Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

Halloween lore

To be honest, I’ve always had mixed thoughts about Halloween.

Growing up, my mom had conflicting feelings too.

We lived outside of a small town of around 200 people. My mom was big into walking. So almost every year, we walked into town on Halloween with flashlights if it wasn’t too cold out.

We would always stop at Aunt Grace’s house. Being a banker, she was always practical minded and handed out money to the kids. She would give us a roll of nickels or dimes. I’m not sure if she handed out the whole roll to the other kids.

My grandma always had 3 white sheet ghosts hanging from the big tree in front of her house. She liked to wear funny shirts like the one that said ‘I’ve got bats in my belfry’. She always had tons of candy. Grandma was always happy and smiled greeting the children in costumes. Those are the memories that I am most fond of.

At times, I walked around the neighborhood with older kids. I remember stopping at an old man’s house. He was probably in his 80’s Although in my young mind, he could’ve been 40. He handed us apples as a treat. APPLES!! We walked halfway down the block and smashed them. The bigger kids said that there could be razor blades in them. I still feel bad that the old man might have walked down the road and seen his wrecked apples. It was the 1980’s and in those days we heard stories about the Halloween candy being tampered with in some way.

I also heard stories of black cats being sacrificed and made sure my outdoor cats were locked up somewhere safe for the night. It seemed like a scary night to a worried child. Perhaps it was the one day that evil was allowed to seep into the world because it was invited in.

In the later years, my mom felt conflicted about the holiday after some friends kept their whole family hidden in the basement with their lights off. They thought that partaking in Halloween was akin to devil worship and would land them a prime spot in hell. Halloween has been associated with people doing evil things. I understand how people wouldn’t want their children involved in a holiday that celebrates evil.

When I had children of my own, I felt a little conflicted about the holiday too.

Don’t get me wrong…I love scary movies. I love wearing costumes and pretending to be someone else (alas my love for community theater). As a child I was obsessed with the Salem witch trials and read every book on it the library had. I abhor having lights on in the house. I am a big fan of black cats and the color black in general. I have a healthy fondness for candy.

Over the years we attended various churches…Some were of the opinion that Halloween was of the devil and the only way it should be celebrated is by handing out Christian literature to the children that come to their door…to children dressing up in Halloween costumes for Sunday service…

Who is right? How is a Christian supposed to act?

I can understand every viewpoint. What is wrong with not celebrating? Nothing…less money for the dentists..What is wrong with dressing up as an evil character?? Are you celebrating evil? Are you doing evil? What is your motive?? What is your intent? I personally don’t know anyone that spent the day drinking blood…or sacrificing animals despite the witch lore.

Paul and I decided that we would celebrate Halloween but only allow our young children to dress up in costumes that celebrated goodness. Over the years we had Tinkerbell, an angel, a cow, a mermaid, a cheerleader…I miss those days.

 

 

 

Give me the green?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This year I won’t be able to cross drinking green beer off my bucket list. It’s probably overrated anyway.

I have to go to a parent meeting at my daughter’s school tonight. Sometimes with parenting you just need to have the ‘I want to do this, but have to do that’ mentality.

I don’t know if I should really be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day that often anyway. I don’t have any family with a Mc or an O’ in their last name. The only red headed relative that I have isn’t even Irish. Hmm.. I have such a small amount of Irish in my blood that I probably should celebrate it once every 10 years anyway. Kind of like leap year.

Wait, isn’t this leap year?

This year I will have to plead another heritage. Tonight I will be celebrating at the middle school.

 

 

A bright light on the darkest day

Almost a century ago, in a very small town, my great-grandparents started a family business. They opened an automotive garage where they sold and fixed cars. They also had one of those old fashioned gas stations with two pumps and a wrecker service. They built a house next door to their business and had 4 children. My great-grandma passed away when I was five and my great-grandpa and great uncle passed away before I was born.

After serving in the military, Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold being single moved back into the family house to help run the family business. Their brother, my grandpa, moved down the road within walking distance. I never remember the siblings ever fighting.

