Simple Quote Sunday

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Eleanor Roosevelt


Eleanor Roosevelt

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

This week’s Snapshot Challenge is one of two twin brothers, Peter and Paul. They were both suffering from severe malnutrition, pneumonia, and cardio insufficiency when they were brought to Misioneros Del Camino at six months old. Now at a little more than seven years of age, they are both healthy, happy, loving, and a little mischievous too! I took this picture this past week and it fits right in with these Snapshot Challenges because if ever you want to find beauty in life, all you have to do is look at a smiling child.


Mami Leo’s Legacy Will Always Live On

This past week was a very difficult one because the world lost an incredible human being on Sunday, March 8th. Whenever the medical mission team I volunteer with would go to Guatemala and stay at the orphanage Mami Leo founded nearly thirty years ago, she would remind us to not forget about the children upon our return to the states. Our group stayed at the home for only one week, twice a year, and that’s it. For the other 355 days in the year, Leonor Portela, who was more affectionately known as Mami Leo was at the home with the children by herself. Through the hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and the days with no electricity, Mami Leo was there protecting her children. It takes a special person to dedicate her life just to provide a life for others, and that’s exactly what Mami Leo did.

I flew out to Guatemala City early Wednesday morning and arrived just in time for a beautiful mass held in her honor. The entire church was packed and there was not an empty seat in the building. Looking around the room and seeing just how many people Mami Leo has impacted throughout her life was an incredible sight, and knowing that this wasn’t even close to the amount of people she saved and inspired was even more incredible. The funeral procession commenced once the mass concluded, and it was just as difficult as you can imagine. When the funeral concluded, we drove to the orphanage in Sumpango, Sacatepequez where we all gathered around and talked, sharing stories of Mami Leo with one another.

We lined a bunch of tables next to one another and sat down for dinner in a long rectangular set-up. I sat by the center table, and as I looked to my left and right, a sense of peace overcame me. It was truly a beautiful sight; the table was filled with children of all ages who had been saved by Mami Leo (some of whom are pictured below). Even young adults who no longer live in the home came back to spend time with Memo Leo before her passing, and celebrate her life following this terrible loss. In looking around and taking in the surrounding environment, I realized the true impact of Mami Leo’s life work. Some of the people sitting at the table were among the first few children Mami Leo took in years ago, and they were sitting here with children of their own whom you can tell are provided with unconditional love and support.

The love that Mami Leo gave to her children has been carried on to their own children, and Mami Leo has successfully helped them break the chain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in Guatemala. They are well-integrated members of society, many in Guatemala, and some in the United States. And what is just as special is the fact that they all still treasure where they come from, the beautiful home Mami Leo took them into, Misioneros Del Camino.

So while we mourn a tragic loss of what I truly believe is a one of a kind saint, we also rejoice in knowing that Mami Leo’s legacy isn’t going anywhere. We can all come together to help fulfill her mission and dream of providing love and support to such children in need, and more importantly, we will never forget Mami Leo, her work, or the thousands of children whom she is survived by. And as she once said, plain and simply, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Descansa en paz Mami Leo.

Rest In Peace Mami Leo

On Saturday, I wrote about an important figure, not only in my life, but in the lives of countless people across the world. Leonor Portela, also known as Mami Leo saved thousands of lives in Guatemala after moving there to start a home for abandoned, neglected, malnourished, and abused children. With only $2,000 to her name, she picked up and left her life in America to start a new life in Guatemala, a country in which she had no connection to whatsoever before moving there. On Sunday evening at 7:12 p.m. Guatemalan time, Mami Leo passed away peacefully, surrounded by so many of the children whom she loved so dearly. I’ve included a link in this post that shows a brief video of some of the incredible work that Mami Leo has done. Keep in mind, the video only talks about the neurological center that she started to help children with neurological disorders; it doesn’t even mention the orphanage that she also started on her own!

Mami Leo was truly an incredible woman who was relentless in putting the lives of children in need before her own. She worked tirelessly to provide so many children with a home to call their own. But more importantly, she gave them love which is something that so many of them were missing for so long before arriving at the home. Thanks to Mami Leo’s love and devotion, I can honestly say the world has become a better place. I am so fortunate to have had her be a part of my life and I can only hope to be even just half of the person she was. I will forever be grateful for the example she set for each of us and I hope that our continuation of her work will forever make her proud.

A family friend recently shared this quote with me and it has provided me with great comfort. I hope it can be helpful to someone else in their time of need too.

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again! ”
-Henry Scott Holland

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

This week’s Snapshot Challenge is meant to honor someone very special. I wrote about her a little over a month ago on a few of my blog posts about training for the Miami Half Marathon. This week’s Snapshot Challenge is in honor of Leonor Portela, who is more affectionately known as Mami Leo.

