Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Brow Beaten

USS Neversail - is where I learned my seamanship indoctrination. My first salute and "Permission to come aboard!" happened on this replicated ship. There we learned ship life, and how to tie knots. Some of the classes onboard covered topics such as; water tight integrity, and chemical warfare.

Here's a glimpse into Navy boot camp. I was 17 and fresh out of high school!

Brow Beaten

My feet were firmly planted together, my nose straight ahead, my ears ringing. I dared not twitch. She was in her early thirties, blonde, short, and had the loudest mouth I had ever witnessed on God’s great planet.

"LADIES, SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTHS! When I walk into a room I expect you to stand at attention! That means, NO MOVING, NO TALKING, and NO BREATHING! Ladies, you belong to me now!" And with an emphasizing stomp of her foot she screamed, "and YOU’RE IN MY NAVY!"

Oh boy, you could hear a pin drop.

That’s how we were formally introduced. I’ll just bet that the jet airliner that had earlier dropped us off at the Orlando Florida airport wasn’t even refueled yet! The rest of the evening became a blur of events. We were given our rules of conduct. We were reminded that we no longer belonged to ourselves. I solemnly looked down at my arm and marveled at how I was borrowing something that I had taken for granted my entire life. Imagine not "owning" your own hands and feet! We were now officially government property.

Uncle Sam would be taking care of everything. He was going to be our sugar daddy. He’d feed us, clothe us, instruct us how to brush our teeth, remind us when to bathe, when to close our mouths, when to sleep, and when to take a pee.

We were ushered into a large shower stall (all 60 of us) and ordered to strip and wash. It was really pathetic watching some of the girls trying to maintain their modesty. Amidst blushes and averted eyes, it became painfully obvious that the ones who were still wearing their underclothes in the showers were attracting the most attention. I figured that it would be easier to "bare all" and to get lost in the sea of boobs and fannies, rather than risk ridicule.

CC (Company Commander) Johnson (the mouthy blonde) wasn’t too thrilled either. You should have seen her nostrils flare when she spotted half a dozen girls emerging from the showers in their dripping panties and bras. Talk about sh*t flying and hitting the fan! I was still shaking in my britches when we were finally ushered to our bunks.

The following day we were taught how to march, how to stencil our names on our uniforms, how to stand in line, how to salute and how to hold our ditty bags. Never mind Master Card—we never left our barracks without our ditty bags! In case you are wondering, a ditty bag is this silly looking travel case (resembling a shaving case); it is small, dark blue and has a long zipper. The only contents allowable for female recruits (male recruits do not carry ditty bags—they get to use their back pockets) are: 1 pencil, 1 small spiral notebook (that you have to fold in half to fit), and 2 tampons (whether you needed them or not). Anything more or less will result in, "DROP AND GIVE ME TWENTY!" And believe me, doing push-ups for CC Johnson was no simple feat. She had the irritating habit of making the entire company drop down to their noses all for the simple mistake of one recruit. I don’t know what us female recruits feared the most: pissing off our CC or letting down our comrades.

We were constantly reminded that we were in a man’s world. I guess CC Johnson felt that we women had to prove ourselves. Each and every time a company of male recruits marched by, she would drop us to the ground with our noses to the grinder. Sometimes we were forced to do these exercises called mountain climbers. With our butts in the air and our palms flat on the ground, we sweated under the scrutinizing and, I’m sure, amused glances of our male peers. It was really quite humiliating. She pushed us, she screamed, she threatened, and she marched us like Hitler’s army. We were one big marching machine. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. You could hear all 120 boots hitting the pavement in unison.


In unison our heels clicked together. CC Johnson had ordered us to stop. My nose was straight ahead, my shoulders squared back, my tummy and buttocks tucked in. CC Johnson was heading in my direction. I could feel the heat of her glance. I dared not twitch. A small bead began to form at the tip of my nose. She was standing at my side. Sweat began to trickle down my back. My leg itched. We had been marching for what seemed like hours. The bead trickled down my nose and another began to form. I fought back the nausea. Somebody else didn’t. The girl in front of me broke formation and doubled over. With what sounded like a loud burp, she ejected the contents of her breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and milk onto the pavement. I could feel the cool wetness of her vomit as it splattered onto my pant leg. I dared not blink. CC Johnson was furious and had her unceremoniously escorted to sickbay. The rest of us girls were ordered to resume marching. This time we sang a song.

