Living With a New Truth

In our home we celebrate Christmas. For many years I struggled with the “Santa” tradition. A part of me enjoyed that my kids believed in Santa and all the magic that came along with it. But another part of me didn’t want to lie to them. I had no problem finding out the truth about Christmas when I was young, but a friend of mine was deeply scarred by it and it took a long time for her to trust her parents again. She vowed to never mislead her future children. I wondered what it would look like when my kids found out. Not only did they believe in Santa, but they also believed the magical Elf on the Shelf moves around the house and travels to the North Pole every evening. 

Would they feel betrayed? Would they stop trusting us? Will they be devastated? 

Nonetheless I played along, postponing the inevitable. Until January of this year. We were attending my oldest son’s developmental workshop in the University of Miami. (Click here if you haven’t read that inspiring series) 

 Justin, my middle child who had just turned seven, told me he needed to speak to me in private. 

We went off to the side, and I knelt down to meet my son at eye level. 

“Mommy” he looked away. “I don’t think I believe in Santa or God.”  My heart stopped. I wasn’t prepared to have this conversation. I needed to buy some time. 

“What does your heart tell you, Justy?” 

“My heart tells me to believe Mommy, but my brain is interfering with my heart.”  Stay calm, Caro, I told myself. We were in the middle of an event and I didn’t want to have this conversation without my husband there. But I knew it was time to tell Justin the truth. 

“Justy, we’ll talk about this today but we need to wait until we get home so we can speak in private. Is that okay?” 

Justin nodded. 

“I don’t want you to talk to your brothers about this, either. This is between you, mommy and daddy.” 

“Okay mommy.” 

I kissed his cheek and stroked his sweet, innocent face. I almost cried. 

I found Orlando in the crowd and told him what had happened. “We have to tell him tonight,” I said. Orlando agreed. 

Justin, true to his promise, didn’t mention anything for the rest of the evening. When we finally arrived home, we put the other boys to bed. Justin, his dad and I locked ourselves in my bedroom and sat on the bed. 

We had a beautiful conversation about Santa and the elves. We told Justin that now that he knew the truth, he had become one of Santa’s helpers, and it was his job to pass the magic on to his brothers who still believed. We explained the difference between Santa and God and our thoughts on both. (I will not share the God conversation in this post for brevity, but if you are interested in knowing what that conversation looked like, let me know in the comments and I will write a separate blog about it.)

In August of this year, Orly started a new school. Because he was entering the fourth grade, we were afraid that the kids in the new school would spoil Christmas for him and we wanted him to hear the news from us, not anyone else. So a few days before his first day of school, we sat down with him and had the same conversation we’d had in January with Justin. Orly was dumbfounded. Unlike his brother, he was unsuspecting. What hurt him the most was discovering that the elf wasn’t real. He loved his elf. It had become his friend, and he trusted it. He was crushed to learn that it wasn’t magical.  I wondered if we had made the right decision in creating this fantasy for our kids only to shatter their reality later. 

On Thanksgiving morning, I was busy preparing for our dinner when Orly called me over to his room. “Mom!” He whispered. “Where are the elves?” 

“Oh, Um, they’re put away.” I had forgotten that the elves arrive on Thanksgiving Day. 

“Well, you need to go get them mom. Ryan will be waiting for them!” 

I sneaked over to their secret hiding spot, took them out of the box and handed them to my son. Orly called out for Justin and together they ran off to conspire on what they would do with the elves to surprise their baby brother. A new season had begun in our home. 

For weeks I’ve seen the big brothers create the same magical experience for their little brother as we created for them. They’ve been intentional about the words they use and the actions they take. Orly has been particularly mindful about helping me with the elves. I am amazed at how fun it’s been to team up with my kids this year.  

I was talking with Justin the other day and I asked him how he felt about all that had happened. 

Justin shrugged his shoulders as he confessed,  “At first I felt a little betrayed that you guys had lied. But mom, now that I’ve seen the look on Ryan’s face when he wakes up to those elves, I understand why you did it for us.” 

“Are you enjoying the year as much now that you’re in the know?” I asked. 

“I’m actually enjoying it even more!” He smiled. 

It still pains Orly that his elf isn’t what he thought he was. But even so I’ve been so proud of how gracefully he’s behaved. His disappointment has not affected the excitement he’s had in making this time special for his little brother. He found a new way to experience the joy of Christmas. 

I no longer question whether what we did was right or wrong. I realized that because my boys lived the magic, they can now create that magic for someone else. 

The magical moments they experienced growing up were very much real to them in the moment. And that is how we should all live, isn’t it? In the moment.  Change doesn’t take away the experience, it creates the space for new experiences. We may believe something to be true for us today that isn’t true for us tomorrow. That’s okay. It’s part of our journey. We evolve, we learn, and we adapt to our new reality. If you look back, you‘ll realize that each experience and every belief is training you for what’s coming next in your life. It will help you lead others and serve others in a new capacity. It stops being about you, and it becomes about them. I learned this lesson as a parent, and my boys learned it as big brothers. No matter how many things change, we can find the beauty, the joy, and the magic in the next stage of our journey. Life is all about how you choose to look at it. It can be wonderful, even if it’s different from what you once knew. 

A Moment of Clarity

 First you live the magic, then you create it. 

The Middle Years

Our family celebrated my husband’s grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary. Their daughters honored them with a ceremony and reception, surrounded by all of their family and friends, to fulfill their dream of getting married by the church. After sixty-five years of civil union, our grandparents stood at the altar choosing to love each other and take care of each other once again. 

