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My Thanksgiving this year…unlike any other

28 Nov

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.   

Yet, despite all of these differences, there were points during the day when I forgot that I was in Texas, away from my family, and sharing a holiday with my Mexican family as opposed to my Italian family.  The things listed above are the obvious differences.  But, what amazed me was that there were so many little things that reminded me of my family and the culture I was accustomed to. 
Most of the early afternoon was spent gathered around the large island in the kitchen while various family members put the finishing touches on their contribution to the meal.  There was an endless amount of loud laughing and story-telling while appetizers were eaten and food was sampled. Later in the evening, the whole family congregated in the family room to watch the UT vs. Texas A&M football game (most of the family are UT fans, but there were quite a number of Aggie fans present).  The intensity of cheering and yelling reminded me of my family during a Yankees/Red Sox game.  On Friday, I was taken into the kitchen with several of the other females and learned how to make authentic, homemade tomales (something my husband is very happy about)!  I learned a recipe that has been passed down 4 or 5 generations!

Observing and taking copious notes!

My husband and I barely held our son during the week because there was always someone offering to follow him around the house as he explored or wanting to hold him or play with him.  It reminded me so much of how my family is with him – and as a mom, I feel we all want our children to be loved and given attention – especially when they are so young.  It made me so happy to see him happily get passed from one family member to the next.

It was obvious how important family is in the Gonzalez clan.  Someone in the family set up a table in the living room in memory of my husbands grandparents – the candles remained lit all weekend long.  

The entire family was there for the holiday and many days after – there was no place anyone had (or wanted) to be.  The remainder of the days were filled with playing board games, pool, soccer and football, swimming in the pool, singing, dancing, storytelling around the campfire, and eating.  

I left with priceless memories that I will cherish forever – and am anxiously looking forward to our next visit to Texas! 

Our lives are all different and yet the same
– Anne Frank

Thanksgiving Day Run

26 Nov

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. 

Miles of empty road to run!
And though there wasn’t any company on the road, there was more than enough observing our workout from behind the barbed wire!!
We started the run around 930am.  It was already close to 60 degrees – perfect weather for a short, relaxing recovery run (this was my first run since my 60k on Saturday!).  We even had a little extra company for the first two miles as my husband’s cousin decided to join us to work up an appetite before the Thanksgiving Day feast.  

My body needed a couple of miles to loosen up, stretch out, and work through some of the kinks that seemed to have lingered from the 60k last Saturday.  But within 2-3 miles, I started feeling like my old self again and was able to zone out and enjoy the run.  I love running along the boardwalk in Staten Island, but there was something so special about running that close to nature on Thanksgiving.  
My favorite part of the run was seeing a mama Texas Longhorn nursing her baby (the simple beauty of it almost made me cry!) and Old Glory flying high at various wooden posts along the road. The two sights made me thankful for the family that I have – and grateful for those that are defending that very flag and what it stands for. 
It was a perfect way to spend Thanksgiving morning!  And a fantastic way to work up a hearty appetite for the feast that was to come later that afternoon!
Hope everyone had a happy, safe Thanksgiving filled with laughter, family, and lots of great food!!

What I’m Thankful for this year

23 Nov

“Life right now, in this very moment, is all anyone can be sure of. So live it well. ” – Chas Yousey

I find myself preoccupied and concerned with too many extraneous details (errands that need to be run or what others think of things I say or do), that I sometimes fail to stop to enjoy the moment.  I take for granted all that I have in my life – and realize I may not adequately express my thanks for those people and things that provide me happiness each day.

– My wonderful, sweet little boy, AJ.  He is a happy, healthy, vivacious 10 month old but I often forget that he’s so young.  I find myself expecting him to understand and listen to everything I tell him and get annoyed when he doesn’t.  There are nights when he wakes up at 2am and I get frustrated because he wants me to put him back to sleep.  I (embarrassingly) sometimes don’t have patience to sit with him for hours each day because he doesn’t want to play with his toys without me next to him.  I take for granted what a good boy he is and how lucky my husband and I are to have him in our lives.  I’m thankful that he has unconditional love for me, that he smiles at me when I greet him in the morning and that he looks to me when he’s hurt or tired. Thank you, AJ, for being the best unplanned gift mommy and daddy ever received.

