Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day...they gave up their tomorrows...

The Memorial Day holiday is finally here! For many of us it just means a long weekend. Memorial Day also means out of town trips, family get-togethers, the official opening of public swimming pool and the beginning of the tourist season for attractions like Six Flags and Sea World.

Somewhere along the line, I feel its true meaning has somehow been forgotten.

Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day”,” an official holiday created in 1868 following the Civil War, to celebrate the lives of the Union Soldiers. The term “Memorial Day” was not used till 1882, but didn’t really catch on until after World War II.

Different days of the year were celebrated by different states for nearly a hundred years after 1868. Finally in 1967, the U.S. Congress declared the day of remembrance to be officially named “Memorial Day,” and set the last Monday of May as the official celebratory date.

Today across America, our communities recognize the fallen soldiers with parades, and solemn cemetery events as well as setting up mini American flags at the tombstones of all soldiers. At Arlington National Cemetery each year over 220,000 small flags are placed at each tombstone and a vigil is held.

To date we have lost 5456 brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly if we were to go back to the American Revolution and include all eleven of the wars and conflicts that Americans have been involved in, we would have a total of 1,090,206 brave men and women among those who have given their lives.

For over 25 years I have made it a special point to fly the American flag. Not only out of patriotism but out of respect and tradition, as I too am a military veteran. My current flag is almost 9 years old and was given to me by former Congressman and Majority Leader, Dick Armey (who coincidentally celebrates the same birthday as I do on July 7th).

It  was flown at the nation's Capitol in October of 2001. I set it up each day at dawn and remove it at dusk. And no matter where I find myself, I make it a point to attend the local Memorial Day event at one of the larger cemeteries.

I hope you will get out and celebrate this important holiday. If you can, reach out and personally thank a veteran, volunteer to go greet them as they return from their overseas assignments at your local airport or better yet donate to a charity that supports them or their families.

Start a Memorial Day tradition and while visiting You Tube today, make sure you spend a few minutes listening to Taps. This special bugler’s call always stirs a lot of emotions in me. It is the Military’s twenty four note bugle call. Of all the military bugle calls I’ve heard throughout my military life, none is more eloquent and haunting.

Its strains are melancholic yet it’s majestic brass sound is full of peace. If you have ever attended a military funeral you'll understand what I am saying. The echoes somehow linger in the heart long after the bugler’s tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.

The use of Taps is unique to the United States military and the call is not only sounded at funerals, but also wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services. (Note: there are no "official" words to Taps below are the most popular I found.)

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,

From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,

God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night

Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars

Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,

'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. - Author Unknown

I hope you've enjoyed your long weekend, now go hug a vet!
Make it a great dia!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Today is your day!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” - Theodor Seuss Geisel

I used to read Dr. Seuss to my own son. Here’s another quote I also love by Dr. Seuss, "Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way."

Make it a great dia!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Never stop pedaling...

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.  - Albert Einstein

LIFE is about bringing balance to your work day; by filling your home LIFE with exercise, activities or hobbies that will serve as dynamic counter weights.

I’ve found that spirituality is very important… doing for others, as well as in service of others and volunteerism are also vital to a balanced LIFE.

No matter what you choose to do, just know that you have to keep moving.

Make it a great día!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Are you giving your best?

"You can take a look in the mirror and say, I am good. But take a look at your life and ask yourself,  What would I sacrifice to be great?"  - Kelly Moletress

What could you do to improve your personal or work life today?

We all contribute to the greatness of our families or to the companies we work for, in one way or another. 

Have you ever asked yourself if you were giving your personal best?

I wonder how many times we have missed the mark because we were shy just one degree of effort?

Make it a great día!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Be happier - eat chocolate...

I recently came across an article that stated because of the state of our economy, people had been turning to sweets as their ultimate comfort food. It even showed a diagram that graphed national candy sales and how they had shot through the roof the last couple of years. It was believed that most people found sweets to be their ultimate comfort food.

I had to research this a little further. Soon I found another article in the Journal of Proteome Research a scientific journal. In this article it stated that a daily consumption of just 1.5 ounces of "dark" chocolate during a period of two weeks was sufficient to modify metabolic changes in stress hormones. Stress hormones!

But chocolate fanciers there's more great news! According to the Mayo Clinic, "dark" chocolate actually contains flavonoids, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant. Much like the benefits of antioxidants found in some teas, red wine, some fruits and vegetables.

Their research showed flavonoids found in "dark" chocolate was associated with beneficial effects to both the heart and cardiovascular system.

It was also found to lower LDL or bad low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Mmmm good.

I don’t have a sweet tooth but if a little bit of chocolate can bring me a little nostalgic feelings of happier times, then I'm off to buy some chocolate.

Let's all be happier today, go eat some chocolate!

