So Much Love

Valentine’s Day takes on various meanings depending on who you talk to, I’ve learned. For me, when I was dating my husband, it meant so much and if he wouldn’t have recognized the day in some way there would’ve been a few tears shed and some unanswered calls. Good thing for him, I could always be swooned by a sweet card. But now, with two kids in tow, V-Day is just another day for my husband and me to recognize how much love we have for each other, for our boys, for our family, and for all we have celebrated in our lives together. And because this Valentine’s Day 2021 is coinciding with a historic deep freeze that has taken the whole state of Texas hostage, I have had lots of time to reflect on everything I love and want to love forever. So, this is my shoutout to all things-LOVE:

1. I love that much of my life involves my husband in one way, shape, or form and we have such a great, storybook-like history and romance. And, we celebrate a day even grander in February than V-Day and that is our wedding anniversary.

2. I love that Nico just had the BEST haircut experience, to date, this weekend and not only does he look so handsome, but we have video to prove how much progress he has made these last five years.

3. I love that my Max eats Valentine’s Day treats so at least one of my kids will enjoy cookies and sweets when family and friends drop them off. Nico isn’t quite there yet, but slap a heart sticker on a box of Goldfish crackers and he’ll be swooning too.

4. I love that my dad still finds joy in buying Valentine’s Day cards and now he can buy them for his grandsons and fill them with little goodies for their piggy banks.

5. I love that I no longer feel the pressure to get dressed up and wait for hours for a dinner reservation when my husband is just as excited to have a home-cooked meal and a great bottle of wine at home.

6. I love being able to dress the boys up in red; they look so good in it with their dark hair and brown eyes. I know…I’m biased.

7. I love that I’ve always bought my Nico books for V-Day and he would memorize them cover to cover after I would read to him, but now when he gets a book he can actually read it to me…all by himself!

8. I love waking up on Valentine’s Day knowing that my husband is going to be a bit more charming, just to be on the safe side, since it is the day of all days to show the mother of his children (who endured countless hours of labor with one and a painful C-section with the other) lots of love and affection, especially since he is obsessed with his boys and did I mention he got his BOYS? #itsrainingmen #boysmom

9. I love all the social media posts from my friends and family showcasing love for their significant others. It’s nice to be witness to all that genuine love.

10. I love that my Mom loved to bake because Valentine’s Day always give me the best reason to bake up a storm. This year I went for a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

11. I love the friendship that Nico and Max are building and how it seems to be growing Nico’s language in miraculous ways. It still blows my mind every time I hear Nico say, “Max is up…let’s go get Max” or any other full sentence he says all on his own without any prompting.

12. I love the way both my boys’ eyes light up each time they smile and how I can see my Mom shining through in these briefs moments. They may look like their daddy, with eyes I can get lost in, but those smiles are reserved just for me and are a sign that she’s always with me.

13. I love that my boys are surrounded by such tremendous love. They see it and feel it and know exactly what it is. My boys know who love them because those people are the ones who always show up for them no matter what.

14. I love that my boys know how to show love. They express it and accept it unconditionally. I was worried when Nico was diagnosed with Autism that he wouldn’t like affection or know how to express love, but that couldn’t be further from our reality. Nico shows love everyday and because he does it so well so does Max. Max adores his big brother and their bond has certainly grown in these quarantined times.

Valentine’s Day 2021 will be one of love, lounging, lasagna, and libations. Cheers to love! ❤️

For All the Firsts

I have been very antsy as of late. Christmas is less than a week away and although I have been done with my shopping for awhile now, I am still unsettled. Normally, in the past, it was because I knew that Christmas Day wouldn’t be as magical for Nico as it was for other children, or even for my husband and me for that matter. Nico never truly understood that Santa brought these amazing gifts for him and laid them under the tree, pristinely wrapped with such care, and so waking up on this day lost a bit of its luster once Nico began his journey through the world of Autism.

He didn’t pay attention to the presents under the tree just waiting for him, nor would he rush to open all of his other gifts when everyone was doling them out at our family gatherings. He was content to just play in a corner somewhere with his little knickknacks in his own world. Meanwhile, his father and I were holding back tears and silently envying every other family whose children were ever present in these special Christmas moments with each other. It was these early Christmases after Nico’s diagnosis that made me miss my mom so deeply….all over again. I clung to this idea for so long that if maybe she was still here with us that she would have the magic touch and could transform Nico’s interest for Christmas into something magical like she always was able to do for her own children.

