A Few Deep Breaths

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

I can hear my dad’s voice now. In order to explain what this means I have a short, well semi-short, story to share.

I used to be a basketball player. Pretty amusing to think about as I am 5 foot 2 with zero capability of sprinting up and down a court at the moment. Basketball was never my favorite sport. Soccer held that role in my life; however, for a while prior to a few injuries, I played all the sports my friends played. Basketball happened to be included on that list. I was usually a point guard, shockingly not a post I know. Before almost every game I would get rather worked up with nerves. Who knows why I was so scared to go out and play a sport for my high school; nevertheless, it happened.

I recall when I would get this worked up, my dad would occasionally hit me with the “you need to relax, Rachie.” My parents were never competitive when it came to my sports, only supportive, so I never felt forced play them. This is why there was zero pushback on their end when I did choose to prematurely quit basketball and forgo my inevitable WNBA career.

As I mentioned, my dad would tell me on many pregame car rides, “you need to relax.” He always told me, “just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” He would repeat it until I was actually back on track, breathing calmly.

This was one of my dad’s “phrases.” Whenever I would get anxious whether for my school assignments, sporting events or theatre performances, I could always hear him saying “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” It never mattered if he was actually reciting it to me, I always heard it.

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Now, in February of 2017, I still hear it. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I hear my dad’s voice in my head: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. I may not be instantly relaxed, but I definitely get on my way to it.

It is something I know that I will hear forever. And forever in his voice.

Okay, so I occasionally overreact to situations. I over think far too much, and with that comes anxiety at times. When I reach these moments, Dad’s voice will always be there to calm me down: Rachie, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And of course when I actually am overreacting to a minor situation I’ll hear the just chill out, you need to relax. It will remind me to breathe. Because what I am making into a big deal, is really no big deal at all. At least not something that cannot be fixed with a few deep breaths.

-Rachel

And Then I Remember My Memories

I’m jealous of the girls whose fathers will walk them down the aisle.
I’m jealous of the girls whose dads will see them graduate college.
I’m jealous of the girls who got to crack open a beer with their dads when they turned 21.
I’m jealous of the girls who get to introduce the man of their dreams to their dads.
I’m jealous of the girls whose children will grow up with grandpas.
I’m jealous of the girls whose relationship with their dads didn’t change at age 16 after a disease stole that relationship from them.

And then I remember my memories. 

I remember looking over at the sidelines and seeing my dad at every single game after a long day of work.
I remember the ice skating trips, and my dad skating up behind me and lifting me in the air.
I remember the vacations—all the vacations with the five of us.
I remember the car rides and the hours stuck in traffic, testing every member of our family’s patience.
I remember my favorite movies being interrupted by a man on a mission with a vacuum cleaner.
I remember the bike rides around our hometown and being scared to ride down the big hills.
I remember the long, very long drives around that same hometown.
I remember going to church every Sunday and never missing breakfast right after.
I remember the Christmases where I was spoiled with gifts because my dad worked hard each and every day to give our family a comfortable life.
I remember the laugh.

And then I am no longer jealous.

I am sad, yes.
But I was blessed with a dad who placed his wife up on a pedestal and tucked his kids away in his heart with immense pride.

My dad was everything a girl could dream her dad to be.

Although he was taken from us far too soon, and the effects of an awful disease took pieces of him years earlier, he was and always will be the strongest, best man I will ever know.

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Father’s Day, 2014

-Rachel

Happy 22nd Birthday Christine Elizabeth

It’s about to get real sentimental in this post for my favorite sister as she finally gets to feel 22 on tomorrow’s lovely Monday morning.

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We have all heard the sayings before:

Blood is thicker than water.

Friends come and go; family is forever.

Chance made us sisters; hearts made us friends.

Well the sister cliché couldn’t hold truer than in my relationship with this beautiful birthday girl. I am so beyond blessed to have an older sister who really is a best friend. We were lucky enough to only be two years apart because that gave us the opportunity to go through everything at basically the same time. I have to admit I lucked out though getting to watch her go through everything immediately before me (and stealing her prom and formal dresses was always a plus too).

We are plenty alike, yet the pieces of us that are different are what make our relationship so strong. You will be far-fetched to find two other girls who could be screaming, literally screaming at each other for something we should not even be arguing about, and then less than five minutes later back to laughing hysterically because there’s too many things I constantly need to share with her.

We’re the sisters who people accidentally mistake as twins—we’re the “Mooney girls.” My whole life I’ve been known as “Christine’s little sister” or accidentally called “Christine,” and I can honestly say this has never really bothered me. And that’s something special I think. After all, we’re two years apart and a lot of comparisons can occur between two sisters that close in age. But we understand we have differences and different strengths in life. I bet you didn’t know Christine could kill it when singing huh? And then there’s me over hear, the tone deaf one. And when something doesn’t go well, let’s just say you’ll know by the expression on my face. Christine though? She’ll be smiling as usual because she knows how to laugh even during the rougher times.

I can’t even begin to write the amount of support I receive from my older sister in everything. We talk to each other every single day even though we are in different states. She’s my person to share any news, concerns, fears, laughs, grades on exams, or when I need to know what to wear that day, and of course we can’t forget the boy talk. I value her opinion more than anyone else’s.

I know my sister will always be on my side no matter what. No matter what I need help with, no matter how small the problem is, no matter who or what is stressing me out. She’s always there to support me, stand up for me, and stand with me.

The most frustrating part of our relationship is definitely trying to stay mad at each other. I’m a stubborn girl (I’m an Aries, what can I say) and when I get mad it turns into a game for Christine to see how long it’ll take before I break with a smile—maybe two seconds max.

She’s easygoing, beautiful, amazing with kids, fun, and deals with far too much in her life that only proves her strength.

