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    Let’s talk perseverance

    Let’s talk perseverance

    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!

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    Pleasure, Happiness or Joy

    When I hear “pursue happiness”, “think of happy thoughts”, “do more of what makes you happy”, I agree up to a certain extent. I’m guilty of quoting these my self and there’s absolutely nothing negative in that, but as I read one of my devotionals this week, it made me realize the difference between what gives me pleasure, what makes me happy and what gives me joy. I never considered to look into this until now. Why am I pursuing happiness when I can pursue Joy? It has to do with the fact that I have experienced things that give me true joy and that’s my wish for you reading this blog. So many of us are in pursuit of happiness no matter how young, old, poor or rich we are, but what if we can bring it up a notch and be in pursuit of things that makes us more joyful than usual?

    After some research, I came up with this simple descriptions:

    PLEASURE: A source of satisfaction. Tends to be elusive and short term. Mostly physical.

    HAPPINESS: A sense of well-being or contentment caused by things “happening” at the current moment. Can be temporary or longer term and you can measure how happy or unhappy you feel.

    JOY: An attitude or a belief that comes from within oneself which soothes even in the most sorrowful of situations. It’s a state of mind caused by meaningful things that can’t be measured.

    To illustrate, when I was a teenager I thought that if only I had a few pairs of shoes to choose from, I’d be happy. You know, white shoes or sandals for the summer, black shoes or boots for the winter and all sort of heel sizes. Growing up I always only had one pair of shoes at the time. I would never put the pressure on my mom raising 5 children and working hard to make ends meet just because I wanted the pleasure to have more than one pair of shoes. I would get a new pair only when the ones I had looked old and ready to be thrown away. If they were black, the next pair would be white and viceversa. It would give me a sense of having a variety. I now know that having a closet full of shoes of all shades and shapes you can imagine, still doesn’t give me the joy I long for. This certainly gives me pleasure. Things that give us pleasure in life tend to be temporary.

    What I longed for was intangible, immeasurable, it didn’t have a color or a shape. Sometimes I imagined my dad surprising me on a birthday or during a school ceremony while getting a recognition. Sometimes I hoped he would come into the door on father’s day and always on Christmas…It never happened. I guess I just wanted to hear him say, “I love you and I’m here for you” even though he wasn’t in my life growing up. However, some sort of closer connection with him would have given me a life-long feeling of joy as a little girl.

    Pleasure, happiness and joy mean different things for different people. I always think of my mom as a model for me. I know she found pleasure in eating ice cream or any type of sweets (especially birthday cake!), meaningful conversations, spending time with family and connecting with people caused her lots of happiness -the laugh attacks were hilarius and contagious. The joy of her salvation and deep relationship with God gave her an indescribable joy that she shared freely and openly with others in hope for them to experience the same.

    Let’s be in pursuit of “that” which is meaningful and gives us purpose in life. This, my friends, will increase the joy and the sense of fulfillment we all long for, and in turn, help us live a life of significance.

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    The end of a decade

    “It’s the end of a decade!” she said as if it was a big deal. Well, IT IS A BIG DEAL!!! My friend and business partner, Gilda, was encouraging our group to reflect on what we want to accomplish professionally by the end of this year. As I did (reflect), it made me realize on the importance of the last 3 months of 2019. It is the end of a decade and although I’m not going to name every single accomplishment, I will say that it’s overwhelming to think of all the things that happened in the last 10 years. It’s especially hard to find the appropriate words to express the gratitude for what the last 10 years represent. I’ve met so many interesting and inspiring people, I’ve learned and experienced so much, I’ve invested in my personal growth and have grown as a person and as a professional, but most importantly, I’ve seen my mentees benefit from my growth.

    Best experience: I have several good ones in this area. I turned 50, both my children graduated from college and became independent. I became part of the John Maxwell Team. The top one has got to be that I became a grandmother!

    Am I on track to completing the goals I committed to? This year I chose the word “completion” to describe it and there are 2 things I committed to do to honor my mom: Created The ELISA Foundation and get it to become a 501(c)3 organization and write a book about her. I’m on track!!!

    Did I learn something new? For years I’ve been scared to learn how to swim and not only did I self-taught myself, I’m also teaching others how to do it!

