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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mi Tiempo Con Don Juanito y Doña Maria


I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

As my time here in Kansas City is coming to an end, I have been thinking about how I've spent this first year after undergrad. Last September, I packed my bags and headed to the border. Together for Hope and Road Trip Project are non-profits that sent me and a few others to the border. I found myself in Eagle Pass, TX, a small town of 22,000 people, where, coincidently my parents were both born and raised.

I had spent many a summer break in that town. However, just like college, discovering something on your own, without the crutch of my parents and family, is different. Not that you could describe Eagle Pass as "exciting" or anything. There was a "dance club" in the town, that just so happened to double as a bistro/restaurant during the day (and often during the night). As a border town, there was a lot of gossip of drug lords and los Zetas cartel (neither of which I encountered).

I met and worked with, what should have been high-ranking politicians, including the sketch commissioner (recently divorced), FEMA officials, HOPE K board members, and the Mexican Consulate. I say what should have been, only because in a town like Eagle Pass, county commissioner just didn't seem so prestigious to me. EP ran on its own time and in its own way. Days were long and the first few days felt like weeks.

There is a story that always comes back to me when I think of the Texas valley. This happened when I was making my way to Orlando, FL for my best friend's wedding.

I boarded a white 15 passenger dodge van. It was old, rickety and hol[e]y.

I had to ride this old, rickety van to San Antonio. In a regular car it takes 2.5 hours to get to San Antonio from my small little town of Eagle Pass, however, my trip took a total of four hours.

It smelled like gas (awesome), had holes (on the exterior and interior), and I'm certain was going to end up abandoned on the side of the highway one day (or the central object of a horror film).

I was the youngest of the 10 passengers, so I offered to sit in the awkward middle back seat that required me to climb over the other seats to get to. I went to put on my seat belt, and it broke. Literally, it fell off the top connector unto my lap. Safety first (I know).

At the border checkpoint, everyone got through smoothly, except me (of course). I was asked a zillion questions, and my face was studied intently. "Why are you here? What business do you have? You're from Missouri?? Why do you live in Eagle Pass if you have a Missouri ID?" Damn that Missouri ID.

After that the older gentleman sitting next to me attempted a conversation. His accent was thick and muffled by his salt and pepper mustache that looked like a fury caterpillar on his upper lip (making his Spanish difficult for me to hear). He gave up after four or five of my lo sientos (I'm sorry).

I took a quick 30 minute nap and woke up for the rest stop in Batesville. Where is Batesville, you ask? I have no idea. I had never heard of it nor do I remember driving through it any other time. Actually, I only knew we were in Batesville was because of the sign "The Batesville Restaurant and Gas Station". It was the ONLY building on that road for 30 minutes.

There was an elderly man and woman sitting in front of me who I found very interesting. It was so fascinating how they somehow managed to argue the entire way. They argued about a television show, the color of their living room, their car, his shirt, the mayor, what they wanted for dinner, if diet soda was really better than regular--they argued about it all. She kept calling him a "burro" and when it got quiet; he turned to me and said "I don't know why I keep her around. She's just so rude to me." I giggled and then she said "because...el me quiere" (he loves me). "Oh, I forgot" he said. They smiled and were calm the final minutes of the ride.

They ended up getting off at the airport with me. They were arguing about him not letting her help with the luggage (he has a bad back you know). Well, after security and everything they ended up at a gate next to mine. They were headed home to California, where they were originally from, to see family. Since I had helped them translating and with the computer stuff they asked me if I'd like to sit with them and make sure they got on the right plane. Doña Maria had never flown, was nervous, and Don Juanito had flown only once before.  They had finally given in to the fact that they were too old to make the trip by car, and his daughter said "Papi, you are going to fly, that's it" and apparently she meant it.

While we were waiting, I asked them how long they had been married. They laughed and looked at each other then they looked at me. I wasn't sure why they laughed and was a little embarrassed that maybe I asked the question wrong. My Spanish, although improved was still rough. She said "...it's a story but we're not married. We've been living and traveling together for over 20 years, but we're not together, at least not like that."

They noticed my puzzled look and proceeded to tell me their story.

Juanito y Maria had met when they were 14/or 15 and in high school. He had asked her out to have a coke, but she apologized and told him she wasn't allowed to date. Don said Doña isn't much of a rule breaker. Instead he asked her parents if it would be alright if they could be friends. Maria was the smartest girl in school and she had an opinion on everything, which most girls didn't. Juanito loved that they disagreed on everything and that she pretended to hate him. Juanito was sarcastic and that annoyed Doña. Don promised her father it would never be anything more than friendship and that he would be a man of his word. That didn't mean much to Don Oscar who never really liked Juanito much, regardless. Don Oscar warmed up to the idea only after Juanito started dating the neighbor girl and after a year, Juanita and Maria had become the best of friends.

