Thoughts on the Las Vegas shooting

Shortly after my first son was born, a dear friend, a psychologist specializing in abused, underprivileged or troubled youth, came to my house to visit the new addition to our family. She walked into the baby’s room and I saw the emotion in her face… not from seeing the new baby, but from seeing the room. It was a magical room with striped walls in two shades of calming baby blue, white furniture, a comfy soft beige glider and a cloud shaped ceiling light adding heavenly lighting. With wide eyes my friend said, “If all babies were born to this environment, I wouldn’t have a job.”

She didn’t mean all babies had to come home to a similar magical room. My son’s room was simply a reflection of the love, happiness, and peace in which I wanted to surround my baby. My baby was born to two parents who anticipated his arrival and welcomed him. He was, and is, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends that adore him. Since the day he entered this Earth, all he has ever known is love. 

When I heard the news of the Las Vegas shooting I was devastated. There are lives lost, people traumatized, and fear is on the rise…again. People are adamantly stating their positions on social media regarding gun control, politics, and terrorism. Everyone is angry, scared and hurt. I went to bed thinking about the people in Las Vegas and woke up thinking about them too. I headed out for my morning run and tried to lift my spirits by playing some nice music on my headphones, but the music did not quiet the thoughts. I found myself thinking of the shooter, the 64-year-old man who felt compelled to walk into a concert and kill innocent people. It took me back to that day my friend walked into my baby’s room. I wonder: what did that shooter’s room look like when he was a baby? Was he born to loving parents? Was he rocked on a rocking chair while he nursed at his mother’s breast? Was he showered with love by family members?

I recalled a social media post I had seen in which a doctor pointed the finger at psychiatric medications and how they induce violence. So I question further, was this man medicated when he was just a child? As a society are we lovingly  over medicating our children causing them to be prone to drug addiction? Could these “medicines” induce the types of mental instability that could lead to these horrific events?

I ask these questions because the story has to start somewhere. While having access to automatic weapons is horrific and unnecessary, access alone does not cause the gunman to pull the trigger. I look at my little boys, who are being raised with so much love and support, and  ask myself: could they turn out to be mass murderers?  

This 64-year-old man was just a baby once with parents. What could have happened to that man as a baby, or a child, or a young adult that led him to this heinous crime?

Who cares you might ask? The point isn’t what led him to this act, the point is to stop others from doing it. And that’s when I say, therein lies the rub. No matter what we do to protect our society, there will always be a way for someone to commit a crime. So what if we looked deeper? What if we started earlier? Could we teach parents to teach love? Could we stop the madness of medications that are so prevalent in our society? Could we stop injecting violence in our children’s brains with video games? What would it cost us to bring love and teach love to foster homes and abandoned children? Could we prevent the children we are raising today from harming others tomorrow?

I don’t have the answers to these questions but I believe we need to ask them and invest our resources in finding the answers.

After all, as a society we sure are paying for this man’s actions.

 

On September 5th, I was scheduled to speak in an event in Puerto Rico.  A few days before the event, I was notified that it was postponed and rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. When I received the new date, I immediately felt a pang in my heart, realizing that my middle son, Justin, was scheduled to perform in a play that very day.  I told the event coordinator I would have to get back to her regarding my availability.  The mommy guilt set in. I thought to myself: This is just the beginning. I’ve chosen a career that is going to separate me from my kids. Is this how it’s going to be, me traveling and missing my kid’s important events? This is not something I have to do, this is something I’m choosing to do. Am I making a mistake? 

I felt so conflicted that I even thought maybe speaking was something I was going to have to put on hold for now. Suddenly I heard the horn honking. I had forgotten that my husband and kids were waiting for me in the car. I jumped in and told my family about my enormous conflict. “Guys, I just got the call about my event in Puerto Rico. It was rescheduled to September 30th which means I would miss Justin’s play.” Seeming unfazed, my husband replied “well Justin has three performances, so technically you’re only going to miss one out of the three.” I was insulted.

 “I am his mother. I should be at all his performances! I’m going to tell them I’m not available. I can’t go.”

My husband challenged me “Shouldn’t you ask Justin how he feels about you missing the play?” Convinced my son would never let me go, I turned around to face the back seat. “Justy, how would you feel if I was out of town on the day of your performance?”

 “Mommy, you not going to your speech makes no sense, you wanna know why?