Mama, mama, can’t you see?
What the Navy’s done to me…
Took away my lovin’ man,
Now I sleep with Uncle Sam!

We were all assigned lockers located at the foot of our bunks. We were taught how to fold our clothes all over again. Never mind what your mama taught you. In boot camp, a ruler became your best friend. We painstakingly folded each of our white cotton panties, T-shirts, and bras. Each one perfectly aligned in its proper places. Each bra strap impeccably matched, smoothed, folded, measured, refolded, re-measured, and aligned. I can guarantee you that if our country were to ever face a national crisis the women of the United States Navy would NOT be found with their panties in a wad!

I was being summoned to CC Johnson’s office. I could barely control my knees from shaking. Another recruit was summoned as well. We stood at attention in her office. Another CC that I did not recognize was standing in the office. She was addressing us.
"Ladies, I have selected you both to join my team. You will report to my quarters each afternoon for instructions."

We both soon learned that we were "volunteered" into the Navy’s elite drill team. Each afternoon, us two girls would leave our company and find ourselves back on the grinder, learning our new marching steps with a team of fresh faces. We were being drilled and polished to march in Florida’s upcoming parade. Each afternoon we left for the drill team and returned several hours later, sweating, exhausted, and near collapse. The girls in my company remarked how unfortunate we were when we returned. Never mind that we were exempt from an inspection or two. They pitied us.

The big day arrived and the Navy’s drill team was ushered off of base. We took a bus to the parade. Amidst confetti, cheers, and balloons, we marched proudly along the streets, the Navy band following suit. All of a sudden those hours of backbreaking work paid off. We did the sunburst march, the stars, and the tangles. We marched and marched. We were being televised. Before we knew it we were back on the bus, our faces aglow with pride. Our Drill CC surprised us with a stop at McDonald’s.

Back on base and returned to our barracks, us two girls excitedly shared our experiences. They were furious! How dare we eat hamburgers while they stayed behind and folded panties! How dare we get to ride a bus while they mopped and scrubbed the toilets!

After that, life became miserable for us two drill team recruits. Each day we would find our bunks tipped upside down, and the contents of our lockers piled onto the floor.

One evening after mail call, I was sitting on my bunk and was quietly plucking my eyebrows when Kindschey approached me. She’s this big oriental masculine girl with high cheekbones, snapping black eyes, and fists that could crush your skull. No wonder CC Johnson elected her as our company’s MAA (Master At Arms); her sole duty was to be our CC’s extra eye and to maintain order in her absence. She was just another recruit like the rest of us, but she instilled fear. She dropped onto all fours and scoured the floor at my feet. I watched incredulously as she searched painstakingly for something.

"What are you looking for?" I finally asked. Kindschey ignored me and continued to search. Finally she rose on her haunches with triumph. She pounced to CC Johnson’s office.

A few moments later both Kindschey and CC Johnson were at the foot of my bunk. I was standing in bewildered attention.
"Do you see this?" Kindschey was holding out the point of her finger. I squinted. CC Johnson was squinting as well, but nodding her head, nevertheless.
"THIS!" Kindschey thrust her finger into my eye. I squinted again. Finally my eyes adjusted and could make out the teeny tiny shape of a plucked brow.
I could see the veins twitching in both Kindschey’s and CC Johnson’s necks.
I was in deep water.

They had two MP’s escort me out of the barracks and out onto the compound. I was briskly marched to another building. I noticed an ambulance parked outside. Inside was a mad scramble of barking drill sergeants. I was ordered to hit the floor. I was forced to exercise non-stop for three hours. I ran laps, did push-ups, jumping jacks and bar lifts. They screamed at me, threatened, and spat. There was a combination of others in the room with me. Male recruits, females, some crying some groaning. We were all being punished for something or another.