Neither of them could imagine it any other way.

Throughout high school and college, Juanito was quite the ladies man and Maria had a few boyfriends here and there but never anything serious. They went to school together to become teachers. In their final year they both started dating seriously respectively a Carlos y Irene.

Doña was married at 22, soon after graduation and Juanito stopped talking to her for a while because he despised everything about Carlos. In fact, after the wedding they didn't speak until she had miscarried her first child a few years later. Juanito was at her house the very same night he heard the news. He knew that she was in pain. He said "I knew she was going to need me to be there for her and she knew I was always going to be."

Juanito said Carlos "was pompous and treated her like, like a child. It's not that he didn't respect her; he just didn't appreciate her mind and preferred her not to work. I never understood that or what she saw in him. She's quite a beauty. Guys should have been fighting over her, not her settling por ellll (for him)." Maria understood Juanito disliking him, but never really understood him being angry with her over it.

Doña said her husband was a handsome, well-to-do man, and she said "I really did love him". She thought with time they would be in love with each other. He adored her and offered all the security a respectable woman would want. The fact that she had trouble having children started to weigh on her and she tried as hard as she could to make him happy. She thought having their son would solve the marital problems they were having.

She said, "Well I guess I was wrong because in the end he still cheated on me with a pretty young girl and left me, solita". I moved home with my parents, but after a year I couldn't take it anymore. So I moved to New York, where Juanito lived.

Juanito, married at 33. He finally found a pretty, young girl that was the best at just making him laugh. He tried hard to be serious, but around Irene, he couldn't be. They were happy, had a daughter and everything was going so well. Irene got cancer and died and Juanito was left to raise a teenage daughter, Olivia.

Don y Doña leaned on each other. They had been blessed in the midst of chaos. They knew they would never be alone. After their kids had grown-up and moved away, they were alone (together). They've spent this phase of their lives travelling and enjoying all the God had intended. They lived all over the US and had settled in little ol’ EP about 5 years ago.

And that was it. They said good-bye, boarded their plane and left, California bound. If I ever return to EP, I would love to look them up, but I don’t even know their last names.

The loves they had had didn't last, but in a way they still found a type of true love. This assures me that men and women can be friends, close ones at that. Yes, perhaps this could be an exception to that 'When Harry Met Sally" rule, but I believe in it nonetheless.

I always wished I had taken a picture of Don y Doña, but it doesn't really matter. I know that I'll never forget them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sooner Than Later (Drake cover) - Jenny Suk

I'm such a fan of covers. I love hearing people interpret songs. Plus the video is pretty cool!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Got Kefir?

Hello, old friends.

When I started my journey, I promised that I would be honest with you. I'm not on the Biggest Loser, so I'm not going to drop mucho pounds every week, but gaining weight wasn't something I had thought of as a potential issue. Nevertheless, it's all an excuse. I just need to be better, more focused.

In talking to my friend, I realized that being honest with ourselves is one of the hardest things. I can basically convince myself of anything. I can conveniently forget something, if I try hard enough. I have tried to avoid my weight gain, play it off even. This is me, forcing Selina to be honest with herself. Truth is, I felt guilt. From what, you ask? Well let me take this back...

A few months ago my little sister was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. This is a digestive disorder that can make eating a painful experience. At the beginning, the doctors tried to explain to us what it would feel like, and basically it came down to  "it's something you may never understand". So, during what they call "flare ups", she gets this pain in her abdomen that she will just have to learn to deal with. What's worse is there is no list of DEFINITELY eat or DEFINITELY avoid this kind of food.  Unfortunately, it's just a game of Russian roulette---basically, keep going until you find the one that stops you.

When we first got to the hospital, my parents said the pictures of her colon were unimaginable. I had never seen them so disheartened. The doctors said that at first, the hardest part would be the healing process and to try and help, they would put her on steroids. The ironic thing about the steroids is that though it was intended to help, steroids changed a lot for her. It altered her in several ways, but mostly it made her hungry. Half the time, when she ate, she didn't even realize she was eating.

Doctor's orders were for her to be on a very restrictive diet. She was unable to eat any fresh fruits or vegetables, forced to avoid salads, whole grains and any type of fibrous food. You know, all the things that I had been trying to get my family to eat.  Her favorite food in the world, the tomato, was no longer an option on her menu.

At the time, I was at the peak of my dieting and stuck with my own food for a while, but eventually my guilt kicked in.