    Did I influence anyone in a positive way? I’d like to think that I did. I’d love to gather testimonials of peopleI believe I’ve influenced in one way or another. One environment that helped me to influence those around me was my studio. I helped influenced Cari, an extremely talented dancer and dance teacher open her own business. She came to my studio to teach a Zumba class and soon after, I named her the Director of a kids dance program and from there she open her own studio! I’d like to think that I influenced Jennifer, Edith, Yana and Catalina grow spiritually. I know I influenced my son, Joshua, into getting involved in the choir and get involved in the dance fitness industry. I know I’ve influence a few to become entrepreneurial and follow their dreams!

    As I continue to reflect on this decade, I know there are many more things I could mentioned. I remember the beginning of 2010 being one of the most difficult years of my life personally, spiritually, physically and mentally. These are related somehow because I uncovered the truth about a lie that a person very close to me was living and it affected our relationship very much, the fact is that it was in the beginning of this decade that I realized I couldn’t put people on a pedestal. It was eye opening and it shook my faith during the process and drained me mentally but I know I became spiritually stronger. Phisically, I had a scare with one of my regular annual tests and a biopsy came back “abnormal”. You know this entailed tons of additional tests and prayers hoping for me to be completely out of danger. Mentally and without giving too many details, all of those circumstances affected my mental wellness. The beginning of this decade was also when I left Corporate America after a successful career and became an entrepreneur, socially responsible and well, yes, FREE!!!

    Today, I can assure you that I’m still going through my journey, and as a human being, I might still fail at many things and fall but getting up and understanding that life if too short and therefore, I need to continue to pursue happiness, no matter what and, OF COURSE, live a life of significance just like my mom did.

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    World Gratitude Day

    I remember thinking it must have been over 100 degrees inside the small church in Camaguey Cuba where a standing room only group of people didn’t want to stop applauding as we say goodby. I had never been so overwhelmed by the gratitude anyone ever expressed to me. Our group of missionaries had delivered leadership trainings, biblical teachings, new coats for all the students of a high school, clothing donations to an orphanage and a center for pre-teen girls and their babies affected by sex trafficking and a financial donation totaling less than $4,000. Each one of us paid for our own airline fares and expensed the trip, but I didn’t think the 15-minute standing ovation, gifts, hugs, tears and so many expressions of gratitude were necessary. We truly did it from the bottom of our hearts and didn’t expect anything in return. However, we were all so touched by these people that this moment was so worthwhile! It made me realized I needed to allow them to express gratitude in the best way they could. It was beautiful and unforgettable!

    When we got back to Chicago, we “attempted” to describe the feeling as we talked tirelessly of the many tokens of gratitude they gave us. We had several short videos showing how much they appreciated the donations, trainings and especially the funds raised from the efforts of many people from different events in Chicago. This money helped a congregation in Cuba them finish a classroom for kids at their church.

    I truly believe that GRATITUDE is underrated! If we could express how grateful we truly are for the things we have and the people we know, we’d be applauding not stop, crying and joyfully hugging each other. I have to confess that I became quite emotional as I was video recording my blog introduction and attempting to find words to express how thankful I am for the 5 closest people in my family I’m thankful for. My hubby, my daughter, my son, my granddaughter and my mom. So many more are on my list. However, my gratefulness for this 5 comes from the most profound love inside me.

    I think this is the first time in my life I was made aware of World Gratitude Day! When was September 21st officially named? Every day should be world gratitude day! 🙂 Thanks to Amy, I’ll be celebrating from now on. Why? It is a big deal and I need to practice thankfulness more and more. So, here is my list of 5 things I’m thankful for today (I got the idea of using 5 “themes” to be able to include more than 5). Thanks Amy!!

    5. LIFE. I’m alive! Every day I wake up and breath I thank God for my life. My journey has not being easy or perfect but it’s been a perfect journey for me.

    4. NETWORK GROUPS. My mom always said “dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres” meaning, “you can judge a man by the company he keeps”. My support system is so important to me. We all should have Mentors, Coaches and friends in different areas of our life, i.e. professional, financial, personal and spiritual.

    3. OPPORTUNITIES. I let go of so many opportunities growing up. I was too shy to dare to do things (even though I had people encouraging me to try) nothing made me believe in myself. I’m so glad I found my way through “the way”. Some opportunities are for us to ADVANCE, GROW, SERVE and do what you’re PASSIONATE about. Other times, you create opportunities for others to do the same.

    2. FORGIVENESS. It takes a lot to be able to forgive. It takes being vulnerable, humble and selfless. It’s not easy at all and we all need to master this in order to have peace.