I seethed the entire time over Kindschey. The following day I could barely stand. Although I wasn’t dead, I wished I were. I had more surprises waiting. CC Johnson had a special trip for just her and me. With barked orders to the rest of the gals, she marched me out of the barracks and into the base barbershop.
"CHOP IT ALL OFF!" I sat in stunned silence as I watched layers of layers of my long hair fall to the floor. I feebly reminded CC Johnson, who was attached to my side, that I had maintained my hair in a proper bun. Her only retort was, "NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"

My company was being marched to a grassy hill on the outskirts of the base. We had only one week left of basic training. It was the fourth of July and the NCO (Naval Commanding Officer) had graciously granted all recruits the privilege to watch the fireworks display on base. I was equally surprised to see that us female recruits were allowed to mingle with the male recruits. Of course, with instructions to not fraternize or touch, we cautiously approached one another. More than fireworks were flying as we conversed through the night.

I do not remember the cracking lights and color bursts in the sky. My companions and I were off in our own little world, talking and laughing. Finally the night became quiet except for the shuffling of feet and the yells of the commanding officers. I bid farewell and searched the grounds for my company. Panic set in as I failed to recognize a single face. I anxiously scanned the rows of recruits all set to march. Finally, my heart sunk to my toes.

Off in the distance, already kicking up a cloud was my company. They had unknowingly left without me. Fear unlike anything I had ever experienced settled over my shoulders. I watched them marching off into the distance. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run. I remembered earlier that week when I had witnessed two male recruits jumping a fence. They were desperately trying to make an escape. One got caught in the fence the other made it to the other side.

I knew what I had to do. There were no fences to jump. There was nowhere to hide. It was time to face CC Johnson. Time to face Kindschey.
Time to face responsibility.

With ditty bag thrust properly in my right hand, feet and heels clicked together, I prepared myself for the march. My chin lifted and raised, eyes straight and forward, I tucked in my tummy and buttocks and squared my shoulders. I took another deep breath and started in the direction of my barracks. If one were to be within a hair’s breath from my lips, they would catch the hint of a song, escaping into the night…

Mama, mama can’t you see?
What the Navy’s done to me…


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Testing my X

Today I have ordered a DNA testing kit from the National Geographic Genome project. The total of this kit, including shipping comes to $107.00 - currently these kits are on backorder, so I don't expect my kit to be shipped until January 30th.

This will be the first time I’ve tested my own DNA. My brother has already tested his Y-Chromosome – linking our paternal heritage to be J1 CMH – Jewish middle-eastern descent.

Testing my X chromosome – mitochondrial will shed further light on my ancestral maternal side. So far, I know I am part German on my mother’s side, but this is inherited through her father, my grandfather. My DNA test will reveal solely the migration patterns of my female ancestors. My mother, my sisters, my niece, and my daughter each have inherited these same markers, and will each pass them down to their own female descendents as well.

The best part of the genome project is that (upon consent) our DNA results are added to the Family Tree DNA database. Through this medium a person can literally email distant cousins who share the same DNA markers! Family Tree DNA will send emails every time a match is added to the database! This is a very invaluable tool for those of us who are trying to complete our family tree!

Also, the National Geographic Genome Project is an ONGOING research tool that constantly adds as new information is discovered. Each person tested receives a password and can check the National Geographic website for updates.

My husband has already tested both his paternal and maternal DNA and his results have been posted on this blog along with my father’s migration patterns.

STAY TUNED for updates on my DNA test!

Monday, January 21, 2008


Guadalupe State Park

It was in the fall of 2005 when my family decided to go camping at Guadalupe State Park – twenty miles of river terrain preserved for the public. Guadalupe State Park is approximately 90 miles southwest from my doorstep. Driving from San Antonio, you would go northwest about 30 miles.

Airing our tent for the upcoming camping trip!

That morning my family packed our tent, sleeping bags and ice coolers and headed for the beautiful hill country. It was a gorgeous sunny drive, and we admired the dotted terrain of live oak and juniper trees. As we drew closer to the state park we became more excited. The area became dense with trees adding promises of the nearby river and its cool refreshing waters!

