Posted in Bloggy, Rants

Discovering You: DNA Tests

Ancestry DNA tests are fun. Unfortunately, mine revealed nothing interesting or exciting. (Dang I was hoping to be part shark!) It also thwarted my plan of winning the lottery and buying everyone in Appalachia a DNA test to prove they’re not 50% Irish or 1/16th Native American, as they say they are. (And then parents brainwash their children to say/think this lie as well.)

It’s not that I have a problem with either group. On the contrary. I have a problem with people talking with an Irish accent on a regular basis when they’ve never even visited their “homeland.” We’re all mutts! Really, we are! And there’s nothing wrong with being a little of this and a little of that. Just please stop trying to act like you’re better than everyone because you’re your version of purebred. Moreover, this “I’m so Irish” act may fly here among other mutts, but how ashamed of your behavior would a real Irishmen make you feel? S/he’d humble you in no time!

Anywho, back to how my plan was thwarted. I received my results today, and in them I discovered that these companies are lumping together Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. (I used 23andMe, but does the same thing.) even labels it in your report as “Irish” and then defines Ireland as:


As we speak, they’re specifically running a marketing campaign with four-leaf clovers: “Kiss me I’m 63% Irish. Discover what you’re made of. Save 10% on AncestryDNA this St. Patrick’s Day.” (Seems a little misleading, I’d say.)

So now when you say you’re Irish and you’ve “even verified it with a DNA test!”, I still don’t entirely believe you. I do believe that we’re all a little bit of something, and we can all identify with whatever we want, and we’re free to be whoever we want to be. Just don’t act like you’re in some way better than everyone else because you strongly identify with something. This reminds me of grade school and everyone saying, “My heritage is German, French, blahblahblah, I’m related to a princess, what’s yours?” And I’d be all like, “Yeah, ummm… I’m Appalachian,” but what I wanted to say was, “Well I think my Grandma has some German heritage, but I’m a bastard child so I don’t really know.” Of course eight-year-old me would never actually say the latter part, but I was certainly thinking it and crawling into a hole inside my mind to escape my shame. (Oh the random societal shames we impose on this world…)

So, yeah, this minor and silly pet peeve of mine does go a bit deeper, but I know I’m not the only one who is annoyed by this strong feeling of false heritage Americans have. Because unless you’ve spent some time in whatever country you say you’re from (and maybe with whatever distant relative you may have there), I honestly don’t care. We’re all just humans trying to figure out who we are. If you want to be Irish proud, go for it. But if you’re going to, at least visit Ireland, familiarize yourself with the history of your people, and don’t use it as a tool for gloating, use it as a tool for discovery.

Speaking of discovering who we are, one last comment on DNA testing: it’s interesting in discovering a bit of our own histories, but it’s not going to tell you who you are. Discovering who you are is a lifelong journey. And if you’re focused on your history, I recommend a good old-fashioned family tree. You’ll learn more of your actual history that way. (DNA ancestry test results compare your DNA to other people who have bought the kits, not everyone on the planet–so it’s not going to give you a full picture.)

Overall, though, I still think it’s interesting, and I do hope that you all find some secret underlying and exciting thing about yourself that you never knew before. It’ll make for a great conversation piece!

Here’s my (totally uninteresting) conversation piece:


And some other links/reading:,2817,2490025,00.asp

Posted in Bloggy, Music

Can’t Understand: Death & Dying

A good friend recently told me that his father may have cancer. As someone without cancer, I cannot speak to that side of things and what his father is going through. But as someone who has lost three very close loved ones to cancer, I can speak to the grieving and supporting side of things.

Background: My dad passed in 2008 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He’d beaten it once before and lived for 10 more years after the first round. In his 60s, he wasn’t as strong, and slipped away. My mother passed in 2013 after being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in 2012. She fought it for an entire year, then wrapped up a too-short life at 52.

I still cry when I think of my parents. I cry as I write this. And in the last two weeks, my mother has visited me in my dreams five times. I’ve had more dream visits from her these past two weeks than I’ve had since she passed (almost two years ago now).

With that, I have some experience with loss and grieving, and try to help anyone I can with this as best I can. If there’s one positive thing I can get from this, it has to be helping others.

For any of those dealing with a terminal loved one in any way (or if you are someone who is terminal), this message is for you. I felt it was important to share for two main reasons:
1. To give words I wish were given to me when my father became terminal, and
2. To let you know I’m here if you need me.

Here’s the message I sent my friend:

I’m sorry to hear that. Never apologize for venting. My dad and mom both had terminal illnesses, so I had to deal with it twice.

The first time around with my dad, I was in denial and faced a lot of regret in not spending enough time with him. With my mom, I was prepared for what would come.

My best advice is to be there, to be strong for them. Sometimes people get really caught up in how their loved one’s illness affects them and they unintentionally handle it selfishly. They begin to wallow in their depression, going into seclusion, and distancing themselves from their terminal loved one because they’re scared. It’s natural to want to do this, but when that feeling that you want to hide starts creeping in, remember that your loved one is facing the ultimate sadness and depression. We forget that while this does affect us, it affects them more because this is it for them.