Make it a great dia!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Risk - is it in you?

Risks, I like to say, always pay off. You learn what to do, or what not to do. - Jonas Salk

I know we all have read that he developed the vaccine for polio, right? 

In the 1950's thousands of children became infected with this crippling and dreaded disease poliomyelitis, or polio. Parents were in a state of panic and fear.

On April 12, 1955 that fear was lifted forever when after years of research, Dr. Jonas Salk's discovery was made public .

One thing I didn't know was that Salk chose not to patent his polio vaccine.

He had decided all along that he had no desire to profit personally from the discovery.  

HIs main reason for not seeking the patent was so that it would be easier to get it to market.... and therefore get more people vaccinated.

Failure they say is just a part of life's tuition... take risks - they eventually pay off!

Make it a great day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Actions speak louder than words...

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says,  Make me feel important!” - Mary Kay (1918–2001)

That image seems a little ridiculous but can you imagine just how different our world would be?

Do you ever wonder if your own colleagues, people you work for or even family members know how important they are to you?

Wouldn't it be great if they did?.

Remember... all it takes are our occasional words and continual actions to make sure there is no doubt about it.

Too often we end up neglecting the very people that make our lives easier, better or more rewarding.

The most important people – are all around us… remembering that actions speak louder than words but words are important too.

Love everyone you feel should be loving you.

Make it a great dia!

Monday, May 24, 2010

We can change the destination...

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for,  it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan

Throughout my life’s journey I’ve often heard folks say that one’s success depends on luck.

I really have to disagree.

Although a little good luck has always been welcomed; I have found at least in my own experience that one’s DESTINY tends to materialize when the right number of choices, and sacrifices are embraced with one's personal passion, drive and determination.

I wouldn't wait for your luck to turn or destiny to somehow materialize.

We have to make DESTINY happen!

Make it a great day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Embrace our experience and the experience...

“It's not enough what I did in the past - there is also the future.”  - Rita Levi-Montalcini

Did you know that Rita still works and just celebrated her 101st birthday this past April? I didn’t either before I read about her last year. 

She was the Italian neurologist who, together with colleague Stanley Cohen, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of Nerve growth factor (NGF).

Today she is the oldest living Nobel laureate and a senator for life in the Italian Senate.

Here are a couple other great quotes from Rita...

"I am not afraid of death - I am privileged to have been able to work for so long."

and this one "At 100, I have a mind that is superior - thanks to experience - than when I was 20."

So folks let’s embrace what we do and our work.

Embrace our experience and the experience.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Things I've learned that have kept me going...

HAPPINESS I've learned will always make us behave with kindness.

Allow CHALLENGE to keep you alert, learning and strong.

Let SORROW help you be more understanding and realistic.

Understand that FAILURE keeps you modest and will teach you to persevere.
Seek SUCCESS as it will keep you passionate.   

A POSITIVE ATTITUDE will keep you moving upward.

Remember SUCCESS may be fleeting and FAILURE is never final.

Make it a great dia!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grace will always lead us home...

One of my all time favorite songs is Amazing Grace. I have probably 20 different artist's renditions of this beautiful song - from gospel to pop to country and even a couple in Spanish. Recently a few friends of mine and I decided to go feed the homeless. In our city you have to have a health department permit as well as a city permit to dispense food items to do this.

We had been playing some card games and enjoying my next door neighbors' home made beer and wine. It was getting late... already into Saturday morning. Someone looked out the front window and the commented about our drive home and the bad cold rainy weather that we were experiencing.  

All of a sudden someone suggested we should go feed the homeless people living under a bridge downtown. Then someone else (an accountant) mentioned how we had to have all sorts of permits or risk going to jail. And I said in my Mexican bravado possibly with the courage of a couple of white wines, "We don't need no stinking permits!" We all laughed and one of my other friends who is a lawyer spoke up and said, "Let's go for it, I know of several good bail bondsmen."

So we called it a night and everyone promised to be back at my house bright and early later that morning. I secretly wondered if anyone would show up. Boy was I surprised.

By 7:30 a.m. everyone began arriving - with their wifes and girlfriends in tow. We dashed over to Kroger's and bought out their entire Texas size squared Rainbow bread and the thickest cuts of bologna we could find. We also bought a dozen heads of iceberg lettuce, tomatos and several jars of mustard and mayonaise and paper bags.

Soon we had an assembly line - on the kitchen table, on the center island and even across my living room sofa. We made 300 bologna sandwiches! Two large sandwiches to a paper bag and for an added touch we wrote positive words and encouraging phrases on each paper bag. We also bought fiften cases of bottled water to take to the people living under the bridge downtown.

All we wanted to do was somehow make this one rainy Sunday a little more comfortable for the men, women and a few children who made their home there.

