Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

When I read through my previous posts, I have to laugh so I don’t cry.

Once again, I’ve fucked up.  I admit it!  That last pizza I rambled on about in my last post – from January, which shows how committed I’ve been – was far from it.  Over the past three months in particular, I’ve completely gone off the deep end health wise.  I introduced personal training once a week, but that is the extent of what I’ve done.  I’ve eaten whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  I didn’t exercise beyond my weekly personal training sessions.  I rarely cooked a meal for myself or my husband, relying on restaurants and making excuses as to why this is easier.

And you know what?  It’s all bullshit.  It’s the same crap I’ve done for most of my life.  And I sort of had that, “Ah-ha!” moment this week: My life is full of excuses.

Excuses about how I don’t get home on time to cook dinner, so eating out every night is okay.

Excuses about how I didn’t get enough sleep so I can’t get up and exercise before work.

Excuses about how maybe I don’t want to have a baby and that would be okay, when I’m really just scared that I won’t be able to even if I do get healthy.

And that’s all it is – excuses I make in an attempt to deceive myself and avoid the cold, hard truth.  I have become a master of self-deception over the last 20 years of my life.

Do you know what the worst part about it is?  I’ve sucked my husband into the same bad habits.  He’s gaining weight and his health is awful right now and it’s because of me.  I know that sounds like a lot of pressure to put on myself, but it’s true.  In this way, I have very much made his life worse than it used to be.  I don’t want to see him get anywhere near where I am right now, so it well and truly has to stop.  And we have to stop it together.

Step one: Get help.  I jokingly say that I have more issues than National Geographic (there’s the fat funny girl persona coming out again), but in a way it’s true.  I have been dealing with a number of really difficult things for a long time, stemming back from my middle school experience and even the way I was treated by my extended family throughout my entire life.  I have tried to get counselling for a number of these things in the past, but I was never able to find anyone who I felt could really help me through everything.

I have been very lucky of late because I found a counsellor who has been able to really put things into perspective.  We have been slowly working through why I have carried certain things with me for so long and in what way do I need to work through them.  I sought out this type of help in the first place because I realised that there was no way I was ever going to fix my physical health if I continued to ignore my emotional health.  I have encouraged my husband to do the same for himself, which he recently started.

Now, I finally feel like I’m at a place where I actually have the strength to work on my physical health.  I’m starting slow: My husband and I have come up with healthy meals that we can easily make every evening.  We’ve tried to come up with things that we can do most or all prep work for beforehand, i.e. chopping all veggies for the week, or meals we can fully prepare and freeze beforehand that can simply be thrown in the oven when required.  Hubby is hanging up a whiteboard in the kitchen, where we can plan out the week’s dinner menu and grocery list.  Then every Sunday is spent grocery shopping and doing all meal prep for the week.

If we can make this habit of cooking all dinners for the week, I think we’ll be able to make other good habits.  I’m not going to promise myself or anyone else that I’ll change all of my bad food habits at once.  I know that won’t be possible.  But I will be happy if we can make this one change for now and try not to beat myself up if I slip up in other aspects for now.

Wish me luck.

I just ate my last pizza.

When I say “my last pizza”, I don’t mean a slice or two of pizza.  I mean the whole thing.  That’s right – I can eat an entire 11″ pizza by myself without blinking an eyelash.  Plus half a stick of garlic bread.  Not counting the large glass of Sprite I usually wash it all down with, that’s roughly 2,136 calories and 87.8 grams of fat, over half of which are saturated fat.  What’s even worse, I’ve been doing this 1-2 times per week since I got back from my trip to the USA in mid-December.  And all of this without a gall bladder.

In short: I have lost my damn mind.  I can’t blame this change in behaviour on my trip, as I ate pretty healthily over there aside from having too much soda.  This is the timeline of my thought process as I see it in hindsight:

  • Mid-December – “Ugh!  I’m so tired from all that flying!  Ehh, won’t hurt this one time.”
  • Late-December – “It’s Christmas – you have to ‘treat yo-self’ sometimes!  I’ll get back into it on Boxing Day.”
  • Boxing Day – “It’s still technically the holidays.  What will it hurt to wait until 1 January to get back into it?”
  • Week 1 January – “Well I’ve already screwed up this week, so I’ll just start on Sunday.”
  • Week 2 January – “Ehh…fuck it.”

