Category Archives: Bitter Sweet

The Sweet Life

Family Photo5

“La Dolce Vita” is an Italian phrase meaning “The Sweet Life” that we picked up on our first visit to Italy. We’ve used it often to describe our life together over the years, but I have to tell you, life over the past six months has been even sweeter than ever. This little girl is such a joy! I don’t know if anyone will even see this post since it has been so long since I last wrote, but if you are reading this and you were one of the many people who prayed for us during this pregnancy, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It still amazes me that we get to be her parents. ❤

Over the past few months I’ve had several people ask if I’m going to start writing in this space again. And the truth has been that I just didn’t know. As I’m sure most of you who follow me on social media have guessed, we are currently keeping our daughter’s online presence to a minimum. Which means that I’m not planning to write about her here. I could write about the same types of things I used to write about here: recipes or fitness or time with friends or travels or photography or DIYs or house updates all without mentioning her or sharing photos of her. But, my friends, that’s just not where my head is right now.

I’m still doing all of these things that I was doing before her arrival, but she is just so much a part of our lives now that I don’t want to blog without talking about her. Maybe at some point down the line I’ll be ready for that or we will decide to share more about her publicly. But for now I guess this is me officially saying a goodbye to this blog.

I may not be writing in this space, but I’m not completely gone! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. And of course if you have questions about recipes or travel or baby things or just want to chat, you can always email me (thisitalianrach@gmail.com). I would love to hear from you! 🙂

I started this blog in 2010 and am so thankful for the connections I’ve made thanks to blogging. What a sweet and supportive group of bloggers I ran into in this corner of the internet. Thanks for being part of that and for reading along over the years! ❤

Love Rach

 

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This is my Fight Song

Over the past couple of years I have received some difficult news from my doctor. Recently I got hit with another wave of difficult news from the doc. There have been moments in the past couple of years when we have grieved and been worried and we have definitely experienced those feelings in the past month, but like every time we hear hard news – we don’t stay there. Looking back, it’s amazing to me how much we have grown over this time. Each trial that comes our way, just draws us closer together. We are fighting this. Side by side. Hand in hand.

Lately I’ve had the chorus to Fight Song by Rachel Platten stuck in my head. Do you guys know this song? The whole song doesn’t really fit my situation, but the chorus is spot on. Check it out here:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me!

Awesome, right? If you want to cry, watch this version where Rachel Platten sings it with a kid who is fighting cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to deal with grief. I wrote about that a little bit here. We are definitely working through the difficult feelings and moments. But that’s not the end of it. We are looking forward. We literally name our blessings every day. Because we are grateful, but also to remind us of all the good in our lives. We are full of hope. And we are fighting this together.

Thanks friends for sticking with me through some of the more emotion filled posts. You guys are awesome. 🙂

Do you have a “Fight Song” that you play on repeat when you are dealing with something difficult?
Love Rach

Our family took a walk

Last year, to support my father-in-law who has early onset vascular dementia, Christopher and I decided to do the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here in Memphis. We loved that his parents were able to join us and that some of our precious friends who also know and love his parents were able to walk with us. That support has meant the world to us. His parents also traveled to the Dallas area last year in order to do the walk with their other son & daughter-in-law who have been part of the walk for several years. In an effort to make it easier on his parents this year, Christopher and I told them that if they were planning to go to Dallas again, we’d join them there so they wouldn’t have to worry about two trips so close together (trips are difficult for my father-in-law). So that’s what this weekend was all about.

family2Our family at the Walk this year: Jerzee (Michael & Katy’s dog), Katy, Michael, me, Christopher, Marty, and Tony!

I’ll be honest with you guys, this weekend was one of very mixed emotions. Christopher and I arrived a little after midnight on Friday night (well, Saturday morning technically) and were struck with several different things all at once. None of which were easy. But one huge thing was seeing how much my father-in-law had declined since the last time we saw him. I found myself unable to sleep, so I spent the night in prayer instead. But His mercies are new every morning, my friends. Difficult as parts of this weekend were, there were some wonderful highlights. And those are what I want to share with you guys today. 🙂

familyOur family at the finish line (plus a photobomb)

brothers

The Walk itself was fun. From my mother-in-law’s awesome warm-up dance (which I am too kind to post here 😉 ), to Michael laughing at Christopher dancing with the flowers (see pic above), to getting to catch up with my sister-in-law, Katy. She and I chatted through most of the walk and I got to hear all about her new job and her volunteer work with the SPCA. I love hearing people talk about things they’re passionate about. 🙂