As soon as we arrived we began calling everyone out and inviting our new found amigos to come eat. Most were deep asleep inside their makeshift card board homes, others in raggidy old sleeping bags and a few sleeping without a blanket with their heads on yellow page directories. In no time we had everyone lining up behind our vehicles. Two trucks for the sandwiches and an SUV for the bottled water.

We had given out almost all of the sandwiches and to everyone's surprise we had made more them enough sandwiches. Everyone ended up with at least an extra sandwich bag or two and several water bottles. The early shyness and distrust soon disappeared. Before long all I could feel their sincere gratitude in the air and as I looked around a sea of smiles. The hugs and a few kisses we received made it all worthwhile. We told jokes and we laughed and we ended up having an incredible experience.  

Soon it was time to go and as we began to clean up and get ready to leave after spending almost three hours there. The weather was still cool and with the rain, it felt wet and clamy. With the noisy bussle of the city that was coming awake and the cars over head I thought I heard a faint hum in the distance of my favorite gospel song. I looked all around searching for the source in a sort of joyous disbelief. 

Suddenly it began to get louder... a baritone voice was coming from way at the back. Coming from a giant of a man with big charcoal eyes a gray beard, bushy eye brows... and his huge smile. There he hummed, way up in the back and close to the metal rafters.  

I had located the source! He was humming my all time favorite gospel hymn, Amazing Grace. Within in seconds the cold concrete under pass became filled with the sound of a perfectly pitched chorus. It was if we had rehearsed for this very moment. I felt the spirit of GRACE and it seemed as if we were in a huge church sanctuary… within seconds we all began to hum and soon a young woman began to sing. 

Some of us looked at one another and then we all began to join in and we couldn’t stop singing it.  Soon we were all holding hands, some of us had our arms around one another. The more we sang, the louder we got. We must have sang this beautiful song for at least twenty minutes. None of us wanted this moment it to end.

Would you believe that the rain had stopped falling and it seemed as if the clouds began to give way. I will never forget that special Sunday or being part of our very talented chorus. One that had sung the most beautiful acappella arrangement of Amazing Grace. I will always be grateful for having experienced that day and will never forget that moment for as long as I live.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Make it a great dia!

I'm headed to get some surgical work done on my neck this morning. Talk to you manana.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Trust is strength...

Trust has always been an important part of my life – in a huge family like mine TRUST served to erase worry and freed each of us to get on with more important matters.

Little or no TRUST causes unseen cost in life and even in business, mainly because it creates hidden agendas, guarded communication, delays action, and slows much needed decision-making.

Even in my family a lack of trust stymied productivity. If we couldn’t trust each other to get something done, it meant taking one’s time and effort away from a more important chore to go micro manage the other person and their chore.

I know for a fact that TRUST motivated us to do more, created a sense of camaraderie, instilled collaboration, loyalty and ultimately brought bigger results.

Can you imagine just how much better off we’d all be if we had more of this ingredient? With the world as we live in today with a very polarized democracy, terrorist threats, office politics and even broken relationships… nothing could inject more good than TRUST… that simple and pragmatic, tangible, and actionable asset that we all can help create.

These are eight behaviors that can help build trust. Whether you use them in a family setting or at work – you’ll see that it will bring out the best in all of us.

Always Talk straight. Be frank and honest and tell the truth. Even if it may make it uncomfortable.

Show respect. Treat everyone and everything with respect, especially those who can't do anything for you.

Be a transparent person. Like the song, “What you see is what you get."

Make amends. Apologize quickly. I have a 48 hour rule but in principal make sure you don't let pride get in the way of doing the right thing.

Be loyal. Nothing says more about you then when you give credit to others' contributions. Always speak as if they were present.

Deliver on what’s expected. Always complete what you’ve said you would - do it on time and within budget ;)

Hold yourself accountable. And don't blame others when things don’t go as expected.

Keep your commitments. I don’t know about you but when someone makes a commitment to me – the level of expectation goes up and in essence builds hope.

When you keep your commitment - you’re building TRUST.

Make it a great day and do some trusting!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You are the driving force for a perfect universe...

Only when we become aware of the profound effect between our thoughts and the world around us will we have a perfect universe.

Only when we dispense our medicinal energy and release it onto the wounded universe will we be given…  an infinite remedy for the infinite maladies that exist.

Infinite remedies for infinite LOVE.

Infinite remedies for infinite HARMONY.

Infinite remedies for Infinite PEACE.

Infinite remedies for infinite LIGHT.

Infinite remedies for infinite POWER.

Infinite remedies for infinite WISDOM.

Infinite remedies for an infinite LIFE.

And as this hallowed universe heals, it will bequeath us with infinite splendor.

As this sacred universe heals it will bequeath us with infinite energy.