Witnessing a happy old couple holding hands, giving each other a tender kiss or renewing their vows after many years of marriage is inspiring. A sign of lives well lived and two people who, together, have made it to the top of the mountain—encouraging those that follow behind them that they too can enjoy a long-lasting, meaningful relationship. 

A new marriage is also emotive. It’s beautiful to see two people who found each other and committed to building their life together. As we celebrate their nuptials, we hope that they will become the happy old couple at the top of the mountain.

These are the picture-perfect moments; the Hallmark cards of life, representing all that is good and beautiful. 

But what must the newly married do to become the happy old couple? They must endure the middle years!

As we admire old couples or encourage young ones, we gloss over the middle years—the period of raising children, pursuing careers, and trying to make ends meet while saving for retirement. Couples struggle with finding their way as a unit while preserving their identity as an individual. We grow tired of each other or our marriages become stale, giving rise to disillusion or infidelity. We get wrapped up in commitments, financial pressures, and demands of daily life. Our dreams and goals often get set aside to push our children‘s futures forward. 

It’s such a chaotic time that eventually it blends together in our memories. It‘s easy during this time for couples to stop looking at each other lovingly, holding hands or giving each other tender kisses. Getting lost in the middle years makes it difficult for the marriage to survive, not to mention that illness or death can strip couples from enjoying their relationship into old age. Like everything in life, it takes a certain level of luck and a lot of good choices during those middle years to reach the top of the marital mountain. 

That is why celebrating a 65th wedding anniversary is so meaningful. The old couple survived the middle years and lived to tell the tale. 

I once wrote an open letter to a newly married couple sharing five principles to help them along their journey. What I was offering them were the tools to overcome the challenges of the middle years. They are simple suggestions but that doesn‘t mean they‘re easy. If you are a newly married couple or wrapped up in the in-between, I encourage you to read that post by clicking here. 

With only twelve years under our belts, my husband and I are in the midst of the middle years, working together to climb our mountain. In the past I’ve written about choices we’ve made as a couple and rough patches we’ve encountered in our marriage. We’ve navigated through changes in our career and employment, the illness and death of a parent, and many other struggles that we’ve confronted along the way. But we’ve done our part to enjoy the journey, sort though the mess, and never stop holding hands. So far, our imperfectly perfect marriage is going strong. 

True commitment, good choices, and a little luck can produce magnificent results in marriage and in life. 

Watching the joy in our grandparents’ faces as they shared their special day with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was priceless. A true success story, worthy of emulating.  As my husband, three kids and I stood by our grandparents’ side, I prayed that that would be us one day. 

A Moment of Clarity

No matter how special it is to witness a new couple tie the knot or an old couple renew their vows, never forget success happens in the middle years. 

‘Tis the Season of Overwhelm

I envision the holiday season as a dreamy and peaceful time where I get to make gingerbread houses and bake cookies with my boys, watch Christmas movies in our matching holiday pajamas and ride bike around the park. 

But as soon as December hits, real life quickly sets in with massive traffic congestion, promotional email overload, and trying to tie loose ends before we wrap up the year. Add to that, massive shopping, constant holiday parties, and keeping up with what to bring on what day to my kids’ schools. Meanwhile, as I’m trying to keep my head above water, every blog post, commercial and podcast is reminding me to be mindful, present, and in the true spirit of the holidays. The only spirit I’m in is the one of exhaustion. 

Sound familiar? 

This December crept up on me. I was supposed to have my book finished by now, but I’m still working on the final edits. Two of my sons are performing in plays in theaters on opposite ends of town. What were we thinking?

Between drop offs and pick-ups, school, work, lunches, homework, Iready, sending out Christmas cards, buying gifts and remembering to move the elves every night, I’m hanging on by a thread! 

I’m pretty sure the holidays aren’t supposed to be this stressful, but the consensus from everyone I talk to is that we’re all feeling overwhelmed.  But I’ve come to a conclusion: this is totally our fault. 

I’m not saying we don’t have a lot on our plates, or that the stress isn’t real. But the reason we feel overwhelmed isn’t because of what we have to do, it’s because of the value we attach to all that we have to do.  

We place so much importance on our to-do list and don‘t realize that in the scheme of things, much of our pressure is self-imposed and insignificant. We worry that others will judge us or that not doing something makes us a failed parent, spouse, employee, boss, or person. That stress steals the joy out of the things we actually want to do. 

And the craziest part about it is that despite the chaos, it’s over before we know it. Soon we’ll long for that time again with the same romantic goggles we had before it started! A friend of mine said the other day, “It’s hard but I’m sure I’m living the best years of my life.”  I don’t want to miss “living” the best years of my life because I’m stressing to-do items I’ve overvalued. 

So here’s the deal. Things will never be perfect. My blog this week was a day late, my book won’t be released until after January, and by the year-end I’ll still have loose ends I didn’t resolve.  I choose whether to beat myself up for the things I haven’t done, or honor the things I have accomplished. 

There is always a choice in how you look at things. 

So if you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, take a hard look at how much value you’re putting on all the miscellaneous things you’ve added to your plate. Are they to-dos you want to do or have to do? Do they all need to get done? What would life look like if you didn’t do them? Would it matter a year from now? How about 10 years from now? If this were your last holiday season ever, how would you spend it? 

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know what things to put the most value on during this December. And for the rest of it, cut yourself some slack. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s good enough.

A Moment of Clarity

The reason we feel overwhelmed isn’t because of what we have to do, it’s because of the value we attach to all that we have to do.