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I have three plays! If you go to two of my plays you get to see me do what I love AND you get to do what you love. But if you go to all three of my plays, then you miss out on doing what you love. That wouldn’t make any sense. You should do your speech.” I felt so proud of that little six year old for his wisdom and his sense.

My other two boys and husband chimed in in agreement. My poor supportive husband added “yes, and on that day, all of his family is coming to see him perform so I will be there and so will his grandparents, godparents, and cousins.” Of course, that comment made me angry…because I am crazy (edited by my husband). Its not that I didn’t want Justin to be surrounded by family on his big day. It’s just that I felt I should be there too. I guess I was feeling a little jealous.

What is most embarrassing about this post is that I speak about being there even when you can’t be. This is precisely my topic! But when it came to my own parenting, I couldn’t handle it. I understood my son would be fine even if I missed the play. I mean, I KNOW the things I could do to be present for my son while I was gone. What I had not accounted for was how I would feel to be away from my family while they were having fun and celebrating. Seeing myself outside that picture was very painful.

It became crystal clear that there was no choice in the matter. I had to go to my speech. That’s the thing about having a calling: it’s not always convenient and it certainly isn’t always ideal. Sometimes you have to make tough choices. On the day I’d be missing out on a nice family outing, I would carry my father’s legacy.  I would lead by example. I would share a message with parents that may not have a choice in the matter the way that I did. I would show my kids that you can’t always take the easy way out, and, more importantly, that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Although they are my priority and they are loved, there will be times I have to miss something that is important to them because I have to do something that is bigger than us. Ironically, this time it was Justin teaching me that lesson, not the other way around.

I’ve always heard and reiterated the phrase, “80% of the things we worry about never happen,” yet I consumed myself with a scenario that unbeknownst to me was never going to come to fruition. Sadly, I was worrying about something that was so important to me, not realizing that we were going to confront a crisis that was so much bigger than all of us. The recent catastrophes in Mexico, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and Houston make all the petty things we worry about seem so insignificant. Seems like before I can teach lessons to my kids, I should learn them myself.

Today, I find myself looking for ways to be there for Puerto Rico, even though I’m not physically there. Isn’t life ironic?

It was Wednesday morning and I had been running around since 4:30 a.m. Wake up, pack lunches, exercise, come home & shower, help kids get dressed, eat breakfast, drive kids to school, head to a meeting, put gas, and make it to Chucho’s funeral mass by 10 a.m. It had been a busy morning of a busy week, completely programmed with time blocks for meetings, work, kids, and exercise when I got the call that my extended family member, Chucho, passed away. I was saddened to hear of his death, and even more so for his wife, children and grandchildren. The news took me back to a couple of years prior when Chucho’s daughter, Michele, passed away suddenly. Painful. 

I sat in front of my calendar shifting things around to make sure I attended Chucho’s funeral. There I was on Wednesday morning running into the church as the funeral mass began. I’d been so busy that I hadn’t had enough time to really process this. I moved robotically, shifting gears from one commitment to the other checking the to-do’s off my list.

The church doors opened and suddenly a gust of silence and stillness hit me like a truck. I sat down alone in a back pew and took a deep breath. The alarm clocks, deadlines, traffic, red lights, cell phones – all the chaos – disappeared.  There was so much peace in this space. Looking around, family members’ heads were bowed down, praying, weeping, and loving each other. There was also pain in this space.

Sometimes it feels as if time does not stop for anyone. The world keeps churning regardless of the circumstances. I had been on that time wheel right up to the moment when I entered the church. But sitting there in reflection I realized that time does stop for those who need it. Time had stopped for Chucho’s wife, his daughters, his son and his grandchildren. There were no other to-do’s on their calendar. There were no time blocks, commitments or tasks to complete. They were just there, fully immersed in the pain of the loss they had endured.  It was in that space that I could truly be present for my family.

At the burial, Chucho’s daughter, Terry, spoke about her father. I didn’t know much about her dad other than he was married to my mom’s cousin and was always kind and friendly to me since I was a little girl. I listened as Terry retold her father’s life.

“My dad walked each of his daughters down the aisle at their weddings with the same shoes he wore on his wedding day. He also wore those same shoes to his son’s wedding. Throughout the years, his feet grew…but he still squeezed them into those shoes the day each of his children married.”

