Lessons From My Puerto Rican Mother

Growing up with a Puerto Rican mother, who was a single parent, was a gift that shaped my life in profound ways. Her wisdom, strength, and vibrant cultural heritage imparted invaluable life lessons that continue to guide me. From embracing diversity to cherishing family bonds, here are some of the invaluable teachings I’ve received from my extraordinary Puerto Rican mother.

Embracing Cultural Pride:

One of the most significant lessons my Puerto Rican mother instilled in me is the importance of embracing and celebrating our cultural heritage. From an early age, she taught me about the richness of Puerto Rican traditions, music, cuisine, and language. Through lively family gatherings, she ensured that I understood the significance of cultural pride and the need to honor our roots. By doing so, she cultivated a sense of belonging, instilling in me a deep appreciation for the diversity that exists in the world and reminding me to always be proud of where I come from.

Strength in Resilience:

My Puerto Rican mother’s unwavering strength in the face of adversity has been a constant source of inspiration. She experienced the hardships of life firsthand and taught me that resilience is the key to overcoming any challenge. Through her example, I learned the importance of perseverance, determination, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Her resilience taught me that life’s obstacles are merely opportunities for growth and that with determination, I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way. I am raising two small children alone like she was at this age. I understand more than ever, the sacrifices and strength that is running through my blood because of her.

The Power of Family:

Family holds a special place in Puerto Rican culture, and my mother made sure I understood its significance. She taught me that family is not only defined by blood ties but also by the love, support, and unity shared among its members. Through her actions, she demonstrated the importance of fostering strong relationships, prioritizing quality time, and showing unconditional love. As a child I didn’t understand these lessons. Today, her emphasis on family values is well understood and appreciated. She created a strong foundation for me, teaching me to cherish my loved ones and reminding me that they are an endless source of support, comfort, and joy.

The Art of Generosity:

Generosity flows naturally in Puerto Rican culture, and my mother embodied this virtue with many around her. She taught me the joy of giving and the importance of helping others. Whether it was preparing a feast for friends and neighbors, or even creating gifts for the family (she was a talented artist), she showed me that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a profound impact. She has inspired me to be compassionate, empathetic, and always willing to extend a helping hand to those in need. Through her actions, she ingrained in me the belief that kindness and generosity are powerful tools for making a positive difference in the world. My mother was forty-four years old when I came along. She made sure I always knew the importance of being kind and that it would always be repaid tenfold.

My Puerto Rican mother’s teachings have shaped the person I am today, infusing my life with a profound sense of cultural pride, resilience, family values, and generosity. Her wisdom and guidance continue to influence my choices, relationships, and interactions with the world around me, serving as a constant reminder of the remarkable woman she was and the invaluable lessons she has imparted. I may not have appreciated any of this years ago, but today I recognize I am so much like her beautiful qualities.

I hope you take the time to recognize your own culture and how your parents teach and mold you to become the person that you are today. I am blessed to have had Josefina as my beautiful mother. It’s been 15 years since I last heard her voice, although I know she’s always around me.

I love you!

Things you choose to see


I snapped this picture of our little girl parading in the lawn with her pajamas and tutu while wearing her Disney Cinderella shoes a few weeks ago.  She was looking for bugs.  This little dainty child is a balance of cleanliness fru-fru and dirty wilderness.  She’s pure love and when she found that bug she was happier than a kid at Christmas morning.  Find joy! Look for it everywhere.  You get to choose what you see!

You are a mother…

happy mother's day

What constitutes being a mother? There are women who have no children, yet they are amazing mothers to others. There are women who have chosen to mother themselves and set examples of nurturing out for others to follow. Some have made sacrifices and choices through painful lessons. And, YET, they get no recognition for being who they are in our society.

You are a mother when a friend is in need and you drop everything to help her, hold her hand during a crisis, and bring therapy in a bottle. You are a mother when your children need their laundry done and they can do it themselves but “Mom does it better!” You are mother to an elderly neighbor who has no one and cherishes each moment you spend with them. You are a mother to your dog, cat and sweet pets that wait anxiously for you to come home and love them. You are a mother to your mate when exhaustion fills the air and a soft caress is all you can give to show your nurturing. You are a mother to the stranger who needs a smile and you graciously hand yours (even when you are having a bad moment). You are a mother at 15, 22, 35, 46, 58, 65, 79, and 90 each time someone shares their sorrow or their joys with you. No, you don’t have to have children to be a mother. You are a mother for the world. You are a woman of strength, joy, and tenacity. You overcome so much every single day. So, Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all you deliciously beautiful souls who are here with me. I am a mother of 7 and I forgot that this weekend is a holiday. I am not counting that one day that celebrates through commercializing propaganda. I celebrate every day when I get up and consciously participate in loving every single person who passes my way. I might not always like them…but I can surely love them for their participation on this world.

