New Beginnings

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When I started this blog in early September, I really had no idea where I was going with it. Like many bloggers, I like to write and sometimes I have a lot to say and of course I assume that people may want to listen (yeah, we’re a bit egotistical like that). Plus, I’ve had my share of challenges in the past five years and I figured that besides being therapeutic for me, blogging may also help someone else that’s going through something similar gain some clarity.
Little did I know that blogging would be challenging itself! But I am enjoying it. I am enjoying chronicling my life’s many ups and downs. Sometimes 15 people may read it and sometimes it may be more. It doesn’t matter. I am doing what I have loved since I was eight years old – writing. And I am learning from my mistakes. I’ve learned I need not make families members mad by spilling all of my guts with absolutely no censor (big whoops) but I’m also learning that it’s my blog with my opinions and it will stay as such. I’ve learned that people I would have never expected to read my blog are indeed reading it and that builds confidence And I’ve learned that this blog is part of my journey towards what God truly intended for me.
So as 2013 draws to a close I sit her and reflect on where my life has taken me. It has brought you to me and vice versa. It has brought my family to you.

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It has brought Joaquin to you.

Joaquins Funeral Home In Memory Of

It has brought my struggles to you.

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It has brought my faith to you.

strength and dignity

I have newfound friendships through my readers and for that I am beyond grateful.  And I am over the moon thrilled that you are still here with me. I know that 2014 and beyond will take me on the rest of my journey and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you. May all of you have a blessed and prosperous 2014.

2014

Serving Starts At Home

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The other night, Paul and I had an argument. It was a biggie. Not biggie in like, this marriage is over, but the kind of biggie that made me realize that we both needed to change certain things about us. When I met Paul, I knew. No, I didn’t know he was the one. After all, Paul was the complete opposite of what I attracted (like most women I attracted the non-committal type…a lot). Instead, I knew that I felt 100% at home with him. Just like our wedding song, Paul “Feels Like Home”.
And just like home feels (comfortable and safe) we became that way too. Perhaps a little too comfortable. Early in our marriage I stayed home with Alejandro and since Paul worked long hours I felt it was necessary for me to manage everything household related. It was my way of contributing. From budgets, to payments, to grocery shopping…everything but managing our 401K. That was Paul’s job. Fast forward almost 8 years and I now realize that is the biggest mistake we have ever done in our marriage. Paul was somewhat stumped when it came to everything I mentioned above and I was exhausted and easily irritated.
So during that argument I realized – something had to give. And then I said it. It was the hardest thing for me to say. “Perhaps I need to learn to serve you instead of leading”. I could see Paul’s face was full of confusion. It looked like he liked the idea of me finally relinquishing control but it also looked like he was somewhat worried. So his immediate response was, “No, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We’re equals”. I laughed. Well, of course we were. And any person that knows me knows that I could never be a doormat and that I could easily care for myself. But it was evident to me that I needed a knight in shining armor as much as he needed a damsel in distress to save. We both wanted those roles but we were quite comfy in the roles we currently had. Nonetheless, these characters needed help.
And so, I started looking into what it means to serve your husband. A lot of things I found were, for the most part, hard core if you take it word for word. And I honestly didn’t feel like I would be true to myself if I did what some women suggested. But I liked the modern variations I found online. For instance, just doing nice things for your spouse when he least expects it. I made Paul coffee the other day without him even asking for it. It may seem small but sometimes a small gesture of serving goes a long way. Or being more affectionate with him. I will be the first to admit that I am the non-romantic, non PDA type of gal. But I needed to ease up a bit. So handholding a bit more is something I need to work on. The one thing we both need to work on is letting him lead. This is the tough one I mentioned earlier. I admit, it’s just darn easier and faster if I just do things myself but this is where our problems started. It’s taken a lot of coaxing on both ends but slowly, he’s easing me into him taking control of certain things. And vice versa. The other day we got something in the mail that needed to be addressed almost immediately. Normally I would take care of it right then and there. But instead I gave it to him. I stressed the importance of it to him and let it go. Was I worried? Yep. My hubby has a tendency to procrastinate and/or forget so letting go meant that it may very well be forgotten. But like my mom said, “He might not forget. Or he might. And if he does, trust me, he’ll learn his lesson. It may affect both of you if he does, but you need to undo the way he’s become accustomed to living his life”. Sigh.
In my opinion, I have found that serving your spouse simply means just being a better Christian woman at home as well. Pray for him. Pray with him. Speak kindly to him.  Humble yourself around him. Serve him. Honor him. Not an easy task for this strong willed girl but if my life is changing then I need to change it at home too.