After checking in with the ranger at the station, we paid our camping fees and drove past several camping sites to get to the river itself. The park was virtually empty, except for one or two RV’s parked privately behind some trees.

One of the benefits about home schooling is LESS CROWDS! We choose our activities around public school schedules, to avoid tourists and large groups. While most families are home after vacations, we take advantage of the slow season and the low prices!

The large empty parking lot led to a sloping grass bank overlooking the water. Picnic tables on the grassy slope overlooked the sandy beach. What commanded our attention were the limestone cliffs across the river. Nestled within the canyon walls were tiny caves. Casting their shade alongside the river were the towering cypress trees!

Limestone canyon overlooking the Guadalupe River

The water looked crystal clear and inviting. Off in the distance we could hear the rapids. It was in that direction that our campsite was reserved. We had decided to camp primitive style. Other than a nearby faucet, we would have no electricity or amenities. I was anxious to see our camp site before jumping in the river, so we loaded back into the car and searched for our campground. The map that the ranger had provided, led us directly to an empty parking lot. Next to the bathroom was a dirt trail that led into the woods. We would have to carry all of our gear by foot to our campsite.

We chose the very last campsite hidden among the trees and overlooking the river. Although we couldn’t see the river below, we could hear the rapids. A steep path winded itself down from our campsite through the wooded cliff leading down into the rocky beach and the gnarled trunks of the cypress trees.

The rapids below our campsite.

Amidst my protests, the kids excitedly dropped their gear on the ground and disappeared down the trail.

We had three kids that day -- My 16-year-old son, Joshua, my 8-year-old daughter, Pamela, and my 14-year-old cousin, Sean, who spent the summer with us.

While my husband and kids climbed down the trail, I sorted through our gear. I looked in the direction of the parking lot and made a mental note about the hike. We would have to walk in pairs to the bathroom at night and carry a flashlight. My husband had reassured me that the park ranger would check up on us at least once during the night.

After my family returned from exploring, we pitched the tent, unloaded the car and returned by foot to the river. We took a trail that led from the parking lot, and started from the opposite direction of our campsite. This trail was well traveled and easier to follow, leading directly to the riverbed and picnic area we had earlier visited. We swam, splashed in the water, explored the canyon walls and afterwards returned to the campsite to cook our meal. After we ate, we explored the woods alongside our tent that lined the cliff of the river. We trudged through patches of fields and tangled trees, carefully watching for snakes. Off to the side we spotted the carcass of a wild turkey, freshly killed and partially devoured. We speculated over the animals that lived within the woods. Not wanting to explore too far, and chancing getting lost, we returned to camp.

As the sun started to drop behind the trees, we found ourselves rechecking our kerosene lantern and inspecting our campfire. In the ice cooler, we had packages of bratwurst to brown over the open fire. On the table, we had a bag of marshmallows. Everything was enclosed tightly within the coolers and what food we weren’t eating, we had stored inside the tent. Raccoons are notorious for getting into campsites and LIFTING LIDS to the coolers. We stored heavy objects on our ice chest to keep prying claws and noses out.

As expected, as soon as the sun disappeared and the darkness overtook our camp, my husband suggested a HIKE! Yikes! I was tired from our long trip, and hot sunny afternoon swimming, setting up camp and exploring. I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the campfire.

Begging off to not join them, my husband and two boys took off into the darkness while my daughter and I stared at each other from across the picnic table. In the woods from the opposite direction that my husband had taken, we could hear crunching sounds over dry leaves. “Tiny feet” walking through the woods at night when you’re all alone has a tendency to sound like “big feet”… My daughter and I stared off into the woods for a moment, listening to the sounds, glancing at one another. In the opposite direction we could hear the guys, disappearing further and further away, an occasional whoop or holler off in the distance, until finally… no more sounds except for the crunching noises nearby.

Spotting a deck of cards on the picnic table, I suggested, CRAZY EIGHT!