I had never heard of anyone do that before. In that one simple story, I learned so much about Chucho. I learned that he was a sentimental person. He loved tradition. He was thoughtful. He was family oriented. He loved his wife and children. He had a good sense of humor and he’d be willing to wear uncomfortable shoes in exchange for a symbolic gesture.

At the end of your life, isn’t that what matters? Not how much money you made, or how many awards you received. Its not about what car you drove or what profession you chose. Life is about the impact you make in the lives of the people you leave behind.

The image of Chucho in that pair of shoes will stay with me forever; that story will always be with me even though he’s not. In fact, I was thinking of giving away the shoes I wore to my wedding but now they have a new purpose in my closet: to wait for my sons to get married.

Chucho’s feet will no longer squeeze into those old pair of shoes but the footprints he left will last forever.  

In Memory of Juan Angel Diaz 

Piling on Perspective

For the past week, Floridians have braced themselves for what could be the worst natural disaster we have faced thus far…Hurricane Irma. Between the recent destruction hurricane Harvey brought to Texas, and watching hurricane Irma attack island after island almost in slow motion, families have been faced with days of fear, anxious preparation, and really tough decisions.  The burning question in my house has been “Do we stay or do we skip town?”  A question that has been analyzed with every possible scenario being explored. Although we are yet to face the storm, (it is now looking like we will be hit by the outer bands of the hurricane sometime this evening), the waiting process in it of itself has been torturous.

For me, this time has been one of deep reflection and realizations.

On Wednesday morning, around 12:30a.m., my husband, who’d been watching the news in the living room, opened the door of our bedroom and gently shoved me to wake up. “Caro, I’m going to fill up the gas tank and we are going to Georgia. Get up and start getting ready.”

Panic set in. Oh my God, this is serious.  Swiftly I got out of bed and went into preparation mode. What do I need to protect? What should I take? My first move was to pack a few outfits, a jacket for all of us, and our toiletries. Immediately after I gathered my hard drives that contain pictures and videos of my children, my wedding album, and my box full of postcards my father sent me. I kept looking around. I tried to focus. What am I forgetting?  I couldn’t think of anything else. Pacing around, looking at my beautiful home, I kept thinking how will I feel if I lose this painting, or this piece of furniture, or this TV.

My answer was consistent.

It doesn’t matter what happens to those things. 

 In fact, the only thing I cared about, at all, was my family’s safety. What a liberating moment. For two years since my father’s death, I have agonized over what to keep of his and what to toss. Rummaging through every one of his papers and files, I feared losing a treasure. Suddenly I found myself thinking I could lose it all in one sweep, and it didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, now it made sense. Everything I need to hold on to I carry with me, in my heart and my mind. No hurricane can take that from me unless it takes my life.

After all that turmoil and packing, fear of the heavy traffic and gas shortage changed our course of action. We were back to staying home. With the hurricane still days away, but closed schools and offices keeping us home, I grabbed the bikes to take my kids out to ride. For two days, we spent hours riding outside with friends and our neighbors’ kids. This was the first time since we moved into our house three years ago, that our kids played with the neighbors kids. Looking at my street filled with children having fun and not worried about getting their homework done or getting to soccer practice was delightful. I found myself secretly thanking the universe for giving me a few days before the storm to enjoy my children and the outdoors.

Once we were anchored, our home became the hub for the family. Little by little, our evacuated members have arrived with air mattresses, food, water and flashlights. My kids are thrilled to have a slumber party with all their favorite people at once. We’ve spent the days preparing for the storm, and the evenings laughing, eating and joking with our family. Despite the worry and the anxiety, we are finding peace in being together.

As of now, the news is offering some relief that the storm has shifted and is no longer as big a threat to our lives.

We may have dodged a huge bullet this time around, even though we are all currently playing the waiting game. But already the threat of this natural disaster has given me a gift.

The gift of perspective.

 I’ve learned that in life we often have no control over how things are going to turn out. More often than not, we are faced with choices and each option can lead us down a different path. There is no way to know which answer is the correct one but the uncertainty causes more pain than the path. Trust in yourself. Weigh your options, make a calculated decision, take action, and have faith that things will work out.

I’ve learned that community matters. Surround yourself with the people you love. Help each other. Stick together. Laugh and love each other. Nothing matters more than that.