12 Weeks In

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Earlier this week, I called in sick.  Someone could easily say I had a case of the Mondays but truth be told all I wanted to do was cry.  I cry at work but I was afraid if I cried the way I was feeling on Monday someone might put me in a mental institution.  So I called in sick.  I told my employer I wasn’t feeling well and they expressed that they hoped I felt better soon.  Soon?  Not when you call in heartbroken.  I dropped off Alejandro and was honest with Paul – I just couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with people on a day that I was missing Joaquin so much.

Twelve weeks  in and I stared at myself in the mirror.  Tear stained, wearing pajamas at noon and completely defeated.  For one day at least.  Twelve weeks in and I still can’t take his car seat out of my van.  Twelve weeks in and his toothbrush still sits in the same place.  Twelve weeks in and his inhaler sits on the kitchen counter.  Twelve weeks in and his aspirin stares back at me, untouched.  Twelve weeks in and I still sleep with his blanket and his t-shirt.  Twelve weeks in and I still can’t believe this happened to us.  Twelve weeks in and I cannot believe I experienced the circle of life with my 4 year old.  At mass this past Sunday, I realized that I stood in the same spot where we promised to raise Joaquin to believe in God 4 years ago only to stand there again and turn him back in to our Lord.  At times, twelve weeks in, I still walk in a fog.  I often wonder just how I manage to still stand here.  To still laugh.  To still eat.  To still breathe.  But twelve weeks in and on days like Monday, yes, I think I can no longer go on one more day without him.

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Twelve weeks in and it pains me to see that life certainly moves on whether you’re ready to or not.  The bills still need to get paid.  The phone calls have slowed.  Even Alejandro seems better.  Twelve weeks in and at times, my six year old comforts us the way we comforted him in the beginning.  He’ll hear us crying, drops what he’s doing and hugs us until one of us pulls away…at just the right time.  Twelve weeks in and this child that keeps us going has grown up faster than any child should.

Ale and Dusty Walking

Twelve weeks in and I realize I have a long and tiresome road to travel.  I have fallen time and time again.  And each day, I manage to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.  Twelve weeks in and I realize I have two choices – I can let it beat me and break me down or I can keep walking even with tears in my eyes.  I choose the latter.  It’s better to cry and keep walking than to just cry and let grief consume you.

Twelve weeks in – yes, it can be done.

strength and dignity

Having Fun Again

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I went out twice this weekend.  Once without Paul for the first time in a long time and the second time Paul and I went out with a group of friends.  I enjoyed myself tremendously both nights.  The first night I accompanied some friends of mine to their company Christmas party (which happened to be an old employer of mine) and there were several people at the party that attended some of Joaquin’s services.  And I couldn’t help but wonder – was anybody judging me?  As I posted pictures of myself smiling on Facebook I wondered if some people that viewed those pictures thought “Oh wow…she’s out already?”.

Winks 2013

The next night was a bit different as we attended a fundraiser as we had for the previous three years for a non-profit rehabilitation clinic for children that Joaquin attended for the first year and a half of his life.  Attending this event means a lot to me and Paul as we are grateful for the services they provided Joaquin and other children in the community.  And I as greeted people in the lobby I felt like I had to explain my presence there.

But I shouldn’t have to.  And I shouldn’t have to feel guilty.  And I shouldn’t have to wonder what people are thinking of us.  Because to be honest, just because we’re laughing and smiling and yes, having a drink or two doesn’t mean that we’re handling things well or that we look really good considering what we’ve been through.  Do you know that after things die down, I sit and cry?  Do you know that when Paul and I are left alone in the silence we stare at pictures of our boy and wonder how this happened to us. Do you know that it takes every ounce of strength to not let Joaquin’s memory cloud by mind on a good night out?  Do you know that I see Joaquin everywhere and that sometimes it makes me smile but sometimes it also makes one lone tear sneak out of my eye?  Do you know that we cry just as much as we  laugh these days?  So yes, I will go out.  And yes, I love to laugh.  And you know what?  Paul and I are going on a trip without Alejandro in May.  I’ll be the first to tell you that being rowdy is not on the top of something I want to participate in but after all that we’ve been through I would say that Paul and I deserve it.  I just want to smile.  We’re allowed to smile.  We’re allowed to enjoy ourselves in the presence of great friends.  And in my opinion that’s just another way that God is gracing us.  So if anybody ever wonders what we’re doing out there having what seems like a good time, I hope that they just thank God that he’s allowing laughter back in our lives.  I know I am.

