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The Art of Running in the Rain

"To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." -Prefontaine

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love

Alzheimer’s

This post has definitely been a hard one to write.  It’s a combination of loss for words and avoiding sadness.

I’ll start with my first experience with Alzheimer’s.  I don’t recall the exact age, but I was very young, and received the news that my nonno (Italian for grandfather) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

nonno and mom

Here are the things I remember about my nonno: he had a sense of humor, he loved to sing, he loved to hunt (I’ll forgive him for that one because he loved dogs), and he cared very dearly about providing for his family.  He taught me the Italian songs that I still know how to sing.  I was young when he passed away, 18; but I still have good memories of times spent together, laughing, singing, and of course (we’re Italian) eating.

My nonna is a strong woman, she also has a sense of humor which can erupt an entire room into laughter (I will never forget the time nonna, staring directly at a young man who was about to pass out from being so drunk, made a gregarious hand gesture and yells, “You have a bit too much of da juice?”).

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I remember it being hard times for her when my nonno wasn’t doing so well.  She was stressed, sad, confused, and so many emotions which it feels unfair for such a spirit to have to endure.  I know that the love my nonna and nonno had for one another helped them through such a difficult time.  I’m not a religious person, but I believe they will see each other again one day, without the burdens of life’s difficulties.  Until then, I’m happy I still have my nonna here with me.

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Now for the part that seems so unfair to be true.  Would you imagine that this disease would affect this family once again?  Well, it has.  Almost one year from today my dad received the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s.

I’m going to start by telling you the positive things: he is active, strives to eat healthy, has a positive outlook, he doesn’t smoke, he drinks one glass of red wine each night, and it’s early.  Now that list is suppose to make us all feel better.  I guess the most important thing to me is that my dad is happy and enjoying life.

las vegas

If you know me or you’ve read my posts, I’m a realist.  I’m also a speech language pathologist, I’ve worked with people who’ve had dementia, traumatic brain injury, dysphagia, etc. and I know all too well the various roads that could be ahead.  My dad is right though, we can’t worry about what’s ahead, we can only try and handle what’s right there in front of you.

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I’m telling you my story because you can help.  They’ve made so many advances in the area of Alzheimer’s; however, they still have not determined a cure and the medicine they are using to slow the progress is the same medicine they were using when I was in grad school 5 years ago.

Family

Please join me and my team to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.  A few of my family members and I are doing a walk in Southern California on November 14th, 2015.  I invite you to join us on the walk and/or donate to help make a difference in the lives of so many.

Click here to donate or join our team, thanks!!

Be well.

The Love of My Life

One year ago today I had the privilege of marrying the love of my life.  When I look in his eyes, I can be transported to that day and I’m filled with so much joy!

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Just to name a few of his strengths: he always listens, he cares about my feelings, he is interested in my interests, he loves Charlie as if he were his own, his love of animals/music is on par with mine, he’s introspective, and the list could go on.

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Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but as I’ve mentioned in my post about conflicts, we’ve worked through so many things, and our communication is stronger because of it.  All that is to say I feel like we put in the work (both individually and together) and we are reaping the benefits now.  We’ll always have things to work through in life, but it’s so great to know I have someone who’s always on my side to do it with.

View More: http://rickplusanna.pass.us/nicolelovesdavid

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Happy anniversary to the love of my life.  He helps me be a better me.  I love him so.

Be well.

Photos by Rick+Anna

Why Conflict is Important in Relationships

I find it perfectly fitting that following my wedding recap post I write a post on the importance of conflicts in relationships.  I’m not here to tell you what your relationship should look like, but I’m here to share with you a little bit about ours, and the science we follow to continue to build a healthy, happy, and loving connection.

