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. 


The Difference Between Quantity and Quality

I recently read an article on The 5 Secrets to Raising a Good Kid, by Harvard psychologists. The number 1 rule was spending quality time with your children. Simon Segal wrote: “It’s not enough just to be physically around your kids; you need to be with them completely.”

Parenting trends have shifted over the last few years. Having three small children of my own, I’m in the thick of it. Fathers and mothers are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Traditional work models have been replaced with more flexible schedules. Soccer practices that begin at 4:30pm on a Wednesday are flooded with parents cheering on the sidelines. Home schooling is on the rise. This generation has sparked buzzwords such as “hyper parenting,” “helicopter parenting,” and “lawnmower parenting.”

As well-meaning as we parents may be, we are not exempt from criticism. Thousands of articles flood the Internet labeling our generation’s children as “entitled.” Parents are encouraged to back off and let their kids figure things out on their own. Nonetheless, parents feel more pressure than ever to make their kids’ childhoods magical—and that means being there all the time.

Meanwhile, women are reaching heights of success they never could have dreamed of before. Women are no longer expected to be housewives and child-rearers. They are out in the world, becoming thought leaders, CEOs, and even attempting to become President of the United States. And yet, even “big wig” women are building nurseries in their corporate offices.

It is no surprise that parents feel guilty when they are away from their children because they have to work. And they feel guilty when they’re with their children because they are not working. As if we were not under enough pressure, the psychologists at Harvard remind us that being with our kids all the time isn’t enough, we have to be with them completely. We have to be engaged and fully present, and we have to be that way all the time.

A friend of mine was feeling depressed the other day and we had a long chat. She has no time for herself. Sometimes, she imagines life must be easier for parents who are divorced because co-parents get a couple of days to themselves.

It is hard to be everything for everyone all the time.

This got me thinking about my childhood. My parents were divorced and my father traveled 80% of the time. I spent the bulk of my time with my mother but she also worked full-time. My mom was never the room mom at my school, and I always stayed in aftercare. But I was a happy, well-adjusted kid. I had a healthy relationship with both of my parents.

My parents were not physically with me all the time, but they were with me completely. My father called me every day. He asked me questions and listened to what was going on in my life. He reserved important dates for me in his calendar and made sure to be there on those dates. Whenever he could be with me, he was. My mom picked me up late but made sure to lie with me at night and spend time with me. She was there when I needed help with my homework. She was all love. Both of my parents told me they loved me every day. They were fully immersed in my world, even though they were not always with me.

There was something else my parents did: They made me as much a part of their lives as they were a part of mine. They talked to me about their goals, their work, and their struggles. When my father was traveling, he sent me postcards showing me everywhere he went. He shared stories about his work and his purpose.

As important it is for our children to know we love them, it is important for them to know who we are and what our passions are. They need to understand that when we go to work, we are being productive members of society and our work matters. Other people depend on us, too. Stay-at-home moms and dads also need time to do the things they want or need to do. We are all part of a community that is larger than us and children who learn this will know that they, too, are contributors to society.

Many of us are afraid to separate from our kids. But it is more frightening to fall into depression because we feel we have to be with them all the time. When our children understand who we are and what we do, they become a part of our success … even when it means they have to give up some time with us. Instead of feeling guilty, look at your time apart as a gift you are giving them.

You are teaching children that life is a mixture of family and work, forces that are messy and imperfect and completely intertwined. What matters most is that your kids know that no matter where you are in the world, you will pick up the phone when they call. No matter what you are doing, if your child needs to talk, you will be there to listen. If something is important to them, it is important to you. If your child knows you will move mountains to be with them, if your child hears you tell them, “I love you” every day, if your child sees you are there for them whenever they need you, then you are with your child completely, even when you’re away.

If you have that kind of relationship with your child, then you never leave them, no matter where you are.

