"I had the personal freedom to choose, something I'd never had before. I used to always do what I was told by my parents, especially my mother. I felt personal choice was a special power that was only mine. I could choose what I wanted!"
"The more I became aware that my environment was changeable and did not determine my future, the more I wanted to learn new things and change the direction of my life, and then share what I had learned with others."
I was born on a farm in a small town in Mexico. When I was 3 years old, my father left to find work and my mother was left to care for my sister Linda and me. For the next seven years of my life, things were difficult. My mother struggled to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We moved from one place to another just about every year.
When I was in first grade, we lived far from my school and I had to take public transportation by myself. My mother trusted me she. She gave me the responsibility to get to school and back home safely, and I did that.
I was a happy kid. I loved adventure and exploring, so every time we moved to a new place it was like traveling the world, except we were just moving around the city.
As I got older, I had more responsibilities—more important ones—like taking care of my younger sisters and running my mother’s deli shop by myself. When I was 9 years old, I made sandwiches and took care of the daily sales. That gave me a feeling of importance; I felt like I was a grownup and in charge, and I liked that.
A series of disappointing events started to happen in our lives. Everything that had been going so well came to a screeching halt.
My mother closed the deli and we moved again. This time we moved to a different state, very far away from her family and away from what I knew was my life in the city. We moved to El Grullo, Jal—a rural town in Mexico.
It was a devastating move because it was like going backwards to old ways of living, with no running water and barely any electricity. My mother and six of us sisters were living in this big, empty house that used to be my Grandparent’s on my father’s side. It had been empty for years, so my father thought it was a good idea that my mother move there with me and my sisters, but he wasn’t there. He was in the US, living in California.
After one long year of hardships, my mother made the most important decision in her life. She would move with her girls to California and reunite us with our father; a decision that would change my life forever.
I was 11 years old and had never thought about moving to the US even though I knew that was where my father had lived for many years. We took the train bound for Tijuana, the border to California. The trip took days.
I remember getting off the train and my body felt like it was shaking from the long ride. It lasted for days.
We were kids, having no clue about what was going on, but I remember feeling fear but I didn’t know why. I think it was fear of the unknown.
In 1986, we became US Citizens.
From the moment we arrived in the US, I had felt a sense of responsibility for myself and my sisters. I wanted to integrate into the American way of life. I love my rooted culture—I didn’t have to learn that it was in my heart—but I did have to learn to speak English, learning to speak for myself opened a whole world of possibilities and responsibilities.
Growing older, I became aware of my environment and people around me. In high school, I made friends from different backgrounds, and I became aware of our differences. I had so many choices; I could choose who my friends were, what kind of classes I wanted to take, the sports I wanted to play. I had personal freedom to choose. I had never had that before. I used to always do what I was told by my parents, especially my mother. I felt it was a special power that was only mine. I could choose what I wanted!
I felt a great sense of responsibility to show my sisters and people around me how incredible it was to make choices for yourself.
I had good and bad influences in my environment. We lived in the Barrio where most minorities could afford to live. There were gangs and crime in the neighborhood everyday.
I attended beauty school right after high school and I got my driver’s license. Then I got my first job as a stylist’s assistant. I was there for two years, surrounded by beauty and style. The salon was so glamorous, I felt so privileged to be working there. I was an 18-year-old girl hungry for learning.
I met different people everyday. My interactions with most were short—maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Everyone was nice to me and many often mentioned I was a hard worker. I liked the feeling and I wanted to do my best.
As I started to see more of the world outside of my neighborhood, I felt I wanted to show my sisters what was out there, not far away from our own home. Once I learned to drive and had my own car, I would put them all the car and everyone else from our neighborhood who wanted to come on our adventure, and we would go places to explore what was out there to be discovered.
I took them on drives to the beach, drives to the mall, drives to McDonald’s, or just to get an ice cream, I just wanted them to experience a different environment and felt I was teaching them by showing them they had choices. It was a sense of responsible for them and myself.
