Grandmother's Cross, Faith

The Tiny Gold Cross

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Today, I’m featured over at Our Life Songs  a non-profit organization designed to inspire, heal and motivate women who are struggling with disease, depression, anxiety and other difficult issues. I am honored to be a part of such a worthy mission. Please take a moment to visit them.

 

I sat across from her unable to take my eyes away, entranced by the weathered hands whose long, slender fingers wrapped around the tiny gold cross hanging on her neck. She slid it side to side, left to right, over and over again and I was mesmerized by the repetitive motion. I watched the cross swing on its matching gold chain at times of its own volition, others with a purpose it seemed only she understood. Much time would pass before I understood the meaning of it, not the meaning of the man who died on a much larger scale of the small cross, rather what it meant to the woman who loyally wore it.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

As a little girl, I found myself looking for the hint of gold against her chest each time I visited. I walked closer to greet her, my eyes searched for it. As she held me at arm’s length, steps before I reached her, commenting on how much I had grown since the last time she saw me, I looked for it. Younger still, I can recall my small hands reaching for it as she held me in her lap and rocked me to sleep. She never pulled it out of my grasp the way other adults yanked things out of reach of a young toddler for fear of destruction. Instead, she let me soothe myself to sleep, my tiny fingers rubbing the gold until I drifted off into peaceful slumber.

Through the years, it was always there. And, as I got older I noticed she not only held onto it during the happiest of times as though thanking the Lord for all he had blessed her with but also in the saddest of times like when we learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. She held it as she watched her daughter, my mother, absorb the news. And, as she watched my mother I watched her as the pain in my mom’s eyes reflected in her own. I leaned forward a bit as though in so doing I would be able to make out her plea as her lips moved in unison with the motion of the swaying cross. Back and forth, left and right, over and over again she slid the cross, her lips rapidly moving in a whispered prayer.
At those times, she seemed to wrap her fingers around it a little tighter, begging for it to provide more. More what?

Strength?      Hope?      Faith?

I would sense the urgency in the way she held the cross, and desperately slid it back and forth on its chain. By then, the once smooth skin it had rested upon when I was a child, was now etched with line upon line – each representing her walk of faith, her life’s journey. At times, the lines intersected on her wrinkled skin. I sat and wondered if perhaps there were paths that led her to other paths, each presenting a trial she was meant to endure, an experience that would shape the woman she became. Some lines seemed to have no direction, no beginning and no end, as though they consisted of choices left unmade or decisions changed at a certain point in time. However, it was clear to me even then that each line told a bit of her story, perhaps, because I can’t recall an occasion when I didn’t see it on her.

My grandmother always had it on her person, close to her heart and often reached for it. I think it kept her grounded, a constant reminder of her faith and something greater than her in this world.

Years later, as I entered the hospital room and approached the bed in which she was taking her last breath, my eyes immediately searched for the tiny gold cross. At that point, I needed the strength it always seemed to bring her. I needed the feeling of peace I had seen on her face after she held that symbol of faith in her hands time after time. As I looked at her chest where the hospital gown was pushed back a bit to reveal a hint of gold, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The lines were now many, blanketing her body like a road map of sorts and I like to think that’s exactly what they were. A road map of her life, her experiences, but most importantly her undying faith. And as I reached for the tiny gold cross that had become a symbol of comfort in my young eyes, I realized that it was so much more than that. Seeing it now through the eyes of a woman, I understood what it meant to my grandmother and in my times of doubt, during moments of desperation, I find myself holding the tiny cross that sits close to my own heart. I can’t help but pray that in the end my life’s road map is as beautifully etched as hers.

 

I Slip It On Like A Well-Worn Pair Of Jeans

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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.

Denim, Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans

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.

Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans, ,Blue Denim

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?

