My Ancestry

For my birthday, my husband got me a DNA test through MyHeritage.  I was not impressed by the results.  Well not the results so much as the format.   The results were surprising.  There was nothing unexpected as far as  ancestry but what surprised me was the small amount of Scandinavian making up European percentage.   My mom was 100% Icelandic, with her lineage traced back to the early 800s and into, I believe Norway.  I imagined my chart (by the way…the colored pie chart is my creation)…my chart would at least be more than 3.5% Scandinavian.   

Surprise number 2 was the Ashenazi Jewish.   Oh I knew my father’s mother’s side traces back to Warsaw before Warsaw was Poland, but to have nearly 30% of my DNA representing  was a surprise.  Now, I have heard of Jewish being an ethnicity, but I believed I was misunderstanding what it meant to be “ethically Jewish”.   I did some subsequent research on the Ashenazi Jewish ethnicity and was super surprised to read that “we” can be traced to a group of 300-335 people.   

But then…Eastern European was its own group, of which I am a mere 1%.  Is not Poland Eastern European?

Now the results really excited my father and he and I share the same interest in what I call “living history” and we have embarked on the arduous task for figuring out his father’s father’s British history.   Some day we hope to visit the area where the Andrews ancestry originated from in England.  The struggle is, however that my grandfather had a falling out with his family and his only sister died recently (2009) so we are pretty much at a stalemate unless my dad has his DNA tested.   There are several sites you can link to that trace the “Y” (male).

Iberian and Central Asian would have been confusing, except my husband (who is 98.8% European – German to be precise) also has Iberian and Central Asian so that must be beginning of time thing.   

Well now that I have some tools I’ll see if it will help in unraveling who I am and where I come from.   

Not funny anymore

I pride myself on finding humor in everything.  You have to to navigate successfully in this crazy world.  But I can’t find the humor in the recent situation.  My husband just had a wheelbarrow full of medical issues dumped on him…knee, back, cholesterol, diabetes, to name a few.  As with everything in my life I jump in 110%.  Researching healthier eating, calling our local endocrinologist to try to get us a family appointment with the registered dietician to work on nutrition (keep in mind, we weren’t really all that unhealthy to begin with).  My husband bitched and moaned that he can’t eat anything ever again and was ready to have his limps amputated and commit himself to a nursing home. So add to my research “how to be a cheerleader/motivational speaker”.

First wall I hit was the endocrinologist.  My husband can go…with referral from his doctor (three weeks later and we are still waiting for someone to make that call), but they won’t see me.  I call my doctor to request a referral.  I didn’t realize that was asking for a pot of gold.  I’m not diabetic, hypertensive, or suffering from any other metabolic issue.   I get a referral to a weight management clinic.   Kept smiling tho.

Second wall I hit was funding this new healthier eating.  Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store.  Lots of fresh produce, low fat dairy products, etc.   Well apparently less processed, healitier food costs a lot more.  Time in the grocery store has doubled so nutrition panels can be read.  (*note: I had to forego this year’s corned beef for a London broil — 1210 mg sodium vs 55 mg sodium).  But we are making it work.   My weekends are now filled with creating portion-sized servings of fresh cut up fruit, single serving size grab-able containers of dry roasted unsalted peanuts, meal planning over the protests and whines to include sweet potatoes instead of russet, lentils and quinoa instead of rice, water with lemon instead sweet tea or Gatorade.  I bake chicken breasts for his lunches (and mine), instead of the convenient deli chicken salad.

It’s been three weeks since the emergency visit to the doctor with his very high blood sugar ready and he has lost 15 lbs and has kept his sugar to under 120.  I’ve gained .5 lbs.  The weight management doctor, in anticipation of my first appointment has ordered me to meticulously monitor my food…keeping a food and exercise diary.   I am consistently 200-300 under the allotted calories.  I’m eating the same healthier, smaller portion size meals he is, and walking the dog, taking a self defense class, so the exercise is there.  But yup…he’s down 15.  I’m up .5.

Where’s the humor in that?  Seriously. 

Seeing the other side…

of depression – and it sucks.

My husband, one of my biggest supporters with my own depression/anxiety issues, hurt his back.  He is in excruciating pain.  He is unable to work and he has no disability or leave.  He was started on a relative joke of medication for pain (after being treated like a drug seeker by the ER doc), some muscle relaxers and lidocaine patches to slap on his back (more useless than the pain med).  After 3 days of increasingly worse pain, he went for a follow up to his family doctor who gave him an Rx for a slightly stronger pain pill, more muscle relaxers and steroid treatment.  He is still not released to work.   With still no relief, he went back and was put on super-pain meds, no muscle relaxers and an order to go to physical therapy.  It was after this diagnosis that I saw it…he gave up.  He is on the couch, sleeping, expressionless.  He has no enthusiasm, no smile, no light in those beautiful eyes.  And my heart is broken.

