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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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I wonder if a lot of readers are like me, prone to reading in streaks.  I can look back over the last couple of decades and dovetail our family’s history with my reading.  Several years ago I read most of Charles Dickens’ novels—this took some time, as they are large!  Then I read everything I could find about the sea—documentaries of shipwrecks past and recent, plus novels like Conrad’s LORD JIM.  I have spent a couple of years tracking with Brian Jacques’ REDWALL series, when riveted by anthropomorphic fantasy—a lifelong passion of mine. 

The streaks come and go, and periodically repeat themselves, ever branching into newly discovered books.  I have English mystery streaks as in Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, and long spells of devouring Irish history—in documentary and fiction.  I have read John Galsworthy’s 3 huge trilogies of novels cavalcading English society from the 1880s up to 1930.  I’ve spent days in drawing rooms with Jane Austen.  I’ve discovered Wilke Collins and our son-in-law, Rick, has lent me Collins’ books.  (They are fantastic!)  And I’ve labored over Dostoevsky’s casts of characters—each with at least 3 melodious, hard to spell Russian names.

More and more I’m loving documentaries:  accounts of daily life in the far northern wilderness; historical records of wars and plagues; legends and histories of cultural groups; biographies of writers, artists, statesmen, and rulers; discourses on social trends, etc.

Two excellent books consumed a part of my last winter:  TEAM OF RIVALS, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 700 plus pages of well-researched documentary on Abraham Lincoln’s political genius and his remarkable character; and THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS–the Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King—the subjects of which are implicit in the book’s title.  As well as depicting the tumult of the Parisian art scene in the 1860s and 70s, this account sheds detailed light on the Franco-Prussian War and those deprivations suffered by the resilient, resourceful French during the siege of Paris.

Most of all, I loved THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS for its thorough and insightful treatment of the art revolution—at the time when the camera came into existence, releasing artists from the responsibility to record history and events realistically.  Before the camera, artists were needed for accurate renderings of people, places, and scenes—to establish a form of provenance.  If it hadn’t been for Holbein, we’d have no concept of the breadth and girth of Henry VIII or the physical appearance of his serial wives!  I love the art revolution because it freed artists to operate out of the right brain—and I’m reaping the joys of that freedom in my studio today!

Now that summer is nearly upon us (and indeed the weather has frequently been summer-ish!) my favorite spot for reading is our above-pictured patio outside our living room.  It’s an outdoor living room, and I literally live there morning, afternoon, and sometimes evening in hot weather.  My right brained art on the patio wall and the rug showing on the lounge chair are indications of my current reading streak, one that occurs and re-occurs on a regular cycle in sync with one of my most beloved decorating themes.  (See the fake barrel cactus on the right, for another clue.)

So I’ll spend many happy patio afternoons—imbibing CRYSTAL LIGHT® or iced tea (or a combo of both) and feeding my streak.  For fiction mood days I’ll turn to that matchless creator of scene, characters, and action, Louis L’Amour.  And when documentary is the hunger of the day, I can choose from two recent antique store sale purchases (totaling $3.02), pictured below:

To accommodate our ever expanding home library, and to rescue towers of books from constantly toppling on the floor, Joe built more shelves—this time in our front hall.

An amazing sight—my man on a ladder!  Those readers who were with us on this site a year ago will definitely agree.  🙂 

Happy Reading Streaks!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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I named the above rendering “Autumn Creeps In”.  There is a subtly to September, even considering that this year the air is prematurely snappy.  We’ll will undoubtedly have some warmish, golden Indian summer days in October.  Yet autumn is creeping in at a consistent pace. 

Beauty!  Color!  Invigorating Days!  Bittersweet Reflections!  All of these characterize the season at hand.  Recently I’ve been wrapped in bittersweet reflections—recalling the riches of the short summer from which we are emerging.  June remained chilly, and I kept a handspun, hand knitted hat in the car until early July.  Then summer began in earnest.  How languid, how lovely—except for about 5 unbearably hot, sticky days when we had to turn on air conditioning which we absolutely hate to do!

Summer guests, summer afternoons on the patio, summer evenings with frog serenades ringing from the gardens beneath our windows, summer rains (not enough of them, however), summer ice cream outings, summer, summer, summer!  We grab hold of summer in our souls, stash it in our cupboard of poignant memories, and dream of it in January when it’s 10 below zero in Wisconsin (or 30 below zero up north where we lived for 8 years).  Summer!