The Sacredness of Holding Space

hold space

When my mother was dying she came to visit for a few weeks. She lived with my sisters in South Florida and I lived in Orlando. My mother’s health had deteriorated significantly in a matter of six months. Cancer was eating at her through every cell and pore of her existence. It (the cancer) became the focus of everything. She was waiting on death to finally take her. She had stopped taking her medicine and refused to eat. I began to see my mother as a little girl needing the support of others. It was in those final hours leading to her death that I learned what it was to hold space for another. It was then that I realized the frailty of life and all we take for granted.

Holding space for someone who is sick or dying is about walking along their side without judgment, not making them feel inadequate and allowing their essence to feel free to just be. My mother taught me many things about our relationship those last few weeks of her life. I had to offer unconditional support with patience and a sacredness that didn’t come easy at times. I had to step back and remember integrity and dignity of a dying person. We only want to be heard…to the last dying breath. Her need to always control all situations had diminished. What was left in its place was humility and the acceptance that she was frail and vulnerable. She was afraid. She was resentful at times. But, most of all she wanted to feel loved no matter how hard she pushed.

There are times we find that holding space is truly the only thing we can do for another. This time was about allowing her to just be ever present without trying to fix anything. I was reminded recently of these memories when I visited one of my clients at a facility. Now under hospice care, she just needed to have me there even while not knowing who I am. She just needed me to hold her hand and touch her. My mother craved for this caress in the end of her life, but her pain from cancer was unbearable. She would reach out in the silence of the room to just acknowledge her presence. With each hand touched it was as if she was saying, “Sweetheart, I am still here. Do you see me? Do you feel me? Don’t forget me!”

The act of holding sacred space is important in all relationships. Children need this time to know they are being loved and cared for unconditional. Lovers require this cherished time to show their union. Even pets provide the perfect cues for this sacredness. We are in need of these sanctified moments that express in silence to another, “I am here for you. There is nothing to do. I see you. I feel you. I acknowledge your life.”

You matter. He matters. She matters. Our presence is all that connects us to God. Holding space is about being present without distractions and allowing another to feel Divinity through the eyes of your love.

A Mother’s Presence

morning hike

My mother has been very present in my thoughts since yesterday. My youngest daughter and I went to the movies during the day. At some point she said something about her grandmother. Soon after synchronicity visited and a trail of memories came to stay a while. My mother was in the car next to us at a light, up the mountain looking at the cows, picking flowers on a farm, at the gas station, and in the car with us singing. My mother was there. I smelled her, felt her, and sensed her soul like I haven’t in a long time. There were moments yesterday that took my breath away with her touch.

I was the baby of the family. My sisters are 15 years and 24 years my senior. But, I wasn’t the baby. I was the one who took the risks, the incredible challenges without thinking and proceeded to paint way outside of the lines. I was an easy child and a difficult one simultaneously. I was submissive and passive aggressive. I was, to all accounts, impossible to figure out from one minute to another although I seemed predictable until I wasn’t. My mother did everything to control and break me down into “normal” causing anxiety and fears beyond what any teenager should experience. But, she was an amazing woman of courage and strength and having a child alone at 44 was definitely not an easy task in a Latin country in the late 60’s. There was no “free love” movement over there. There were social statuses and rules and many issues that could have pushed her over the edge. I don’t know how she did it. She did. I am here. And yesterday she was with me.

As I am transitioning into a new journey I am reminded that loved ones guide us constantly…even when they aren’t physically here. I know this…I see it iperiwinklen others all the time. It’s rare that I see the visitors for myself. I would love to get the beautiful messages loved ones give to them through me. I get them in dreams. Yesterday my mother’s presence allowed me to reach over the realm and thank her. I spoke with her last night before sleep. I asked her to show me the path in the most gentle way. It’s been a rough month.  It’s been an emotional one full of tugging and pulling and pushing trying to find purpose.  It’s just been challenging.  But, this morning on a hike my mother guided me with love. I saw her favorite flower that I have not seen in these mountains. I smiled, tears forming in my spirit, and briefly thanked her.  I watched the blanket of clouds engulfing the land and I knew she was there witnessing it all.

