The family ties – they just got stronger


It may not look like much now, but back in the 1940s and ’50s, this was one in a series of my grandfather’s grocery store locations in Corpus Christi, Texas. My very thoughtful uncle took us on a family history tour of my old hometown — by far, one of my favorite parts of our trip. This little tour deserves a post all its own.

I’ve been trying to figure out this post since before I went out of town a couple of weeks ago. My conclusion: There’s so much to cover, it might just have to be more than one post.

What started out as a long-weekend trip to the Texas coast for a genealogy conference ended up being a full-blown week of a family trip, complete with my mom and my husband and filled with visits with family old and new.

I couldn’t have asked for more (except for a few more visits with family and a couple of good friends).

My biggest takeaway: Don’t let too much time go between visits with family.

Ahp, ahp, ahp, ahp, ahp! I know what you’re thinking.

Who cares if they don’t come to you? Who cares if you do all the traveling? Go to them. It’s my broken record, but we’ve get one shot at family, so we need to make it count.

I’ve had this inner struggle so many times, even holding mini-grudges because no one wants to come see us in beautiful Colorado (whaaa?!).  It’s not really that – it’s that people are comfortable where they are and have a hard time breaking out of their routines.

In the end, though, I know I’ll regret not seeing my family when the opportunity was there to enjoy them. So basically, suck it up, Nydia. That was my lesson. Because in the end…nothing else matters.

So. About the conference.

Not exactly a Zombies convention (whew!)

It was fun to be with people of kindred spirit at the Spanish American Genealogy Association’s (SAGA) 37th Annual Texas State Hispanic Genealogical and Historical Conference (that’s a mouthful, no?).

I mean, we were all there because we were interested in our dead people. Not in a Zombie-fest kind of way, but with a real desire to honor our ancestors by learning more about them and their lives – and how we connect to them.

Many shared the interests of looking deeper into their family trees, learning about everything from:

  • the context of their ancestors’ lives through the study of history,
  • the evolution of the Spanish language in the Americas, to
  • Jewish heritage among Latinos (it’s true – I’m one of them),
  • land grant research techniques and, the big one:
  • DNA (even though there was only one DNA session – surely to grow next year).

Pardon the big ol’ chairs photo-bombing as earrings. Wanted to show off this hand-stitched masterpiece of a blouse.

I also bought this beautiful Oaxacan blouse from a pair of really talented and inspiring women, both retired educators and administrators, who showed the audience creative ways to pass along our culture and heritage to future generations. This was one of their imports.

Belonging gives us a sense of family

It was important for me to come away with a stronger sense of belonging to a group with shared interests, so I joined Las Villas del Norte, a genealogy group with ties to northeastern Mexico and South Texas, the originating areas of my recent ancestors. Coupled with my membership in the Facebook groups Mexican Genealogy and We Are Cousins, it’s easy to say these groups feel like family. No – familia.

I also may (re)join Los Bexareños Genealogical and Historical Society after, what, a 25-year membership lapse? Based out of San Antonio, their study of the families of Coahuila, Mexico gave my research the boost it needed early on, and their research into northeastern Mexico is quite extensive.

Remember print and books and stuff?

One thing I heard at the conference is that much genealogical info can be still be found only in books and other print volumes. It may be more time-consuming in terms of research, but it could be crucial to breaking down brick walls. Duly noted.

One very cool thing I learned, in a first-time meeting: Boy, can strong family features jump lines! My mom and I met a not-too-distant cousin from her side of the family – and this very kind gentlemen looked so much like one of my brothers, it nearly floored me. Now we’re connected with a part of the family we’d never known before.

We met several other “new” relatives, too. I’ll talk more about them in another post.

It was a far more productive trip than I’d imagined – a real gift. I hope writing about it will help me sort it all out.

Have/have-not, all rolled up into one


I worked a job once that I hated but that I was really good at. Ever had a job like that? It’s a very weird feeling to go to work each morning and feel it will instantly bore you, and then get a compliment for it.

In this particular job, I had developed a plan my boss really loved. So much so that he told me, “Hey, you’re really good at this stuff.” I’m sure I smirked my best smirk. Not strategic, but hey, I was in my 20s and my “filter” was far from developed. Might still be.

