It was a crowd of over 5,000 and the 5th anniversary of the John Maxwell team. I was one of a few couple of hundred Latinos in the audience and was asked to speak in Spanish to an audience who didn’t understand Spanish!
I needed to use my body language and project a strong point in my message. I chose to speak about PERSEVERANCE. Why? All human beings whom had any success in any area of their lives would identify with the word perseverance no matter what language they speak. The JMT is one of the most successful, positive, persistent, difference makers group of individuals I’ve known in my whole life and I know they identified with the message.
In my case, some people think “perseverance” should be my middle name. It’s something I learned from my mom and I apply it in everything I do whether it’s in my professional life or personal, it follows me. When people I counsel or mentor share their difficult situations, what often comes out of my mouth is “press on”. I’ve done it all my life and it works! I would never ask anyone to do or try something I haven’t done myself first.
I recently came across a quote from the 30th President of the US and it says “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge
In my professional career I have come across a lot of talented, geniuses and well educated people but Calvin is right, none of that is sufficient. Determination, persistence, a sense of urgency and an attitude of not giving up is necessary to accomplish goals
The simplest definition I found is “perseverance is a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.
Who inspires you to press on? My mom has been my greatest inspiration in overcoming “a few” obstacles in life before standing on a stage and voicing out the results of perseverance. It hasn’t been easy to break the barrier of a different culture, a new language, being a Latina woman, growing up without a father figure in a dysfunctional family and being the shiest young girl you could have ever met, but I press on and encourage you to do the same.
Let’s grow together and be a difference maker. At the end, that’s what helps us to live a life of significance!
When I first met Luz 33 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought I’d be so nervous to meet my “potential future mother-in-law”.
I’d been dating Wally for a few weeks and really liked him. So when he said “we’re going to visit my parents this weekend” I hoped and prayed to make a good first-impression. When we entered their home it smelled delicious and after a bit of getting to know each other, she served us dinner.
Sometime during our conversation she said “Norma, make yourself at home” so after dinner, I stood up and started washing dishes, she suddenly screamed “No, you don’t have to do that!”. I looked at her confused about she wanting to stop me and said “I thought you wanted me to feel at home, this is something I’d do to help my mom after a meal”. She couldn’t refuse my help with that statement and from that point on, our daughter and mother-in-law relationship became uncommonly close.
You may remember how much I identify with the law of curiosity, I asked Wally a lot of questions and found out Luz was a lady full of life who enjoyed looking fashionably youthful (after I married Wally, I’d go in her closet and she’d go into mine). She would make sure her purse, belt and shoes matched and her hair was always nicely done. She loved music and dancing was in her blood. She exercised often and was a successful entrepreneurial woman. She had a huge collection of awards by the company she represented for her sales achievements. In short, she earned my admiration very quickly.
I’m so grateful for the support she’s always provided us with, especially after Sasha was born. I was an inexperienced young mom at 21 and Wally worked long hours and traveled outside the country with the National Guard from time to time. In fact, he had a trip scheduled to Germany when Sasha was just a few weeks old. Luz offered helped and Sasha and I stayed with her and Don Hector while Wally was serving in the military in Germany. This experience, even though it was just a few weeks long, got us closer to each other. I’m grateful she’s always treated me like her own daughter but especially for loving my children in such a profound way.
Throughout the years we’ve talked, cried, danced, sang, and mostly laugh together. She especially loves it when I do her hair and a full makeover. “We always have a good time, right?” was something she consistently said after my visits! You see, I was committed to ensure my children knew their Nana and Abuelo so I’d drive almost every weekend or whenever possible from Chicago to their home in the suburbs. I’m so glad I took the time to know her the way I do.
We suspected Alzheimer’s was a threat for her because of family history and realized during the summer of 2014 that it was time for us to get more involved and help her manage, well, life.
Luz has always been a strong woman and seldom showed her emotions unless it was joy. I remember seeing her cry for the first time during visits to find a place for Don Hector to centers that Wally was researching to care for people with mental conditions such as dementia and alzheimer’s, It broke my heart to see her that sad and I promised myself to help delay the moment to take her (them) to a home as long as possible. She stayed with us a couple of years after Don Hector passed away and we helped her get through the mourning period of losing him.
She enjoyed living with us AS LONG AS she was out in the garden or helping out somehow 🙂 However, the Chicago winters became a challenge and I couldn’t keep her happy anymore. In December 2006, she became sad and didn’t want to go out. She just wanted to stay inside the house and spent hours and hours looking out the window. She refused to do anything, started showing signs of aggressiveness and acted like someone completely opposite to Luz’s character. It broke my heart but I accepted the fact that she needed the type of care I could no longer provide and we decided to take her to a center Wally had found back in 2014 called “I Love You Lord Home Center” in Puerto Rico. The transition was made in January 2017. It was one of the toughest decisions our family had to do, but I truly believe it was the best thing for her and that’s what mattered. She stopped wearing black as soon as we arrived. She asked that we visit often and I promised to be back soon. We actually came back a few weeks later on January 21 for the Christmas party. The center realizes families cannot always travel for the traditional dates in December and celebrate later in January. She looked (and acted) like her old self.
I fulfilled my promise and came back a few weeks after and spent Valentine’s Day with her. She was again, the lady I first met, full of life! Loving the music and enjoying herself to the fullest.
We have been able to visit and stay closely connected via facetime. She’s always out in the garden enjoying what she loves most. The staff has become part of our extended family and Luz seems to be very happy there.
I felt a strong urge to be with her now even though Joshua just visited a couple of weeks ago. I just knew I needed to come! After hugging, walking, reading, singing, dancing, doing her hair and makeup like old times and mostly laughing for a few days she said “we always have a good time, right?”.
I agreed, we alway have a good time. All of the sudden she asked “Can you remind me of your name?”. I couldn’t believe it! It made the rest of my day very emotional to think that the progression of the inevitable was starting. The nurses and doctors tell me that there will be a time she will not recognize me at all. I reached out for encouragement. One of my friends told me: “What a blessing that GOD PUT YOU HERE TO LOVE HER. Tell her ‘I am Norma. I’m Wally’s wife and someone who loves you very much’. Her memory will continue to deteriorate but she can still feel your love”. I pray she does.
Luz and Don Hector are one of the reasons why I became an advocate for Mental Health. People are quick to give opinions and make suggestions how to handle these situations, I’m guilty of that. Therefore, I’m learning how to cope with the effects of Dementia and Alzheimer’s and hope to help other families in the future through my own experience. For now, I’ll continue to love my mom-in-law in the ways I know will bring her joy and help her to continue to live a life of significance.