rach and marty

Time with my mother-in-law is a blessing. She and I had some great conversations this weekend that reminded me of just what an incredible lady she is. She is the primary care giver for my father-in-law right now and her strength just truly amazes me. I have learned so much about faithfulness, support, and how to love big from her. She is one of the best people to have in your corner and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

brothers2Christopher and Michael walking together

Christopher and his brother are only 18 months apart and they were super close growing up. They even went to university at the same time and roomed together all four years. Since growing up and moving to different states, they talk frequently, but don’t get to see each other in person very often. So Christopher loves any chance he gets to hang out with his brother. Sometimes I could close my eyes and listen to the two of them talk and feel like we are back in the cafeteria at university as they talk about their shared interests. So much has changed in the years since we graduated, but a lot has stayed the same. 🙂

I mentioned earlier that my father-in-law has continued to decline, but there were still plenty of happy moments with him as well. My absolute favorite was when we went to Oktoberfest and he danced with my mother-in-law. This video brings tears to my eyes to see the two of them so happy and playful. Speaking of Oktoberfest… my sister-in-law, Katy, is planning to share more about it on her blog (Katy’s Life Story) if you’re interested in more details. 🙂

Have you been part of a walk or run that means a lot to you?

Love Rach

Mixed Emotions This Father’s Day

Today was Father’s Day. And the older I get the more mixed emotions there are surrounding the day.

I think of my sweet friends who began to think of themselves as parents as their first pregnancy progressed… and then a devastating loss. And suddenly Father’s Day is a reminder of the sweet baby they should be holding in their arms instead of that deep ache inside.

I think of children estranged from their fathers because of choices one or both made that brought extremes into the picture.

I think of two families we know who have lost fathers (at ages 41 & 45) in the past month and how those families are experiencing their first Father’s Day without a husband and father present.

I think of three families we don’t know who live in Charleston and who are experiencing their first Father’s Day without fathers present because of senseless violence and racism.

I think of the orphans, the legal orphans, the kids in the foster care system. I think of the children who are abused by fathers and stepfathers. I think of the unwanted children tossed aside by men who never cared to be fathers or who never had a father in their own lives to teach them what fatherhood looks like.

And then I think of the good dads I know. Men who are dedicated to their families. Who love their children. Who are present.

Mixed emotions, I tell you.

I am thankful that I grew up with a father in the home. Not every kid gets that. I’m thankful that when I called my dad yesterday to wish him a happy Father’s Day he told me that he loved me. Not every kid hears that.

My husband no longer has that. He grew up with an amazing dad who loved him. And while physically his dad is still with us, the dementia has taken away so much of him. So when Christopher calls to chat with his dad on Father’s Day, there are no “I love yous” exchanged. Because my sweet husband’s father no longer knows he has a son.

Earlier tonight I asked Christopher how he felt about Father’s Day considering the situation with his dad and this is what he told me:

“It makes me sad that my dad isn’t the man I knew growing up anymore. I miss him. But I’m thankful for the good days. And I know that someday we’ll all be in heaven together and he will be healthy and whole again. I look forward to that.”

To which I responded with a very well articulated sob.

But I think he summed it up well. Because one day heaven will collide with Earth once again and Jesus is coming back. All things will be made right. No more abuse, no more tears, no more loss. And someday Christopher’s father will look him in the eye again and know his son.

Love Rach

Surrounded {learning life lessons}

PSA: serious, wordy post ahead (this very well could be my longest post ever). If you are in the mood for rainbows and adorable fuzzy puppies please see this post instead. 😉

Clearly something has been going on with us lately. I’ve been all vague and weird about it. And as far as the world wide web is concerned, I plan to stay pretty vague about it. At least for now. If there comes a time when I’m ready to share so publicly, I will. But suffice it to say, I’ve had some medical stuff going on lately (don’t worry, I’m not dying – it’s nothing quite that drastic 😉 ). And we’re holding up well emotionally. Just an occasionally emotional day here and there. This week was a more difficult week. And we knew it would be.

So we have been slowly opening up to some people we trust to ask for their prayers and support during this time. And you guys, we have been overwhelmed. Completely and totally surrounded and embraced with love. I’ve always been on the other side of loving and supporting people, it’s so strange for me to be right in the middle of the figurative group hug. But I am loving it. I know that a lot of people  have been hurt by church and Christians, but I promise you that there is so much good there too. People are flawed and will make mistakes, but when the church is working like she’s supposed to, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m speaking to myself here. Well, to Christopher and myself. We hold things really close to the chest when something serious or important is going on in our lives. For the longest time I had no idea why we were so private about serious stuff. But this whole thing has given me some time for introspection. And I realized why we are like this.