As this divine universe heals it will bequeath us with infinite potential.

Only when we become aware of the profound effect between our thoughts and the world around us will; it bestow us with infinite health, infinite prosperity, infinite hope and infinite resiliency.

Contribute to making it a great dia and a great universe for everybody!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The train ride of life...

A friend of mine had a baby boy last Tuesday morning. I wrote this for him and wanted to share it with you parents out there.

Life is like taking a train ride. I love trains and so I've used it as a metaphor to interpret my congratulatory birth wishes.

Life is like a journey by train, one full of points of arrivals and departures, of small accidents along the way, of pleasant surprises, filled with some false alarms and actual alerts, with some uphill and downhill climbs of sadness and uphill and downhill descents of joy.

When a child is born, he climbs up onto the train of life and discovers two loving people waiting there for him, his parents. Sent there by God to help guide him on the "Great" train ride of LIFE.

The one exception is that our ticket is stamped for a shorter destination along the same route.

As parents we will sadly debark at a station along the way. On that one given day we are never to embark again.

Yet in spite of this, our child's trip will continue. Meeting many other interesting people, during the long journey.

Embarking along the way will also be possiby other brothers and sisters, many friends and a few loves of their lives.

Many of them will only be joining our child for a short part of the trip, and many others will be at their side sharing all the joys and triumphs as well as disappointments and sadness to come.

On this long journey they will travel with people that will come in and out of thier life… much like people who come in and out of the compartments… to assist one and help out as needed.

Some will debark along the way and will leave lasting memories. Others however will travel silently, occupying a nearby seat, without being noticed.

Some passengers who the child may want close by, will prefer to sit away from him. Yet maybe close bye in another compartment. This may at times might make it seem as if they are traveling a leg of the trip alone.

But know that this will never prevent our child from reaching out and approaching them. So in spite of not being close at a certain moment in time, they will be able to go and find them and once again be seated together for another part of the trip.

On a trip that will be full of many marvelous sights and interesting vistas. A journey full of exciting passages and mysterious tunnels. With many points along the way to wait patiently for a departure and anxiously looking towards the next leg of the trip and the arrival.

As parents sadly we know that this train ride will be a one way journey for us. Let us, then prepare our children to travel as best as we can.

Let's teach them how to have good relationships with the rest of the passengers, to always seek to be kind rather than right, and to understand rather than be understood.

To teach them that at some point on their journey there will be someone who may not be as strong as them, and that they must acknowledge them and even help lift their baggage.

For at any given point they too may have this need and will look to another’s kind gesture.

As parents the great mystery of this train trip, is that we will not know which station of life we will be debarking at. Where along the way our journey will end.

But remember that the journey will be beautiful, and one where we will enjoy many moments together as a new family. A long train ride filled with many lessons to share and loving moments to enjoy.

And even though one day we may be separated from the love of your lives… our child. At that point on our journey, we will find them at the main station and be thrilled to see them now older and wiser and much more experienced than at the start of their trip.

Now, at the time of their birth… as the train stops to let all three on… we will have begun a beautiful journey.

One that will be filled with many personal moments of joy, treasured recollections, countless memories and reflections. A new story for a new family.

Thank God they have us making the journey with them, at least part of the way.

Three beautiful souls embarking on a long train ride together – a most wonderful journey of companionship and of true unconditional love.

So sit back and enjoy the ride… and give thanks for this beautiful miracle in our lives.

We now have chosen the train and the destination.

Thank God our child has chosen us as well – I am certain they chose the best parents they could find to take along on their long train ride.

Felicidades and make it a great dia and even greater journey!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Are you great.. full...

Interesting way to write it... Full of GREAT things.

GRATEFUL for so many things, here are just a few of mine...

That I have a loving family in my life.
Have great friends.
Am in good health.  
Have empathy in my heart.
Have serenity of mind.
Have capacity to love.
Am capable of forgiving.
Have a generous heart. 

That I know and look for everything that I should be grateful for each day.

Think of all you should be grateful for.

Write down your list and add to it each day...

Make it a great dia!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spring cleaning our lives...

Time to do some spring cleaning.

What about also doing some spring cleaning on ourselves?

Sorting out our lives?

Sorting it all so that we can be happier.

So we can enjoy LIFE more and have a deeper confidence in ourselves.

To feel more positive about the relationships we have today.

Nuturing the ones that we need to improve and help them become more satisfying relationships too.

So we can begin to do the things we need to do to feel and live healthier.

So that we can realize our full potential.

To make sure that day in and day out we feel better about ourselves.

Make it a great dia!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anything less is sacrificing your gift...

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” - Steve Prefontaine (1951–1975) American Olympic runner

One of my Viejita's favorite quote's was, "Never say you can't, say you'll try!"

