to break hearts at a young age.)

…But it wasn’t exactly a fairy tale ending.  He immediately straightened his glasses, gave me a weird look, and ran away. We didn’t speak after that. But that’s okay, because I learned a different love- escaping with a book instead of chasing boys.

Since then, writers from Sylvia Plath to J.K. Rowling paved the way for my love of literature. Teachers from elementary school to college classes taught me to create my own by nurturing and guiding my craft. I couldn’t ever explain it, but words empowered me. I mean, who needs a man when you’ve got countless characters to fall in love with? There was nothing quite like losing myself entirely in a story, or better yet, discovering myself between its pages in the process. And when I wrote? Indescribable. It was like I held the power. Let’s get real here- The last lines of Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus are a perfect example.

“Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”

Come onnnnn. It still gives me chills! But somewhere between that first kiss to writing poetry in my bedroom to getting my first apartment, I lost touch with the paper and pen. When I wrote in college, it was only for an assignment. I stopped reading for pleasure altogether. In fact, I stopped reading. I skimmed, or would use Google. And I definitely couldn’t remember the last time I sat down to write for me. I was caught up in relationships and social life,  and then just trying to get a job like most college grads. Then I got a job and an apartment, and was trying to figure out happiness and paying the bills but still traveling, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know.) When I finally wrote again, it was hard. It sucked. I wasted years not reading and writing, and all I could see was how far behind I was.

Which brings me to the here and now. I created this blog to keep writing, and as a place to bring my stories of travel. I joined a writing class. I’ve been submitting my work.

I delayed posting until this week because I was waiting to hear whether or not I got accepted to the 2016 Sigma Tau Delta’s International Convention, and I am THRILLED to announce that I received the e-mail last night.

So hold on. What exactly is Sigma Tau Delta, you may ask? First off, it is not a sorority. It also isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. Although that is, in fact, what the acronym implies. Ha. STD is an International English Honor Society.  (And yes, believe me, we tried to get “Prose Before Bros” or “STD: Gotta read ’em all!” as our T-shirt sayings, but it didn’t stand a chance against administration.)

I joined Sigma Tau Delta in 2010, and, in my junior year of college, presented at the 2011 Convention March 23-26th in Pittsburgh, PA (shown below). The convention theme was “Beyond Words.”

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With friends Samantha and Laura, exploring the ‘burgh and attending presentations (below).

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Practice makes perfect!

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I presented an original poem, “Discoloration” which I wrote about my father.

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 A year later in 2012,  I had the time of my life at the convention, which was held in New Orleans, LA from February 29-March 3. The convention theme that year was “Reawaken.” New Orleans was a beautiful city, and I heard such beautiful writing in the sessions I attended. I was a senior in college then, and even now I am amazed by the memories I made there, from Bourbon Street to friendships I stumbled into. I hope to go back someday.  I’m still craving beignets from Café du Monde…

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Some classmates/fellow STD members with our professor, Dr. Andrew Ade (above) and below at the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Convention Awards.

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I told you I take eating seriously.

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Presenting poetry from my collection “The Art of Baptizing.”

Now, it has been over three years since I graduated college. I rediscovered Sigma Tau Delta recently and joined the Alumni Epsilon Chapter. Shortly thereafter, I realized I could still submit, and if accepted, present at the convention. Naturally, I was stoked and submitted as soon as I could pull something together. I have been racking my brain waiting these past couple months to see whether or not I would be accepted. Seriously. Not knowing was brutal, and so was trying to prepare myself for rejection.

But, this has a fairy tale ending after all. I am so happy to announce that this year, I am one of 24 Sigma Tau Delta alumni that will present at the convention in Minneapolis, MN from March 2-5, 2016. The convention theme is “Finding Home.” I will be reading ten poems from my collection “From This Side of the Sun.”

Are there any other Sigma Tau Delta members out there? Would love to connect with you!

 

Stay classy readers,

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P.S. I went to Minnesota when I was younger and all I remember is the Mall of America. What is at the top of your list for things to see & do in the City of Lakes?
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God, Good Hair Days & Gravy

All things I am thankful for.