We all have these moments and the ability to speak with our departed ones. I have no magic trick. I have no special gift. What I do have is the acceptance, awareness, and mindfulness that we are never alone. We are always being guided by Spirit, God, Angels, and Teachers from beyond. I have the willingness to sit in silence and feel the presence of Universal Love extend through the veil of reality. If you are honest with your intuition you know you’ve felt it through a gentle touch when no one was there, or smelled a favorite flower or food, or even heard a whisper. It’s comforting to know we are never far from the comfort of our loved ones. It’s the best feeling of compassion and love there is.

Thanks, Mami, for your gift yesterday and today! It’s been a long time….glad you found me in the mountains. Te adoro muchisimo!

Inexplicable Loss


In a few days it will be the one year anniversary of the passing of a friend. Her exit from this world brought shock waves to so many since, in theory, she was a spiritual student and teacher. I had spoken to her several days before her death. She had agreed to come visit the mountains and have a retreat alone in our place. When news arrived of her suicide it hit me like a thousand bricks falling from a skyscraper. I had felt her destitution and exhaustion several times in conversations. And, here a year later the event is fresh in my mind. Loss is a reminder of our humanness that we enter alone and must exit alone as well.

Two months prior to her death she sent me a meditation book by Mark Nepo. I read it every day last year. Each time I picked it up I couldn’t help but think of her. I couldn’t help but understand the silence in her for months. I couldn’t help but accept that she was ready to go regardless of anyone fighting for her to stay here. That’s the thing about desolation: you can’t see light at the end of the dark tunnel. She was ready to go. She was determined to release the pain she was feeling here.

My mother passed eleven days before my fortieth birthday. When the day arrived I waited for her call as she was always the first one to greet me on holidays. I waited all morning. Suddenly there was this sense of grief as I looked out onto the lake behind the house. I would never get to hear her voice again. The realization had escaped me for days but there, numb and paralyzed to the core of my being, I accepted it standing in a puddle of tears. My mom was gone. Loss is like that: it shows up whenever it requires healing. It is one of those vital emotions that doesn’t go away completely but lingers until you cradle it, sit with it, and accept it. Then it makes its way out until the next time that the soul requires a lesson.

The loss of someone is not necessarily due to death. It can be the ending of a relationship, the end of a career, the loss of materialism, and even the death of a dear pet. Loss is loss and there is no degree to establish the pain of the emotions. We all handle it in so many ways. Some hide it through work, drugs, alcohol, sex or food. Some dwell on the loss and can’t continue living their lives. They hang on so tightly that instead of celebrating the memories of joy they dwell on the missing part. Missing sucks! I have no other word for it that won’t upset a few folks reading this. Missing churns inside, deliberately taking the heart and squeezing it tightly. But to have loved this deeply is to have experienced vulnerability and a selfless act of spiritual growth.

You don’t “get over” the hurt. There will always be a gap in between spaces of heart and memories. Sure, people will continue to enter your life. Of course you will have other relationships, but something happens to those gaps after a while: they become immortal in our minds. I remember when mail would continue to arrive for my mother. I would shake my head and for a second feel angry that someone out there didn’t know I lost my mother. After all she was MY mother and bills should stop arriving. The world should have stopped to mourn this loss. I felt the same with my uncles, aunts, father, grandparents and lover. A few years later as I was unpacking a box in my new home I found my mother’s license, insurance cards, and small notes on her next radiation appointment. Suddenly I was back by her side trying to get her to fight for her life. Loss is there. Just like with my sweet friend…loss will always return when I open up that meditation book. We are spiritual beings living, learning and loving through this journey. Loss is part of our lessons.

The reality of our illusions is that we have no control of anything…including loss. It opens us up, dissecting the core of our memories, and taking in new stories that dramatize those souls. Rumi channeled wisdom and shared with us his splendor: Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

Give yourself the permission to miss another. Allow tears to flow. Sit with the grief when it arrives. Don’t stop entertaining the memories. But, celebrate the joy of living, the privilege of having witnessed that love in your life, and the acceptance that we are eternal. The soul never dies…it just transfers into another form. Believe me, loved ones are never far from your side. They are waiting for those small memories and they smile from Heaven for your sweet love. Mucho love!

Pulling a Miracle


Our only car broke down yesterday down the mountain.  Matt was driving slowly when the right side ball joint came off.  Last year around this time the other side came off in a parking lot.  Both times the Divine has been with him in that he wasn’t driving fast or on the highway.  We are always taken care of in the way that suits our lessons and pushes the evolution of survival to expand in the awareness of God.  At the moment of the unfortunate event (and his growing agitation) I asked what I could do for him. His answer was, “Nothing. Unless you can pull a miracle out of your ass!”  And, so I sat at home and began to manifest a miracle.  Funny thing about miracles is that if you don’t specify what you are needing the Universe will give you another miracle that’s been in line waiting for the asking.

