Relatives Unknown

Alexander McMullen copy

As a genealogist I find it interesting how we are a snippet of this and a snippet of that from so many of our past relatives. Having taken my DNA and put it on a database (let’s not go there about possible medical consequences…its a blind base) I am constantly finding new people who are in some way related to me. Today another distant cousin narrowed our shared ancestor down to a shared 7th G Grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War. And we each have a small part of him on chromosome 20.

My ancient DNA also surprises me…Siberia for example. And several other well-known ancients.

Recently, I put my children’s DNA into the data base. Because they are adopted they wanted to see if they could locate family and we have. While we will never know how they are related to the matches in the database we do now know of 4th cousins and such even though we will not know what side they come from. For those people who are adopted DNA genealogy is finally a way for them to connect with those who up to know would have been lost to them.

One of my adopted children who was born in Korea found out that he is also 2% Native American and 1% Polynesian. Where does this come from we wonder?  We can only assume it is ancient DNA carried by ancient people as they crossed over now extinct land bridges.

This holiday weekend was spent with my cousin. She brought another big box of family treasures with  her and I am once again scanning all these pictures unto A huge find was a tin-type picture of my GG Alexander McMullen. For me it is an amazing find as I had never seen a picture of him before and at this point our tree ends with him.That is him pictured above. He is said to be Scotch-Irish but where the Scotch comes in it seems like I will never know.

That is the beauty of genealogy. It’s a puzzle. And with the addition of one piece it can change the way the entire puzzle is viewed. It mirrors our lives both in looks and in how we perceive things and it is changing every day. That is why I love looking to the past because it influences the future of not only myself but my family as well.


Christmas This Year..Think Heifer International

Yeah, I know, this post is going to sound like one of those poor-oh-so-whiny and  spoiled American blogs and today that is what is truly is. I know. I get it. But today I will put myself out there and hang my head in shame if it gets just one of you over to the Heifer site to make a donation to this worthwhile organization. Thanks.

Christmas has become a fiasco in this house. Every year the pile of presents seems to get bigger while the actual needs get smaller. The holiday had become grand that no one can remember exactly what they received because there was just too much to process and catalog at one time.

I confess this is all my fault. Unlike my ex-brother-in-law who takes his kids shopping for a new toy every Friday (ugh); I am one of those parents who rarely buys something for my kids unless it is their birthday or Christmas. The rest of the year…forget it.  Yet, I have discovered that this parenting philosophy of mine also works to my disadvantage because I guilt myself into believing I have to make up for all those “NO’S” during the rest of the year and so at Christmas I am like Santa on steroids…disgusting…especially when there are so many children in the world just wanting to have a meal to fill their empty stomachs. Over the years my travels have pressed into my psyche the enormous needs throughout the world and in this country too.Buying toys or providing food…the seriousness of this weighs heavily on my mind during the holiday season and throughout the year. Really a child going hungry should not be happening anywhere in this day and age. But it does all too often and we all suffer because of it because who is to say what that child could have grown up to achieve? Perhaps they would have been the one to provide the missing “ingredient” to make sustainable cold fusion a reality? Or maybe they would have become a person who promotes unity and healing throughout the world? Maybe someone like Gandhi? Or maybe they would have practiced the art of a local healer whose ability to diagnose keeps her community alive? So much potential talent snuffed out and wasted due to weather, politics, poor infrastructure, greedy middlemen or assholes who intentionally starve their citizens while their pockets and bellies grow fat.

While I cannot change all the problems in the world I can change them in my little corner. So after much decision and debate this year we are trying something new. Each child will get four presents; one in each category: SOMETHING I WANT; SOMETHING I NEED, SOMETHING TO WEAR and SOMETHING TO READ. They will also pick out a animal to donate through Heifer International to a family whose life will be changed because they now have a way to sustain themselves and make money as their animals procreate and grow. And if you are interested you can contribute too. Visit Heifer International and learn more about this worthwhile charity. Or do something for your neighbors in need. Whatever we each do we will be making the change that we all want to see and that is the best gift we can give ourselves in a world gone mad.


