Fractured Facade

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Friday, February 9, 2018


I was the first in my family to have my DNA tested through 23andMe. I'm sure most of you know what that is but for those who do not, it's a company that will tell you where your ancestors come from, how much percentage you carry of different countries your ancestors hailed from, a timeline of when they first show up, and more importantly to me, are the health reports that they generate. The kit comes with a vial that you spit in, close, shake, and send off to the company.

As I chose to take part in both ancestry as well as health reports it cost $199. If you do ancestry alone it's $99, and they run specials now and then, up to 20% off. It takes about four to six weeks, sometimes sooner to get the results via email.

I always thought I was mostly Italian with perhaps some Norman mixed in as a relative on my Dad's side had completed genealogical research which went back to the 1400's and had something to do with Normans going through Spain and into Italy. The most distinguished DiRosa (originally spelled with an i not e) was a Senator in Naples. If you know anything about Naples during that time period, you know they were pretty much out of control, so I'm not surprised. I mean living on the side of a volcano that can erupt at any moment can make one "carefree." I also suspected there might be a little Genghis Khan in me because my daughter had a little blueish birthmark on her backside when she was born and I read somewhere along the line that mark was present in descendants of Khan.

Here are my results which shows I am mostly Italian, actually 88.5% Southern European and I'm assuming the Broadly Southern European probably is Sicily as that's where all four of my grandparents were born. North African and Middle Eastern make sense too as everybody raided Sicily. I was surprised to see that yes, maybe I am a descendent of Khan as I have .3% Mongolian. I found the Broadly East Asian .1% surprising as well as the unassigned .8%.

Here is my timeline which is very surprising to me.

It makes sense that my Grandparents hailed from Italy between 1870-1930, but there is nothing between the years 1840-1870. My very first ancestor supposedly is Finnish followed by West African. So does that mean a ship left Finland and wound up in West Africa? Did my ancestor have something to do with slavery or did he/she marry an African Queen/King?

The next family member to do 23andMe was my daughter which shows she shares 50% of her DNA with me. I was very curious to have her spit in a bottle because there was some disparity between my husband's relatives as what ancestry they are. Many years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with MHE I tried to find out as much genetic info as I could. Since my husband was adopted and hadn't stayed in touch with his biological father's side, he didn't have any information on them so we turned to his mom. When she said my husband's grandmother on his father's side was Cherokee I was elated as that would mean my daughter was about 25% or 12.5% Cherokee which entitled her to a bevy of free medical treatments for her rare disease. His mom also said his grandfather on her side, her father,  was half-Japanese, which was cool. My husband knew that grandfather very well and said he would never speak of that side. I've seen pics of his grandparents and his grandfather does not look Japanese at all while his grandmother does look German.

Back to the Native American gene...We actually went on a trip to Cherokee, NC to look at the rolls to see if we could verify my husband's heritage. It was a bust, and it was then I decided I needed to reach out to his biological dad's side. His father had already passed many years prior but he still had a brother who I tracked down and sent a letter. To make a long story short they were thrilled I contacted them and were joyful they finally got the opportunity to reconnect with my husband who they hadn't seen since he was 6 years old and only for a moment at 18 at his dad's funeral. Since my contact with them we have become very close and they are truly wonderful people. Anyway back to the heritage. When I told his uncle that I needed some sort of verification about their Cherokee lineage he laughed and said they weren't Cherokee at all. Huh? No, my husband's grandparents were actually Polish!

His uncle was big into genealogy and had reams of pages on their family which first entered America on the Mayflower, the Southwicks, he said. He also said that Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were distant cousins of my husband. All very interesting but not a Native American among them!

