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!

Loving the Impossible







My grandfather was a grumpy old man.  Most people were intimidated and afraid of his demeanor.  He was hard on the outside.  We were taught early on to fear and respect him.  On one of our summer trips to Puerto Rico my mother warned us about staying out of his way.  He had this big office and would spend most of the day in there.  I would go inside and sit by him.  At eleven years of age I loved adults.  I enjoyed elderly people.  We could relate to one another.  We would sit in silence for a while.  Then he would ask if I had something to play with outside of his office.  I would say, “No, I’m fine.  Whatcha doing?”  He would grunt.  He would say I asked a lot of questions.  He would then continue working.  On his desk he had pictures of children from South America.  I asked him if they were part of our family.  He grunted with a no.  I would press on day after day until one day I saw him making out a check to a foundation.  He had children he would sponsor.  I later found out he helped a lot of people who never asked anything of him.  This is the type of man he was.  He was impossible on the outside but a teddy bear on the inside.  It was that moment that changed my perception of him forever.

As I grew older and my grandparents moved closer to us in South Florida I would go visit him.  Every time I would leave I would hug him and asked him to tell me he loved me.  He would grunt and tried to kick me out.  I would just go back and sit on the sofa until he would tell me.  One day he said in Spanish, “You love the impossible, don’t you?”  This caught me off guard.  He would mumble the words, “I love you” in English as if pulling teeth.  I would then proceed to ask for a smile.  This was a dance we did for many years.  He wasn’t impossible.  He was all things possible.  He was a strong man with structure and tenacity.  My mother used to beg me not to bother him when I would visit.  To no avail, I needed his impossibilities.  He was one of the greatest loves because of them.

I love.  I do love the impossible because I’m possible and like magnets we attract.  Most folks who are difficult and hard have the softest interiors.  They are the silent ones who help without needing acknowledgement.  They are the ones who donate money and worry about the welfare of the underdogs.  We are not all on the same spectrum.  But love is love regardless of the impossible or the possible.  It is timeless, space-less, self-less, placeless, and priceless.   At times I hear my grandfather’s questions in my head when I meet the “impossible” ones.  I hear my answer to him each time, “Because all things are possible.  The word impossible says I’m possible of everything.”  He would grunt and tried hard not to smile.  We are all possible and deserve to be loved for the differences of interiors and exteriors.

How do we love?  How do we pick who to love?  Is there such a guide to loving? I might not agree with someone’s views, opinions or way of life, but I do stand with an open heart.  I have had exes who stole my heart and will continue to be loved by me.  Our time came to an end and we learned and evolved.  But, the love will always remain somewhere in a box close to heart.  I’ve had friends who meant the world to me, inseparable, and time came and went and they are no longer in my life.  But, when I think of them my heart smiles because they existed to fill a void, to love all parts of us, and to teach me forgiveness in me and them.  And, with my own children, some have arrived deeply wounded and I have loved and had to let go.  They are always loved.  We don’t have to love with a heavy heart those who ruffle our feathers.  We have to love with an opened one.  That’s how we love.  That’s how we connect to the divine.  People and situations get placed in our path to evolve and better our higher selves.  We deserve to acknowledge those parts of others and us.  I love.  You love.  We all love one way or another.  No two loves are the same.  No two souls can match exactly.  But, when you love from a place of truth, forgiveness, compassion, grace, and boundaries, there is no such thing as impossible.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”~Shel Silverstein

Knowing Unknowns

There is a saying that most people use when trying to make a point about certainty, “I know it (him/her) like the back of my hand.”  I haven’t really spent too much time knowing the back of my hand to be honest.  I, mean, if it was on a picture among other hands I would know mine (I think).  I don’t know why we use this jargon.  I also don’t know anyone that well.  I don’t even know myself completely.  Who does?  Do you truly know yourself?  Or, are you ever changing, evolving, transforming and moving in a way that surprises you? It sure surprises me.

I have said in many conversations that if “so and so happened to me I would react in such a manner.”  Whenever the Universe has provided a similar event, as an opportunity to grow, I have reacted completely different.  How I think and how I react are sometimes opposites.   I can’t really say anything for certain.  My life is forever changing.  All the shifts push me to think diversely because asymmetrically things are defining everything I think I should become in order to be happy.  It is truly ridiculous to entertain an idea and sit with it until it happens to you.  I am learning not to attach myself to any clichés.  I don’t know myself that well. The balance, the symmetry, and the idea of perfection is an illusion!