I’ve learned that the only real fear in life is the loss of it. Other fears are often fabricated or exaggerated in our minds. But when one is in a life-threatening situation, things that seemed overwhelming in the past become trivial. If we could somehow bottle that wisdom up and open it in times of stress, we would eliminate most of the unnecessary fear we place on ourselves.

I’ve learned that material things don’t matter, time does. Time well spent with family and time to enjoy life. The time we have is our most prized possession and sometimes it takes the universe to force us to STOP the grind and just be present in the moment. Even if that moment is a bad one, it pulls us together and brings out the best in us. This creates memories that will last forever.

I am not sure why there are so many natural disasters occurring around the world, nor why there is so much destruction and devastation. It is all happening so fast and all at once. But my hope is that we can focus on the gifts instead of the grief. We humans are resilient beings, we can lose it all and still come out strong. As we band together to repair and rebuild what has been lost in the face of these disasters, I hope we can all remember to look around and reconstruct this Earth with the most powerful weapons we have…love, hope, and the power of working together.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families all over the world suffering from earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. Wishing everyone peace and strength during these times.

He was Right.

I can’t believe that it has been two years since my father, Joachim de Posada, passed away. I remember it like yesterday – laying next to him on that little cot in the hospital, holding his hand and trying not to fall asleep because I knew he’d be leaving soon. I remember the sound of the thunder and lightning bolt that simultaneously shook and illuminated the window, alerting me that he had taken his last breath. I had no idea, then, how I would live without my father. But in my head replayed a lot of the things my father said to me along the way.

He said I would survive.

He said I was strong.

He said he would never leave my heart or my mind.

He said that I could tolerate anything, because we humans are resilient.

He said I would keep laughing, and loving, and living.

He said that our connection was so strong that he felt it would continue…and he had such curiosity. 

be there even when you're notHere we are, two years later, and it turns out my dad was right.

I am strong. I did survive. I do continue to laugh, and love and live. And so can YOU.

No matter what you are going through in life, you are resilient and you will recover.

Through the last few years I’ve witnessed so much resilience around me. I am in awe of how people can bounce back from traumatic events in their own lives. I wonder at the limits humans can push past physically and emotionally.  I’ve seen the strength in others and in myself.

This post is not a how-to or a life hack. We can take a lot of routes to get to the same location. But if you’re feeling a little down today, or if you are in the midst of difficult change, I just thought I should tell you that you have the power to pull through. You are strong. And you can choose happiness.

As for my dad’s curiosity about the mystery of our connection upon his death, somehow I feel as connected to him as ever. When people see me, they see him, even those that don’t know him. Because I carry my father’s greatness like a badge of honor. He is now a part of my soul and my spirit, traveling this journey with me in my heart & mind instead of by my side. He was right about that, too. 

 

Home Remedies for the Flu

There seems to be an epidemic of the flu going around. Everyone is getting sick; Teachers, children, and inevitably, the children’s parents. My family escaped contamination for a while…until last Sunday…when my oldest son complained of having a headache. All went downhill from there. Fever, coughing, headaches, body pains and runny noses have invaded our bodies, one by one, in a domino effect. The only man still standing strong as of now is my husband.

From the moment I realized my oldest son was sick, I went into Mama Bear mode taking care of my cubs. I brought out all my weapons to fight this flu – ginger, turmeric, garlic, vitamin c, vitamin d, essential oils, sovereign silver, and tried and true, good ole’ fashion, chicken soup.

Now let me be clear. Just because I bombard my children with all these natural remedies, doesn’t mean they are not going to go through the process of the sickness. Their bodies still have to work it out with the virus and they are still going to feel crappy.

However, I give them this stuff for two big reasons:

  1. In hopes that they process whatever they’re fighting in a faster response time; and
  2. In hopes that they have enough anti-inflammatory in their system to prevent a serious complication (I.e. Hospitalization, pneumonia, sepsis, etc.)

So far, I’ve met these two goals: Each child has been sick for an average of 2-3 days which is not too bad given the gravity of the flu (Two of my three kids are back to school, and the third one is on day 2 of the process…fingers crossed); and thankfully, their symptoms have not been too severe.

I wanted to share two of my favorite home remedies with you, just in case the flu attacks your home. This is not by any means a quick fix, but my theory is the more good stuff we pile on, the better off we’ll be. Now I would love to hear what works in your home? Please share your home remedies with us in the comments section below.