    1.LOVE. This is definitely my number one pick! Love is the solution! when I realized God loved me the way He does, it made me feel secured, valued, worthy, special, beautiful and…yes, loved!

    Share why you’re thankful for. Do it any day, please don’t wait until next year on September 21st! Those living a life of significance practice it daily! 🙂

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    Women empowering women

    Women Empowering Women

    It’s wonderful to see a group of women so passionate about helping others. I gravitate to these kind of networks. I long to be with people that genuinely want to add value to others. To me, it’s simply the right thing to do. 

    L.E.E.N. (Latinas Executive and Entrepreneurs Network) is well and growing rapidly. I first introduced you to this project through my blog “You Become Who You Are on you way to your GOAL” when I highlighted my beautiful friend, Martha Tovias, who founded L.E.E.N. 

    It’s impressive to see the “disruption” this networking group is causing. Many want to belong to it! You may recall one of the purposes of L.E.E.N. is to allow entrepreneurial Latinas to contribute their knowledge and empower other women.
    I believe this is the reason why is becoming extremely popular. There’s nothing like sharing what you’ve learned through your experiences and see others succeed in their goals thanks to your contribution, even if just a word of encouragement. The kind of satisfaction being a giver provides is hard to explain. The more you give the more you get.  This group is to LOVE, LEARN and LEAN! Love, because you just can’t help but to embrace every story of success.  learn, because to help each other, everyone needs to contribute and share experiences, making it a learning environment and lean because the main purpose of it is to be able to support and promote each other’s services and events. 

    I know my mom was an entrepreneur at heart and although she never “officially” incorporated, she “unofficially” was involved in philanthropy, retail, social work, and consulting besides others. She would have loved each one of the ladies in my circle like Dr. Maribel Lopez, a woman so committed to give, pay it forward and help that I would literally need a book to tell her story. Just the fact that she’s in the 2% of Latinas with a doctorate amazes me. By the way, I’m so proud of her second book she’s officially launching on her Fundraising event on October 5. I know it will be a memorable time and a continuation of her many accomplishments. I encourage her to follow her and be prepare to learn from a woman living a life of significance. 
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    Get rich or build wealth?

    One of my favorite things to do is to read and listen to podcasts. Mark Cole, my mentor and CEO of the John Maxwell Companies, often hosts the John Leadership Maxwell podcast and recently interviewed Chris Hogan, a number one best seller author for a book called “Everyday Millionaires”. His message is one of hope and financial peace. It inspired me to write about this topic because the more I deal with people from all walks of life, the more I see the need for this message. A message of HOPE and FINANCIAL PEACE.

    Chris and I have many things in common. His dad wasn’t around growing up, he is a person of faith, he’s been under the mentorship of one of the greater leadership experts, Dr John C. Maxwell and he believes that the most valuable principle to be successful in business is to apply the Golden Rule and treat others the way you want to be treated. It was interesting to see why John said in the beginning of the podcast “I have a notebook in front of me and I’m ready to take notes from Chris and become better by the end of this call”. I couldn’t agree more with him! I benefited so much from this call and will share my notes as well.

    Chris says there’s a difference from Making Money and Building Wealth. “Find something you love and do it” this helps you to make money. When you are passionate and do it long term, that’s when you build wealth and you need to do 3 things:

    1. BELIEF. You have to believe that no matter where you came from or where you were born or who your family is, you can accomplish anything.
    2. KNOWLEDGE. You can’t stop learning. Listen to podcasts. Read books. Invest in yourself and attend workshops and trainings.
    3. ACTION. Nothing happens until something moves. 

    The importance of building wealth and at the same time keeping a generous heart, be a good steward and add value to others. Planning for retirement is having options. He knows of the importance of having a support system and recommends we all have these in our lives:

    1. A MENTOR. Success and guides you
    2. A COACH. Someone who pushes you and makes you accountable
    3. A FRIEND. Someone that can call you out if you’re out of character

    I just love everything about Chris, whose mission is to Educate, Encourage and Empower! He touched on the need to keep growing and care about people to become a great leader. Let’s apply these teachings and grow together!

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    Who is FAMILY?