We played game after game, occasionally pausing to listen for the guys, or to speculate about the sounds. Shining a flashlight, we caught glimpses of an armadillo, or opossum, boldly appearing into our camp.

There’s something about being surrounded by darkness. Sitting next to a campfire and kerosene lantern gives you the impression that you are being watched. You feel vulnerable and on a pedestal. Like a beckoning arm, the light and heat draws in creatures large and small from the darkness, closer and closer to our campsite. Satiating curiosities, yet increasing our own.

We had probably played about twenty games of Crazy Eight, with no sights or sounds of the guys. Unanimously, my daughter and I decided to zip ourselves inside the netted tent. There on the tent floor under the shadows, we continued playing game after card came, ignoring the sounds of the woods, laughing a bit too loudly, flippantly teasing one another, louder and louder, subconsciously muffling the sounds around us, forcing our minds to stay on the game…

Two raccoons were climbing on top of our picnic table. A fishing pole got knocked to the ground. With more relief than we dared to admit, the guys walked into camp! My daughter and I ecstatically unzipped ourselves from the tent and rushed to their side. Animals skittered into the woods. The boys were full of excitement, and gushed about their hike. I noticed that my cousin Sean was about to say something when my husband poked him in the ribs. My son, Joshua pulled out the bratwurst and our attention circled around the campfire. I was dragging one of our camping chairs towards the fire when I noticed a large rock roll across the ground past my feet.

“Did you see that?!” Sean yelled.

Another rock skittered past. I glanced over at Josh, but realized he was engrossed with the food.

“SSSHHH!!” scolded my husband. Sean protested something under his breath and my husband spoke to him quietly.

I was under the impression that my husband didn’t want Sean to say something that would frighten the group. I didn’t question what was going on, but decided to ask about it later.

We sat around the campfire talking about our day, until finally our eyes became droopy. I was surprised that everyone agreed to turn in early. It was probably sometime around 11 p.m. I was slightly annoyed that we never saw the park ranger. Usually they do their rounds just before they lock up the state park. My husband figured since the park was virtually empty, they probably didn’t feel a need to search the area. Earlier that day while at the river, we spotted another couple with a young toddler. We figured they had visited the park to swim, but were not campers. On that particular day, the state park had less than a handful of people, including my family. We had the river to ourselves. We felt all alone, blanketed in the woods, the river gushing below.

Inspecting our ice chests against critters, we zipped our perishables inside our tent and bunkered down on our sleeping bags. I left all the flaps to the tent unzipped, allowing the moonlight to filter in. The netting protected us against the mosquitoes, and the prying bugs. The campfire died down to a glowing ember, getting smaller and smaller as the night turned colder.

Both boys were snoring and by the even breathing of my daughter, I could tell she was asleep. I tossed and turned, listening to my family sleep.

I started to fall asleep when I heard a noise. I was wide awake, listening to the night. Coming from the direction of the canyons I heard another roar. Directly behind our tent, possibly over the river, on top of the canyon, something was moving.

“Did you hear that?” My husband whispered. By this time my daughter too had awakened and slid between my husband and I. Josh was awake too and we snuggled under our sleeping bags staring at the roof of the tent. The campfire was dead, and the woods were quiet. We decided it was probably a bear.

Long moments of silence and weariness took over and others began to snore again. I lied awake trying to figure out the sounds. Without a doubt, it was a very large creature!

It wasn’t until we were packed and safely on the road home that the real story came out.

My husband and boys confided that their late night hiking trip had consisted of another visitor.

SOMETHING was throwing rocks at them from the direction of the canyon. While they walked along the rocky edge of the riverbed, rocks were being thrown from off the top of the canyon and landing at their feet. Occasionally they stopped walking and shone their flashlights over the river and up and down the canyons. There was nobody on the beach. Something had to have a powerful aim to throw rocks from the canyon. Another rock spiraled from over the river, landing at their feet!

Not easily swayed by the incident, my husband steered the boys down another path away from the river. They hiked through the darkened trail, their lights pointing the way. After awhile, my husband became conscious that something was following them. He had an eerie sense that they were being watched. Muffled by the darkness, he heard something large hit the ground. It sounded as if something or someone had jumped down from a tree.
More rocks were thrown. That awful smell again, as though something was dead.

