i hope she laughs the way you do

‘Cause if she’s anything like her father, I’ll fall in love with her just like I did with you – Us The Duo, Like I Did With You

Sammy and I have had an affinity with Us The Duo since our early days of dating. Along with our family and friends, we danced to their song One Last Dance on the beach after our wedding ceremony. Now, with our little girl on the way, their song Like I Did With You has such personal meaning as well. I happened to be listening to this song when I opened my new blog post today. I should mention that I have had two drafted entries just waiting to be edited and posted, however, I have had a pretty gross headache for several days. Being able to listen to music is almost like the light at the end of the tunnel kind of thing. Headaches and migraines in pregnancy is a bittersweet kind of torture. My diagnosis with Chiari Malformation changed my life, in many ways for the good and the bad. I have been a singer (self-proclaimed) since I was in elementary school. Somehow I managed to play both Belle’s father and LeFou during a 5th grade production of Beauty & The Beast. I am cursed with the love of singing, which leads to a pressure headache for days if I do it the way that I want to do it. I’m talking, Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper Shallow style. Recently, Sam and I introduced the kids to our ability to sing at the top of our lungs in the car to The Jackson Five and the greatest songs of the 60s. Our 7-yr old’s favourite song is Build Me Up Buttercup. She gets all guttural and into it. She also freestyles her own music and lyrics on the guitar. I am a proud musical theatre mom.

Long story short, these days, I am better off if I listen without joining in. Curse of Chiari & intracranial hypertension. I feel like I run the balance of sounding like I am persistently complaining, versus explaining what life is like living with conditions of the brain. I am also still not sure how to categorize what I live with. Conditions of the brain? Chiari is a “malformation” … I acquired hydrocephalus and I have a shunt for fluid and intracranial hypertension. Increased pressure in the skull. This has not been the easiest journey, but I am grateful every day that I wake up. Even if it is with a migraine.

One of the drafts that I had written 4 weeks ago, was with the intention of going into detail with my personal (non-medical affiliated) experience with these fun brain things during pregnancy. I was so excited. Until at the end of the post, it was like Sod’s Law. I developed a sickening headache for days. Days and nights. Mentally, I could not justify posting a blog about how great I felt, when hours later I came down with a skull-splitting fuck you headache.

I am so lucky to have a wonderfully supportive and understanding husband. Sam takes care of everything. If I feel guilty for having a headache (wait, what?), he snaps me out of it. “Rest, get better.” Sam, you are a gift. My amazing mom also sent an old-fashioned hot water bottle to me within 24 hours of my latest headache. Sammy fills it, brings it to me with lunch, water & a kiss. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing. Having a partner who builds you up and supports you is beautiful. I’m not even sure if there are words for this feeling. We are halfway through our 24th week of pregnancy and the hormones are real. The kicks are real. The headaches are real. I do want to blog more, but in all honesty, when I am looking at my computer, I’m writing spec scripts. Not mad about that. It’s always been my escape, but when I sink my teeth into a new script and characters that all carry a little piece of me, I can get lost for hours in my thoughts. I had lost some motivation for a while, which I think is normal for everyone. Getting back into these scripts has given me that mental break that I need.

I am slightly frustrated with myself for not having a post ready to go on World Mental Health Day. Being such an advocate and believer of mental health support and awareness, I was being way too hard on myself. I had a raging headache, which was beyond my control. Sitting behind my laptop was in my control, and I exercised my ability to control what I could. That is my kind of a double-edged sword. Always a peacekeeper, I will apologize to prevent any situation from unnecessary escalation (even to my own cathartic blog). Perhaps a coping mechanism. These days, I find myself telling my kids to stop apologizing unnecessarily, yet I still do it as an adult. A very bad habit that I need to shake, is also at the core of who I am. I see the “Unapologetically Me” tags and think, hell yeah, that’s me! But in all reality, I am apologetically me, but I should not be. I am an over-apologizer. Accepted. Now what?

Mental health matters, speaking on these topics is important. Recognize it, change it; do something about it. Who is putting pressure on me to push a blog post on a particular day of the year? Nobody. Just me. I should be in control of those thoughts by not allowing the expectations that I have set of myself to limit my mental clarity. So let us rephrase. I am in control of my thoughts. Woooo saaa Alex, it’s all going to be okay.

The Neverending Story

Courage is an interesting concept … as a writer, words do not scare me, however, I found myself needing to work up the courage to put delicate words together for this “personal essay” of sorts. This year has been the strangest year for many of us I’m sure, especially for myself it has absolutely been the most unique and complex in my thirty-something years. A brief timeline, as we went from dreading my job in January, to the Coronavirus pandemic infiltrating our hospitality industry in February, to my husband’s furlough in March, to then the ultimate separation from my employer in April. That was a bittersweet break-up. I felt such relief but immediate anxiety with what happens next?

