How One Song Brought me Back to the Past

Since my father passed away over 4 years ago, my brothers and I have gotten into the habit of sending each other songs that he used to listen to.

My father probably had over a hundred cassettes, many of them mixed tapes that he had made over the years. He had such a wide interest in different kinds of music. My father would listen to classical, rock from the 70s-80s, 50s pop music, and so much more. I have a station on my Pandora music app with some of my dads music and it goes from “Hasta Ayer” by Marc Anthony to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis.

My father played the trumpet growing up and he later taught my two brothers how to play. They would practice everyday after school. I’m sure they’ve forgotten how to play now, but who knows. Music was just a big deal to him, and now it is to us.

Since my father listened to so many songs while we were growing up, we don’t remember all of them. But whenever each of us come across a song that he used to listen to, we send it to one another. It’s a nice way to remember our father.

Last week, my brother Chris sent me one song that I had completely forgotten about. It was the 1972 song Go All The Way by Raspberries. I clicked to play the song, and after about 10 seconds into the song, I was brought right back to my childhood living room. There was my father, sitting in front of his stereo, listening to this song and singing along.

And I just started sobbing.

That memory of my dad was so vivid at that moment, and that song brought me right back. I’ve had certain songs bring back memories but nothing as strong as this one. Maybe it was because I had forgotten about it, I’m not really sure. This time was just different. And it made me miss my father so much more.

I’ve had smells bring back memories too: my father’s cologne, my mothers cooking, pinchos cooking in the city. It’s funny how certain sounds and smells can recall memories.

It’s bittersweet when the memories of my dad pop up in my head. My smile turns to tears because I wish he was still here. My father should have died an old man, he was too young. So much has happened since he passed away. And I just want to pick up the phone and call him, to hear his voice. I want to ask him advice about the girls and how he handled things with us when we were kids, knowing full well he wouldn’t remember. I want to sit with him and make him laugh, I was good at that.

I’m not sure where my dad is now, I don’t know if there is an afterlife. All I know is that when I die, hopefully a long, long, long, time from now, I’ll get to see him again.

I miss you like hell, Dad.

My father

-Toniann

My Fitness Journey: The Ups & Downs

My passion for fitness started way back in high school when I was on the wrestling team. The practices we had were so intense, it was normal for me to lose 2 pounds in those 2 hours, and I loved it. My junior year of high school, I took a class called Weight Training, which was basically lifting weights and our final exam was to create a workout routine for one week. I wanted to learn more about fitness and to study Exercise Science in college. I even got accepted to the University at Buffalo in New York. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend because I wanted to stay close to my high school boyfriend, who turned out to be a real shit head. I can’t say I regretted staying and going to school in the city, because it was there that I was reconnected with my now husband.

After dropping out of college, and being in love with the most wonderful guy in the world, I gained so much weight. My normal weight is around 130 pounds and I had gotten up to around 175 pounds in a year and a half.

And then I got pregnant.

So of course, I gained more weight but along the appropriate lines, according to my doctor. When I went in for my final prenatal appointment, I weighed 201 pounds. I was mortified that I got over 200 pounds, pregnant or not.

38 weeks pregnant, and yes, she grew more in the last 2 weeks.

About 6 months after my daughter was born, I decided I needed to start working out and get my shit together. I borrowed the P90X DVD set from my brother-in-law and got to work.

In 6 months I lost 25 pounds and my passion for fitness was reignited.

I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a Personal Trainer. So I studied and became a Certified Fitness Instructor through the International Sports Sciences Association. I started working as a Group Fitness Instructor at a local gym and I felt at home in front of a class.

2014, in the best shape of my life. Goals AF for me now.

But my father was diagnosed with cancer, and making many trips from Florida to New York meant I couldn’t dedicate myself to my clients, so I eventually left the gym. My workouts became sporadic and stopped altogether once my father passed away.

I didn’t study to renew my fitness certification either.

But after having my second daughter years later, I knew I wanted to get back to working out.

It took me a while to stay consistent, but I finally got my groove back.

I know it’s only going to get harder the older I get, so I’m making sure that I workout at least 6 days a week for at least an hour. I have so many days where I just don’t want to work out, but having a gym in my house certainly helps. I associate working out with brushing my teeth: I wouldn’t go a day without brushing my teeth and the same applies to hitting the gym.

Exercise is a form of self-care.

With my anxiety as bad as it is, I make sure more than ever to work out. I truly feel better after I work out. And even on those days where I’m so sore, I never regret working out. Even though I’m not at my “ideal” weight, I love the way my body looks now. And the amazing part about fitness for me is the journey. Realizing that not too long ago, I was unable to do one push-up to now doing 20 without stopping for a break.

It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride for me, from gaining almost 50 pounds and losing it, gaining and losing, and gaining and losing again. What a wild ride it’s been.

To anyone who is on their own fitness journey, I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t matter where anyone else is. As long as you commit to exercising everyday and eating healthier, you’ll reach your goals. It all starts with a single step.

