We Remember… 9/11/01

Last summer, I visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time. Actually experiencing being there was nothing short of amazing- seeing all the names of those we lost, my fingertips gently grazing some of their names while I was silently saying prayers for each of them, hearing the peacefulness and tranquility of the waterfalls; feeling the same emotions strike me that I felt that day -maybe even a tad bit harder by actually being there. I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that people had died right where I was standing, that the streets I was walking through to get there were the same streets that people were running for their lives- struggling to see, to breathe, to live…

These were the very same streets that the Heroes of New York were heading in the opposite direction, towards the buildings, towards the fires, towards the thousands of people who needed them and were counting on them. I cannot even fathom the anguish, the fear, the hopelessness that almost 3000 people felt that day right before they died; the unbearable pain and suffering that their families and friends endured- that they still endure.

Unimaginable.

I was pregnant with my son when I was there last year and I can remember having the painful realization that he was going to learn about 9/11 in a future History class. His generation and the generations to come will not know how each of us felt that fateful day, how we can all remember exactly what we were doing when we heard, how we all ran to put on the news and sat there numb, speechless, paralyzed while we witnessed the 2nd plane hit.

At the time, I was a somewhat sheltered 20-yr-old suburban college student whose biggest problem was what major I was going to declare and which party to attend the following Saturday night. Reality hit me in the face like a ton of bricks- panic slowly setting in with the realization that there are terrifying people in this world who hate America, who hate the Freedom that we stand for, who want to destroy us.

They didn’t though. They deeply wounded us, left us with abysmal scars, whipped us into a cold, hard, dark reality check- there is absolutely no denying that. They knocked us off our hinges for a long while, but we did not break. We did not crumble. United We Stand, strongly and proudly, as we remember those that we lost 13 years ago today. I know all of us live busy, hectic lives but remember to take a minute out of your day today and say a prayer to those that we lost.

Let them know that we remember, and that we will never ever forget…

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The Complications of Love

I wrote this piece 15 years ago and a lot of it still rings true. Though only 19, I seemed to have a lot of opinions on love at the time. Some of it I read now and shake my head, thinking ” you know nothing, little girl” but some of it, I don’t know, I think I captured some real and honest feelings that people feel but don’t come out and say. It’s interesting to think about it regardless, and isn’t that really the point?

The Complications of Love

There are many things I have figured out about love over the past few years. Some I’d like to forget but can’t, and some I hope to never forget but probably will. Life’s funny that way. One thing I know for sure is that love is something we will never figure out completely.

I’ve learned that when two people love each other, one of the two always loves the other more.

I’ve learned that sometimes even when you love someone, there can be someone else in the picture- whether they’re from the past but still engraved in your heart, or in your present- you know- the new guy who magically appears just when  you thought you were quite happy and devoted to your one true love, or the someone else could also be a hypothetical representation of a future;  a feeling that there is something or someone better out there.

I’ve learned that you always go for the one that could do you the most harm. It’s almost twisted and self-destructive. Because wouldn’t it be safer and simpler to go with the one who you know would do anything for you and would love you unconditionally? Sure it would, but there’s no challenge in it. It’s too easy, too boring, and too normal for your taste.

I’ve learned that sometimes in a relationship, the tables turn, and you feel like your world has also turned because before, you had the upper hand, but then it changed out of nowhere, and you are the one whose jaw is left flapping, and you learned too late that what goes around, will always come around.

I’ve learned that you can think your world will stop spinning if your true love left you, that you would die without them. But in the end, you’re still here, and your world is still spinning, and you’re still breathing, and then miraculously, that one you thought you couldn’t live without becomes a memory of a past you can’t even imagine being in now. The person you thought was your whole life becomes someone you hardly think about.

I’ve learned that everyone cheats at some point, whether it’s physical or emotional. You don’t have to be intimate with someone else to make it cheating, that’s the way society may see it but it doesn’t technically have to be true. I also think it could be a way of cheating with your heart, so to speak, when you share a certain glance or when you even think about someone else as a what-if scenario.

I’ve learned that love fools many people; blinds them, hurts them, scars them, even paralyzes them with fear. I’ve learned getting hurt emotionally is a fear that everyone in this world shares and everyone in this world will get their heart broken at least once. What many people don’t realize is that a broken heart will mend in time, just like a broken arm or a leg.  Nothing stays broken forever, it can always be fixed somehow.

I’ve learned that life will go on, that love will come again, and that our worlds will always keep on spinning. Hurt or happy, you’ll always overcome the one thing you thought you never could.