This isn’t about me…and that it hard for my crazy mind to acknowledge.   He’s not mad/sad/upset with me.  Ok, I can accept that.  What I can’t accept is that there is nothing I can do.   My jokes don’t make him smile, my coconut banana nut cake didn’t put a sparkle in his eye, and my fancy Greek strudel chicken made with phyllo dough didn’t get a reaction (I used phyllo dough.  P h y l l o dough.  I despise that tearing, sticking frustrating-but-oh-so-delicious baking ingredient.) 

I know he’s depressed.  He is a hard working, active man and he is now acting his physical age.  He can’t stand, walk, bend or lie down without pain.  He needs help getting his shoes on and off.  I am afraid he has given up.  He won’t fight for his health.   Oh I’m sure I’m being dramatic, but I don’t know what to do for him.

Isn’t someone with “chronic” depression and anxiety supposed to know how to be supportive of someone that has slipped into that deep dark hole, albeit temporarily.  I’m completely at a loss.  I think I’ve lived with it for so long and dealt with it on my own for so long that I don’t know what to do.   Add that to my compulsive need to fix those I love and I feel helpless.   Completely incompetent.

Psychosomatic vs Synesthesia 


Many doctors throughout my life have treated me as a hypochondriac.   And for the most part that is true, I guess.   The pain I feel is psychosomatic.   Just because the tests come back negative.     The debilitating physical pain is my brain’s reaction to anxiety.

I have never been content to just accept that my brain is doing these strange things to me.  I know I should and if I did I would just be able to live normally.  Medicated, but normal.

Today’s research involved empathy.  I know I feel intense empathy.  I often say I wish I could take pain away from those suffering. It has always been very easy to empathize with everything. I cry at the thought of others crying. Feel intense embarrassment for others (rarely for myself until waaaay too late). I can’t look at accident scenes but yet the sight of blood doesn’t make me sick. I can get shots or give blood, but I can’t watch others have that done.

I thought that the empathy I felt was the cause of my psychosomatic reactions.  My husband’s back hurts, my back hurts.   My daughter gets a cold, I feel run down.  My coworker gets a headache…I do.  My favorite is labor pains when my daughter had her babies.   

I decided to read about empathy and discovered synesthesia. Specifically mirror touch.  I can’t say that I experience the sensation of being touched when I see someone being touched, but I do feel a watered down version of pain people feel.  I know that after someone has been hurt, say by a burn, I feel an aching myself where the person was burned, but not a burning sensation per se.   I presumed it was a memory of having burned myself and empathizing with that person, but the ache/pain lingers.  I also identified with the color for words and numbers (grapheme) and personification synesthesia – sounds and objects occasionally have male/female characteristics.  Ok…at this point you have started the serious eye rolling, but the grapheme and personification synesthesia are not extremely rare.  Mirror touch is a bit more rare, although not uncommon in highly empathetic people.   

 I know better than to research on my own.   My brain takes a seed and expolodes it into that giant beanstalk Jack climbed up.   For example, one article stated “Now scientists find these synesthetes possess an unusually strong ability to empathize with others. Further research into this condition might shed light on the roots of empathy, which could help better understand autism, schizophrenia, psychopathy and other disorders linked with empathy.”  That quote made my psychosomatic, hypochondriac mind explode.   Am I autistic?  A psychopath?  Schizophrenic?   Aaaaarrrrggggghhhh.

But in all seriousness, our minds are so fascinating and the power it contains is unbelievable.


Year in Review

It’s that time of year again.  As a teen, I remember being very apprehensive as midnight drew closer.  Undiagnosed anxiety.  I still get apprehensive but now moreso because I feel another year has slipped by…as well as anxiety.  It isn’t a bad anxiety per se but rather a “clean slate” anticipation.  So many things I would like to do better, handle better.  For some reason this clean slate is bigger than the clean slate that is each new day.

So what to work on….my focus.   I need to get a handle on my constantly fluttering mind.  I would like to wake up in the morning and not be midway through a deep conversation before I realize I am actually awake.

I need to work on that suitcase for the next stage in our journey.   So much of our time is spent gathering material things when not one single material thing will benefit us in the Hereafter.  Time to load that suitcase with the deeds that I can use on my scale.

I say this all the time, I need to make time for myself.   I won’t but I said it.

Despite the horror in the world, I feel I was pretty blessed this year.  I became an Amma for the second time and now have two beautiful grandsons.   I had visits from both my girls and their families this year.   I have relatively good health (I type that after a 24 hour bout with a ferocious stomach bug and a resulting migraine with horrific chest pains from wrenching), my family has relatively good health and we are slightly above water financially.   I was blessed with a new job this summer that has made me feel like a team member again.  I miss Mary from the last job, but we stay in touch regularly.  I truly enjoy working with each person in the office.  We added a new baby to the family.

The other babies are ok, but I think this may be Ajax’s last year with us.   It seems his eyesight is going and so far it is still a struggle getting his thyroid regulated. Leo hates Crush and is acting out by possibly intentionally missing the litterbox.  This has my husband fit to be tied and we now have three litter boxes for two cats.  I think it is Ajax but one simply does not argue with my husband.