Aunt Grace did all of the finance for the family business with some help from my grandma. Uncle Harold and my grandpa worked as mechanics. Today, on the darkest day of the year, was Uncle Harold’s birthday. But there was nothing dark about Uncle Harold. He was a very quiet, friendly man that loved to laugh.

Every year Aunt Grace would throw Uncle Harold a birthday party. It was always the same year after year. She would set the table with the best fiesta dishware that were stored behind the glass cupboard in the pantry. Everyone had a different colored plate that was used only once a year for this special occasion.  She would serve steak, baked potatoes, and a vegetable with coffee to drink, even for the kids. She had an old fashioned stove that she cooked on. It required her to put little pieces of wood into a fire on the left side of the stove. For dessert, we always had pineapple upside down cake. Afterwards, Aunt Grace made me help her do the dishes and clean up.

I didn’t see Uncle Harold a lot growing up. He was always working in the garage. I wasn’t supposed to go inside the garage much because I liked to wear shorts which Aunt Grace said was not proper attire for a young lady. But sometimes I would sneak in to buy a large glass bottle of soda for a quarter. My aunt and uncle were always up at 6 AM. Uncle Harold would eat breakfast then go to work. He would come in for lunch and they would both take a half an hour nap. Aunt Grace slept on her couch and Uncle Harold slept in his chair. Then Uncle Harold would work until 6 PM which was always the time that supper was ready. Most of the time after supper, Uncle Harold would go out to work until 9 or 10 at night. When he came in, he coughed a lot. Working 13 hour days in an unventilated garage did that to him. He usually worked until noon every Saturday and took Sunday off.

Uncle Harold was a generous man both towards his family and his community. He offered a window washing job to an illiterate man who was having a hard time without job skills providing for his family.  He paid for my college tuition. He never wanted anyone to know the good deeds that he did. Money was a topic that I wasn’t even supposed to talk about.  I don’t think I ever thanked him enough for the sacrifice that he made. He paid for my school from stocks that he inherited from his parents that someone gave them when they couldn’t afford to pay their garage bill.

That year I graduated from college in May, got married in August, and was pregnant in October. I remember driving out that fall Saturday to tell the family our news. I never was able to tell Uncle Harold the news personally as he was with a customer that afternoon. Then a month later, he died unexpectedly.

Every year Uncle Harold would take a week off to go hunting with his friends. It was on that trip that he had a heart attack. When he passed away, there was no one left to carry on the family business. Of the four siblings, my dad was the only child born and he wasn’t interested in continuing the family business. In the meantime, Uncle Harold had listed me as heir of that stock which we cashed in to start yet another family business.

So on the darkest day of the year, I will always remember the bright light that was in Uncle Harold. I am sad that he never met my children. Even now, his memory is starting to dim. I hope that in some way through my thoughts today the memory of him will shine on.

Handing over the Christmas baton

After decades of Christmas perfection, little tremors needled away at our  family tree structure creating (gulp) change. The Thanksgiving after Paul and I got married, Uncle Harold passed away. A few years after that my grandpa passed away. My brothers grew up and moved away, with the exception of my autistic brother Matt. I started to have children of my own. Grandma struggled more and more as she aged with doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and decorating involved in having a family Christmas party. We tried to help her as much as we could. Then one year it all ended. My grandma had open heart surgery the summer that I had my third child. It was at this time that my grandma handed the Thanksgiving and Christmas baton to me.

At the time, we were having my in-laws over every Christmas Eve. Year after year it was pretty much the same. My in-laws would show up 2 to 3 hours late. The table would be set. The food would be cold. The kids would eat supper at bedtime. The kids were tired and hungry which made them very crabby. They would cry and have meltdowns. This upset my mother-in-law which resulted in an argument between her and my husband over her being late. At this point, Paul’s stepdad and I would look at each other across the table with a knowing look that said “here we go again”. One of two things either happened. Paul’s mother would disown him and take off for awhile. Or Paul’s mom would scream at my husband and he would kick her out of the house. Eventually she would come back in both scenarios, the gifts were opened, and the kids would go to bed.

