30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 16: Medicine

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

I woke up this morning with chills and aches, promptly crawling back into bed after dropping Aidan off at school. I figure this is the perfect opportunity to be thankful for medicine. I don’t just mean pharmaceuticals, but the entire field of medicine.

Without medicine, my abuela would have passed a few weeks ago, albeit at the ripe old age of 102. Instead, she just celebrated her 103rd birthday. My mother, who just turned 70 a few days before my abuela, would not be here either.

While our healthcare system is often expensive and imperfect, I know that we’re still blessed to have access to the quality of care and treatments. I hope that reform will make it even more accessible. In the meantime, I’m thankful that my son has all his vaccines and that he doesn’t have to worry about smallpox or polio. I’m thankful that what might be lethal in another part of the world, like infection or diarrhea, is usually treated with a trip to the doctor or pharmacy. I can’t fathom losing someone I love to something that seems so simple to me. The hope, of course, is that some day no one else will be able to fathom it either.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 11: Thrills

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

Today, I’m thankful for one of the best things in life: thrills. First off, I love the word thrill. It’s so versatile. It’s both verb and noun that covers experiencing or causing someone to experience “a sharp feeling of excitement“, the intense feeling of excitement, and the actual thing that thrills you. (Thrill also means to tingle, throb, vibrate, or tremble. Do with that as you will.)

Such a fun word. Anyhow, on to what I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for the thrills I get from:
roller-coasters with really steep drops and lots of loops;
hitting a target, especially because I’m so uncoordinated;
climbing to the top of a silk and looking down;
going somewhere I’ve never been;
figuring out a buggy chunk of code;
solving a puzzle;
seeing a shooting star;
watching someone I love accomplish something great;
witnessing an extraordinary circus arts performance;
a hot red dress;
whatever puts the wind on my face;
conquering a fear;
trying something new;
swinging up high;
watching fireworks;
jumping in the waves;
and discovering how flexible limits really are.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 10: Culture

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

Being Cuban-American, I get to enjoy two cultures in one. While it can be hard to reconcile the two sometimes, I wouldn’t trade being bi-cultural for anything. It really has shaped who I am and how I live my life. I love sharing it with friends and instilling it in Aidan. I’m really lucky, because I get to claim two languages, two histories, two catalogs of music, two ways of celebrating several holidays… you get the picture. Below, I break down a few random things I’m thankful for about both.

On the Cuban side, I’m thankful for:

loud, absolutely humongous family;
long lifespans, which means more time to enjoy my loved ones (and if I’m lucky, to enjoy my life);
the really strong personalities;
the value placed on hard work while still putting family first;
the food (ZOMFG the food!!!);
noche buena, which is when most of us celebrate Christmas;
the warmth of Latin culture;
the music;
being part of a larger common cultural group (being Cuban means being Latina);
Cuban coffee;
Sabado Gigante, violetas, dominos;
the glorification of curves;
and of course, the beautifully seductive language of Spanish (which we totally butcher in Miami and mix with English to create Spanglish.)

On the American side:
Fourth of July (stereotypical, I know, but how can you not love it?!);
a certain “we can do anything” mentality;
an extremely diverse and expressive language, argued by some to have the most words of any living language in the world;
a really diverse landscape to explore;
Disney (yes, I said it. Deal with it.);
BBQ in all its iterations throughout the U.S.;
Thanksgiving (duh!);
diaspora of other groups (I can get a taste of nearly any ethnic group somewhere in the US, which I friggin’ love!);
my freedoms;
classic American style;
baseball, football, basketball (I’m not a diehard fan, but there’s something about it…);
and last, but not least, the truly American musical genre known as Jazz.

Background images: unknown & Aaron Escobar

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 9: Travel

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

Falling asleep as I depart one city and waking up as I land in another, I know it’s a privilege that some don’t ever get. In fact, something like 95% of the world’s population have never flown before. Can you believe how lucky I am? That out of all the people in the world, I’ve been on a plane? Not only once, but I’ve been flying since before I can remember.