The more I became aware that my environment was changeable and did not determine my future, the more I wanted to learn new things and change the direction of my life and then share what I had learned with others.
The Ungrateful Daughter
That has been my purpose from an early age. It is the reason I created this website. Others, like my mother, did not see things the way I did—we did not see eye-to-eye, as they say. She felt I was “selfish” and “disrespectful” for making my own choices. She had expectations of me that I was not willing to adhere to. So for that, I was labeled “the ungrateful daughter”. Family is all about love… as long as you don’t disappoint your Mother. If you do, be willing to deal with the repercussions. I chose to stand up for myself.
“You are destroying” this or “disrespecting” that is the announcement of the day. Isn’t that pretty much always what someone else says when you go against their demands?
It was important that I knew I was not going against her, I was supporting my personal choice for the life I wanted. And that it was constructive, not destructive, like she claimed.
When I married my husband, I was 24 years old. He became the most important person in my life, He is a brilliant man. It was love at first sight for me.
He encouraged me to be independent and we both loved fitness and travel—new adventures! Joe inspired me to keep learning and growing as a person. He never told me what to do. I just saw him excelling at everything he did, and I wanted to do the same thing.
At the beginning of our marriage, when he was in dental school, I was intimidated by all of the smart people around him; what they might think of me. I was just a hairdresser in my mind. I thought they would judge me but I was so wrong.
I was the one judging myself and judging them on how they would treat me. I was insecure. I met his friends and to my surprise they were nice and kind to me never treated me any different, they were just like me, new, and probably just as nervous to meet new people.
What I learned that day was so important. I learned to just be me, and that it was okay to be myself.
I supported my husband’s career—first as a dental student and then as a professional with his own business. I became responsible for our home and everything else. I became more independent and self-reliant. I had to make decisions on my own. I didn’t want to go to him for every question or problem I had.
I was away from my family and his. I had to work full-time to support us. I chose to do it because I loved him unconditionally. Keeping the end in mind, he was being responsible for himself and getting an education that would become his career for life.
We made sacrifices and went through a lot of hardship. We loved each other and we were committed to succeed for our family. Joe decided to become a specialist in Oral and Facial Surgery, which would be 4 more years of education and training for his specialty. Again,
I had to be a leader for our family in the meantime. It became more difficult for me when we had our first child—a boy! We welcomed our little boy Chris with so much love, and with awe. Having been raised in a family of women and having five sisters, it didn’t give me much exposure to raising boys or how different they were from girls.
The first three years of his life was a struggle for me, trying to teach him behavior I didn’t know. I was teaching him behavior I knew for girls like “be nice,” “sit quietly,” “don’t be messy,” and “don’t get dirty”.
I was very frustrated because my boy was so active. He wanted to play and get dirty, and didn’t care if he fell and got a scratch, yet I wanted to prevent all of that!
To protect him from any harm to keep him safe. I had so much anguish just watching him run, I imagined the worse things happening to him. One day my husband watch me get all worked up about my son Chris running too fast, he turned to me and said, he is fine, he is just being a boy, it’s okay if he runs and falls he will probably do it again, that’s
what boys do, he is not going to die. Suddenly I understood, I was unaware of what I was doing. It was all wrong, I needed to teach my boy some discipline and some structure and love him the way he was, I had to change my misperceptions and my responses.
When my son was 4 years old my husband was active Military for the US Navy, he was assign to the USS NIMITZ and we got stationed in Naples Italy, he was Commander at the Naval Hospital. Here I was in a different country with my husband and child having to learn again how to integrate into the culture and learn the Italian Language. Before my husband took the position in Italy he asked me if I would be willing to move to a different country in Europe, without a doubt I said yes! What an adventure! An opportunity of a lifetime, yes let’s go! I was 32 years old when we moved to Italy, I had experience and a little more wisdom about life, we moved to Italy with an open mind. We wanted to learn how to live like the Italians, a completely different way to live than in the US. I immersed myself in the italian Culture and at the same time I learned about community and cooperation in Military Life.