Dear Jennifer P


Dear Jennifer P:

I met you in the K-Mart today. Briefly…as you struggled with your son who was throwing what you thought was the MOTHER OF ALL TANTRUMS. It wasn’t. It only felt like it was but I immediately recognized what you were dealing with. Autism.

I remember those days. Two autistic boys in a cart pushing them through the store praying that we could make it out alive. Alive…meaning, no one had thrown themselves on the floor. No one had swooped their hands along the aisle knocking boxes off the shelves as we walked. Alive… meaning no one had yelled, screamed, and kicked me or anyone else who happened to have the misfortune of walking within 10 feet of us. Two autistic boys were were often like two atomic bombs waiting to go off undoubtedly when we were in public and most often in a crowded store.

Of course, I didn’t realize back then this would often happen because their sensory systems were out of whack when we entered the unfamiliar. That their fright/flight mode went into overdrive  outside of our house. That the florescent lights pushed them into a form of hyperactivity on steroids. That all the strange sounds and people moving about was just too much for them to take in. But even if I had understood all that…we…our family… still needed to live life. To shop. To get our tires changed. To visit the dentist. We still had lives to lead despite the challenges that autism inserted into our lives on a daily basis.


I remember the looks, Jennifer P. Those harsh judgements. The feelings of helplessness and being so alone. The exasperated facial expressions.  The “why don’t you get your kids under control” comments. I remember those oh-so-helpful strangers telling me how I could improve my parenting skills in the grocery store, in the bank, and at the doctors office. At one point it seemed like no matter where we went someone had something “helpful” to say. But more than not those “helpful” comments were really just plain intrusive and mean. People trying to feel superior about themselves. And at those times I wanted to shout out “I know what I am doing. I did raise two kids to adulthood and they are wonderful and successful human beings. So please don’t judge me nor my parenting!”


So when I saw you today with tears streaming down your face as you tried to quiet your son, my heart ached for you. My soul wept as your tears fell and you pled with your son to please calm down. As I walked by I told you with a smile plastered across my face, “You are doing a great job. Keep up the good work,” but I knew you didn’t believe me because I have been there and if someone would have told me that then, in those meltdown moments, I wouldn’t have believed them either.

So, Jennifer P, I want you to know that I know you are doing your best. I want you to know that I know that you work harder with your kids in one day than parents with neuro-typical kids do in a month. I want you to know that it won’t last forever and your boys will mature and those social skills will kick in one at a time. It will take a while but trust me they will get it. And beleive it or not someday you WILL seek their company when you visit the market.

Out in the parking lot I cried. I cried for me and all the times I didn’t handle my children as beautifully as you did today. I cried for every mother out there who has a challenging child whether he has autism or not. I cried for all those parents who are trying so dang hard in such difficult situations. And I cried for you and when I saw you leave the store with nothing in your basket my heart sank. You sacrificed your needs for the people in the store and for your son. That is why I drove over to you. That is why I wanted you to know that I saw how hard you were working with your son and that this was not a fail on your part but a win because you instilled something in your son that he needed at that moment in time. Sure it will take him a 100 more times to understand but eventually he will and when he does you can pat yourself on the back for being a great mom. Heck, you can pat yourself on the back right now for being that mom who never gives up and for being that tireless fighter who will continue to give your son what he needs to be the great person he will eventually become.  Don’t give up. And don’t give in to those who want to judge.

You were amazing, you will continue to be amazing and I will continue to support you and other mother’s like you from the sidelines. I only hope that others will grant you the grace and do the same especially as the holiday season arrives.


Cameras on Traffic Lights


The other day I noticed that a recently installed stop light had a camera nestled on top of the cross beam. This got me concerned so I decided to pay more attention to my surroundings. As I drove around town, I was amazed at the number of mounted “spy cameras” I noticed throughout the city. When did this happen I wondered? When did I, as both a citizen of this city and as a citizen of the United States give up my right to travel freely throughout my city without “Big Brother” watching me. I didn’t vote to allow this. I didn’t sign some sort of waiver. I didn’t agree to a bond measure that would pay for these mounted cameras…so how did this happen? When did it happen? And more importantly, how are these shots being used by my police department?