All of this has made me realise that I’m really good at one thing when it comes to my health: Convincing myself why I can’t or shouldn’t do something positive for my body at any given moment in time.  I’m clearly a great marketer in more than just my professional life.  And the lazy side of my brain is a marketer’s dream.

The question remains, “How do I change this habit?”  How do I stop letting the part of my brain that wants to sell myself bad decisions shut off?  I don’t know the answer to that.  I mean – how many times have I proclaimed x-moment as the swan song of an unhealthy lifestyle?  I said those exact words in a post here back in July.  Positive things happened for a while, but then I ended up right back in the same place as I was before.

You know what really shits me off most?  I spent a lot of time in the USA watching a show called My 600-Pound Life.  I watched men and women self-destruct in much the same method as I’ve been doing to the point where surgery is literally the only chance they have.  And yet, I came home from that trip and have eaten worse than I ever have in my life.  I’ve been consuming probably 2-3 times what my caloric intake should be almost every day since I got back.  I watched people do the same damn thing to themselves and almost die from it, and yet I came home and started doing the exact same thing.  How the fuck does that happen?!

See?  I have, quite literally, lost my damn mind.

I ate a whole pizza by myself last night (hence the title of this blog).  I don’t know if it was because of how I felt physically this morning – extremely achy with a disgusting taste in my mouth – or if something has finally clicked in my mind, but I feel an overwhelming sense that enough is enough.  If I don’t change my life, I am literally going to die.  I will never have children, I will get large enough to subject my husband to a life of taking care of his morbidly obese wife, and I will die far before my time.

Will this feeling last?  Who the hell knows.  Will I succeed?  God, I hope so.  But I’ve said this how many times before and nothing has changed.  Maybe I can only take it one day at a time – make a conscious decision not to buy a great big serving of laziness that day and choose instead to make a good choice for my body.  It’s barely 2:30pm but I’ve already made a good start today by avoiding cow’s milk dairy and choosing water over soda.  Hubby and I are also going to take our weekend walk around a nearby park this evening.  Perhaps that has to be enough for now.

We don’t live in an equal society.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about HBO’s intention to air an ‘alt-history’ drama called Confederate, which takes place in an alternate timeline where the South won the Civil War and slavery still exists.  This post inevitably inspired a friendly debate about why a show like this is should or shouldn’t be aired in this day and age.  Some people expressed similar amounts of outrage, while others questioned if this type of show is any different to other apocalyptic shows like The Handmaid’s Tale.

It’s very different, and I’ll tell you why.  Women have been oppressed for centuries – that we know.  However, western society has overwhelmingly changed its view of women.  Aside from the stigma of Eve and the apple, women by and large have been considered to be humans and worthy of all the rights humanity affords for quite some time.

African-Americans haven’t.  It wasn’t that long ago that people believed that black people were a completely different species to white people.  Anti-miscegenation laws were introduced in the USA as early as 1691, and these laws weren’t completely abolished in many states until 1967.  Despite this ruling, the difference between races is something that continues to be ingrained into society today.  There is still a huge stigma against anyone with a skin tone darker than mildly tanned – from everyday things like the lack of makeup and nude shoe options to suit darker skin, to things that affect current and future generations such as inequitable access to affordable housing, quality education and job opportunities.

When you think about heaven and the concept of good, you inevitably think about the colour white.  When you think about hell and all things bad or evil, you probably envision the colour black.  Children are taught from an early age that dark skin is bad and ugly and light skin is good and beautiful.  Don’t believe me? Watch this heartbreaking video:

Go have a look at children’s movie heroines and villains and you’ll see that, by and large, if the villain doesn’t have darker skin then they have dark hair, eyes and/or clothing.  Adolescent girls learn pretty quickly that bright coloured eye makeup is light and fun while dark, smokey eyes are risqué and dangerous.  Products that claim to lighten and brighten your skin tone are touted to those with darker skin, all to apparently make them appear more friendly and welcoming.  There are even lightening products for vaginas because apparently no part of our bodies can be dark.


I could provide so many more societal and even personal examples, but I think you get my point.  The inequality of race in western society is still very much alive and kicking.  Unfortunately with the current political climate in the USA and elsewhere, there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.  The problem with airing a show like Confederate in this day and age is that it only plays into this inequality.