She always told us to give whatever we were doing our BEST effort.

That it was also important to be the light that shined a path onward.

Are you leading the way?

Do you show others how to give their BEST?

When you commit to giving your best, unbelievable results happen.

What you thought you could not do suddenly becomes possible - if you give your best effort.

Make sure you aren't sacrificing your gift!

Make it a great dia!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Optimistic resiliency...

Optimists enrich the present, enhance the future, challenge the improbable and attain the impossible. - William Arthur Ward

I read that Walt Disney showed a lot of optimism, resourcefulness and resilience.

Did you know his first company went bankrupt?

That he lost the rights to his first successful cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit?

Upon going bankrupt he ended up losing most of his employees at the time and survived a nervous breakdown?

His optimism and resiliency helped him come back and win his first of 22 Academy Awards on a cartoon that he'd completed in black & white and later redid in color from scratch called Flowers and Trees - 1932.

He never gave up and with a lot of determination made it through the Great Depression with merchandising deals of Mickey Mouse watches and dolls.

His tenacity and courage worked to make his endeavors successful!

Today his company employs 140,000 people around the globe and last year had $37 billion in annual sales.

Make it a optimistic and resilient day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interesting Facts...

1. Kangaroos can not walk backwards.

2. "Jedi" is an official religion, with over 70,000 followers, in Australia.

3. Most alcoholic beverages contain all 13 minerals necessary to sustain human life.

4. Nachos is the food most craved by pregnant women.

5. Each year, 24,000 Americans are bitten by rats!

6. Most dreams last only 5 to 20 minutes.

7. The hair of an adult man or woman can stretch 25 percent of its length without breaking.

8. On average, the life span of an American dollar bill is eighteen months.

9. Non-dairy creamer is flammable.

10. The first domain name ever registered was

11. Americans collectively eat one hundred pounds of chocolate every second.

12. When a giraffe's baby is born it falls from a height of six feet, normally without being hurt.

13. Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

14. The creator of the NIKE Swoosh symbol was paid only $35 for the design.
15. Penguins can convert salt water into fresh water.

16. In ten minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all the world's nuclear weapons combined!

17. A sneeze travels up to 100MPH.

18. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 42 to frown.

19. The pupils expand by 25% when they observe something pleasing.

20. Scientists say that baby chickens grow faster when they listen to classical music, and slower when listening to rock.

Make it a great dia!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Would you rather just exist?

Sometimes, we are too afraid to take a step further, towards our dreams because we fear failure. Benjamin Disraeli said it best when he wrote, "There's no happiness without action."

I have a few tips on overcoming the fear of making an important decision.

Have knowledge of purpose. I might ask myself.... "Do I have enough information to make an intelligent decision?"

I also try and leave emotion and feelings out of all decision making equations.

At times we might fear making a decision because of the percieved effort or struggle we may encounter.

Never second guess your own strength. You are stronger than you think.

Be purposeful about what you're having to make a decision on. Overcome fear by purposeful commitment.

Be committed.

Commitment is not a consequence of passion. Passion is a product of commitment.

After a few decisions - and several success and positive outcomes you will feel more confident of any future decision situations.

Remember that to truly live LIFE you have to take risks.

Most people will never take risks, they would rather just exist.

Make the decision you have been putting off, today.

Make it a great dia!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No one can stop you... now get moving!

Imagine the incredible challenges faced in reaching this summit? I equate maybe not to the degree that this climber's facing but definitely to how making changes in our lives is never easy.

The key, or maybe three keys to one’s success I believe are to:
Always face all of the challenges head on.

Secondly do not get caught up in the distance you'll have to travel.

Finally and just as important is never allow yourself to despair over the small amount of control you'll have over the circumstances.

Progress it seems, always comes from taking that first step, and then continuing to take more steps… small but intentional steps.

Looking back on my own challenges I have found that by focusing on the small steps I took each day, and the progress I made... somehow always motivated me to keep going on.

This sort of reminds me of a plaque with a quote I have hanging in my bathroom which says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.“ was written by Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher who lived back in 604 BC.

Although this is the most popular form of this quote, I've also read that the more correct Chinese translation is, "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet."

Rather than emphasizing your first step, it makes sense that even the longest journey always begins from where you are standing.

“No one can stop you from wherever you want to go… except you.”

Make it a great day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

How do you keep the music going?

I was listening to Tony Bennett’s recording of “How do you keep the music going?”

Losing someone you love is never easy, whether through a break up, divorce or more permanently death, it makes certain dates and holidays difficult to bear. Life in general will never be the same, some things will change forever and yet others will remain the same in other ways.

Getting through a holiday specifically Mother’s Day for me this year; this being the first year after her loss, is harder than I thought it would be.

