Mystery Tree

When I was a kid at the age of 9, I felt a little like an outsider.   Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but they were all pretty, with blonde or blondish hair.  Somehow it wasn’t just my slightly doughy exterior that made me feel this way, or my brown hair and crooked teeth. Something about me felt different but I couldn’t place my finger on it.

When I would play with dolls, it was mostly for fashion.  However, when it came to Barbies, they felt like they had a story to me.  My mother gave me her Barbies from the 1950’s for my birthday when I was quite young.  Growing up I felt like her dolls were reminiscent of high fashion and glamour.  When it came time for me to get Barbies of my own generation, someone gave me one with bleach blonde hair.

This Barbie was very much of the California kind and echoed everything every guy ever wanted according to the Beach Boys songs I heard from my father’s record collection. When we would go to a garage sale, often times I would find Barbies; with blonde hair.  Even Barbie’s sister Skipper had blonde hair. Their measurements looked like they were all an unattainable 39″, 18″, 33″.

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As I got older and had more of the freedom of choice when it came to dolls, I tried very hard to find a Barbie that looked like me.  They didn’t have dolls who looked like they might be silly, and slightly roundish. They didn’t have any dolls at that time who resembled girls who were of Native American descent. The closest I could get was one with brown hair.  Immediately I shelled out my Christmas money to purchase the blue-eyed doll I would play with a few times and leave in her periwinkle ballerina costume.  Something inside me still wasn’t satisfied.

In my last year of playing with dolls, my grandparents took me with them to the store.  They told me I could purchase a Barbie if it was under a certain amount.  I wanted the African American Barbie.  Her name was Devon.  She was beautiful, and more importantly, she understood me and what it was like to be different.  She wasn’t dressed in all pink, she only used it as an accent color. In fact she was wearing a “rocker” dance club outfit, which meant (obviously) she understood my taste in music.  She understood, period.

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Fast forward to this year.  I’m now 26 years older.  Still different, but have since learned how to embrace and handle it.  For Christmas instead of getting dolls and beloved tiny tea cup sets, I get practical, useful things…and an Ancestry DNA test.

My husband decided to surprise me with this gift, to use his words, “Because you’ve been talking about wanting to do this since we’ve been married.”  My family is a bit of a mystery on my mother’s side since her parents were in the foster system. It wasn’t until recently we’ve had some confirmation of roots in Great Britain and Germany. My dad’s side has some ambiguous roots in Western Europe and Germany but one thing we were sure of is we were descended from the Choctaw.

We waited weeks for the test results to come in.  My husband decided to do the test as well to trace his ancestry back even further.  He didn’t know what to expect with his results.  I on the other hand, was expecting a high percentage in Native American and European Jewish.

The other morning as I was getting ready for work, I came in to the bedroom to see my husband staring at his phone with bleary eyes.  Being concerned I asked, “Everything Okay?”

“The test results came in.”

As we sat and looked at them together, he clicked on mine.

It was like a scene in action movies where there are loud explosions. Finally one is so deafeningly loud everything else becomes quiet and you have ringing in your ears.  As my eyes went down the list of each culture they could trace me back to, it was like mini-explosions saying, “Knew that, knew that…” Then came two very loud explosions.

“2% Spanish” boom. 

“>1% Melanesian” Ka-BOOM.

My entire life, my father and I were told we were Choctaw. For something that was to give clarity, it ended up adding more mysteries to an almost filled in family tree.

The test however, confirmed my intuition about being different.  Even though this is only 3% of me, it confirmed why I never felt like I fully fit in. Even though it gave me closure and insight on my ethnic background, it now gives myself and my family more questions as to how we got here.

It confirmed I had more in common with my Devon doll than previously thought.

 

Have you done a DNA Ancestry test? Were you surprised at what you found? How did it compare to your family tree?

 

 

 

 

 

I toad you so…

The other day my husband and I were off from work when my dad came into the room and asked, “Okay, so who can get rid of a snake and a toad?”

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My husband and I looked at eachother and we leapt into action. While we were putting our shoes on I asked dad what his deal was with the toad. Ever since I was a kid he made it very clear he didn’t like snakes. The toad phobia however, was new to me.  I questioned him about it.

“Oh, it’s that old wives tale that toads give you warts.”

“You know that isn’t true dad, right?”

“Yeah, I know but I still can’t help it.”

The snake was in the garage, the toad was on the front door thus trapping my father inside keeping him from doing gardening.

