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Magen David

You know you are maturing when people start saying, “You have sure seen a lot of changes in your lifetime!”  I’ve not experienced as much change as my Dad did; he lived from 1896 to 1998, and throughout his lifetime he maintained a fervent interest in new inventions and rapidly expanding technology.  He would have LOVED this current cyber-age—especially the phone/cameras as photography was one of his many passions.

Of all the changes I can recall, perhaps the one I find most astounding is the research and discoveries wrapped up in three letters:  DNA.  What follows in this entry may be so boring to so many readers, that I seriously doubt it will get many “hits”.  Nonetheless, since it is of interest to me, I will continue:

I grew up in a genealogy-conscious family.*  My Mom and my maternal Grandma Kate did extensive research on their Scottish Covenant heritage.  They were descended from Campbells of Argyll and Luckeys from the Scottish Borders—sent by the English Crown to colonize Northern Ireland and make it Protestant.  Those Scots-Irish came to the new world in the late 1600s.

My paternal grandfather’s ancestors came from Switzerland in the early 1700s, and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in that German speaking community known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”.  My paternal grandmother Rose’s people escaped religious discrimination in Alsace-Lorraine, and migrated to Michigan in the mid 1800s.

So I grew up with basically 4-5 nationalities to claim pertaining to the surnames we have on record:  Scottish Celts,  probably some real Celtic Irish, German Swiss, and ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine—-with a combination of German and French given the surnames we have on record.

Then there was an undocumented report—that we also had a Jewish heritage, via my Grandma Rose.  Over the years I have cherished this “rumor”, as the Jewish people and (since 1948) the Israeli nation are among my greatest loves.

Even though Joe records our TV news broadcasts each day so that we don’t have to sit through commercials, I couldn’t miss the Ancestry.com ads that raced through our fast-forwarding act.  I ultimately succumbed, ordered the “spit tube”, and mailed a token of my origins to Utah.**  The results nearly blew me away, and have given me a new and refreshing outlook on who I am!

Some insight into the mystery:  Every person’s DNA is unique, and no other human on earth will have the same EXCEPT in the case of identical twins.  If two people are hatched out of the same egg, then as I understand it their DNA will match.  (Proof of how a Master Designer fashioned each egg to be special!)

There are subtle differences between DNA and genealogy.  Genealogy tells us where our people came from.  DNA tells us what is in each person, regardless of what they may or may not know about their ancestors’ countries of origin. 

(Please, if you are a scientist reading this blog, set me—along with other readers—straight if I am incorrect!  My majors were English literature and the French language.  Period.)

Back to my spit test.  The results amazed me on several points.  The expected Scottish Celt simply is not present.  In its place is 13% Viking!***  Now we all know that the Vikings invaded Scotland during the 8th and 9th centuries.  But it wasn’t all rape and pillage.  Some of those feisty blondes and redheads stayed in Scotland to do a number on my Argyll Campbells.  My Mom and Grandma Kate may have had lots of Scottish Celt DNA.  I have none. 

But I have a very good percentage of Irish Celt:  nearly 1/4th of my total DNA.  So the Protestant Northern Scots-Irish paired up with Green Irish either over there or in America.  Having read volumes of documentary on the beleaguered history of the Green Irish, I am delighted to stand with them—albeit as a fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestant.

There is a small amount of English in my DNA as well; I had thought there might be more, due to the plethora of English names which married into the Campbells and Luckeys.  One never knows!

In the DNA report, my paternal German Swiss, German, and French are lumped into one category:  Western European.  In my case this comprises a whopping 39%.  That was predictable.

Now the surprises, the unknowns that have proved my $99.00 Spit Kit investment really exciting and worthwhile:  13% Greek or Italian (where in the world did THAT come from—I LOVE it!) and (are you ready for this, dear reader?) 1% European Jewish.****

How encouraging!  That 1% is not a huge number, but to me it is significant.  The way I understand DNA, even with a small percentage of Jewish I could have had a Jewish great-grandmother, and my father may have had a large amount of Jewish DNA.

Where in the world is this going?  Right back to the photo at the top of the page.  I ordered my Magen David treasure via AMAZON PRIME, before I realized I could actually claim this heritage.  I love God’s chosen people, the Jews.  That’s reason enough to joyfully display the Blue and White on our garage entrance—along with our Stars and Stripes!  And now I have that 1% provenance of shared kinship!

My Superman Joe mounted the Magen David for me, on Resurrection Day weekend!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

*Interest in genealogy is a big Wisconsin thing.  We natives tend to say, “I’m Irish” or “I’m Whatever”—as if we had just landed on American soil, specifically on our beloved Wisconsin turf.