A small part of it for me is that I fear coming across as dramatic. Or “woe is me”. I am naturally a really sensitive person so when I was younger especially I erred on the side of theatrics. I got told often to quit being so dramatic. But in truth, I really did feel that way. As an adult when I see kids/teens who are like that my inclination is to roll my eyes because it is kind of annoying (thank you everyone who put up with me). But I don’t. I gently nurture those souls because I know that someday when they get past the adolescent/teenage hormones, they will be some of the most empathetic people out there. But those feelings of “don’t be dramatic” are still pretty deeply ingrained in me. So I fear that if I open up about serious stuff it will come across as me being dramatic.

A small part of it for Christopher is that he is just in general a private person. He is more interested in hearing about other people than he is in sharing about himself. This is why most of his coworkers have no idea how talented he is at basketball or as a wood worker. In fact, you guys know more about Christopher from my blog than the people who work with him every day. He doesn’t mind people knowing those mundane things if they ask, but it also doesn’t occur to him just to share.

But the biggest thing was something that happened a long time ago to both of us. During my sophomore year of college we shared everything with our group of besties. It’s a long, messy story (with hurt feelings on both sides), but by the end of it, we had been ostracized by the group. And that group took the private things we had shared to them in our vulnerability and twisted and warped the information so there was just a nugget of truth to it, but a lot of ugly lie as well. And then they spread those things through the rest of our friends. We were hurt and devastated. Christopher was quick to wash his hands of the group, but I tried (for far too long) to fix those relationships. It was a painful life lesson, but a good one for us to learn. A lot of good came out of that situation. We learned a lot about friendship and what it looks like and who to trust with our hearts. The friends that we made after this happened became our BEST friends from college. The ones who we still keep in touch with and get together with. So again, lots of good came out of this situation.

To be totally honest, I rarely ever think about this anymore and it doesn’t sting anymore when I do think about it. In so many ways I’m grateful for the lessons I learned and the friends I made afterward that I don’t think I could be bitter about it even if I wanted to be. It was so long ago and I’m not in touch with that group anymore. So it doesn’t occur to me that what happened back then might be influencing us in a small way even still today.

Today Christopher and I have a lot of friends. A small group of besties and then lots of good friends. But we have SUCH a hard time opening up about personal stuff. I think that part of us that was burned once before had dug down deep inside us. And put a fear in us of opening up. Because when you trust someone, when you open up to them, you leave yourself vulnerable. And once upon a time, when we did that, some of the worst things were said about us throughout our group of “friends”.

So I guess along the way we started sharing less and less of ourselves with people until we were SURE. Sure that we were going to be able to close on the house we wanted, sure that the medical issue wasn’t as serious as the blood work indicated, sure that the dog we had adopted would be a good fit for us, sure that higher education was the right choice (remember that one time when almost no one knew that Christopher was in graduate school until just before he graduated? Prime example).

And there’s nothing wrong with this. But it does rob those who love you of the chance to really support you through difficult things. It’s not that we don’t share the difficult things ever. We always do. We just wait to share until after the difficult thing/decision has been resolved. We protect ourselves that way. But we also isolate ourselves in difficult times. I think this is part of why Christopher and I have such great communication. For most of our relationship we have been all the other has for support during difficult things. Which is awesome for our marriage. But again, we isolate ourselves from others. Isolate ourselves together, I guess.

I’ll  be honest with you, Christopher is still a little unsure about this whole opening up thing. He was the one who kept saying that we should open up to people about what’s going on right now (because he felt like I really needed the support), but he isn’t positive that we won’t still get burned down the road. Just a few minutes ago I was talking to him about how I was writing this post and getting his feedback on it. He really likes how people are coming to stand beside us in this and supporting us, but he also is still wary. Especially as we open up to more people. And you know what, he might be right. We might share too much with the wrong person and end up hurt because of it.

For me personally, I understand Christopher’s feelings because I’ve felt them before. But I also know that we have changed our criteria for friendships and the people who we are close with today are very different from the group we were close with those early years of college. I really do think that opening up to people we trust is going to be the right decision in the long run. 🙂 And if I’m wrong, well, we survived it last time and it made us better, smarter people so it’s only more life lessons to learn. 😉

It’s super weird for me to write this blog post now instead of waiting 6 months or a year to prove that it was the right choice to open up. But then I wouldn’t exactly be authentic to the lesson I’m trying to learn, now would I? 😉 For now at least, we have truly been surrounded and embraced by family and friends throughout all of this (well ever since we opened up to the first person). We are surprised, overwhelmed, and grateful. 🙂

If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back. You’re a rock star! 🙂

Do you open up and share personal things easily?