When I wrote “Can’t Understand,” it happened as a result of this realization. I dreamt of my mother. In it we were hugging and crying, and I just said to her “I’m sorry this is happening to you.”

That’s some deep stuff, I know. I cry just thinking about her. But just remember to be there for them, because they’re so scared, and they need you more than they’ll ever admit.

Let me know if you need anything. I love ya.

There’s one last piece of advice I want to add to this: go to the doctor! Get regular checkups and talk to your doctor about what’s going on with you, even if it seems small. My mother didn’t have health insurance. She got hurt on the job and was in a long battle with Worker’s Comp — if you’ve dealt with this you know how challenging it is to deal with Worker’s Comp; they make you feel crazy and tell you all your symptoms are psychosomatic.

So without health insurance or income, my mother didn’t go to the doctor until it was too late. And that seemed to be her biggest regret: not doing something sooner. She fought death because she wanted to live. She knew she couldn’t hang on anymore, but she still fought leaving us. So please, if you have any health concerns (even if you think you’re being a hypochondriac), at least let a doctor assure you there’s nothing wrong with you. Or maybe you’re afraid to find out what is wrong with you, and you’d rather not know. Trust me, at stage IV of cancer, you’ll wish you’d done something sooner. You’ll want more days with your family; more days with your friends. You’ll wish you’d laughed more; wish you’d done more. Don’t let that be your regret. It really is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, because with death you don’t get any do-overs.

I know this doesn’t cover all loss. Most certainly it doesn’t cover sudden loss and the anger and pain we feel when that happens. But if you are someone who has a terminal loved one or is terminal, I hope this helps. And whatever kind of loss or unfortunate thing you’re dealing with, I’m here and will help where and how I can.

My loss is not greater than yours, and yours is not greater than mine. We’re just humans who are going through the cycles of life, and if we can’t do anything else the least we can do is commiserate and lend a hand in whatever way we can. This is my way.

More on the song “Can’t Understand

I was at the Fish Bowl (a local bar if you’re unfamiliar) right after my mom had died. A friend I’ve known for a while had just got dumped by her boyfriend of seven years. Continue reading “Can’t Understand: Death & Dying”

Posted in Bloggy, Rants


On my way to work this morning heading south toward the river, I came up over the viaduct and saw that beautiful image of the Kentucky hills blanketed in fog. The light wasn’t hitting the hills, so they had a bluegreen appearance which made the haze of the fog stand out even more. I breathed it in and thought, “This is such a pretty place…. but with so many ugly people.” And I don’t just mean their appearance, I mean what’s inside them: their hate and intolerance toward those who are different, and complete inability to see beyond themselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how judgemental people are, and about how they’re always obsessing over what other people are doing. I watched the movie Nebraska earlier this week (it’s excellent), and the main character’s mother is the perfect example of a small-town, righteous, judgemental know-it-all. She has nothing to talk about except for how others are living their lives; how this person is a whore, and that person wanted to get in her pants, etc.

And we all know those people who can’t make conversation without dragging someone else through the mud. And for what? They don’t know your story, what you’ve been through, or where you came from. Those people treat their lives like a celebrity gossip column. (And we don’t know those celebrities’ stories, either!)

If people are not interfering with your life or infringing on you, then what’s the problem? How are they causing you harm, and what gives you the right to judge them?

We all have different paths for different reasons. We have lived lives that no one else will understand. So remember that. If someone hasn’t harmed you, then be nice to them. Stop acting like a child and belittling others to feel better about yourself. And if you’re going to act like a child, remember the advice of Thumper: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

During the hour between getting home from work and going to the gym, I puked out a song on the topic. Song puking happens when I’ve had something on my mind, and the song just spills out of me in one sitting.

Here are the lyrics. Some of them are placeholders since it came out so fast, but you get the idea.


For such a pretty place,
You’ve got an ugly face.
Not sure what made you better than me.
Who gave you the right to judge my life?

Is it cause your ma and pa they got money?
And they been married for 30 years.
You claim you never miss a Sunday service,
And you never seen your daddy touch a bottle of whiskey .

By conventional standards
You’d be labeled a 10,
But it’s what’s on the inside that’s turnin’ me off;
The world owes you a place in the sun.

Is it cause your ma and pa they got a mortgage?
And they paid for all of your college.
You never miss a hometown football game,
And you never seen your father hit your mother.

Feelin’ sorry for you
And your preoccupation
With all the things that others do;
You’re concerned they’ll get their gay on you.

Is it cause it might make your marriage less meaningful?
Well that don’t sound like a real strong marriage.
Like you don’t know my story, I don’t know yours.
And what’s any of this got to do with you?

For such a pretty place,
You’ve got an ugly face.
Not sure what made you better than me.
Who gave you the right to judge my life?

Posted in Bloggy, Photography, Rants


2014 January 14

Today, I walked along the river and saw the vast amount of debris washed ashore from recent rising waters. Plastic abounds and no one is in a rush to clean it up–standard Portsmouth practice.

In many countries, people live off, worship, and fear their rivers. Here, they’re just something else we become so good at destroying.