Today it is cameras on lights. What will it be tomorrow? Who controls this information that is obtained and what do they do with it? How long is it stored?

I am sad. I am disturbed and disillusioned. And I wonder who forgot to ask us if this type of intrusion on our personal lives is okay. No one asked me but if they had I would say NO it is not okay to monitor me, my friends and my loved ones. This is the United States of America. Home of the free…at least it is suppose to be.

Shhh…Don’t Say A Word


This weekend we have hired a sitter and will be without our darling children for 24 hours…I can’t wait! But before we go away I will be telling B something that he needs to know to make our time together perfect.

“Shhhh…don’t say a word.”

Don’t say a word as we walk towards the bedroom. Don’t utter a sound as we pull back the sheets. Don’t whisper a word as we undress (unless you want to tell me how sexy I look). And PLEASE, JUST PLEASE, don’t say anything (nada, nothing) while we are making love.

I know a lot of women like to hear sex talk while they are indulging in adult time with their partner. I am not usually one of them. Okay, maybe sometimes I am, but definitely not tonight. Frankly, I don’t want to hear your fantasies while we are trying to create our own. Worse…I don’t want you intruding on the fantasy that is going on in my own head by imploding/imposing yours onto mine. Believe me they are two totally different shows. Mine is opera and yours is grunge heavy metal. Mine is A Walk In The Clouds while yours is James Bond. Tonight, I just don’t want to hear “it”…I want to hear “you.”

The only external thing I want to hear soft sax music in the background. Besides that, I just want to hear your heart beating as I lay my head on your chest and I want to listen to it quicken when I put my hand between your legs. I want to hear that sigh you make when we first connect with one another and I want to see your blue eyes sparkle at that instant we reach deep into the most intimate of places. I want to eavesdrop on your body’s reactions as we touch one another deeply and passionately. And I want to hear that rumble that starts in your soul and spreads through your body before we both explode.

I want to hear all of you tonight. So please.. “Shhh…don’t say a word!”



As the months have gone by I have come to realize that a “maybe divorce” is analogous to the dismantling of a house. Most “maybe divorces” appear to me to work in this way:

1.You take down the house slowly brick-by-brick until you reach the foundation and realize that no amount of structural engineering can save it. You then buy two very civilized but individual abodes one stuffed with everything from the marriage and the other devoid of all that it stood for.

2. You blow up the entire structure leaving a giant gaping smoldering hole in the ground with both parties going their separate ways clutching whatever they could find in the ruins. Little is wanted or salvageable.

3. Or you renovate over time; adding on a little here or taking way something there, until something new materializes that you recreated together.

Our “maybe divorce” appears to be going the renovation route which is in some ways not surprising. After all, we have built two houses and a winery during our time together. Our shared history includes a hand-dug out basement using just shovels, our bare hands and a wheelbarrow crafted just like smugglers tunneling underneath the US boarder.We are good at sawing, hammering, planting and building huge retaining walls to hold back all the dirt. We excel at seeing one thing and turning it into another. Our life together has been one big “honey-do” list. And then, just as a project came to fruition, we would always move for the sake of B’s career. All the time and effort down the drain but at the same time offering a chance to start over and reinvent our lives.

Today we live in a tract home. It’s identical to so many others on our street. Nothing outside gives an impression of who lives under the eaves. Being architecturally unique is no longer part of who we are and I miss that. Our renovation seems anti-climatic as we chip away at the old broken tile that covers the surface of our lives and pull up the carpet hoping against hope that there is an undiscovered wood floor residing beneath. And while we find some cool relics from the past as we dig around, the treasure we seek seems to be so well hidden that sometimes it seems as if we may never find it despite our best intentions.