Mistletoe and Martini 2013

Morning Glory

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35 days ago I began to know my mother for the very first time.  I was a bit hesitant to do so but as the days went on I realized that I needed to do it.  And I found out that my mother is an awesome lady with so much love for her children that I was glad my friend introduced me to her.  My mother is actually not my earthly mom (although she’s pretty awesome, too!) but my heavenly mom and I used Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration to consecrate myself to her.

33 Days to Morning Glory

What I found in doing so was a gentle way of easing my whole person into Mary’s heart.  The book is broken into 33 days of readings and reflections from everyone to Maximillian Kobe to Mother Teresa – all of whom loved Mary so much that they gave themselves to Mary in hopes that their hearts would be set on fire with love for her son, Jesus.  Each reading/reflection ended with several prayers that included the Litany of the Holy Ghost, Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Ave Maris Stella (as you get closer to consecrating yourself to Mary the prayers change some).  Prior to getting started with the consecration, I felt overwhelmed but this book breaks it down so easily that it’s kind of impossible to not follow through with it as each day consists of probably no more than three pages worth of reflection.

But as the day got closer, I grew weary.  Luckily, my friend warned me this would happen and I am grateful that she did otherwise I may have thrown in the towel.  She warned me that as I got closer to Jesus that the devil would make some last pulls for me.  No joke – she freaked me out in the beginning but she assured me that I would be fine as long as finished it through.  She explained that everybody feels evil differently as they get closer to being consecrated and she mentioned that for me my sorrow in the midst of Joaquin’s passing may be even more overwhelming.

She was right.  I consecrated myself on the December 8th and on December 2nd and 3rd I felt like I was going under in a really bad way.  I was literally missing Joaquin so much that I felt like I was going insane.  The despair that I felt those two days were scary and painful as I looked at myself in the mirror trying to figure out if I could bring myself out of the darkness.  In the 8 weeks since Joaquin’s passing I had remained steadfast in my faith and extremely hopeful that I would one day see him again.  But on those two days I could hardly see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But I remembered what my friend told me and I continued with my consecration.  And the darkness was lifted.  Two to three days before my consecration I felt extremely tired.  I had no energy or even desire to finish this journey.  The night before I just wanted to sleep and put the book and prayers aside.  But I remembered what my friend told me and I continued with my consecration.  And I finished.  The morning of my consecration I was joyful and excited that I had finally gotten to know our Lady so well that I was 100% hers.  I felt different every time I saw her statue or a picture of her.  I love her so much.  And because Jesus felt even more love for His mother I know that she will protect and intercede for me and my family and that she would walk my prayers directly to God.

My friend mentioned that some of her friends wake up the day after their consecration expecting their lives to be different somehow and when they see that nothing has really changed they’re slightly disappointed.  Not me.  I know that I belong to her and love her so much that her graces will flow over to us.  After all, I am 35 days closer to my Heavenly Mother than I ever have been and for that I am eternally grateful and will continue to pledge my heart to hers.

Thanksgiving Bully

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As if my son didn’t have it hard enough these days.  He now has a bully.  Truth be told, the five year old bully has been present for the majority of Alejandro’s life but these days, since his brother’s passing, the bully has become a little more difficult to tolerate.  And the same goes for me as well.  Like everything in life, the story of the bully has its pros and cons.  The pros?  The bully lives six hours away.  The cons?  He’s Alejandro’s cousin, our nephew.

Alejandro and his cousin have always had (for lack of a better term) a like-hate relationship.  The two boys couldn’t be more different.  Alejandro has both his parents while my nephew is from a divorced family.  Alejandro had a sibling while my nephew didn’t.  Alejandro is passive while my nephew is aggressive.  Alejandro loves learning, chess and golf while my nephew dislikes academics, loves the outdoors and loves football.  Alejandro is a lover.  My nephew is a fighter.  Alejandro knows God.  My nephew doesn’t.

Before this Thanksgiving and before Joaquin’s passing, family functions where my nephew was present were somewhat tolerable because, although the younger of the three, Joaquin always managed to a) play the middle man and b) defend his big brother his own way.  And in the end, when Alejandro and Joaquin had had enough of the rough and tumble, loud aggressiveness of my nephew, my two boys managed to “get away” from him.  With Joaquin around, Alejandro always had someone to say, “Come on, let’s leave him, he’s mean”.  Joaquin always followed.  Joaquin always had his back.