Pistachios Taste Like Success

We were on our way to the movie theatre and I’d packed a bag of pistachios to avoid buying popcorn. We were already munching on them during the drive. My husband maneuvered the steering wheel with his knees to crack open the shell and pop a pistachio in his mouth.

“Ever notice the pistachios with their shell on taste better than those with their shell off?” He asked.

“Totally!” I agreed.

“These nuts are delicious!” Ryan screamed from the back row.

“I don’t know what it is about them,” Orlando said as he grabbed another one from the bag. “Maybe the shell keeps the pistachios fresher.”

“I like these better, too,” I said struggling to crack the nut open. “And I bet the ready to eat bags are more expensive!”

“You should ask Google if this has been studied,”  Orlando suggested. I ran a quick search on my iPhone.

Turns out pistachio bags that come already shelled are neither less fresh nor less expensive than their labor-intensive counterpart. Yet, it didn’t look like we were off-base. I read aloud, “One consumer noted, ‘Each nut I split with my bare hands yields not only a tasty treat but also a sense of thrift and virtue.’”

“Oh, and check this out,” I continued reading, “Studies show that those who endure the finger-irritating, nut-opening process, end up eating 50% less than those in the shelled-nut group, thereby consuming half the calories. Yet they reported feeling equally satisfied with the lesser amount.”

“They’re yummier and less fattening!” I joked. 

“For a long time I’ve suspected the reason stone crabs and king crabs are so delicious is because it takes so much effort to get a little piece of meat.” Orlando noted. 

“The best peanuts are the ones from baseball games and those come in their shell also,” I added.

Our observations stirred up an interesting conversation with our kids about delayed gratification and how important it is to work for what you want. When things come too easy, you don’t appreciate them as much. That’s why people don’t read books they receive as gifts and the reason 70% of lottery winners end up in bankruptcy.

But any time you have to use your time, energy, and/or money to achieve a goal, it becomes more valuable. Investing in something with your own money makes it more likely you‘ll take it seriously. Saving for months to buy something you’ve had your eye on causes you to be more grateful when you get it.

Orlando looked over his shoulder to the kids, “There’s something to be said about working for things.”

Justin chimed in,  “Pistachios taste like success.”

We laughed at his clever analogy.

“Yes! Pistachios do taste like success,” I gave Justin a high-five.

He added, “Because you work so hard to crack them open that by the time they‘re in your mouth, they taste even better.”

“Exactly,” Orlando grinned proudly.

So the next time you feel you’re stuck in the trenches trying to get ahead or it’s taking too long for you to achieve your goals, just remember you’re cracking the pistachio open. Yes, it’ll hurt your fingers. Yes, there will be shells that are closed so tight you can’t break them open. But when you land that deal; when you lose the weight; when you pay off that debt; when you write the book; when you reach your goal… that’s when you know you’ve cracked the shell. Rewards are greater when you earn them.

A Moment of Clarity

Put the effort in. Work for it. Endure the process. Nothing will taste better than sweet success.

A month of Gratitude

Hi all!

November is a wonderful time to reflect on our blessings and cultivate a gratitude mindset.

What are you grateful for this day, month, year?  Are you not sure? Well, guess what? It doesn’t matter!

Searching is what counts. Just thinking about what you’re grateful for will train your brain to look at your life differently and your thought patterns will begin to change.

Here are three simple ways to incorporate the practice of gratitude in your life this month:

Join A Gratitude Challenge 

Challenges are great because they get you focused on the goal you’re trying to achieve. Spending 30 days or more working on a specific goal gives you the opportunity to create a positive habit… and if it’s a habit that you can stick to, you can incorporate it into your lifestyle. Inviting friends and family to join your challenge is also a great way to stay accountable and it can make the process more fun.

I found this great Gratitude Challenge online, and I thought you might like it also.

Make it a Routine

Maybe you’re unmotivated or too busy to start a challenge, but recognize the importance of practicing gratitude. Here’s something I’ve been doing with my kids for two years and it’s been wonderful. I created a “What are you thankful for?” routine.

Every morning I take my kids to school. The first thing I do when we hop into the car is ask that question:”What are you thankful for?” Then each one of my boys and I have to say at least one thing we’re grateful for. There have been many mornings that my kids are sleepy, or we had a fight before we left the house and we’re all still mad at each other, or they’re upset for some other reason. On those days, it can be really hard to transition from bad mood to saying thank you to the universe. But I’ve insisted on creating that discipline. So even when I’m fuming, I take a deep breath, drive for a couple of minutes and then say, “Okay boys, what are we grateful for this morning?”

Sometimes their response is “nothing,” or “I don’t know.” When I get those answers, I begin a series of questions.

“Did you guys wake up this morning?

“Yes,” they say half-heartedly.

“Did you wake up in a cozy bed, with warm covers?”

“Yes.”

“Did you have food to eat breakfast?”

“Yes.”

“Do your parents have a car to drive you to school in?”

“Yes.”

You get the drift. I run through every mundane thing that we did that morning to show them all the things that we take for granted but are really blessed to have or do. And then I let them choose which one of those they want to be thankful for. Believe it or not, it works! It has been great training for all of us and has become our morning routine.

Read a beautiful story about how you can have gratitude mornings even from a distance here. 

Now we’re all so well trained that the kids have gotten very creative.  They tell me all sorts of random things they’re grateful for, like, their hands or crayons.