Having been at an increased clot risk with my VP shunt, I was not prepared to face an uncertain health scare should I contract COVID-19. There are a lot of unknowns in living with some conditions that I try to wear with confidence, but I do worry about all that could go wrong. That’s natural. Acquiring hydrocephalus was a shock to me, but I am much more fortunate than some. I have known individuals who have had more shunt revision surgeries than I can recall. Luck, that’s all I can put this down to. I am more than lucky to have had a successful run with my shunt. I am circling back to this later this week for a particular reason, but for now, I am counting my blessings to suffer with low pressure headaches that I can live with in comparison to the stories of my friends.

Our little world stood still. Schools did not open, we worked with the kids at home to complete the end of their 1st and 4th grade quarters. Playtime outside with friends consisted of masks (thank you Grandmommy!), hand sanitizers, soap, Lysol, immediate showers and as much social distance as kids can cope with. From March … through today, September 3rd … and until further notice. E-campus learning has been in progress now for two weeks. With the influx of internet usage, the parallel programs running is too much for one computer. It has been challenging for both kids to need two computers just to attend school without the risk of becoming ill. Four days after our school had opened, the first confirmed positive COVID-19 case was made public to parents. Since August 24th, it has exploded across our district and county. There are still so many unanswered questions into how children carry this virus and the risks involved. Since May 28th, this became even more of a risk that we were not willing to take.

Here’s where the courage comes in. And here’s what happens next. Infertility. Miscarriage. Two words that had not entered my regular vocabulary until 2018. They say to stop trying and then it’ll happen … that wasn’t the case. No need to hash all of that out again. I lost my job in April, three weeks later, surprise! A positive pregnancy test. How was this even possible? In February, we agreed that 2020 was going to be awful, we would take a break on trying. And when I say “we” … I mean me, mainly, because it became so deeply personal that it affected my daily life. Sam has seen me at the lowest of lows in battling infertility. What happens when you find out that you are actually pregnant during a pandemic? Sprinkle in absurd anxiety on top of it all and you’ve got the messiest kind of happiness and worry at once. Fears of another miscarriage swoop in and you find it difficult to enjoy the moment. We knew that we wanted to keep this to ourselves until we were “sure, sure,” like 10000% sure our risk of miscarrying was significantly low. Because of the Coronavirus, Sam was not allowed into appointments with me. I was next level frightened to walk back into the same office for a confirmation ultrasound, where we had learned of our missed miscarriage in April. I was shaking. I was petrified. Sam was not allowed in the lobby, he had to wait in the hallway. I had to go in expecting the worst.

June 18th, 2020: Confirmation! A beautiful little fetal pole – everything looked good. Naturally, my anxiety was sky high. We would return on July 2nd. Until then, take care of me. This news was still a sacred whisper between us, but one lone soul did know. 💕

July 2nd, 2020: A heartbeat! Let me tell you how bittersweet it is to hear the heartbeat of your child without your partner. The office allowed me to record the screen for Sam. You could hear me in the background saying, thank you! over and over again. We cried. We sobbed. The emotions were deep. My eyes are watering. Moving on.

July 30th, 2020: Hello, baby Calabro! Doing little butt lifts, stretching out completely flat and not letting us get a profile shot, our thirteen-weeker was in full action! Heartbeat – great. Position – great (we were low-lying last year, dangerously so). Stubbornness – 100%. Bittersweet, again, to be witnessing our little life without Sammy. I think I could hear his tears from the truck. After the first appointment in a cramped hallway, he would from that point forward remain outside. I had a chauffeur and a beautiful a/c ready for me to whip off my mask and sob with my husband.

I think at this point, we were both still in such disbelief, such shock. Our baby is due February 1st, 2021, but with a scheduled c-section at the end of January.

WE ARE OFFICIALLY PREGNANT!

The best kind of surprises are true surprises, we truly had no idea this was ever going to be possible again. To conceive and maintain a pregnancy?! What a blessing. I spent the next few hours working on a video that would reveal our secret to our family and friends, who live across the world. This was also, how we planned on showing Ben and Emma that they would become a big brother (again) and big sister, early next year. The video was a compilation of the past few years, moments I had captured of Sam with the kids, our beach wedding and so many more memories in-between. The video would then shift from captions about love and how full our hearts are, to our best kept secret. Our little wiggle worm and heartbeat would appear in the video and bring everyone to tears (really not my intention) but everyone cried. Including the kids, I mean Ben is always a softy, but he sobbed so much my shirt was wet. Our baby is strong and growing. This is really happening!