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The Emptiness in Me

It’s interesting to read back on something I wrote when I was 19; so young and so long ago,  yet what I’m describing in this piece is exactly the kind of love that I found with my husband. I guess I really knew what I wanted, even back then.

The Emptiness in Me

I can feel the emptiness in me, swallowing me, devouring me, even though I know it like you know your own hand, even though I feel it like you feel the softness of cotton.

But the emptiness in me is not an enemy, but an ally in this never-ending maze that I call my life, but what others would call my imagination. It is not bad, it’s almost good, because it has a desire of it’s own to be filled, to be awakened, to make me whole.

It’s intentions is not to make me miserable, like I am, like I continue to be, but to find me- to define me, for I am lost even though I know my way but am incapable of leading myself to my own utopia.

I want to love. I want to be loved, yet I want to be able to handle it, to be able to love with my eyes open, with my mind intact. Because to fall in love, is to fall. If you are falling for someone, the doom destined for you was right there in the start, obvious in the very cliché that is repeated time after time, but others are too blinded to see, to recognize the saying for what it really is. Their eyes were closed and they let themselves fall to their own doom.

So I don’t wish to fall in love, but to be simply placed in it, with my eyes open, with both feet secure on the ground, not naively swept away. So that I may still know myself and not lose my identity. Not lose myself by looking in some guy’s eyes and watch myself slowly diminishing before them.

So that I may still know myself, and maybe know myself more- through the eyes of my love that sees me as beautiful, through the heart of the one who loves me for me, through the hands of the one whom I let touch me- here- deep within me, and not be afraid that those hands will scar the very insides I handed him without a second glance, through the mind of the one that matches my own intellectual mind so that we may sit for hours and discuss the concept of everything and nothing and never be bored with it, through the faith that I will learn to develop in him, and in myself, and in us, through the smile upon my lips in which he formed, and through the light in my eyes in which he restored from when I was a child; so happy. So purely and innocently happy.

That is when I shall know myself – That is when I shall love, and until that day comes, I’ll sit here and try to forgive the emptiness in me that causes my misery and causes me to dwell in it. For I’ll remember it is an ally, and silently and calmly await the day when the white flag rises, and I surrender to the kind of love I have never known, but always, always secretly longed for.

 

 

 

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Small Town Girl

GetAttachment88      This Labor day weekend and every other labor day weekend for 33 years, I have attended the Taste of Melrose Park. I was there earlier today, and I was so happy to be able to bring my son Matteo to his first Taste and it got me thinking how much I love being a small town girl and how much my hometown will always be a part of me. Melrose Park is a small suburb of Chicago where I was born and raised. Though I do not live there anymore, I will never forget where I’m from. It is the same for many of my childhood friends as well. No matter where we are in life, how far away we move, how successful we become, how big our families grow, we still find our way back to Melrose. It is, after all, our own personal Cheers, the place you want to go where everybody knows your name. Big cities have their glamour and their shine, but the charm a small town depicts is impossible to beat.

The Taste is a fest where all the food is 3 dollars or less and it is absolutely free to get in. Not many fests are still free of charge, and not many have food this good or this cheap. It has music, rides, arts and crafts,  and some of the best food around.  It’s a place I come every year to see friends and family that I have known all of my life. Everyone has grown up, moved away, have their own families now, have huge careers, etc. but the Taste is a time where everyone we grew up with goes back to where it all began.  It is always nice to catch up, to see familiar faces, find out what everyone is up to, get to see everyone’s kids and how they are growing, and of course, we do it all while eating some mouth-watering delicious food.

When I was growing up, everything at the Taste was 1 dollar, including the roses that the neighborhood boys used to buy to hand out to the girl they were crushing on at the time. The girls would collect roses and it would become a friendly competition to see how many roses you ended up with at the end of the night. If your crush gave you a rose, it sent butterflies to your stomach and sent you giggling with your girlfriends in the corner. It was the most innocent and sweetest tradition and one  that I will never forget. It was a romantic act that displayed the boys being chivalrous at a very young age and the girls feeling admired and courted and wooed. All my girlfriends and I had to look our absolute best for this weekend each year. While most kids were going shopping for back-to-school clothes, we were scrounging together our saved-up  money to buy the cutest outfits for the Taste each year.

