You Can Do It!

book_3161_smI must admit I have been a bit distracted the last couple of weeks. There is the usual pre-Christmas chaos we all go through, which honestly hasn’t been that bad this year. I did finally finish the book I was putting together about my Nana, and it came back from the printers. The youngest and I have been working on her application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Now yes, I am English. So it would seem a little odd for me to promote this, but let bygones be bygones I say. After all, that was ages ago, and history. Today is today, and my daughter’s ancestry is full of patriotic history to be proud of. So we are in the process of gathering the documentation. Those who know me know that when I get into a genealogical search I get a bit like Sherlock Holmes. I am driven, and a bit nuts until I solve the puzzles. I literally had to pull myself away from an unresolved situation when I realized I hadn’t sent out Christmas cards yet. In fact, just thinking about it now makes me want to start looking afresh. Yes, it is an addiction for me, I admit it!

The other thing that has been occupying my time is planning next summer. When our son and the wild child graduated from high school, as their graduation gifts we gave them a trip to Europe to see where they came from. Now that it will soon be time for the youngest, she didn’t want to go alone. I, of course, being the loving and caring mother I am, will suffer and go with her (said with much sarcasm, lol). We have decided that because we don’t have a time restraint, and we do not want to do the ‘touristy’ thing, we want to ‘experience’ where we go. So we are looking at B & B rentals and more budget friendly ideas. Spending about 3-4 weeks in England (west of London area), then a train trip through the Chunnel to Germany for a few days to see where some of Hubby’s ancestors came from. We even discovered that if you do it right you can actually fly to England by way of Iceland for almost the same price. That makes me a bit nervous, going somewhere completely foreign with no one I know there. But, then I think about the experience. When would we ever get to go to Iceland again? We should jump at the opportunity when we can. So, if anyone reading this has any advice for us, please let me know.

The youngest and I are both taking our cameras on our adventure next summer. So I have been consulting the masters, as in reading and watching seminars and tutorials by master photographers. I have been thrilled to learn that on my trip to Arizona I was already doing a number of the things on the lists of the top Travel Photographers. Two of the pictures I took at the Chapel in Sedona are perfect examples. Now the next step is a bigger camera bag, and new luggage for both of us. I am afraid my big bag came home from Arizona with a split zipper. So it will not be making another flight.

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What is the moral of this post? Yes, I am meandering a bit . . . This past year (or so) has been full of many different adventures. I have done more things, been more places, and put myself out there. When I look back I am pretty proud of myself. I didn’t just think about how cool it would be, I actually did it. There were some things I didn’t do, that now I wish I had. But what that has taught me is that next time I won’t be so hesitant to say ‘yes’. Most importantly to say ‘yes’ to myself. Because that is the most important person to convince. You have to know within yourself that you can do it first. Even if you don’t really know if you can. So I guess we will go to Iceland, because I know we can do it!

In the Spotlight!!!

Ok, so last night was definitely a learning experience. I have been so busy with other things I haven’t had the camera out much since in Arizona. I did just recently get a new lens as an early birthday present from Hubby, a 17-85mm. I was having issues getting everyone in the shot at Thanksgiving with the 28-135mm. Well, last night was the talent show at the high school. The youngest was in it; well sort of. Her boyfriend (Jazzkid) plays the saxophone, beautifully I might add. He was playing a duet with a friend on the piano, and the youngest was turning pages for the pianist. Hubby and I went to show our support, video tape it with the Flip, and so I could play with the camera in low light. Or more to the point, next to no light.

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Will post this one as you can’t tell who it is at all as it is one of the bad of the bad ones. But you can see what I mean about red on red.

So, I’m playing with the camera, (I’m not posting the pictures as they are other people’s kids, and I know how I would feel if other people were posting pictures of my under age kids.) the first act is a band. There were three boys, and lots of light effects. So I got some pretty good shots. But then it was girls singing in front of the curtain, which was red, and they were in red dresses! I know it is Christmas time, but didn’t anyone bother to tell these girls that red dresses in front of a red curtain just doesn’t flatter? Let alone it doesn’t work well at all with a camera. The rest were just too low light, and I was getting discouraged, and afraid I wasn’t going to get a good shot of the youngest and her friends. So I got desperate and put the flash on the camera. There were two kids playing instruments in front of the curtain, so I figured I would give it a shot. Oh boy!! It lit up the whole auditorium!! There were gasps and reactions from all around me. Hubby whispers “that was bright!” Well yes! Even I saw that. Boy do I have a good flash. The shot was beautiful. But I wasn’t going to do that again! I sunk down in my seat hiding and didn’t take another shot. Then there was intermission and the youngest and Jazzkid came over. When I told them about it, she said “that was you!” Oh my god, talk about embarrassing! Then she takes the camera to show Jazzkid’s parents! Doubly embarrassing! During intermission I tried playing with bringing down the flash settings, or even using the on camera flash. I just brought more attention to myself! And yes, this post is full if exclamation points!