The vast majority of people watching The Handmaid’s Tale would be outraged at the inhumane treatment of women in the program.  The sad fact of the matter is that there are simply too many people in this world who wouldn’t be all that outraged about the alternative reality portrayed in Confederate because at the core of their belief system, darker-skinned people aren’t equal to them.  It’s 2017, and African-Americans still live in constant fear for their lives.  As my friend said, we still cannot have a real conversation about race in America because it’s still so divisive.  The alternative reality in Confederate is just too close to society’s current reality.  And it turns my stomach faster than any other force known to man.

Here’s a thought: Let’s ditch TV shows that feed inequality of class, wealth, race, religion, sexuality, etc. and create something that actually promotes kindness and compassion and hope.  Where are the stories about overcoming all the odds to make a better life, or helping someone through a difficult time?  Violence, inequality and apocalypse porn don’t inspire me to make a better world – stories like this do:

People laugh when I profess my love for Star Trek and dismiss it as my ‘nerd flag’, but you know what?  Star Trek is all about society getting its collective shit together and making a better, more equal society for all.

Sounds pretty fucking good to me.

Week 1 lessons –

This has been an interesting week.  For the most part, I’ve done really well food wise.  As I mentioned before, I’ve decided to stop having cow’s milk and wheat wherever possible.  That has been surprisingly easy.  I’ve replaced tasty cheese (for the non-Australians amongst us, tasty cheese is like cheddar) with goat’s milk feta and drastically cut down on the amount I eat.  I switched out normal bread for gluten-free mixed grain bread which is surprisingly delicious.  I’ve also added loads of vegetables to my diet.  I know it sounds absolutely feral, but I used to go literally a week or two without having a single vegetable.  (How gross is that?!)  Now I’m eating them every day.

After doing this for most of the week, I did slip up twice and have things I shouldn’t have.  One night, I went to Maccas (McDonalds for the non-Aussies) one night.  I used to love that shit, but honestly I was less than impressed with it.  Sure, it tasted okay but I wasn’t doing my happy food sway when I ate it.  On Friday night, I ended up caving into my kryptonite: Pizza.

This is where it gets interesting.  From the first bite, I was like, “Ehh…so what?”  It was just your average local pizza shop pie – nothing spesh whatsoever.  Usually I would be in full happy food mode with that.  This time, I ate it simply because I had committed to it for dinner and I ate half as much as I usually would.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  That’s right, folks: Just one week of avoiding cow’s milk dairy and adding greens broke my bad pizza cravings.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still LOVE pizza!  But now, if I’m going to do it I’m going to do it right.

Some observations this week:

  1. When I caved and ate cow’s milk cheese and wheat-based bread, it felt like someone had beaten me with a frying pan.  I was SO physically exhausted most of the next day, and my lower back was screaming at me even after just a short walk.
  2. This is going to sound gross (and I apologise for that), but I’ve noticed that the general taste in my mouth has changed.  It’s hard to describe, but I’ve noticed it.
  3. I don’t know if this is a side-effect of Point 2 or what, but I’ve also noticed that my cravings have curbed way back.  I’m generally only hungry at normal meal times now, and I’m eating a fair bit less than I usually would.  This is (you should excuse the pun) huge for me.

As of this morning, I’m down 1.1kg (2.42lb).  On Friday morning, I was down 2.1kg but I made some bad choices since then (the pizza and I had some hot chips last night – so bad!) messed it up again.  Still, I’m really impressed with how much simply changing my diet has helped me.  I’m going to start adding exercise into the mix this week.

Hubby and I just got back from our weekly grocery run, and I’m pretty proud of how it went.  Usually five minutes into it, my back would be screaming at me.  Not today!  It didn’t start getting sore until we were at the car ready to leave.  I’m also REALLY proud of the food choices I made.  Hubby caved in and got himself a few bad things, but I did exceptionally well.  I got enough bananas and frozen fruits to make a month’s worth of breakfast smoothie packs.  Out of sheer curiosity, I worked out how much it costs me to do a month’s worth of breakfast smoothies when I got home tonight.  The grand total: $3.50 per smoothie.  Not at all bad!

There’s a bit more going on with me than the health stuff, but I’ll form my thoughts around that and post at some stage.  For now, it’s time to cook a nice dinner for my man.

Navigating diet changes –

It’s funny the lengths people will sometimes go to in order to enjoy something they love.  I will be the first to admit that cheese is my kryptonite.  I fucking love it!  You say the words, “Let’s visit the cheese counter,” and you’re my friend for life.

Problem is, cow’s milk is bad for my body.  My mom revealed to me years ago that I was allergic to cow’s milk when I was a baby.  When I grew older, I drank loads of milk because clearly I started being able to tolerate it.  It didn’t much matter back then because with the dancing, I metabolised anything I put into my body.  It’s only has I have grown older that it has become more of an issue.  But despite knowing that I have a problem with it, I’ve ignored it for years simply because I love cheese and milk so much.  I’ve let myself suffer over and over again for a momentary pleasure.  How stupid is that!

This past week, I decided to avoid having cow’s milk products wherever possible.  For cheese, I selected goat’s milk feta which I’ve been eating in moderation.  For milk, I’ve started using almond or soy milk.  It’s amazing what switching to alternatives for a short amount of time will tell you about how your body responds to things.

What have I discovered happens when I eat cow’s milk?  First of all, my skin looks like crap.  I’ve always had issues with my skin, but I’ve noticed that it’s already clearing up since giving up cow’s milk.  The oil pockets that are in there now are starting to come out which is temporarily making my skin look worse, but they haven’t come back yet once they’ve gone.  The colour of my skin has also improved, particularly under my eyes which are usually rather dark.

The second thing I noticed is how much less sore I feel without cow’s milk.  I’ve known about this one for a while because if I eat something with a lot of it such as pizza, it feels like someone has beaten me with a frying pan.  Even just walking makes my lower back hurt like you wouldn’t believe!  I’m still experiencing some pain because of how out of shape I am, but I don’t hurt nearly as much since I gave up the cow’s milk.

The third thing is that I have more energy.  I don’t feel like I need a nap or to veg out in front of the TV after I’ve eaten when I avoid cow’s milk.  I’m not saying that I feel like I could run a marathon, but I don’t feel like asking my hubby to do the grocery shopping by himself anymore.  It sounds so simple, but that’s a pretty big step for me!

Needless to say, I’m on the right path.  I did make the mistake of having a slice of pizza and some cow’s milk cheese at dinner last night and started paying for it as early as an hour after eating it.  I’m still feeling it, but luckily not that much since I didn’t have a lot of it.  That was definitely a wake-up call, though!

Switching cheeses was easy for me since I love goat’s milk cheese so much.  (Not having as much cheese is going to be the hard part!)  The big question for me with this transition has been what type of milk to use.  I’ve previously tried rice milk and absolutely hated it, so I tried both almond and soy milk this week.  Almond milk has been fantastic in everything, particularly smoothies, oatmeal and coffee.  The soy milk hasn’t been bad (except in coffee – ugh!) but it’s not as flavourful.  I’m thinking almond milk might be the winner for me.  Looking at the two purely from a health standpoint, 1.5 cups almond milk has a couple more grams of sugar and less calcium than soy milk, but it has more protein, less fat / saturated fat and half the calories.  Clear winner as far as I’m concerned.

On that note, I’ll finish this post with my new favourite recipe: Breakfast smoothies!  I’m not a huge fan of a full breakfast unless it’s a brunch situation, as I grew up rarely eating breakfast.  Nowadays, I feel better if I keep it light.  I dusted off my poor, neglected Nutribullet this week and got back into smoothies with a dairy-free twist and am loving it!  This is my basic breakfast smoothie recipe:

  • 1.5 cups Vitasoy Almond Milk Original (113 calories, 6.8g fat, 0.8g saturated fat)
  • 3 tablespoons Nudie Natural Coconut Yoghurt (71 calories, 6.7g fat, 6.3g saturated fat)
  • 1/2 cup sliced banana, frozen (68 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g saturated fat)
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries (20 calories, 0.2g fat, 0g saturated fat)
  • 1 packet Uncle Toby’s Oats Quick Sachets, Original (130 calories, 3.1g fat, 0.6g saturated fat
  • 5 ice cubes

Total Calories: 402
Total Fat: 16.9g
Total Saturated Fat: 7.7g

To ensure consistency day to day, the only part of the recipe I would recommend changing is the berries.  Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all fantastic, but I’ve also used apple with a bit of cinnamon as well and it’s equally lovely albeit a slightly different texture.  You could even add another 1/2 cup of banana and perhaps a bit of honey or vanilla if you just wanted to keep it simple.  I split up the fruits I use for these into single servings in my freezer, so it takes me about 2 minutes to whizz it up in the Nutribullet and walk out the door.  Then I drink it slowly on the train ride to work.

Until next time!  ❤

The swan song of an unhealthy lifestyle –

This is an incredibly difficult thing for me to do.  To me, this post is more than just an introduction to my situation – it’s a glimpse into previous failures.  It’s acknowledging all of those times I said, “I’m going to make a change!” and never really did.  I guess that’s healthy though, right?  Isn’t admitting you have a problem the first step in pretty much any support group?

Okay, so here goes: I have a problem with my health.  I could easily start this by saying that I’ve struggled with weight my entire life, but that would be a lie.  I was a classical ballet dancer for 12 years of my adolescence.  While I was never skinny by any stretch of the imagination – a size 12/14 at my healthiest adult size – I was certainly not overweight.

What I have struggled with my entire life is confidence, and that is what eventually bit me in the ass.  As I grew older, I slowly started to let my self-doubt creep into everything I did.  I listened to people that I should have ignored.  People like my ballet teacher, who refused to let me bump up to the advanced class simply because of my size.  “You’re too big to be a real ballerina!” she would say.  So after several years of waiting and trying my hardest – of skipping my classes just so I could make them up in the advanced class and dancing circles around most of the girls in there – I quit.  I listened when I should have told her to go to hell.

Then the weight really did start piling on.  It was a slow trickle at first, but definitely enough to notice.  Suddenly, I was the ‘fat one’ and I hated every pound of myself.  I listened to the stupid high school boys that poked fun at me for my weight.  I always thought I was the most hideous, fat, disgusting blob of a person in the entire world.

I couldn’t see myself.  Long story short, I steadily gained weight from graduation onto today.  Now that I’m 34 years old and have more life experience under my belt, I realise that there’s more to a person than their looks.  I also realise how wrong I was.  My mother has my senior picture on her desk, and it breaks my heart to look at it.  Back then, my size was nowhere near what I always saw in the mirror.

Now, it is.  I don’t think I’m the grossest person in the world anymore – not by a long shot.  But size wise, I am exactly what I always feared becoming.


I need to make a change, and I need to really mean it this time.  There are so many reasons why, but the overarching reason is to save my life.  I am at a real risk of dying if I don’t get my shit together.  But the other reason is that I want to be a mum.  I haven’t ovulated in years – YEARS – because I’ve been acting like nothing’s wrong.  If I don’t change my life, I don’t have a prayer of having a child.

I’ll go more into my plans in a future post, but here’s my jumping off point (of sorts).  Consider this the swan song of an unhealthy lifestyle whose departure is long overdue.  Today I commenced a new way of life, and I’m doing to do my damnedest to make it a great one.

I’m not just an “American mutt” after all.

I’ll start off this post with a general update because I have some great news: I got a job!  🙂  It’s still within the not-for-profit sector, but this time I’ll be working in advocacy which is fantastic!  My last real job was also in the NFP sector, but I was only ever allowed to do light and fluffy stuff.  This is quite a departure from that.  I have A LOT to learn and some big challenges ahead of me, but I am feeling quite confident and excited about the future.  It feels good to be in a positive headspace again.

Okay.  Now that that’s all sorted, it’s time to get to the content I actually wanted to discuss.  I mentioned in a previous post that I have started researching my genealogy.  I would like to get more specific about the things I’ve learned.

Growing up, I always thought of myself as your typical “American mutt” – a veritable smorgasbord of genetics.  I figured that I probably had a lot of French in there due to my surname, and my great-grandmother on my dad’s side of the family claimed that her mother had been full-blooded Chippewa.  You wouldn’t know the latter from looking at my skin tone.  My skin doesn’t know the meaning of the word tan.  I just think about the sun and get a burn.  I figured this was probably due to my taking more after my mother’s family than my dad’s, who I knew had some Swedish in it.  That information alone was enough to confirm that I just had a whole lot of random in my genetics.