How could I  eat the foods she loved around her, tempting her?? This diet was new for her, and she constantly forgot "I'm not supposed to have that" which meant pain later.

So I needed to reevaluate. At least while she was healing, I needed to rethink about what we ate and kept in the house. With a family this size, (8-9 people) you can't cook whole grain pasta and fresh spaghetti sauce for everyone and open up a can of chicken noodle for her. That would have made this harder for her.

My sister is a 5'0, petite girl. She has a small frame and is very conscious about herself. So this meant that if there was any change to her body, she would notice.

As all our vegetables and whole grains slowly left the house, she and I both noticed ourselves gaining weight, slightly obsessing the amount of times that we weighed ourselves. What was once my weekly ritual had become my two-to-three-times-a-day ritual. VERY UNHEALTHY. I would weigh myself 10 minutes after every meal. In fact, (and probably even luckily) my scale's battery died, and I haven't been able to convince myself that it is worth the money to replace. It has been weeks since I've weighed myself, and I think that was something I needed.

With her new diagnosis, even physical activity was limited. She had a try at soccer, but needed to take a step back not to hurt herself. She no longer could go to the gym with me and there went my workout buddy.

Besides a diet and restriction on every type of food she loves, she needs to limit the amount of stress in her life. She has been struggling to maintain grades and assignments, with all her doctor visits, hospital stays and discomfort. She gets sick and gets stressed, making herself sicker. She needs to do work and gets stressed, making herself sick again. A vicious cycle it is.

I was frustrated and confused, but I never gave up hope. An old friend of my mother's came by for a random visit. She said "why didn't you tell me Lexie was struggling with this?? My daughter was diagnosed with Krohn's disease!" It was finally some light. Krohn's disease is a more severe version of ulcerative colitis, affecting the entire digestive system. Her daughter had struggled so much, spending months in the hospital and taking many medications, eventually needing a catheter just to make it through.

She opened us up to the world of Kefir and Kombucha. Kefir is a probiotic that is made from milk (similar to yogurt). You put these grains into lactose, and it grows. You strain it and then you drink it. When you're first learning how to make it, it's not so tasty. But she said it changed their lives. Kombucha tea is a cultured tea that is so easy to make and when done right is DELISH!

I have spent weeks trying to perfect the processes, slowly demonstrating to everyone how to make it and what to use them for. I make a daily smoothie (it's a milk substitute!) instead of a protein shake. Plus, the tea is so good!!

It's still a little early in the game to see if this is working, but we have been able to introduce some produce and whole grains into our lives. Which has given me the go ahead to get back on track. I have so much more energy with these drinks. My mom no longer suffers from low blood sugar (when she misses a few days, it comes back) and my dad doesn't feel heart burn and overall, just looks healthier.

Who knows, maybe these are just placebos and God gave us what we were asking for. Even so, I don't care. My healthy lifestyle is back.

For recipes and tips, and to hear about a woman who has dedicated her life to cultured food check out http://blog.culturedfoodlife.com/

If you are interested in getting cultures for kefir or kombucha just let me know, and I will set you up!

To make up for my lack of physical activity I have enrolled in the Urban Hitt Fitt's KC180Fitness, with trainer Kri Chay.  Kri is a personal trainer and a graduate of the University of Iowa. He conducts high intensity interval training kickboxing fitness for rapid weight loss. Kri has set up a program based on nutrition, education and fitness. He is an Under Armour Combine360 Certified Trainer, one of a few in the entire state of Missouri.

I have agreed to give Kri six weeks of dedication and trust to whip me into shape, in time for my move to Cleveland. I will update you guys on my progress, but with the testimonials that I've heard I know that I'm in good hands.

The introductory price is $80+. If you are interested you can find him on facebook.com/kri.chay or you can ask to join the Urban Hitt Fitt group http://tinyurl.com/yb7x3sk

Although, it has a few temporary glitches at the moment his website is usually up and running at http://www.KC180FITNESS.com

I know that my weight gain is a setback, but it won't hold me back. This is life and this is how it goes. I can't win them all, but I will win this. I want to get to a point in my life where I am just so proud of myself. With who I am and everything about me. My body and weight are a part of that. I believe in myself and I know that you all believe in me too. I  wish I could express to each of you how much you push me not to give up and to keep going. I am so appreciative of you all and the love and interest that you have shown me.

 I think I realize more and more, this isn't just about me. It's about saving my life, my family's lives and inspiring all those who struggle with body image, confidence and weight that if I can do this, anyone can.

Current weight: 212 lbs
Workout Song: Keri Hilson, Pretty Girl Rock (Yes, I did.)