A time to be grateful and show gratitude

For as long as I can remember my family has participated in a Thanksgiving tradition that’s become something special. Each year—we all take a moment to write down what we’re thankful for. Some people write bullet points (Dad!)…others (like myself) are known for our essays (big surprise). We read them out loud after the Thanksgiving meal. Then, my Auntie Gail compiles them into a journal. It’s a time to show gratitude for all we’ve been blessed with the past year, a time to look back at loved ones entries who are no longer with us, and a time to see how life’s experiences and challenges have shaped us into the people we are today.

It’s a tradition that’s near and dear to my heart and something I look forward to continuing with my children in the future. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to start a tradition with your family! Normally, we wait to share our ‘Thankful List’ until the actual holiday—but I’ll give you guys a sneak peek.

When I think of 2016, I’m thankful for some of the most magical moments of my life and for several family members and friends who’ve shown me what it means to be strong. This past year, I celebrated an amazing engagement and had a dream-come-true wedding—getting to spend the rest of my days with Bobby is the best journey I’ve ever been a part of. Planning the wedding and working with my parents to create the dream day are memories I’ll always hold close to my heart. Getting pregnant and finding out we’re having a little boy has been nothing shoimg_4936rt of incredible. I am so thankful for this blessing and can’t wait til he joins our family.

I’m thankful that for the first time in five years I didn’t have to visit the emergency room or be hospitalized due to a Crohn’s disease flare. Until your health is taken from you—it’s easy to take those feel good days for granted. I’m so grateful the resection surgery I underwent in August 2015 helped alleviate so much of my daily pain and gave me the quality of life I’ve wanted for so long. If it wasn’t for the surgery, I doubt I would have reached remission and been able to get pregnant when I did.

I’m thankful for the special bond I share with Grandma—and that she’s going to soon be a Great-Grandma. I’m thrilled she was able to witness her beloved Cubbies finally wiimg_4830n a World Series. Getting to call her and hear the excitement in her voice the night they won and surprising her with the baby news are moments I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Living away from home—I’m thankful for my wonderful in-laws. The Hayden family has taken me in as one of their own and it’s been so fun to make so many memories through the years.

When my good friends, Joe and Julia, welcomed their baby girl Jade into the world February 25—they were faced with many unknowns as she was born with a heart defect. I’m thankful Jade is now in a rehabilitation facility, rather than the hospital and hope and pray she continues to make jade1strides so she can come home for the first time this winter or spring.

My Aunt Judy who passed away from ALS in January and my cousin Erin who endured a massive stroke in June and continues to fight each day—taking 50-60 pills, undergoing rehab and facing the unknown. Both of these special ladies have become heroes to many. Their battles provide perspective on what it means to be strong. I’m thankful for our special bonds and that Erin continues to amaze us all with her grace and strength.

I’m thankful my cousin Bill continues to live out his dream of being a motivational speaker, inspiring people across the country and world with his experiences as a two-time heart, and first- time kidney recipient and that I had the opportunity to hear him speak this year. 

My Godson Graham turned five this week. He is truly a light in my life and I adore him more each and every time I get to see him.  I was blessed with the best “Nouna” (Greek for Godmimg_5266other) and love knowing that I am continuing that tradition of closeness with my little guy.

One of the highlights of the year was watching my brother Greg  and cousin Carissa train and complete the Chicago Marathon to spread awareness for Crohn’s Disease and ALS. Their dedication, focus, and determination were incredible to witness and something I will always
remeimg_4912mber.

I feel so blessed to have such wonderful friends—from people who I met growing up through childhood and college to different TV markets and St. Louis. No matter the distance and the time that passes it’s comforting to know we can all pick up right where we left off. Several of my close friends experienced health complications with their babies and children this year. Whether it was staying in the NICU for weeks or needing open heart surgery, each of my friends and their little ones showed such resilience through the unexpected. I’m grateful Andrew, Graham and Cody are all home and healthy now. 

I have to give a Shout Out to my little guy Hamilton James. I can’t believe January is seven years since I brought him home from the shelter. He’s brought me more joy than Iimg_5177 ever thought imaginable from a pup. He’s already resting his head on my belly and anxiously awaiting the arrival of his baby brother. I have a feeling he’s going to be very protective of him! I’m thankful for his health and daily cuddles.

I’m always thankful for family and especially appreciative of the importance of it as we prepare to welcome another “Sparacio/Hayden” into the bunch. At the end of the day, all we truly have is our health and our family. I love knowing our little guy is going to be surrounded by so much love. 

Lastly, I’m thankful for this blog and all its readers. It took me 11 years to muster up the courage to start it—and the experience has been cathartic for me and hopefully for you, too! Your feedback, words of encouragement and outreach since I started sharing weekly articles in July really does my heart good. Receiving messages from fellow IBD’ers across the world has been humbling and shown me the power of the written word.

I hope during this week of “thankfulness” that you all take a moment to reflect on the good, the bad, and the miracles that brought you to where you are today. I promise that pausing to think about what you’re thankful for will leave you with a grateful heart.

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