Christine brings out the best in me because I look up to her. There are plenty of times I need to relax, lighten up a little, actually enjoy the day, and she’s always there to help in that area.

I take her support, advice, her friendship and her clothes everywhere with me.

She is most definitely going places, and I can’t wait to be by her side because let’s be honest, you can’t have one Mooney girl without the other.

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I’m so happy that next year I’ll be little closer to her and we will get to share more special moments and occasions together. Especially since she’s leaving me this summer AGAIN as she takes on the real world in her internship. I know she will do amazing things in the professional world before coming back to Caledonia and getting to play with me the rest of the summer.
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Happy 22nd Birthday, Christine. Thank you for being my best friend for officially two decades now. I can’t wait for the rest of the decades still to go—when we’re old and sipping cocktails in our retirement.

-Rachel

Home-Cooked Memories

Recently I discovered I have the personality of a grandmother in regard to food. Not just any grandmother, but my 2 wonderful grandmothers–let’s just say you won’t get away with eating just one helping at dinner 😉 . To me, food equals love—when you give someone food, that shows you care (hence the “grandma mentality”). When I come home I love to make the family breakfast as often as I can. That’s my version of helping out. If I want to cheer someone up? I’ll bake them cookies. Is it time for a birthday? Oh that means it’s time to bake a cake.

So when we decided what to do for my parents’ 25th anniversary–coming up on March 23rd–where else would we turn to other than food? European food of course. After all, what’s more romantic than a European tour through your own kitchen, am I right? 

Mind you we only had one day after our return from school to organize the food AND keep it hidden from Mother, so yes this is all made from our dear friend Danny Wegman. (Side note: Wegmans is actually my happy place.)

A little look into the food-filled [early] anniversary celebration:

Memories are surrounded by food. Whether with our Macken Family tradition of “Italian Night” before Thanksgiving, snacking on antipasto around the kitchen island as we laugh and chat the night away, ordering from the hometown pizza shop (one too many times), sharing morning coffee and biscotti on a summer morning, or just coming home each break to my favorite meals that my mom can’t wait to make for her kids.

Different foods help us remember different occasions, help us remember times with our loved ones, and let’s be honest, food just tastes good. 

My family does food right. Just ask my Instagram feed:

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This past break at home was proof that food is a part of bringing family together. Maybe it’s my Irish-Italian roots or maybe just my pure love of pasta, but I don’t regret one bite I take when it’s around the family table. 

So yes, food might seem like a strange topic to write about. But in my house, food is where the memories are at. 

Another Day, Another Lesson–Priorities.

After working through plenty of long days and nights over the years, I’ve begun to understand the value of time management through prioritizing. For the longest time my life was all about my grades and studying, which actually does still take up most of my time. Some things never quite change. My point though is that in high school I was so concerned with getting good marks that when I was sick (shout out to the year of Mono and Kidney Stones), I still never stopped worrying about my grades and how to hand my work in on time. At that moment I should have been taking care of myself, not stressing out more. School is a huge priority, but your health is even higher.

Academics have always been a top priority since…well grade school (not kidding). But in high school something else became a priority in my life. The moment I began working out. And I mean really working out. Not what I call “working out” today i.e.*does 10 crunches, checks for abs*. The more I prioritized body image, the less I cared about why I began to work out and eat better in the first place—to be healthier. When something like this consumes a lot of your life, then that means you’re spending less time on something that should be given higher priority. In my case? My family. My number one priority. Not my GPA and not what my body looks like. Family is my number one and I would always regret it if I didn’t make time for them every chance I have.

Life changes unexpectedly, which means some days I have to prioritize things differently. Schedules change, circumstances change, and therefore priorities change. However, certain ones remain pretty consistent. Let’s say it’s a Wednesday afternoon and you’re sitting in the student lounge stressing over your sociology paper. You’re also trying to study for an exam that day, while working on your internship application and researching college information, while also planning upcoming birthday gifts and then planning your spring break “dates” with hometown friends. Instead of overwhelming yourself, realize you need to take a step back from it all. Breathe. And recognize that 90% of the things you are worrying about at this exact moment are important, but not in the slightest bit something to stress out about to no end.

This semester I’ve learned the value of saying no, which is not something I am used to doing. I tend to make myself busier because I like being in the action, I like to help people, and I love to gain new experiences. I don’t like to disappoint people and when I don’t participate in something, I feel like I am. This is a trait that can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve learned that when you say yes to everything and sign up for everything that remotely strikes your interest, your priorities WILL get mixed up. You won’t be able to focus on what is most important in your life—the clubs/programs you truly enjoy and the people you should be making time for.

And why is this? Because you said yes. To everything.

You know what I’ve learned can be a priority on messy days? Making time for a nap. Or even just making time to go to sleep before 2am and wake up after 7am. What good is running down your body in order to make the perfect grade or get that extra workout in. Your work does not benefit from late-night hours once you become sick and end up with say, the flu for a week. At that point, saying yes to even your highest priorities is out of the question.

I’m learning to love the power of saying no. Nicely of course! Everyone has so much going on in their lives. We are busy students and I hope we can respect when our peers tell us they have a lot to do today and have to decline.

If we commit to only the things of high priority, then we could put ALL of our effort into these. Our bodies won’t get run down from spreading ourselves too thin. We won’t be miserable running to obligations. And maybe we’ll even have time to think, to sleep, to eat, to talk to your friends at dinner instead of eating while working on your laptop. Oh the good life that could be.

Life is short. I’m not going to waste hours each day worrying about everything and anything when I could prioritize my time by taking on the responsibilities, organizations and classes that improve my life on a daily basis, not just improve my resume.

I stumbled on this quote the other day and it seemed to fit the post. A reminder to prioritize thoughts too! Think happy 🙂

-Rachel