After receiving the Christmas baton, Paul and I did what most reasonable people do. We combined our families to make one big happy family Christmas. Insert thoughts of the National Lampoon’s Christmas here. It did go pretty good for quite awhile. Whoever showed up, showed up. We ate at 1:00 PM. If you were late, there were leftovers. Things went pretty well, although after awhile it seemed that my mom and mother-in-law started an unspoken “best grandma” competition. My mom won that one hands down because she could afford nicer gifts and spent more time with the kids. Then my in-laws started to find excuses not to come for Christmas. Either someone was sick, or my personal favorite was that Paul’s stepdad scheduled a colonoscopy the day after Christmas. Priceless.

Oh family, you bring laughter and tears but we love you anyway.

Then a couple of years ago, Luke and his family bought a house that was bigger than mine. I handed him the Christmas baton. All problems solved.

Confirmed, part 2

The cake is gone, the festive dishes have been washed and put back in dark cupboard corners. My son’s confirmation went better than expected. He even said during the party that he was getting bored of gaming. He played board games with family and friends. Hallelujah!

I have to share with you the story of my confirmation because it is such a crazy story it seems made up. I got confirmed during a presidential campaign year. I attended a small rural church. The church was large but the congregation was small, probably around 40 regular attendees per week. We shared our pastor with our sister congregation 20 minutes away. After 2 years of sitting through Saturday morning confirmation classes listening to my pastor’s monotone speaking, I got confirmed. I memorized all the creeds and required Bible verses. The night before the big day, the eight of us confirmands had to answer about 300 memorized theological questions in front of our family and friends. By golly, somehow we pulled it off. 

I was the only person getting confirmed in my church, the rest were getting confirmed in the sister church. We found out that a senator running for president was stopping at my church on the campaign route. He was stopping on confirmation Sunday. Finally, it was time for the big day! The parking lot was beyond full. I was escorted to the front row of our church. My mom hired a violinist that was a recent immigrant from Poland. The secret service patted him down and inspected his violin case thoroughly. The church was packed, there wasn’t a single open seat. The offering from that one service probably tided the church over for the next 10 years. 

I remember being terrified while reciting my confirmation verse and giving my explanation of the verse. My voice squeaked like a frightened church mouse. Afterwards, we hosted a huge meal for the senator and he spoke. I had my picture with the senator in all of the local papers. Big things don’t usually happen in small towns. 

Confirmed, part 1 

I am sitting inside watching the rain fall like little tears from heaven. I sit and think. Thinking again. I am waiting. Waiting for the rain to stop. Waiting for a large Saturday morning cup of coffee out in my hot tub. It is my tradition. 

When I think of church, I think of traditions. Rituals always done the same way. But what if it rains? What if things change? I have been to many different denominations. Even non traditional churches have their routines. The same similar structures every week. The way it starts, the way things end. The time it ends always the same. Ritualistic, though intending not to be. 

Tomorrow my son is being confirmed in the church we have chosen. It almost didn’t happen. Remember a couple of weeks back when I still wished my grandpa was here with us? He still is here. I see him reflected every day in my son. My son didn’t want to just go along with the rest of the group. He has so many questions, more than answers. Like his great grandpa, he is so full of piss and vinegar to be agreeable to conform. He felt too imperfect to be a Christian. He is honest and I respect that. 

We ended up having a long conversation with our pastor. It came down to my son having to make a decision. Are you with us or not? My husband talked to my son about leaving the door open for God. Faith is not a perfect all or nothing compartment that my son wanted to put it in. He struggles, don’t we all? He questions, shouldn’t we all? 

He decided to get confirmed. He is leaving the God door open. He made a drawing of Jesus carrying a cross through an open door. He also picked the verse of Revelation 3:20. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 

Whether we choose to believe or not, shouldn’t we always be seeking to answer the questions we have in life. To not be stagnant. To not just go with the flow. Life is meaningless without having meaning in it. 

The rain clouds parted, time for my Saturday morning ritual. Then I will put on my Martha apron, cooking and cleaning for the party tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I will be Mary. Always a work in progress….