Eat, Pray, Sleep

EatPrayLove JuliaMy inspiration, equal parts Julia and Eat, Pray, Love

This past weekend I took the stage for the second time as not just the producer and director of Listen To Your Mother Providence but also as a cast member. Below you’ll find the piece I read. I debated for a long time whether or not to be in the show. I knew I wanted to talk about my life right now, separated and getting divorced and single. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to be so publicly honest. I began writing and felt so uncomfortable as the words spilled out – there was an unpleasant tingle just under my skin, I felt restless and wanted to step away from the computer and when I read parts back to myself, my voice cracked. That’s how I knew I had to keep writing. Listen To Your Mother is a reminder that however unique your story is, there is someone out there who needs it as much as you do because they’re going through something incredibly similar. It’s about an audience of strangers bearing witness to my story but also about my story being a beacon for someone else to recognize their story is important and that they’re not alone. For you and for me – 

Eat, Pray, Sleep

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Those are the words that launched me into single motherhood.

Standing in our kitchen, no more unhappy than we’d been the last couple of years, doing the mundane tasks of marriage and parenthood,

“I can’t do this anymore.”

5 words is all it took to start the hardest year of my life.

Moments like these, the ones that drastically altar your life from one second to the next, they never happen like in the movies. There’s no change in music to foreshadow impending heartbreak or gut wrenching sobbing begging someone to go or stay or change their minds. Nope. It just kind of happens.

As it happened to me, 3 distinct thoughts ran through my mind.

First, I thought about how much relief I felt. I was relieved I wasn’t the one making the decision to separate, and eventually divorce. An immature part of me wanted to be free of blame for the emotional hurricane waiting for us around the bend. My relief made me realize I was willing to endure many more years of misery in the name of family. My relief put me face to face with how lonely , sad, and unhappy I truly was and how little I was willing to stand up for myself. My lack of action, though, was in itself a decision that holds as much weight as any of the other factors that contributed to the end of my marriage. With all my talk about authenticity and living out loud, my relief put a spotlight on the one area of my life where I couldn’t dare greatly, that I couldn’t pursue with vulnerability.

As quickly as thoughts of relief came to mind, my thoughts went in the opposite direction of deep and introspective to the frivolous and silly thought of Disney World. I thought, “I’ve got to be the first one to take them to Disney.” Mature and logical, right? Despite my separation being as amicable as amicable can be when lives are torn apart and hearts are broken, fear still rears its ugly head. All the promises and dreams of “family” get shaky. What dreams seemed once owned by “us” feel left in limbo. And I know no one truly “owns” these dreams. We both harbor them with the same affection as before but shaky ground is ideal terrain for fear. And Disney, well, it’s a big, silly dream and that quick passing thought is a reminder that separation and divorce make rational human beings think of the most foolish things.

Case in point, my next thought was of Julia Roberts. I thought, “This is my Eat, Pray, Love moment. I get to start over, find myself a James Franco to distract myself, travel to Italy and India and Bali and, best of all, I get to find my own Javier Bardem. I envision Julia, with her iconic toothy grin, globetrotting, learning languages, meditating, finding herself. Quickly, I come back to reality – I’m a mom with two kids. This is not Eat, Pray, Love.

It’s more like Eat, Pray, Sleep. Or Eat, Pray, Torture Myself With Every Romantic Movie Under The Sun, then Sleep. Despite a desire to shed my old life and start a new, the mother in me could never drag her daughters along a soul searching journey around the world.  Someday we’ll travel the world together but certainly not to run away from our lives.

Since that fateful afternoon, I’ve learned a lot about single motherhood. It’s everything and nothing how I imagined.

Single motherhood is cradling my first born in my arms as her body heaves while she’s weeping over the news of the separation. She’s 6 and barely fits in my lap.

Single motherhood is getting flooded with messages from friends offering their support and love and their own stories of love and loss. They are friends I see everyday and friends I haven’t seen in over a decade.

Single motherhood is crying at a stop light when Pink comes on the radio crooning, “we’re not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again.” I held onto those lyrics for a long time before things “officially” fell apart.

Single motherhood is crying when John Legend comes on the radio serenading me with, “Cause all of me, loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.” And I cry because I realize despite all the heartbreak, I’m still a woman who believes in and hopes for love.

Single motherhood is talking on my cell phone…again, that’s talking not texting…more than I have in the last 3 years. Laughing and crying on the phone with friends in some of the hardest and best conversations of my life.

Single motherhood is almost peeing my pants listening to my best friend trying to make me feel better about my chances for finding a man with heavy warnings about the perils of online dating. She insists I stay far, far away from the wackos online unless I’m looking for a serial killer.

Single motherhood is coming face to face with how I drown my sorrow. For some it might be a glass or two or a bottle of wine, for me it’s daily stops at the drive thru for an apple pie and a coke followed by an evening on the couch watching Sex and the City.