    This week the keyword is FAMILY.  My mother instilled in me, based on her example, how important family is. Some family members are closer than others, some members of the “family” do not carry the same blood.  However, you learn to love them and you learn from them.  You learn how much you need them when they’re not around.  You learn to miss them. You learn to miss how you longed to laugh for no reason and how you used to play “anything” and enjoyed it to the fullest.  You learn to be more like them while keeping your essence. 

    You learn to admire their strengths.  You learn to pray for their difficult situations.  You learn to lift them when they fall.  You learn to support them when they need you. You learn that your family is a sister…a friend…a confidant…an accomplice…a partner. It is who protects you. It is who advises you. It is who exhorts you. It is who catches your attention. A family member is one who loves you.

    My trip to Anaheim, California this week was transformative. I arrived at my hotel at the same time as my sister Clara and we enjoyed, together, some sessions that helped us grow as individuals and as leaders of our teams and businesses.  Although all of that was important, we spent quality time sharing together, not only celebrating each teaching, but also life and  her achievements in the aspect of health.

    I disconnected from my world at that time as much as possible because I felt it was important to do it to improve as a person. I wanted to do my best and it involved disconnection and a total focus towards what we were learning.

    I reconnected with old friends whom I admire a lot but I also discovered members of a new family, AMARE, who immediately welcomed me and promised me to be part of a mission that will change the world. My commitment is to be part of their movement to create opportunities that others need.

    My family has practically spread within the team of John Maxwell, my church (Chicago Tabernacle) and this company, Amare, the mental wellness company that is revolutionizing the world.  The members of these 3 organizations have very similar things that appeal to me.  It’s characteristics of its people are what I look for in my “family”. They’re compassionate, helpful, action people, hardworking, wise, generous, impactful, successful … they are not perfect people, but they are “family”, they love God and their actions prove it.

    At the end of my trip, I was certain that one more experience was still missing before returning to Chicago. Usually my intuition does not fail. 🙂

     I wanted to surprise my sister Noelia, the oldest from my mom’s second marriage, who lives near Los Angeles. I arrived during her church service. It’s always a joy for me to worship God with her and family. It’s amazing to see everyone there including her husband, her children, Sarahi (the angel of her family) and her dad Manuel together and what they’ve accomplished in spiritual growth.  It filled me with an indescribable joy. Seeing them together worshiping God with freedom always takes me back to my mother’s desire to see her children growing in the knowledge of God.

    What followed next could be called a divine intervention.  My conversations with my sister Noelia are always very deep and full of reasons to get us closer, including constructive criticism. We shared time with our brother, Jose Juan and listened intensely through the phone about the miracles God recently performed in his children. This filled us with faith and hope that God hears our prayers. We cried, laughed, prayed and grew together.

     I will always be grateful to God for the wisdom he has given Noelia, for revealing areas of growth for me and for necessary changes in my actions. She makes me improve every day as a person, as a sister and as family. The labels that described us in the past are changing little by little with God’s help and we are becoming aware of what really matters within a family. They may be intangible things but impactful ones like unity, protection, forgiveness, exhortation and Love.

    _______________ ________________ _______________ ______________ ______________

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    Faith over fear!

    Have you ever wanted to learn a new skill or accomplish something that would take lots of courage and support from others in order to accomplish?

    I always felt a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t know how to swim. The idea of diving freely into the water was so scary to me! Don’t get me wrong, I love going by the lake, a beautiful beach or a swimming pool, but I looked for excuses not to go into the water. My favorite one was “I almost drawn in a swimming pool when I was young”. So, you’d always find me walking by the beach, laying down to tan, reading a great book by the pool or watching everyone swim while I was feeling impotent about it.

    I’ve been okay with that for many years using all those excuses until I was inspired by Maria Conceicao, who founded The Maria Cristina Foundation in 2005 and raises funds to help the poor in Bangladesh, a country South of Asia affected severally by poverty. Read her full story here.

    I met Maria during one of my International Maxwell Certifications in Orlando, Florida in 2017. She was a guest speaker and shared how she was inspired to start the foundation. Long story short, she envisioned to make a difference in children living in Bangladesh, lift them out of poverty and transform their lives through education. What impacted me the most is how she started participating in extreme physical challenges to raise funds and awareness about her non-for-profit charity. Even though she never participated in sports and wasn’t considered athletic, she entered many male dominated challenges like mountain climbing. She’s one of the most persevering women I’ve ever met with an unbelievable drive and passion not to mention stamina, endurance and mental strength to accomplish what she has! She’s earned 8 Guinness World Records (maybe more by now!) for Endurance Sports including Ironmans, Ultra, Half and Full Marathons and for climbing Mount Elbrus. She’s on track to finish climbing 7 of the highest mountains in each continents with 2 more to go to complete the seven summits AND she was the first Portuguese female to do the Last Degree to the North Pole and to summit the Everest

    Guess what? Maria also swam across the English Channel in 2016 for seven hours! What inspired me about this is that she learned how to swim to be able to do it! So, yes, you can imagine how privileged I felt to have met her.