When my daughter's 23andMe results came back it showed she was 98.4% European. She has a percentage of all my ancestors except for Finnish, Middle Eastern, Mongolian, and Broadly Sub-Saharan Africa.  Her majority, not from my side, is Northwestern Europe which included 12.7% British & Irish, 7.5% French & German, and 10.2% Broadly Northeast European which I would assume was Polish. She also showed <.1% Ashkenazi Jewish, and since I had 0% I figured that was from her father's side. What was odd to me was that she had 0% Japanese! The only East Asian she had was .2%, with .1% Yakut.  I had .4% East Asian and 0 Yakut.

When the kids bought their dad a 23andMe kit for Christmas I think I was more excited than he was to find out his ancestry. Well, we got the results last week. Our daughter is his with her carrying 49.9% of his DNA. So where is the other .1%???

Here is a snapshot of some of his results:

As you can see he is listed as 100% European with the majority of his ancestry, 69.2% Northwestern European broken down as 31.8% British & Irish, 15.7% French & German, 1.5% Scandinavian, 20.2% Broadly Northeast European. The rest is Eastern European. Most notable are two things...first, the 0% Ashkenazi Jewish. If I have 0 and he has 0 how does our daughter have <.1% Ashkenazi? Second, no Japanese! How can that be? His mother told him his grandfather was half Japanese. Shouldn't there be at least a small percentage? He was told stories of how his mother, her sisters and his grandmother were almost rounded up and sent to Japanese interment camps even though his "half-Japanese" grandfather worked in the Brooklyn Navy yards during the war. There is even a letter floating around somewhere whereby the government apologized.

According to my husband's timeline either his parent, grandparent or great grandparent was 100% British & Irish and born between 1870 & 1930. He adamantly says this is incorrect. Besides, as we all know no one is really 100% anything!

This is our wall of ancestors...

At the very top is a photo is of my husband's ancestors on his grandfather's side, all Japanese in traditional dress. I do not know the year of this photo.

So, who are these people? Are they not his relatives? Who do we believe? DNA or oral histories? Did 23andMe get it all wrong? And if they got the ancestry side wrong, what about the health reports? How accurate are they? I had hoped this DNA testing would answer some questions, but in fact it's given me even more...23andWho???

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ice in Roanoke

Ice looks beautiful, but it's pretty treacherous out there if you have to walk or drive in it. There's also a good chance I'm going to lose electricity when the heavy branches topple an electric wire somewhere down the line. Here's some shots from the comfort of my driveway and back patio.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sleep Paralysis Or????

With her misplaced anger, inexplicable attitude, and trash bags of possessions she pulled behind her when the girl suddenly decided to abandon this household, I secretly hoped she also took our spirits with her. 

I don’t know if it was the black black-out curtains, or the hostile mood lingering in the room, but I felt it was necessary for me to do a cleansing of sorts - not just of the damaged wooden floors - but of the atmosphere as well before I moved in there. I spoke with a friend of mine who reiterated my belief that using sage was probably not the best idea. We both were in agreement that when we had smudged in the past things didn’t clear up, and in fact, became even more active. Instead, she recommended I use some bay leaves, turquoise, and kosher salt.

I happened to stumble upon these really cute speech bubble shaped serving dishes when I was in TJ Maxx slashed to $2.00 which were the perfect size. I went to AC Moore thinking I could get some turquoise there but all their “turquoise” came from China and in fact were made of glass or ceramics, not stones. Luckily Crystal Cottage was open and he had one small vial of real turquoise that I found hidden. He didn’t even know he had it. What are those odds? Again for $2.00! Kosher salt was easy to find as well.

So when I got home yesterday I filled five of the dishes with this concoction and placed them in some rooms while saying my own prayers.

All seemed well and then after dinner things started getting a little weird. As we were watching television in the living room we heard a strange sound, like a “clinking” that my husband thought came from the kitchen and I though came from the piano. Bella also heard it and barked, looking towards the dining room where the piano is. Her head was moving back and forth as if she was following something.  I didn’t see anything. My husband checked the kitchen and couldn’t find anything so I went over to the piano where I had placed one of the serving dishes. When I first placed it down there was salt on the bottom, the leaves placed on top, and the turquoise stones placed all around the leaves. When I looked down I saw many of the stones were now on top of the leaves. I picked up a couple of stones and dropped them on the dish and that sounded like the noise we had heard. I took them back off the leaves and shrugged my shoulders.