Single motherhood is kicking myself in the pants to get off the couch and get shit done. Because even though I want to disappear sometimes, I’ve got two pairs of wonder filled eyes watching my every move. So I put on a smile and go through the motions and one day they are no longer just motions but living.

Single motherhood is awkwardly talking to moms on the playground not knowing what to call my ex. Technically he’s still my husband but just calling him my ex sounds like I’m talking about a boyfriend. I’m trying to be honest, for everyone’s sake but mainly my own. So the easy answer is “their father.”

Single motherhood is learning to recognize tantrums that are tantrums and tantrums that are pieces of their broken hearts. Maybe she’s pissed about sharing, maybe she’s working through the weight of her whole world changing in less than a month.

Single motherhood is falling in love with my friends again – for listening when I need to let it all out and for telling me the hard truth when I need it.

Single motherhood is knowing sometimes I won’t be able to talk to my family and certain friends. They love me deeply but my natural inclination to gently chart this new path is too much a stranger to the anger they’re feeling.

Single motherhood is seeing that single motherhood is just as much about my own womanhood as it about being a mother.

Single motherhood is nothing like what I imagined. As a naïve kid I welcomed single motherhood, even sent it an invitation. I said if I wasn’t married by 30 ( my definition of old at the time ), I’d simply have a baby with a friend and be the single mom version of Carrie Bradshaw. Yeah, like Eat, Pray, Love, I was way off.

These are different lessons than I anticipated. Some harder than others, some way funnier than others, all of them exactly what I need to close one chapter and begin another. I won’t be following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps but I’ll take a word of wisdom from her, “This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”

eat pray love quote

Life is a grand story and every moment, good and bad, is a page that’s moving things along. This page is Eat, Pray, Sleep tomorrow, perhaps, Eat, Pray, Love. All that matters is that I keep on trying, broken heart after broken heart. It’s about always trying for something or else we’re not really living.


A word on the topic of separation, divorce and single parenthood. This is my experience as someone who feels deeply. I’ve met many people since becoming a single parent who have gone through their own separation and divorce or are going through it right now. I’ve learned we have a whole lot in common but we also differ in many ways. Maybe you’re the one who left or the one who got left, maybe there’s an unpleasant reason or perhaps there’s nothing major that broke the camel’s back (from first hand experience, this in many ways is harder than having a Reason), maybe you’ve moved on quickly, maybe (like me) you’re ready to enter a convent until the kids are in college, maybe you’re going through the emotions now, maybe you’re going through the motions now, maybe, maybe, maybe. What I’m getting at is be gentle if you know someone, an adult or child, heck even yourself, going through a separation or divorce. It blows big time and all we need is friends willing to bear witness not ignore the elephant in the room. 

The A-to-Z of Me

I spent some time yesterday walking down memory lane on the blog. I read old posts, went through old drafts. I learned 3 things –

1. I often don’t remember what I write. When I reread my writing, I’m always surprised the words are mine, a pleasant surprise usually.
2. While I don’t post often, I’m proud of the things I do post. Better to post with meaningful words less often than post more often with less to say.
3. I’ve got a few projects I started but later abandoned, some rightfully so and others need resuscitating. I love some of those projects. So a few of those are coming back soon (hope you’ll join me!).

I also realized the blog’s been kind of heavy lately what with all the talk of separation and divorce. So today something a little light, a little on the fun side inspired by a post I read ages ago.