View More: http://rickplusanna.pass.us/nicolelovesdavid

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, ‘it doesn’t matter whether or not you and your partner have conflicts it’s how you have those conflicts.’  I find that conflicting in a ‘good, constructive’ way, can be so difficult at times, and it never quite feels like your doing it right.  The ultimate goal would be that partners during any given conflict are able to listen to one another; I find that in conversations so many people are just waiting for their chance to talk.  This, for me, is one of the hardest things to handle in a typical conversation, let alone a conflict.  Dave is an amazing listener, he waits for you to finish your thought, asks you questions, and often when he feels that he has abruptly changed topic (it’s usually never as bad as he thinks) he will apologize immediately.  Even amazing listeners have a hard time in conflict conversations.  One of the strategies that our therapist gave us is to repeat back what you have heard the other person say, and then ask them if you heard them correctly.  This simple act of repeating what you heard and confirming that you’ve heard it correctly is enough to ease a difficult conversation.  Listening is an area of growth for me, I find I want to relate everything to myself (which turns out is not listening).  At times, when I utilize the technique of repeating back, I find my speech to be stilted and seemingly unauthentic, but you know what? That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that there is room for growth in all of us, and I want to be a better me and subsequently a better partner, so I will try this technique that research has proven to work. 

Another goal is for each person to exhibit empathy towards one another.  I find this part of conflict always requires me to ‘strike when the iron is cold.’  A Gottman term that my therapist (separate from our couples therapist, I believe that is a very important thing) reminded me about the last time I brought the remnants of a Dave and Nicole conflict into one of our sessions.  For me the term means that if you take the time to cool off from a heated conflict and come back to the topic when you’re both feeling less flooded you may be better able to address the issue with effective communication.  Now, it’s important to know that having empathy means that you are able to see things from someone else’s perspective, if you are unable to do this when not in a conflict perhaps working on that skill individually would be a good place to start.  Dave and I often use a worksheet our therapist gave us entitled “Dreams within Conflicts.”  It’s a questionnaire that allows each person to share all of their feelings surrounding the conflict and to feel safe and heard.  It helps you learn more about your partner’s deepest desires and feelings, tends to resolve conflicts, and makes the relationship stronger.

Sometimes it seems there is nothing you can do, you have the conflict, it’s ugly, and you feel regretful.  Stop right there, if we went around feeling like giving up after every mistake then nothing would get done (don’t I sound like Mary Poppins).  It’s just as important to discuss these ‘regrettable incidents or fight’ and the feelings that surround them to ensure that the bond between you and your partner remain connected and in love.  I liken it to making a mistake with your children, let’s say you got mad and yelled about something and you later realized wasn’t a big deal and you were just in a bad mood from work, it’s just as important to talk to your child about your reaction and apologize or discuss why you reacted the way you did as it is to have better conflicts in the first place.  Now this aspect of conflict resolution is founded in the idea that both partners believe that they have something to learn, that their knowledge base of each other and this world is not a static thing.  Self reflection is key.

I feel that the happiness in my relationship can be directly correlated to the amount of effort I am putting in to make our bond closer, and seeing that Dave is putting in just as much effort.  When we have children I want them to see us hold each other, have tender embraces, have philosophical conversations, have conflict and resolve conflict.

Be well.

Tiffany & Mindy tie the knot

As I lie here, still sick (it’s been about a week of continually not feeling great, and I think the climax has been yesterday and today), I can’t help but be reminiscent on my good friends’ wedding a few weeks ago.  I’ve known Tiffany for about 7 years now, and she’s always been a go to friend for fun times, deep chats, and all around niceness.  I really couldn’t express how happy I am for her to have found a most bodacious babe, and amazing companion!  They compliment each other in so many ways, and like most of those one of a kind awesome relationships, they are constantly helping each other grow to be better people.

I think I cried about three times at their wedding, really not unusual for me to bring on the water works (I’m a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned #10bucksifyounamethatmovie).  It made me a little teary thinking of Dave and my upcoming wedding, and how I hope the same love and support that was at Tiffany & Mindy’s wedding will be at ours.  I’m going to let the pictures do the talking (though I may chime in every now and again).  Hope you ladies are having an amazing time in Italy, you deserve it 🙂

Beautiful view from Tiffany & Mindy’s cabinIMG_6707.JPGRoomies!!

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#Islandselfie
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Sleepy puppy/ring bearer IMG_6724.JPG

Short break for a dance party
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Izzie looking oh so regal in her bow tie!

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Pre-ceremony love!IMG_6733.JPGBuddies!!
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Tears, tears, tears..

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Mama love!

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Silly faces!

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More mama love!!

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Beautiful sunset on Orcas Island (although, Josh says his was better).

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What a great weekend, and fun people to spend it with.  Thanks for all the love and laughter!

Be well.

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