Got perfection? Buh-bye

“Pretending to be perfect is the perfect way to not develop a relationship.” — Donald Miller, Scary Close

Full disclosure: I’m disinclined to short reads lately, so I haven’t yet read Scary Close, but I think I might. If nothing else, than for this quote.

I mean, with our culture’s obsession with perfection – at least, cosmetically speaking – could our world be headed in any direction other than away from building real relationships?

And who takes the time to actually stop and do that work?

The idea that the gap is widening between those who are willing to risk being honest and real and …. pure …. and those who won’t or can’t drop the act is a bit unsettling.

But it’s nothing we can’t change.

How [Irish] [Mexican] [Fill In Ethnicity] are you?

DNA helix under spotlight against red background

Photo by Svilen Milev at sxc.hu

I *could* have signed up for a DNA Kit from Ancestry.com at their $99 rate , but I really didn’t want to spend that much. It’s just that, the more I feel like I’m not from a Cabello bloodline, the more I wonder, Where the hell did we come from?

So when I saw a discounted rate on the kit in honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I told my hubs: “Hey, let’s find out how Irish I am!”

To which he responded: “Why don’t you just wait till Cinco de Mayo and find out how Mexican you are?”

Touché.

Stuck – for now

stuck

Photo by halocyn

Check?

I’m in a near headlock over my great-grandfather. While we’ve known for 20+ years that he might have come to our family from another, it wasn’t until recently that I started to get warmer on which family that might be.

Until my lead went dead-cold.

Well, not 100% cold. Just a bit sideways on some important stuff. The info I found meant that my great-grandpa necessarily:

  • Was 12-15 years younger than all records found to date show;
  • (Ok, probably) Lied about his age to marry a 17-year-old (if my now-cold lead was right, he’d have been 35 on his wedding day, even though his marriage record says he was 20);
  • Somehow was transported from Mexico’s interior (almost from Mexico City) to the northeast state of Coahuila, near Texas, within 8 days of his birth.

Then, last night, I realized that, if his death certificate is correct, he also would have been 104 years old when he died (1950). Most people weren’t living that long back then.

So I started over today on the search of his birth/christening records. Lo and behold, I found this:

I think I've found my great-grandfather Braulio - or have I?

UPDATE Dec 2015: This is the name of a female. Braulia gets ruled out. //  This christening record looks like a closer match of my great-grandfather. At left is the name of the baby being baptized; names circled at right are the parents. But are they my relatives? I have not a clue. Nada. Source: Mexico, Coahuila, Catholic Church Records 1627-1978; FamilySearch.org

It matches, almost to the day, nearly every birthdate reference I have seen for my great-grandfather to-date. Without the proper documentation, I’d been unable to validate it.

The only thing is, this Braulio was born to another family entirely. I haven’t delved further, but so far it doesn’t appear to be extended family. Maybe I’ll learn otherwise soon.

All I can say is, this puzzle piece fits better than the last. I think that’s good…right?

So maybe it’s “check” for the moment, but I’m too stubborn and persistent to ever let it get to “check-mate.”

When showing up to ship pays off

when apple wasn't cool

Back in 1997, before Apple was cool. That’s my then Mac-consultant hubby begging the technology giant not to fold. Through the good, bad and ugly, they persevered. (Note the really lax landscaping…yeah, it was that bad.)

* “Shipping” refers to a challenge lots of Seth Godin followers took in January with his project manager, Winnie to show up every day and deliver. It’s an example I’m trying to follow. (Some days are harder than others!)

Happy 97th, Desi Arnaz!

hb-desi-arnaz

I loved growing up with this man on my television. Little did I know how much his musical influence would become a fixture in my life. All the happier for it.

Hunting for story

I’m on a mission.

I have a very special friend, Kris, who is lovely and complicated and talented – all in the best possible ways. We met at work over 10 years ago and still share similar – not identical by any means – but similar interests and passions.

One is a love of things creative. I’m definitely more of an observer and Kris is more of a Maker – in the truest sense. Some people sew (I try), knit or crochet.

Well, she does all of the above (and way more), often using her own exotic fibers and textiles and tools she procures from all over the world. It’s not the exotic that makes her talented. It’s what she does with her God-given abilities, powered by the tools, that is so spectacular. And she is so open to sharing and teaching. (Check out this great project she’s involved with that is empowering women in Uganda to generate their own income and support their families.)

unyunga-journals

Just a few of my friend Kris’s handmade journal gifts. I usually have at least one journal with me, wherever I go. If the occasion is special enough, I use one of hers.