Share your Gratitude for others

Tell the people who have made a difference in your life that you’re thankful for them. You may think they already know how you feel but you have no idea what it means to someone when you can genuinely share something about them that you’re grateful for. Maybe they helped you in a moment of need. Maybe they’re that friend that you run to whenever you’re excited about something. Maybe they impacted your life with their kindness or generosity. Or maybe they’ve just always been there for you and you can’t imagine your life without them. Make this month the month you call them just to say thanks. Or invite them to a gratitude dinner. You can also send them a postcard!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the day to day business of the holidays, but make it a point to carve out some time for what really matters. Those few minutes in your day can make a huge difference in your life.

A Moment of Clarity

This November marks one year since I started this blog. Although I’d been writing over at Pile On the Greens for years, starting this blog marked a decision. The decision to turn my writing hobby into a speaking and writing career. It meant that I committed 100% to sharing inspirational stories, tips, and lessons with you every week, regardless of the circumstances.

And so this week I wanted to say THANKS to YOU. Thank you to those of you who faithfully transitioned with me from my former blog to this one. Thank you to those who are new here.  And thanks to all of you who believe in the Be There Even When You’re Not project. Thank you for letting me have a space in your inbox and in your hearts.

The Choice of Success

Ten years ago I was pregnant and working as an attorney for the Public Defender’s office. I was in a trial the morning of my son’s due date, not knowing then that that was my last day there. The plan was to take maternity leave & return to work afterward, but everything changed the moment I held my baby in my arms. 

I never went back. 

One morning I received a call from a friend of mine while I was at my son’s school. 

“Where are you?” my friend asked. 

“At an Easter egg hunt,” I replied. 

She sighed, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” 

My friend was working long hours and hated being away from her kids. She thought I was lucky that I got to stay home. We do that a lot. We see someone else’s life and think they are “lucky” because they have something we wish we had. What we don’t do is analyze the choices they made to be where they are. 

In my case, for example, my friend didn’t realize that we took a major financial hit at the same time as I decided not to go back to work. The 2008 market crashed; My husband was a young associate in a law firm and wasn’t generating substantial income; We accrued credit card debt just to cover our bills; We’d bought our townhouse the month we married, intending to only live there for a couple of years—but my at-home status meant we’d squeeze our family of five into that starter home long after we outgrew it. Meanwhile, our dual-income friends purchased bigger and nicer houses, but their mortgages prohibited them from losing an income earner in the household.  

 The choice to stay home came with sacrifice—and creativity. 

When my son was 6 months old, I was ready to make money, but I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. I didn’t want a nine-to-five arrangement. I picked up bookkeeping work which allowed me to work from home and at nights. 

Click here to listen to the Podcast Interview

“Bookkeeping?” People would question, “Aren’t you a lawyer? Why would you study all those years and pay all those student loans not to practice law?” 

My response was always the same. “I became a lawyer to have choices. This is the choice I’m making right now so I could be home with my child.” 

Eventually, my husband started his own criminal defense law firm and crushed it; We got out of debt; I resumed practicing law on my own terms; I became a businesswoman; And now I’ve started all over again building a professional speaking & writing career. 

We centered every decision we made on one main thing—flexibility.

As a result, I’ve been able to spend countless precious moments with my kids, my spouse, my family and my friends. And I got to be with my dad until he died. 

Have I been lucky? Yes. But I’ve actively taken part in creating my luck—I never left it to chance. We put all of our focus on creating the life that worked for our family—struggles and all. 

They say it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. But what is success? Is it money, fame, a big house, or a fancy car?  Is it staying home with your kids or reaching the peak of your career? Is it traveling the world or camping in your backyard? Is it creating businesses or enjoying hobbies? 

The answer is—that depends on you. Only you know what your definition is of success and it could differ from everyone else’s. The problem we have is that we often measure our own success against someone else’s yardstick. When we make professional, financial, and emotional choices that are not congruent with our definition of success, it can confuse us and make us think others are luckier than we are. 

This week we celebrated my son’s 10th birthday. My husband had to be in Court in Orange County on Wednesday morning, so we made it a mini-vacation and took the boys to Universal Studios to visit the Harry Potter world. As we wandered the park on a Wednesday, enjoying time with our family, I couldn’t help but look back at where we started 10 years ago, and reflect on how far we’ve come. 

I stepped onto the Hulk Roller Coaster with Orly who had just reached the height requirement for the ride.We sat side by side in the first row, and I held Orly’s hand tight while he giggled with excitement. As the ride launched toward the sky, I closed my eyes and smiled… Yes! This is my definition of success. 

A Moment of Clarity

Life is about choices.

You have the power to make the choices that will make YOU feel successful 10 years from today. 

Choose carefully. 

There Are No Wasted Auditions … Part 3

“Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do.” Joachim de Posada

Are You Devoted?

We’d gotten what we wanted. Orlando had promised Orly that Pippin’s director would recommend him for a role one day, and the day had come. Orly had learned that when you show up prepared and focused, there are no wasted auditions. I felt like he was being rewarded … not only for a strong audition … but for the grace and good will he’d shown when his younger brother got the role instead.

But now we had a new conflict. The developmental workshop rehearsals were scheduled from Saturday to Wednesday with the final reading on Thursday.  We’d booked our pre-planned trip to New York City on that Wednesday.

Ideally, we’d reschedule the trip for another time so Orly could participate in the reading, but it wasn’t that easy.

The flights and tickets to the event we were attending were non-refundable. The hotel would cancel our reservation but charge a one-night penalty.   And then the real deal breaker … Hamilton. The tickets had cost us a fortune and were also non-refundable.  I thought of reselling them, but we learned a very expensive lesson when it comes to purchasing theatre tickets.

At the time of purchase, we selected the Will-Call option, which means they’d be at the box office of the theater. But guess what? We had to show our driver’s license to pick up the tickets. They will only release them to the purchaser. Buyer Beware! If you are purchasing tickets in a different state, choose the option to print your tickets at home or have them mailed to you.  You need to be in physical possession of them in order to sell or transfer them.  This tip will save you big time if you ever have to change your plans like we did. We stood to lose thousands of dollars if we cancelled the trip.

“Why don’t you email the director? Maybe the workshop dates can be moved around by a few days,” I suggested to Orlando.

“Are you crazy?” He shook his head no. “They’re not going to change the dates of the workshop for us!”

“We don’t lose anything by asking,” I insisted.

“This is pointless, but fine,” Orlando appeased me.

A few days later, the director responded that the dates were set in stone because they were flying in the director and composer from New York City. How ironic.

We told the kids about the trip and the conflict. You can imagine their disappointment.

“Do I have to do the workshop?” Orly asked.

“It depends on how committed you are to your acting,” I replied.

“But I don’t even know what a reading is. What if we give up going to New York and the reading isn’t any fun? What if I don’t like it?”

This was a tough decision for a kid. Heck, it was a tough decision for us. But life is about choices.  The right answer doesn’t come in a gift box with a bow wrapped around it.

“I’m sure you prefer to go to New York than do the workshop. That sounds like a lot more fun than the reading. But opportunities like this don’t come around often and you never know if you’ll have another chance like it. You’re going to be working with a director from Broadway and an up and coming composer from NYC! You don’t know what this workshop can mean for you in the future. Maybe nothing at all. But what if it’s the beginning of other possibilities?  That’s the thing, you just never know.  This is a defining moment in your life. What are you willing to sacrifice for your dreams?”

Orly looked down at the floor, “Okay, I’ll stay for the workshop.”

I thought about my dad and how proud he’d be if he were alive to witness this moment. He wrote a book called, “Don’t Eat The Marshmallow…Yet!” It explains that the secret to success is the ability to delay gratification, meaning that you are willing to resist the temptation for an immediate reward to wait for a later reward. Orly didn’t eat the marshmallow. I knew right then that no matter what he does in the future, he will be successful.

The decision was made. We emailed the director and confirmed that Orly would participate in the workshop.

After much consideration, we tried to minimize our losses and salvage our trip. I’d fly to New York with the boys on Wednesday morning as planned. Orlando would stay behind with Orly and meet us in New York. They could jump on the 5am flight on Friday morning and still make it to our scheduled event and Hamilton. It seemed like a good plan … until we arrived at Orly’s first rehearsal.

We dropped off the younger boys at their friend’s house so we could stay with Orly. We were all a little nervous. We arrived early and peeked through the glass window of the classroom. Students stood in rows with music stands in front of them, facing a man playing the piano. They all sang in unison. It felt grand.

The director spotted us and opened the door.

“Listen up everyone. I want you to say hi to Orly. He’ll be playing the role of Kurt.”

“Hi Orly!”  The students greeted him cheerfully.

“Welcome,” the pianist, Mark Sonnenblick, waved us in.

We walked in quietly and grabbed some seats in the back. The UM director walked over with a young woman, while the students resumed their rehearsal. “Orly, this is Maggie,” he whispered. “She’s directing this musical.”

“Hi Maggie,” Orly said.  Maggie was friendly. She handed him some music sheets and talked to him for a little bit. The UM director kneeled in front of us to tell us what was going on. “Turns out Act one, which is the Act we’re working on during this workshop, revolves mainly around Kurt,” he said with a smile. “Your son is going to have three major solos.” Orly’s mouth dropped. My heart stopped.

Orlando saw my face and knew what I was thinking. He put his arm around me and whispered, “There’s no point in you being in another city when your heart will be here. Don’t worry about the money.”

I almost cried. There was no way I could get on a plane to New York and miss seeing my son perform three solos. That night I cancelled our three remaining reservations and booked us on the Friday morning flight with Orlando and Orly. It was the best decision I could’ve made.

The next five days were a whirlwind. Orly worked harder than he’s ever worked in his life. Mark, Maggie, and the students were incredibly kind and patient with him. They spent hours upon hours rehearsing. During Orly’s free time, he worked with his vocal teacher.

Because this was a workshop, the script changed constantly and Orly had to adapt to new lines and new scenes. He was resilient and rolled with the punches.

By the night of the reading, Orly wasn’t the same kid that walked into rehearsal the first day. He’d poured his heart and soul into this performance, and had grown as a singer and actor.  He’d bonded with the students, the director, and the composer. And he was a part of something that was beautiful. Mark’s work is magnificent. His musical belongs on Broadway. The day it gets there, Orly will have been a part of its inception.

There was a dramatic scene toward the end of the play when Orly stood singing his solo in front of the audience and the rest of the Cast rose from their seats to join him in song. Goosebumps filled my arms and tears streamed down my face from how lucky I felt to be in that room, witnessing that moment. This experience was more special than any of us could’ve ever imagined.

A Moment of Clarity

We learned some pretty expensive lessons from this experience like to always buy refundable airfare and the tip about ticket delivery.  But we also learned that experiences are worth more than money; that opportunities must be seized when they appear; and that you are rewarded when you delay gratification.

The next morning at the crack of dawn we boarded the flight to New York City. Orly buckled in and leaned over to look at us, “Thanks for pushing me to do the workshop. I wouldn’t have traded one minute of it for New York.”

I laughed, “Well, you’re a pretty lucky kid considering you’re getting to do both!”

He leaned back on his chair and with a big smile on his face said, “Yep. We need to get to know that place, since I’m going to live there when I grow up!”

There Are No Wasted Auditions (Part One)

The hardest thing for a parent to do is watch their kid fail. But without failure, there is no true success.

“Audition Opportunity!” read the subject line of the email. My nine-year-old, Orly, is passionate about acting. He wants to be on Broadway one day. He’s auditioned for several roles in different theaters, which landed me on multiple mailing lists.

“Looking for three to four young actors, any age but under 4 feet tall, to play the role of Theo in our upcoming Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Pippin” University of Miami’s Ring Theater was hosting the audition. Theo was the only child part in the play, meaning the young actor would be performing alongside University of Miami’s junior and senior theater students. They were looking for three or four actors so that the children could alternate in between performances.

Knowing my son would kill to audition for this, I forwarded the message to my husband. Not two minutes later, the phone rang.

“Did you see the email?” I asked, forgetting to say “Hello.”

“He’s going to love this,” Orlando replied. “What a great opportunity.”

“What about the height restriction?” I asked. “Orly might be right on the cusp of four feet.”

“Yes, I think he’s right around that height.” Orlando agreed. “You know who else might be perfect for this audition?”

“Who?”

“Justin.”

Justin was our adorable six-year-old who has an incredible ability to memorize lines, but his personality is very different than his brother’s.

“Do you think Justin would want to do something like this?”  I asked.

“Let’s ask him. They’re looking for three to four actors for the same role. Both brothers could be Theo. How cool would that be?”

“That would be awesome,” I agreed.

We brought up the audition at dinner. Orly’s eyes lit up immediately. “I want to audition!”

Justin was less enthused. “Justy, tell us. Do you want to audition for Theo?” I stroked his cheek.

“I don’t know,” he said nonchalantly. “I guess.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, buddy. But we think it would be a great experience for you and imagine how cool it would be if both you and your brother got to be in the same play.” Orlando said.

“Okay, I’ll do it.” He said casually.

After dinner, Orlando played some of the Pippin songs so the boys could become familiar with the play. Orly began rehearsing right away. For the next few days, I’d hear Orly singing alone in his bedroom and in the shower. He was always practicing. He’d auditioned for roles before but had never taken them quite as seriously as this one.

We’d been trying to instill the importance of preparation in him, and it seemed to have all “clicked.”

He’d get frustrated with his brother who was not as committed. “Justin, you have to be prepared for this audition,” he’d scold him as if he were an adult. “If you’re not willing to work for this, you’re not going to get the part.”

Justin was unfazed.

On the day of the audition, we sat the boys down. “Okay guys, today’s the big day. Remember that several things can happen: 1. Both of you get the part, 2. Neither of you get the part, or 3. Only one of you gets the part. Regardless of what happens, remember that you are brothers. If one of you gets to be Theo and the other doesn’t, be thrilled for your brother; brothers back up and support each other. Understood?”

They nodded their heads and off they went with their dad.

Upon their return, I got the details. Orly had a great audition. Even the director commented on how well he did. Justin, on the other hand, was all over the place. He sang well but was fooling around and being silly. Orlando and Orly were not happy about his behavior.

Every day for the next few days, Orly asked, “Have you heard from UM?”

“Nothing yet.” We continued to prepare both of them for the possibilities we had discussed earlier.

Then I got the call from Orlando. “Are you sitting down?” His voice sounded surprised.

Could they have both gotten the part? Is it good news or bad news?

 “What is it?” I asked.

“Justin got the role of Theo.” Yes! They both got the part. “So they both got in?” I confirmed.

“No, Caro. Orly didn’t get in.”

What?

I never considered that Justin would get the role over his older brother.

“But didn’t you said he was fooling around during the audition?” I asked.

“He was!” Orlando exclaimed. “She liked Justin’s innocence and angelic face. Apparently, not being polished worked to his advantage. The director loved Orly, but he was too tall for the Theo she envisioned.”

“Orly is going to be devastated,” I said softly.

We’d been telling our son to work hard and be prepared and that would get him to where he wanted to be. But his little brother was getting the role even though he barely worked for it. As much as we loved Justin, we felt disappointed. It didn’t seem fair or right. Orly wanted this more than his brother did. He worked harder. He deserved it more.

For a moment, we thought of telling the boys that neither of them got the part. Justin wouldn’t be as devastated as Orly would be—but only for a moment.

Are we crazy? We can’t do that.

Justin deserved to have his moment in the spotlight as much as Orly did. And whether he had been fooling around or not, he had earned his role and it was our responsibility to celebrate that. Besides, we have to let our kids fail. We’re not doing them any favors by shielding them from disappointments. These moments build character. We knew what we had to do, but it was painful.

“Let me be the one to tell him,” Orlando said. “I’ll come by and pick him up in 15 minutes. Have him ready.”

With my poker face on, I told my son to get ready to go to the grocery store with his dad. He put his shoes on and rushed out of the house.

Orlando drove them around the block and parked in a nearby school parking lot. “What are you doing, Dad?” Orly asked.

“Orly, I have something to tell you. Justin was chosen to be Theo for Pippin, but you weren’t.” Our son’s eyes dropped down to the floor.

“Orly, I know this is devastating for you, but you can’t let it get you down. You had a great audition. You killed it. In fact, the director called me because she wanted you to know how impressed she was by you. She said she’d keep you in mind for future performances.”