A-to-Z of Carla

A. Age: 33
B. Bed size: King
C. Chore that you hate: Ugh, putting away laundry. I’d rather scrub a toilet ten times.
D. Dogs: Yes, a giant Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Luella (Lu, Lulu, Louisa, Lula). She is a giant, way more dog than I ever imagined myself owning. I always thought myself a dog person but I’ve learned there’s a huge difference between being a dog lover and a dog owner. I’ve had to grow into the owner part. Love her to pieces and the comfort she’s brought to my girls and I during all the madness.
E. Essential start to your day: Warm water with lemon, a little namaste-amen-ommmmmm for my holy temple
F. Fear: That’ll I’ll never write those books I’ve always wanted to write. That my daughters will grow up and want nothing to do with me. That I’ll never find love again. That a mouse will jump on me. That I won’t travel to the all the places I dream of. That I’ll swallow a bee (not really but kinda).
G. Greatest achievement:  Producing and directing Listen To Your Mother Providence. Seriously, the most inspiring, challenging and kick ass thing I’ve done in ages.
H. Height: 5’1″ – I’m a shorty.
I. Instruments you play: Technically, I can play anything, right? I took lessons in piano growing up so I feel comfortable around it but I don’t actually play the piano, or any instrument for that matter, with any regularity. However, I do sing with wild abandon in my car.
J. Job title: Office manager, producer, director, writer
K. Kids: Two dynamite little ladies almost 5 and almost 7, my sun and moon and stars and sky.
L. Love: I believe in it deep into my bones. I’m a lover of love and despite my current heartbreak, always will be, a hopeful hopeless romantic. And right now, I’ve got love to spare – my girls, my family and an incredible circle of friends who never cease to surprise me.
M. Mother’s name: Cirila though for some reason after arriving in the US from Cuba she became Racquel.
N. Nicknames: I gots none. Every once in awhile someone will call me Carlita (which I adore) or Chinita (a childhood nickname that reminds me of Jersey & my grandfather). Then there was the time in grade school when I had a short, poofy hair do and I was called Jesse for a short stint because my hair resembled Uncle Jesse’s in Full House.
O. Overnight hospital stays:  Each time I gave birth. That’s it.
P. Pet peeves: People who are rude. People who invade your personal space without permission. When I let a driver go and they don’t say thank you.
Q. Quote from a movie: “Nobody puts baby in the corner.” Duh 😉 Close second? “How are things down under? Blossoming, I hope.” Can you guess? “Winter must be cold for people with no warm memories.” The original and that other one I love. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Bam.
R. Right or left handed: Right tighty
S. Siblings: Only child plus several half sisters I’ve never met.
U. Underdog moment: I’m only just now getting back in shape so when I took a cross training class with some heavy hitters who are in incredible shape, I was convinced I’d be passed out on the floor. I survived, though, and loved it. At the end, they showed us how to scale a wall and much to my own surprise, I did it! One big jump and push off the wall and I was coming down the other side.
V. Vegetable you hate: Beets.
W. What makes you run late: Being Cuban.
X. X-files: I’ve had exes who looked at me like I was magic. All these years later I still remember what that felt like. I was cheated on once, in the ever emotional high school years, and it felt awful. Hmm, other than that one, they’ve all been good eggs.
Y. Yummy food that you make: I make amazing maduros (fried plantains, if you’re wondering) and killer rice. I can be a great cook but it’s not something that inspires me right now. I’m a great baker and sweets always inspire me. Brownies are my speciality.
Z. Zoo animal: I love them all, really. Here’s the thing. Zoos always make me feel like I’m at Jurassic Park and there’s always the possibility the animals might be realistic looking robots. So I just really, really want to pet them to be sure so the more exotic the animal, the more skeptical I am and the more I’m all sorts of googly eyed for them. 

Your turn. A-to-Z of you, por favor.

A Divorce Is A Divorce Is A Divorce

Language is simultaneously liberating and limiting. When you finally put into words an experience or a feeling, it goes from being this intangible “thing” to something real, at least for me that’s true. After all, it’s the reason I write, to make sense of this thing called life. At the same time, words can limit you.

Take for example the word divorce. Up until a few weeks ago, it was the only term I’d ever known for the process I’m currently undergoing with my soon to be ex-husband. It’s a heavy word and with each utterance reminds me of how immensely it sucks. However, “divorce” fails to really capture the complexity of the situation –  there’s him, there’s me, then our two daughters, there’s custody, there’s a visitation schedule, there’s co-parenting, there’s single motherhood, there’s being single, then my feelings about everything, my daughters’ feelings about everything, and, of course, the constant desire to just be done with it, to be at the other side of this very hectic time in our lives. So “divorce” oversimplifies a very multi-faceted process.

Imagine my delight when Gwyneth Paltrow announced she was separating from her husband, Chris Martin, and called the process “conscious uncoupling.” It sounds like something that floats down from the clouds, a stray feather off cupid’s wing, come to gently rock your marriage into eternal slumber. It made my unexciting divorce seem like this sacred shared process of unhinging two lives into two very whole, separate and thriving entities. And don’t get me wrong, I will come out of this with my own whole, separate and thriving life, and wish the same for my ex, but realistically we’re each going to accomplish that on our own. 

I’ve come to realize perhaps being limited by our language isn’t always a bad idea. Maybe we need words that box us in and put us face to face with the unpleasantries of life. The same way we need words that set us free, we need words that give us a good slap across the face. I have to get real with myself. What I’m experiencing right now is much less kumbaya than holding hands with my ex into this next chapter in our lives.

While conscious uncoupling seems to capture my very crunchy, touchy feely, let’s-talk-about-our-feelings philosophy about life and love, what I’m going through right now is a fucking divorce.

I liken the divorce process to the crazy winter we’ve just had – cold days, warm days, sunny days, miserably freezing days, snow days, rain days, summer in January  days. I’ve had good days, bad days, amazing days, craptastic cry in my car days, brought to my knees in gratitude days, even ho-hum ordinary days. Most days are fine, good and great really, but the emotional process doesn’t stop just because I have a smile on my face.  The road is bound to be a little rough when things come to an end, especially when matters of the heart are concerned. The poetry of “conscious uncoupling” does the mourning process after a marriage ends a disservice. It coats everything in a layer of zen that’s uncalled for, at least for me. I want to feel the emotions that come along with divorce. I want the good and the bad because I know the only way to get to the other side isn’t around or over or under but through.