The town just has a special place in all of our hearts, and many outsiders will never understand it. It’s a place that just will always feel like home. Though I moved out of town almost 9 years ago, I still got married in the church there, the same church that my parents were married and that my grandparents were married.  I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s amazing.  I still baptized my child there a few months ago, where my siblings and I were also baptized. There’s honor in that. There’s value in that to me. To be a part of a small town like that, to have been lucky enough to create the childhood memories we all had together and still get to see each other at least once a year is a beautiful thing to me.

I am truly loving the life I have now, I am truly loving the town I live in now and the new memories I am creating while raising my family here,  but Melrose will always hold a special place deep within me  and no matter the distance away or how old I get,  I will always be a Melrose girl at heart.

 

 

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Just breathe

My worst enemy
My real life nightmare
My monster under the bed
Just breathe

The slow creep
The quiet takeover
The silent strangle
Just breathe

My throat begins to close
Breathe
My heart begins to pound
Just breathe
My fingers and toes go numb
Breathe
My body is covered with sweat
Please just breathe
My mind betrays me; starts believing the enemy

It comes without warning, without reason, without compassion
It knows no limits, has no restraint, has no loyalty
It just bluntly attacks
Breathe
Knocks you off your feet
Breathe
Holds your mind hostage
Breathe
Takes your breath away
Try-to-breathe
FIGHT
Never give in
Just breathe

It will not win
It will not defeat me
It will not take over
It will not kill me
I will be stronger
I will fight harder
It will not win
I choose to fight
I decide
I win
I-JUST-BREATHE

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Stay my baby

illloveyouforever4

Today my son is 6 months old. 6 months old. 6 months old. It sounds so foreign. It feels so unreal.  In the last month, Matteo now rolls over, has started to reach for me, is now eating fruits and vegetables, attempted his first sippy cup, and just yesterday, his two bottom teeth started poking through. Whaaaat?  I am his biggest cheerleader, celebrating and encouraging and hollering for each milestone, but that one sick part of me is saying Noooo! Waiiitttt! Stopppp! Don’t get any bigger. Stay my baby forever.

It’s already going by so fast. Now I know what all these mothers and fathers are always complaining about. My own father always told me one of the hardest things for him was when he realized I was getting too old to watch cartoons with him anymore on Saturday mornings, all snuggled up on the couch. I want to tell him I’ll watch cartoons with you, Daddy. I’m never too old. I’ll always be your baby.  Because now I know just how bittersweet it was for my parents to watch my brother, sister, and I grow up. The word ‘Bittersweet’ rings so fitting and so true to my newest Mommy Dilemma. I am extremely proud and amazed and happy that my son  is growing so fast, that he is so strong, that he is excelling beautifully. But I am so sad that some day soon, he won’t fit in my arms when I cradle him, he won’t hold tightly onto my fingers or stroke my face gently, or look up at me adoringly while I am feeding him his ba-ba.

There’s going to be a time that his eyes won’t light up when I walk into a room, a time when I won’t be the girl that puts the biggest smile on his face, a time where he won’t think every single word I say to him is so funny and interesting. There is going to be a time where he is going to be embarrassed by the millions of kisses I give to him each day and he is going to start to push me away. There is going to be a time when I can no longer dress him in all his cute outfits, no longer watch him splish splash and giggle his sweet baby giggle in the bathtub, no longer see his little legs and feet dance in delight as I come near him, no more mommy and Matteo reading time, no more morning selfies sent to Daddy each morning to brighten his work day, no more adoring looks of love that he sends my way no matter what he is doing, just to make sure I’m looking.

The way my son looks at me now is something I wish I could capture in a glass jar and treasure forever. I might not need that glass jar though. That mesmerized look, that twinkle  in my son’s eyes when he looks at me will be forever imprinted in my brain and engraved in my heart. It is something I could never forget. It makes me feel like no matter what else I have done in life, I have done at least one thing right.

The one piece of advice I would give any woman about to become a mother is to treasure every single moment you have with them because it really goes by in the blink of an eye. I feel like I was just in the hospital giving birth to this beautiful gift from God and now I am pulling down the 6 to 9 month clothes bin and staring at it in disbelief. Each day with Matteo is a new discovery, a new sound, a new object he favors, a new unveiling of one of the many pieces that will help mold him into the man he will one day become. ‘Man.’ My tiny little boy will one day be a man. Unfathomable. But maybe I will have loved him just right and cheered for him just right and  taught him just right so that he will be this incredible, loving, smart, loyal, and amazing man. And though I will be tremendously proud of that man, he will still always be my precious little baby to me.