 

Black, White, Straight, Gay…Isn’t There Room For All Of Us?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

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

Her Every Day Hero

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Sitting behind the small wooden desk, she watched the clock…2:20pm. Only ten more minutes and she would hear the sound that brought her closer to spending a few minutes with the man who filled her world with laughter and imagination on a daily basis. She brushed a curl off her face as she stole another glance at the old clock on the wall above the chalkboard whose black surface was covered with the dusty remnants of that day’s lessons. She wondered, how many questions that board had answered through the years? How many equations had been solved? How many teachers had written their name on the board as a form of introduction, their hand flying across its surface with a certain flare that came with the beginning of a new school year? She giggled as she looked up at Mrs. Hudson now. With only a month left in this school year, she had lost that flair, and looked as dusty and worn out as the chalkboard behind her. She better quit daydreaming or Mrs. Hudson would remind her to “join the rest of us in this world” again. Another peek at the clock…

2:25pm – Mrs. Hudson called her row to gather their coats and backpacks out of the closet. This always baffled her. Why did she refer to it as a closet, when in fact it was more like a tunnel with an archway on either end, two walls lined with hooks at just the right height for third graders? Curls bouncing she rushed through the tunnel pretending to be the conductor on a long train, chugging toward faraway lands filled with adventures. She could almost hear the train whistle as she exited the tunnel and took a left turn toward the classroom door, single file behind her classmates.

2:30pm – The sound of her train whistle was drowned out by the ringing of the school bell and it was all she could do not to run out the door. Mrs. Hudson gave her that look again, the one that said, “patience Regina, all in due time.” She hated to be told to slow down as much as she hated to be called Regina. Once out of the building, her little legs pumped as she rushed home to the man who never told her to slow down, encouraged her to dream and who never, ever called her Regina. She sprinted home pretending to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist as she crossed the finish line, flung open the front door and flung her backpack on the floor.

Catching her breath, she quietly tiptoed down the hall, careful not to wake him, knowing he only had a few minutes before his alarm woke him for his night shift at the plant. As she climbed into bed beside him, she carefully placed one tiny knee on the bed, having memorized where the springs of the old mattress would squeak. Unable to resist, she curled up against him, reveling in the strong arms that instinctively reached for her. “Hi Reggie.” She smiled and whispered, “Hi Daddy.” She knew what came next. She would lay beside him as they created stories based on the shapes of the water stains on the ceiling. One day it was a ship at sea, another day a fire-breathing dragon, each a lesson in possibilities. She never tired of it.

She would climb all over him and smother him with kisses, never caring that the stubble on his face would scratch her soft skin. He would laugh as she scrunched up her nose every time his face touched hers, and smile when it didn’t stop her from coming in for another round of kisses before he had to get ready for work.

She would follow him to the bathroom and watch him as he stood before the mirror and shaved. “Shall we pretend I’m a pilot getting ready to fly to Antarctica? How about a high-powered attorney trying a big case? Or a Super Hero about to save the world? What will it be today, Reggie?”

 

 

Reggie sat on the edge of the bathtub mesmerized by each stroke of the razor against his skin. In her eyes, he could take on the world. Suddenly, she stood and opened the linen closet. Her little hands pulled something from behind the towels and as she turned to the man with a recurring leading role in all of her adventures, she said. “No need to pretend Daddy. You are my Super Hero. Happy Father’s Day.” Holding back tears, he took the yearly gift of his favorite after shave and a homemade t-shirt. He never tired of it. He scooped his little girl up in his arms. Happy Father’s Day, indeed.

To My Daughter: It’s A World Full Of Sea Glass

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Happy 12th Birthday, Olivia!

Beach Treasures, Beach Finds

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.

Sea shell heart

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.

Walk on the beach

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.

Love,

Mommy

 

Puerto Rico Comic Con – Photo Friday

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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!

Statement: Bank Account Low. Immediate Deposit Necessary.

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“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”

This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.

Beach, Sand Art, Heart In Sand

Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.

  1. Life isn’t always what it appears to be. Always take a moment to look beneath the surface. It is when you dig a little deeper that treasures are discovered.
  2. There are moments when your heart will break into a million pieces. Know that another moment will arrive that will put those pieces back together and you will be the better for it.
  3. The moment you think you can’t do something is the moment you’ve allowed someone else’s negativity to cloud your judgment. Believe in yourself.
  4. There will be moments when your heart will burst with love. Cherish them. These are the moments worth living for.
  5. At times it will feel like you’re drowning, kicking your legs, burning your lungs, clawing at the surface. Keep going because the moment where you can shoot out of the deep water and break the surface, filling your lungs with air and feeling the sun on your face once more isn’t as far off as it seems.
  6. There will be moments when you will be so proud of your accomplishments, you will want to share them with the world. Share them and bask in the glory, never forgetting the journey that got you there.
  7. The moment will undoubtedly arrive, likely more than once, when you will be paralyzed by fear. Do not let fear dictate your outcome. Pray. Listen to your heart. Choose a direction. Take the first step.
  8. If the moment ever comes when you have to choose whether to forgive or forget, understand that the two do not go hand in hand. You can forgive without forgetting.
  9. You will have regrets. Do not let them define you.
  10. Moments of failure are necessary in life. In order to be a winner, you have to understand what it’s like to be a loser.

