YOLO

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You. Only. Live. Once.

It’s a mantra for those of us being BRAVE this year. (And by “us” of course I mean “me”)

I went out for Dim Sum with some people from work, “Kikita, would you like to try chicken feet?”

Bring it.

 

I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to ride on the back of a motorcycle.
I made it happen.
It was terrifying and wonderful at the same time.

I’ve wanted to have braids in my hair forever. Not corn rows, just braids. I thought I could rock it, but was worried because some white people look REALLY STUPID with them.

There was only one way to find out…

I bought the hair.

I made the appointment.

I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

And then I was done.

I have braids now.

 

My family HATES them. My mother was very diplomatic. She said she loves the braids, she just doesn’t love them on me. My sister, however, said they look horrible on me and she hates the color and I look bad and she proceeded to stomp around.

Most of my man friends love them. A couple asked that I not call them until I take the braids out and go back to being myself.

One idiot went so far as to say, “Why don’t you leave braids to black girls?”

I love them. I love the color of brown. I love how the blue pops and the purple blends. I love how I can tie them in a knot.

I was not ready for how much attention they would bring. It has taken some getting used to. Everywhere I go, eyes are on me. That alone would make me think twice about getting them again. The other reason was just sitting for 8 hours was brutal.

Yes, I can wash them. That was an adventure in itself. I’ve learned that I have quite the sensitive scalp. The moment the water hit the exposed places on my scalp, I got chills. They didn’t stop. It was wild. And DRYING my hair… It’s been two days and my hair is STILL wet. đŸ˜‰  (Ok, that’s not true, but I swear it took a long time)

If I HAD looked like an idiot (which I don’t think I do), hey, it’s just hair…

Besides, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE!!

Getting Hooked Up

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A Cuban musician friend had asked me how my timbales playing was going. I told him about meeting Ramoncito Ramos and that he’d offered to teach me if I didn’t live so far south. My friend proceeded to call over his band mate, a timbales player. He said the guy was a fantastic musician and asked if he would be willing to show me some things. The guy asked who I had been learning from and admitted that I didn’t have the best teacher. He agreed to teach me what he could and gave me his number and told me what days were good for him.

My Friend: Kikita, you know I love you and I just want you to succeed and be happy. You are amazing and I am so glad to know you. Just don’t forget me when you’re famous.

I was speechless. I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the moment.

I had confessed to this friend that I had the beginnings of a crush on one of the newer additions to our group. We are pretty close so I’ve confessed more than just new crushes to this friend. We have real talks about hopes and fears and everything in between. I had mentioned to him on more than one occasion that I was starting to worry about getting older and being nowhere near getting married and having a family. He has two sons that are the light of his life, but he admits that he wishes he wasn’t that far along yet and that I should enjoy my freedom and singlehood.

Later, I was basking in the sound of our little group of friends talking (because, is there anything better than the sound of Cuban men conversating? No, I don’t think so.) when my crush asked how many kids my friend had…

My Friend: I have two boys. They are trouble makers, but amazing and I adore them. What about you? Do you have kids?
My Crush: No, not yet. Hopefully, one day…
My Friend: No? You know, Kikita here doesn’t have any kids either, but she’d make a great mom. You two would have beautiful kids together.

I’m not sure which was worse, that he said it, or that the rest of our circle agreed with him so vocally.

I had no idea my dreams meant so much to my friend.

What Mami Taught Me

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Mami taught me how to have great adventures.

We have driven to Vegas together more times than I can count.
Today, I love driving and am always ready to take a road trip.

We saw the GoGo’s at Mandalay Bay (outside on “the beach” – aka The Pool) and we got drenched. Afterwards, we were sitting, still dripping, and having a cafecito while watching the people who had just come from an Il Divo concert head into the casino. We couldn’t stop laughing about the people being dressed to the nines while we were dripping.
I wish I could remember what was so funny about the guy we met in the elevator, but at the time it was the funniest thing we’d ever heard.
When a friend invited me to the symphony, I knew how to dress because of that dripping in Vegas moment… and I still make friends with people in elevators.

She took me to New York with her right after 9/11. We FLEW. The two towers were still burning, but we went.
When she mentioned a trip to San Antonio to cook Cuban food for our troops, I bought my ticket right away.

We have gone to Miami plenty of times for Cuba Nostalgia because she had taught me to be proud of my heritage and my culture.
When abuela asked if I would take her to Cuba to be reunited with her siblings (for the first time since fidel took over) I did not hesitate; I went to Cuba.