From that point on Bella began acting very skittish. When we went to bed she snuggled between us at the head of the bed rather than near our feet where she usually lay, as she loves the fan in her face. She would not settle down and kept panting and following “nothing” in the air. My husband fell asleep, I watched It’s Always Sunny and then shut off the television. A couple of minutes after as I was trying to fall asleep it sounded like a kitchen cabinet door opened. It was loud enough that my husband woke up and asked me if I heard that. As I said yes there was another sound causing Bella to bark and Frank to leap out of bed. He turned the kitchen light on and found an empty seltzer bottle had “fallen” from the middle of the kitchen table to under it.

As he informed me what it was, the lights in the house starting blinking, the fan cutting on and off. “What the hell?!” we both exclaimed. And then complete silence. Everything went out. No power at all. Not knowing if it was just our house or others as well I called the power company and let them know, but since they did not say there was a power outage in my area we grabbed protection before opening the door to see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like. 

We had no idea it was raining so maybe that played in the blackout, but the stores down below seemed to still have power. When he ventured to the end of the driveway it did look very dark and there were no streetlights so we breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t just our home. Imagination could make you think all sorts of weird things!

We tried going back to bed but I was having a hard time as total silence is too distracting for me to fall asleep. I needed that fan or at least the soft glow of the vaporizer. Lying there I kept hearing knocks and other strange bumps in the night. I didn’t want to wake Frank back up because he had just come from the doctor earlier who told him he has a heart condition, extremely high blood pressure, and needed to not be so stressed out, to get plenty of rest, etc., and besides prescribing nitro glycerine pills and an aspirin a day regiment, he is setting up a bunch of testing with a cardiologist. It’s been a couple of “stressful” weeks here so I did not want to disturb him.

I turned on my side and began praying and imagining a white light covering us, protecting us. The next thing I know is I hear in my left ear a sound that I cannot describe other than to say it was almost celestial, or harmonic, or fluttering, a universal vibration type noise. Like something I imagine one would hear in space. It freaked me out a bit. I tried to move my arm to put the cover my ear and that’s when I realized I was paralyzed, and then I felt as if my body was about to rise, like it was going to go somewhere, not of this world. 

I tried to move my mouth but I couldn’t. I tried to speak but nothing came out. I felt myself rising and I pushed myself down. I was afraid to go into the tunnel so I kept fighting it. With all my strength I tried rocking myself free but nothing worked. I started praying in my mind stronger and as I did my silent scream started to be a soft whimper. I couldn’t mouth any words other than a weak help which came out like “heh.” My husband heard it and when he put his hand on me and asked, “Are you all right?” I was able to move again. He broke the spell.

I told him what I had felt, and asked if he had heard the sound that I had, but he hadn’t. I told him that I was paralyzed and I didn’t know if I was going to be abducted by aliens, or if I had unintentionally meditated to a place where I was going to be shown other dimensions. The phrase "harmonic convergence" kept coming into me. The last time this had happened to me was when I lived in Brooklyn. At that time I was by myself in bed and although I couldn’t move I was able to see, and sitting at the edge of my bed was a figure of a man dressed all in black like from late 1800's to early 1900's wearing a top hat. To break that spell I had to gather enough strength to rock myself off the bed. When I hit the floor I was able to move and the dark man disappeared.

I don’t know what I felt last night but damn, I think I stirred up some shit again. 

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever experienced sleep paralyzation? What do you do to get out of it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lake George

Some of the best vacations I've had have been ones that had little or no planning, ones where I just got in a car armed with road maps, AAA tour books, a suitcase, a cooler, with a sorta destination planned, and hit the road. Last month my husband and I decided to do just that and we found ourselves in upstate New York in the Lake George region.

The Village of Lake George
During the summers of my Brooklyn childhood, going on a vacation to Lake George, or the Catskills, both in upstate New York, was almost a rite of passage. When I was a kid I never went to either place. Instead, my father drove us all around the New York upstate hotspots. Vague memories include Lake Placid, The North Pole, 1,000 Islands, Niagara Falls, sometimes Toronto, Montreal and Quebec,  then back to the New England states. Glad I got to see The Old Man in the Mountain, whose granite profile is no more in New Hampshire, some distant relatives who lived inVermont, old sailing ships in Connecticut, along with other forgotten destinations. When I became older and could travel myself, I did hit some upstate spots for skiing and dude ranches, including the Catskills,  Hunter Mountain, Bear Mountain, and some other mountains, but never got to Lake George. It's probably not on most people's bucket list but it was on mine, (I have a very doable travel bucket list) so off we went...

Never realized how large Lake George's 32 miles in length.

Driving up there for an extended weekend with no hotel reservations, during August, was probably not the best idea as we met quite a few no vacancy signs. Too many of the establishments that did have a vacancy only had one for that night which would mean we would have to begin the trek all over again the next day, not something I particularly wanted to do. When we first rolled into town the plan was to stay at a really nice place right on the lake. I wanted to be able to open the window in the morning and see the glistening sun beam off the water and fall asleep to the sounds of bullfrogs and crickets while ripples of lake gently lapped to the shore. As doors slammed in our face, some outright laughing at our question, "Why aren't there any vacancies?" and their response, "Ummm, it's summer!" we began to think that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to be across the street from the lake and stay in one of those cute little cottages that dotted the road. When that proved undoable as well, we decided to keep driving north while following the lake to see if there was any rooms available. We had 32 miles of possibilities.

After being met with a plethora of no vacancy signs we found ourselves about ten miles from the downtown happening part of Lake George and in a cute little town called Bolton. There was an old timey looking motel with cabins facing the lake that had a vacancy sign up.

We were thrilled to find that they did indeed have four nights available, alas no lakeside cottages. We were told those were reserved a year in advance in most cases, so we opted for a room right by the pool. We could walk down to the lake and use the kayak and canoes any time we wanted. Oh, that sounds great we said to the clerk, and booked the room at a higher rate than I wanted to pay, as it was a typical upstate motel room that you would expect to find in the seventies.

When's the last time you used a key like this?
Even if there was no hair dryer, only one-ply toilet paper, the most translucent, thinnest, wrapped sliver of soap I have ever seen, and no complimentary shampoo and conditioner, I was thrilled it had air conditioning, a refrigerator, cable television, and thick wooden walls with no neighbors on either side. When we settled into the room I mentioned the canoe and kayak to my husband causing us both to burst out laughing as he uncorked the bottle of wine. Yeah, like we would actually go out on the lake, and row, or paddle something. Ha!

This was the view from the Bonnie Motel we saw when we walked down to the lake.

In fact, it was quite the hike down to the lake from our poolside room, so I think after the first time trek, that was the last time we trekked. Instead, we drove into town to see what was what, and found there was no shortage of activities for people who were more ummm, "outdoorsy" than us.

That's not Frank driving the boat. That's not me water skiing.
Can you see my husband and I parasailing?
Here's a close-up so you can see, nope, that's not us...

Cruising on Lake George

Nope, not for us...I get seasick.

Seriously though, we found plenty to do...

All upstate New York feels haunted to me
Fort William Henry
That flag offends me...remove it!!! Ha, just kidding

Downtown Lake George is your typical tourist upstate town, very picturesque, plenty of fudge stores, souvenir shops. ice cream parlors, live music, bars, restaurants, shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Bring comfortable walking shoes as you will do a lot of walking. I never realized the Lake George area had such a huge Italian presence. One Italian restaurant in Bolton, Cate's, was so good I thought I was back in Brooklyn. In fact, the pizza we had there was better than any pizza we had the last time we were in Brooklyn.