A few hours later my 19 year son, who left home a year and a half ago, called me.  He wanted to apologize for everything he ever did: the disrespect, the attitudes, the pushing away, the horrible things said about me, and the disregarding of my parenting authority.  We had not spoken in that time other than when he needed a specific paper or something for whatever he was trying to accomplish.  We had become two strangers.  I expressed to him, through heartfelt sobs, that he will forever be my son.  He needed to go off and find himself.  He needed to experience the rough edges of the world and return with scars from trying.  He needed to live out the illusions of freedom and what it returns when you aren’t careful in your decisions.  That’s the battle of youth entering adulthood.  There are lessons in letting go of our loved ones even when we know they may be hurt by their choices.  I obliged and respected his wishes to be left alone.  Not one day has passed that my prayers did not travel time and space to him.  We spoke for a short while.  I assured him that he could do anything he wanted to and that I would always be here because I was Mom.  I am proud that he is figuring things out.  This was a miracle in waiting.  It had been standing in line until I asked for it to come forward…”just a miracle” and no specifics.

There are nights I lay awake thinking about my six children. I am certain other parents go through the list of questions: What did I not do right? What could I have done differently? Will they look back and realize that love was always given in abundance? Will they have taken into adulthood the knowledge that material things don’t really matter? Questions gather and release. And, as I toss and turn, churning on the mattress, I come to listen to my inner guidance. I have done the best I could do under my limitations and capacity. People will always look inside glass houses, attempt to judge, criticize, and belittle. No one knows your path, the struggles along the way, the many times you had to bulldozed your way to the other side. These thoughts come and go during nights that sleep eludes me. And, then, another miracle appears: as daylight enters the room the Divine visits with assurance. I take deep breaths, thank the Universe for allowing me to redo all the wrongs, and continue learning. I go outside, sit on my deck and enter the church of nature. It is there that I find the peace to comfort my spirit and quiet the many unknowns. I am the best possible version of me and I whisper to God, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” I am whole again.

Asking for a miracle is allowing God to align your wishes with what you deserve.  It is a faithful act of letting go and releasing to the unknown.  It is in believing that we are entitled to the impossible.  Once you know and feel the awareness of illusion in that everything is okay the world opens up to your every desire.  We have no control of what can and will happen.  That’s the miracle.  As Lemony Snicket says, “Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see.”  Allow those little pimples to pop and show you the beauty of your wishful heart.


Reading a wonderful book today I recalled a memory that seemed to come out of left field.  It had nothing to do with what I was reading, yet I sat looking at the sun melt the snow on the deck while returning to 2008.  I had just remodeled my kitchen in Orlando and was making homemade French onion soup, carefully sautéing the onions while my children waited impatiently for dinner.  The phone rang and my sister shared that my mother had cancer and that it had spread to her lungs.  She had just returned from the doctor and the prognosis was not good. She would die in a few months. I didn’t understand what she was saying. My mother had already been cleared of cancer for several months.  I stood there moving the onions in the pan, the smell infusing with thoughts and the misunderstanding of what I was hearing from her.  I kept saying with each addition of detail, “I’m not understanding what you are saying!  (As she continued to repeat the same message) I will call you back later.”  I hung up the landline and my ex asked what happened.  In my state of denial and rejection for bad news I answered, “Something about Mom having cancer again.  I don’t think that’s right. God only knows what is really happening. ” I kept on cooking, stirring the broth, seasoning the pot.  I stood there in my beautiful new kitchen wondering what else I needed to make before setting the table.  Grief becomes a game between highs and lows, denial and acceptance.  The sorrow didn’t hit me for days, weeks perhaps, and the affirmation that my 82 year old mother was not immortal.  Since that day I’ve never cooked French onion soup again.

Why did this memory visit today?  I don’t know.  I believe it has to do with letting go, the admission and gaining of spiritual truth as I continue to clean the imbalance and metaphysical stagnation in me.  This is happening lately with thoughts coming and going; memories visiting and leaving without emotions; and the honoring of what is and isn’t working in my life.  But grief…well, that’s one of those that arrives with beautiful messages lately.  In the face of grief we become helpless, often tittering on hopeless wonder.  Death is not the only catalyst for grief: the ending of relationships, careers, finances, spiritual growth, and an array of life changes.   In all senses grieving is a must.  Where there is exhilaration there is the opposite of sorrow.  Duality exists.  We are made of it.