We learned how incompatible Android and Apple phones are, when attempting to send a four minute long video to my Android family, please get iPhones, guys … but we made it happen. So many tears! Seriously, just an amazing way to share the news during this pandemic. My parents live twenty minutes away, but to limit exposures, we have only seen them less than five times since the beginning of 2020. It’s been devastating that we have been unable to travel to see family in Virginia as well. This pandemic has changed our lives.

Sam and I have spent 132 days together, without a break, since April. We would have been lucky to have sixty-six two-day weekends together between his hectic kitchen schedules, but the world tossed a new set of parameters our way. We have grown closer, learned even more about one another, and made this time in our lives positive for both ourselves and the kids. Our levels of stress and anxiety are down, we have implemented budgets and we have reshaped our business plans to include the “new normal” precautions with COVID-19 in mind. This year, 2020, is not over yet, and neither are the changes & challenges that we accept with open hearts and open minds.

Our little girl is coming into a world that is currently experiencing so much change, hopefully for the greater good, and we will do all that we can to contribute to the future.

Baby girl, you are the luckiest little human. Your daddy is amazing, your big brother and big sister are the kindest and most loving kiddos. Your dog is a beautiful mess and your mommy is too. We cannot wait to meet this stubborn little Italian/English bundle, which we think will have bright red hair, my nose and Sammy’s beautiful eyes. 💖

Cheers to 2020, for so far, being the most incredible, unique, confusing and beautiful year of our lives.

Is it Over Yet?

It’s August. 1,000 COVID-19 deaths a day. When can we step out of this tornado of maniacal bullshit?

I can’t say that this lifestyle change has been entirely bad. I have spent more time with my kids since April, than I have been able to since 2017. Their cups are full and so are mine. I calculated, between the time sharing schedule, school (when it was brick & mortar), along with my former work schedule, two total days a month with the kids. This is a reality for a lot of working families, add divorced and shared custody with hospitality careers, and the sad truth that existed. 48 hours a month. It was heartbreaking for so long. So here we are, mid-apocalypse (aka 2020), the kids will not be returning to their brick & mortar school, but will be attending e-campus whilst remaining enrolled at their current school. I will be working from home & working as a stay at home mom-teacher until further notice.

We are in a very interesting and important position as human beings. Unfortunately, the unknowns of this pandemic have created an unstable environment for humanity. Are we improving? Are we going to go up in flames as the worst country in the world? Other than all signs pointing to yes, I am a pro-health-pro-vaccine mom living in a time where history in medicine is being made. When I was pregnant with Ben, 2009/2010, the H1N1 paled in comparison to COVID-19, however, for the safety of myself and unborn child, I received the vaccine during a routine ob-gyn appointment. Given the wide range of illnesses and underlying conditions that exacerbate the coronavirus, my hand is up for vaccines when it has been studied and is safe to administer. I’m not queuing up for the first in line round though. Call me cynical, but I believe in a healthy balance between rush and efficiency. If a vaccine means that I can see my parents, my kids can see their grandparents, and that we can return to some sort of semblance of routine from the pre-pandemic life, then a vaccine it is. I want teachers to be safe and treated like the angels on earth that they are.

I have not been blogging like I would like to, as so many opinion writers are fueled objectively. I am no different. Politics is not fun to argue about, nor do I care to preach my personal perspectives, so it may be best to keep my letters to myself until I can step away from the cookie jar of internet opinion allowances. I do have a few recipes that are coming up. Emma created her dream pie, so, we made it. Gluten-free pie crust with fresh organic cherries and apples. It was pretty amazing. I’d have to call this one semi-homemade, as I used a gluten-free pie crust mix to cut down on some time. Standing on travertine tile for more than 15 minutes induces some great feelings once you reach a certain age. 🤷🏼‍♀️

There’s also my favorite kale soup variations. I’ve been playing with some additions, like beans and sausage, rather than chicken and potato. I make this with some spice, so it’s typically planned for the days when the kids don’t have to panic that they’ve got kale soup for dinner. 😂

So this is me, trying to steer clear of politics and opinions on the response to coronavirus in my state. I think I’ve done enough of that on Twitter and in previous posts. Let’s settle into our new way of life and shift our focus. Always forward.

2020, Year of the Unknown

Well, it happened. I knew my career was about to tank; so many of us working in the hospitality industry have been sidelined. Who knows how long this will really last. It happened the day before my son’s 10th birthday. It was almost bittersweet. I say that with trepidation … it was a toxic workplace. I hate writing those words, but sadly, they are true. I was not the only one who felt this way, which is a shame. I knew Ben and his little brain full of fear-gears would worry his heart out, so we kept it from the kids for as long as we could. I needed to grieve a little bit, kind of like a break up. Sudden. Unexpected, yet expected. I knew it was likely. We prepared. I have never been fired before. It was nice to decompress for a while. Sam and I have been able to focus on mental and physical health. We’ve generated structured days; the kids love Thursdays the most, which is their cooking day. Even my niece got in on the action. Pick a recipe; find the ingredients; learn from Chef Sam. It was wonderful. But all good things must come to an end. The decompression slowly turns into worry, anxiety and fears of the unknown. Will there be any summer camps? Can I even try to hold down a job? Will schools actually open in the fall? What is going on here? It’s June 21, 2020 … and there are no answers. Assumptions. Presumptions, maybe safer to say. Sure, schools are already a cesspool of germs, kids do not fully understand social distancing, what are we expecting here? And how crazy am I for hoping my career in schools begins this year?