My nephew was with his mom the weekend that Joaquin died and when told what happened he responded with a “bummer”.  What can you expect from a five year old, right?  So, when Alejandro found out that his cousin would be spending Thanksgiving with us, he asked “Mommy, do you think he cares at all that Joaquin went to heaven.”  I knew I didn’t have a good answer so I left it alone.  The visit started off ok but soon enough the zingers started coming out of my nephew’s mouth.  It started with my nephew telling Alejandro that God knows nothing which left Alejandro upset but I took it as the perfect opportunity to teach him that as someone that believes in God he would always run into naysayers and non-believers and all he had to do with stick with what he was taught or what he believed in.  Another night, after a comment made by someone else in the household about seeing Joaquin again in heaven, my nephew proclaimed loudly, that “nuh uh!  You’ll never see Joaquin again!”  Alejandro shot me a look and I calmly told him that we believed we would see him again and that was all that mattered.  A visit to the cemetery had my nephew proclaiming that we would squish Joaquin’s brains out if we stepped on his grave.  At this point, my patience was running thin.

At lunch, prior to their departure, my nephew continued to pick on his cousin by taking his crayons and shooting him threatening looks.  I separated the two and asked my nephew as calmly as I could if he acted this way in school.  His answer was a proud yes and continued to explain that all his friends in school were mean.  Intrigued, I asked him what they did to the nice kids and his response was again a proud “We beat ‘em up”.  My sweet brother in law told him to hush and we continued to eat our lunch when all of a sudden my nephew told my son, “You’re dumb!”.  My mother in law scolded him and asked, “What did you say?” and he responded with a resounding “I just called Alejandro dumb”.  I glanced at Alejandro and his face showed that he had just about had it.  His spirit was crushed and the tears flowed.  I grabbed him by the hand and took him to the back of the restaurant and allowed him to cry with me.  He told me he missed Joaquin and he just wanted his cousin to leave him alone.  As my heart pounded, I wiped his tears and reminded him that bullies thrive on tears and that he was to march right up to his cousin and put him in his place.  He shyly looked up at me and told me he was scared.  I told him I would be right next to him when he did it.  We walked back, hand in hand, and I proclaimed loudly in front of my husband’s family, “In his school, we stand up to bullies and we do not tolerate this behavior”.  Alejandro gripped my hand and repeated, “You’re mean and I don’t like you”.

And that was it.  A few minutes of “punishment” passed and Alejandro was given some money and my nephew was rewarded with the promise of a new toy helicopter.  It was clear.  My husband’s family feels for my nephew because he comes from a divorced family.  They feel for my brother in law because “his hands are tied”.

Well, our hands surely are not.  We will continue to teach my son about God, compassion and kindness to others.  We will continue to teach him to feel.  And we will continue to teach him to stand up for himself.  It’s about conviction.  Alejandro is sensitive.  I don’t baby him but this is who my child is.  I love on him.  And I hug him.  And I kiss him.  And I make him eat his vegetables.  And I make him say he’s sorry.  And he goes to time out.  And he’s had toys taken away from him when he misbehaves.  And all of this even after his little six year old heart has experienced the biggest loss of his life.  I still discipline him.  Am I supposed to use our misfortune as an excuse to treat others poorly?  But perhaps that’s what’s wrong with children today.  They all have excuses.  But there are no excuses.  It’s called life and you have to learn to deal with it.

And yet, how do I deal with this?  How do I deal with my in laws who, I love dearly, but won’t discipline enough, or haven’t taught this child about God or aren’t teaching this child how not to be a bully?  To be quite honest, I feel bullied when I get told that they try all that they can.  Are they really?  Where does that leave me and my husband?  Are we just supposed to shut up and take it?  Paul’s family is important to us but as we grieve we just don’t know if we have it in us at this point to tolerate this anymore.  We feel so defeated.  And so, as we finished our lunch, said our goodbyes and got in the car, the tears rolled down my eyes this time.  I was missing Joaquin once again.  But this time I was missing Alejandro AND Joaquin.  I miss the two brothers in my life that were my heart and soul and were each other’s best friends for life or longer.  I was left aching for my boy in heaven and the one holding my hand here on earth that still needs me to protect him.