**A note on the spit test.  If you are inclined to pursue this adventure, remember not to eat, drink, chew, or inhale anything for at least an hour before spitting into the tube.  I didn’t read my directions carefully, and did the test along with my ubiquitous cup of strong coffee which polluted the sample.  (It might have tested out 100% caffeine.)  Anyway, Ancestry.com kindly sent me a new tube, free of additional charge. 

***In our household, that percentage of Viking is a bit of a hoot.  My husband is extremely (and rightfully!) proud of his Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish roots.  The fact that I share these roots is an eye-roller!  

****European Jewish, otherwise known as The Ashkenazim, refers to Jewish people dispersed from their homeland in the Middle East and scattered over Europe during centuries of persecution.

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Up North 3

Christmas was beautiful.  Nothing on earth can match the Wonder which came from above, took on human flesh, died, was resurrected, and dwells with us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit—God Himself.  Great is Thy Faithfulness.

And now we are moving into what is, for me, an exciting time.  Since winter solstice, when we had eight hours and fifty-nine minutes of daylight here in Nashotah, Wisconsin, we have gained THREE MINUTES of daylight.  THREE MINUTES.  Great is Thy faithfulness, indeed!  Every year at this time, I experience a surge which continues to expand in increments as the daylight increases.

I can handle winter, and find the snow (which we have finally received) to be gorgeous—even though I no longer roll in it the way I once did.  Our corgi, Dylan, rolls in the snow.  Living with the cold is do-able because: a)  I love Wisconsin through sickness and health, till death do us part; b) Joe and I are blessed with a cozy, warm home; and c)  There is plenty of wool around here in the form of blankets, and also wearable art—the fruit of this woman’s endless knit-omania.

I live with the cold, but find decreased daylight to be a piece of work.  Often I wonder if diminished daylight challenges my soul because I was summer-born.  Likewise, is the post-Christmas energy surge due to increased moments of daylight creating a chemical reaction in the brain, or do I begin to get hyper because of past experience and my knowledge of seasonal changes?

A 19th century ornithologist, Johann Andreas Naumann, noted that caged migratory birds exhibit migratory restlessness (Zugunruhe) and turn to the direction of migration at appropriate times, in response to circannual rhythms.  Can human instincts have remained so finely tuned as those of birds, despite our centuries of civilization and cultural conditioning?

The exercise of pondering moot questions never grows old.  As I plug in a CD from our large collection of Celtic music, I wonder if it’s “ethnic memory” that causes my blood to throb and my body to move involuntarily to the music.  Irish Celtic, yes.  And Scottish Celtic?  Well, the shrieking of bagpipes* sends me into orbit like no other sound except that of a train whistle.  God willing, “Amazing Grace” will thunder via pipes and a piper in kilts at my Going Home Celebration when the time comes.

Here is my known ethnicity, although most of my people came to this continent so long ago that I might logically be considered “American”.  My father’s ancestors were Swiss and Alsatian, and my mothers—Scottish and Northern Irish.  The Northern Irish were Scots to begin with, but they were sent by the English Crown from the Scottish Borders to “Protestant-ize” Northern Ireland.**

Now I have loved both of my parents and always will, with equal loyalty.  They were, and always will be, great individuals for whom I’m eternally grateful.  I am pleased to have received, via the gene pool, some of my Dad’s traits along with some of Mother’s.

But yodeling?  Big in the Swiss Alps, I know—but a yodel simply does nothing whatsoever for my soul, regardless of the skill with which it may be performed.  Line a yodel up against Celtic fiddles, Celtic harps, or Scottish bagpipes and I’m sorry but you don’t even have a hint of a contest. 

So why do The Irish Rovers, The Chieftans, and others of their ilk throw me over the moon?  It cannot be from childhood exposure, as we never had that kind of music in my home of origin.  Music was classical (which I continue to love).  My mother was a gifted pianist and I was raised on Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, etc.

For lighter moments we had the comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and some old folk songs such as The Londonderry Air.  But the squealing, banging, and thumping of The Chieftains, and the robust, earthy tunes of the Irish Rovers would never have made it to 85 Park Street and other places where I once lived and breathed and had my being.  My mother was tremendously delighted with her Campbell of Argyll roots, but I don’t recall her doing cartwheels to bagpipes.  So do I squeal, bang, and thump to the Chieftans because of ethnic memory, or is this response simply an acquired taste?

And whether chemically driven or just a matter of understanding how the seasons progress, my passion for lengthening days is far from moot.  It’s a tangible reality which inspires a hymn of praise:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God our Father.”

Margaret L. Been —  December 31st, 2015.