Ginger juice

  • 1 inch peeled ginger
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey/maple syrup
  • Directions: Blend water and ginger in a high-powered blender. Pour through a sifter. Add lemon and honey. Serve room temperature or as a hot tea.

Turmeric Milk

  • 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder (or 1 inch of peeled turmeric root)
  • 1 inch peeled ginger
  • 1 tsp of maple syrup or honey
  • Directions: Blend all the ingredients and then warm on the stove. Serve warm like tea.

Thanks for stopping by and happy healing during flu season.

 

 

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

The Only Time I Ever Tipped An Uber Driver

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m ready to go back to my hotel after finishing dinner with some friends and colleagues. We’re in Puerto Rico for the Women Who Lead annual convention. Stacy, the CEO of the National Speakers Association, suggests we share a Über ride since we are both heading to the same hotel. As we wait on the corner of the street of El Viejo, San Juan, we see a minivan waiting at the red light. The van has, what appears to be bright neon lights shining through all the windows. Stacy and I look at each other; we look at the car; we look at each other again. Stacy finally voices out loud what we’re both thinking, “Do you think that is our Über driver?” Stacy reaches for his iPhone to match the car type on his Über app with the vehicle parked in front of the red light, but by that time the neon-lit minivan is slowly inching its way towards our curb.

A middle-aged Puerto Rican woman lowers her window and greets us; “Buenas noches!” It’s confirmed. The crazy car is our ride.

Stacy climbs in first and I follow, already laughing at the absurdity. The van is very clean. The radio is blasting party music. The driver offers us mints.

There is a lit-up rotating disco ball.

I repeat: A lit-up disco ball is inside the vehicle.

I yell at the woman over the music, “Wow you have a nightclub inside this van.” She laughs and responds loudly. “Of course! You have to have fun!” She looks back and suggests with excitement, “I have karaoke too! Pick a song, any song!”

At first, Stacy and I are reluctant to pick up the microphone and start singing, but this driver’s energy is contagious. Stacy caves and requests a country song. Suddenly, I am singing Karaoke alongside my American friend in a minivan in Puerto Rico.  Stacy and I are jamming and laughing hysterically. We are having the time of our life!

Unfortunately, our hotel is only about 7 minutes away from the restaurant. Just like that, the party is over. Stacy and I were having so much fun, we didn’t want the trip to end. As we pull under the overhang at the front of the hotel, the lady driver lowers the music and exits the vehicle to open our door.

I notice a paper taped just below the A/C vent that says “Tips are welcomed.”

I was always under the impression that you’re not supposed to tip Über drivers. But if anyone deserves a tip, it’s this lady! I open my wallet and happily hand the driver a five-dollar bill. I ask her if she will take a picture with Stacy and me. After all, this has been such an experience. I want to commemorate it.

Any ride should meet certain base level standards.

The car should be clean.

The driver should be polite.

You should be driven to the correct location.

Those standards would have been sufficient.

But this Über driver created an experience for her passengers. In seven minutes she made us laugh, she made us sing, and she gave us a story to retell. Her ride was unique. Her ride was unforgettable.

Two months later, I am still talking about this Über experience. I will bet that if I run into Stacy in five years, one of the first things we will reminisce about is that Über ride we shared in Puerto Rico. We won’t remember a ride that takes us from point A to point B. We won’t remember a service that simply delivers what it promises. What we’ll remember is how something or someone made us feel. We remember the experience.

The magic is in the moment—the experience—the memories created. I may never see that driver again, but she’ll always stay with me because she is a part of my story. Are you connecting with your family and your customers in a meaningful way? Are you a part of their experience – of their story? If you can do that, then you will always be there— even when you’re not.

Don’t get stuck on the seaweed

It was a perfect day to be on the beach. The ocean glimmered, its waves crashing ever so gently on the shore, almost in a whisper as to allow the seagulls to sing in unison as they flew overhead. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun beamed radiantly, yet enough of a breeze blew to prevent the heat from becoming unbearable. My husband, Orlando, walked on the sand carrying a tent on his shoulder looking for the perfect spot to set up our party. His three little helpers trailed behind him, each carrying items of varying degrees of heaviness. As they followed their father, they made wedges in the sand with their little crocs, and kept their heads down to prevent the sun from hurting their eyes. Suddenly our oldest son made a sound of disgust. Some seaweed had washed ashore. “Yuck!” He exclaimed. “Look at all this seaweed. It is so annoying.”