-Toniann

Dancing More Passion into our Marriage

Learning to dance has always been something my husband and I wanted to do, but we just never got around to it. It’s hard enough squeezing in a date night every now and then, so learning to dance was a bit low on our couples to-do list.

We’ve been to the club plenty of times throughout our 10 year relationship. We’ve bumped and grinded, and almost made another baby out on the dance floor, but we never learned formally.

I am Puerto Rican and my husband is Dominican. My mother taught me Salsa growing up, which I’ve since forgotten, and Jonathan learned Bachata. It’s a right of passage growing up in a Latin family to dance with your Titi’s and Tio’s at a party. But the dancing we were taught was just basic, enough to get you through a dance or two at a family get-together.

So once we moved to Arizona, we were on a quest to find a club that played Salsa and Bachata music. As luck would have it, my husband found a place that not only plays Latin music but also offers group lessons in both Salsa and Bachata. So we took our first class, and we loved it. Obviously, Salsa is more complicated than Bachata, and the lessons we’ve been taking have been mostly Bachata. But it’s been wonderful learning so far.

I credit our great communication to learning so quickly. The other night, the hubbs put on a Bachata dance tutorial video for us to follow at home. He can be a bit overzealous, but I love his enthusiasm nonetheless. I kept messing up and Jon was getting frustrated. I told him “listen, I know you’re very excited about learning, but you just need to be patient with me so I can catch up.” And he did, no offense taken at all. We’re in this together. And honestly…

Dancing with my husband is making me fall in love with him even more.

Latin dances are all about passion and moving those hips. Gaining confidence when learning the steps is so much fun too. Going out on the dance floor with the music roaring means you can’t use your words to communicate. You have to use your bodies to sense where your partner wants to lead you. Trusting your partner means going with the flow.

Last Saturday, we danced and danced, and danced some more. By the end of the night, my whole body was sore but it was so worth it.

It’s amazing to learn something new with my husband. And it’s so great that he’s just as excited as I am to learn to dance. He’s the one who lets me know the next time we’re going.

“Next Saturday, we’re going dancing!”

Seeing him dance is so sexy. And the way he looks at me when we’re dancing… whoo, I feel like the only woman on the whole dance floor.

It’s safe to say that Latin dancing is great foreplay. So if you’re looking to put more passion into your relationship, find your nearest Latin dance studio and club, and dance the night away.

¡Vamos a bailar!

-Toniann

Dealing with a False Sense of Entitlement

Growing up, my mother used to tell me how special and unique I was. How there was never another person in the whole world who was like me. I was also my father’s only daughter, and he spoiled me. So naturally, I believed that I deserved certain things in life. I deserved to be treated special, because that’s what I grew up believing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned…

I don’t deserve anything from anyone.

And neither do you.

No, I am not the center of the universe. While it’s quite shocking to come to this realization, it’s also liberating. It’s still something I am working on, but baby steps. It’s difficult to change your mindset from believing that certain people in your life owe you things (whether it be time, affection, money), to realize that is not the case at all.

Having a sense of entitlement only hurts myself in the long-run. So I am really trying to be more self-aware and not take things that people do personally.

But how do you handle someone who feels entitled to your own time, love or even money?

We’ve all come across people who feel like we owe them something. Someone who needs you right away to complain about the same shit going on in their life, with no regard for you. This has happened to me recently.

A family member of mine, who I cut out of my life a few years ago, wants to reconnect. Our relationship was horrible most of the time, I was always treated terribly. I admit, I was tempted to try and reconnect, we’re family after all. But I reminded myself that this person only wants to have a relationship with me to fulfill needs and desires that have nothing to do with me. I am just another ear to listen to bullshit, to feel sorry, and I refuse to do that.

And I refuse to feel guilty for distancing myself from people who disturb my peace.

Maybe that’s me feeling entitled again. I feel I deserve some peace in my life. I’ve dealt with enough of other people’s shit. I’d like to deal with my own.

Walking away from bullshit

-Toniann

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hi everyone, I haven’t posted in a while because a lot has been going on. We went to San Diego for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. The weekend started off great, we went to the beach, which was my youngest’s first time, so it was wonderful. The next day we went to LEGOLAND waterpark and we were really having a fun time. But as we went to one last area to wrap up our day, my diaper bag was stolen. Someone went into my stroller and stole my bag with everything in it: mine and my husbands phone, my wallet, my car keys and my daughters diapers and change of clothes.

I was fucking furious. Enraged that someone could actually do that at a family park. I felt violated; I couldn’t believe that someone felt they had a right to just take our belongings. And most of all, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself for being foolish enough to let my guard down. I was stupid to believe that there are no bad people out there anymore. I was so mad, I started to cry.

We spent the rest of the night with security from the park, and later the police to file a report. I knew that since our phones were turned off, there was no way to track them, and our stuff was gone forever.

I went to the LEGOLAND hotel and used their phone to call a locksmith to get a new key cut for my car so we wouldn’t be stranded. I was on the phone and computer cancelling credit cards and trying to get replacement phones. We had to print directions out to and from our hotel. You don’t realize how much you depend on your smartphone until you don’t have access to one.