Corny title, I know. Hope it had you rolling. Okay, I butter stop.

That was terrible, I’m sorry. Please (pretty please, with sugar on top) keep reading…

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I read somewhere that a way to turn our attitudes around and find happiness is to focus on having a heart full of gratitude- thinking about all the things that we have, instead of what we don’t.

I know (in light of this holiday) you’ve probably seen enough of this on your social media outlets today, but it’s important for me to write this list, and it serves as a reminder for me to look at when I’m feeling crappy.

So, in no particular order, here are 30 things I am thankful for:

1. To be alive. In light of recent events in the world, I’ve seen how quick life can be taken away, and it is unfortunately what many of us take for granted the most. Remember, life only sucks some of the time.

2. My parents. I was blessed with two hardworking, supporting parents who have always put me first and sacrificed so much just so I could have the things they didn’t. They have always believed in me. I will always be indebted to them, and will always love them more than anything.

3. Friendships, whether past or present. The past couple years I have focused so much on the friendships that have dissolved or people that have shown their true selves, but it caused me to 1. Forget that those people came into my life and left for a reason, and 2. neglect the friends that had been there all along. To have one true friend is better than ten fake ones. Whether they are cities, states, or countries away, they have helped shape me into who I am today. (Thank you all, and I know I need to call more often!)

4. Sounds funny- but me- this slow journey of self- love that I’m on. Being able to rely on myself, get to know myself, reinvent myself and how I see the reflection in the mirror.

5. My health. This past year I’ve had two surgeries that made me rethink how fortunate I am to have the ability to do simple things like eating or walking without pain or discomfort. Your health is really everything.

6. Running. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. But it has been the driving force behind becoming the stronger version of myself this past year. I have pushed past the limits I set on myself, and came to understand I have none.

7. This blog. It has forced me to be vulnerable and transparent with my life, my feelings, and my words, and held me accountable for actively writing and relaying experiences of my life. I know it has been a big step in the right direction for me.

8. Discovering a community of writers in the Madwomen in the Attic classes.

9. My niece. Because she is so sweet and chubby and the only baby I’ve ever really liked. Because she is a new family member to love. And of course, my brother and sister-in-law are in this category as well 🙂

10. My job. I work at a  wonderful university where I am surrounded by brilliant individuals, and it also gives me a paycheck and benefits. Really can’t complain.

11. My apartment. Sure, it blows coughing up that much $$$ every month, but I have a roof over my head (though it sometimes leaks) and a little corner of the universe to decorate and be as pantsless as I like.

12. Traveling. This is no secret. ‘Nuff said.

13. My education. I will admit that 75% of the stuff I studied for I have already forgotten, but at least I had the opportunity to sit in a classroom and learn.

14. My hometown. Everyone has some sort of love/hate relationship with where they grew up, but for me, it gave me the comfort of community and the peace from driving down back roads.

15. Public transportation (weird, I know) for letting me not demonstrate to the world what a terrible driver I am- especially when it is winter, and when it is not. I don’t worry about getting myself to & from work safely, or parking, or, paying for parking, etc.

16. Wearing my heart on my sleeve. Because it means I am like my mother, and she is warm but can rage with fire, and I love that- regardless if I am labeled emotional or too sensitive because of it.

17. Chocolate, because without it I would be a miserable bitch.

18. Technology, so I can Skype or call my friends/relatives whenever I am not near them.

19. Community, whether it be other students, coworkers, friends, extended family, even kind strangers- from small acts of service to taking me in as their own, and always making sure I am well fed…(as if I’d pass up on any food, ever.)

20. My grandparents, because they’re so cute and have shown me what true love is. (Or just that it is possible to put up with someone 60+ years of your life.)

21. Music, for getting me through my teenage years. Literally.

22. Books, for letting me lose myself in their pages and revealing my love for reading and writing.

23. CHAPSTICK. I own over 300 tubes of lip gloss, probably. No, really, someone should count them all.

24. My teachers, other adults (friends, coaches, employers, coworkers, etc.) in my life who have significantly shaped and guided me through whatever rough waters I was facing. Often, we don’t realize it until we’ve moved on.