After I gave him that look, he pensively and disappointedly said, “You know, I honestly can’t tell if your glass is half-empty or half-full.”

Our meeting was over, and I shuffled out to my office, silently bawling my eyes out. He’d called my bluff.

Maybe it’s turning 50 (aren’t you going to welcome me to AARP?) or maybe it’s having gone through some humbling experiences in the last few years, but I really think I spent much of my earlier years dwelling on what I didn’t have, rather than on what I did have.

Today, I don’t have the fast-paced career or the bigger paycheck or the jam-packed inbox (I don’t mind this one at all), and I’m not in the middle of all the action like I used to be. Well, not at work, anyway.

But you know what I am in the middle of? I’m in the middle of my own life for a change. I have a sense of calm and peace and availability for relationships that I didn’t have when I was in the rat race. I have time for my family, especially in a pinch. I just took a trip with my mom and husband that would have seemed logistically near impossible before. Heck, before, I’d never have dreamed of taking a vacation at all.

I just wish I’d spent more time in my earlier years valuing what I had, rather than what I didn’t have. I feel like the trip we just took opened my eyes to that, giving me a new perspective on how precious life and relationships are.

I’m figuring out how I’ll recap this treasure hunt of a trip we just took, but I can give you a hint about what I’ll be writing about soon: Let’s just say I’m finally getting to know Braulio.

Ahhh. That’s much better.



Photo credit: Bill Davenport


Oh, how I have missed this blog. It’s time for a big, fat, bear hug.

So many things to catch up on, but the low-down since my last post goes like this:

  • I lost and have kept off 20 lbs with Whole30 (yayyy!). I feel great.
  • I’m playing better tennis than ever (double-yay). But I still lose a lot. Oops. (Boooo!)
  • Work is going well, and I’m grateful to be both busy and challenged. The travel was heavy at first but has slowed a lot this year, so that’s been nice. Still, there hasn’t been a lot of time to blog in the last year.
  • Braulio still eludes me (Ay, ay, ay! When will I find this man?!), but I have made exciting new connections that should help me fill in many blanks. 

I do feel like I’ve grown in the past year – from picking my battles (most of the time, anyway) to learning to focus better on details to being more forgiving and less impatient.

Hitting life milestones like anniversaries and big birthdays has also had a big bearing on how I view just about everything — time, work, faith, family, friends. We get one round at life here, so we need to make it count. These priorities aren’t new, but they are much more precious to me now.

So, it’s all good. I feel better now than I did at 40. I’m happier, in better shape and much healthier. In many ways, I feel younger now than I did then. And I feel like I have a life — a really good life. For that, I am more grateful than words can describe.

With that … it’s time to start writing again.

Whole30: The end of the tunnel


For me, Whole30 has been more about focusing on finding answers. So this image represents coming into the light more than coming out of the dark.

Well, it’s down to the wire.

Down to the end of my Whole30, anyway. I can’t even begin to tell you how worthwhile this process has been for me. What a gift. (I didn’t feel that way during the first week.)

Between all the prepping and cooking and what I’m going to call foraging – not to mention starting a new job – my plate has been full in more ways than one.

So now that my Whole30 is nearly over, I decided it was time for an update.

Actually, it’s not really over until I’ve reintroduced key foods back into my diet. So in another 10-12 days, I’ll really be done. And this is where it gets really interesting.

Po-tay-to, po-tah-toh

One example of how this works comes from my recent decision to take in more white potatoes. I was looking for sustained energy for tennis and, let’s face it: I missed something filling and starchy.

Anyway, last year, the Whole30 authors allowed potatoes into the diet, however reluctantly. In the last few days I found myself eating more of them, and it became very clear very fast that they are not my friends.

So we are breaking up.

Not the one for me

It took about three days to realize my fatigue, mental fog and pronounced aching in my joints (which I hadn’t felt as much since before Whole30) were all tied to my increased potato consumption. That’s how it is with Whole30 – and this was with on-plan food.