Since all this happened and my anger has subsided a bit, I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened.

I’m GRATEFUL it wasn’t worse.

I’m constantly reminded that no matter what happens, things could always be worse. I’m grateful that my daughters weren’t injured in any way. I’m grateful I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, whatever money they spent on my credit card can be replaced by the bank. I’m grateful my husband had his wallet on him and not in my purse like much of the day. I’m grateful that while I was on the phone and computer for hours at the hotels in LEGOLAND, my daughters were having fun playing with the slide by the stairs and the countless LEGO bricks. I’m grateful for the staff at LEGOLAND who helped us with everything we needed. I’m grateful for a dear friend in San Diego that happened to have an extra phone that we were able to use for the rest of our trip. And despite being robbed of my possessions, I’m grateful that my daughters still had an amazing time.

Everything that was taken from me can be replaced. It’s easy to stay angry at this situation, but I want to remember this trip as a fun one. That’s how my daughters see it. They’ll look back at all the rides they went on, the prizes they won and all the fun we had together.

And to the person(s) who took my diaper bag: you may have stolen my belongings but I refuse to let you steal my joy. What goes around comes around, so I’ll just sit back and let karma take care of it.

I’m grateful either way.

Birthday dinner with my favorite people in the world.

-Toniann

Dear Anxiety, You’re a Bitch

This weekend, we’re going away for the weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. A trip that I am really excited about. But today, checking the weather for the weekend at our destination, I see that it’s going to be a chilly weekend. Our plans were to go to the beach and to a water park. So I couldn’t help but feel like our weekend’s plans would be ruined. But I know that’s my anxiety talking.

It all started when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was so scared of having another C-section because my previous one with my oldest was horrible. But being pregnant, I was in a constant state of worry for my baby, which I think is pretty normal. But on top of that, we decided to move across the country, WHILE I WAS PREGNANT! My husband was in Arizona while I was still in Florida with my daughter. I talked to my midwife about my anxiety but I opted not to take medication. I just assumed once I was in Arizona with my husband and daughters, things would go back to normal.

But my anxiety hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s not just worrying. My heart races, my chest feels so tight I can hardly breathe, I’m tired and irritable. Lately I’m noticing that there is little or nothing to prompt my anxiety. And I’m trying to manage my anxiety on my own but it’s so exhausting.

I exercise 6 days a week for at least an hour, I have a healthy diet, and I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are all bad for anxiety. The three things I turn to when I’m feeling anxious and stressed out are making things worse. So I’ve managed to cut out my beloved morning cup of espresso, which was fucking painful. I’m still working on cutting out nicotine (yes, I vape and am a former cigarette smoker), and working on keeping my alcohol consumption to just weekends. Which is so hard because I love having my red wine!

I haven’t been consistent with my meditating either, but I’m starting tomorrow. I’ve already started waking up earlier to make time to meditate, my problem is just getting out of bed.

It’s hard for me to reach out and talk to people about what I’m going through. Especially when my anxiety makes me worry about trivial stuff. Honestly, even writing this blog post right now is making me anxious. But I’m trying to find a positive outlet, so here I am typing away. I knew I wanted to write about my anxiety at some point, so I figured now was a good a time as any.

I’m a work in progress, I always will be. Managing my anxiety is just something I have to deal with everyday. Some days are better than others. But I’m getting better at realizing which situations make me anxious and I’m making an effort to stay away from those situations.

I am more than my anxiety.

-Toniann

Cherishing Time with Your Kids

I remember the day we brought Isabella home from the hospital and I had her in my arms. I was doting over her and in complete awe of how beautiful she was. And my mother said “Enjoy it, soon she’ll be starting kindergarten.” I looked at her like she was crazy, “Ma, she’s a newborn, kindergarten is a long way off.” That was almost 8 years ago. Isabella will be 8 years old and four days after, Emilia will be turning 2. And ever since I became a mom, I keep asking myself:

“Where has the time gone?”

2 month old Isabella

When my daughter first started kindergarten, I knew exactly what my mom meant that day four years previous. She warned me about this, time going by so quickly. It’s unbelievable how fast time can go by once you have kids. I cry every year on my girls birthdays, the start of a new school year, and any significant milestone. But I’m realizing just how important it is to cherish the day-to-day as well.

In her big girl bed

Throughout the day I find myself waiting for the day to be over. “I can’t wait to put the girls to bed and relax” is the usual thought in my head most days. But I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to appreciate all the moments I have with my girls, even the not-so-great ones.

Sisters

I know that one day from now, honestly not that far into the future, my girls will be grown and out of the house. There won’t be toys for me to trip over, messes to clean up, or the sound of them screaming and laughing as they play. And honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart.

They get along… mostly

So I’m going to play with them more, hug them more, kiss them and memorize how they look at this age. I’ll gladly read another story, change the poopy diapers, and cuddle my girls as much as they’ll let me. They will never be this little again.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be with my girls.

-Toniann