Orlando, who was sweating from the long walk with the tent on his shoulder, was also annoyed by the dry seaweed entangling itself in his flip-flops, but today was no ordinary day. Today was the day Orlando was going to surprise his wife (me) with a wedding vow renewal. Today, Orlando was celebrating 40 years of life and 10 years of marriage. Maybe it was the significance of the day, or maybe it was just a moment of clarity, but suddenly Orlando realized something: He sounds just like me.

 My husband plopped the long, heavy tent on the sand and turned to face his three sons.

“Orly. Look up at the beach. What do you see?”

“The ocean.” Orly replied.

“Keep looking. Look at the sky. Look around you. What do you see?”

“A beautiful day?” Orly answered, hoping that was the right answer.

“Yes Orly, it is a beautiful day. Look at the beautiful ocean, the clear skies. Look at all the beauty around us. Doesn’t it seem silly to complain about some seaweed on the ground?”

The more he spoke, the more inspired he became. “You see, Orly, every man needs to know his strengths and his weaknesses. My biggest weakness, son, is that I spend way too much time looking at the seaweed. I scream and get angry over the silliest things. I waste time and energy looking at the seaweed and I often ignore the ocean that’s right in front of me. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to focus on the negative.”

Our sons smiled, but Orlando wasn’t finished.

“Life is full of seaweed. You are going to have little problems and big problems. There will always be seaweed, but life has so much beauty also. If you take the time to look around, life has much more ocean and clear skies than it does seaweed. As for me, you three are my ocean. Mommy is my ocean. Do you know what I mean?”

Our kids all replied, “yeah.” Knowing that they are young and probably ignored everything he just said in his moment of inspiration, Orlando tested them. “Okay, what do I mean by that?” Orly and Justin each gave a childlike explanation that sort of satisfied Orlando. Ryan, our four year old, chimed in in agreement with his older brothers.

The seaweed moment passed and the four boys got to work setting up the tents and tables. About an hour later, the four of them found themselves waiting in front of the lobby elevator at his mother’s building for her to exit the doors.

A couple of minutes passed.

The elevator doors did not open.

It was getting close to party time and Orlando was growing increasingly nervous. There was still a lot of work to be done, and the chairs and trellis had not arrived. “Where is she?” Orlando asked out loud. With frustration in his tone he added, “She is taking forever. She always does this.”

My six-year-old, Justin, looked up at his dad and said, “Dad, don’t look at the seaweed.” Orly perked up. “Yes, dad. Focus on the ocean. You are spending time with your three sons and we’re getting ready for a great party.”

They get it. My husband thought. With pride, he thanked his sons for helping him work on his flaws.

Later that evening when Orlando told me the story, I realized how important it is to talk with our children. Often, parents tell me they don’t share certain things with their kids because they think they’re too young or will not understand. Tell them what you’re thinking. Explain things to them, even if you think those concepts will escape them. Parenting expert, David Altshuler, wrote in a blog post:

 “I don’t mean to creep you out but someone is stalking you. This particular someone is watching your every move, listening to every word you say, studying your facial expressions, thinking about how you respond to every situation. There is no place you can hide, nothing you can do to disguise your intentions. Your thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and ethics are revealed.”

Your kids are listening whether you want them to or not. If that is the case, then children are making their own interpretations of the events in their lives. Who better than you to talk things through with them? Be honest with your kids, no matter how old they are. Don’t be afraid to show them your weaknesses; they probably know them, anyway.  When you’re honest and you talk with your kids, you make them your life partners. Let them be a part of your journey, as you will one day desperately want to be a part of theirs.

Oh, and one more thing: If you take this approach, be prepared for what’s coming. Your munchkins are sponges and they take life quite literally. Poor Orlando has been told to stop looking at the seaweed more times in the last few weeks than he can count. No one better to highlight your mistakes than your kids! In all seriousness, in life, the teachers are also the students.  Our kids are teaching us that.

Imperfectly Perfect

About a month ago, I asked Orlando how he wanted to celebrate his upcoming 40th birthday. “Let’s just spend the day at the beach with our family and play dominoes like we do every year,” he said nonchalantly. For years on Orlando’s birthday weekend we head over to his parents’ apartment in Hallandale. We invite some of his closest friends, put up some tents, bring down some food, and Orlando plays dominoes while the kids frolic in the sand.  A part of me felt this milestone birthday should be a little more grandiose than the same ole, same ole but another part of me felt I should honor his wishes. I settled on making his beach day as special as I could.