This week I’ve been thinking seriously about autumn creeping in, and I’ve responded accordingly.  House plants have been moved from our patio to a spare table in Joe’s den.  Most of our house plants never went out for the summer, as we have doors and windows open nearly around the clock and it’s like a garden indoors.  African violets stay inside all year, relishing their eastern exposure and the shelter of our living room.  Most of my jades, Christmas cacti, orchid cacti, and aloe plants stay indoors in our southern windows.  But a few jades and cacti have been hanging out on the patio for the last 2 months, adding to the decor.  Now all have been garnered in.  Soon the Christmas cacti will be stashed away in a dark closet, resting and preparing to bloom.

Today I dismantled our sweet little patio fountain, as those inevitable early frosts are advancing from the north.  Any night now, icy fingers could move in—snipping here, blanching there, and freezing the water in fountains.  Our fountain (with a hidden electric pump) consists of 3 levels of pretend rocks (actually fiberglass, but very realistic and rocklike) over which the water tumbles—plus a small girl and a family of ducks.  Carefully I dismantled the 3 sections, wiped the pieces dry, and transported them to our garage on the seat of my 4 wheel walker.

Now the little girl and her ducks have been re-assembled (but not in the operating mode) in a far corner of the garage, where I keep treasures:  seasonal wreaths, decorative odds and ends, junk from rummage sales, etc.  It’s fun to wander and browse among stuff in our garage.  And even during winter’s bleakest period there are sunny days when Joe and I can bundle and sit inside our garage on comfy chairs, while pretending we’re staring into a New Mexico sky.

We have a large fountain in our community pond.  Soon it will be shut off for the season.  I’ll mourn the loss of moving water, while knowing the fountain will resume it’s refreshing showers next April.  I’m thankful for the small indoor fountain which graces our living room table of African violets.  The sound of water tumbling from this diminutive ceramic “friend” will cheer many winter days.

Along with bittersweet reflections, comes the anticipation of additional hours for indoor pleasures—including extra time to knit, and spin gorgeous wool on my spinning wheels.  During the colder months, I keep a spinning wheel in front of our surrogate (electric) fireplace.  What a cozy place to sit and spin. 

Stacked in my corner studio are many paintings and collages in progress.  And for every piece waiting to be completed, more paintings and collages are lined up in my head—just waiting to be born on paper or gallery wrapped canvas.  Even when the autumn color fades, indoor color will prevail!

A new piano book of easy-version Scott Joplin rag tunes has arrived in the mail, and I’m getting a handle on “The Entertainer”.  “Maple Leaf Rag” is a bit more challenging with 4 flats, but (God willing) I’ll learn to play that as well in the coming weeks.  There are 18 rags in the book—enjoyment forever.  I have music for each day and every mood.  I love Mozart Beethoven, and Chopin.  And I also love ragtime, especially Joplin’s works!

Soapmaking is ongoing in my kitchen, as I supply many family members and friends with my beautiful facial (and body) soap.  The thrill of a creating a new batch of soap never grows old.  Our home is redolent with rose, wisteria, sandalwood, patchouli, and (for occasional novelty) soaps scented with of coffee and chocolate fragrance oils. 

(When we moved to a condo 2 years ago, a friend was shocked to hear that I was still making soap.  “You make soap in a condo?” my friend asked.  I answered something to the effect that I will always want to go on living, no matter where!  Maybe this friend thought that I should just zone out and twiddle my thumbs, since I was advancing in age and now living in a condo!)

And then there are books, books, books, books, and more books!  Within a few minutes of our door are 2 libraries, in different directions.  Although we don’t fancy many of the newer books due to their inferior writing quality and mediocre content, we love the used book sales which are frequent at the libraries.  These sales never let us down.  As we come home with bags of “new to us” used books, we add to the leaning towers of books against the walls of our home.  A KINDLE® or NOOK® would never be welcome at this treasure trove of tattered covers, coffee stained pages, and people who are passionate about real books!

So you see, as autumn creeps in my bittersweet reflections give way to downright enthusiasm.  Spring and summer will return.  In the meantime, what a wealth of joyEach day is an adventure to be embraced and celebrated—regardless of the season!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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