My husband and I went into the garage to extricate the snake. Secretly while all of this was going on I was fulfilling a life long dream of becoming Ace Ventura. Armed  with a bucket, a stick to gently scoot it out of the way, gloves and tenacity we were able to coax it out. Then it would get scared and go back in the garage.

While our circus was going on my mom came out to get back to gardening.  We kept telling her to stay back (we knew we had irritated the snake) when she calmly said, “I know,” unfazed by the snake trying to figure out what she needed.

My dad was staying his distance behind us.

My husband’s patience wore out with the snake so he finally picked it up, it promptly bit him on the glove and he released it into the driveway. He created some new dance moves while trying to keep the snake from going back.

Mission completed. Next we had to get the toad. Since he handled the snake, I figured I could get the toad.

The toad had wedged itself in the crevice between the door and the frame. It looked bored.  So I spiced up it’s life by talking to it and gently trying to scoop it into my hands. It used to be so easy when I was 7, but in my older years, animals tend to be less receptive to me. Then again maybe that’s my perception giving way to the magic of childhood. The toad was stubborn. Like the snake, it too, had enough.

The toad performed a body slam to my nose, landing in the middle of my face with its crotch dangling  by my mouth. A guttural shout came from the bowels of the defiant part of myself that thinks it’s the animal whisperer.

I flung my face down and to the left where the toad splattered itself by the nearest flower pot. Though it was unharmed it still made a satisfying sound for a creature that had the audacity to attack me with it’s nether region.

Meanwhile my parents were working on the garden, laughing, while my husband gave a sympathetic look and said, “Go wash your face.”

Now I know the real reason dad didn’t want to catch the toad.

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     Has anything like this happened to you? What did you do?

 

Marriage and friendships

One day, my husband and I before we were married, were on a date in the park.  We were sitting on the jungle gym when suddenly he noticed I was paying attention to our direct right.  There was a group of young teenage boys talking about Batman and arguing over why he was the best or worst and what super powers other heroes had that could beat him.

My husband curiously asked, “What are you thinking about?”

I replied, “I’m just wondering if the friendships we form earlier in life, are the relationships that prepare us for marriage later in life.”

“That is a lot deeper than what I was expecting…”

On that note, it is something I’ve continued to ponder the almost 4 years we’ve been together and married.  Often times I think back to my best friends who I met in high school and how they helped form and shape my ideas.  What is cool, what isn’t cool, and why it is okay to not agree with them.  Whether we realize it or not, often times it is those we associate with early in life that help form our personality.  Often times I was the weirdo in our group of friends and everyone was okay with that.  They knew better than to expect normalcy and complacency out of me.  They helped me realize how a person should be respected.  Which is why it puzzled them when I would date someone who didn’t, even later in life.

These friends are the ones you introduce to your college comrades.  If they click, you know you’ve got a keeper for a new friend.  They ultimately share the same values.

When my husband and I got married, we were originally introduced by a mutual best friend.  We knew if we were in line with this person and her values the other must be pretty cool too.  Needless to say the first date was a success and three months later we were married.

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None of my friends from high school had met him yet, (except for one who invited us to her church), none of my extended family had met him, just our best friend from St. Louis and a few of my old co-workers he knew from checking out at our store.  We had been married for quite some time when one of my college friends announced she was getting married.  This meant another best friend and her husband coming to town for the wedding since she was going to be a bridesmaid.

She and her husband were the second set of friends to meet him. We had gone to the wedding, exhausted, she, her husband and I decided to go get coffee.  My husband was going to be off work in a few minutes so I texted him where to meet us.  She then pointed out, they had never met him.  when you’re married for a while and a lothappens, you tend to lose track of who has met whom, especially when keeping up through facebook or text. That is when I realized none of my close friends outside of my St. Louis friend had known who he was either.  When he arrived, he surprised me sneaking up behind me.  They laughed, we all talked and had a great time.  After he left, she said, “I really like him.”  I knew she and her husband would, after all, they helped shape my idea of what an ideal partner should be like.

     Do you think friendships help shape our ideals of marriage?  Why or why not?

 

 

Artless Mars

Have you ever watched CNN Student News? Quite frankly, sometimes it’s a little more eye opening than regular news with the way information is presented.

   The other morning in class we were discovering certain things about space and how we are making every effort to find a way to live on Mars. I’m over-simplifying this but you get the point.  

    In a former article, I admitted to you that space or at least the idea of “space” used to scare me. I’ve since gotten over that fear and replaced it with a new and related fear…no artists on Mars.