 

 

 

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One Step Forward

” We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” FDR

Where does it fit? Do any of us really know where their puzzle piece of life truly belongs? Do we ever really know for sure if the path that we have taken was the one we were destined to follow?  How will we ever really know  if we don’t surrender to the fear of putting ourselves out there, of reaching for our dreams, of following the path less traveled?

Was it all written in my script that I was given when I took my first breath of this air that keeps whirling me around and around, leading me in so many directions. This direction: safe, secure, normal, content, cozy. That direction: Unknown, Wild, Dangerous, Terrifying. Maybe it’s just the journey, not the destination. I don’t think I know exactly. I just know I don’t want any walls prisoning me.  I just know that in order to really see or be seen, one has to remove the blinders; life’s distorted sunglasses that keep obstructing the desired vision.  Will I go the distance to the other side of the dark? Can my mountain of insecurities be overcome? Will I turn the page to the new level of multicolored dreams awakening me, empowering me, every step of the way?

One step forward.

        Another step further.

No more cracks in the sidewalk. I will achieve the unachievable and I will not look back at footprints that walked over me, at hands that pulled me back, at eyes behind sunglasses that tried to blind me of my strength. 

 You have to be willing to put yourself out there, uncover the layers… take off your sunglasses.  You can’t play hide and seek with the stars forever. I took my sunglasses off and I lost them in the dust when the wind blew. Will you?..

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Mommy see, Mommy do

Rookie. Newbie. First-time Mom. That’s me.  It is painfully obvious that I am not a veteran. I might as well be wearing it as a sort of scarlet letter branded across my forehead. That’s me- the one in the waiting room at the doctors office with my notepad of questions to ask the doctor. After almost 6 months now of my Matteo’s life- I think his doctor knows me well enough that at the end of her required tests and check lists, she sits down and says ” ok, what questions did you bring for me today ? “

Yes, I still sit in the backseat with my son while my husband is driving. Yes, I still sleep with the monitor literally next to my face and continue to run in his room at least twice a night just to get a closer look and to see him breathing up close. Yes, I listen to every guideline and rule book out there.  My doctor’s advice and opinions are like the bible to me. Yes, I jump 10 feet in the air and suffer mini-heart attacks when Matteo coughs or cries really hard or makes a new sound. Yes, I read book after book and article after article on the newest philosophies on child care and ways to always stimulate your baby’s mind and help develop the smartest babies. Yes, I read a new book to my son every single day even though he can’t possible understand any of it yet. Yes, I constantly ask questions to other moms, to my mother and my mother-in-law, constantly ask my doctor if the way I’m doing something is right, constantly over-think and worry and stress if I’m doing a good job and if others think I’m doing a good job. 

Yes, I’m that girl. I’ve always been. Of course I like to think I’m not – but I’ve always been a please-approve-of-what-I’m-doing girl. I’m a student down to the bone. I read, I analyze, I research everything. Having my first baby brings it out in me even more. There’s not one item in my house for my son that I have not researched thoroughly and hmmed and hawed over before buying.  Preparing my registry for my baby shower was like a full -time job. I drove my husband crazy, my sister crazy, my best friends crazy, my cousins crazy. I did not stop. I needed to have the very best, the most practical, the safest, the cutest, and I needed to be very sure before adding anything to the registry. 

I downloaded app after app after app during my pregnancy to ensure I was doing all I could do, that I was finding out everything there was to know about my child’s development and growth. I bought one of those at-home heartbeat monitors to check on the baby and I did it more times then I’d like to admit. I just had to make sure he was safe. My own personal angel that was sent to me from heaven. You bet I was going to do anything and everything I could to protect him and keep him safe. After all, I have been waiting for him all my life.

So yes , I am a first-time mom and I’m a little crazy. I’m a little irrational. I’m a little over-bearing and over-protective . So what. It’s more like a badge of honor to me, than a scarlet letter . I wear it loud and proud. I am proud that I am new at this, proud that I want to give my son the very best life has to offer, proud that I would move heaven and earth to give him anything he needs, proud that I would walk through fire to keep him safe and protected, and proud that I’m doing a damn good job for a rookie, if I do say so myself.  

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All that is not said

The Huffington Post's photo.