Mainly because one has to figure out how to celebrate or memorialize a special day, while going through fresh feelings of grief. Especially since Mother’s Day was such an important day in my Viejita’s life.

I know any loss requires one to grieve and what we’re feeling are the raw emotions of a broken heart. A hurt that is unlike any type of pain we can physically endure. So don’t expect to function as you would with say, a broken ankle.

I’ve had a broken ankle and anytime I would try walking on it - without a crutch made my ankle pain that much worse. The fracture and surrounding bones were weaker and compromised. So when we’ve lost someone we have a broken heart. Essentially it means that we are going through a "compromised emotional state."

We tend to just go through the motions – with an over whelming sense of numbness. Maybe life numbs us on purpose. We’re numb enough to get through the pain and help us process the realities of our loss. So that in time we slowly become more used to the loss and are better prepared to deal with our pain.

I am certain that each year on the anniversary of our loss we will feel our deep loss… and also a fresh sense of grief. Yet it will be less painful as time goes by, but time it will take. I’ve read that we should expect to grieve for at least a year although some people need even more time.

Our loved one would want us to get through the day as best as we can. We have to decide to try not to think about them as much, for that's probably what they would want us to do. Also try and stay away from doing the activities that you always shared with your loved one.

Losing a loved one is the worse thing you and I will ever go through. It will take us a surprisingly long period of time to really get over the loss. Holidays and special dates are going to be the hardest but just know that this day will pass. You’ll wake up the next day to realize that it was just 24 hours... and it is now behind you.

So, keep things simple. Do things differently. Stay away from things that you know will make you sad. Your normal life will return soon, so be patient with yourself and know that it will take time.

Try not to spend the days and weeks leading up to a special day worrying about how you'll get through it. I am sure there was a moment when you couldn't imagine getting through losing the person you've lost and now - difficult as grieving is - you've seen that you somehow got through your actual loss.

This Mother’s Day, (today is the day it is always celebrated in Mexico) my mother will have been away for nine months. I learned a long time ago that trying to avoid thinking about the person we've recently lost will be difficult. It doesn't mean we don’t care any less. It’s taking solemn measures through our thoughts or prayers to grieve for them and keep them in our hearts. To thank them and be grateful for their love and memories forever.

To anyone who is going through a loss and dealing with a broken heart, keep in mind that your loved one would want you to do whatever it takes to get yourself through this, and through this day with as little pain as possible.

They do not have to get through the day the way we are doing. I like to imagine what we would want for our loved ones (if they had survived us), and let that be our guide.

Make the best of this dia!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mexican Mother's Day...

My Viejita (an affectionate name I called my Mother, which means little old woman) left this earth nine months ago. Though she never liked a lot of attention and preferred to always celebrate others, she loved Mother’s Day. It was a very special day for her and she looked forward to it. It was one the day when the entire family would come together and celebrated her special day. We began early that dawn and celebrate her Moter's Day the entire day.

My beloved Viejita believed that we had all been given the eternal priviledge to choose our parents, our families and our friends ( even before we were even born ). If indeed that is the case, I have to believe that I did a great job chooing my Viejita (Mother) and dear father!

Growing up my life was not your typical life. My parents were not perfect and I was most certainly not the perfect son. But my parents instilled in us all the right principles including love of God, faith, respect for others, integrity, gratitude, humility and respect for them and one another even when we were angry.

The last few months have been very challenging for me. Yet no where near in comparison to my Viejitas’s last few months. None the less I miss her terribly! This Mother’s Day will be particularly hard for my family and for me. It will be the first Mother's Day without her, and the very first time we will not be singing to her. But let me share with you our Mother's Day tradition.

I am not sure if you knew this, but my entire family was always musically inclined. In fact we always had a musical group (conjunto) and at one point even a eight piece band that played for just about any occasion including at weddings, birthdays, quincianeras, country fairs and organized events for several years.

So each Mother’s day or Dia de las Madres, which by the way is celebrated in Mexico on May 10th ( no matter what day it falls on ), we would gather to serenade our Viejita.

Even though it was the same song and lyrics ( see lyrics and translation below ), we had been serenading her with each Mother’s Day, it was always comical to see just how much effort it took to get everyone organized. Imagine for instance, nine and at times ten singers and musicians, all with nine and ten different ideas about what time we should play the song, who would be lead singer and or rthymn guitarist, what key we would play the melody in and who would be the one to give the spirited and loving Mother's Day message.

We always took the time to rehearse and would practice "Las Mananitas" for a few hours a couple of weeks before May 10th. We always had a couple acoustic guitars, a violoncello, a trumpet and a clarinet, as well as a small snare drum, a tamborine, some maracas and a violin along with a chorus of teenagers and grown men and women.