We have had many joys over these months in our little quarantine bubble, but lows linger for us. Unfortunately, our area now seems to be on the uptick for positive cases again. Our governor states that this is a good sign; there are more tests being administered, therefore, there are more positive results amongst the community of twenty and thirty-year-old adults who have returned to the workplace; but most of these individuals are asymptomatic. So … pray tell, why are 4,000 positive cases turning up after the phased reopening in our area? Our governor is trying to tell us that four thousand people without symptoms decided to get tested? Are these mandates for returning to certain jobs? Obviously not, as airport employees are still contracting the virus. This is a nightmare. The entire world was more prepared than we were. The incessant need for bickering and pointing fingers in this country today is despicable. It is embarrassing. We are the laughing stock of the world. Awesome. So how do we move forward? What does a banquet chef do when large gatherings are not allowed? This is a new world … or is it new at all? Maybe we cannot adapt as a society. Clearly, our “leader” is not adapting.

In other news (spoken as Isabelle), Animal Crossing New Horizons has taken over the Calabro household! Our island gained its 5-star rating after some sleepless nights and a lot of TLC. Little pieces of all of us are nestled somewhere on the island. It’s silly, really, to enjoy virtual gardening so thoroughly … but it has helped me through this pandemic. Mental health is so important. I set a goal to swim 4 days a week. Hello summer storms! Hello pollen! Hello green pool! Okay, so let’s set up some fans and get on the machine in the garage. Wait, your garage floor is flooded too?! Let’s try not to panic. Don’t panic. Do not panic. Breathe. Water your flowers. The cycle of stress and decompression comes and goes in waves. It always will. This is a storm we are weathering together as a family. The kids are equipped with amazing masks, (we are too, mine have paw prints, be jealous) we have hand sanitizer, antibacterial soaps, Lysol, bleach, wipes … we’re good. We are working through this. It’s been a weird few months.

It sucks when your creative energy isn’t drawing any motivation or inspiration. I have wanted to write. I have wanted to paint. I have wanted to use my camera. But snapping myself back to reality is hard when I do not know what the future of my reality is holding. What we do know, is our present reality, the reality of now. One day at a time. One storm at a time. One headache at a time. One hug at a time.

A lot of this post does not make sense and jumps from here to there, which is how my brain is currently processing the world.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads. It is odd not being able to see my parents freely … but this is the reality of now. Chaotic and calm, all at the same time.

Maintain virus awareness & please adhere to social distancing with masks during senior shopping hours!

It Continues.

Still, somewhere amidst the chaos.

Seriously … we are experiencing a moment in our world that will be marked as a major event in history for the rest of all time. Generations will learn about this. Our children growing up in this era will have a different outlook on the future of this planet. These are not bad things, but they are different. Life is different. Life is unique. We have all been trapped in this going-through-the-motions for years when it takes something like COVID-19 to make the world stop turning. I’m not a fan of the “well only -x- many people are dying” compared to the 1918 flu pandemic. We do not get to decide that. Ethically, morally, whatever you want to call it – acknowledging that the 100,000 death count is better than a million … those 100,000+ deaths are lambs? Are you kidding me? Mr. POTUS is in an abusive relationship with the citizens of this country. Again, apologies on the political references and obvious loyalties of my own.

We are repeating history. This is what a cyclical world will do over time; this, we have proven. The CDC.gov has a timeline on the history of pandemics. Almost every single country in the world has had at least one case of the novel coronavirus. We are all at risk. Some at a higher risk, for sure. I am still trying to figure out of I am at a higher risk since I had asthma as a child, I have failed every lung test that I have ever taken and a few months ago, a CT scan revealed a spot on my lung. (A spot? I don’t even know what that means, but for someone who has never been a smoker, I’m not thrilled to know that’s in there and I don’t know what that spot even is.)

Sidebar, I have been having some balance and brain oddities this week. I am still working, but I did have to call out today. There was no way I could drive. I still battle Chiari, Hydrocephalus, VP Shunt & Intracranial Hypertension every single day, but some days are worse than others … today is one of those days. That being said, the brevity of the current state of our world, country and state, the importance of mental health for those who are finding themselves in new routines with new stress factors. This is real, no matter how hard we might want to try to blink this away, it is not going away anytime soon and it will likely get a little bit uglier before it does. Until then, support those around you with love and compassion at this time (and always, duh, but even more in this moment) as some may be suffering deeper than they realize.

