Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ancestry DNA Results

This year for Christmas James and I both received Ancestry DNA kits to discover our genetic makeup and origins.  The day after Christmas we both spit in separate little vials, then mailed them off for processing.  The kit said it would take 6-8 weeks for results (bummer!) but to our surprise we were thrilled to get them just three weeks later.

Being a germaphobe, bottling my saliva in a vial was worse than getting my blood drawn, but I digress..

Here are my results: Mostly German, with a really small amount of other European sprinkled in.  You can see most of my family was also part of a large migration from Ireland in the 1700s.

Here are James' results: Mostly Scandinavian, but with a fair amount of other European countries mixed in.  Because he has built his family tree extensively through Ancestry.com, we can even see the migration patterns of his direct family members during two large migrations in very early US history (1600-1700s).

James explained to me that this test doesn't necessarily show you where your ancestors came from (migration-wise), but that it matches DNA patterns in your cells to common markers from different people groups all over the world.  So even though I can trace my family members entering the States through Ellis Island from both Germany and Ireland, the physical traits I have and the DNA patterns in my body most closely resemble pure German genetic traits.  James' results were a bit more intriguing, because he has no known ancestors from Scandinavian countries, mainly just the British Isles, France, and the Czech Republic.  It would be interesting to try and trace his family back far enough to find out!

If I'm being honest, these results left me feeling a little disappointed.  Partly because I was hoping for some surprise amount of diversity, but also because they arrived in my inbox the morning after visiting the Holocaust museum and listening to a survivor share her stories of her captivity and the german SS soldiers.  Now I know my family members were already in the United States well before the 1930s and had no part in that, and I also know that you can't blame every German person for the acts of a small group of sick men, but it was just a little unsettling to think that the people my DNA stems from were capable of such a disgraceful time in history.  Much to think about.

Some of my friends have taken a similar test through 23andMe, which I would be interested in taking as well, to see if they offer any other information about my genetics.  I know that their fancy version of the test includes additional information like your risk for certain diseases, carrier status, and a few random facts like whether or not your body responds to caffeine.  I might try this test later this year and of course I will share my results. :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Welcome, 2018!

In the new year I'd love to blog more, if not for keeping my family near and far up to date on our lives, I'd love to write more often so I can look back on this next year and remember all the little things that filled our days.  In 2017 my words for the year were Honesty and Transparency, because I wanted to not only be more honest in communicating my needs (and when I needed help), but I also wanted to stop contributing to the deceptive image of perfection we see on social media, and hopefully help others by being authentic and vulnerable.  I'd like to think I really made a lot of progress there, but I can tell it's still a work in progress.

Currently, James and I are enjoying a lazy Monday morning in Scottsdale, AZ where we rang in the new year with James' mom Jill, grandma Doris, sister Laura, and her husband (our new brother-in-law) John.  Conflicting schedules made it hard to visit Arizona together earlier this year, but this was a convenient week for all of us.  So far we've attended a cool music and art walk (Luminarias) at the botanical gardens, made a day trip to see the sights and red rocks of Sedona, tooled around Old Town Scottsdale, and now we are relaxing for a few more days before we head home and back to real life.

James and I watched the new years countdown in bed from his phone after a long introspective conversation about the highs and lows of our year.  Without sounding too cliche, here are my resolutions for 2018:

  1. Stop using curse words; find better descriptor words/improve my vocabulary.
  2. Set hard-line boundaries for my work hours so that I can...
       a. Spend more time with James/invest in our marriage
       b. Take time to do things that simply make me happy and/or inspire me (hobbies, relaxing activities that are not related to my job or chores around the house).
  3. Spend less time on my phone, be an active participant in whatever I'm doing
  4. Get outside more (this one comes straight from my doctor, who says I'm vitamin D deficient)
  5. Make a lot of money.  Without sounding greedy or materialistic, I'd just really like to remove the huge stress of not having enough money to pay our bills some months.  

James would like to finish his time at Long Beach city college, start looking at new career opportunities, and lose a few pounds.