I spent the whole month planning and plotting. Among other surprises, I hired a cigar-roller for the event and designed labels for hot sauce bottles that read “Orlando’s still HOT at 40.”  I purchased Hawaiian leis for the guests, grass skirts for the tables, and beach balls for the kids. I dove into the details of the party to make the day all about Orlando.

Unbeknownst to me, Orlando had plans of his own for that beach day, and those plans had nothing to do with his 40th birthday.  For the same month that I was planning his party, Orlando was orchestrating a wedding vow renewal for our 10-year anniversary, which we had celebrated in February.  For years Orlando and I had discussed renewing our vows at ten years. The idea was to have a big party for our family and friends and reaffirm our vows to each other in front of our children.  Even though I dreamt of this, by the time February rolled around, time had escaped us. We spent the preceding months traveling and hosting celebrations for Christmas and each of our sons’ birthdays. The thought of yet another party and expense was exhausting.  I must also confess that I didn’t see Orlando that excited about the idea, so I felt the renewal was more for myself than for “us.”  That, and not being much of a party planner, demotivated me from plunging forward. As I planned his birthday, I did realize something. As much as I disliked the idea of having another party, I planned it happily because it was for my husband. Little did I know that day would be all about me.

On the day of the beach party, Orlando seemed nervous. His aunt had ordered chairs for the domino tables that were scheduled to arrive at 1pm. Guests arrived, the food arrived, but no chairs.  A couple of hours passed and Orlando grew increasingly anxious. I didn’t get it. I had worked so hard to make this day special for Orlando yet he wasn’t enjoying himself at all. I had even worn a dress that his mom bought because he wanted me to look pretty. All the work I put into this thing, even down to my outfit, was for him. I wanted everything to be perfect for Orlando. Why was he so frustrated? I secretly hoped the day would turn around but I had no idea what was going to happen next.

I found myself walking alongside my husband when a neighbor called us over to the spot under the tree that he parks his beach chair every weekend. “Great party!” He exclaimed with a big smile on his face. “Oh and I heard there’s a vow renewal happening also.”  Those words reminded me there was a wedding happening that very evening that my mother in law had told me about. Before I had the opportunity to say what I was thinking –  is it a vow renewal or a wedding – my husband snapped. “You just ruined the surprise buddy,” he took me by the hand and headed back over to our tents.

Huh?

Suddenly Orlando was calling for everyone’s attention. “Gather around everyone, they just spilled the beans to my wife.”

What on Earth is he talking about?

 “Caroline, you thought today was just my birthday party but today is in fact April Fool’s Day. You have been tricked. Our pastor is 15 minutes away and we will be renewing our vows today.”

Oh, my God. He can’t be serious.

I tried to grasp everything he was saying but I was utterly shocked.

Renew our vows? Our pastor is coming? Is this for real?

 My immediate reaction was to cry. I was overwhelmed with emotions as much as confusion. After the clapping died down and family had congratulated us, I hugged my husband with love and disbelief.

“This is not how I wanted this to go,” he said solemnly. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Caroline, I’ve been planning this for a month. The chairs Kika ordered – those were not only for dominoes – they were for our wedding. We also ordered a beautiful trellis, but the vendor never showed up.” I could see the disappointment in his face as he continued, “I wanted my mom to take you upstairs so when you came back down I would be waiting for you in front of the trellis. The pastor would be standing there with me but you would not be able to see her because all our friends and family would cover her. When you began walking, the family would part to each side and you would see our beloved pastor and me waiting for you. I wanted everything to be perfect for you, and everything went wrong.” The more he spoke the more I realized how much love he had put into this day. All I could think about was while I was putting all my love to honor Orlando, he was putting all his love to honor me.

Since the cat was out of the bag, Orlando took my hand and together we walked to the lobby of his parents’ apartment building, where Pastor Laurie patiently waited for us. I took one look at her and my eyes welled with tears. Pastor Laurie has been a spiritual blessing for me through some of the most difficult moments in my life, including my father’s death. I could not believe that she came all the way to Hallandale for me. Ironically, as we hugged, I saw from the corner of my eye white chairs being unloaded from a delivery truck. The vendor had confused the date of the event for Sunday. When my frantic aunt, Kika, called to inquire where they were, they packed up their van and flew to Hallandale as fast as they could. We walked back to the beach and I stood in the back with family as the vendors set up the trellis and the chairs. Within 15 minutes all of Orlando’s plans had come to life sans my grand entrance. My cousin handed me the most beautiful flower bouquet and my three children stood by my side to escort me down the beach towards my husband. My father in law held a speaker that played Orlando and my wedding song.