Of course, all this renovation comes with a price. The foundation we once thought stable needs shoring up. We fight among ourselves over what we keep and what we let go. The professional “fixers”charge by the hour and cost overruns are the norm. Load bearing walls stay high while other less-necessary walls come down only to go up in some different form again. And the construction dust/debris covers every surface of our lives as we work within the confines of the boundaries of the house to create something that has a better flow. And so it goes.

Yet, recently it came to my attention that with all the care we are putting into our new creation we did forget one tiny but important detail.  We forgot to ask the real question…the most important one…is this the right house in the right location in first place?

I suspect only time and the heart will tell.





As you know when I started this blog it was because my husband came to me and stated he might want a divorce. One of his main issues with me and my relationship with my family is that I was YELLING…a lot.

If the truth be told I had just gotten into a habit of relating to my family members that way. It was a bad habit and a habit that was destructive to everyone’s psyches in this family. So I vowed to change.

I am pleased to say that being mindful, meditating, doing personal self care and personal work on my own inner being has helped me tremendously. Since the end of July I have yelled just 5 times and out of those times  twice I caught and stopped myself after only a few words. It has not been easy. Yet, the rewards are huge. Not only do I feel better about myself and my life, I see a softness in my family that was not there before. Paul is less depressed….can I say that not yelling has helped him. Absolutely. There is a much calmer atmostphere here and the kids no longer feel like they are walking on eggshells around me.

I regret that I didn’t take this path a long time ago. The damage my yelling has caused (no, I never did the “you are stupid” calling names type of yelling but the “why do I have to tell you a 100 times to pick up your shoes” kind) is immense. And for that I am sorry. For I don’t want to have an epitaph that reads “SHE WAS THE WORLD’S GREATEST YELLER” written across my tombstone. What I want is “SHE WAS A HAPPY PERSON” engraved on it equipped with a built-in motion detector laser so when anyone walks by, the song DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY automatically plays. And I think I am finally on my way to living up to those things I do want memorialized about myself when I pass on.

P.S. Yesterday I saw this on Facebook and thought it was just perfect. So the explanation says whenever my mother was asked for her special Christmas cookie recipe she would say “Over My Dead Body”



More Non-Filtered Thoughts



Paul:Mom why do you waste your time ironing my clothes?

Me: (Yes, why do I… by the time you get dressed it already looks like a truck ran over it) Because I am a mom that cares about her kids

Paul: Why don’t you just iron my clothes when they are on me?

Me: Because putting a hot iron on a child is called child abuse and I don’t want to hurt you.

Paul: So wouldn’t it be cheaper to iron all the wrinkles out of your face than to get that shot? It would take longer to get all the wrinkles but you would save a lot of money.


The things your kids share with you in the car.

Andre: I think it would be awesome to be able to read someone’s mind.

Me: Why is that?

Andre: Because you could do all sorts of wonderful things for them like buy them the puppy they have always wanted.

Me: Andre, you are the one who wants a puppy

Andre: I’m just saying…you know there would be one time when it wouldn’t be so good to know what someone is thinking.

Me: When would that be?

Andre: When they are sitting on the toilet going to the bathroom. I mean the things that go through your mind when you are on the toilet…well they are just not things you want others to know

Me: Is that why you spend 30 minutes at a time in the bathroom?

Andre: Might be


At Trader Joe’s this evening, just Andre and I. So he is pushing the cart and kind of flapping around as some people with autism sometimes do. After several times of me telling him to calm it down, I grabbed the cart and started flapping my arms like a damn chicken and making clucking noises..VERY, VERY LOUDLY…I must say everyone was looking at me. YEAH FOR ME!


Andre got embarrassed at which point I said to him, “So why is it you can do things and you think it isn’t embarrassing and then I flap and cluck like a chicken and you are embarrassed?” He replied, “I don’t know mom but if you promise not to peck at the floor I promise not to tell Dad you lost your marbles.”