Help is out there. Hold the ones that you love. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Do all that you can to help this earth. Nobody else needs to die. Nobody else should be dying. Shut the damn country down and fix this once and for all.

Read this.

References

CDC.gov & WHO.int

There Are No Words. Maybe a Few.

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Today is Monday, the 30th of March. Most counties surrounding mine have been issued a curfew or “stay-at-home” order. Sam works for a global organisation that has placed employees on furlough through April 17th … The Walt Disney World Parks in our area are shut until further notice … schools are closed. I am still in awe at the facts … and yet here we area, an open state: The Destination Coronavirus Quarantine Hub. Do not tell me about the coronavirus with an intolerance to heat, bullshit. Hello, Louisiana. Hello, Florida. We now have five-minute rapid tests available … this is about to explode. What a year for an election. Sanders has been quiet. Biden will have a big mess to clean up. (Not to get political, but my presumption is that Biden will be the next person at the helm of this country.) This is not a blog about politics. Or pandemics. So, here is my story instead.

For Those Essential Employees

I feel terribly grateful to be employed at this present moment. I do not know what the future holds, but today, March 30th, I still have a job. I do work in hospitality and tourism and it has been a whirlwind. I have had many friends lose their jobs; even my own company was forced to make cuts. It has been an emotional couple of weeks. I do not feel as if my job is important enough to qualify for the category grouping of “essential” compared to the other essentials, who are truly essential in this time. I maintain vacation rental homes. Our occupancy has depleted; but I still have occupancy to care for. Homes with smart technology; guests who are renting these homes are sometimes here for four nights, now, some are forty nights. I have soap, hand sanitizer and I was even fogged down with hospital grade something-or-other the other day. I am doing all that I can, to prevent picking this COVID-19 up from anywhere. I was already a germaphobe before, guilty, but now, I worry about being in a state that is not closed to those fleeing their hot spots. Please do not make us a hot spot too. I worry for my parents, both approaching 70. I worry for my child. I worry for my in-laws. I worry for myself and my own health. I worry, but what’s the point? Fear and worry will not win this for me. I will take one day at a time. Hopefully tomorrow I will still have a job. If not, I cannot worry. Millions of others have lost their jobs. Sammy and I have been dreaming of starting our own business for years. This may be the moment. This may be the time. But we can’t make plans … who can make plans when the world has hit the pause button? (Except, Florida.)

Having shared custody during a global pandemic with school closures and online learning … is also a new way of life. How much adjusting do the kids of this generation have? And for someone like Ben, whose anxiety about death and his fears of the unknown might impact his mental health for the rest of his life. Em is much more go-with-the-flow, but think about it. This generation is going to grow up in an entirely new world. I hope, for both of their sake, that they understand that this is just a bump in the road. I hope for their little minds to be able to overcome this and move forward without fear, but also to move forward with a deeper understanding of community and care for the world around us.

I am grateful to have a job; I am grateful to have a day off (today) where I am laying on my bed, Kona on my leg, Sammy to my left … listening to the new sounds of construction to my right for the $35k playground the HOA broke ground on this morning … nonetheless, grateful for some quiet time to breathe and slow down. (If you’ve never watched a bulldozer take down a set of swings, try to catch that once in your lifetime.)

So here is to today, one day at a time, and here is to tomorrow, when I return to work for business as usual, with my signed letterhead proving that I am driving to an essential business in a county with a stay-at-home order. I pray that we are able to maintain our jobs, but now more than ever, to be let go from a workplace would be the most understandable and forgiving time. Therefore, I mustn’t worry. (Sammy, see what I did there? Ben is working on transitional words and Em on contractions. LOL, I’m such a nerd.) Sammy has been a teacher for a week and I think he’s pretty amazing.

And so my QOTD for this world, from one of the brightest minds in our history:

AND STILL, I RISE.

MAYA ANGELOU

Somewhere Amidst the Chaos

So I fell off the wagon. In recent weeks, my intention as mentioned previously, was to blog once a week. But then life happened. My little man, who has what I like to refer to as Peter Pan syndrome, does not want to grow up. He is fully unprepared to accept that he will be ten next month. Anyway, there was a surprise “F” on a report card. A “surprise” F? Yes. None of us knew … there was no warning. Evenings became a lot more intense with supervision over homework and then, it got better! Enter in from stage right in Alex’s Comedy of Realities … some misinformation from the dude, i.e. lies … big, fat, intentional lies. Sigh. So, a lot changed in a short period of time. Benjamin is a curiosity. His heart is delicate; he’s stuck in that awkward transitional period between momma’s boy and ten-year-old dude that is halfway to twenty. (Do yourselves a favor and casually drop into a conversation with your child that they are halfway to their doubled age, shock.) This made Ben stop in his tracks. Tears in his eyes … immediate realization that his upcoming birthday is half of twenty. Little man was shook. Haha, it was cute in a sad way, since it signified that moment of temporary acknowledgement that he has to grow up. Valid excuse, I know, but what about the evenings after the kids are in bed? Hello, Chiari Malformation migraines.

