Category Archives: childhood

Ancestry


23andme

I never knew much about my heritage. I didn’t know many people on my dad’s side of the family, so I was curious as to my background. I felt like I was pretty confident in my heritage on my mother’s side. To quench my thirst for knowledge, I had my DNA tested with 23andMe.

My results were pretty much to be expected. 23andMe is good with continuing to do research on the genotypes even after you get your initial results. This further research has caused a mystery on my mom’s side of the family.

There was a story that I heard growing up – that one of my great-great-grandmothers was Native American. Even more than that, it was stated that she was a cousin to Chief Sitting Bull, which would have made her Oglala Lakota. The French-speaking people in my family were quite racist – they allegedly made comments that they didn’t care if the person was “red or black,” they didn’t want them in the family and disowned my great-great-grandfather for marrying a non-white.

This story was very unsettling to me. Because of the hatred my great-great-grandmother experienced, I made it my mission to be as respectful of and learn as much as I could about the Lakota people. I felt that by honoring my great-great-grandmother, I was doing my part in rectifying the hatred within my own family.

23andMe recently released some more genetic reports providing a deeper dive into the genotypes and the locations in the world from which they came. I recently looked at my results and was surprised to see 0% Native American! The “family story” is a lie. So, what’s the truth. Well, with the generational breakdown, in the time of 1710-1800, the genotype that shows up is Subsaharan African. Curiouser and curiouser.

Further investigation will tell – but my first impression of this new information? Not only was the story a lie, but the ancestor in question was likely of mixed African origin.

Homesick


huntington2As I mentioned in my previous post, I was born in Huntington, WV. I was raised right across the Ohio River, but spent most of my time in the Huntington area. Growing up, if you wanted something to do, you went to Huntington. I used to jokingly say that the only things I did in Ohio were go to school and sleep. Because of this experience growing up, I always had more of a connection to Huntington than I did to the smaller towns of Ohio. It’s because of this connection that I’m writing this post.

I miss Huntington. I have very fond memories of the land and the people. Some would say I’m homesick. As I have researched some issues for other posts, what I have realized is that in many ways, it’s my home that is sick – sick with the decaying rot of crime and poverty.

Let me clarify.

I currently live in the suburbs of Chicago. My current surroundings are definitely a far cry from Appalachia. People often ask me about the dangers of Chicago as the city is often in the news with stories of rampant crime and gang activity. What I have found to be quite disheartening is that Huntington actually has a higher crime rate than Chicago. According to Neighborhood Scout, Chicago’s crime rate is 43.71 per 1000 residents. Huntington, on the other hand, has a crime rate of 56.87 per 1000 residents. Not only is the crime rate in Huntington higher than Chicago’s, it’s higher than the national average – in every category of violent and property crimes.

These facts are truly disturbing to me. It makes me weep whenever I visit Huntington as I can feel an aura of darkness permeating throughout the city. More than anything, it’s not fear that I feel, but sadness. This is most definitely not the Huntington of my youth. My memories of growing up in the Huntington area are brighter when it comes to the land and the people. Because of this, I still believe in Huntington. I believe that things can improve, and I refuse to give up on this ideal.

There are many intersecting issues related to crime – from economic disadvantages, budgetary cuts to social programs, lacking of funding and awareness for mental health issues, education cuts, and the influx of the opioid crisis which has been driven by pharmaceutical companies flooding the market (see the CDC report on prescription rates and drug overdose rates). How can we fix it? I do know that it won’t be simple. We often hear of one-sided reactions to these problems as if they are the magical elixir of life. I have a hunch that such complex issues will not be resolved with simple solutions. My guess is that it will take a multifaceted approach that addresses all the correlations rather than “fixing” one symptom of the problem.

I don’t have all the answers. What I do have is a commitment to looking into these issues in other posts, along with addressing other social issues within the Huntington community. I feel like I owe it to myself and to the area to continue speaking out and keeping faith that one day, Huntington will be a place where people will feel safe in raising a family.

My Life Beyond Fat, Part I – The Beginning


Broken heart sign, loss of love concept

I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t fat. However, it has taken me over thirty years to type that sentence. When I was younger, I would have been mortified if someone said the “f” word. When it came to my self image, I knew two things when I was younger: I was fat, and fat is unattractive. As many young girls in our culture do, I deduced that I was unattractive. And because of this deduction, I was mortified when someone said the “f” word because they were basically saying I was ugly.

Adolescence is a perilous time. If children can be mean, then teenagers can be downright evil. Along with growing up being told that I was fat (sic ugly), and that I “had such a pretty face if only I could lose weight,” in middle school an older student branded me Shamu. When everyone would snickered, I joined the laughter as if I were in on the joke instead of being the joke. Little did they know that the laughter was merely the embankment for my tears…tears that I would later expel in the privacy of my bedroom.

The media only compounded my debasement. Bear in mind that a significant part of my adolescence occurred in the 1990s during the height of “heroin chic.” As I would gaze longingly at the magazines in the grocery store checkout, I saw no reflection. I could not see myself in those pages. I would look down at myself and silently pray that God could transform me into the gossamer models that seemingly everyone either favored or emulated, sometimes both.

Then there was me. The opposite. Not to be favored. Not to be emulated. Not to be loved.

The media images and name calling built into a gospel cacophony. As in all things, repetition builds fluency, and I soon became an expert in fat and shame.