Above all of these resolutions I have one clear goal that I've been meditating on for the past several weeks.  In 2017 I was hurt by peoples' words and actions more than any physical pain or injury.  So many times I silenced my own opinions and preference, took on more work than I could handle, or personally overextended myself in efforts to make insignificant people's lives easier, and prevent their feelings from getting hurt.  But if I've realized anything from all this thankless work and fear of confrontation it's that no matter how much I do all these things, I'm not being my authentic self and I'm nowhere close to living a life that I'm intrinsically happy with.  I'm also really freaking tired of being taken advantage of (especially professionally) and repeatedly having my own feelings invalidated, and I'm done making myself smaller for the sake of saving face with people who wouldn't do the same for me.  I realize how negative that sounds.  I'm not saying this from a place of bitterness, but instead with the last exasperated breath of an incredibly (and unnecessarily) stressful, upsetting year for me...
In 2018 I want to continue my theme of Honesty, and take it one step further: Advocate.  I want to advocate for myself and protect the people I love most (including me!) from the consequences of poor decisions.  I want to take back my life (via boundaries) and actively work toward creating the future we have been dreaming of, rather than just "making it through the day" 365 times in a row.  Sometimes this will mean saying No and disappointing people that I previously catered to, and therein lies my biggest challenge for the year.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Take a picture, it'll last longer.

This morning was the first day back in my "walking group" which is, at this point, just me and one other woman from my neighborhood who wake up at 5:00am to walk a few miles around the block before starting our day.  As I mindlessly scrolled through my Facebook feed, staving off the dreaded getting-up process, I saw one of my peers' posts from the night before, claiming she had "the best life ever," accompanied with photos of her and her new baby boy.  As horrible as this sounds, my first though was, "no you don't".  And not because I know her intimately, or think that I have it better, but because she is one of those people who often overshares on Facebook and rants about any and every thing that irritates her.  I am not one to forget, so I quickly recalled all of these previous posts and thought, "how can she honestly think she has it all, when all she does is complain?"

But I think I know where she's coming from, and I'd be lying if I said I don't feel the same way sometimes.  Days when everything's clicking and the sun is shining down on you, and your heart feels so full you could burst.  Yeah, they are few and far between, but I have those days too.  As silly as it sounds, I started taking selfies on these mountain-top days, to remind myself that they exist and that for a fleeting moment, no matter what present troubles are plaguing my life, there is good in the world and I have found it, if only for a day.  When I scroll through my camera roll I sometimes roll my eyes at these dorky photos, but they give me hope and I'm glad they are documented.  These are the days when I know I have the best-life-ever.

I once read an article about how the #1 trait that guarantees success in relationships is something called "The Awesomeness Factor," which essentially means believing deep down that your relationship is actually better than everyone else's.  Not in efforts to be conceited, but because perception is reality and once you truly believe this, your perceived awesome relationship actually becomes more awesome.  I thought this was fascinating and I sought to implement it in areas other than my marriage (which if you're wondering, is totally awesome😉).  I think that's where the selfie idea came from, because I am so quick to lose sight of my accomplishments and blessings when things start to get difficult, and I needed a reminder.  Now, when I'm sad, or feeling anxious, I look forward to my next selfie opportunity and smile, because I know it's coming, no matter how far off it might be.

So to the girl who is awake into the late hours of the night, posting photos of her and her babe on social media, beaming with joy--shine on!  The world (and news feed) can always use more positivity, and hopefully you will look back on this post and smile, when Facebook inevitably reminds you of it on a later day.  We all deserve to believe we have the best life ever, even if the feeling only lasts a little while.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Where I Was

In a weird way, I love hearing peoples' stories about "where I was" when _____ happened.  Be it a shooting, an earthquake, or any other global catastrophe, I think it's fascinating to see through someone else's perspective how they experienced this time in history.