    A long time ago in a childhood far away there was an episode of the Simpsons where Lisa was picked to go into space and she could only choose one family member to come with her. As she’s trying to decide you see a lot of creative people getting on board, one of them being Paul McCartney. Mind you this beloved series is written by people who share a like mindedness with me. (Or at least I like to think so.)


    

    Sure, if you were being rocketed at the speed of light to start a new Mars colony of Homo sapiens, you would want to take the best specimens representing all forms of the human mind.

    The other night as I was speaking to my manager who is going to become an Astrophysicist, a horrifying thought crossed my mind. If we inhabitants of planet earth had to be selected to go on the rocket, the obvious first pick is going to be engineers, scientists, astronauts etc. You get where I’m going.

    People like me wouldn’t be invited.  

     My husband however would be safe. He has a vast knowledge of world religions and knowledge of things that would help to preserve the history of humankind. He also has survival skills.

    Me, I might be able to draw you a picture and tell you a funny story or two. That’s about it.  

     There wouldn’t be a need for Paul McCartney, Steve Martin and other random celebrities. Then I started thinking about what these first non-celebrity inhabitants would do once they were finally established. They all can’t be pragmatic geniuses without a sense of humor. Surely somewhere in there DNA when they decide to procreate, a few children would pop out who are kind of the black sheep of these new space villages.   

Can you see this guy in space?


    

   

    When you actually start thinking about it, creativity is born out of boredom. Surely one of these scientists will make some weird decorative post modern Mars pieces as part of a “Welcome to Mars” space sculpture which sits on the Martian version of Ellis Island. (This is once they start welcoming others who weren’t so lucky the first time they were offering a one way ticket off Earth.). There will be some people born to be funny who can only make jokes relating to the Martian situation they are in. It only makes sense not to take an earthling comedian, they would not know the terrain; literally and metaphorically.
    

    There are so many thoughts running through my head about this now that we are inching closer to the possibility of this happening. I’m just glad I’m not Lisa Simpson.

Destination Meditation

Usually at night before going to bed I will do a guided visualization meditation. It’s pretty easy to try, for some people it keeps them up, some it provides relaxation. For me it usually provides ease of tension in muscles and gives me ideas for blogs and art, and hope for the future.
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However…

The other night I was doing a meditation on youtube through the Ayelet channel. She does a guided visualization of you looking in the mirror at yourself and visualizing 1 and then 5 years from now. It gives you a clear sense of who you are and where you want to be as a person.

So there I was, envisioning my future successful self as a traveling writer and teacher. Meanwhile my parents’ cat whom we’re babysitting is pawing at me to share the covers.

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Ok, that was only a mild distraction. I then set out in a journey of ten years from the date it was when I did this meditation. I visualized walking down the street an older wiser woman with sage advice, peace in her heart and a sense of joy.

Then in the middle of the guided meditation came the next jarring thought uttered out of Ayelet’s mouth. Imagine your “favorite destination.”

I’ve been concentrating so much on the here and now that I’ve not had time with my husband to find a cool place we both like to go. Back in the day I would have said Blueberry Hill or Pie restaurant in St. Louis. However I no longer reside there. I’ve been to Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and that is about it. Most of those places I went to in college to visit a close friend, therefore it was not a site seeing trip.

Honestly my husband and I dream of going to Italy where we can indulge our former art student selves and drool over the work in the Sistene Chapel or see other famous sites. I dream of traveling and meeting my fellow bloggers with my husband going to exciting places and meeting interesting people.

But when I meditate, I cant get there. I know when meditating its an exercise of being in that moment. In this particular exercise it was being in a moment of the future, but it’s hard to imagine the geographics when you’ve never been  there. I can imagine the feeling of walking into the Sistene Chapel, and the possible smell of the plastered walls, but it is the visual I cant seem to grasp.

Maybe I don’t have a destination because we will soon discover one. As a kid my favorite destinations were under the bushes in my friend’s yard where we would pretend it was a secret hideout even though everyone knew about it. My other favorite destinations have included family members homes, friends’ homes, the clubhouse my parents built in the backyard, and the limestone piles of rocks my friend and I would hike in the winter.

Do I really need a favorite place? I started panicking in my meditative state because I was truly stumped. All of the places I listed are still favorite places, but they are also memories from the past, some have changed, some no longer exist. So what is my new destination of the future? Has it even been created yet?

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I guess the question I pose to you dear readers, is this; do you run into this problem too? Are all your favorite places in the past?

