More than Jersey Shore or Mob Wives

One of my favorite pictures (Source: Reuters)

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me the last week.  As I’ve already expressed, my family is safe.  My house was left virtually untouched.  We were without power and heat for the better part of the week (both have been restored).  But it seems like nothing compared to what so many people along the east coast, my hometown of Staten Island, and members of my immediate family are currently dealing with.

I have no intention of blogging for the time being.  It just doesn’t seem right to write about running, parenting, reviews right now – it all seems SO trivial given what people living right down the block from me are going through.

This week has been a total blur for me.  For most of the week, we had no cell reception.  In some ways it was incredibly frustrating. I felt so disconnected and it was extremely hard to communicate with anyone – even members of my own family.  But not having access to the TV or internet or even facebook prevented me from seeing what had happened to my beautiful hometown.  And in some ways I am actually grateful for not having ANY idea how badly Staten Island was hit until days later.  I hadn’t seen what the harder hit areas of the island looked like until yesterday.

read more

    My Thanksgiving this year…unlike any other

    My family and I flew to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and family.  My father-in-law was born and raised in Weslaco, Texas before moving to Alaska before my husband was born (over 30 years ago).  Most of his family (2 brothers + 2 sisters and their families) still live in or within a short drive of their south Texas hometown.

    Because there were so many congregating for Thanksgiving (around 30), the Gonzalez family rented a 5,000 sq foot ranch in Smithville which would serve as the “home base” for the better part of the week.  I was extremely nervous, anxious, excited for the trip – I had yet to meet my father-in-law’s family (not a single person!).  My husband and I had a very small wedding ceremony (just parents and siblings and their families) and there hasn’t been a large family event that we’ve been able to attend since we started dating or were married, so the opportunity to meet them has been limited. 

    Meeting a spouse’s extended family can be extremely nerve-wracking.  Throw in the fact that I am an Italian, New York City girl and was getting ready to spend a few days with a Mexican, South Texas family.  On the surface, it’s two completely different worlds. Although my husband and his dad have introduced me to many Mexican traditions and foods over the years, I knew this would be completely different than just having guacamole or chorizo. I was excited to experience a holiday with the Gonzalez family, but I was worried that I would stick out like a sore thumb and feel a bit out of place.

    For most of my life, I’ve experienced a traditional Italian Thanksgiving.  Appetizers consisting of hot and dry sausage, fresh mozzarella, spinach squares, stromboli, rice balls and potato croquettes, a first course involving eggplant parmigiana and lasagna, turkey and ham course with an Italianized version of stuffing (rice with mozzarella and sausage) and breaded broccoli, and dessert including cheesecake, coffee crumb cake, seven layer cookies, assorted pastries and biscuits, and espresso. On top of the food, there’s a sense of comfort in knowing what to expect and how the day progresses – I grew up immersed in the Italian culture so holidays filled with Italian customs is all I’ve known.

    This Thanksgiving (in addition to the turkey and ham), we had chips and homemade salsa, freshly made tomales, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, and a whole table of traditional Mexican desserts including Mexican sweet bread (besos), Mexican wedding cookies (pan del polvo), and Mexican gingerbread cookies (marranitos). So the food was obviously different.  Part of the morning was spent feeding the Texas Longhorns and black cows that resided on the home’s property and the afternoon hours were occupied with skeet shooting.  Very different from my usual Thanksgiving day routine on Staten Island.  There was also strong accents, an occasional word, phrase, or sentence in Spanish, and a discussion about something relating to the Mexican culture that I could not relate to.   

    read more

      Thanksgiving Day Run

      My son, husband, and I flew to Austin, Texas on Monday to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and family.  The entire week was wonderful – lots of time to relax, eat delicious Mexican food, and spend valuable time with my in-laws and extended family.
      One of the best parts of the whole trip was that my husband and I were able to sneak away for a beautiful 8-mile Thanksgiving Day run.  I can’t remember the last time we were able to run together (sans baby!).  Most mornings I run before my son wakes up and we alternate running and watching our son on the weekends.  
      We were in Smithville, Texas, a small, rural town about an hour from Austin, and the site of numerous well known movies, including Hope Floats and The Tree of Life. I wasn’t sure what the road conditions and traffic would be like – but hoped that it would allow me to go on a couple of runs during our 3 day stay.
      It could not have been more perfect.  The homes in the area were all situated on large plots of land – ranging from 54 acres (where we stayed) to over 300 acres – which helped keep the vehicle traffic to a minimum as the homes were few and far between.  The roads surrounding the home were a mix between gravel and pavement with light patches of grass along the edges (perfect for running).  The weather was amazing all week – sunny, mild temperatures, and minimal wind. 

      read more

        Running in Freedom

        Christmas Dinner - Iraq style

        On Nov 11, 2008, I was heading out for my daily afternoon run.  I was building my base for training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I ate my pre-run snack of whole wheat bread and peanut butter about 90 min before I left.  I laced up my Mizuno Wave Alchemy sneakers.  I turned on my Garmin.  It sounds like what I do before most long runs.  But that’s where the similarities end.

        I was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I was almost finished with my 12th month on a 15 month deployment. Although the end was in sight, it was an extremely hard time for me and most of the other soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division.  We were approaching the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and what would be the 2nd holiday season in a row that we would be away from our family and loved ones.

        Three years ago, I didn’t get to pick out my running clothes – I had to wear the issued physical training (PT) shorts and shirt every day.  I couldn’t run with my IPOD.  I couldn’t zone out during my run (I often ran along the inner perimeter of the base and there was always a chance of an indirect fire attack). I couldn’t wear my hair in a ponytail (had to be in a bun). I couldn’t relax after runs – I had to shower and rush back to my desk where I was working 15+ hour days.  I didn’t have a day off for 15 months.  I couldn’t go back to my room at the end of the day and have complete privacy (I shared a 10×10 trailer with Becky, another female Captain – thankfully, she was awesome!!).

        read more