Life.Bottled.


Recently. I was blessed. With a very tender experience. Spending time in the company of Susy. And her ridiculously adorable baby boy.What a sweet occasion. When I lived in Miami, Susy and I belong to a very close-knit group of friends. The first to become a parent. She is an awesome mom. I’m always moved. When I witness the love of a mother towards her baby. No doubt. I will have more tender moments. Because another one of us is getting married next year. Bring on the babies.

During one of the occasions I was left alone with Kai. I took a long, good look at him. As I gazed at his angelic face. I was reminded of the value and sanctity of life. Its the greatest expression of trust. By a loving Heavenly Father. Charging parents with the sacred and humble responsibility. To love. And care for his precious children. If you’re a parent reading this. Please. Dont take this responsibility lightly. I’m sure. On many days. It’s very overwhelming. Keep at it. The rewards are innumerable. They are YOURS. Given to you. For reasons. You might not know. Or understand. At this time.

Whenever I hold a baby. I get teased. “You’re a natural Juan”. “When are you going to have your own?”. “You need to get busy woman”. This time is no different. In the past. With youth on my side. I brushed aside the teasing. Now. I chalk it up to God’s will. Which is true. However, I rarely let on. That I’ve given the idea of parenthood a lot of thought. I mean. What will my child look like? Tall like me? As for personality traits. Which ones will dominate? Maybe a combination of both? How and where will we raise our child? Etc. My family is prone to twins. What if the father of my child is too? Naw…..

I don’t want a sports team. That’s a certainty. One pregnancy. Will cure me. However. For one reason or another. I’ve not been blessed with this sacred responsibility. Time will tell. Maybe one day. I will experience. The joy. Of knowing. What it means. To love someone more than life itself. In the meantime. I can live vicariously through my siblings. And friends. Right now though. I will continue to work on myself. I’m not there yet. But I’m closer than I was yesterday.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

For.You.


Every once in a while. You meet a kindred spirit.With whom you share an incredibly rare and special bond. You savour the tender moments. Because. Life is precious. Fragile. And these are the moments. Which make it beautiful. There is a sense of profound gratitude. That is was the Lord’s design. To have your paths cross. Sadly though. They either stay in our lives forever. Or leave. Of course, your heart breaks. But. You know. After one season is another. And some things change. While others remain the same.

I also know. Despite everything. The time will come. When my teeth are in a cup. Eyes on the shelf. Ears in the drawer. Memories come in spurts. One foot in the grave. I’ll ask someone to read me this post. Dedicated to this kindred spirit. Who I’ll never forget. It’s astounding how much we’ve shared. And trusted each other with . With you, I’m not afraid to bare my soul. Because. There is no judgment. It comes naturally.

This post is to thank you. For supporting me. Through some very dark days. For being a part of my life. And everything you brought to it. The intellectual conversations. Laughter. Caring. Support. Incredible acts of kindness. Sacrifices. Every other good deed. And thought. Which has enriched my life. I am grateful. Always will be.

I chose not to name you in this post. But. When you read it. You will recognize yourself. Immediately. Wherever life takes us. Regardless of what the future holds. I know we have reserved a place in our hearts. For each other. For special memories. Shared by two people. Who knew. How it felt. To have someone accept you.Unconditionally. Wherever you go. Whatever you do. Be happy.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan.

I Was The One


On my page “Think to Thank”, I find something to be grateful for each day. No matter how small. Or trivial. The going often gets rough. Often, it’s often difficult to see the blessings. Many days reviewing small daily miracles offer consolation. And hope. They serve to remind me I have so much. In this post, I wish to share some experiences which have affected me over the past few months. The times when I was the one.

To Louise, the owner of Passionate about Flowers on Lower Bristol Road in Bath. I thank you. A few weeks ago, I was invited for a job assessment in Bath. If I was successful, it would mean returning the next day for a face to face interview. Upon arrival at the station, I went against my better judgment and decided to walk the 15 minute journey to the destination. Well, after getting hopelessly lost and asking for and receiving wrong directions more than once, I was about to give up. However, I decided to try one last business.  I walked into Passionate About Flowers  and explained what I was about. Louise immediately got online in an attempt to pinpoint the location. Taking it a step further, she asked if I wanted her to give me a lift there! And she did. This one simple act of kindness derailed all the bad luck I had moments before. Louise left her business, to help a stranger she might never, ever see again. I will never forget her act of kindness. Thanks Louise.