If you don’t mind sharing, tell me about a time when you shared too much with the wrong person. Or were hurt by someone after being vulnerable with them. I want to hear about the lessons you learned and how you deal with opening up to people now. Obviously this is a pretty personal question so feel free to email me instead of leaving it in the comments below. 🙂

Love Rach

Traveling Alone

There is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet in these updates about Christmas in January with my family… Christopher wasn’t there. 😦 This was the first time in a really, really long time that we have been apart during a family Christmas (even though it was the end of January, it still felt like Christmas because we were all together and celebrating). Even before we were married we were spending Christmases together so this was the strangest feeling. To be with family, celebrating together, doing our traditional things… but to have my favorite person absent. It was certainly bittersweet.

rae and chris2005Us in 2005 at our very first family Christmas together – after we’d been dating a little over a year. (We didn’t spend our first Christmas together in 2004 because I went back to China to see my family and that was a bit far for him to travel with his girlfriend of 3 months 😉 )

I sent him as many updates and photos (especially of the kids opening their gifts) as I could over the weekend to help him feel more involved. But he was pretty bummed to not be there. He loves my family. Like, really loves them. And he hated missing out on Christmas with them. But it’s just the busiest time of year for him right now. While we were celebrating Christmas this past Saturday he was at the office all day. It was a hard decision for him to make because he stands by the fact that family comes before work. He’s always saying that he “works to live, not lives to work”. He’d never miss out on a December 25th Christmas gathering, but this was such a gray area.  If it weren’t for the fact that he just saw most of my family over new years and will see Abby soon (she’s coming to Memphis, YAY!), then he definitely would’ve figured something out with his boss. But as it was… he ended up staying behind in Memphis to work while I traveled to Alabama.

drivin2The sky on the drive home this past Sunday. Gorgeous. 🙂

drivinCruisin’. 🙂 {For those concerned about my safety during this photo: I had my phone set up on my dashboard acting as a GPS (and in easy reach as I changed my playlist). So I pressed the 5 second timer button on my camera and badabing, took a selfie with my eyes still on the road. 😉 }

 This was my first ever road trip by myself. 7 hours in a car on my own. All my college road trips were with friends and I got married just after I graduated so Christopher has been my travel buddy since then. I hadn’t thought much about it, but it’s true – I’d never driven anywhere on my own (flown? Yes, plenty, but not driven). To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind and have trouble staying awake, but I really didn’t. I had a pretty fabulous peppy playlist (lots of boybands. lots.of.boybands and t.swift!) that kept me energized and singing at the top of my lungs. And then I had family calling to check in on me and to chat. And then a sweet friend who kept me company over the phone for the last hour and a half of my drive down there. 🙂 So the drive both there and back wasn’t bad at all. I definitely prefer to travel with company, but it’s good to know that I’m grown up enough (at 27 years old, ha!) to go on a road trip by myself. 🙂

How old were you when you drove a long distance (let’s say over 2 hours) by yourself for the first time? Am I the only one who managed to make it to my late 20s without driving by myself? haha!

Any favorite bands/artists that always make your road trip playlist?
Love Rach

Farewell

This past weekend we said goodbye to our Chevy Cavalier. Christopher bought it 7 years ago during my senior year of college, just before we got engaged. He named it Desperaux (and then over the years has renamed it: “Black Bird”, “Black Pearl”, and “Soul Searcher”).

black bird

When we got married Desperaux became “our” car. He didn’t have a/c, but he was a great little car and we took several trips in him that first year.

black bird2

Since that first year we’ve bought three other cars. A Nissan Altima named Bella Grace (which got sold after a year because it kept breaking down on us), a Scion named Apollo, and most recently a Ford named Athena. It is because of our most recent purchase that we decided that it was time to retire the Chevy.

101_9768This was us in 2009 just after we bought Bella Grace (on the left with the Chevy on the right).

Christopher has had a lot of mixed feelings about selling Black Bird (his most recent name for the Chevy) this weekend. He’s excited to have a/c and heat in his new car, but he and Black Bird have been through a lot over the years. It’s been almost like a badge of pride for him that he is a successful professional who still drives a ’96 Cavalier that cost him less than two grand. But no more. Saturday we said our final goodbyes to Black Bird. (side note: the car sold within 7 hours of being listed on Craigslist – winner winner!) So yes, bittersweet feelings for sure. But mostly sweet. Because let’s be honest – in January it’s great to have a car with heat. 😉

Were you ever attached to a car that you ended up selling? 
Love Rach