I am not entirely sure if my headaches are back for good again or not, but I do know that being under fluorescent lights and in front of monitors 40 hours a week is adding to the weight. Valid excuse number two: I do not want to look at my laptop after my work day. I hate even having to type those sentences and question my level of pain and discomfort in comparison to life before the decompression surgery. If I decide I want to sing my heart out on the karaoke machine with the kids and my niece, but then I pay for it with a migraine on top of the regular pressure headache x1000 for the next week … I guess it is safe to say yes, at this point, that a lot of my symptoms are slowly reappearing in clusters again.

The most important valid excuse is the eventual acknowledgement that my depression has been dragging me through the ringer since August of last year. I increased my visits with the psychiatrist and we worked through a series of dosage modifications, which I think we have just successfully found this month. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive and loving husband by my side through this. He has been holding my hand and supporting my every season. In holding myself accountable, I needed to retrace why August was significant to me. Other than for a couple of obvious reasons, it was actually a follow up psychiatrist appointment where I was prepared to meet my new year, with infertility on the doorstep again … and this is where I found myself battling a deeper depression than I was expecting. I knew it was at its heaviest when I did not want to write. A writer not wanting to write? Done. Fix it now.

In the grand scheme of things, I needed to focus and find my footing. I kept my bubble small and had to shut out the world for a bit. This included some of those closest to me. I did what I needed to get through the hours, the days, the weeks … just until I felt like me again. So here I am. Working in hospitality and tourism, when we have a global coronavirus pandemic … I hate germs and I have anxiety … my down swing of depression has flipped into the anxiety up. Present day, Monday the 16th of March, 2020, is technically my Sunday. Tomorrow, I head into work with a lot of uncertainty. I like the idea of maintaining routine, but there are a lot of question marks at the head of this virus. How much longer will I have a job for? Will I have a job to go back to if we are put onto some kind of lock down? Central Florida is going to dry up. 2020 is a wash.

This is chaos, it really is like nothing any of us have been through before. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Italians to choose whose life is more important? This is a serious threat. Anxiety is at a peak in the world. Wash your hands. Please … please, please, please.

Sammy and I have been putting together our business plan and new business models for two years, but never with more than a few hours at a time to dedicate to polish it off. This is kind of like, the breath of new life for entrepreneurs in this country. I ate Mesquite smoked ribs with Chef Sam housemade rub and Kansas City style housemade barbecue sauce last night … and it was the best barbecue I have ever had in my life. I am not just saying that because he is my husband, but because they were the best ribs I have ever had in my life. Period. He’s nailed it … and since the coronavirus shut down our town for two weeks … we get to make our future from ground zero. We aren’t 100% ready to unveil, but I imagine that will change soon.

I guess I could enter another valid excuse. Vote. In January 2019, I became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America. This is the first Presidential election that I have ever participated in. I’m nerding out over it big time. I am following campaigns, I am educating myself and find myself to be a political nerd at the moment. Sammy also introduced me to The Wire on HBO. Oh! Also, we watched the Trump docuseries on Netflix and the McMillions docuseries on HBO. Both pretty great, I do recommend. Back to the valid excuse … I am proud to be able to contribute my vote and voice to this country. Voting is not to be taken lightly, especially in this era and now with the impending financial crisis of our country … so I have been digging into that world in my spare time.

Kona, not Corona

Kona takes up a lot of time, but she is doing so well and she is still the perfect addition to our family. She fills that little void from the miscarriage too, so she’s a spoiled little puppy. We have been working on socializing Kona – she is still afraid but protective. We have had one successful and one unsuccessful trip to the dog park. Training a puppy requires dedication, which we have, but we are not sure what tools we need to teach her that other people are not a threat. She’s got a big bark for such a clumsy, lumpy pup. She’ll keep those coronavirus germs away, for sure.

Closing thoughts, I am always going to try to write … whether it’s once a day, once a week or once a month – I am not going anywhere. We are also not going to the James Arthur concert they just refunded our tickets for … in MAY. Waaaah. Anyway, I might have to blog once a day as we go through this pandemic together. Maybe I will do some sneak peak photos of some of our meats. Mmmm.

Intentions.