In another instance, while waiting for my BRP to be finalized, I was hired on a temp basis for a local health and social services organization. I relied heavily on public transportation. One day, I changed handbags, and to my chagrin discovered I somehow forgot my money purse on the bus. I am person who has never forgotten her keys. Run out of gas. Or locked herself out of her car! To make matters worse I did not discover my purse was missing for more than 8 hours. To my utter amazement, when it was in my possession again, everything was as I left it. Down to the 1.50 pence I had received as change that morning. I called the bank and made the necessary cancellations, but no one had tried to use it or withdraw funds. I was stunned. The chances of this happening in the USA are nil. To the unknown person who turned my purse into the driver, I thank you.

Once last experience. I got the job in Bath. It meant relocating. Bath is a lovely city! I was helped in unimaginable ways. Perhaps the one-act of kindness which has left an indelible impression on my mind, is the moving process itself. Paul, a kind bloke drove 500 miles round trip to do just that. To be ready for the return trip on Saturday, he spent Friday night at a local hotel. All on his own dime. Moving company fees would have cost me approx 250 pounds. I contributed to his petrol cost. He was not done. Yet. Going the extra mile, he took me around to find items for the new place. Cheered me up during challenging times when I could not see perspective. Checked up on me often. Reminded me over and over that even though things were not what I expected, greater things were happening around me. Paul, I wont ever forget this. Thank you.

Amidst all the ills in the world and the people who perpetrate them, it’s gratifying to know good people still walk the earth. I am acquainted with them. I am grateful for people who make the world a better place for the rest of us. If you are one of those people: NEVER cease to do good. NEVER underestimate the power of your actions upon the lives of others. NEVER think that your contribution does not matter. Because it does. I have been on the receiving end. The one whose life was affected. The one who, because of your kindness, my struggles were easier. Thank you.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

“The Struggle Ends When Gratitude Begins”


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my adopted country of America. Millions of families sat around the dinner table.  In some homes, a prayer was offered. Everyone would be given the chance to share something they are grateful for. They will enjoy the simple act of being together as a family. Immediate. Extended. And borrowed. In other homes, a different scenario played out. In the next few days, any leftover turkey will be polished off. In soups. Sandwiches. Stews. What else? In essence, many will vow not to eat another bite of turkey until next year.

Feelings of nostalgia rushed to the surface. Memories flooded my thoughts. I remembered how I spent most of my Thanksgivings in the USA. The homes I was always invited to. The people who loved and cared for me during the holidays. Because my own family was thousands of miles away. Treated me like one of their own. Sent me off with an extra plate. The same families who had me over for Christmas. New Years. Sunday dinners. Today, I took some time to reflect on the things I am grateful for. However, before we can appreciate our blessings, there must be sacrifices. Tests of faith. Cleansing. An awakening. Realization that we have so much. Me. In the past few months.

One of my many weaknesses is not opening up to people. Yes, there is a select few. Really select. Very few. I am trying to be better. The past few months have been hellacious. One would never know by looking at me. Sometimes, I smiled when I want to cry. Say I am okay so people won’t worry. Pry. Ask questions. I employ many defense mechanisms to “get by”.  No one really wants to hear my problems. Do they? They have their own. Heavenly Father must know that I am strong enough to handle them. These are the conversations I have with myself.

It’s been a struggle against pessimism. Gloom. Doubt. Cynicism .TBH.  Let me explain. In the past 2-3 months, someone I stood by, when everyone else walked away, finally showed their true colors. Soon after, I learned the person who I looked up to as a father figure, does not deserve the honor. Never did. The news shattered my belief in role models. Shook my trust . For one month I lived with the landlady of all landladies. A horrid person. Next, unbelievable news came from SVG, that my cousin has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Given less than a year to live. A young man in his mid twenties. Full of life.  Moving on, my carefully laid plans are being threatened by unforeseen circumstances. More recently, and in matters of the heart, love appears elusive. I will always care for this person. Deeply. What’s next? How will I end the year? Should be interesting.