But, fast forward to today and Nico has grown tremendously. He understands who Santa is and that he is a special man that helps bring joy during Christmas. He also has begun to understand that the gifts under the tree have something to do with him. In these last two years, Nico has been more present with us during Christmas. He has opened gifts with eager anticipation and cheered when he or anyone around him has received a gift that was really wanted. Choosing the right gifts for Nico is a totally different story, but when it happens it’s like your life has been made because his eyes just explode with excitement and he tends to use so much appropriate language in those moments.

So, I know that the gifts he will receive this year from Santa will surely evoke the same giddy exhilaration, but I am now dealing with all new feelings of angst and discontent. And, I have been wracking my brain to determine why I can’t shake these feelings other than for the obvious reason…this awful pandemic has stripped so much of the typical joy and festivity from the holiday season. I have come to terms with the fact that there will be no large family gatherings and we won’t be opening gifts together with our family. I won’t be making a lavish Christmas dinner in my own home since we are still residing in a rental while ours is on the mend. I have reconciled with all of this, but I think what is truly affecting me this year are overwhelming feelings of sympathy, empathy and heartache.

This year has put my family through the ringer and has definitely had me longing for my mother in a way I haven’t felt in awhile, that’s for sure. But, it has also opened my eyes and heart to the thousands upon thousands of others who will be having their first Christmases without loved ones. Loved ones stolen away by this merciless virus. My newsfeed is taken over by countless stories of unimaginable loss everyday and it isn’t letting up. The deep heartache these poor, grieving families must be feeling coupled with knowing that they may not even be able to gather with their other family members for fear of compounding this loss with even more senseless loss.

The first Christmas, the first New Year’s Day, the first everything. I know these feelings of loss and longing all too well so I am here to let you know that if you are experiencing the first of many “firsts” without a parent, grandparent, child, spouse, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, or significant other…your loss is not in vain.

Your loss is reverberating across this country through every doctor and nurse who couldn’t save their patients or allow for family to say their goodbyes face-to-face.

Your loss is being felt every time someone turns on the television and is faced with the growing number of cases and increasing mortality rate.

Your loss is being felt every time someone with pure ignorance in their heart decides to walk around carelessly without a mask.

Your loss is being felt by anyone and everyone who has lost loved ones this year or in years past and longs for their presence, touch, or voice just one more time, especially around the holidays.

Everything about 2020 has brought about so much angst, frustration, anger, disappointment, and heartache, but if there is one thing I would ask you to cling to it’s this: You are NOT alone.

You truly are not alone in what you are experiencing and I don’t think there have been more than a few times in our history where, as a nation…hell, as a world, we could say just that and really mean it. So, if you can find it in yourself to pull any kind of silver lining out of your grief this Christmas let it be this universal sense of sympathy and empathy that is absolutely rippling across the world right now.

My mom has been gone for 23 years and, although I miss her everyday, time does help with mending broken hearts and finding a sense of normalcy again. It doesn’t come without a lot of tears, a need for constant embrace, an ear to listen, and words of encouragement though.

And, since this year has been so unconventional and is causing me to think of how much I wish my mother was here, I have even thought about doing something radical like jumping in my car with my boys, big and little, and just traveling to a place where we can forget all about the sorrows and struggles we’ve faced this year. We can enjoy a complete change of scenery—since nothing about this Christmas fits the norm anyway—and just recharge our mental and emotional batteries, make new, fun memories, and ring in the new year on a high note.

I encourage you to consider doing the same thing! Be bold, be brave, and create a journey of healing for yourself that will allow you to grieve, but also allow you to reflect, remember, and make new memories that can be used to help these “firsts” sting a little less.

Remember…grief has no expiration date. Feel all your feelings, but don’t feel afraid or guilty to laugh or smile or seek a bit of merriment right now. Don’t let this pandemic steal everything from you.

So, please accept this post as a call to action, a shoulder to cry on, a warm embrace, a listening ear, or the encouraging words you may need right now to get you through the next minute, hour, day, week, or month as you grieve these “firsts.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a very Happy New Year as we kick 2020 the hell out of here and ring in 2021 with renewed hope! And, may your loved ones Rest In Peace.