– My amazing husband and family.  Without being too repetitive (since I did a post on them last month – My Support System), I could not imagine my life without them.  When I sit and think about it, I realize that I do not do a good job of expressing my gratitude on a regular basis to them – especially my husband and my mom.  I am not the easiest person to live with or love – I’m moody, I can be sarcastic and snippy, and I have very little patience.  Yet they are understanding, loving, and will do anything for me (and AJ).  Thank you to my wonderful husband, mom, sisters, and extended family who fill my life with nothing but support and love each and every day.

– God.  I am not an overly religious person, so I usually do not bring up the subject of God or religion in posts or in conversations.  However, I am beyond amazed at how much joy and happiness that has come into my life.  I’m not a perfect person – I’ve done some things that are less than stellar in my lifetime – and there was a time that I did not know if I deserved to have happiness in my life. But, this last year has been the best in my life – and I’m grateful for all that God has given me – a precious little boy, health and happiness for me and my entire family, amazing friends who remain my friends despite my inability to call or email as frequently as I would like, the prospect of owning our first house (on Staten Island – where my family lives), and the gift of running (both during and after pregnancy).

– Lastly, and most importantly, I remain thankful – each and every day – for those that continue to put their lives in danger for me and my family.  Without their sacrifice and dedication, I would not be able to sit down tomorrow and enjoy a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family – free from fear or terror.  I know how difficult it was to say goodbye to my family each deployment – but can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be away from your child for extended periods of time.  To all those that are serving – especially those who will be celebrating the holiday away from their loved ones – I say “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart.  And a special thank you to a fellow blogger who is getting ready to deploy and leave her family – Jess (from

Hope everyone has a Happy, Safe, and Beautiful Thanksgiving!!!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  Anything different or special?

My Support System

31 Oct

Prior to getting pregnant and the birth of my almost-10 month old son, I was self-sufficient.  I had a training plan that I followed pretty closely.  I got up each morning, drank my coffee, got dressed, and went on my run.  Race days were like any other day except I would eat some breakfast before I headed out the door.  I would use the baggage claim during colder months and stash away my cell phone, some cash, and warm clothes for after the race.  When a family member would show interest in coming to the race, of course I would be ecstatic and gladly welcome their company.  But, I didn’t “need” or rely on anyone or anything. 

I am no longer self-sufficient.  As I count down the days until the NYC Marathon on Sunday, I am humbled knowing that I would not be as prepared as I am (we’ll find out how prepared I am come Sunday!!) let alone even able to participate in the marathon if I did not have an amazingly strong support system backing me up. 

At the base of my support is my husband.  He watches our son each morning when I run and spends the better part of Saturday mornings with him when I have my long runs – often in lieu of playing golf or going to the driving range.  He has come to accept that dinner is whatever I need it to be based on my training.  If I’m carbo-loading for a 30 mile run, then he’s okay with pasta, baked potatoes, or brown rice for dinner 3x nights in a row.  Running at 530am requires me to get up around 430am most mornings – therefore I am in bed by 930 (sometimes I’m passed out soon after our son goes to bed at 8).  This significantly cuts into our time alone at night – time we like to spend on the couch chatting about our days or watching our favorite TV show.  I often take these things – which may appear to be trivial or easily accomplished – for granted.  But, I’m extremely thankful that he not only accepts the sacrifices he often has to make, but is happy to do them b/c he sees how much joy running and competing brings to me. 

Although only temporary, I am blessed to be living next door to my mom and sister and to have my dad and older sister only a 5-10 min drive away.  My husband travels frequently for work and is sometimes gone for 3-4 days at a time.  When he is away for work, I rely completely on my family to babysit my son to allow me the freedom to get my runs in.  I enjoy running with my son in the jogging stroller, but when I want to get a specific run in, want to have an easy run (not pushing 40+ lbs), or if the weather is not cooperating, I know I can turn to my family for free – and loving – babysitting!

My younger sister who lives in the city (2 blocks from Central Park) has graciously opened her apartment to me and my family countless times – even at the crack of dawn on the weekends.  I enjoy doing my long training runs in Central Park and we often make a day-trip out of the drive into the city.  My sister’s apartment is the “home base” for my husband and son while I am off running.  It gives him a place to feed, change, and nap our son – and allows me to be within a couple of miles of them at all times!  

You often hear the stories and sacrifices of runners on race day – but what is left out are the sacrifices that their family and friends make to allow them to train and run the race of their dreams.  

Today, I just want to thank my wonderful family for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream on Sunday!