Other things I’ve learned on Whole30
  • So many new cooking techniques. If Whole30 doesn’t make you creative in the kitchen, I’m not sure what does. It’s been great in teaching me new things – flavorful and easy.
  • I’m stronger than I thought. Actually, I wanted results from this so badly, it became my sole motivation, and that beats will power any day. So it was easy to say no when I was around off-plan foods.
  • Eating out is really hard on Whole30. Many say it’s impossible, but in the right restaurants – sometimes mom-and-pop shops and at least at our local Carrabba’s – the staff will happily custom-make your meal. Our Carrabba’s went out of their way to make sure my Johnny Rocco salad didn’t contain any sugars or dairy. Made my meal so much more special.
Things I have fallen in love with since starting Whole30:
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut milk
  • Sweet potatoes
  • My new energy level
  • Looser-fitting clothes
  • New lifestyle-changing knowledge that is likely to help me sustain gradual weight loss over time
  • Good, healthy food. I told the hubby today that not only am I eating better than ever, I’m enjoying what I eat more than ever. Not too shabby, eh?
Bringing it all back?

Not really. As part of my reintroduction, I am on the fence about how much I really miss alcohol and dairy.

But my smart hubby reminded me that since I’ll be traveling soon, I should know how I’m going to handle the dairy, at least.

So over the next 10 or so days, I’ll be testing the following:

  1. Legumes (I can’t wait to eat edamame and hummus again.)
  2. Non-gluten grains (Man, I miss me some oatmeal.)
  3. Dairy? (I don’t miss it at all, but it might be my only coffee creamer option when traveling over the next few weeks. I guess thin-crust pizza with some cheese would be nice, too.)
  4. Gluten grains

Before Whole30, I was like the Pillsbury dough girl. I have always loved bread and bready carbs. Now, I might appreciate them now and then, but not every day and hopefully never again in the quantities I consumed them before. This decision will just make me feel better – pretty much a no-brainer.

As a way to discover what foods work and don’t work for you, I strongly recommend you and your medical provider look into Whole30.

While I always hate claims like “let us change your life,” I’ve gotta say: This one really did.

Whole30 Week 1: Feeling great!

I have a feeling going into Week 2 of my Whole30 will start to open up some mental margin to think about and do normal things like work out more regularly, clean house, do laundry and, heck – blog and find my dead people!

It sounds ridiculous, but this Whole30 thing has taken a serious chunk of time – at least at the outset.

Note to self: If I had to do it over again, I’d pre-cook meals or staples before starting Whole30.

First: Lessons learned

My challenges so far have been mostly logistical. I’d pre-cooked some different foods during my first week, but when I ran out of food Saturday after we’d come home from church, I ran out good – everything at the same time.

¡Ay, ay, ay!

At this rate, I feel like I’ll learn at least one valuable lesson each week. Hopefully, I’ll learn each lesson only once.


My meals looked a lot the same last week, but they were colorful, balanced and super-yummy.

Anyway, the way I’ve done meal prep so far is to pre-cook different meats so I wouldn’t feel like my choices were terribly restricted – basically, so I could feel as “normal” as possible about food choices. This was my way of looking at Whole30 as a set of guidelines rather than a bunch of really strict rules.

I prepped chicken and steak last week, adding sweet potatoes (my go-to staple for sustained energy, especially on tennis days), hash browns and sautéed veggies for starters.

I also tried these awesome, Whole30-compliant hot dogs in case I get caught in a pinch. That’s a big deal for someone who doesn’t eat hot dogs.

This week, I have pulled pork and will also cook up some ground beef, both for use in lettuce wraps, salads or possibly even stuffed peppers. I’ve laid off the hard-boiled eggs at the weekend but use them a lot during the work week. Tomorrow, I may take them to work as part of a niçoise salad I can assemble there.

Pre-fab recipes vs pre-cooked staples

I admit, my approach may be a little too shoot-from-the-hip for some people. There are meal plan calendars out there, if you need more structure.

My hubby tells me I need to make a bunch of recipes from the Whole30 book, which I totally agree with – once I feel more secure about having choices in pre-cooked meats.

Feels like I’m rounding the corner

I feel like things are changing. I know I’ve already lost water weight – not a permanent loss (bummer), but it does give me more physical comfort.

I’m really hoping the ketosis switch is about to go off, if it hasn’t already:

  • I noticed the other day my headaches have stopped, so I feel better and better every day.
  • My hubby tells me my energy level seems to be going up, too. Also a good sign.
  • I’m forgetting about food or hunger now, and that’s new. My energy remains strong now until my body tells me it’s time to eat.