Travel is a priority for me, and out of all the people I’m closest to, sometimes I feel like I travel the least. I want to see so much more, I swear I want to devour the world. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who want the same things, but it can make me forget how privileged I really am. So today, I give thanks for where I have been and where I have yet to go.

I’m thankful for:
the sense of adventure that travel brings;
the anticipation in planning and leading up to a journey:
the perspective gained by leaving daily life behind (or even bringing it with me on the road);
the awareness;
the tolerance I develop and am shown;
the confidence that comes from pushing beyond my comfort zone;
the incomparable shared experiences with my travelmates, but also with people I don’t know who have been where I have been;
the occasional friendships made;
the love that grows for this life and this earth with every trip I take;
the unexpected, the bizarre, and the rarely horrible yet hilarious mishaps;
the memories, which are rarely the ones I expect to take with me;
and that there is so much more to discover.

P.S. No, that’s not a painting in the picture above. That’s a photograph from a drive I took this summer. Again, how lucky am I?!

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 8: Senses

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Senses via Bits of Beauty

Most of us take them for granted, so today I want to devote some time to each sense. How we experience the world is completely dependent on them.


Oh, taste! How boring would eating be without the ability to taste anything? I’m thankful that I can taste the salty goodness of parmesan fries, the bittersweet of really quality chocolate, and the juicy sourness of a plum. I’ve only recently discovered that the good savory taste in cheese and meat is called Umami, which happens to be one of my favorite tastes!


I’m thankful that I can smell lavender, vanilla, and violets; fresh laundry; that newborn baby scent; wine, garlic, rosemary, thyme, onions, and grilled meat; the smokey smell on my clothes after an evening near a campfire; rain; Christmas tree; cinnamon and pumpkin spice; my mom’s perfume; salty air and suntan lotion; cologne and skin; the falling autumn leaves; orange blossoms; and Cuban coffee.


I complain about how bad my eyesight sucks without my warbys or contacts, but I really should be grateful. Every. Single. Damn. Day. Because without those contacts or glasses, I can’t really see faces, and that makes me realize how lucky I am to get the chance to see all the amazing things I have seen. I’m thankful that I get to see Aidan’s happy face and Lola’s big ears. I’m blessed to have eyes that witnessed absolutely surreal landscapes and gorgeous sunsets. I’m thankful that I can see this screen, right now.


I think touch might be the sense we’re most aware of because we know what it feels like to be numb. I think we can all agree that being numb is only desirable for childbirth and major surgeries. I actually met someone who had numbness in his hands from an accident; he had to be extra aware not to hurt himself because he had no way of telling if he was doing damage to his hands. After that conversation, I’ll take some pain any day. Beyond keeping me safe, I’m thankful for the delicious feelings like cashmere blankets and fur throws on my skin. I’m grateful to feel cool air, warm sunshine, hugs, tickles, my hair down my back when I unpin it, that deep stretch in a good yoga class, the spine tingle I get when I’m scared or from someone breathing on my neck, orgasms (because who the hell isn’t thankful for those?) and sand between my toes.


I’m thankful I can hear Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, violins, the life-altering gong in Kundalini class, rainfall, baby giggles, my name, heartbeats, ocean waves, conversations, the rolling R in Spanish, the rhythm of Italian, wind blowing through bamboo, wind chimes, crickets, and whispers in my ear.

background images: (from top left) jamesongravity, stolte-sawa, bitsofbeauty, mllefrancesca, stevendepolo

Seeing Stars

I’m totally crazy for stars right now! I don’t know where this obsession came from, but I’m on a serious celestial kick. I’m even thinking to host a celestial themed holiday gathering for my friends. Are you as starry-eyed as I am?