The night before Mother’s Day we would stay up all night – usually enjoying some late
night beef burritos. My older brothers would have a few cold cervezas and some home made sotol. Then around day break we would quietly sneak to her window and begin to sing the traditional Mother's Day song called Las Mananitas.

Las Mañanitas - lyricas in Spanish followed by their translation:

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.
Despierta, mi bien Adela, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

This is the morning song that King David always sang,
Because today is your saint's day we're singing it for you.
Wake up, my dear Adela, wake up, look it is already dawn,
The birds are already singing and the moon has already set.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

How lovely is this morning in which I come to greet you,
We all come with joy and pleasure to celebrate you.
The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its first light,
Get up it's morning, look it is already sunrise.

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores.

The day you were born all the flowers bloomed,
On the baptismal fountain the nightingales sang.

Quisiera ser solecito para entrar por tu ventana
y darte los buenos días acostadita en tu cama.

I would like to be a sunray to enter through your window
to wish you good morning while you're still lying in your bed.

Quisiera ser un San Juan, quisiera ser un San Pedro
Para venirte a cantar con la música del Cielo.

I would like to be Saint John, I would like to be Saint Peter
To come sing to you the music of the heavens.

De las estrellas del cielo tengo que bajarte dos
una para saludarte y otra para decirte adios.

Of the stars in the sky I have to lower two for you
One with which to greet you and the other to wish you farewell.

Here’s my advice for you, if you’re lucky to still have your Mother. Please don’t wait for Mother’s Day to let her know how much you love her and what she means to you.

If for whatever reason you’re estranged from her, find a way to fix that relationship before it’s too late.

Remember, that time flows in buckets and the day will come when you will join the ranks of those like me, who only have memories of Mother’s Days past.

Your Mother is your Mother every day, not just on Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day in heaven Viejita!

Feliz dia de las Madres!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How sunny is your attitude?

We were a very large family growing up and attiude, especiallly positive ones ,were important to our own personal success and the success of our family.

My Viejita used to tell us that we each made up many worlds. More important however; was that we each created the weather in our worlds' each day... from the moment we woke up we could choose beautiful sunny skies, or quiet blue skies, and even noisy thundering skies.  

As infants we are born with an unending desire to thrive. It is that energy and positive attitude that attracts the world to us, as children.

It is this same gift, this internal magnetism that  through the years will influence every aspect of our existence.

Think about it - no one has ever reallly had control over us. When was the last time someone forced you to feel disappointed, angry, jealous, suspicious, envious, bitter, angry or any one of a million other emotions? 

We each have total control over our attitude and the emotions that are created because of it.

Our attitude therefore is one of our biggest's asset.

It's our attitude and specifically a positive one, that ultimately determines what the weather over head will look like and how much of the day, the week and our future we will enjoy.

Make it a positive dia!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cause happiness wherever you go...

We often believe we will might find happiness if we move far away, somewhere different or even meet someone special.

Yet we will never be able to run away from ourselves. We will always be in our own company and so it won’t matter where we might move to, who we could meet or what we could be doing. We must learn to give the precious gift of happiness, away.

The following Chinese proverb says it beautifully,
"If you want happiness for an hour - take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day - go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month - get married.
If you want happiness for a year - inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime - help someone else."

I had to smile when I read Oscar Wilde's quote on happiness. He said it best when he described the two types of people… which one do you want to be remembered as?

"Some folks cause happiness wherever they go; other folks cause happiness whenever they go."

Make it a feliz dia!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Este momento in time is important...

We have to live grateful lives if we are to fully appreciate our VIDA.

I was raised to try and live fully each moment in time.

My Viejita often said that only by fully living "este momento" or "this moment," we would begin to appreciate and understand our past.

And by understanding our past we would be better prepared for a better future.

Make it a grateful dia!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Most people think that Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in Mexico, but truth is it's more of a US celebration.

The celebration actually commemorates the overthrow of the Monarchy headed by Maximilian of Austria. The Imperial Monarchy was imposed on Mexico from 1864 to 1867 by Napoleon III, Emperor of France and nephew of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte.

It all goes back to 1858, when Benito Juárez was elected President of the "United States of Mexico" and he promised to defend the Mexican Constitution established on February 5th, 1857. 

After much internal struggle, Juárez was re-elected in 1861. Because of financial instability, due to the Mexican-American war, the Mexican Congress suspended all foreign debt repayment for two years which really infuriated their creditors.

The main and largest creditors were England, Spain and France and together they decided they needed to intervene in order to collect their debts. France, however had it's own agenda.

The French wanted to dispose of the Mexican Constitutional Government and decided they were going to set up a French monarchy. Napoleon III, (Emperor of the Second French Empire) actually had huge plans for all of the Americas.