Los Momenticos

We all make plans and dream of reaching certain goals. We usually take for granted that the people we love will take part in the realization of those dreams. But we cannot predict the future. We do not know who we will lose along the way. It is bittersweet to celebrate an accomplishment when someone we love is no longer present to share it with us. But some people never leave us, even when they die. Some people leave a legacy, and a legacy lives forever.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Cuban-American Bar Association’s annual installation gala. CABA is a non-profit association founded by lawyers of Cuban descent. This evening we were there to honor and witness the installation of our cousin’s fiancée, Javier Lopez, as president of the organization. Although we were happy to celebrate this achievement in Javi’s life, it was not until we arrived at the party that we fully grasped how big a deal this night was for our cousin-in-law.  This was one of those nights you want to share with those you love most. This was one of those bitter-sweet moments.

The event, themed Avenue of Time, was spectacular. Guests were greeted by antique Cuban cars, a wall cleverly decorated with boxes of Cuban cigars, and waiters in Cuban garb passing around mini tamales en casuela. Men in tuxedos and women in gowns enjoyed unusually cool weather in Miami, and photographers documented every moment. Palm trees adorned the tables in the ballroom, and traditional Cuban food was served in a modern American style—fusing the two cultures. It did not escape us as we greeted judges, attorneys, and other professionals, that all these people were gathered to honor our friend and family member.

When the ceremony began, I was surprised to see Javier’s mother, Mercy, walking up to the stage. I imagined a past-president or other CABA member would introduce Javi, but the president-elect chooses who will swear them in to office. Javi’s mother beamed. She was eloquent and firm as she captured the attention of the eleven-hundred audience members. Mercy told the story of a younger Javi who, 10 years before, had come to his parents’ house to tell them he had become a CABA board member. He shared his goal to serve on the board for 10 years and his hope to be elected to be its president in 2016. Javi told his father that if he was elected, it would be him, his father, who would swear him into office.

But Asis, Javi’s father, had passed away four years earlier.

My husband and I stood close to the stage. Mercy described Asis as the “pillar of his family.” My husband’s eyes welled as he watched this ceremony from the lens of a father. His heart cringed at the thought of not being there to see any of our sons’ important milestones.

Mercy hugged her son and then allowed him to take the spotlight. Javi gripped the edges of the lectern and addressed the crowd:

“Life is about los momenticos (the little moments),’ my father used to say.” Javi spoke about this momentico and what it represented in his life. I smiled as his words brought that profound saying back to me.

I, personally, did not know Asis well. In fact, I only spent some time with him during one weekend in which his family invited ours to stay in their house in the Florida Keys. Our cousin and Javi had begun dating seriously and the invitation was a kind gesture to unite the families.  Asis was the kind of person that made you feel like you were family, even if you barely knew him. He had a warm spirit and contagious energy. Asis left a lasting impression on all of us.

On the chalkboard I keep in my kitchen to teach vocabulary and concepts to my children, I remembered scrawling Asis’ wisdom to inspire my children to appreciate the beautiful moments life has to offer.

My focus shifted back to Javi as I heard him repeat another nugget of wisdom his father imparted on him

“You will do well, if you do good.”

Javi honored his father’s values and implored his colleagues to use their prestigious professions to do good—to help those in need. As Javi’s words brought his father to life, I thought to myself, Asis has left a legacy.

Asis did not live a long life. He died at 56. But while he was on this Earth, he savored the momenticos and he did good. He was a good husband, father, friend, and businessman. True to his words, Asis also did well. His four children are doing the same. The seeds Asis planted blossomed into men and women who do good and value the special moments in life. These values will trickle down to Asis’ grandchildren, born and unborn.

While it was sad that Javi’s father was not there to physically swear his son into presidency, it was moving to see how much Javi made his dad a part of the ceremony. Asis filled the room with his presence.

My husband took a deep breath and held my hand. “I can only hope that our sons will remember me the way Javi remembers his father,” he whispered. The indelible mark you leave on your children will journey on even after you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil. What a privilege and a responsibility that is for all of us.

As for Asis, he will always be there, even though he’s not, reminding us to relish in life’s momenticos.