*I love the humorous bit of lore shared by an Irish storyteller at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest:  “The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots, but the Scots ‘didn’t get it’.”

**Regardless of Northern Irish roots, my sympathies have always been with the long-suffering and now Republic of Ireland.

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Every year at this time, since I began blogging, I’ve commemorated Pearl Harbor with a photo of the disaster.  This year, I can’t bring myself to feature the photo.  Recently, whenever I think of Japan I think of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Necessary from a military standpoint?  Yes!  Unthinkably tragic from a human standpoint?  YES! 

We need to remember history, mainly because we could benefit from learning.  History could provide foresight and wisdom.  But it’s been shown again and again that people do not learn from history.  We may remember history, but we simply play it again.

As Christians, we are commanded to forgive.  Forgiveness is the very core of our faith, and the reason why we are standing here rather than decimated and plowed under by God’s wrath.  Yet there are historical characters whom I cannot forgive in my fallen humanity:  especially Hitler, for his atrocities to God’s people the Jews.  And Stalin. 

And, going way back—Oliver Cromwell.  I read a lot of documentaries on Irish history.  I’m currently experiencing a formidable challenge knowing that I have to forgive the British Empire, not only for its mindless brutality in Ireland but for centuries of power lust and domination in India and Africa.  My husband, always the wit, suggests that I gather up all my English tea and dump it in the harbor a mile from our home.

However when I think England I want to think tea and English country gardens—along with Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Keats, the Brontës, Thomas Hardy, John Galsworthy and other authors too numerous to name.  I want to think our precious English language, and English theatre which (in my opinion) is second to none. 

When I think Russia I want to remember ballet and Tchaikowsky who, tortured as he was in his personal life, left the world a legacy of hauntingly beautiful music.  When I think Germany I want to recall Bach and Beethoven—and the tradition of gemütlichkeit reflected by German Americans in the cultural history of Wisconsin.  When I think Japan I want to focus on centuries of exquisite art traditions:  painting, poetry, gardening.

Every nation on earth has its shame as well as its pride.  Individuals are born sinners.  National shame is sin multiplied.  America is not exempt from national sin.  Just ask the decendants of the Cherokee and other Native Nations who walked the Trail of Tears from the deep South to Oklahoma and points West.  Or ask the descendants of slaves.

There is only One Remedy for sin, and that was accomplished for us at Calvary.  God’s Remedy for sin came to us as a baby, born in a crude and humble manger some 2000 plus years ago.  He is coming again!  “And He shall reign forever and ever!”

Meanwhile I will remember December 7th, 1941.  Remember, but move on!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Where can I begin to thank our Lord?  I have nothing but thanksgiving:  for God, and whom He is; for salvation, and the promise of eternal life; for more blessings on earth than I can begin to count—a happy childhood, ongoing cultural opportunities, a precious marriage of almost 59 years, a large and loving family, friends, a sweet dog, fresh air, the beauties of nature, a pleasant and comfortable home, food to eat, clothes to wear, a bed, a plethora of books, and an abundance of creative hobbies.

Where can I begin?  Perhaps with that huge blessing which is not listed above, yet one for which I thank God every single day:  FREEDOM.  With all that is wrong in America, we are still free.  We can publish our views around the world, via the internet—without censorship—at least for now.  We can choose our children’s education.  We can worship in public.  We can read our Bibles and pray in coffee houses and bistros, without fear—at least for now.  We are still free!

I read a lot of historical novels and documentary non-fiction on the subject of Irish history.  Actually I know Irish history nearly as well as I know that of my own country!  As I read, I think over and over:  Lord thank you that, with God’s enabling, my ancestors (many of Scottish and Irish descent) were a part of our American Revolution.  The tenacity of the Irish people, like that of our early Americans, stirs my heart profoundly!  

I thank God that, throughout history, that there have been countless heroes who sacrificed everything they had for the cause of freedom!  And of all those heroes, no other people on earth loom larger in their quest for freedom than God’s chosen people—the Jews.  I’m thankful for American history, Irish history, and for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.  

Meanwhile although Christians everywhere have inner, spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ, much of the world is still in physical bondage.  I praise the Lord Jesus for His promise to return, and reign on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Someday, hopefully soon, the entire world will be free! 

“Yea, many people and strong nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.”  Zechariah 8:22 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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I frequently meet for lunch with friends from high school; now we are talking about friendships of 60 plus years!  Old friends are comforting and comfortable.  One never needs explain oneself to old friends.  They know who you are.  They know who your parents were.  They recall your youthful endeavors and dreams.  If you’ve kept in touch with old friends as I have, they’ve tracked with you over the years.  They still know who you are today!