It’s also important to be learning the type of planning that works for me – and what I’d do differently if I did this again. But I’m mostly hoping the main switch that goes off is one of lifestyle change.

It’s not that we ate horribly before, but aside from learning new cooking techniques, I also love learning how to make simple things, full of flavor and healthy benefits. Yes, the grocery bill has gone up, but so has my energy level. That’s the best part so far.

I can also feel my clothes fitting looser (I’m not allowed to weigh myself during my Whole30), although I suspect that is mostly water weight.

My sleep wasn’t a problem before, but I’m really snoozing well now. And I feel rested when I wake up in the morning.

I know you didn’t ask, but I would want to be aware of this if I were considering doing Whole30: Thanks to a cheapo form of “Bulletproof coffee” (I use coconut oil in mine), a balance of fibrous and starchy carbs and the almighty prune, my bowel movements seem to be normalizing after a few uncomfortable days. Many people complain of this going on much longer, so I feel fortunate.

Coming up: The true test

It’s a good thing I’m feeling an energy boost and some sense of normalcy with my diet, because next week it all gets put to the test when I go visit my mom. Can’t wait to see how that goes.

BOOM! Tennis + Whole30 can be friends


As of today, my new favorite electrolyte replacement. Who knew coconut juice has more potassium than bananas?

I was a bit worried about making it through 2 hours of tennis today under a toasty sun, especially since it’s only Day 3 of my Whole30 plan and I’m still figuring out the “right amount” of food for the day – much less for a lengthy workout.

The long/short of it is that I leaned on the following to get me through:

I thought I’d eat like a horse when I got home, but the above really did the job. I ate a regular lunch, nothing fancy.

Throughout the afternoon, I drank another 4-6 oz. of coconut water for added rehydration, and I think that helped a lot too.

Another few days and my body should start making the shift to burning fat rather than carbs. I’m feeling pretty good now, so I’m really anticipating the energy I feel then.

This Whole30 noob survived Days 1 and 2


Day 2 dinner. As you can see, I’m not suffering much. To the contrary, I’m eating very satisfying meals and relying on great but simple seasoning – salt, pepper, oil and vinegar and awesome produce available now.

Well, I survived Days 1 and 2 of the Whole30. Loads to process and even more food to prep!

So far, here’s my experience and some lessons learned:

  • I need to plan better. I had meals planned but had no idea it would take so much to keep me going. I actually had enough food to get me through the work day at the office. But keeping enough in me to get me through *making* dinner was another story.
  • This plan requires loads of protein and good fats. It’s amazing how much we I lean on grains and dairy to fill me up, not to mention foods with sugars to satisfy me, even though I dropped most sweeteners a year or two ago.
  • Tonight, I ate a good, solid dinner, high in carbs to get me ready for a full tennis morning tomorrow. I have to admit: I’m a leeeeetle nervous about this one. I’ve learned it’s not uncommon to have headaches and the “hangries” due to withdrawals from all the stuff junk we typically put in our bodies. I went to bed last night and woke up this morning with a headache. In fact, I have one now.
  • I also need to replenish electrolytes I lose during lengthy workouts with a non-Gatorade solution. I know, I know – Gatorate is horrible for you on a good day, but my body rejects artificial sweeteners, so a diluted Gatorade is often my only option..until now.
  • People come out of the woodwork to tell you they’re doing or have done Whole30, too. I’ve heard from several friends/family and am so excited I have moral support in them. They also know what foods work and add to their experience. Guess I’ll be making my own Whole30 mayo soon…it comes highly recommended.
  • Oh. I absolutely love kombucha.

So where does that put me?

Overall, I feel pretty good so far. I spend a good portion of my “extracurricular” hours thinking about / planning / shopping for / prepping / cooking food, but that’s probably because I did more thinking and planning at first than actually making food.


Long story involving poor timing when we accepted a friend’s invite to join Hello Fresh (use code CEYTJX if you’re interested). Their menus, while pretty yummy, aren’t entirely Whole30-friendly. But HF is especially great if you’re super busy and don’t have time to shop for fresh ingredients and put a healthy meal on the table.

So. The next couple of days, I’m going to worry more about getting enough calories to get me through both the day and night.

If there’s been a tough balance in these first two days, that is the one. But it’s all part of the body’s adjustment. More on what I’m learning as I go.