Married Sex…Some Thoughts


When I was single, sex was often a disappointment.  The number of sexual experiences which were wonderous, to the moon and back, totally mind-blowing, I got your back.. your neck… and your orgasm; were few and far between. Usually, I came into contact with men who fumbled. They were men with rough tongues, stabbing penises, callosed hands and hearts. And FYI forget the idea that French men are fantastic lovers based on my personal experience of several of them coming in my hand (pass the sanitizer please).  Give me married sex anytime.


The great thing about married sex is if you are smart you have a chance to train your partner to be your own personal sex toy. “I little to the right, your tongue should feel like silk on a bed sheet and ahhhh that is the perfect spot.” And of course you receive that loving training back a thousand fold…yep, I’m selfish that way! Amen to that!

Married sex gives both partners a place to explore and feel safe. It allows you to speak in a language in which the partners are fluent with words known and shared only with each another. A private secret code in which pleasure substitutes for commas and semi-colons. And THE END is like the satisfaction you feel when you finally reach the last word in a fantastic book.

And while its true that married sex can sometimes get a little boring with some sexy talk, a few costumes and maybe a night or two away; most of the time you can both get your groove back on track if you just put the effort in.

So give me married sex anytime. At the very least it saves me a ton of money on hand sanitizer and it also keeps Mr. Potato Head happy. While at its best it allows me trust again and truly believe that we something that is worth its weight in gold and something I should keep fighting for. Either way…I win!


Hatred Is Not The Answer-Terrorists


I’ve been to Paris three times during my life. The first was almost thirty years ago during our honeymoon, the second time was about five years later and recently we went two summers ago. Like most major cities, I have tended to avoid Paris because there are just too many people in too small of a place. I feel the same way about London, Beijing and New York. So when I frequent these places, I am already on edge. But usually then I meet people who have stories to tell, tears to fall and a love of life that is extraordinary and somehow these big cities become almost magical because I am reminded just how similar we all are in our shared dreams and in our desires.

The last time we were in Paris we were traveling with our children. Around the corner from our hotel was a bank of small restaurants and sandwich-to-go types of places. We entered one of the latter. It was a small place and behind the counter were three men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and spoke Arabic to one another. When they heard us talking with our distinctive American accents immediately their faces hardened. Then when I went to order for our family all of a sudden the place was CLOSED. They were no longer serving they told us. Yet, after we walked outside all of a sudden they were serving again to the lady who ordered a tomato baguette. So I went back in to order only to be told again that they were not open even though there were more new customers being helped. I was mad and sad about the situation but what was worse is that my children were witnessing this and wondered why they would not let us buy their food. And so I told them this:

“For some reason these men do not like us. I do not know why and neither do you. If I had to guess I would say that they were probably hurt or their relatives were probably hurt in some way by American policies or forces. They are probably still upset or angry by this. Of course, we will never know the real reason and I am guessing only to try to understand why someone would hate us even though we have never ourselves done anything to them. So this is why we cannot hate because hatred begets hatred. Anger creates more anger and people do things to one another that they should not. So I want you remember today not because of what happened but because of how we will handle it. For if we let it, the small thing they did to us will someday make us think that we can do something to someone we think has wronged us. But what is most important here is that we must remember that our lives as human beings are linked together in so many mysterious and interesting ways to people we know and people we don’t. If we allow this link of distrust and anger into the chain of humanity that we carry with us it will only create sorrow both for us and others that we will unintentionally effect by this hostility. So we must smile at those men and show them that we see their humanity even though they do not see ours.”

And so we did.

I wish I could say something changed and one of the men smiled back but that did not happen.

Tonight as I sat and watched the news pouring out of the City Of Lights I was dismayed as I listened to the political pundits demanding retribution, retaliation and encouraging a decrease in our hard fought freedoms (as if that will make things safer!) so the world will be a “better place” and I wished that they had been with us that day in Paris. For while the experience of being hated just because of where you come from was a bitter disappointment; I also know that my children learned a valuable lesson on that street in Paris that day. They realized that hatred is not the answer. I hope that calm heads will prevail in Paris and that human beings throughout the world will remember this truth too as they struggle to find a way through the carnage that they have seen and endured.