As I allowed the scene to unfold I caught the clarity of light on the pond, dancing with the wind while creating little diamonds on the water.  I smiled wiping away the soft tears in fallen reflections.  Grieving parts make a whole because you are never at a complete loss of those things or people.  They live through memories so vibrantly.  You can choose to relive the sorrowful parts and then move on to the joyful ones.  The more aware you become of thoughts, memories, moments and being present the easier it is to allow the visit of each emotion.  Honor them.  Sit with them in grace.  Allow them to enter those rooms that you have shut tightly.  Nothing lasts forever, even those fears that paralyze the spirit momentarily.  They shape us into depth, softening edges, and growing closer into Divinity.  Discarding those parts of life create stagnation.  Don’t let them end up in a land field of regrets!

~ The Sky is Everywhere~ (by Jandy Nelson)

“grief is a house
where the chairs
have forgotten how to hold us
the mirrors how to reflect us
the walls how to contain us

grief is a house that disappears
each time someone knocks at the door
or rings the bell
a house that blows into the air
at the slightest gust
that buries itself deep in the ground
while everyone is sleeping….”

The Mystery of Sorrow

Our dear friend, Jef, lost his mother to cancer today.  Even though he has helped others with grief and loss, Jef personally had not lost a close family member.  I cannot imagine what he must be feeling right now.  I sent him a message this morning and his gentle words returned, “Oh Millie, deepest thank you for your love.  Please write something today about how the mystery of sorrow is mixed together with the secrets of surrounding joy.  I will need to read it from your pondering sweet heart.  Love in big ways.  Your Jef”

After I composed my tears I felt a sense of gratitude for his mother finally letting go.  She hung tightly to this world.  Her body deteriorating, her pain evident, and I believe she just wanted permission to finally be set free.  The agony of what’s to come for the dying is one I will never comprehend.  It is a personal one.  I have spoken to people who work for Hospice and have been told that the dying usually wait for when they are alone to pass on.  Their souls need this privacy.

I have no wisdom when it comes to loss.  No matter what I write or say the loss of those we love is inexplicable.  We can be prepared for it but when the moment arrives it is as if the logical mind and the heart go separate ways.  I felt it with my mother five years ago.  I saw her tiny body embraced in a bed, peacefully lying as if she was asleep.  I was comforted with the knowing that she was finally free of the pain and discomfort and mostly of the fears.  She feared death.  Days before she died she asked me what I thought would happen to her.  I held her hand and told her that she would finally be at peace.  I assured her that she would feel so much love.  I expressed my beliefs about the afterlife.  The entire time of our conversation she looked at me with her glossy eyes and smiled.  My dear mother wanted permission to die.  In those moments of my assurance she received the message that we would be okay without her here.  It is always hard to comprehend what the dying think of their legacy.  They fear so much in so many levels.  It isn’t just the worrying of what can happen after the spirit leaves the body but for some the closure of the loved ones left behind.   “How will they make it without me?”

Grief does not change you.  It reveals the innermost part of your spirit.  To watch a loved one diminish and suffer is hell here on earth.  There is no relief in that.  The comfort is finally breathing and understanding that we are not immortal.  We came here momentarily to love, learn and experience life.   In the sadness of loss comes the joy of celebrating a life fully lived.  So often we mourn the death instead of rejoicing the life and what that soul offered us in our journey.

I have never stopped having a mother, a father, grandparents and so many who have passed.  They are still with me in memories, stories, and choices I make.  We don’t stop having these loved ones because their bodies aren’t here.  They evolve into another plane of existence which lives in our hearts.  But, no matter what way we prepare for loss it is still a lonely heart ache.  No two people will feel the same.  My sisters miss their mother in different ways.  I miss her for her strength and tenacity.  I miss friends who have passed for their love and laughter.  The hardest part of grieving is the finality.  I still miss my mother’s phone calls on my birthday, holidays and special events.  She was always the first to call me.  And so on days like that I light a candle in front of her picture that’s sits on my desk.  I say a prayer of gratitude and allow the light of divinity to guide me during those sad moments.

I have no words for Jef that can mend this moment.  I have little wisdom when it comes to the grieving heart.  What I do have is the “knowing” that those who pass leave a little part of themselves behind.  They begin to show us that they are at peace through a favorite song, a lovely poem, a sign from the universe, and in the comforting realm of dreams.  Celebrate the life lived.  Explore the mystery of sorrow and allow those moments to pass.  Honor the legacy with grace, compassion and faith.  Rejoice in the stories of the past.  And, in the moments of solitude and despair reach into your heart and know you are never alone.


You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott