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Me time

Me first once in a while…Why not?

manuelita otero

Do you remember that joy that you would feel when as a little girl or as a teenager your parents would allow you to go to that road trip with your cousins, or to the party you really wanted to go?  

Many times we would approach our parents or the person who was taking care of us and shyly ask for the special permission. Most likely, if our parents saw that there were no risks, they would let us go, making us the happiest people on earth.

As I look around now in my life and the life of my friends, I feel that nowadays  we are forgetting to give ourselves those “special permissions” we wanted so badly as little girls.  We are saying no to small things such as a free day for ourselves once in a while, an afternoon at the spa or at the beauty salon or watching our favorite program… little somethings that make us feel happy.

It seems that as time goes by we allow guilt to grow, to the point that it steals our capacity to “spoil” ourselves in a good way, to take care of us, and to do things that we enjoy.

I say this because I have noticed that when I give myself a little something, I feel I have to justify it to others.  I say things such as “I haven’t bought myself anything in a long time”, “I really needed it”, “there was an incredible sale”, as if there is need for an excuse and it is not enough that we bought ourselves something because we love ourselves.

That guilt  is a clue of what could be happening, and it is stopping me from treating myself as the precious and valuable woman that I am..  I don’t have to think that I am a bad mom or a bad daughter because one day I put myself first when it was time to choose something to do or buy something.

Many times out of “respect” for others we do not give ourselves the things that we enjoy because guilt stops us and that guilt usually only exists in our imagination.

To give ourselves time, peace, freedom, trips, clothes, massages, experiences, and many other things should be something that can happen any day. It is good to give ourselves little somethings each and every day of our life.

By Ana

Vacation everyday

manuelita otero

Close your eyes and think about your favorite vacation.  Can you see it? Are there certain smells or foods that take you back to that moment? Can you remember how you felt?  

I wonder what makes vacation time so amazing, and I am not being sarcastic by asking the obvious.  I really want to analyze that “vacation feeling”, because I would like to replicate it in my daily life. Could that be possible; to bring a little vacation into my every day? It just doesn’t feel right that we wait a whole year to have just one or two weeks of that glowing feeling we get during vacation.  There must be other way.

What makes a vacation? Is it freedom from worry, not having a schedule, or time with family?  Not having to cook? Doing nothing by the pool or exploring the outdoors? What if we tried to incorporate those things into our week? We seem to turn our life into a routine when it doesn’t have to be.

I started a list of some ideas to bring vacation into my days, and since everyone’s “vacation feeling” is different, maybe you can continue it with your own ideas:   

- Celebrate with your senses:  During vacation our senses are more awake.  It seems that everything smells fresher, tastes sweeter, and looks brighter.  If we take more time and pay attention to our surroundings we can experience this more often.   

- Spend more time outside: Do you have a balcony? Could you take your lunch break outside in a park, or work outside for a while? A little time in the sun can brighten any day.  

- Dress up or dress down: Many people love vacations because you dress up for dinner, or dress casually and relaxed.  Why should your day to day be any different?

- Make time for your favorite sports: Do you love a sport but don’t have much time to practice? Make some time for it, even if it is only once a week or once a month.  The important thing is to take that first step.  

- Try new foods:  Instead of going to the same restaurant and ordering the same thing, why not visit exotic restaurants and try new foods?

- Make time with family and friends:  Any moment can be made special with family and friends. Sing in the car, talk, play cards, make meals last longer… Create memories.

- Relax and take time for yourself: Schedule some “Me time” by doing what you love at least once a day.

- Take an electronic break: We don’t realize how much time we spend on social media and our electronic devices.  Disconnect more often!

- Drive with the window down listening to loud music: Driving is a perfect opportunity to unwind. Listening to your favorite music and singing along is a great way to bring that vacation feeling into your day.

- Visit new places: Check out what your city has to offer and get ready to discover your surroundings.

I truly believe that with a little practice, that vacation feeling where we are adventurous and see everything as a new experience can be incorporated into our life. Get ready for a little vacation every day of the year.

By Manuelita  @manuelitaotero






In the moment and loving it!

manuelita otero

The other day we traveled to Miami where we met a special friend who was visiting the U.S.    We went to a place called Wynwood Walls, an amazing area full of giant canvases on warehouse walls of color and life.  It was so revitalizing to be surrounded by so much creativity that my daughter and I just kept saying how happy we were to be there.  I loved every minute of our visit. I was happy to be with the people I was with, not thinking about the menacing gray skies that were promising rain any minute, the chilly wind, or the fact that we had a long list of things we wanted to do.  None of that mattered, because we were enjoying the now.  I must confess, not every moment of my life is like that.  My head is usually full of dispersed thoughts and often I am trying to do several things at once.  But that day I was completely engaged in the moment and I loved it; now I want this to be the norm and not the exception.  

Have you ever gone on vacation and as soon as you arrived you got sad thinking that in a few days you would have to leave?  Or waited for someone special to visit you, but kept thinking that the time will go by so fast that soon they will have to leave again? Or as my mom and I sometimes do, we sit down for lunch and while we eat we start thinking what we are going to prepare for dinner.  Learning to live in the moment takes a lot of practice because usually our minds are full of many things.  We keep going from one thought to another without stopping to enjoy the present. Even if it is hard we should not be discouraged, it is worth to keep trying to slow down and “smell the roses” not only because it is a wonderful way to live, but also because enjoying the now greatly benefits our body and mind.  According to an article by Harvard Health Publications, mindfulness, which is living in the moment,   improves well-being, physical health and mental health.  It helps relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties and it helps in the treatment of problems such as: depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

An article of Psychology Today states that mindful people are:  “happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened. They fight less with their romantic partners and are more accommodating and less defensive.”

These are enough reasons to get us excited about living in the moment, aren’t they? But the question is, how do we do it? I think deep inside many of us may know the answer, but for some reason we just don’t seem to find the time to put it into practice.  How about starting today? One small change in our habits could help us enjoy each moment even more. 

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Eat without distractions (that includes electronic devices, writing or talking on the phone).
  • Eat slowly, look at the food you are about to eat, and focus on the aroma and flavors.
  • Do one thing at the time.
  • When sitting down with someone for a coffee or having a conversation, put your phone in a place where it can’t be seen.
  • Look at people in the eye when they are talking to you.
  • Take time every day to do something you love.
  • Face problems; deal with one at the time. 
  • Make a list of things to do. Include in it time to do what you love.
  • Celebrate what you accomplished during the day instead of focusing in what you didn’t do.
  • When feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  • If possible, take a nap, even if you don’t sleep, just close your eyes for a few minutes.
  • Take time to drink your tea or coffee without distractions.  Even if you have to get up 10 minutes earlier, it will be worth it.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and enjoy them.
  • When giving instructions, do it slowly, one thing at the time looking at the person’s eyes to make sure they are understanding you.
  • Be flexible, let things flow.
  • Read just for the pleasure of reading.
  • Be aware of your thoughts; you can decide what stays and what goes.

Living in the moment is all about being completely engaged. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it as flow, a “complete absorption in what one does”.

It is possible to fully enjoy each moment we live, but remember that being mindful is an intentional focus, so for many of us it will not come naturally. But with practice and determination it could become a way to enjoy our everyday situations. 

 By Manuelita  @manuelitaotero



Freedom To Be Me

manuelita otero

Have you ever felt angry all of a sudden?  That used to happen to me all the time.  One day, frustrated of that feeling and the way it was affecting me and those around me, I decided to investigate the source of that “sudden” change in me, which would take hours to get rid of.  This was the first step in the right direction because I no longer ignored things and waited for them to go away. I decided I was going to go deeper and understand it. 

After many years of “silly” fights that would often turn into ugly arguments with my then boyfriend, now husband, I seriously told myself: “It’s neither fair nor healthy to live like this”.  So I started the quest to find the cause of my anger.  I’m still not sure how the process started, but once I was willing to be more vulnerable and honest with myself I finally understood that the anger I was feeling would usually manifest itself when I would betray my principles, my essence, my beliefs and the things I enjoyed, even if they were small things, such as choosing the flavor of my ice cream or the type of pizza I wanted. 

That anger would come out when I would do what others wanted me to do, when I was doing things just to please others and to avoid confrontations.  I was taking away my right to accept myself the way I was. The saddest part was that I didn’t even realize that the things I was doing and saying were not really who I was. 

So, where am I going with all this? I think many women have felt this and sometimes they don’t take the time to face it.  Nowadays we live in such a hurry; we have so many commitments and responsibilities that we lose communication with ourselves. We tend to put in our list of priorities our family, our job, our friends, leaving no space to be on our own and spend time just thinking.  Sometimes we go to the movies, or to a party or we take an afternoon to catch up with friends, but many of us fall into the trap of believing that is enough time to dedicate to ourselves, when in reality it isn’t because those moments are with others, which are great, but are not time alone.  We need to be comfortable being on our own; we need to enjoy being by ourselves. When we don’t spend enough time alone we start to disconnect from our essence and from our personality. The key question is: How do we avoid the masks we tend to use and stop betraying ourselves? The answer may not be easy and it is very personal.  It depends on you, your lifestyle and your story, but just asking the question is already a step forward in the right direction. 

In my case, I started realizing that I needed my space.  Accepting that I was getting upset because I was acting the way others expected me to act was the hardest thing to do, but the first step to letting me be me. 

By Ana

Time to stop the wheel

manuelita otero


When I was in school, my mom would congratulate me for doing well, and she would tell me how smart I was.  My reply was always the same: “I am not smart, I study a lot!”  And when someone would say how pretty I was, I would smile politely and say “thank you” but inside I would think that they were just trying to be nice.  What were they seeing? Were they blind?  Years later I finally realized that it was me who was blind. For some reason, I felt I was not good enough. It was hard for me to receive compliments and also hard to say nice things about myself… I would think “that is not right, is it? To be saying how special and how beautiful I am?”

There is pressure for women coming from every front. We want to be wonderful moms, sexy wives, faithful friends, good citizens, healthy women, productive workers, and caring daughters.  These are just a few of the roles we play each day.  Often when we try to do it all, we forget who we are and what we really want.  

Do you ever feel like a hamster on a wheel? Moving at the speed of light to get everything done but feeling you never get anywhere?   And we know it!  We continually talk about needing to take some time to relax, or to do what we like, or to face certain issues that we know are affecting us, but we never seem to get to them.  We just don’t take the time to slow down, to get off the wheel and just stay still.  I wonder what we are waiting for? No one is going to do it for us!  

Do we want to spend our whole life trying to keep up? Or do we want to enjoy where we are?  I know it is not a tough question, but if we are honest, we know that to be able to really enjoy our life we mustknow who we are and love ourselves. 

Have you ever seen those women who glow and you just can’t tell why?  Yet, others look beautiful, may have the most amazing outfit, but something is missing?  People may call it the “it” factor, I like to call it the “you” factor.  When you know who you are and how valuable you are, it shows.  I am not saying you or everything in your life is perfect, but you are happy, enjoying the moment along with the mess and the imperfections. 

It's time to take a moment for ourselves.  It's time to close the magazines with all the “how to” advice and diets that promise perfect bodies, it's time to ignore the books with the 10 simple steps to achieve anything and everything.  It's time to have an honest conversation with ourselves.

I tell my daughter that when she feels she is lacking flow and when things are just not clicking, to get her journal out and write.  Start by asking questions which will lead to more questions which eventually will lead to answers and yes, more questions.  It's a great way to be truthful and really find out who you are, what is bothering you and what are you missing.

Do you want to get started?

Make a decision: Do you really want to start living your life to the fullest? If you are serious about it, once you make the decision, nothing will stop you.  We can be very determined once we make up our mind.  Decide to get to know you, to listen to your inner child.  Dream big and do fun things. Decide to love all of you, imperfections and all.  

Be good to yourself: Think about this… Would you talk to your friends the same way you talk to yourself? If not, why? Be kind, be patient, be good to yourself.  I will give you some news: You are not perfect, neither am I, no one is! Don’t let great technology and awesome filters make you think otherwise, and don’t think that everyone lives in those perfectly decorated homes in which everyone is always smiling.  Those are just commercials selling a dream.  Trying to reach out to be our best, is much more fun and motivating than wanting to attain perfection, which is impossible!  Check your standards in all the roles of your life, are they realistic? Or are you basing them on magazine covers and society’s values? Why are you allowing others to dictate how you feel about yourself?

Stop complaining and do something: Sometimes we expect for things to change, but we keep doing the same things.  How do we suppose our attitude will improve if we spend the only time we have for ourselves with group of friends complaining about our children, about how busy we are, and criticizing our neighbors? How does that make us a better person?  

I loved this advice from the book Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung:  “Don’t just wait for your negative feelings to pass; complaining will not change your life. Change your thinking and let go of limitations you impose on yourself.”   

Getting to know ourselves is a very exciting journey that will change our perception of things.  We are amazing, interesting, talented and beautiful women. It's time to decide the direction we want our life to take. 

By Manuelita  @manuelitaotero