Sean was terrified, as Josh was lagging behind the group. My husband wanted to wait for Josh to catch up. Sean didn’t want to stop and backtrack, but to move quickly for camp!

Unaware of the prior events, I was oblivious to what had happened when the guys arrived. Although I had seen the rocks thrown at our group, I was not aware that my husband and boys had been followed to our campsite.

Whatever it was, whoever it was, stopped throwing rocks after we settled around the campfire.

After we got home, my husband and I searched the Internet for sound files of large animals. We tried unsuccessfully to identify the roars that we had heard. The closest we came to identifying the noise, was that of a bear. But to this day, I’m not especially sure this is what we heard.

In all honesty, we can try to rationalize every experience we had at the campsite. The noises, the stalking, the smells… Yet, for the umpteenth time, hundreds of times, over and over in our minds, we cannot rationalize WHO or WHAT was throwing rocks.

Even if the perpetrator was a man throwing rocks, this does not explain the impossible feat of a mere mortal tossing rocks from the top of the canyon, across the river, to the very toes of my husband and boys. Not to mention, whatever it was, had swiftly climbed down the canyon, crossed the river, and stalked the guys directly to our campsite. Do not let the pictures fool you. The canyon is taller and further across the river than the pictures depict!

So all in all, I can laugh away every single event... except for the rock throwing!

A few months later, I was in another part of the house and I caught the last part of the Travel Channel. A policeman was being interviewed about his close call with Bigfoot. He and his partner claimed that something was throwing rocks at them.

Glued to the television, I listened to this report about Sasquatch and Bigfoot. This was the first time I had heard anything about rocks being thrown. This was exactly what had happened to us!

I visited the Texas Bigfoot Research Center online and read about other reports in the Texas area. Although most of the sightings were in East Texas, there were sprinklings of sightings around the hill country. There were no reports at Guadalupe State Park. Hmmm...

Placing the incident on the backburner, only to occasionally dust off the memory and reminiscence with the family -- all thoughts of “Bigfoot” disappeared.

Yet lately, I pay closer attention to these stories of Bigfoot. Whenever I hear that rocks had been thrown, I sit up and take notice!

Sure, I too question the validity of Sasquatch --- After all, WHERE is the evidence? Why are all the pictures so blurry? How come nobody has found a body?

So many questions and so many mysteries! While studying Indian folklore, they too mention this hairy beast that roams the woods and mysteriously appears and disappears.

I finally decided to contact the Texas Bigfoot Research center. I sent off an email and mentioned our camping trip. I made it clear right from the beginning that we were not claiming to have found “Bigfoot” but had been startled by the rock throwing.

A field researcher from San Antonio excitedly called me. He wanted me to explain our camping trip all over again, questioning me further about the stalking, the smells and the roars. Making me promise to not share the sound files, he sent me several sounds of purported sightings that were captured on tape. NOTHING sounded close to what we had heard. In fact, some of the screeches were blood curdling, hair raising-sci-fi, no way would I have slept in my tent another night- types of sounds!

Normally these conferences are held annually in East Texas, but the 2006 conference was canceled. My family ended up visiting Caddo Lake, taking a boat ride and marveling at the ghostly cypress trees!

Eeriely beautiful at Caddo Lake! We do plan to return and camp! Although there are many bigfoot sightings in this area, our biggest fear is toward gators!

I felt foolish listening to these sound files and realize that I never did contact the field researcher with my conclusions. As usual, I got busy, and swamped. Again, the “Bigfoot” incident hit the backburner and all thoughts went away, until the occasional dusting off and reminiscing with the family.

It’s been a couple of years since that day...

Do we want to go back and camp at Guadalupe State park? You bet!

Occasionally, I check the Texas Bigfoot Research center for updates on their website. They STILL have not included our experience. This only proves to me that not everything reported or mentioned gets listed.