So conscious uncoupling is a lovely concept for Gwyneth. If it’s poetic language I’m looking for, there are always the years leading up to our separation, and eventually our divorce, which were a bit of unconscious uncoupling. Right now, I’ll take divorce with all its jagged edges. It’s a reminder that it only gets better from here. I’m going through a divorce, a chapter in my life, and I won’t be defined by it. It’s not pretty or flowery or graceful. It’s heartbreak and it’s ugly. Luckily, the heart, much like the phoenix, has a knack for rising from the ashes.

Because much is lost in interpretation, and all reading is interpretation, I want to be clear this, and anything I write about divorce, is about the journey my heart is mapping during this experience.

A Letter To My Daughters On Feeling Entitled


It took me almost 3 decades to realize I suffer from the good girl syndrome. It afflicts me with requiring permission to pursue the things I truly want. Permission from anyone and no one in particular. I was taught the world was mine for the taking but I had to be polite about it. I’ll be damned if I pass that on to you.

I want you to feel entitled.

I want you to feel entitled to every opportunity you’re willing to work hard for. I want you to know nothing is beyond or above or out of your reach. I want you to know nothing about you, inside or out, hinders your ability to try your best. Nothing about you makes you less worthy of the “American Dream” or whatever dream guides you.

I want you to know you are entitled to all the bounties of this existence.

I want you to feel entitled to things big and small. Entitled to follow your gut, your instincts, your hunches without explanation. Entitled to have spectacular years and years that get you to the next spectacular year. Entitled to like people and love people and ignore people and cut people off who don’t deserve you.

I want you to feel entitled to be happy. Entitled to be fulfilled and satisfied and still hungry for more. I want you to know your desires deserve exploration regardless if the road ends in triumph or defeat.

I want you to know your first breath was the ultimate, and only, green light for pursuing the life you want. And more than anything, I want you to be entitled to be you, wholly and truly, absolutely nothing less than all of you.

And I’ll be here living my own journey alongside yours, you inspiring me to kick permission to the curb and me inspiring you to live out loud right this second.



One Question To Nurture Self-Love In Our Daughters

I’m on a mission to raise daughters with a deep sense of self, a profound love and respect for themselves. I start with myself. I watch the words I use to talk about myself. I make sure they witness me in pursuit of my desires. I care for myself as much as I care for them. I focus on our family culture. There are shows and toys and products not allowed in our home because they don’t promote the kind of self-worth any woman should aspire to have. We pick books and films with strong female characters. We have firm family rules -speak, touch and act in kindness towards everyone including yourself. And more recently, I’ve started very directly addressing the issue of self-love with my girls. It happens at bedtime.

Bedtime is sacred in our house. It’s a sequence of carefully orchestrated rituals that lull my girls to dreamland. There are some standard components which have stood the test of time from their early baby days to now – always a story, always the same sweet whisper in their ear, the addition of a song comes and goes with the seasons (late summer nights, not so much…early winter nights, yes, please), massages are a favorite, a candle always adds to the magic. Dearest to me, though, is the time we spend before bed, talking.

Every night, my girls and I talk about what we’re grateful for and what good we’ve done for others that day. It’s a practice which leaves us all a bit warm and fuzzy inside. I love knowing they’ll be lying their heads to sleep with thoughts of how blessed and kind they are. I also believe our ritual allows them to learn to reflect and see the goodness in every day and in themselves.

On more than one occasion, my daughters have given thanks for themselves. Which made me realize bedtime questions are a powerful way to encourage the values I want them to embrace, especially self-love. With this in mind, I added a new question to the mix –

What do you love about yourself?

We’ve been doing this for about a month now and the answers are always a sweet surprise. My daughters love their artistic ability, their loose teeth, their dance moves, their singing voices, their assertiveness, their contribution to making our family great, the silly song they made up, their imaginations, their reading ability, their love for math. And when they seem to be stuck, I lead by example. I love my curiosity, my arms that allow me to hold my girls, my ability to write with passion, my smile, my baking skills, my role in teaching my girls to read, my lips that get to kiss them.

raising confident daughters

Little by little, night by night, I want them to know there is never any shortage of things to love about themselves. I want this to not just be a value we talk about in theory. I want them to get in the habit of reminding themselves why they rock. I want that habit to turn into something like their breath which happens on autopilot. Mean girls and misogynist media and so many other outside forces are going to try and bring them down throughout their lives. I don’t want their own voices to ever add to that noise. So I work hard at showing them how to love themselves. I want to be sure they’re rooting for themselves as much as I am. 

How do you encourage your daughters (and sons) to love themselves?

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