Sometimes the most talented of people simply can’t handle all they are given, all that they are destined for, all the greatness they were blessed with. Sometimes, they can be surrounded by many, celebrated by millions, loved by all, but the inner demons are so unbearably loud that that is the only sound that could be heard. A great man died today regardless if it was by his own doing or not, it’s still a tragedy all the same . An enormous talent and even bigger personality is no longer among us. Still, what remains is a tremendously wide scope of his various talents that will be forever cherished and treasured. If his death teaches us anything, it’s that even the ones that seem to have it all can still be suffering and going through their own private agony. Don’t assume someone has it all together just because the surface of things appear to be all rainbows and sunshine. 

A wise teacher once told me ” Remaining silent is a weapon used to defend their image” when I voiced concern that I was the only one asking questions or not understanding. She said sometimes my classmates didn’t understand either, but out of fear of looking stupid or fear of speaking up in class, they chose to remain silent and risked getting a bad grade on the assignment just so that they still appeared cool and like they had it all together. SPEAK UP. If you need help, ASK FOR IT. If you need a hand, REACH FOR IT. 

Anne Frank said ” In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  I agree with Anne Frank. If you believe that too, you’d be surprised at how many people will help you if only you would reach out and ask. You’d be surprised at how many tortured souls we have lost that could have been saved had they just reached out and said the words that needed to be said. Help me. See me. Hear me. Feel me. Love me. Protect me. Save me….

  Speak up. Don’t become a victim of your inner demons and all that is not said.  

 

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Judgment Day

” Only God can Judge me”  Do any of you really believe that is true?   Tupac believed that, but in the end,  I’m pretty sure he learned that wasn’t the case. Have you ever heard people say “It’s not my place to judge” ,  or ” I don’t judge anyone”, or ” Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” or  “Who are  you to judge?”  Why do we utter such nonsense? It’s lies. We are just lying to others, to ourselves, but fooling no one in the process. What we should be saying instead is that judgment is innate. It is human. It is honest. What matters is what  we do with that judgment. How we act unto others after making the judgments or thinking the judgments is the real concern here. But to deny something that is involuntary is to deny human nature. We can’t control whom we judge. We can only control how we treat others after. And you can bet God will judge those actions the most. 

We all judge. No matter if you come to terms with it or not, fact is fact. You walk out of your house everyday and stare judgment directly in the face, unintentionally, unconsciously, or sometimes plain out deliberately. We can fool ourselves all we want by thinking we don’t judge, by thinking we never think we are better than another, but we all do it. The human species will continue to do it. Forever.

It’s not only us who are judging, but we are also the victims of being judged; by our race, by our face, by our weight, by our friends, by being human. It is something that is beyond our control. I do not have power over my way of thinking upon meeting you. I look at you, I see you for the first time, and I don’t just look away without a second thought. I read you, I analyze you, I admire you, or  I shamefully belittle you. Simply put, I judge you. All by the way you look, or the way you stand, or by with whom you are accompanied.( ” Tell me who you hang around with and I’ll tell you what you are.” ) I walk inside a destination and I don’t think about the judgments being thrown my way. I am oblivious to the people around me deciding who I am and how I am all by the way I look at that particular moment in time and by the actions in which I am participating.

I don’t think about the millions of bystanders I am unaware of that are deciding if I’m pretty, if I’m ugly, if I’m fat, if I’m skinny, if I’m smart,  if I’m like them, or if I’m abnormal in any way. I don’t think about the people deciding if I’m worthy of their attention, if they want to befriend me, if they are jealous of me, or those people that hate me instantly, just like that.

I don’t think about my elders who look at me and see their youth flashing before their wise eyes and think ” I never dressed like that, or talked like that, or acted that way.” I don’t think about the kids who may look up to me  or the kids that  decide right there on the spot that when they grow up they will never be like me, or dress how I dress, or talk how I talk, or hang with people like the ones I hang with.

The point is you just don’t think before you judge.  I’m completely unaware of all that is being directed at me and all that I am directing at others. Right now though, as I sit here and think about the things that I never think about; I am discovering that the only way to overcome judgment is to come to terms with the fact that we can never overcome it.  It’s a force that is naturally beyond our control.

Some of us spend our whole lives anticipating the famous so-called “Judgment Day” and I can’t help but wonder what we are all worried about. We’re all dreading a day when we’re supposed to be judged. The sad part is that that one day is every day-for as long as we shall live and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Maybe stop and think  about this before you tell someone ” I don’t judge,”  It is not dishonorable and wrong to do so. It’s more honorable to come to terms with the fact that all of us judge, than to be dishonorable by lying about it, and defying the components that make up human nature. I say, go ahead and judge. You will anyway. What defines character is what you choose to do with those judgments and how you act in spite of them.  

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