2017 is looking promising.  My youngest has decided to go back to college…slowly…to take the courses needed to be a lactation consultant.  Her husband is starting his engineering career.   My older daughter seems quite content and her wise-beyond-years advice to me only gets better each year.  My younger SOMH accepted admission to IUP. With the new incoming controversial president elect, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Happy New Year and may Allah bless us all with His Guidance and Mercy.  Ameen.

Ghost in the Machine

In the mid-1980s, one of the selling points that got me hired in my first position as a paralegal was my computer knowledge.  This was back in the days of DOS based word processing programs and syntax errors.

Whether it was my lack of fear of computers or some unexplained electrical impulse within my fingers, Boris, as he was dubbed by my first boss, became the ghost in my machine.

Boris has followed me from computer to computer.  Work computers only and only mine.  Boris was, at first, a minor irritation.  Computers were relatively new in offices, at least in my small town.    Boris would do the oddest things.   Freeze, lose things, not save changes…IT person after IT person had user error excuses every time.  I type too fast.  I must have clicked this that or the other thing.  I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault at times.  I am ridiculously impatient and hate the dreaded hourglass.  But Boris is real.  

 Boris is afraid of especially talented IT people.   Two in my 30 years in this field have put the fear into him.  John, who was Nigerian and had a very thick accent, would just have to answer my phone call and Boris SNAPPED back into shape.  Literally, our phone conversations consisted of me calling him directly, “Hello, this is John speaking” in his thick accent, and I would say, “ah…he’s working now, thanks John” and he would reply “no problem” and hang up.  Now there is Ethan.   I am new to Ethan, having only been at this job a few months.  But from day one, Boris has been determined to try Ethan’s patience.   If Ethan logged on to “fix” (you can’t fix Boris) issues, the issue would not recreate.  Nor were there any error logs.  Documents I didn’t check out were checked out and nothing I could say could adequately describe to Ethan what Boris was doing.  Lindsey, Ethan’s coworker, is not a threat to Boris. She has witnessed his antics but has been unable to make it stop.   She can log on and watch it freeze and lose things, but never find an error log.  She would type a ticket for Ethan but you have to understand that these things Boris does do not make sense.  They are deep down weird issues.

Friday, after seriously trying everything IT-ably possible, the decision was made to completely strip my PC down and reinstall all programs, profiles, etc.  (Been there done that in other jobs…waste of time.). Anyway, in order to do that, my monitor was connected to a new, barebones laptop so I could work while my PC went back to the shop for its overhaul.   Ethan went to the server room for other things and in 10 minutes I called him back to watch as Boris spelled-checked a document and midway through decided to switch to spell check in what I believe was Portuguese.  He hasn’t done that since I lived in Washington.  He has occasionally decided to spell check in French, but Portuguese seems to be his native tongue. Ethan was speechless.  There was nothing I could have done to corrupt Microsoft Office that quickly.   Boris was angry being tampered with and made his presence known.  

Boris likes to take me though all the steps to save and profile a document, only to never save and profile the document and lock up claiming to save a document I never even checked out.  He likes to OCR documents and decide there is a random “font error” only on my computer.   Others have no problem OCRing the same document.  And, my personal favorite, it after several months of working for this firm, Boris has apparently unauthenticated (is that a word?) me from properly profiling documents.  Truly a head scratcher.

Boris is real.  His demon presence has been acknowledged by IT professionals but I’m really tired…30 years tired…of his antics.

Pepper Jelly, Puppy and Persnickity Partner

Someone at work brought in homegrown jalapeños and Serrano peppers.  A bag full.  I had a few habanero and 1 bell pepper so I made 8 jars of pepper jelly.  The dog, cats and husbands whined and complained because the odor of extracting peppers took your breath away.  I’m used to working with peppers so I know how to breathe through the capsicum steam.   I still have half the bag of jalapeño/Serrano pepper mix and I think I’ll can some salsa.  Not today tho.  I need to rest before starting on the rest of the to do list.  Lasagne to ready for baking tomorrow.   Couscous to go with lamb tangine tonight.  Writing on the birthday boy’s ice cream cake.  And court rules to attempt to summarize <– like not going to happen today.

Crush, the puppy, is doing a bit better with becoming housebroken.  We have graduated his kennel from the garage to the living room.  He whined at bedtime, but only until 2 a.m.  🙄

Crush is my constant shadow.   I’m not sure why.   My husband and SOMH care for him more than I do.  I don’t feed him food scraps like I do my cats (long story, bad choice, but too late to change).  But if I do dishes, he lies across my feet.   If I turn to stir food on the stove, he schooches over to lay on my feet.  If I sit, he holds my leg.  If I sit on the floor, he lies across my lap.

Maybe it is because Ajax follows me everywhere and this is some sort of power struggle between the feline and the canine.   Ajax uses his bully tactics to get my attention and Crush uses his cuteness, playfulness to get it from me.  

The persnickety partner…what can I say.  I can’t seem to do anything right this weekend.  I know he doesn’t feel well but he’s not a complainer so he’s just…persnickety.   He’s a man so making suggestions is futile.  He was in an accident several months ago and saw a quack of a chiro and he’s worse off now.  He’s a bit gunshy to try again so he suffers.  Chronic headache, body ache, ill temper.  I hurt for him.