Check out my post, “How Team Sports Raise Champions” on Huffington Post today!
They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.
My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.
I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.
An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.
All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.
If you are bilingual, do you think in one language and translate to another
or do you think in the language you speak?
Like a few other English words, Room means two contradictory things. It can be the four walls that enclose us, giving us shelter and comfort but also limiting our movement. It’s also the limitless space into which we can wander and which we can fill — or try to (think about that expression, “room to grow”). – Ben Huberman
This week’s challenge: From the four walls that currently surround you to the infinite potential of space,
this week we’d like you to show us your take on room, rooms, or a room.
Gay Pride Parade in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Happy 12th Birthday, Olivia!
Dear Olivia Rose,
Twelve years ago you entered the world and as I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes, I once again voiced the many promises I had been whispering for months as I gently rubbed my growing belly. I promised to always love you with all my heart. I promised you would never be alone in this great big, complicated world of ours. I promised to love you unconditionally, and I promised to guide you on your life’s journey in the best way I know how.
You are turning into an amazing young girl full of wonder and imagination, full of compassion and love, full of hopes and dreams. In all the promises I’ve made to you, the one thing I couldn’t promise – I can’t promise – is to shield you from the doubts and fears the world will create in you.
When we take our long walks on the beach, both in awe of the amazing untouched beauty that surrounds us, I often wish I could keep you in this protective bubble of endless sea, a world in which human nature and life experiences can’t dull your spirit.
However, if I did that there is so much you would miss out on, so I shall continue to walk by your side through all that is in store for you – walking ahead when you need guidance and falling behind when you need to face the world on your own. I do promise to always remain present on your walk, understanding it is your walk and your walk alone, and all I can do is offer my love and my wisdom.
As you continue to grow and mature, my hope is that you walk through life the way you walk along the shores, eagerly searching for sea glass. I hope you never lose your sense of adventure, always imagining possibilities beyond anyone’s expectations or jaded views. I hope you comb the earth for hidden treasures and view the world as a vessel of sea glass waiting to be discovered. Each person you cross paths with a treasure, whether they’ve been smoothly polished from tumbling around or a bit rough around the edges. Each has something to offer you. Do not be quick to discard them.
As you travel, I hope you embrace the many colors you will encounter on your walk and understand the world isn’t always black and white. I hope you learn the lesson intended for you when you expectantly reach for a piece only to be hurt by its sharp point. Learn the lesson and move on. Do not let it stop you from continuing to search for the beauty that lies in wait. Never give up hope. Sometimes the most beautiful pieces are buried a bit under a layer of sand. Do not be afraid to dig a little deeper. There will be times when facing your fear of what lies down the path you are on is the bravest thing you will do. The reward will be great and the experience the greatest treasure you will ever uncover.
As I walk a few steps behind you, I can’t help but hope that you will always see yourself through my eyes because I see a beautiful young girl both inside and out with so much to offer this world. I see an intelligent young girl who is practical and wise beyond her years, but also one who refuses to close her mind to a carefree world of imagination and possibility.
My hope for you is that you never let the obstacles that lay in your path change you, but mostly that you take your time and treasure your walk one step at a time.
And, whenever you find yourself needing company, know that I’m always up for a walk.
I’m usually a big believer in “Being Yourself” and am always encouraging the kids to be true to themselves at all times.
Every now and then though, it is definitely okay to be someone else!
We had a blast at Puerto Rico Comic Con and next year we will join these folks in costume!
Enjoy your weekend everyone!
It was the summer of 1970 when a little boy was born to a young couple in Atlanta, Georgia. His name was chosen to honor another young boy who gave his life for our country. On that day, as one boy came into the world to parents filled with hopes and dreams for his life, another young boy’s parents had already laid their little boy to rest as a Vietnam Veteran…burying their own hopes and dreams.
Neither ever got to meet the other, yet that little boy grew to become one of the most patriotic men I know. His love for our country and his passion for our history make me proud to stand by his side as we instill the same passion and love for the United States of America in our own children and continue to honor the boy he was named after.
In honoring his name, we honor all those who chose to fight for our freedom. In honoring his name, we honor all those who suited up before him and entered the battlefield. In honoring his name, we honor all those who walked before him, those who protect us today, and those who will choose to follow in their footsteps. Each and every one of these young men and women may not share the same name on their birth certificate or their dog tags, but they do share a name we should never fail to honor…Soldier.
May you each enjoy your Memorial Day and thank a soldier this weekend!
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France
“From wherever you are, enter and be welcome.” – Albert Camus
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
“Ask and it will be given to you:
Seek and you shall find;
Knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
“Footfalls echo in the memory, Down the passage which we did not take,
toward the door we never opened into the rose-garden.” – T. S. Eliot
Little boys all grow up to be men someday.
The kind of men they grow up to be is still to be determined.
Or is it?
“I watch them from the sidelines as they stand side by side on the edge of the field. Every so often they turn and high-five each other, throw an arm over a teammate/friend’s shoulder. With the short attention span of little boys, a couple of them roughhouse with those standing closest to them until the coach reminds them to focus on the game. In these instances, I catch glimpses of their faces and can’t help but wonder if I’m catching a glimpse of their future as well.
My eyes methodically travel down the line, and come to rest on each jersey, seeing more than just their number. These boys already exhibit certain characteristics that will become prominent as they grow into men.”
I’ve spent the last several months getting to know these same boys from an earlier post titled, Boys To Men: A Glimpse Into The Future. I’ve watched them grow in ways I never could have imagined during those early practices. I’ve witnessed the highs and lows of a competitive team sport through my lens week after week – tough games and great plays, bad calls and good calls, tackles and ultimate victory. Through my lens I’ve taken thousands of images of these boys, each capturing something unique about them, each depicting a piece of themselves that will eventually play a huge part in their future selves.
And, while earlier in the season I sat back and wondered what each of these boys might be like in the future, I no longer wonder. You see, the images that I will forever carry in my heart clearly show the type of men these boys are destined to be. As my eyes wandered away from the little warriors armored with helmets atop their heads as they prepared for battle each week, I caught glimpses of the people who are shaping them into the men they will someday become.
Coaches who volunteered their personal time day after day, week after week, to ensure these little guys would not only learn the sport, but learn lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime. Lessons of dedication, lessons of commitment, lessons of hard work, and lessons of compassion. Men who gave them a beautiful example of the importance of carving time out of your busy enough life to unselfishly give to the children of our future, instilling in them the importance of being present.
And, as I positioned my camera toward our sidelines what I saw week after week was the ultimate example of support from mothers and fathers alike I have ever witnessed. These boys were given a clear picture of what good parenting is all about as fathers helped them suit up, moms provided snacks, grandparents came to cheer them on, and siblings shouted their names from the sidelines all confirming that simply being present in our children’s lives is a priceless gift they will forever cherish.
Due to such an amazing team of people, these boys had an undefeated season and went on to win the championship. However, I can’t help but feel that during this season they won so much more.
The glimpse of their future selves is of men who will know how to be a part of a team and who will lift each other up, men who will have faith and men who will never give up. They will grow up to be dedicated fathers and supportive friends. They will dig deep when the going gets tough and they will see the best in those around them. Trophies and titles will come and go, but the greatest reward these boys received was the love that was showered on them all season long, proving they were winners long before they became champions.