We have met totally famous people and been total dorks about it.
People have treated us like we’re famous and we have been total dorks about it.

We saw (presidential hopeful) Mike Huckabee at the airport, but I was convinced it wasn’t him. She went up and shook his hand. She was right.
We were in L.A. and I said “Mami, that’s Pitbull,” but she wasn’t convinced it was him. We eventually shook his hand. I was right.

Mami taught me to be fearless. And to be right. đŸ˜‰

To see the “rest” of this post (aka, what my siblings had to say about Mami) then click here.

Acting Like an Americana

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Remember my friend, El Loco, from Vegas?

El Loco: Oye, Kikita! How are you, mi hermanita?

Me: Great, thanks! It’s been a while…

El Loco: I know! Things have been super crazy. Oye, hermanita, I know you are playing timbales now and I know you have your teacher, but I want to do something special for you. I want you to learn from the best and I know the guy who plays for [a local L.A. band] and he plays everything and is very good and lives close to you so he could teach you, but I don’t know if you want to because you have your teacher.

Me: Wow. I… I mean… That would be awesome.

El Loco: So, I don’t know what you want but if you want… Or what?

Me: No! That sounds great! How do we do it? How much does he cost?

El Loco: I’m sorry. If you’re busy and you don’t want to talk, it’s ok. I can talk to you later. Kikita, why are you talking to me like an Americana?

I retracted the question and we proceeded to talk about other things and I redeemed myself. The beginning of the conversation had been mostly in English, but we eventually switched to Spanish. I was already having a hard time hearing him and he was super excited and talking fast and…. let’s just say I’m not really sure what he said but I think it was something like this…

El Loco: So, you know I’ve been doing the quinceñera for my daughter, right? And it’s been getting really expensive and everything so I was talking to my mom and she’s going to help me out and it’s going to be easier if we do it there so KIKITA YOU ARE INVITED TO IT!! AUGUST 26TH!! IT WILL BE MY FIRST TIME BACK IN MY HOME TOWN SINCE I LEFT CUBA!!

Me: Seriously?

El Loco: CLAROOOOOOOOOO!!! OF COURSE! IT WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU THERE? WILL YOU COME, HERMANA?

Me: Of course! I’d love to!

(The Americana in me wanted to ask if I had to buy my own ticket to Cuba and how long we’d be gone, but she had learned her lesson.)

He’ll be in town for the Cuban Independence Day party at Steven’s Steakhouse next Friday. I plan to get answers to all of my Americana questions then.

A Different Kind of Brave

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My word for the year is BRAVE.

Another way to say BRAVE would be FEARLESS.

I am not trying to force it, I want it to just be the way I am. I want to fully embrace it.

But I have been missing a huge piece of it.

Here’s how I’ve been practicing being BRAVE:

Me: Hey [Friend who rides a motorcycle]! I have never ridden a motorcycle before! Would you take me for a ride?
Friend: Sure!

Unfortunately, we have rescheduled this ride so many times, it might be next year before it finally happens.

Speed dating! That was a way to be BRAVE.

But I have been confronted with new ways to be BRAVE and it is a lot tougher than I thought it would be.

The truth is that I am at church twice a week. O_O
And I keep that suuuuuper quiet. It’s like I’m ashamed to admit it.

A few Saturday nights ago, I went out dancing and happened to be wearing all white. I looked like a santera.
And some santerĂ­a guy noticed.
And he wanted to talk religion with me.
It was like he was trying to impress me with how much he knew about SanterĂ­a.
And it felt like he just wanted to connect with someone on that level.
So I let him talk. I let him think I was a santera. I made understanding sounds about the ritual dances. I told him to keep quiet about the chicken sacrifices because “People just don’t understand, you know?

It had been my moment to be BRAVE and admit that, while I love Afro-Cuban dances and know about SanterĂ­a, I don’t practice it. That I, in fact, go to church and believe in the whole Jesus thing. BRAVE fail.

Why should I care what some bad ass dancer thinks of me? (Ok, the answer would be that there is a considerable shortage of bad ass dancers out there and if one shuns me then that is one less I get to dance with and one shunn could lead to more shuns and I’d be left with only a couple of good dancers to dance with and would spend most of my nights sitting and waiting until it was my turn to dance with them again.)

Obviously, I have my work cut out for me.

Being BRAVE is harder than I thought.

Being BRAVE isn’t about jumping out of planes or riding motorcycles, it’s about facing the scary things and sometimes the scariest things to face are other people.