Mami Leo was born in Cuba and moved to Miami, where she married her husband. He served as a pilot in the American Air Force, but he was unfortunately killed in action. Shortly thereafter, Mami Leo saw the devastating after-effects of 1976 earthquake in Guatemala and all of the abandoned children on television and decided to do something about it. She sold her house, paid off her debts, and with only $2,000 to her name, she moved to the poverty-stricken city of Sumpango, Guatemala and built a home for children in need.

Mami Leo started her home with only six children she rescued from garbage dumps in the city, and since then, she has saved thousands of children to date. There are currently over one hundred children living in Misioneros Del Camino, and there is a neurological center on site, which provides various therapies to children from across the country with neurological disorders. The therapies include speech, sensorial, psychological, occupational, physical, and others, and they are completely free of charge to their families, paid for solely by donations. The goal of Misioneros Del Camino is not just to provide a shelter to children in need and to feed them, nor is it to provide therapies to children with disabilities and send them on their way. The goal is to provide a home to these children and give them something they did not previously have. And that is the gift of love.

These weekly Snapshot Challenges are meant to showcase surrounding beauty in its natural form so that we can learn to better appreciate life’s treasurers. Mami Leo is an incredible woman with a beautiful soul. She dedicated her life to providing a future to the younger generations in Guatemala, and has changed the lives of thousands of children. Unfortunately, Mami Leo’s health has recently been declining, so I kindly ask that everyone please take a minute to pray for this remarkable heroine. Thank you all.

Me, My Brother, Father, and Mami Leo

Me, My Brother, Father, and Mami Leo

South Beach Food and Wine Festival

Two weeks ago, my mom took my brother, sister, and me to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and it was an incredible experience, to say the least. There were countless restaurants from all across South Florida passing out food and everywhere you turned, there were different bars passing out all kinds of alcoholic beverages. The assortment of food and drinks was so diverse that we had to take a short break after every few restaurants, just so that we could continue sampling everything there was to offer. We also encountered various celebrity chefs from Food Network that were in attendance at the event. Every hour of so, a different chef would give a cooking demonstration, so just in the short time we were there, we saw Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray, Aaron Sanchez, Guy Fieri, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Carla Hall. As you can see pictured below, we tried enough food to last us until next year’s festival! It was definitely an event to remember!

Last Day In Vienna, Austria

Today was our last day in Vienna, so we made sure to see whatever parts of the city we hadn’t yet seen. On our way out of the hotel, a collection of rare cars were actually driving past us on their way to a parade, so we got our own private a sneak peek!

We walked around the city, and came across a beautiful memorial, called Heldendenkmal, or the Soviet War Memorial built by the Soviets upon the liberation of Austria. In 1945, this memorial was built by the Soviet Army to commemorate the 17,000 Soviet soldiers who died during World War II in the Battle for Vienna. In 1955 when the troops withdrew and Austria became independent, a treaty was signed that included the fact that Heldendenkmal had to be maintained and could never be taken down. There have been various attempts to dismantle the memorial, but at the end of the day, historians have a point when they say that Heldendenkmal is important in remembering Vienna’s history.

We then walked through Stadtpark which is a beautiful park in the city, opened in 1862, making it Vienna’s first public park. Stadtpark has been called the richest park in Vienna due to the numerous monuments and statues that can be found throughout. The most well known monument in the park is one that commemorates Johann Strauss, an Austrian composer born near Vienna. One of his most famous works is “The Blue Danube,” which is the European Union’s longest river, found in Central and Eastern Europe. Other monuments in Stadtpark include ones for Franz Schubert, Franz Lehar and Robert Stolz, a marble statue of the painter, Hans Makart, bronze busts of composer, Anton Bruckner, Vienna Mayor, Andreas Zelinka, under whose governance the Stadtpark was laid out, and many more (

After walking around the city, our group went out to dinner to celebrate our last night in the city, which also happened to be my last night on the trip before having to return home. Everyone else traveled to Prague the following day, but I had to fly back before school started. Luckily for us, this night was a part of a Viennese three-day harvest festival from Friday until Sunday at midnight. During this time, locals wear colorful dresses, short pants, and high-socks and celebrate with one another, which was evident since all the bars were packed! There is also a wine festival celebrated in Vienna which takes place during the first Sunday of October, but unfortunately we weren’t going to be there to celebrate.

A side note/interesting fact that we learned was that there is a pipeline system that comes to Vienna from the alps, which is why the water is so pure. This makes the taste of the water much more delicious and it is said to be softer water too, which can be noted when taking a shower. Since the water is so pure, no purification systems are needed, and one can drink straight from the tap!

Our dinner consisted of all traditional Viennese food including traditional salads, spreads, wine and beer, chicken and veal schnitzel, and of course apple strudel for dessert! This was the perfect way to end an incredible trip to Poland, Hungary, and Austria, all throughout Central Europe.