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.

The man behind Ikea’s world-dominating products has never been to design school

As an ikea fan and one who loves to see people just be good at what they do – with or without credentials “bling” – I love this article.

Taming squirrels

Parque Zoológico Santa Fe - Medellín - Colombia - Suramerica

Photo by memoossa

Feels like so long since I’ve blogged.

The silence has been less for lack of something to say than for lack of ability to focus on something to say (hence the squirrel). Lots of transition swirling about, and I’m having to be much more intentional about how I process and manage a few moving targets. Basically, I’m having to become my own project manager.

It’s times like these that I feel less intuitive about what to do next, so I basically need a roadmap of my life – not just to-do lists – to get me to the next step and beyond.

I’m toying with tools old and new to keep things straight:

For a right-brainer like me, living strictly by lists can take the joy out of things. So using tools I love helps me get things done, even as they pile up. And as long as there’s margin for the creative, it’s all good.

Here’s to planning for crazy.

Rainy days and Mondays

Well, we know it ain’t Monday anymore.

But it is a rainy day. And a hard, dark day on a lot of levels, for reasons it would be unfair to explore here.

Suffice it to say that, the gloom and doom shall pass. It really will.

And joy comes in the morning.

Hunger is hunger, wherever you are

Yesterday I attended a wonderful fundraiser for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. I call them the food bank to the food banks across much of our state.

In an exceptional move in 2012, Care and Share arranged direct distribution of food to families affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. I was unemployed at the time and volunteered with them over several months following the fire to organize food distribution to hundreds of families and local food banks .

The heat was unprecedented that summer — nearly 2 weeks of 100+ temperatures strung together, punctuated only by the frighteningly persistent sound of fire trucks, up and down the Front Range.

Everything was brittle. Temperatures, foliage, patience, tempers. So many had lost so much.

care-and-shareIt was during this season I gained a whole new respect for Care and Share’s work, their work ethic and their vision for tackling hunger in Colorado. This focused food distribution was one of the most compassionate things I’d seen done in a major, local crisis.

It’s not uncommon with major disasters like typhoons or earthquakes to gather goods of all kinds to distribute, but I’d never seen anything like this  on a local level. What vision and leadership.

It truly gave affected families one less thing to worry about and one less encounter each week that would require them to explain “how they were doing” after they’d just lost everything.

Fast forward
At yesterday’s luncheon, we heard stories from individuals who’d benefited from Care and Share’s extensive services to food banks around our state:

  • One young mom who’d quit her job to get a college education so she could make a better future for her family. In the process, she found herself and her family in need of basic food and nutrition;
  • One poet who, though she didn’t “look the part” of the person suffering from hunger, she went through college married, with a family, and without food at least a couple of days a week; and
  • A very successful, young businesswoman, who had grown up “off the grid” in Colorado and – very long story, short – ended up getting many meals from dumpsters.

While the last story was the most dramatic of the three, hearing all their accounts reminded me of one thing:

Hunger is hunger, wherever you are.

When you’re hungry, you can’t focus on the task at hand. If you’re in school, it’s hard to learn when your body is focused on its most basic needs – not to mention your brain doesn’t fire on all cylinders without the proper fuel.

If you’re trying to work a job but can’t make ends meet enough to put food on the table, chances are good you’re missing things at work and you aren’t able to perform at your best.

When you suffer from food insecurity, the odds are stacked wildly against you and your dreams.

Third-world vs. First-world hunger?
I’ve witnessed first-hand hunger in circumstances of extreme poverty, where people have next to nothing and food is yet another thing they lack, among other essentials like clean water or access to medical care. Sadly, hunger usually comes with the territory.

But looking at someone who may be hungry and knowing I might see right through them because they look or act just like me is a much tougher concept to grasp. It takes attention and focus.

My lesson: More often these days, it is hard to know that people around us may need food, shelter or even a job. My hope is that we will respect our common bond of humanity enough to be sensitive to each others’ needs. Today I needed this reminder.

And the winners are…

Heirloom tomatoes for 2015 planting

Every year, it feels like a crapshoot. And every year, we’re amazed at the bounty and beauty that comes from the earth.

Eight to 10 heirloom tomato varieties (plus tomatillos!) varying in size, shape and color. Salad forecast for 2015: pretty darned good.

When you feel like you just don’t belong

When I was a pre-teen, I really struggled with a sense of not belonging. We’d just moved cross-country to South Texas where, culturally, I should’ve fit in like a hand in a glove.

It didn’t quite happen that way.

Once again, I wasn’t in the majority. Even though I looked like everyone else, I stuck out, but in a different way than I’d stuck out in Indiana. I couldn’t be called out anymore for having “hair that didn’t match any of [my] clothes” or “being left in the oven for too long.” In Texas, I wasn’t “Hispanic enough” for the locals.

Back in the Midwest, I was usually the 2nd or 3rd Hispanic kid in the entire school. Add to that being a pastor’s kid and you really got looked at like you had three heads. In Texas, people’s eyes got big when they thought my dad was a priest.

I’ve spent a lot of my life being different, and by now, I’m more used to that than I am fitting right in with crowds or conforming to norms.

Somehow, by the grace of God, when I was about 12 or 13, I felt a sudden awareness that there was really not that much to worry about, at least when it came to feeling like I looked funny, dressed funny, or that others were always talking about me behind my back.

Sidenote: There’s this very sad paranoia that goes with that difficult age that just haunts most of us, and I can’t even imagine the pressures on today’s young people. My heart aches for them. Add social media, of course – it all blows up.

Anyway, suddenly I knew I didn’t need to worry about that anymore. Other people were just as busy spending time worrying about their well being, reputation or sense of belonging as I was.

If I was too busy navel-gazing to worry about them, the same had to be true of them with regard to me.

And that was that.

From that day on, I kind lost my interest in giving in to the fabricated peer pressure that had held me hostage. Now, I’m not in any way saying I’ve never suffered from that since. There are, after all, relapses in adulthood, you know.

I’m just saying that, when we consider we are all human, we share much more in common than we have differences.

  • We all want to be loved and to belong – which means we probably all get lonely and feel rejected at times.
  • We all want the world to be a nicer, more caring place – which means we probably share a dislike of the mean-spiritedness that seems to be on the rise.
  • We all want the best for our families, for the next generation – which means we probably share a sense of having failed them from time to time.

And you know what – it’s all right. We are normal. We are human. And that, to me, is beautiful common ground.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. You’re not alone.

My happy, happy Valentine’s heart

heartWhat a wonderful weekend.

It wasn’t eventful, but it was full.

It wasn’t fancy, but it was lovely.

It wasn’t full of fanfare, but it was full of joy.

It wasn’t hysterical, but it was funny.

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and that’s what made it special.