Intentions are mainly good. Right? In my case, yes. My intention, amongst many others (and yes, it is amongst, I was born and raised in Great Britain) was to post a blog once a week. Enter in reality with a swift slap to the face. Work. School. Home. Mom. Wife. ETC. This is not a complaint, this is just a statement of truth. To maintain a steady lifestyle “flow …” or semi-flow … one simply does not get to make time for blogging. CUT TO: CLUELESS 1995 CHER SHOUTING “AS IF!”

Where it would be amazing, it just is not how my life goes. Intentions and realities are fluctuating. I’m sure if we all took a moment to consider ours, it would be similar. My intention was to post once a week. My reality is less than once a month. That stings. On one level because 15 minutes ago was actually 3.5 hours ago and a year ago was actually three years ago … and because life truly does fly by, but the other level of pure disbelief that life is happening before our eyes.

I am not a religious chica, nor am I a politician – but as a 1-year-old Naturalized Citizen of this country, I am excited to exercise my right to vote for President Of The United States of America. Since when am I excited about shopping for vacuums that work well on tile AND carpet, and am excited about contributing my vote towards the leader of my country? Oh my god. I am officially an adult. I knew this fifteen years ago, actually, but for the entertainment value here, I’ll go with, wtf man, why is this all happening so quickly? It’s 2020! What is that?! Whoa boy. It is an interesting thought to quickly compare 1920 to 2020. A hundred years on a planet with development that WE think is supreme, but what do we really know? Not a damn thing.

My intentions as a blogger are one thing, but my intentions as a human are another. I am living my life as a happy, kind, forgiving, strong, solid and confident woman in her thirties. Some of my experiences have contributed to who I am, but so has my mind. My own free will and desire. My muses. My hope to be fully self-sufficient in my own entity in some way is an intention. Today is January 4, 2020 and I have no idea who I might be in January of 2030, but my intentions are to be as happy then now as I am now. My intentions are to be kind, forgiving, strong, solid and confident. With me on that journey, a tremendous partner and husband, Samuel. The beautiful Benjamin and Emma, who have recently had a combined 1M views for their reveal of Kona on Youtube between other social media outlets, and Kona Kiwi, my spirit animal. My intention is to focus on myself as a whole human being in #2020. You should too.

Surprise, Surprise, Puppy Surprise!

Well …

We did it! We kept a secret from the kids for eight weeks. Operation: Christmas Came Early! Kona Calabro was born on September 9, 2019 and was one of seven in a surprise litter with a work colleague of Sam’s. Since Roxy passed away in January, we had had two very emotional little people with us. A memory album and some “fur” kept in a little music box kept her memory very much alive every day. Ben would walk through the front door and shout, “Hi Roxy!” and comment on how the home still smelled like her. Sam and I went through the miscarriage (with the kids having absolutely no knowledge) and experienced the second loss of the year in our little family. The idea of a puppy was fleeting; we had mentioned to the kids every so often that we would “think about it,” classic parenting move. But in my spare time, was I totally scoping out a Christmas puppy? Yep. A thousand percent.

When the opportunity presented itself, we knew we had to keep it to ourselves in case something did not go according to plan. Sam and I went to visit the puppies after soccer one day. The kids were out of town and the moment to be surrounded by puppy nibbles was ridiculously emotional for me. As soon as I sat down, Kona and I became fast friends. Sam laughed at me prior to arriving after I had said that we wouldn’t pick our dog – that our dog would pick us. Blasphemy, he thought! WELL … I showed him! Kona picked us. Without a doubt.

Bringing Home Puppy

There are a lot of great puppy “reveals” out there, but we were not exactly sure how to proceed with this one. Logistics of after work and after school pick ups along with a puppy pick up … we ran with the best plan we could successfully pull off. The kids managed to convince themselves that they knew who the guest was … and I did not convince them otherwise. We had a little bit of time before Kona and Sam arrived, so the kids rushed to tidy up their rooms and the living room. Most importantly, the removal of any and all shoes. I propped up my phone and hit record about seven times before Sam opened the door. The kids were sitting on chairs facing the door and were truly not expecting a four-legged friend. Both Ben and Emma were surprised and slightly let down when Sam opened the door and they were not greeted by the friends they had anticipated were coming over for the weekend. Sam took another step back and seconds later, opened the door to bring Kona inside. Immediately, both Ben and Emma adopted high-pitch “Aw! Who’s that!?”

The Realization …

It’s no secret that Ben has been having a difficult year. From anxiety to bullying at school, paired with the loss of his beloved Roxy, Ben was struggling to enjoy the normal day-to-day moments. With a steady regiment of counseling and moving to a new classroom at school, he had finally started to feel like his old self again. However — the emotions of the year were still working their way out of him. Emma was excited, but Ben was completely overcome with emotion. When I say he sobbed for half an hour … he wailed. Following that, he would spontaneously burst into tears every fifteen minutes or so. It was HEAVY! Watching the video over again gives me all of the feelings again. Once it sunk in for the kids, that was it! They are in love. We are in love. Kona is so very loved.