We had decided to live in the economy and not in the Military Base so we could really experience the Italian way to live, when we think of Italy in the US, we think of glamour and Designer brand names, but real life for Italians is not all about those things, is about passion for life and Family, eating together, gathering and talking with each other, conversations about nothing in particular, just talking and making conversation with each other. I was not used to this casual interaction with strangers, but I liked it, they had a way to talk to you and make you feel like they knew you, like a friend. In Italy I learned about passion, for food, for art, for religion, family and friends, everything about the way they lived their lives was done with passion…I began to change the way I lived my life, I wanted to live with passion like the Italians, by all accounts I had a great Family, a husband and a son, what more could I want? I learned to speak Italian by speaking to people, making friends and my relationships were more meaningful and my understanding for their culture became more clear, their culture was not so different from my Mexican culture, we had a lot of things in common. Back in the US life was so different I realized how convenient life was I didn’t have to think about basic necessities like electricity and gas or shopping for food there. In Italy that was different and I had to learn to live without all the conveniences. When I did laundry I had to dry our clothes outside in the sunlight, gas was too expensive, heating the house in the winter was hard so we had a fireplace with real wood to help keep us warm in the cold winters. Seafood was abundant and very inexpensive so shopped for alot of fish the only thing was that I had to clean the fish and gut it before I cooked it, that’s cooking from scratch! Because my husband worked at the Naval Hospital in Naples, we had friends who were doctors and some that were military personal, some had careers with the military for over twenty years! I had a lot to learn.
I joined the OAK LEAF WIVES CLUB, a group of military spouses that worked with the Italian community and their charities. This was my first experience as a volunteer, I really enjoyed it, it was very rewarding for me and I knew that I would continue to do volunteering in my life. I have been a spiritual person since I was a little kid, my mother would take me to church with her every Sunday to the 5:00am mass, It never felt like a chore I wanted to be there, my faith grew over the years. I’ve had amazing experiences in my life that would not be possible if I did not have faith in the great Creator or myself. My husband and I wanted another child our only boy was already 5 years old. We kept trying but were not successful so we thought it was meant to be. The first year we were in Italy and we visited the Vatican St Peter’s Basilica, I felt so incredibly lucky to be there. It was like a dream come true, I was standing next to St. Peter’s statue and watched how other parishioners would touch his foot and pray, I decided to do the same, I approached St Peter I touched his foot and prayed..I asked for one thing in my prayers, that I would have another child..my prayers were answered, my son Nicolas was born in Italy, he is our gift, both his brother and us felt so incredibly grateful for him, he brought so much joy to our lives.
Italians loved children, they were happy to have children running around and being curious, especially boys, one time we were out in a public Piazza and I was trying to keep my son from running around like the other kids, I turned to a man next to me and I apologized for my child’s energy, I said am so sorry it is hard to keep him still, he looked at me and said..he is just being a boy, that is okay, he asked me would you rather have a boy that is just sitting there quiet not doing anything? I never thought of it that way, that was a wake up call for me as Mom and a parent. I needed to learn how to be a better parent to understand that not all behavior is bad when a 6 year old boy is full of energy and is active, that is normal behavior in a boy, I had to change my misperceptions and responses to his actions.
I decided to learn about how to improve myself as a mother and as a person. Little by little I learned about self empowerment and that motivated me to look at difficult tasks as an opportunity and a challenge to grow. The last 20 years of my life have been about one purpose: take every challenge, every problem and learn from it, then figure out a practical solution to each problem, then share everything that has worked for me in a practical way to others. My purpose and my passion is to encourage people to keep trying new things, take risks, and go for their dreams no matter how big or small, building on those wins to become independent and self reliant, with faith and positive thinking all is possible, like becoming a Champion in Bodybuilding that was one of my dreams, I was 50 years old,
Dreams do come true.
With all my love,