“But if I did so well, why didn’t I get the part?” he asked.

“Because this wasn’t the right part for you, buddy. You are too tall and mature for the role. You’re not going to be a good fit for every part. And the acting world is full of rejection. If you want to be on Broadway like you say you do, you’d better get used to hearing ‘No’ more often than ‘Yes.’ That’s how it works. You’re going to have to develop thick skin.”

“Okay,” Orly whimpered.

“About your brother. Justin has been your biggest fan, sitting front row at all your performances and rooting for you. He’s always the first one to run up to hug you when you’re done. It’s his turn to shine. He deserves for you to be as supportive of him as he has been of you. And if you weren’t going to get the part, who better than your brother to get it?”

Orlando pulled Orly close to give him a hug. Tears streamed down both of their faces.

I waited anxiously as I saw my husband’s car pull into the driveway. Orly got off and opened the front door. “Justin,” He yelled loudly. “Come give your brother a hug!”

Justin ran right into Orly’s open arms.

“Why are you hugging me?” He asked mid-hug.

“Because you’re Theo.”

“Really?” Justin squealed. “Are you Theo too?”

“No Justy, I’m not. But I’m so proud of you.”

There are moments in life you will never forget. Watching this young boy, whose glossy eyes and pink nose revealed he’d been crying, put aside his feelings to celebrate his brother was one of those moments. I couldn’t have been prouder of my son.

When it was time for bed, I laid next to Orly like I always do. He began to cry again. “Mom.” He sniffled. “It’s not that I’m not happy for Justin. I’m genuinely happy for him, but I’m sad for me, too. I don’t get it, mom. I’ve been working really hard. Is it that I’m not good enough?”

“These things happen, my love—even when you work hard—but eventually your persistence and commitment will pay off.”  I rested my head on my hands as I spoke to him. “You can feel happy for brother and sad for yourself at the same time. You know what you have to do tonight?”

“What?”

“Cry all you want. Feel sad or mad or whatever you want to feel.”

“And then?”

“And then tomorrow get back up again, ready to audition for the next play. Tomorrow, get back to working on your craft to be the best you can possibly be … because there’s an awesome role waiting for you right around the corner.”

Just then, Orlando walked into the room. “Orly, you know what? It doesn’t matter whether you got the role of Theo or not. Remember that the director said you made a great impression on her. There are no wasted auditions. One day, she’ll think of you when another kid role comes up, and this will all have been worth it.”

“You promise?” Orly asked.

We do not take promises lightly in our home. Having our children’s complete trust and confidence is one of our biggest priorities. Orly knows that, so this was an extremely loaded question.

Orlando paused, looked at his son, and replied, “I promise.”

A smile crossed our son’s face. We kissed him and walked out of his bedroom.

On the opening night of Pippin, we left Justin backstage and took our seats in the theatre.

With a huge smile on his face, Orly turned to me and said, “Mom, my legs are jelly.”

“Why” I asked.

“Because I’m so excited for Justin.” He squeezed my hand as we waited for his brother to take the stage.

A Moment of Clarity

I felt a little proud, a little sad, and a little hopeful that our son would be rewarded for his commitment, courage, and character.

But no matter what, I knew everything was going to be alright.

(Stay tuned for next week to find out what happened next)

 

 

 

Stop Waiting for Inspiration

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for an hour and twenty-two minutes. My weekly blog post is due, the kids will wake up soon, and I’ve got nothing.

This is the problem with inspiration. It’s not available on demand. She might be tapping on someone else’s shoulder right now, whispering words of wisdom in their ear … but for me, she didn’t stop by today.

So what do I do?

Do I close the computer and skip this week’s article?

Should I dwell on the fact that I don’t have 26 articles written and ready to go like my blogger friends told me to?

Or do I distract myself with busy work so I have the false illusion that I’m being productive?

Everything seems easier with inspiration, whether you’re working, writing, speaking, painting, eating healthy, exercising—heck, it’s even easier to love when you’re feeling inspired.

The key word here being: Feeling.

Feelings are fickle and sometimes we just don’t feel like doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

It’s like going to the gym. Most people know it’s good for them and they’ll feel great after they exercise. But when that alarm clock starts beeping at 5am, they don’t feel like getting out of bed.

A friend of mine told me once how he tackles that problem:  “I want to run but I know I’m not going to feel like running, so I don’t think about the run. I focus on putting on my running shoes and walking outside. I tell myself that once I’m on the street, if I don’t feel like running, I can turn around and go back inside. But I never do. So long as I can get my shoes on and get on the road, I’ll run.”

What about having sex with your partner. We all know that couples who have sex regularly are happier in their relationships. And yet after a long, stressful day, sex doesn’t sound like a good idea. You feel tired, stressed or annoyed. You don’t feel like it. Then it becomes a vicious cycle. The less you have sex, the less you want to have sex with your partner, and the more the relationship starts deteriorating. I asked a friend of mine who was having marital problems how their sex life was going.

“I can’t remember the last time we had sex,” she replied.

“Maybe if you two have sex, things will improve.” I suggested.

“Ugh, I know.” She took a deep breath as her eyes met the floor. “But I just don’t feel like it.”

“Do you want to get a divorce?” I asked.

“No!” She said without hesitating. “I still love him, It’s just things haven’t been going well and I’m not in the mood.”

I pressed her. “Then, do it anyway. Go home tonight and have sex. You might be surprised how you feel afterwards.”

She called me a month later and said “I did what you suggested and all I could think was: why didn’t I do this sooner? We’ve been having sex regularly and our relationship has improved so much in the last few weeks.”

