NDM203 (5 Posts)

Kaylene lives in Cape Cod, MA. She is married to her best friend and is the blessed mom of five beautiful children who range in age from kindergarten to college. Family and friends began calling her "The Memory Maker" years ago because she pours her heart and soul into creating perfectly magical memories for her children. She is a proud member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel where she gets to spread pixie dust every day. She was 12 years old on her first trip to WDW, but it wasn’t until she had her own children that Disney truly captured her heart. Disney provides her family with priceless opportunities to create timeless memories together, and she is passionate about helping other families do the same. You can follow along with her quest to make every day a memory at memorymakermom.com.

Copyright: Disney

When I was a young girl growing up in Havana, I often overheard my parents talking about leaving the country. These conversations were conducted in low hushed tones. The words coming out of their mouths were barely whispered. Most of our relatives resided in the United States while my parents had remained in Cuba after the Revolution. We were not allowed to leave the country, not even when my paternal grandmother died in Chicago. At the time, leaving the Communist island-nation was almost impossible. It wasn’t until I was fifteen-years-old that I was able to immigrate to the United States. After that, it would take several more years before my parents and I would be reunited again. My parents’ dream of seeing the entire family together again didn’t become a reality until I was a young adult. But they never gave up on their dream and neither did I. Growing up in Cuba wasn’t easy. I used to escape the harsh realities of daily life through avid reading. Greek mythology was by far my favorite genre during those early years. I was thoroughly acquainted with the tale of King Midas’ golden touch, the story of Pegasus the flying horse, the amazing feats of mighty Hercules, and Odysseus’ fantastic and thrilling adventures.

As a child I remember hearing my father say, “Hay que perseverar para lograr los sueños,” which means, “You must persevere to achieve your dreams.” My mother used to tell me, “¡Nunca te des por vencida!” Loosely translated, “Don’t ever give up!” Their combined wisdom was deeply implanted in the recesses of my subconscious. I thank God for my parents and their message of perseverance! Being a young teenager attempting to acculturate to my new country while learning a new language and experiencing hardships was difficult for sure. There were many times I felt like giving up, particularly in High School. Entering the work force while simultaneously attending college, becoming a Naturalized American Citizen, and bringing my parents over from Cuba weren’t effortless endeavors either. I was only twenty-one-years-old when my parents were finally able to immigrate to the United States. By that time I was thoroughly and fully assimilated into my new culture, but once they arrived I had to go through the process of rediscovering my Cuban roots. It was the only way I could truly reconnect with my parents again. I didn’t give up on that process and neither did they. Sometimes when I reflect back on those years, it feels as if they happened to someone else. It’s as if I’m watching a movie about another person’s life experience. The main protagonist is a complete stranger to me, but then I realize that without those tough experiences I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.

I remember when Disney’s Hercules first came out in theaters. I went to see the movie with a friend of mine and her two young daughters. As an avid Disney enthusiast and great fan of Greek mythology, I couldn’t pass it up! Hercules is a hysterically funny movie, but there are some really important and profound life lessons to learn from this film too. In one moving scene Phil, Hercules’ trainer and friend, tells Hercules that, “Giving up is for rookies.” While watching this movie it dawned on me that my parents’ message many years earlier had been the exact same one. Always persevere! Don’t ever quit or give up! No matter how insurmountable the odds or how dark the circumstances may seem, we must keep trying to do our best. What other choice do we really have? To borrow one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Walt Disney himself, we have to “keep moving forward.” I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t encountered challenges along the way. But we have to go through difficult experiences to truly become emotionally mature individuals. There is no getting around this! Trying to circumvent the process is what an immature person would do. It’s what a rookie would do. It would rob us of the growth that happens when we go through the painful process of overcoming great hardships.

It’s been several years since I left Havana, and since then I’ve experienced many more challenges in my life. I’ve become a mother, and one blessed with a special needs child. However, my own parents’ wisdom combined with Mr. Disney’s advice will continue to propel me toward the future. My hope is to convey the same message of perseverance to my children. I wish to impart this great wisdom on them as they grow into adulthood. While they have thankfully been spared the traumatic events associated with immigration, they will certainly confront several other challenges and overcome many hardships throughout the course of their lives. But I have faith that, just when they begin to feel like quitting, they too will be reminded that, “Giving up is for rookies!”

Contributed by: Ritzy McCarthy Ritzy is a DDL Guest Parenting Blogger and proud member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Visit the Walt Disney World Moms Panel for help planning your Magical Trip. She is not a Disney employee. The postings on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent Disney’s positions or opinions.


  1. RItzy,

    Love the post. You know everyday of getting up and say I will continue live for my dream. I know there are days I feel so mentally, phyically & emotionally drained that I can no longer move forward, but it is great words from others like yourself and the experiances in life that let me stop dig a little deeper and find a great desire to move forward!

  2. Hi Shelley, I’m very glad to hear my words served to encourage you today. Thank you for sharing yourself here with us. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. May you be blessed with great strength and a spirit of perseverance. ((((HUGS))))

  3. Ritzy, this is such an inspiring story. My Grandparents lived in Cuba when my Dad and my Aunt were very small. They had a very successful factory there, they even had servants living at their house! They actually fled Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs and started over in the United States. My Dad was so small that he remembers very little and my Grandparents didn’t like to talk about it so I don’t know as much as I’d like to know about their story. I’m so thankful that they never gave up! Thank you so much for sharing your story and reminding us all to persevere!

  4. Hi Jacky! Wow! I had no idea your family had lived in Cuba! It truly is a small world after all! Don’t you wish your grandparents had share more about their experiences with your dad? If only they had kept a diary! Thanks for sharing this with me. We need to meet up next time I’m at WDW! 🙂

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