He planned to occupy and impose a monarchical government upon all the nations throughout Central and South America. His plan was to have all these countries provide raw materials and business trade for the European nations.

He also was worried about the United States Republic to the north and wanted to keep them in check following the US Republic's annexation of California, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

On December 8th, 1861 via the Gulf of Mexico the three European powers landed in Mexico and quickly occupied the port city of Veracruz. The Spanish armada was the first to arrive.

Although in less then four months they realized France's intent, and England and Spain withdrew their troops and sailed back to Europe.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, President Juárez (a full blooded Zapotec Indian, and a lawyer who had once studied to become a priest), declared martial law and declared all areas occupied by the French in a state of siege. The Mexican army fought many small battles against the French occupiers.

Reinforcements soon began arriving, and a French force of seven thousand troops set out on the 225 mile route from Veracruz to Mexico City under the illusion that the Mexican people would somehow welcome them. This illusion was fostered by Juan Almonte, a Mexican reactionary and by Count Dubois du Saligny appointed French Ambassador to Mexico by Napoleon.

President Juárez commanded General Ignacio Zaragoza to block the advance of the French Army. He prepared an ill equiped rag tag army of 2,000 soldiers on the hills of the villages of Loreto and Guadalupe close to the town of Puebla.

On May 5th, 1862, cannons boomed and rifle shots rang out as the French soldiers attacked the two tiny forts. Yet before the day was over, one fort was in ruins but more than a thousand French soldiers were dead. The Mexicans had won the battle, but not the war. This date however; was remembered symbolically for the Mexicans' courage against a formidable French army.

Soon after more French troops arrived, totalling 15,000 in number and in June 1864, Maximilian of Habsburg Austria along with his wife Charlotte arrived in Mexico City as the crowned Emperors of the newly formed Mexican Empire. The people of the republic or republicans as they called themseves, led by Benito Juárez, refused to accept the foreign intervention.

They traveled north, first to Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua (on the border with El Paso, Texas) and then on to New Orleans and requested assistance from the Californians and supportive Mexican-American societies to help them with volunteers and financial support.

American President Abraham Lincoln had supported the republicans under Juárez, with weapons and allowed volunteers to go Mexico. In addition immediately after the end of the American Civil War, in 1865, General Philip Sheridan, assembled 50,000 troops, and dispatched them to the border between Mexico and the United States. There, his corps ran patrols to visibly threaten intervention against the French and also supplied weapons to Juárez's forces.

Maximilian and Napoleon III, nephew of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte and his army were finally overthrown. Maximilian and his wife Carlotta were tried by court martial and executed by firing squad on June 19,1867 at the Cerro de las Campanas in Mexico City. Executed that day for treason were his Mexican Generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía.

So Cinco de Mayo became a Mexican national holiday. The battlefield is now a park in Puebla with a statue of General Zaragoza riding on horseback.

It is a holiday that is mainly celebrated in Puebla, Mexico but it is here in the US where the celebration is much more festive… with local parades, music, folklore, dances and delicious Mexican food.

So if you go out for a margarita today – think of Cinco de Mayo, of Tomás and the rest of your brethren down south.

Make it a great Cinco de Mayo dia!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Divine timing...

With Spring here I have been doing one of the things I enjoy most – beside listening to my music I enjoy gardening. Gardening has got to be one of the strongest visible affirmation of divine timing.

Last year, I seemingly believed I could make Spring come earlier if I tilled more, weeded more carefully, and hardened off seedlings earlier than I normally would. In the end, I wound up with quite a few dead plants.

This year I decided to spend an evening throwing some seeds around in the empty soil after a hard rain. 

Would you believe that just a couple months later and without much effort, everything is growing into a beautiful flower garden!

I have always known about divine timing. Growing up "Divine Timing" was when everything positive began to happen to our family and for no apparent reason at the most needed time.

From more rain for our crops, to more chicken eggs hatching or a neighbor paying us back five fold for something he had borrowed a year before.

Divine Timing certainly was a part of my life growing up. Even though there were a few times when we might have been going through tough times or not experiencing the success that we believed we deserved. 

I remember one Spring we began to doubt the results of our hard work and convincing ourselves that what we had done was just not good enough. Whether for lack of faith or gratitude - we even started to question ourselves and each other.

Thank goodness for our Viejita and Divine Timing! She would somehow see and point out all the postive signs...  and somehow the results of everything we had been working hard for, had suddenly began to appear. 

She would remind us about patience and having faith. More important that even though we may have gone through a few difficulties or hardships, that those very rewards were meant to come in time… the "RIGHT" time.

So don't waste time questioning Divine Timing and show PATIENCE and have FAITH.

Soon you’ll see the miracles that are sure to show up in impossible and unthinkable ways.

Have faith that success will come at its "DIVINE TIME."

Make it a great dia!