That’s the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. They’re not solely driven by their emotions.

Do it anyway.

I closed my eyes and set an intention. I’m not sure what I’m going to write today, but please let it serve someone who needs to read my words.

The next thing I did was look back at my old blogposts to see what I wrote about during this time last year. I wrote one post about lessons I learned from a simple story my cousin shared at her father’s funeral and another about lessons I learned as we confronted Hurricane Irma.

I took a moment to express gratitude that I’m no longer facing these difficult times, even if it means I’m drawing a writer’s blank.

But then it hit me. It’s so obvious. Back then I only wrote when I was inspired, which made my writing a hobby, not a profession.  But I’ve made a decision to go pro. And that means this article has to go out—no matter what.

We all face this struggle.  We want to be consistent, produce good work, and get good results. But that means we have to show up even when we don’t want to.

By focusing on my intention of serving others, I realized my lack of inspiration was inspiring a post about lack of inspiration!

Inspiration is nothing more than a feeling. Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do—even when they don’t feel like it.

So what do you do when you’re feelings get in the way of what you’re supposed to do?

Put on your running shoes.

Kiss your spouse.

Look up a healthy recipe on the internet.

Register for that course.

Sit in front of the blank computer screen.

Do something.

A Moment of Clarity

The key is to take action regardless of how you feel. And stop worrying about inspiration. Once she realizes you’re not waiting around for her anymore, she’ll come find you. Isn’t that ironic?

Shake On It

Working out early in the morning is an absolute priority for me, but my kids’ back to school schedule presented a conflict. I knew I wouldn’t make it home in time to wake them up and get them ready. The first week of school, I skipped my morning runs, and one pilates class. I was not happy about it.

Unwilling to make this compromise, I sat my kids down and explained the situation.

“Mommy has to exercise in the mornings and the only way she can do that is if you guys help me. You each have an alarm clock. I’m going to set the clocks to 6:30am and I’m going to leave this list on your desk. Your job is to get up by yourselves, and start working on the list. By the time I get home, you need to be dressed and have brushed your teeth and hair.”

I couldn’t tell if they were taking me seriously, so I added, “Here’s the deal.  I know how much you love staying up late on the weekends. That privilege comes with responsibility. If you can’t wake up in the morning by yourselves, then you won’t have the privilege of staying up late during the weekend.”

Eyes grew wide and mouths dropped. “What?” Justin exclaimed.

Now they’re listening.

“In life, privilege comes with responsibility and consequences, buddy. You need to be responsible for waking up to the alarm and starting your day on your own.”

That was all I had to say. The next day, I went to my pilates class and when I returned my three boys were fully dressed and ready to go. Everything was going well until the following Wednesday evening.

“Okay boys, let’s set your alarms. Tomorrow I run so I get home a little later than usual. It’s very important that you’re ready to go by the time I get back. Let’s go over your list.”

Orly had had enough. “Mooooom!” He whined.

“What?” I was confused. I hadn’t said anything different than the other days.

“You’re doing this every day. When are you going to stop running and doing pilates?”

“I’ve been exercising every morning for years, Orly. Nothing has changed.”  But something had changed, because my morning routine was now interfering with his life.

“I know but every morning is the same thing. We have to wake up by ourselves, and you’re not here. Enough already. Until when are you going to do this?”  He pressured me.

“Until I’m 100.” I answered, nonchalantly.

His eyes rolled. “Mom, give me a break. I’m being serious.”

“So am I,” I said. “I’ll be running and doing pilates until I’m 100.”

“No you’re not, mom. You can’t run and do pilates at 100 years old,” he scoffed.

“Wanna make a bet?” I challenged.

“Mom, you may not even LIVE to be 100!” He kept arguing.

I put my hand out. “Okay, let’s shake on it. I bet you if I’m alive at 100, I’ll be running and doing pilates.”

“And what if you’re not?” He asked.

“Then you’ll be telling everyone you know that if your mom were alive she’d be running and doing pilates!”

Orly’s hand met mine and we smiled as we exaggeratedly shook our hands up and down.

I laid with him in bed for a few minutes. “You’re funny, mom.” He said as his eyes drifted off to sleep.

I better stay in good shape! I laughed to myself as I walked out of his bedroom. I can’t control everything that will happen between now and when I get to 100 (or if I do). But by shaking hands with my son I did three things:

1. I showed him that I’ve set an intention to stay healthy and strong for as long as I can.

2. I made him my partner in the journey.

3. I held myself accountable to the kind of lifestyle I want to lead.

What seemed like an annoyance for my son at the beginning (running through the checklist and setting alarm clocks) became a light-hearted team effort.  My son’s paradigm had shifted to helping me work towards my goal of exercising until I’m 100 by cooperating with me in the morning.  And by me going for my run, I’m sticking to my end of the challenge.

I walked through the door the next morning and headed towards my kids’ bedroom. They were awake and ready. 

“How was your run, mama?” Orly asked.

“Great.” I said, “But Orly, I suggest you start training soon—because when you’re 70 and I’m 100—you’re not going to be able to keep up with me!”

A Moment of Clarity

Sometimes we feel like we have to put our goals and dreams aside for the sake of our kids. And sometimes we do have to shift focus and readjust for them. As they get older, though, it is quite powerful to dream and partner with your kids. It’s important for them to know what you’re working towards, and how their cooperation will help you get there. That’s what great families do. They help each other, they push each other, and they hold each other accountable. Great families are always there for each other, even when they’re not physically there.