There's absolutely no doubt that something, or someone was stalking my family that fall day in 2005. I have no doubt it was a creature. As for it being a man? Well... the thought makes my blood run cold. As my grandmother used to say, she’s more scared of the living, than the dead! (I would have to agree with her on that!)

As for it being a Bigfoot? For some reason this doesn’t scare me.

If I knew without a shadow of doubt that Bigfoot was in those woods, I would be there in a heartbeat setting up camp! Only this time, rather than staying behind alone at camp, I’ll go hiking with the rest of the group!

A person can only endure so many card games of Crazy Eight!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Memory Quilt!

(click photo for enlargement)

This past Christmas, my sister surprised the entire family by creating MEMORY QUILTS for each 5 siblings and our mother! What an awesome gift and something that can be cherished and passed down from generation to generation!

This is a very unique photo quilt that my sister was able to create by printing photos of our ancestors onto fabric, and printing this out from a printer! WOW!

Each photo has a caption of their name... Since the quilt was presented to each sibling, the caption holds the name as we would call each ancestor.... Mom, Grandma, Aunt Ruth, Grandpa Groat, etc.

This is truly an amazing gift, and I can't thank my sister enough. There is a lot to be said for handmade gifts. This quilt has given me many exciting ideas and possibilities on how to create and design around photos! If you would like to visit my sister's website, you can visit my SIBLING INTRODUCTION here on this blog. I've included links to each of my sister's and my brother.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Family Tree DNA

One of my interests is studying DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and how genetics is carving the path for many exciting possibilities! For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with microbiology. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a microscope! Just like the mysteries of the ocean, there's a vast new world hidden within our body. Like an army prepared for battle, our immune system recognizes the enemy and attacks. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalm 139:14

Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus, but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria.

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T).

Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.

DNA can replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.

Believe it or not, if you took all of the DNA in all of your cells and laid it out end to end, it would stretch to the moon and back about 130,000 times!

When studying our DNA to trace our ancestry, we focus on DNA MUTATIONS.

Everyone acquires some changes to their DNA during the course of their lives. These changes occur in a number of ways. Sometimes there are simple copying errors that are introduced when DNA replicates itself. (Every time a cell divides, all of its DNA is duplicated so that the each of the two resulting cells have a full set of DNA.) Other changes are introduced as a result of DNA damage through environmental agents like sunlight, cigarette smoke, and radiation, and illnesses. Our cells have built in mechanisms that catch and repair most of the changes that occur during DNA replication or from environmental damage. As we age, however, our DNA repair does not work as effectively and we accumulate changes in our DNA.

Through these mutations, we are given a glimpse into the history of our blueprint, and recognizing ancestral traits that are passed down from generation to generation! I HIGHLY encourage you to research further on genetics, as I've only touched the surface of this exciting topic!


The ancestral route of the Y-Chromosome from my father & brother's DNA

Through National Geographic's genome project, my brother paid $99.95 plus shipping to trace our male line Y-Chromosome - which can only be passed down from father to son, generation to generation.

The above migration patterns shows the results of his DNA sequences - We are listed as Haplogroup J- with the Y-chromosome markers as M168, M89, M304

Descendants of this line appear the highest in frequency in the Middle East.

Again, because of a mutation, (a random and natural occurance) this acts like a beacon - mapping our ancestral line, passed down from father to son, and so on, for thousands of years.

As we all know, our ancestors originated out of AFRICA - the first of the male line started with ADAM. Through my dad's ancestral migration patterns, the genetic code shows that my father's first ancestors left Africa, and settled in the fertile crescent region that extends from the Mediterranean sea to the Persian Gulf where the Euphrates river and the Tigris forms the rich flood plains. Today, the region includes all, or parts of Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Wanting to dig further on our family tree markers, my brother took another test with a different laboratory - the results CONFIRMED the original results but gave us a deeper glimpse. Our paternal line is J1 CMH - J1 Cohen Model Haplogroup. This links our paternal ancestry to be direct descendents of the priesthood, Aaron, brother of Moses. Tribe of Levi. Again, only the Y-chromosome can be passed from father to son.