Orlando and I stood in front of our pastor holding hands with our little boys nestled between us and we heard her beautiful words about marriage and love. We prayed together and affirmed our love for each other in front of our closest family and a few of our friends. I have never, in all my life, felt more special, more loved or more grateful than I was at that very moment. I could not have asked for anything more perfect.

I now understood Orlando’s stress and why he was not enjoying his birthday. I thought about the old saying “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” That happens to all of us. We want things to go our way. We plan and prepare and we hope everything works out perfectly, but often life does not follow our plan. The truth is that seeing the pastor at the front of the trellis instead of the lobby had no bearing on my experience. Just like the personalized Happy Birthday Orlando cigar rings I ordered had no bearing on Orlando’s experience. What each of us appreciated from the other was the thought, the effort, and the love with which we approached the day. What mattered was that each of us felt that we were the most important person in the world to the other.

I learned something that day. Marriage is not perfect. Life is not perfect. Tragedies happen, people make mistakes, plans fall through the cracks. We often get hung up on all that goes wrong in life, instead of zeroing in on the beauty of it. No matter how many things go wrong, where there is love, there is perfection.

I say we cherish these imperfectly perfect moments and we pile as many of them on as we can. For it is these memories, and the love that surrounds them, that our children and those we love will keep in their hearts long after we’re gone.

What is Pile On The Greens?

Six years ago, I sat in a doctor’s office with my father as he was told that his cancer was spreading and his bladder would have to be removed. Hoping to avoid this radical surgery, my father made an appointment to see a doctor who specialized in alternative medicine. Unfortunately, this doctor did not have a solution for my father.

Sitting next to my father facing the doctor, I couldn’t help but ask. “Doctor, I am scared of cancer. I have this stuff in my genes and I have little kids to take care of. What can I do to avoid getting cancer?” He didn’t think twice before saying, “Don’t eat sugar.” We had a long conversation about what that meant and what I should do. As we walked out of that office that day, I committed to changing my eating habits. What I didn’t know then was that I was changing my life, and my family’s lives.

By 2012, my husband, who had adopted my new eating habits, had lost about 50 pounds. I, too, realized significant weight loss, even though I was not overweight to begin with. I began this blog back then with the hope of sharing what I had learned about healthy eating and nutrition. I have written about this for years but as time passed, I evolved and so did my blog posts. I find myself writing about more than just healthy eating and food. I write about life. I’ve contemplated opening a separate blog—a place where I can share my thoughts if they are not related to food—but I’ve decided to stay put here at pile on the greens.

 “Pile on the greens” was born from a conversation my husband had with our beloved doctor one day. My husband was at his annual checkup (which wasn’t quite annual) and was making confessions to his doctor about his poor lifestyle choices: He didn’t exercise enough, he drank too much wine, he ate bigger portions than necessary. Unlike most doctors, my doctor withheld judgment. Instead of scolding my husband (which is what he expected) the doctor offered a simple suggestion: “Orlando, whenever you serve yourself food, just pile on the greens. Add as many greens to your plate as possible.” My husband left feeling hopeful instead of deflated. That simple suggestion will forever affect the way my husband looks at a plate of food. That simple suggestion began my husband’s transformation.

“Pile on the greens” became our family mantra, representing so much more than just an extra serving of broccoli. This wise and simple principle has encouraged us to pile on more of the “good stuff” in life—super food for the body as well as for the soul. That’s why I’m sticking with Pile On The Greens as the place to share my work.

Here at Pile On The Greens, you will find recipes my family and I love, as well as posts about nutrition and exercise.  But this site is not only about healthy eating. This site is about relationships. You will also find articles about parenting, love and loss, and matters of the heart. You will read about leaving a legacy and being there for your loved ones even when you’re not physically there. Here you will find that piling on the greens is about piling on the goodness…in all aspects of your life.

Thank you for staying with me, evolving with me, and being a part of our journey.