Sure we all have hopes and dreams of visiting some place, but is there a favorite place in the here and now you can guarantee will be there in the future?

The great gasp

Yesterday we were discussing Paradise Lost in my English Literature class.  We were getting to the final chapters when the professor started talking about Adam and Eve and the moment before “the fall”.

adam_and_eveHe phrased what was happening in the story something like this, “Eve has just taken a bite from the apple. Adam looks at her and has the attitude of, ‘if you’re going down then I’m going down with you.”  The professor then looked to me in the back and said, “If you’re Eve, should Adam eat the apple?”

I said, “I don’t know, I’d like to see where this is going.”  Honestly I was a little embarrassed after getting called on and could feel my face getting warm.  Also, I know he always has a trick up his sleeve as to where the story is going, because it’s not always what we think.

He then asked again, “Noooo, if you’re Eve and Adam says he’s coming with you, should he eat the apple?”

He was looking for an immediate response.  A million things ran through my brain.  I put it in context of my husband and I.  My husband is pretty defiant, he would definitely be adamant about coming with me even though I was the one who screwed up.  (He’s a chivalrous guy, what can a gal say?)

However, the class didn’t hear all the thoughts in my head, all they heard was an immediate reaction of, “Probably not, but I would say, ‘Thanks for the company!”

Almost 75% of the class gasped.

The professor took it the way it was intended and laughed. Obviously I know Adam shouldn’t have eaten the apple.  I also happen to come from a Judeo-Christian background.  However, there was no one to tell the class this along with my inner monologue of 5 seconds.  Now to a class of up and coming literary professors and teachers I sound like a complete an utter heathen.  Thanks John Milton.

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Knope to dope

When you live next to a drug user (dealer) there are several things which can happen to you as a neighbor. You can start to get anxious, paranoid and stir crazy. You start to wonder why you feel the way you do. You start thinking you’re a little bit nuts and maybe a bit of a hypochondriac.

leslie-knope-hurtsThen one day, a semi-familiar smell seeps into the well-sealed bathroom. That’s when it hits you; you’ve been inhaling foreign substances for months, making you this way.  This is why the scent is familiar but stronger. The odor had been constant, faint, much like background music in an elevator. Then one day it was like getting into an elevator and the sound was turned all the way up and you had no way out.

Donna 1In the few short seconds after waking up the first day of Spring Break, letting it sink in why we’ve been sleeping at odd intervals, we packed up the cats and left. We temporarily stayed with my parents while I detoxed, shook and waited for my innards to quit writhing while every ounce of the toxins worked their way out of my body.

50640-Parks-and-Recreation-Andy-Wipi-WhvnLiving next to a dealer can make you realize the life you were not meant for. Living next to a dealer can make you realize you deserve better. In essence, you need to be like Donna and Tom from Parks and Recreation and “Treat yo’ self”.

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In this entry, yes I am passively complaining about our neighbor, but I want to focus on the positive things about this.

Donna2It helped me realize my depression was manageable. I’ve since been getting help, and have been doing so without the use of medication but rather through meditation and prayer.

Because of this situation I no longer feel this way!

Because of this situation I no longer feel this way!

It helped us to realize how miserable we were in our poorly lit basement apartment.

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It made us get out of the apartment and search for something better.

It helped us to stand our ground.

lesliestickIt helped us to learn how to not be intimidated by someone forcing their issues onto you.

It made my husband and I realize how much we are loved by family and friends alike and how much they support us.

leslie-knope-textmeIt gave me clarity and helped me realize all our other problems in life were manageable.

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It made me get myself in gear to sell my student portfolio art on Etsy. (If you would like to peruse/purchase just click on this sentence!)

It helped me appreciate what I do for a living more so than before.

It made me realize how important teaching students respect, kindness and integrity are and how it affects everyone.

Integrity matters.

Integrity matters.

It made me appreciate my students more.

AnneIf you are ever having a problem or an issue, go in to any grade school classroom. Chances are those students will be happy to see you, and if they give you a hard time, they are teaching you how to live in the present and go with the flow. They taught me how to deal and “let it go”.

Dear readers, I apologize for not having been on here in a while. With this entry, surely you understand. Our trek to our jobs is a little longer now, but we are safer for it. Because of the treks, the day job, the night classes and everything in-between it makes it a little more challenging to write blog entries. Thank you for those of you who have stuck with me through thick and thin.

Leslie PrioritiesWhat neighbor problem have you had where you’ve learned something from the situation?

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