Participate in Your Life: Meet Luisa

Super proud of the lady I am featuring today. I have seen her tackle life head on with grace and consistency. She is deliberate, passionate and full of goodness. From our late night chats about books and life to being my partner-in-crime as we ran a neighbor produce co-op from our garages, she has taught me a lot. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak into her life!

Would you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am a 34 year old woman that has chosen to wear a lot of hats during her limited time on this earth. I am a dreamer, an optimist, a stubborn thinker, a behaviorist, a multi-tasker and a terrible procrastinator (but my brain performs better under pressure).

I was raised in Guatemala as an only child with two motherly figures, my mother and my grandmother. They were highly influential in my life and while I was influenced by them, I am also more complex than that. I can’t help but think of that African proverb that says: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” That statement couldn’t be more true in my life. As I reflected on the way I was raised, I know that my mother’s example was fundamental to the way I see the world and my life decisions, but I can’t ignore the many people that have contributed to building my character.

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Luisa and her mom

When I was ready to attend college, I left Guatemala to move to Utah to attend the University of Utah. There I met my husband Jason who is one of eleven children with two sets of parents. We hit it off right away and got married. Due to my sibling-less-ness upbringing, I always knew that I wanted to have at least two kids, which worked perfectly for my husband’s “the best of both worlds” family plan. Jason and I have been blessed with the opportunity to raise two sons, Cedric (8) and Caleb (4), and we couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out during this twelve-year adventure.

You have gone back to school to finish your undergraduate degree. Why was it important for you personally to complete your education?
Have you ever heard people say “Opportunities are everywhere”? When I think of opportunities, I always worry about passing on a really great thing. I like to consider all options if possible, but to make a decision I have a somewhat primitive response. I always ask myself two questions: Does is make me happy? Does it affect someone else’s happiness? There is only one combined response that holds the key to the ultimate decision. The key is always Yes/No. The answer can never be Yes/Yes, No/No, No/Yes, blank or maybe. It is really simple, and it works every time. Having a master key is my infallible plan A when it comes to opportunities.

When it comes to school, there were a lot of reasons for wanting to go to school but ultimately it was about my word’s worth. I have always held myself to higher standards and while I don’t consider myself necessarily inflexible, I do not like to go back on my word. When I decided to take a break from school, I said to myself that I would go back and finish later.

Later became ten years and I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to go back. In fact, I had just given birth to my son Caleb. My aunt was visiting from out of state and asked if I planned to have more kids. I knew I was done having babies, so I told
her that I had plans to go back to school. I remember that moment vividly. I was able to visualize myself at a fork in the road of life and I suddenly knew the path I wanted to take.  I will never forget what happened next. She grabbed my almost two-month old, put him in the car seat and said “Ok, let’s go.” I looked at her and I knew we were on the same page.  I went to grab my purse and some paperwork—that I had ready but was filed away—and we drove to the University of Utah to pay for readmission, and sign up for financial aid and career counseling. The rest is now history.

I admit that finding balance is by far the most difficult thing that I do on a daily basis. School has been a balancing act for the last four years. I have sacrificed social gatherings, trips and even friendships, but on the other hand, I have been able to stay home with the kids, participate in their classroom and extracurricular activities, all while attending school full time and keeping a 3.7 gpa (yay me!). There are several things that contribute to my daily happiness and I have learned to prioritize them and not take them for granted even when other things are pulling for my attention.

In addition to completing your degree and raising your children, you love to read. I think at one point you were reading almost a book a day. How has this hobby led to pursuing further interests, networking or opportunities for you?
Reading has always been for me something more than just a hobby for me, reading has been a medium or tool of sorts to connect with other people.  I guess some people will call it “networking,” but to me that sounds like work, and getting to know people and their passions is not as frivolous and calculating as networking.

In recent years, as the publishing industry has been going through changes, authors and readers have been able to interact more directly through social media and online. Through this, I have been very fortunate to get to know many talented people that have made their dreams come true by becoming their own publishing house.

As I have made time for reading discussions, providing feedback and engaging in other people’s pursuit of their dreams, I have been able to become part of a team that makes book publishing possible. I first started providing critiques to authors, then I started to help with plot development and consistency, eventually I moved onto copy-editing, and lately I have gone back to story development. The whole experience has been really fulfilling and, on top of that, people are willing to pay me for it.

I once read something that said, “If you want to become something, all you have to do is decide that you are, and go about it.” That phrase really stood out for me. In our lives we often fall into many roles without a certain title or a required diploma. I often reflect on the times I have felt inadequate to do something but I have started anyway and tried. And looking back, I realize those were actually the starting points of who I am today. So just decide and do it, you don’t need to wait for others permission. I have found that if things are right and I want them bad enough, I find a way to make them happen.

What brings you meaning in life?
Being happy. Not just being content or ok with my life but actually being deliberately happy. The pursuit of happiness is something that has always been central to my existence. Once upon a time, when I was younger, I kept wondering if I had a special purpose or a special calling that would make me feel accomplished. I pondered about this question over many years, and I searched for answers everywhere. This need for knowledge led me to be open minded so I could recognize an answer if it ever came my way. I suppose there’s a long story about how that answer came about, but to be honest, the long story is not important, the only thing that matters is that I was prepared to receive it when I came across two Mormon missionaries who unknowingly provided that answer.

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they may have joy.”

I will never forget the moment I heard those words. It was a moment of clarity and truth.

What are two things you do every day (or most days) that contribute to your success?
Make personal time and contemplate something.When you make personal time, you are giving a gift to yourself.  For me, that means getting up early in the morning so I can enjoy an hour at the gym before everyone is up. Getting up is hard, but surprisingly that just adds more value to that hour of personal time.

Contemplating something each day goes hand in hand with making personal time. Sometimes I become so fixated with things in life that I disconnect from everything around me. One way that helps me re-engage is that I take pictures. Sometimes is a picture of my shoes; sometimes I get to capture a beautiful sunset. Regardless of the picture subject, through the lens I get to take a moment to contemplate everything around me.

What are some of your personal dreams up the upcoming year?
Even though I am a dreamer, I am not a planner. Mostly because I am not very good at following plans. I like to throw out ideas and see if any of them turn up to be any good, but this is my last year in school, so the main idea this year is to graduate! After 4 years in school, I will be graduating in Psychology with a minor in Nutrition. Maybe in the future I will pursue a Masters in Nutrition but for now I am taking it slow and enjoying the journey.

This year I hope to make every day count. I am often asked if I am writing a book or more specifically when am I going to write a book. I always tell people that maybe someday I will but honestly, I am already writing a story. Every day I am writing my own story, even when it’s not being recorded on paper, maybe one day I’ll get to do something really great and people will want to know about my life. If that day comes, I promise to write the most entertaining autobiography.  In the meantime I’ll go about creating it.

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