When it came time for the kids to play I was at the point of using my 70-200mm with crossed fingers, and no flash. I ended up with two not bad shots of Jazzkid, and one acceptable of the girls at the piano. But, at the end when all the kids were on the stage at the final curtain, walking off, I did get the shot that I will accept as my good shot of the night. Jazzkid goofing with his sax, and the youngest with a big grin on her face. Hubby has the video, but I have the joy they felt after it was all over. That was what it was all for, and what I needed to capture. Those are the most important moments. And to be honest, who cares if it is technically perfect or not. I sure don’t.

What people see IS only skin deep

“Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Season Two, Episode 10 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots/ Before I even begin my post I have to talk about this show, and especially episode 10.

In watching the show you will find people going back in time to find out what it is from their genetic make-up that has brought them to be the person they are. Oh we can start that conversation about nature vs. nurture, which I am a total believer in. But I also believe that there is a balance of the two. How we are raised will decide what aspects of our genetic side will come out vs. what we can learn from who raises us. But there are a few very important things to take away from episode 10 of this show.

Deval Patrick, the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, found out that his great great-grandfather was the son of a white man and slave owner. At first we have that picture of a poor young black slave girl being taken by the cruel slave owner. But it was found later that he conveyed land to her and his son, and that it was a caring relationship.

Gates said “it defies, what we were taught in school or the stereotypes of this relationship.” Patrick’s response was, “It’s amazing. You know, we have spent so much of our history trying to harden what turns out to be quite blurred lines among and between people, and probably the sooner we acknowledge how blurred they are, and how common our humanity is, the better off we will be.”

We also hear about Henry Louis Gates Jr’s own white ancestor Wilmore Mayle, who publically announced that he was to free his slave Nancy and she would live with him as his wife, and their children. Because of this he was found recorded in Virginia as free colored, and moved back and forth across the color line as black, mulatto, or white. This actually answered questions about some research I had done for a family some years ago that had a similar story in their tree.

Geneticist Physician David Altshuler at Harvard put it beautifully when Gates asked him, “How much genetic overlap is there between what we call the different races?” Altshuler’s answer was –

“Genetic studies have now made it possible to go in and actually sequence every letter of the DNA of lots of people. You take any two people’s genomes, one from me and one from you and compared them, they’re 99.9 percent identical. So 99.9 percent of the letters are the same and then of the one to thousand or so that differ, 90 percent or more are shared all over the world.

There’s actually something magnificent about the idea of having thousands and millions of ancestors such a short time ago and that you have thousands and millions and everyone else has thousands of millions and many of them were the same people. It’s almost like a web.

It’s amazing. When you look at data on populations and you find the connections between people who think they’re unrelated, you realize that we really are all a family.”

In the end we find that much of Patrick’s DNA is European. Both his direct paternal and maternal lines were European making him 1/3 European. But what difference does this make? It all comes down to how he looks. Even though he is 1/3 European he is still very much African, and looks it.  Which brings me to my point, what people see IS only skin deep. Who we really are goes much deeper than that, and as Dr. Altshuler said, 99.9% of that is identical in each of us.

Genealogy has been a great love and interest of mine my whole adult life. I have actively researched and recorded my own, and many other family trees for over 30 years, and I am working on getting my Genealogy Certification. To be honest the only reason I don’t have it now is finding time to fit it into everything else I’m doing. This is an area that I do really know my stuff, but also know that there is always more to learn and explore. I love the TV shows “Who Do You Think You Are” and “Finding You Roots” for the interest they inspire in people about where they come from. But also what makes us who we are today.

We are all one big family. We will all have differences of opinion. But until we learn that we are part of each other, and the destruction of each other is only destruction of ourselves, the sooner that everyone figures this out, the sooner we will have peace in this world.