1. celestina earrings
2. edible star glitter
3. ferm gold star wall decals
4. starlette crown
5. wish upon a star signet ring
6. loeffler randall star sandal
7. barnaby gates star wall paper

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 7: Yoga

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Yoga

Today, I’m thankful for my yoga practice. I’ve been a student of various disciplines for over 10 years, and I’m still learning something new with each class.

I’m thankful for every vinyasa I’ve ever taken, every namaste I’ve ever muttered. I love the peace of savasana at the end of every class. I’m thankful for the gong, the singing bowls, the chanting of ong-namo-guru-dev-om (“I bow to the Creative Wisdom, I bow to the Divine Teacher”), and all that other “hippie-dippy shit” that totally rocks my world. I’m thankful for the acceptance and the inner reflection. I love myself more because of yoga. It can be a horrible day and one hour of practice feels like a clean slate. It just unravels everything inside. To all those who’ve ever practiced with me and the teachers who’ve guided me, I thank you deeply.

Background image: Lululemon Flickr

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 6: Aidan

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Aidan (son) by Bits of BeautyWell this one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Today, I’m thankful for Aidan. Honestly, I am everyday.

He’s so very thoughtful, compassionate, insightful, silly, and adventurous. I could extrapolate on all his virtues, however to avoid sounding like a braggart and make this post more personal to him, I’ve written an open letter to him. So here you go:

An Open Letter of Admiration to Aidan


I know, it’s weird that I’m writing to you when I see you everyday. But, I wanted you to be able to look back at this whenever you wished.

I’m writing to tell you how thankful I am to have you in my life. Anyone is lucky to have you. I’m even luckier that you’re my son.

I admire you so much. You are seriously awesome. I think you’re the coolest kid.

I love how open and honest you are about your feelings. I know I’ve told you this before, but I really do think it’s so brave! It sounds so easy to be honest about how we feel, but for most people it’s really difficult. We get scared of having our feelings hurt, so we hold back. I know you are very sensitive and you get scared too, but you say how you feel anyways. That is incredibly courageous.

You are so kind and compassionate. I’ve seen you care greatly about people you don’t even know. Even when you were four you’d worry if a kid walking down the street had someone to take care of him. What you did with charity:water, all on your own at 8 years old, is really special. It’s not just people you care for either. I’ve seen you feel for animals being hurt, even the ones that no one else likes because they weren’t cute. (Remember the wasps’ nest you didn’t want removed?)

You’re so thoughtful. I could give you endless examples, but I’ll just give you a quick one. The other morning I was sneezing like mad. When we were at the store that evening, you ran off to the drug aisle and came back with a box of Claritin for me. I didn’t even remember we needed it, but you did. The little things like remembering medicine, picking flowers, drawing pictures… those are what shows you are thoughtful. Your thoughtfulness makes you more than a great son. It makes you a great friend, and one day it will make you a great partner for a very lucky woman or man.

You are so silly, and you have this fabulous twisted sense of humor. Like me, you’re a goofball. You’re not goofy all the time, though. Aidan, you’re what we call pensive, which means you think a lot. You’ve been known to come up with some absurdities, but more often you reach into some internal book of wisdom and launch one out there. Your insights have made us all think and on occasion, made us teary-eyed. That is a fantastic gift.

I admire how adventurous you are. You surprise me with how willing you are to try new things, and it makes me want to do the same. I want to climb up rocks and hike with you. I can’t wait for the day we go sky-diving and bungee jumping. You asked me if I’d summit a mountain with you. I don’t know how, but if you’re serious, I would do it. We have many trips ahead of us, now that you finally have your passport. You always slow me down a bit when we travel and that’s a good thing.

Ok, so this is getting long, but last thing before I sign off…

I know you’re sensitive, and like the rest of us, you sometimes worry that you’re different or you’ll stand out in the wrong way. I hope you realize as you get older that the ways you stand out are fan-frigging-tastic. The best people in the world are weirdos who just came into their own. All the people you love? We were all made fun of, geeky, and weird. All of us. It’s cheesy as hell, but you have to be your own best friend. When you do that – when you’re sure of who you are or, at least, that who you are is okay – you’ll find your tribe. Or, they’ll find you. Stay open. Stay tolerant. Stay kind. And, above all things, stay true.