Seriously better pizza than the last one I had at L&B's in Brooklyn!
We overhead a lot of people speaking and many folks had our same Brooklyn accent. When the chef came out and made the rounds, we made sure to tell him how much we enjoyed the meal. I also discovered the refreshing joy of watermelon vodka mixed with cranberry juice and seltzer. There was a typical German restaurant that also had authentic fare, and lots of it. Go hungry. We also found a great Italian deli only down the road from the motel where we had breakfast and lunch. I think the biggest surprise came when we stumbled upon a bakery in the Village of Lake George that not only had real Italian bread and pastries, but the best black and white cookie I have ever had.

Perfection in a black and white, spongy with a slight tinge of lemon zest moist cake covered with fresh, soft, thick layer of homemade vanilla and chocolate frosting. 

The food was so delicious up there, and varied with so many Italian delicacies to choose from which I cannot get in Roanoke, we didn't have to hit Brooklyn on the way back home to Virginia because all my food cravings were satisfied.

Another reason why I chose Lake George...there was another bucket list location nearby. And it was a perfect time to visit as this was the brief season when the thoroughbreds were racing in Saratoga Springs!  More on that in the next blog post...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

If West Side Story Was Remade

Last night we were watching one of my favorite musicals West Side Story when I remarked to my husband if more gangs danced we'd have less crime, and I think the art of snapping needs to be brought back too. I'm a big snapper...from keeping time when dancing, to my past of alerting an editor where a cut needs to be me made, I snap. It's got a cool beatnik vibe, doesn't it?

Anyhow...this was the first time my husband ever saw West Side Story. And that's how I know he loves me more than anything in the world, because he sat through an entire "corny" musical with me only making one jab at it saying, "I guess the apple didn't fall far...your dad loved musicals too." I had to remind him my dad's taste in musicals was way different in mine as there are only a few I like and in in fact my two favorite ones, this and Jesus Christ Superstar are actually two he didn't like.

My husband did make a remark that this movie probably wouldn't have been made today since it is so politically incorrect. What with all the spic, wop, mick, pollock, etc references, and stereotypes of a multitude of folks including the "distoibed," it probably would never get passed the pc police. Even back then they knew enough that they had to substitute "Krup You!" for you know what if there would ever be a chance for it to go on television, I assume.

The opening lyrics of this song...

"Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!"

Sounds like not a whole lot has changed since 1961. But one thing definitely has changed...there are no more or very few Officer Krupkes. Could you just imagine if this crew went up to a cop now and said some of the things these cats did throughout this film? I don't think the modern day Krupke would take it too kindly. I imagine there might even be a taser or two at the very least.

And if this movie was remade way would Natalie Wood survive waving that gun around. Yeah right...Pow! That's how I think it would end...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dear Southern Girls,

All I can do is utter, "What a damn shame" as I watch the treatment, or lack thereof, my husband's 85 year old friend is experiencing from his family, specifically from his grown daughters, so I thought a brief letter to them was in order...

Dear southern girls, I guess your dad's no longer needed as your children are old enough now not to be babysat by him like he used to do at the drop of a dime whenever you needed him.

Dear southern girls, let me tell you he misses those grandchildren. You might know that if you bothered to call him. Oh wait, you can't call him because he has no phone. You would know that if you had tried to call him. You would know he could't afford his landline any longer at his home or his "business" so he got rid of it over six months ago.

Dear southern girls, don't you think an 85 year old man should have a phone? We did. So a couple of months ago my husband went with him to Walmart and had him get a cheap cellphone which we discovered this week he no longer has, because he couldn't afford it any more. If you would have tried to call him you would have known there was something "wrong" as the call kept going to voicemail. It took my husband one day to figure that out. Although he says he doesn't "need" one we know he does.