25. My setbacks. I’ve felt heartbreak, but it lead me to someone better. I faced rejection letters from literary magazines, but it fueled my desire to try harder. Everything- friendships that fell apart, prayers that weren’t answered, “WHY ME??” moments in my life- were all preparing me for something greater.

26. Carbohydrates. Do I really need to elaborate?

27. Humor, without it life would be so dull.

28. Blankets, fuzzy socks, oversize sweaters- things that are cozy and soft.

29. Warm weather, because then I can be barefoot and sun kissed and in a better mood.

30. Sheetz, because it was love at first bite and it’s always welcoming me no matter what the hour.

 

P.S. I really tried to refrain from listing all foods. It was much harder than I thought.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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Lesson of the Weak

These past couple weeks, I am struggling with self-love. I am learning to set boundaries, and what I can and cannot accept. Learning that it is all part of the struggle…

 

Struggling to feel beautiful, when a surgery on my mouth has left my face swollen and bruised.

Struggling to keep healthy, when the pain killers are causing waves of nausea that leave me doubled over on the bathroom floor.

Struggling to deal with ghosts, people and things that I cannot continue to keep in the past.

Struggling with homesickness, knowing that when I go home, it isn’t the same as it once was.

Struggling with distance, and the many spaces it puts between my family.

Struggling with money, knowing that it is the cause of so many problems, and how it shouldn’t be.

Struggling with time, wishing it away for the next big thing, and in the same breath, wanting it to slow down.

Struggling with standing up for myself, when I can’t do so without apologizing or explaining.

Struggling with friendships, to let go of those that have dissolved or no longer serve me.

Struggling with the definition of womanhood, with the looks I receive when I say I do not desire children.

Struggling with balance, of always being present but planning for the future.

Struggling with work, of paving the way to my dreams, or letting them pass me by.

Struggling with saying no, because it would mean admitting defeat and weakness.

Struggling with saying yes, because it could bring the unknown.

Struggling with death, what to take from it when it takes so much from us.

Struggling with change, how to channel the energy into the things I can control.

Struggling with worry, that robs my days and nights of happiness.

Struggling with peace, and how we will have to create it out of nothing if we cannot find it in this world.

Struggling with my mind, to put anxiety to sleep when it is the culprit of my lack thereof.

Struggling with acceptance, realizing that not everyone will see your heart the way you do.

 

These struggles, among others, will continue to be there the next 25 years of my life and more, in a larger capacity, with deeper cuts, and in more complex ways.

I believe that the most difficult struggle is not these things against me, but myself. For me to convince myself these small battles mean nothing on the war I’m waging. That to believe feeling everything so deeply does not mean I am weak, or insecure. That I do not have to apologize for my thoughts, or anchor my heart where it is not meant to be. And to stay true to who I am, when I am sometimes not sure who that even is. None of us have

 

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Unbreakable Bonds

During the past two years since I lived with them in Spain, Jordi (my “host father”) and I had stayed in touch here and there, enough to learn that he finally quit his demanding job at the restaurant, and that he and Roser had separated not even six months after I left. The news hit me hard. I was shocked, as I had seen no sign of it coming, and it was personal, as if they were my own parents. My heart broke for the children. Fortunately, my real parents are still together after many, many years of marriage, so I never had to deal with divorce. I tried to find the words to say, but faltered.

So, after entirely too much time, I finally created a photobook for the kids and shipped it to them in Blanes. I was hoping to preserve our memories together into something tangible, and perhaps provide a joyful distraction.

Here is the picture Jordi sent me of them last week upon getting it in the mail:

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I can’t explain what this means to me. Look at how big they are! I had hoped they even remembered me, with Adrià being 3 and Mar, 5, when I was with them.

There is a bond that love creates, and ties us together, and once you’ve felt that connection, you are never the same. Today, I am thankful for these unbreakable bonds of friendship and family. And, cue the tears.

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