Wanting to examine further our X-chromosome MITOCHONDRIAL line, I will be submitting my DNA to test our ancestral passages on our mother's side. At this point, we know we are German on the maternal side, but when examining our documented family tree, I notice that our German ancestry belongs to my grandfather on my mother's line. This will NOT show in my own MTDNA test, but rather the test will show the migration patterns from my ancient grandmother, that can only be passed down from mother to daughter, for generations. My brother is lucky, as his DNA consists of BOTH Y and X chromosomes, allowing him to test BOTH his maternal and paternal sides! (As we all know, females inherit only the X chromosome, and males inherit BOTH the X and the Y).

Either way, I do plan to post the results of our MATERNAL ancestry as soon as I submit and receive back the results.

For further study, you can view the migration patterns of my husband who had tested as R1B - linking him to be of British/Irish ancestry. Through the Family Tree DNA project, he is already making contacts with distant cousins!

Husband's haplogroup, R1B

My husband tested both is maternal and paternal sides. The resulting find shows the migration patterns of his mother. Similar somewhat to his dad's with varying differences in his ancestors migration throughout Europe. She too shows a high percentage rate in Ireland, with some veerance in France, and Germany. All in all, both parents show a high percentage as being British and Irish. I'm still studying this further, and am sure, updates may change this perspective!

Mitochondrial Haplogroup H

Stay tuned for updates on my mitochondrial test results!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BUSH Country!

One morning my family woke up and decided to visit Crawford Texas! What the heck, after all, Cindy Sheehan was there. All this stuff in the news about protesting, and Camp Casey. We wanted to see this with our own eyes.

Here we go again... another opportunity for HOME SCHOOL! "Kids, you are witnessing history in the making!"

I'll never forget that day as we steered our car into Interstate 35. It was a muggy 100+ degrees outside. We were headed north in the direction of Waco, Texas.

Crawford is west of Waco, so we took the back roads through various small towns. My husband, a preacher's son, grew up visiting these dusty towns, pointing out various churches that his father had preached in. One particular town that brought back memories was MOODY TEXAS!

We arrived at Crawford and noticed immediately the town was PACKED bumper to bumper! At the center of the town was a GEORGE BUSH giftstore doing what else but capitalizing on the fact that the President of the United States lives there.

After nosing around town and seeing the gift store, we jumped in the car and headed down the road for Camp Casey.

The road to Bush's ranch and Camp Casey.

Before the camp appeared in site, we noticed small white crosses lining both sides of the road. I asked my husband to pull over so that I could stop and read the names of our servicemen who had died in Iraq. I was searching for a particular name... A name that still brings me sadness and disbelief that the war could reach out and grab the shoulders of someone I knew personally.

It was surreal finding his name on the side of the road in Texas! After all, we graduated from highschool together in a small town in Missouri. I mean a SMALL TOWN so having someone I know from there dying in Iraq, seemed well, impossible. But so sadly, it happened.

After finding Steve Gottfried's cross, we pressed forward and arrived at the campsite.

Law and order!

As soon as we arrived, the police were on both sides ushering our cars forward. We had no choice but to pull over and park what felt like a mile from the campsites, backtracking by foot. I thought for sure we'd die of a heatstroke!

Right across the street from one another was Camp Casey and the Bush supporters. It became evidently clear that both sides were the extreme opposites!

Bush Camp!

Camp Casey!

First I walked on the Camp Casey side... I'll be honest, it was like stepping back into the 1960's --Women nursing babies under a tent, barefoot men in army jackets exposing their bare chests, hippies strumming guitars... A news crew was on Casey's side filming the protestors. I stepped over their electrical cords and ducked as they pointed their cameras. I felt embarrassed and immediately crossed over to the Bush side. Right away I noticed that the people on the Bush side were clean-cut and shaven.

I'm not going to criticize Cindy for her protesting. If my son had died in that war, I don't know how I would have reacted. Nor am I a Bush supporter. All in all, it was an interesting day.

We drove past the crosses again and I bid Steven a farewell. Such a sad day two years ago, and still no sight that this war is ending!