Yes. It has been hard not to let pessimism rule my thoughts. And actions. A reprieve came just days ago. A bright spot amidst the dark abyss. I earned my Master’s degree. A milestone . The feat helped to soothe some of the hardships experienced this year. I want to look at the adversity differently. I want to think it’s good  “my friend” showed their true colors in the nick of time. Not later. I want to think my father figure is only human. Imperfect. Flawed. Just like the rest of us. I was the one who thought he was the closest thing to perfection there is. To think the old landlady helped me to appreciate the one I have now. The difference is black and white. Literally. To think my cousin’s terminal illness is a reminder of how fragile life is. To think the plans that I made might not be in tandem God’s. This does not sit well at all.  Hard to accept. Tough to swallow. As for romance? Well, after 30+ years on the planet, realization hit me. Or rather it has come full circle. The time has come to face the reason behind my relationhsip patterns. Fact: our childhood shapes every aspect of our lives.

So. Despite everything. I am grateful for life. And what it represents. The ability to breathe-reminds me I am alive. Live-despite the odds. Eat-because I have food. Sleep-so I can be refreshed in the am. Laugh-at myself, and my silly mistakes. Walk-because I am not confined to a wheelchair. Talk-it means I can express myself. Feel-pain,so I can appreciate joy. Believe in love-one day it will find me.Think-about my actions. Clothes to wear-there is more than enough. A roof over my head- I am not homeless. The church I belong to-a sure foundation. Parents-who love. The publication of my first book-a journey which took years. The ability to write-helps me to handle my emotions. To hope-one day I will get mine. To live in a free country- enjoy so many liberties. To have an education- make a difference. Make my own decisions-not have them dictated by anyone else. To know I am loved by so many-they have my best interest at heart. The blessings are enormous-I must always  remember.

I am not sure what problems might be troubling you today. Many of us fight daily battles. Silently. Bravely.We struggle to keep going amidst the turmoil of life. We wrestle against the odds. Winning some. Losing others. Our burdens weigh heavily on slumped shoulders. But they keep coming. Our own personal, private “Gethsemanes”. Excruciatingly painful experiences. We must be polished, like gems. I don’t know what your individual struggle is. What I do know is that “Sunday will come”. For all of us. That we will always have more than we need. The old cliché “someone else has it harder” is true. I have seen it.

This quote was shared with me more than ten years ago. It’s etched in my memory. You may recognize it : “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” CS Lewis. The man was a literary genius!

So. In closing. Long after family leaves. The last bite of turkey eaten. And life before Thanksgiving returns. May we remember that in our darkest days. And Nights. When the winds and waves of life starts knocking us about. Remember. He knows. He is there. May we never forget: “The struggle ends, when gratitude begins

Until the next post….

Best,

Juan

To the Women in My Life.


One of the drawbacks to country living, is finding fun things to do for for an entire month of school vacation. Luckily for me, in a matter of days, I’m heading to the USA. I will divide my time between Boston and New York. I am especially looking forward to reuniting with high school girl-friends. I have not seen them in more than a decade. They were an integral part of my formative years. I expect the visit be Remarkable. Wonderful. Amazing. Electrifying.

As I contemplated the experiences ahead of me, my thoughts were drawn to the remarkable women I have met along life’s path. I am in awe of their achievements. These women did not receive any educational, monetary or social accolades. These women are single parents. Friends. Caretakers. Confidants. Some of the most unassuming people you will ever meet. Quite a few are unknowingly auditioning for sainthood. One of my heroes is Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women who are victims of war, genocide and rape. She works tirelessly to help thousands regain pride and rebuild lives.

Not all of us will be a Zainab Salbi. However, our accomplishments are nothing short of phenomenal. They may never appear in newspapers. Nor will they ever be the lead story on Headline News. To put it bluntly, most of our friends will never know just truly exceptional we are. We do not fish for compliments. Nor do we advertise our accomplishments. To the remarkable women I have met in my life, I dedicate today’s blog. Time does not permit an entry for all the women who fit this description. Their stories can fill novels. However, I hope these women get the picture. Hopefully, the next time they look in the mirror, they see a transformed woman. A courageous woman. A phenomenal woman. I hope they see light in their eyes.