Searching for Thanks

I was always taught to be thankful for all that I had. My parents taught me the art of appreciation early and it was something that was ever present in our home. So it was no surprise that one of Nico’s first ever phrases was “thank you.” He may not have been able to say much (and still can’t), but he knew that whatever he was given he must be thankful for it.

Nico says “thank you” every day. He knows to say it every time he is assisted or given something. It may be one of the few things he can say, but it puts a smile on my face each time I hear it because he understands he has a lot to be thankful for (even if I still feel like he deserves infinitely more than I could ever give him). The hilarious thing is…he also definitely knows how to say “no thanks” whenever he is disinterested in hearing what I have to say, when I offer him any food or drink other than his staples– goldfish crackers or his favorite juice, or when he doesn’t want to do something. “Thanks” is certainly something of which my son has a firm grasp.

But, this year has really tested MY ability to be thankful. I hate to even say that because I do have so much to be thankful for and I know that; however, the hits my family has taken coupled with all that this pandemic has done to Nico’s progress has had me searching long and hard for thanks in every corner of my home and heart.

So, as I sat back and reflected on this year’s Thanksgiving aka “Thirsty Thursday” (as my cousin and I had decided to affectionately rename it in protest) and racked my brain for all of the things that I knew I should be thankful for (with my ___th glass of wine in hand) I decided to, instead, send some happiness and thanks out to those who may have also found it hard to be thankful this year as they battle a case of the “2020s.” Here you go!

Happy “Thangstgiving” …

  • to anyone who woke up on Thanksgiving and felt no sense of urgency to prep, cook, host, or be social due to it just not feeling like Thanksgiving this year. I feel you.
  • to anyone grieving the loss of loved ones, especially those who were taken way too soon by this merciless virus. I’m grieving with you.
  • to anyone who chose to socially distance instead of gather for the holiday and have faced criticism or backlash. I appreciate you.
  • to anyone who is feeling lonely and detached from everything and everyone due to this awful pandemic. I am here for you.
  • to anyone who secretly liked not having to gather up for the holiday because of being a homebody or because it’s hard to manage and causes anxiety. I know someone just like you.
  • to anyone who chose to keep Thanksgiving small and casual with just the people in your home. I commend you.
  • to anyone who is missing family and friends terribly and was hoping the holidays would finally allow for togetherness. I completely empathize with you.
  • to anyone who decided to start new holiday traditions in an effort to stay positive. I may have to follow your lead (just a few days late).
  • to anyone who said the hell with making a turkey and went rogue with their menu. I think you’re a badass.
  • to anyone who chose to gather with family and friends, but wore a mask and/or sat six feet apart. I applaud you.
  • to anyone who planned a Zoom Thanksgiving or FaceTime Feast so it felt like you were all dining as one big happy family. I think you’re awesome.
  • to anyone who is praying for this year to be over and taking it one day at a time. I have you beat..I’m taking it one hour at a time.
  • to anyone who needs a virtual hug, elbow bump, air high-five, and some extra lovin’. I am sending all of it your way.
  • to anyone who accepts that this year looks and feels different, but knows that better days are coming. I know you’re right.

I know I am not alone in my feelings of disappointment, angst, and despair when it comes to how this year has treated many of us. You can’t turn on the television without seeing the abysmal statistics and personal stories of heartache. But, better days are upon us. I can feel it. We just have to cling to everyone and everything that give us strength and hope and keep us thankful.

My boys, big and small are doing that for me. My Nico and the little triumphs he is making throughout this precarious virtual school year are what keep me upbeat. Knowing he is connecting with his baby brother more and more each day is proof that even in the midst of dire straights and endless challenges there is always something to be thankful for. This pandemic has given us the gift of time which is what my Nico lives by…his own time. And, the time I’ve had with my husband to reflect on the enormity of our struggles this year; yet, still stay focused on getting back on track and back in our (rebuilt) home. I am immensely thankful for that.

As we countdown to Christmas and the new year ahead, I hope that despair and frustration make way for resilience and renewal, which will allow for greater ease in finding things to be thankful for in the months to come. 2021 is just around the corner and I hope it ushers in health, harmony, and prosperity for all of us. It’s got a strong head start with all the glass that’s been shattered, that’s for sure. Don’t forget to wear shoes, my ladies! 👠