On 9/11 I see many people post about where they were when the towers were hit, but for me and my cohort, most of us were pre-pubescent kids with no idea what was actually taking place.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep when the first tower was hit, as many on the west coast were (5:46 AM). I remember my mom waking me up for school earlier than usual and telling me something terrible had happened to the World Trade Center in New York. I didn't know what a World Trade Center was but it sounded very serious. I wiped my eyes, climbed down from my bunk bed and stumbled towards the blue glow coming from my parents' bedroom. My dad was laying on his belly across their bed, propped up on a pillow just inches from the TV, unmoving and fixed on the screen in front of him. I tried to understand what I was watching, but at 11 years old, I really could not comprehend what was happening or how this would come to impact the following years of my adolescence and now adult life. It was then that we watched the second plane hit the second tower (6:03 AM). "Oh my God, Robin, they just hit the second one." That's when I knew it was a big deal, because we did not take the Lord's name in vain in our house, ever.

This summer James and I had the opportunity to return to New York City (again!) but this time we budgeted time and money for the 9/11 memorial museum--a truly amazing experience that moved me to tears (and that does not happen often).  The collection of artifacts, photos, video footage, phone recordings, and personal testimonies amassed there are incredible.  You can spend an entire day just reading about all of the found items and recollections from the people in the city on that day.  I cannot imagine being there or what it must have been like.  I read in the paper today that heroes of 9/11 are now facing an all new terror--the fact that most of them are beginning to get sick and develop breathing problems due to inhaling so much toxic ash, dirt, and debris during that day and the weeks to follow.  This is so sad, but had they not acted, who would have?  True heroism.

One of the most powerful and upsetting parts of the museum was a small TV screen looping the airport security footage of each of the different terrorists passing through security that morning, several of them entering together at the same time.  They exchanged smug looks with each other before grabbing their bags and heading off into the terminal.  This made me SO SICK and ANGRY.  I truly began to HATE these individuals.  To think that they were moments away from committing such a heinous act, and so happy about it, made my blood boil.

Perhaps because I subscribe to the true religion of love I will never understand what possessed these men to commit these acts "in the name of [their] god."  As much as I don't agree, I can understand why so man Americans hold grudges against all Muslims, no matter how impassioned.  I do not plan to make this blog political, but I will say today that I hope our next president, whoever he or she may be, will do something to stop radical Islamic terrorists from committing these types of devastating crimes against our country and its citizens.  If we are not able to learn from our past, how will we ever learn?

God Bless the USA!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Apple a Day

As everyone in the world knows, yesterday was the highly-anticipated announcement of Apple's new lineup of products.  I, like many other apple devotees, watched the entire Keynote live from my desk at work.  While the iPad Pro looks awesome (I can't wait until I can use my Adobe products on a tablet!), I just shelled out a few grand for a new Mac Desktop earlier this year and I am perfectly fine doing my photo and design work at home... for now.  The Apple pencil itself is.. a joke?  But I understand the direction they are going in--to create a tablet and stylus duo that will likely put all other competitors to shame in the next few years.  I had a tablet on my wishlist for Christmas this year, so maybe I will hold off and wait to read the reviews?

The last thing to be announced was the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.  I purchased an iPhone 6 in January and can honestly say I have never loved a phone more.  I am always bummed when these mid-season announcements come out, because it means I will soon own an older, obsolete model (for which I am *still* paying full price).  I also get completely suckered into the marketing of it all, and now I really want the new phone.  Sure, paying $500+ for anything (at this time in my life) is a little outrageous, but the way I see it, my phone is probably one the few items that I use every day, all day, and could probably not survive without.  Therefore, the price tag seems fitting.  Will I upgrade to the 6S? Probably not, because again, budget!  But rest assured if I had the money to spare, I would be pre-ordering this weekend.

I absolutely love Apple products and I have them integrated in every part of my home.  Whether it's music, TV, business, or pleasure, our house is full of those fruit-branded products and we love it.  Working in an industry that heavily relies on Adobe products (which perform better on Apple devices) means I will probably be a slave to Apple until I retire, but I'm okay with it.  While the price tag is always a little hard to stomach, I cannot find a more comparable lineup of products that works as seamlessly as Apple.  

A self-portrait with my first iPhone (4).