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Valentine's weekend is here and Austin is no stranger to love—it's the type of city where young and old can fall in love and start or continue their stories.
Austonia interviewed Austin couples on their love stories, here's what they had to say.
Chiara Tomassini and Matt Graziano
What started as a friendship in the streets of Florence, Italy became a love story worth chasing around the world. Chiara and Matt met in Florence in 2015 while taking a class to get their certification for teaching English abroad. Matt, originally from the Chicago area, was paired up in a group with Chiara, who is originally from Rome.
"I was excited because I was studying Italian, and I have an Italian in my group," Matt said. "It just so happened that she was extremely beautiful and funny and way out of my league."
Besides the chemistry they seemed to have, Matt and Chiara were both in relationships and found it challenging to be around each other. After a month and a half of friendship and getting to know each other better, the pair, being young and in a foreign country said they couldn't resist the chemistry and feelings they had for each other.
It wasn't until the class was over and Matt returned to Chicago that the pair realized how hard it was to be apart. They kept in touch for over three months, messaging on WhatsApp and Skyping most days, until Chiara took the biggest leap and moved to Chicago to be with him.
"We didn't date, we jumped right in," Chiara said. "I was scared. I wasn't expecting dedication and commitment, but he proved me wrong."
Matt, who was determined to show Chiara how serious he was, said he started doing everything possible to step up his game for her, including flossing for the relationship. The couple faced challenges like most, but the biggest struggle was having to travel back and forth from Italy to Chicago every couple of months during the beginning of the relationship. Chiara was not expecting the U.S. to be so different.
"I lived abroad for a year (in London) so I thought I was ready for that experience but I didn't realize how different the U.S. is," Chiara said. "I remember thinking: The U.S. is a beautiful dress, but it's too large for me, it doesn't fit me."
After a year of living back and forth in Chicago and Italy due to Chiara's visa, the couple got married in September 2016 in Rome, with two witnesses and a photographer. In October of 2019, the couple decided to move to Austin due Chiara's "Italian blood" not loving the Chicago cold.
Matt and Chiara, being a young married couple, loved what Austin had to offer: warm weather, cool places and fun times. Since moving, the couple has found that their love wasn't rushed, it was meant to be.
Chiara, who is described by Matt as "extremely caring and thorough, and thorough in her caring," gave birth to their daughter last month. Lily, who was named after the flower in Florence's flag, is the new addition to the love story that the couple have written over the past six years.
"Our love story proves that there are no excuses," Chiara said. "If you really want something, go for it. Jump on a plane. Just chase it, be brave, and it will pay off if you really believe in it."
"When I'm with her, I feel all these crazy feelings, and when I'm not with her, I feel sick. Physically sick," Matt said.
Susan James and Jay Curlee
Susan and Jay have the type of story that people only read about. The couple originally met in the early 70's while living in Hawaii. Jay, who grew up in Arizona and is a television and film director, got Susan's attention with his fun sense of humor and adventurous spirit from their very first date.
The couple, quickly enamored with each other, dated and lived together for a couple of years in Hawaii until they faced their biggest enemy: time. Although the chemistry was there, the couple separated for over 16 years, each living on with their lives. Jay, married another woman for 14 years and had two kids while Susan lived with her boyfriend of 12 years.
It wasn't until Jay's divorce that the couple reunited for lunch on June 19, 1992, realized the chemistry was still there, started dating again and have been inseparable ever since. Jay and Susan got married on Feb. 14, 1993 in Kāhala Beach and will be celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary this year.
"I always considered him the love of my life," Susan said.
In 2014, the couple decided to move to Austin where they had many friends from over the years of going on the Delbert McClinton Sandy Beaches music cruise, where Jay spent a lot of time producing films. Jay, who was diagnosed with cancer in early 2020, is still working on his movie projects in Austin while in his loving marriage with fun-spirited Susan.
"If you're smart, funny, interesting and adventurous, I'm in," Jay said. "I'm a lucky guy because I got that."
When asked for what advice they would give to younger couples, Susan jokingly said "wait until you're old!" Although their love story had it's ups and downs over the years, Jay and Susan knew in the end, they would end up together.
Kay and Mike Platis
In 1978, a small town girl from Yoakum, Texas met a city boy from Houston at a fourplex in the Hyde Park area. Mike and Kay, who have been married since 1983, were both attending the University of Texas and immediately hit it off as neighbors. "She was the girl next door," Mike said.
The couple had their first date attending a production of Uncle Vanya at the University of Texas and then visiting Mount Bonnell, a classic date spot in Austin. Mike and Kay found themselves inseparable during their last semesters at UT. The only time they spent apart was when Mike would spend summers in Houston working while Kay worked in Austin. Without a lot of money and a new serious relationship ahead, the couple couldn't stay far apart for long.
"We just made it work, we didn't have a ton of money, but we made it work," Kay said.
After graduating and figuring out what kind of future the pair had in store, they stayed in Austin and grew in their relationship while having as much fun as a young couple living in town could.
"We partied a lot. We would go to 6th street, the Broken Spoke, Silver Dollar, Raul's," Mike said. "There were bands everywhere. Austin wasn't the live music capital of the world yet, but the music was here. There was a natural beauty everywhere."
After dating for a couple of years, Mike and Kay got married on May 28, 1983 in Yoakum, with about 600 people in attendance and a live performance from Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys. After their wedding, Mike and Kay did what any young married couple would do at the time, they bought a home and worked on building a life together.
"I feel really blessed to have found a mate," Kay said. "Somebody you can live with, somebody you can grow with, somebody you can grow a family with."
The couple, still young-spirited and completely enamored with each other, have two older children and are planning on moving to New Braunfels in 2021, after finally feeling that they have "out-aged" the city. Mike and Kay still find the joy in everyday things and feel lucky to have found each other.
"We are best friends as well as love birds. I think we're lucky, I really feel like we are," Mike said. "I feel lucky all the time."
Emma and Jay
Young love in Austin is around every corner, and newly-engaged couple Emma and Jay prove that it's not about age when you know you've found the right person.
The love birds met in early 2018 through an ex-girlfriend of Jay's and instantly bonded over their love for music, the outdoors, hiking, adventuring, old cars, old records and their life-long aspirations. It wasn't until November of that year that the pair decided to try things out, and they have been on a loving whirlwind ever since.
"Everything clicked with us, it was weird," Jay said. "It was kind of really weird. We were the exact same person about everything."
Jay and Emma not only had chemistry due to their similar personalities, but their adventurous and serious spirit for the future. Jay, who loves spending time with Emma's five younger siblings, the youngest being three years old, said that was an instant connection that brought them closer together.
"The first couple months of our relationship, we would tell each other 'I like you, I like you a lot' because we didn't want to jinx it by saying 'I love you' too fast," Jay said.
The couple have spent the last two years enjoying their time together, attending concerts such as Rex Orange County, Hozier and Austin City Limits music festival while still living in romance by having picnics at the Katherine Fletcher Park downtown.
Jay proposed to Emma in September of 2020, hoping it wasn't too soon but knowing they wanted to be with each other forever.
"I really didn't care how fast it was," Jay said. "We just want to hurry up and get married. Love is great, it's a really cool thing."
Jay and Emma have found that overly communicating, loving each other and going above and beyond for your significant other is the best way to deal with a relationship.
"Ever since I first met him, his strength and his courage in life inspired me," Emma said. "He's helped me grow to be a stronger and better person. To watch him go through his life experiences and be alongside it, I'm learning and watching him become stronger as a person."
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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