For any parent considering a dog for their family … do not think twice. Kona completes the Calabro family. ❤

Boop.

This tender hearted boy was overwhelmed.

World Mental Health Day: 2019

It is no secret what day of the week it is anymore. Every day as a hashtag. Scroll through Instagram in the morning and have subtle #reminders that it’s, duh, #mcm – #mychefishotterthanyourchef it’s MONDAY. It’s not, actually. Today is October 11, 2019 – a Friday (which is actually my work-week-Thursday) – and yesterday was World Mental Health Day. If you ask me, this should be every single day, but I’ll take it for now. I remember taking a home economics class in 8th grade. There I learned how to cook a meal (it was pretty elementary compared to my skills at the time), watched that birthing video, and last but not least, I learned about health. Health, in this curriculum, was not just physical health. It was physical, mental and emotional.

There was a large drawing of a pyramid with three levels, almost like that terribly wrong daily food chart, and those three words written in each block: mental at the bottom, emotional in the middle and physical at the top. To this day, I recognize emotional and mental health as the foundations of physical health. Your mental state is a wonderful tool; it completes the jurisdiction of the mental health like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitting into place ever so effortlessly. For the most part, your physical health is under your control. Your emotional health is also, for the most part, under the control of your own will. Mental health, for what we can control, there is a hell of a lot of what we cannot control.

control

The brain is such a fascinating little lump of synapses, fluids, genes and algorithms. The stigma attached to anything less than pristine mental health is so yesterday. Today, there is a day that the world can celebrate together with a common core: accepting that mental health is also accepting the fundamental challenges of mental health conditions. “They say it’s inherited,” – said the naysayers. Not really, but you know. Can mental health conditions and disorders be genetic? Yes. I am not keeping statistical analysis on what would be a flawed demographic data of mental health conditional patients by number, but if I were to do that, I’d say 1 out of 2 has a mental health condition that is beyond their control. Just like any other possible genetic combination for your traits, it is possible (and probable? Sure!) that your mental condition is in full swing because of your pre-disposition with a diagnosed, direct family member.

STIGMA

World Mental Health day was pretty interesting to watch as an individual with diagnosed anxiety. Ed Sheeran and HRH Prince Harry looked like long lost brothers bonding over their commonality. Let’s back up for just a second here too. Prince Harry, a royal man, was quite brave for breaking the stigma in his own rights of sharing his mental health challenges with the world. Diana would have been proud. As I was born in England, I can attest to the odd and unique tailored approach to mental health. The idea that someone would speak out about their mental health was unheard of, so to have a member of the royal family … that was huge. HRH Prince Harry, along with Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, began a campaign in the United Kingdom by the name of Heads Together. Resources became available on how to live with, deal with and support others who were living and dealing with mental health challenges. If we were to rewind twenty years and take social media back in time with us, I would have needed this site. I still do, if I’m honest.

COPING

It is not easy living with anxiety, but I am finally managing it for the first time in my life. I recall anxiety from early elementary school days and deep into adulthood. We all have a precipice that takes us to the brink of awareness, I believe. I know what mine was. I went to therapy once a week and found a healthy combination of medicines that worked so that anxiety was not ruling my daily life. Nothing quite like being a working mom of two that has crippling anxiety so bad on some days that you can’t explain why you cannot get out of bed. It’s a beast. It does not help that I carried postpartum depression into clinical depression. I never asked for that. I thought I was happy. I thought everything was fine. But I had to learn and truly accept that I was not in control of these conditions. Thankfully, through a healthy routine of cognitive behavioral therapy with my psychiatrist and exercise, I was living with and coping (the most important word in this blog post) with anxiety and depression.

Even today I have triggers that cause ebbs and flows in these conditions. When my kids go to spend time with their father, I take a little dip in the valley of despair. Then I pick myself up (100% with the help of Sammy) and shift focus to the end of the week. In between then, I clean the house, do a thousand loads of laundry and save a shit ton of money on groceries until they are home again. At some point, I realized how normal I was … am. Coping with anxiety and depression was normal, acceptable and okay. There was no need to fight it any longer. I had to accept that it would be here to stay. I have seen the same psychiatrist for years. He still reminds me that I need to be at peace with my mental health and the treatment of both conditions. He’s having me back every 3 months again this year due to the complete and total spiral of depression after our miscarriages. Spoiler alert, I’m back into the infertile category again. Any way, that’ll be a different post. This makes me even more normal.

Make mental health a topic of conversation. When you ask someone, “how are you?” ask them like you mean it. You should want to know that they are mentally okay as much as they are physically okay.