Warm thoughts from a warm culture

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In my work, I have the privilege of occasionally traveling to other countries.

I find it very special how in Latin America, people greet each other when they’re eating out – total strangers, even, wishing each other well. Buen provecho: Enjoy your meal. Sometimes just, Provecho.

In fact, they acknowledge each other whenever they are in another person’s presence just in passing, whether in a restaurant, elevator, hallway: good day, good evening, enjoy your meal, whatever. It’s a culture of acknowledgment and recognition.

In a world that’s drowning in devices and distractions, this tradition is a breath of fresh air.

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The family ties – they just got stronger

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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).
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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.

Whole30: The end of the tunnel

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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.

Drop in the bucket: Mad Men post mortem

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Don finds peace. He also finds the idea the for a new :60 Coca Cola spot that makes history. I already miss this character.

On one hand, it’s hard to sum up Mad Men the day after the series finale. On the other hand, it’s hard not to. So I’ve decided to join the fray with the other half-million reviewers / mourners.

Because let’s face it. There are a ton of post-finale recaps out as of yesterday, including these:

Funny: At least two of the above end with some version of “It’s the real thing.” Sigh.

Interesting:

  • Peggy and Joan each sought career and sometimes love. Joan thought she’d landed one of each, only to end up choosing career over traditional love. Peggy got both.

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    Funny, how when you let things go a bit, they seem to come back together. Couldn’t resist including this image of Peggy, who is right there.

  • Don finally got clarity, however fleeting — although, it seemed long enough to crank out the legendary Coca-Cola commercial promoting world peace.
  • What does Roger care anymore? He’s had a stellar career, so he settles into l’amour.
  • Pete, lucky dog, gets his wife and kid back and keeps that lucrative gig with McCann.
  • Betty – dang it – love or hate her, has a death sentence hanging over her, though I’d expect her to find her way out so as not to put her children through watching their mother die.

Surprising: The show ends in hope. Hope that Don can somehow make something of the name and identity he’d assumed, and maybe even be a more present father in his children’s lives (really?). Hope that the world could be a better place (the Coke commercial).

I’ve gotta say: I fully expected a European turn for the worst – someone’s tragedy, a la Downton Abbey, where someone seems to die in nearly every season finale. To me, the hopeful ending makes Mad Men a new, true, all-American classic.

All in all, Mad Men, while set in the presumably sexy advertising business, isn’t much about the ad biz at all. It’s really about the existential questions of the ’60s and ’70s. Is this all there is? Are we all alone? (At Big Sur, Don learns – finally – he’s not.)

The aches of those questions and their answers were real and often frustrating during the series, which easily could have ended more tragically. But the idealist in me is glad Weiner chose hope for the final note.

Still, I cannot tell a lie: I will miss seeing that Don Draper face and wanting to know the thoughts behind his dark eyes.

So long, Mad Men – until the next binge.