New friends are delightful as well.  Often they come from different locales and family backgrounds. New friends share our interests while widening our perspective and understanding of other places and traditions.

My wise mother once said, “Throughout the years you will have a variety of friends.  Each one will be unique in a special way.”

How true!  I have a friend who shares my love for gardens, rummaging, and English cottage decor—and another friend with whom I could literally spend a long day into the evening, discussing books and films:  not only the plots or subjects of books and films but the characterization, character development, character changes, psychological overtones and undercurrents, humor and pathos, irony and subtle innuendoes, historical significance, literary allusions, and metaphorical content.

I have friends who share my love for God’s Word, friends who are fellow fans of dogs and cats, friends who identify with my passion for nature and the out-of-doors, kindred poet-friends who savor gathering for a morning of reading aloud, friends who entertain me with tales of their travels, knitting friends, spinning friends, music-loving friends, friends who relish meeting for a day of making art, friends who share my passion for Israel and Ireland, friends with whom I can laugh, and friends with whom I can cry. 

A friend is one who knows your heart, and encourages you in those creative pursuits which mean the most to you.  A friend is never sarcastic.  A friend desires what is best for you, and responds accordingly in actions and speech.   

Daily I pray that I can always be a friend!  🙂

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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Awhile back I wrote about painting what we know.  “Knowing” doesn’t always mean experiencing first hand.  A person can live in a place, yet not really know or understand it from the inside out.  Conversely, we can read about a locale so intently and intensely that we do indeed “know” it. 

Experience can be shallow, trite, and superficial—while deeply involved reading never is!  Thus we can visit a place for the first time, and feel profoundly “at home”—as if we have always been there.  When Joe and I traveled the back roads of Scotland in a rented car, I was “at home” thanks to a lifetime of hearing and reading about that ancestral land. 

And I know I’ll feel likewise if we ever visit Ireland, pictured above in watercolor ink and rendered from my imagination.  Through ancestral roots* and much reading, Ireland is familiar turf to me.

My Irish-background maternal grandfather, Ambrose Luckey, was the only one of my four grandparents whom I don’t remember.  He died when I was a year old.  But his portrait, along with that of his wife—my Grandma Kate—sits on my piano.  He looks kind, gentle, and a bit melancholy.

Ambrose Luckey was born and raised on a small farm in central Wisconsin where he married my grandmother, Kate Campbell—the daughter of Alexander Campbell, a Congregational preacher in Pine River, Wisconsin.  Their three children, my mother and her two older brothers, were born on that farm.  When Mother was four years old, the family moved to Madison at Grandma Kate’s insistence, so that the children could attend the University of Wisconsin. 

I grew up with the story of how that move to Madison broke Ambrose’s heart.  Although his Irish ancestors had come to America back in the late 1700s, Grandpa Ambrose still had the Irish passion for land. 

Reportedly, Grandpa never did adjust to living on Langdon Street near the busy Madison university.  Grandma Kate kept the family together, by working as a practical nurse and taking in boarders.  I recall childhood visits to the green bungalow where Grandma lived.

I have thought a lot over the years about my unknown Grandfather, and I sense a bond not only from hearing family stories about him but from identification with him.  I understand his temperament, and can imagine his sorrow over losing his beloved lifestyle.

Over the last decade, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about Ireland.  Two books stand out among the plethora:  THE GREAT HUNGER, a documentary of the potato famine years, by Cecil Woodham Smith—and THE END OF THE HUNT, a well-documented novel of the years from the 1916 EASTER RISING up to the 1930s and the aftermath of the Irish Free State Treaty with Britain and the subsequent Irish Civil War, by Thomas Flanagan.

Much as I love English literature, English bone china, English films, and many other things British, I have no love for English imperial policies of the past. 

Power corrupts, and every nation has its shame.  I’m ashamed of America’s past treatment of blacks and Native Americans.  Nazi Germany stands at the top of the list of horrors, when it comes to “man’s inhumanity to man”. 

Likewise, 700 years of English domination, exploitation, and abject cruelty to the Irish simply cannot be borne with academic complacency.  Although my Irish ancestors settled in the New World over 200 years ago, and even though they were Protestants from Northern Ireland, my heart and soul are inextricably bound to the Irish people—northern and southern!  

I’m eternally thankful that our early Americans had the good sense to dump that tea into Boston Harbor!  And someday I hope to experience the familiar turf of Ireland.  Meanwhile, I’m painting what I know!

*How we need to know our ancestral roots!  Wisconsin natives know where they came from.  In our state, it’s common to hear people say they are Irish, Polish, German, Swedish, Czech, Welsh, or whatever.  This is one of the many reasons I love Wisconsin!

©Margaret L. Been

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