You make me proud, kid. I’m so thankful to be your mom.

Love you always,



30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 5: Soulmates

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Soulmates by Bits of Beauty

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”― Aristotle

I don’t believe that you have only one soulmate or that a soulmate is a romantic connection. In fact, I am blessed to have several soulmates, and while I think they are all good looking folks, I’m not into them that way.

You might say that these are my best friends, and you’d be correct. But, not all my best friends are my soulmates. It is entirely possible for a best friend to have become so by dedication, time, and effort.

Soulmates are different. Not to get all Jerry Maguire on you, but it feels like they complete me. I know it’s cheesy to say that, that they don’t actually complete me, but it feels like they do. Just having them around can make everything better. It isn’t a connection that’s dependent on how long I’ve known them or how much time we’ve spent together, either. I knew almost instantly with each that they’d be a safe place. I don’t have to try. We can do nothing and be okay.

They’re the people I want to discover new places and have adventures with. I want to look back and see them in my best memories. I want to see what fantastic mischief they achieve, because they are all spectacular nonconforming weirdos. I want to be old with them.

I love them deeply, with no expectations. I know they adore me, too, flaws and all. They know my odd quirks, and they call me on it if needed. They help me grow into a better person, and I hope that I’ve done the same for them.

To my soulmates, thank you for finding me and for sticking around.


30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 4: Parks

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Parks by Bits of Beauty

In late 2008, shortly before I started this blog, I was suffering from anxiety for the second time in my life. I’d had depression before, but this was a whole other beast. Anxiety sucks. It really, really SUCKS. I was in therapy and conceded to medication for the second time ever. To top it off, I was experiencing insomnia for the first (and sweet, merciful God, hopefully the only) time, either from my anti-anxiety medication or the anxiety itself. Joy. Can I tell you how much insomnia blows? It freakin’ blows monkey balls. I can’t even begin to tell you how crazy and desperate it all made me feel.

I began to look for anything that would help. Decluttering? Going back to yoga? Indulging my senses? Visualization? Music? WHATTHEHECKDOIDOOMGTHISREALLYSUCKS!!! Some of it helped. Some of it didn’t. One change in particular stood out.

I spent time outdoors. I ate my daytime meals outside. I read books lying in the grass or on the beach as often as possible. I took Aidan to the park so that I could sit on the swings and forget how I felt for a few moments. I went from abhorring being outside to taking naps in the backyard. I don’t know why I did this, but it felt right. It helped in small ways. And then I took Aidan to upstate NY to visit my sister and his cousins for apple picking and fall weather. The entire trip furthered whatever progress I was making, but a random hike on the Appalachian trail really changed things for me.

I remember thinking to myself, “So this is what it feels like? This is why all those crazy people go hiking.”

I found peace in those woods and carried it home with me.

I went back to Florida, completed many more months of therapy, weaned off the happy pills, and gave my mental health issues an epic ass kicking. I did some hard work, relearned behaviors, and built habits. But something about that peace in the woods was magic; it was my turning point.

I’ve felt that magic since then. The second time I ever felt that sort of peace was during a brief walk around Muir Woods. Most recently? Throughout Ireland and Scotland, whenever we found ourselves in a park. So here’s where I’m going with this little story.

I’m thankful for parks. I’m seriously thankful for the miles of protected and preserved nature. Who knows if I would have ever been able to experience that moment, standing in the middle of all those trees, without the protection provided to them by being designated a park. I’m equally thankful for the local, man-made parks with playgrounds and dog runs. Anyone who has ever stepped off the streets of NYC into Central Park can vouch for the respite a park provides.

Local, state, national, beach, woods, wilderness, and man-made – we’re lucky to have them. I’m so very thankful, and I hope they’ll be around long after I no longer am.