    This is one of the reasons why I decided to stop using excuses and learn how to swim. It’s taking lots of courage and discipline to get in the water and practice but I’m building strength and self confidence and know I can do this!

    My beautiful friend Dr Maribel Lopez, encouraged me as well this week. I remember having a conversation with her during our missions trip to Peru about her fear of flying in October 2017. The only reason she agreed to “fly” and be part of this long trip was her passion to inspire young women and empower them to greatness. We ended up sitting next to each other and she was definitely very scared to fly. I was non-stop talking to her and asking her lots of questions in an effort to distract her from the fobia I could perceive she had during take-off, flying AND landing 🙂

    So, when I saw her announcements this week that she was about to fly on a 2 -seat jet with our lovely friend and “Pilotina”, Jacqueline Camacho, someone deserving of much admiration, I was so proud of her!

    Maria Conceicao, Dr Maribel and Jacqueline are just some examples of women that inspire me. I’ve learned that nothing will stop a woman determined to achieve something that will allow her to help others! Putting Faith over fear is a key and, yes, the sky is the limit! Let’s grow together!

    _________________ ______________ ______________ ____________ ____________

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    You become who you are meant to be on your way to your goal

    Have you ever admired someone from a distance not knowing they’ve been admiring you as well? Is it true that you attract people just like yourself? People with the same interests in life? People with the same goals and motives? What do you believe in regards to the law of attraction?

    True story, this past weekend I spent some quality time with someone I met several years ago, a friend that I now consider a soul partner!

    I first saw her while walking around the items available during a silent auction at an event for one of the organizations I support. When I saw her, I thought “what a beautiful lady!”, I’m so glad we (women) have the ability to admire each other and pay compliments without being compromised! We had a very short and casual conversation and continued on mingling and greeting others. We’ve coincided at other events throughout the years and although we were always polite, said hello and took a picture or two, we never really took the time to get to know each other until more recently.

    For some reason I was intentional to meet her this weekend and nothing was going to get on the way. I just felt like I needed to meet her in a private environment and without distractions. We had agreed for me to stop by her home on Saturday morning and somehow everything (both her schedule and mine) moved around and kept delaying our meeting! I’d hoped to meet as early as possible based on my several commitments that day. Well, my meeting with her ended up being the last one of the day at 6pm! What happened next impressed me the most. I’ll call our gathering a “life event”.

    You may be asking yourself “why would a simple gathering between two friends be such a big deal as to be considered a life event?” I’ll start by saying that I’m fortunate to have experienced a deep connection with other people in my life as it happened on Saturday at 6pm. It’s something hard to explained but it’s as if you discover the most enlightening, authentic, trustworthy, openminded, strong, giving, successful, beautiful person in the world! If you’ve been lucky enough to experience this, you’ll understand me.

    First of all, let me say that she’s a great host and a wonderful cook. I suggested we patent the recipe for her grilled chicken and broccoli “a la Tovias” and make a fortune with it!

    The amazing view from her place overseeing the Chicago River and the peaceful, colorful and beautiful sunset was perfect for our conversation. We talked about our projects, our trips, our family, our desire to empower other women and mostly about things that sparked joy into our lives!

    We shared our journeys which reminded me something I heard Rachel Hollis say the day I met her “You become who you are meant to be on your way to your goal”. Well, my friend, Martha Estela Tovias has become who she’s meant to be as she’s reached her goal. She’s the first latina to own a title company in the state of Illinois. I’m privileged to know her, learn from her and confirm what I thought about her when I first met her “what a beautiful lady!”. I’m looking forward to stay closely connected to such a wonderful woman with such a clear vision and mission in life. She’s definitely living a life of significance. I know my mom and her dad are celebrating in heaven and proud of our alliance!

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    God put me here to love my mother-in-law

    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.

    “Christmas Party” in January at I Love You Lord Center in Puerto Rico

    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.