To the woman who had the courage to take her kids and walk away from an abusive relationship. I salute you. I admire your strength. Your courage is commendable. The strength it took to make and act upon the decision was nothing short of heroic. The future was uncertain. You had no idea how you were going to sustain your family in the coming months. The most important thing was to leave while you still can. Finally, you did. It took another lifetime to rebuild your shattered lives. You are in a better place now. You made it. You are a hero to many. Especially your kids. A quote by Anais Nin sums this up:” There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”.

To the single mother struggling to raise her children. You make personal sacrifices your children will never know about. Your needs are always met last. You love your children more than life itself. Their life will be better than yours ever was. You have cried yourself to sleep many, many nights. The needs far outweigh the wants. Yet, somehow you find a way. You are both mom and dad.Chaffeur. Teacher. Sister. Friend. Comforter. Listener. Nurse. Provider. Disciplinarian. Add to this list. Your only wish is that your children will live up to their true potential. You are an exemplary human being. I applaud you. I like this quote by Irving Washington, it applies to you: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity”.

To the woman who is everything to everyone. Yep, the one auditioning for sainthood. A confidant. Friend. A “payday loan personal lender”. You say yes, when you meant to say no. The word no doesn’t exist in your vocabulary. You don’t want to be the cause of bruised feelings, so once again, you give in. You are tired of giving in to everyone one. However, your gentle, caring nature would not let you do otherwise. You give until it hurts. More often than not, it really does hurt. You listen to your girlfriend‘s never ending dating and marriage crises. You are a babysitter, with no kids of your own. You volunteer each week. Personal matters demand your attention. Your friends and family’s needs seem more pressing at the moment. You are an extraordinary woman. Your good works never cease to amaze others. Many secretly wish they could do half of what you do. You find joy in others happiness. There is no one else like you. No one can take your place in their hearts. Sarah Jessica Parker said this: As a woman, I have an inherent need to be all things to all people, to make certain everybody’s taken care of. I know I can’t sustain that level all the time, so I’m finding the proper balance and it’s made me infinitely happier.

To the woman bogged down by the deepest and most personal insecurities. No amount of words can revolutionize the opinion you have of yourself. It has to come from within. You must find the power to believe in yourself. To take charge. To believe that each day offers a new beginning. To stop allowing relationships to define you. To stop settling for less than you deserve. From friends. Men. The world. Sometimes even from family. To seek help if it’s needed. To let go of the past. Stop blaming yourself. Liberate yourself from burdens that weigh you down. To know you are beautiful. Talented. Smart. Intelligent. Amazing. To believe these words. Not just be comforted by them. Today is the day. To heed this counsel: “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it: ~ Roseanne Barr.

To the grandmother raising another generation. Retirement is indeed for the birds. You’ve travelled this road before. The path is incredibly familiar. You have given up much. The sacrifices are innumerable. You are determined to see this through. Maybe you’ve been given a second chance. Whatever your circumstance. Your greatest reward is seeing your grandchildren succeed. The grandchildren love you. Because of you, the family is together. There was never any question or doubt. You are their angel. Their hero. You are the epitome of unselfishness. Love. Caring. Generosity. Courage. Kindness. The list is infinite. I have a high regard for you. Because of your efforts one more child will get a chance at life. This one’s for you:” Grandmothers and roses are much the same. Each are God’s masterpieces with different names” ~Author Unknown.

Finally, to the remarkable women who have loved and lost. You know the old adage: “Men are like parking spots. All the good ones are taken, and the rest are handicapped”. I am also guilty of using this epithet. I do know that good men exist. I have seen them in action. Had conversations with them. Yes,many are already taken. However, amazing men still walk the planet. Look deeper. Longer. Harder. Ask more questions. Take things slower. Take an intimate look at his familial relationships. Avoid repeating past mistakes. Realize that he will be perfect for you. No one else. He can handle you at your worst. Resolve residual trust issues. You may have to kiss many frogs before finding your prince charming. Consider this message: “The first time you buy a house you see how pretty the paint is and buy it. The second time, you look to see if the basement has termites. It’s the same with men. ~ Lupe Velez.