Dear southern girls, you know where he lives, way out in the boondocks, you know the house, the one you had him sign over to you two when he was on his deathbed a mere two years ago. The farmhouse where he has no cable television, no phone, not even Sirius radio any more that one of  you were so kind to give him for a present a couple of years ago, but never continued to pay the yearly fee. You do realize if he cannot afford to pay for a phone, satellite radio is a luxury he would never pay for. So if sits dead on the counter amongst a cluttered mess you girls never helped clean.

Dear southern girls, if you ever bothered to open his refrigerator you would see there is barely any food in it, probably some apples, beans, and containers of soup and other leftovers from my kitchen that I make sure my husband gives him. I try and pack two lunches for "the boys" whenever I'm able to.

Dear southern girls, we invited him over Easter Sunday, but he didn't come. He said he didn't want to "impose." It would not have been an imposition at all. Instead, he stayed at his "business" building, down in the bottom, you know the one, the one he signed over to you two when he was on his deathbed, the one that has no phone, and no running water because he couldn't afford to keep it going. Well, he sat out in the back watching the beehives, waiting, hoping one of you girls would have come by to say hi, see what he was up to, maybe even invite him over to brunch or dinner so he could play with his grandchildren. Did I mention how much he misses his grandchildren? But no one called him, how could you? He has no phone. No one stopped by to see if he was all right. When I saw him the next day he said he didn't go anywhere, didn't hear from you. When I asked when was the last time he had, he couldn't remember. Months?

Dear southern girls, we invited him last Thanksgiving to come over. You didn't. He wouldn't. He didn't want to impose. We invited him to come over Christmas Eve. You didn't. He wouldn't. He didn't want to impose. For his birthday my husband took him to lunch. You didn't. Not a card, not even a call. Would that have been too much?

Dear southern girls, you make me sick. One of you is a nurse, the other a teacher. With the professions you chose one would think you should both know the meaning of compassion, especially towards your father. Let me tell you, for an 85 year old man, he's still got spunk, even with his colostomy bag. But there are days he doesn't look good. There are days his skin is too sallow and it worries me. He's losing too much weight. Even though every day my husband makes sure he's eating, there are some days your father should be going to the doctor, and my husband will insist he go even when he doesn't want to. It doesn't always work. Maybe if you girls took him, he'd go.

Dear southern girls, your father is not an imposition. He is a blessing. Do you know what I would give to hear my father's voice on the phone? Do you know what I would give to have my father sitting next to me at a dinner table? Do you know what I would give to have my father sitting next to me on the couch? Do you know what I would give to have my father be around his grandchildren, especially now that they've grown up? Do you know what I would give to not have lost my father at 74? I guess you don't and it's a damn shame.

Dear southern girls, I tell my husband he better make sure to get all of his wood out of your dad's "business" building because frankly, even though I've been told you know it's my husbands, I worry once your dad is gone, so will all that wood and anything else you could get your greedy mitts on to sell, because if you don't give a damn about your father while he's alive you certainly aren't going to give a damn about anyone else after he's dead.

Dear southern girls, I can't help but think that had your dad not signed over everything to you two already, he might have gotten a visit, an invitation, a call, something, anything from his "family." Maybe he doesn't have money like your mom does, but he's still your father. He's a great man.

Dear southern girls, every night when your father leaves our shop he hugs my husband and says, "Goodnight son." He is my husband's best friend and my husband is his best, and sometimes it seems, only, friend. My husband didn't know his birth dad, and didn't have a great relationship with his stepdad, and he treasures every minute with your dad. When the time comes, and your dad passes, my husband will be broken hearted and those tears coming from his eyes will be real. Will yours?

Dear southern girls, is this how daughters treat their elderly fathers in the south, discard them like a moth-worn flannel rag? Shameful. Oh year, bless your fucking hearts...

Saturday, April 22, 2017