Beach, Sand Art, I Love You

Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort.  Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.

 

Feral Secrets Button

Soldiers Of The Same Name

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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.

Freedom isn't free, Memorial Day, Veteran's Memorial, Washington DC

I captured his reflection when he found his uncle’s name.

 

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.

Freedom Isn't Free, Memorial Day, Washington, DC

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!

Do We Have To Get Naked To Be Heard?

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Every time I turn around, I stumble across another viral post whose sole purpose is to get an important message across. The author wants the masses to lean in a bit, cup their ears, and listen…truly listen to what she has to say. And, in a world crawling with people hunched over devices, hungrily devouring more and more useless information throughout their day, what then does it take to get them to listen?

Victoria's Secret, Undressed, Lingerie

You may have come across the most recent article to have gone viral, EMBRACE – The Documentary.  If your news feed looks anything like mine, numerous friends and family members have shared it.

“Body Image Movement’s job is to harness and facilitate positive body image activism by encouraging women to be more accepting of who they are, to use positive language regarding their bodies and others, and to prioritise health before beauty. Our goal is to reach as many women as possible around the world and speak to them about how we can learn to fully embrace and love our bodies.” – Taryn Brumfitt

Taryn, or as she lovingly refers to herself, Taz, had an epiphany while considering a little lift here and a little tuck there. Tired of the pressure to look a certain way, tired of preaching the importance of loving your body to her daughter yet hypocritically wishing her own breasts were a bit more perky and her tummy flatter, she took a long hard look at herself and decided to make a change.

She posted before and after photos of herself like the internet had never seen…her before shot was what many strive for as their after shot. Her after shot is of her as naked as the day she entered this world, before the pressures to look a certain way had begun to slowly seep into every cell of her being. Sound familiar?

 

IT GOT PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.

 

Without having to look up from their devices, people started leaning in, cupping their ears, listening.

 

Beth Whaanga’s, Under The Red Dress photos stirred up some attention as well. When she asked commercial photographer, Nadia Masot to capture her naked body marked with scars from a double mastectomy, as well as a hysterectomy, lymphadenectomy and melanoma lumpectomies, she wanted people to listen. She obviously believed the best way to do that was to get naked, show the world her scars, hopefully drawing their attention to the importance of taking care of their bodies as well as supporting those clothed in their own battle scars.

There are other articles floating across social media where people are getting naked and being heard. Brooke Birmingham refused to put her shirt back on when Shape Magazine allegedly refused to show her photo in a bikini after losing 172 pounds. (I get that she wasn’t completely naked, but you get my drift). The magazine had approached her about running her weight loss story, but after seeing her in a bikini allegedly refused to show her photo citing editorial policy.

“If anything, they should want my picture on their site,” she wrote. “My body is real, not photoshopped or hidden because I feel like I should be ashamed. This is a body after losing 172 pounds, a body that has done amazing things, and looks AMAZING in a freaking bikini.” – Brooke Birmingham

We’ve since learned it was all just a misunderstanding (wink wink) and the magazine has recently committed to feature Brooke in an upcoming issue –  as well as other women with similar weight loss journeys who have nothing to hide.

These instances then beg the question, “Do we have to get naked to be heard?” 

It seems to me, given most of those getting naked are women there may be an underlying issue here. As women, do we have to shock people in order to be heard or does gender not play a role here at all?

Is it just a matter of a world saturated with so much information 24/7 that the only way to get someone’s attention is to bare it all?

Perhaps, many of us are craving a more basic being, finding the need to strip away all the pressures forced upon us to be someone else…to be more, always more.

Then again, maybe, just maybe the few of us who have reached this state of acceptance simply long for others to experience the freedom.

What do you think?

 

 

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Passage – Photo Friday

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“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