A few of my favorite things

While I don’t know what the heck she is talking about half the time, I simply LOVE hearing her dream about and brainstorm her projects. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she shares – pretty liberally, I might add – her incredible handiwork. Kris has gifted me with some of my favorite writing instruments, beautiful handmade scarves and so many gorgeous journals, I can hardly count them.

Lord knows, as a paper-and-pulp lover, I hate to violate these pieces of artwork, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Like many I know, I love to write by hand, but it is getting harder and harder to write as fast as I’m thinking these days. Such is the plight of a straddling generation – one foot in the analog, the other, digital.

Had paper, did travel

Anyway, Kris, who did much of her growing up in West Africa, challenged me sometime ago to blog about my own international experience and travels.

Thing is, many of those memories are locked up in my travel journals…somewhere. I’m getting warmer in my search, but so far, those little pocket-sized Moleskines are eluding me.

To be honest, I’m kind of nervous about finding and unbundling them and rediscovering what I first learned on my first trip to Haiti in 2003 and one of my last trips to Dominican Republic. So I pray again for courage as that wall of memory comes down.

I guess que será será.

Writing about what hurts

Writing about what hurtsI recently reloaded content from a very old, long-running blog and just finished scanning it to see the type of stuff I wrote about. This is what I learned:

  1. I wrote some pretty good headlines back then.
  2. My topics were all over the place, like a journal.
  3. I never, ever wrote about my work.

That last one kind of stings.

Considering that time in my life changed my life completely, I sure managed to suppress how much poverty had taught me – how much I’d learned, how much I had let go of.

Still, in the words of Heather B. Armstrong, one of the first professional bloggers to monetize her blog before monetizing was cool:

“BE YE NOT SO STUPID. Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET.”

So I journaled (privately) a lot about work. I’m sure many people do. Maybe it’s what keeps us from breaking the law.

Anyway, I also had long hauls of multi-hour flights, with plenty of time to write about everything from:

  • eating in-flight, off-hours meals with my arms practically crossed (thank you, United);
  • miraculously getting from Jakarta to Singapore with absolutely no itinerary (I later learned); and
  • my “lost,” luggage somehow following me from Entebbe, Uganda, to London Heathrow with absolutely no tags on it.

That was the light stuff.

In fact, what I’d never blogged about is what weighed (then and now) heavily on my heart. It’s also the third – and so far, missing – leg on this blog’s intended three-legged stool: culture, communications and cause.

I’m not sure exactly how the topic of cause – of poverty – will unfold, but it’s feeling more and more like it’s time to let it happen. I’m praying for the courage to go there next.

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.

A new book, a new secret decoder pen

Today felt more like Christmas than Valentine’s Day.

finding-your-mexican-ancestorsMy mailman brought me a reference book I’d ordered to help with my family history research. Great timing, since Finding Your Mexican Ancestors is like my secret decoder pen for unlocking key records about when my grandfather and grandmother came to the U.S.

Along with increasingly available online resources, this book (and anything by Ryskamp) offers so much context, I’ll now have a better idea of why, how and where I’ll find records to fill in some of our gaps.

I can’t help but be more amazed every time I turn around to learn how genealogy has evolved technologically since I last worked on my family’s history. But sometimes analog is still the best way to go to find answers to lingering questions.

In any case, it makes for a great Christmas Valentine’s Day present.

A picture worth a biography (or four)

cabello-kids-being-themselvesI found this photo the other day of my brothers and me, plus a couple of our cousins, during one of our visits to South Texas from the Midwest. Vintage 1975 in every way.

We were in my grandma’s kitchen, where pretty much where all socializing took place.

Times haven’t really changed much, have they?

Only a handful of years later, we would move there, and I would spend a lot more time in that kitchen watching Chespirito, Sábado Gigante or whatever telenovela was blaring from Grandma’s TV.

The funny thing is, this snapshot perfectly captures our personalities.

My oldest brother, Noe (Spanish for “Noah”) is in back, holding our younger cousin. Noe has always been the quiet, loving caregiver and nurturer, taking his love for babies and kids from our dad.

In front, from left to right: My brother Edgar, looking sly (as usual), is eyeing whatever Eddy is about to bite into.

And me, in my Ernie-and-Bert shirt, well, I’m posing for – I don’t know, another camera? My only explanation I have is that one of my aunts used to call me “Miss America,” and I was probably working hard to live up to her prediction. (The closest I ever got was Barbie-doll boot camp at Pan Am. We know how that went.)

Behind me is our other little cousin, about 2 years younger than her brother Noe is carrying. I suspect she’s standing on the oversized, bell-bottomed pants Noe is undoubtedly wearing. Which can only mean one thing: platform shoes.