Life has a way of challenging our psyche.  It pushes us to a breaking point.  It causes us to see the world in a different manner to experience empathy with our spirit.  Just when I think I know something about me that is certain there is a new lesson guiding me to expand my thoughts, reactions, and outcomes.  I believe patience is born from these moments.  We get the opportunity to expand our perceptions.

Yesterday I was going through the “catch all” junk drawer in my room.  I found a picture of me with my kids when they were younger.  My ex and I took them on a cruise in May of 2007.  Everyone in the picture looks happy. If you look closely, even through my smile, there is a sadness that yells out, “I can’t do this charade any longer!”  We are all standing in front of a field in Old San Juan.  It is the perfect picture for a perfect vacation.  I don’t even know why I had kept that particular picture on this drawer.  I realized at that moment, while closely observing the faces, that my ex wasn’t happy at all.  He was hiding secrets behind his smile.  I was lamenting them and holding on to some belief that someone was going to pull me out of that relationship.  Funny how, in knowing myself, I really had no clue.  A picture captures the physical part of the world, but it also freezes a moment forever.  Who truly knows themselves?

I stared at that picture for the longest time.  I could see the exhaustion and tension inside of me.  Five of our six children stood there posing for the hundredth time.  They were hungry, hot, tired, and just wanted to run around.  I wanted to sit and do nothing.  My ex wanted to explore the jail and reminisce of Cuba.  I was a different person then.  If I think I don’t know myself well enough now, I know I knew nothing about that woman standing in the photograph.

If someone had shown me this picture about another family I am sure I would have commented on something esoteric.  Like, “look at the way the woman’s eyes seem sad. Or, look at the detachment from the man. Or, those kids look nothing alike.”  And then my humanness would have commented, “Why would anyone want such a big family?  How does one travel with that many kids?” I would have judged the idea of what we think we know.  The truth is we know nothing.  We know even less when ego gets a hold of us in a moment of frenzy.

There is no originality to me that stays grounded forever.  I am ever changing.  Events, problems, experiences and people are constantly pushing the cycle of my evolution.  Spiritually, physically and emotionally I am not the same person I was yesterday holding that picture, tracing each face with my index finger (that one that I truly don’t know very well).  I know nothing of what it is to know certainty.  There is no certainty.  There is just this moment, this key stroke, this word, and this middle-aged woman opening her thoughts and heart to you.  I search for the moment of enlightenment as Lao Tzu expresses, “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”  Until that moment I am learning to move with the flow of life…have a blessed day!

Calor Humano

There is magic in traveling. One becomes the artist of a place with a blank canvas. Each new scent, color, food, culture, language creates the most amazing painting of human spirit. This is why I love to travel. I find that the diversity in others such an attraction and a complete joy in my own humanness.

My cousin and I went zip lining today in the Yunque. This is Puerto Rico’s national forest. The guides were incredibly kind and knowledgable about the plants and environment. One of them asked us if we come here in the holidays. I haven’t been to Puerto Rico during Christmas since I lived here as a little girl. Then he said something that I found magical, “Coming to Puerto Rico in the holidays was about looking for el calor humano.” This literally translates into “human heat.”

Those two words are adjectives for the people in this island. They are all about the “human heat.” You meet anyone here and immediately feel like family. They know how to enjoy life to the fullest. Weekends are about eating, getting together, going to the beach and embracing that human heat with another.

In the states we find that work takes priority over our lives. The weekends are about resting to then do it all over again. And, yes, the roads here have major challenges, houses aren’t maintain, the place is picturesque with vibrant colors that put Crayola Crayons to shame. However, the easiness, gentleness, coquet gestures, and warmth is evident all over the place. It is magical.

Human heat is all we strive to have in our personal lives. Calor humano is the reason families gather every day for a month and a half during holidays. I had forgotten how it was to live on this island. People help each other. They stop what they are doing to include themselves into your space and time. Generosity is a constant thread in this place. It doesn’t matter where you are everyone is connected in such a way that you feel heat.

Returning here has been like re-entering the womb of my existence. There is warmth, comfort, a feeling of belonging, and most of all calor humano.