To all the other remarkable women I have met. The inner-city school teachers. Special education counselors. Underpaid social workers. Everyone who belongs on this list. I am grateful for your unwavering spirits. Your examples. The lessons you have taught me. Grateful it was the Lord’s design to have our paths cross. The world is a better place because you are in it. Continue to stand out. To outclass. To show the rest of us how it’s done. To love unconditionally. Thank you.

“What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing”. ~Geoffrey Chaucer”

Best,
Juan

Find The Good and Praise It.


More than a decade ago, a dear friend introduced me to the concept of a gratitude journal. Initially, I did not see the need. Time passed before I became converted to the idea.The ensuing years saw sporadic entries. However, this year has fared better than any other. A perfect record exists. Some days it’s easier than others to express gratitude. Why a gratitude journal? Who has the time? Our days are consumed with one hustle after another. Errands are not going to run themselves. Assignment fairies do not write papers. Lecture notes do not magically compile themselves.The kids are not going to drive themselves to school. On and on and on. A million and one little excuses. I will admit a gratitude journal is not for everyone. Some might find it silly. Inconsequential. A waste of time. For me, it’s a way of recognizing immeasurable blessings. The days can be arduous. It could be the day I got an unsatisfactory grade on an assignment. A long-awaited phone call never came. I had a fight with a dear friend. A family member fell ill. The car broke down. A relationship fell apart before it got off the ground. Affection was not returned. It is difficult to express gratitude on days like this. Especially when you are alone with your thoughts.

Let me share a few reasons why I keep a gratitude journal. Life is a gift. It is wonderful. Amazing. Rewarding. It is ours for the taking. Consider these alternatives. At this very minute, an alarming number of people just took their last breath. Others were hospitalized. Many received news of a terminal illness. Families said goodbye to their loved ones being deployed for military service. It’s commonplace to be greeted with news of unimaginable tragedies. Natural disasters. Wars. Human rights abuses. Genocides. Mass rape. Honor Killings. Child miners working for long hours under inhumane conditions. Baby elephants and even pregnant mothers are being hunted and killed so one nation can feed its hunger for ivory. Stories abound of beatings, rape, and killing are connected to one of the world’s biggest diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Human trafficking. Child marriages and pregnancies. The atrocities are unthinkable. We shrug our shoulders and turn away, because it’s not in “our backyard”. The majority of us reading this will never suffer these or any other unconscionable acts of brutality. We are some of the luckiest people in the world. This post is not meant to invoke guilt nor highlight the injustices of the world. We know they exist. It is a way to help us realize that we have more than we need and we ought to be grateful.

With so much going on, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the state of the world. However, I am grateful that I am alive. I have food to eat. Clothes to wear. A roof over my head. Friends that love and care for me. A family I can call my own. My parents are still alive. I have the opportunity to get an education. I can marry whoever I please. My health is fairly stable. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. Feet to walk. A mind that works. My family is doing well. I live in a free country. I will never have to worry about my children working instead of going to school. The blessings are infinite. When I look at the injustices of the world, I realize that I am blessed to be born in a country that allows me countless liberties. It could have been a lot different. I could have been born somewhere else. Under different circumstances.

Are there days when I want to give up and throw in the towel? Days when I doubt myself? My abilities? My strengths? My problems seem insurmountable? Of course! This is the time I like to read my gratitude journal. It gives a new perspective. Clarity. Hope. We have a lot to be grateful for. Whether we believe in God. Buddha. A higher power. A statue. Maybe we have no beliefs. It has no bearing on being able to recognize when you are blessed and being grateful for it. There is no need to keep a journal like some do. Recognition will do. So next time, you are asked to give more than you have. Someone let you down. Your world is crashing down around you. All hope is lost. Remember, it could be a hundred times worse. There are people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. They would give anything to live the life you are living. What are you grateful for today?

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get”. ~Frank A. Clark

Best,

Juan.