As it turns out, my cultural heritage is a lot more interesting than I had anticipated.  Late last year, I decided to take a chance and do one of those ancestry DNA tests.  The first thing I discovered: I am one of the whitest people ever.  😉  Seriously though – my genetics indicate virtually 100% European blood primarily from Western Europe (France, Germany, etc.), Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and Great Britain.  There are also small percentages of Irish, Mediterranean and Iberian, and trace percentages of South Asian (India, Pakistan, etc.), Finnish, Native American and Middle Eastern which were all further confirmed when I entered my DNA test into GEDmatch and ran it through further admixture tests.


This experience kicked off a large genealogy research project that is still ongoing.  The surprising results thus far:

There is no Native American blood to speak of.  If my great-grandmother’s claims of being 50% Chippewa were correct, then I would have more than a trace amount in my DNA – more like 5-10%.  My subsequent genealogy research ended up disproving this claim.  Her mother wasn’t Native American at all – she was German!  This is apparently a common misconception with American families of European descent.  I don’t know if claiming this connection is a way for modern-day Americans to distance themselves from the abuse our European ancestors heaped on Native Americans so long ago or if it’s simply a way for people to feel more connected with their country, but most Americans you encounter will claim to have some percentage of Native American DNA when a good majority of them (myself included, it seems) don’t.  Research indicates that it is more likely that my trace percentage of Native American DNA originated in the early hunter-gatherer populations of Russia who ultimately settled in the Americas after crossing the Bering Strait thousands of years ago.

Where the hell did I get Mediterranean, Iberian, South Asian and Middle Eastern DNA?!  All of that must go back a really long time because I haven’t been able to identify any of that lineage so far.

I’m actually not that French after all.  I have been able to confirm only one branch of my entire family tree that is truly of French origin, which is my surname’s paternal line.  It’s not until my third-great-grandfather of that surname when both parties in each couple are fully French.  There might be a bit more French through my great-grandfather’s line (my dad’s maternal grandfather) but because he was adopted we can’t know for sure.  According to GEDmatch, I’m really only about 17% French.  That blew my mind!

There are a number of Confederate soldiers and loads of slave owners on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.  As a white person that is VERY strongly outspoken for equality, this is a tough pill to swallow.  My grandmother hails from Texas, so I definitely suspected this outcome to a certain extent.  But I have to say: Reading records of wills where the person in question bequeaths slaves – actual living, breathing PEOPLE – unto their children with words like “irrevocably” and “forever” attached to them puts a sour taste in my mouth.  And it appears that it may not stop with simply owning slaves.  Going several generations back through my father’s side of the family, it looks like one of my ancestors may have been involved in the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Americas.  It’s a very strange feeling to be proud that your ancestors were some of the USA’s first colonists but also really ashamed that they were involved so heavily in a deplorable trade.

I have an ancestor who was caught up in the witchcraft obsession of 17th century New England.  My ancestor, Isabella Towle lived in New Hampshire at the time and was accused of witchcraft by a woman named Rachel Fuller.  Rachel herself had just been accused of witchcraft.  Since those accused of witchcraft at the time were told that their punishment would be lenient if they exposed other witches, Rachel said, “Okay!  Then check out Goody Towle over there.  She’s definitely a witch!”  Gee…thanks, Rach!  Rachel accused others as well, but only her and Isabella ended up being charged.  They ended up spending close to a year in the local jail before being acquitted of all charges.  This would have been a considerable hardship for Isabella, who was in her forties and had several young children at the time.  All of this nonsense occurred several years before the Salem witch trials.  I have no doubt in my mind that had Isabella been accused during or after the Salem incidents, she would have hanged.  Mind blown.

There is a whole lot of German in my lineage.  It comes from multiple branches of my family tree which, ironically, mostly originate in the same area of Germany (Hesse).  The most surprising and interesting German connection to me is the “Russian German” side of my family.  I heard a mention or two of this ancestry growing up but never any detail.  It wasn’t until I commenced my genealogy research project and started reading my late grandfather’s memoirs that I discovered just how significant it was.  In the mid-1700s, Catherine the Great published a manifesto that welcomed Germans to settle in various parts of the Russian empire.  The German empire was vastly over-crowded and faced a number of hardships at the time.  Catherine wanted to develop the eastern areas of her empire, so she lured German settlers to the area with promises of land and religious freedom.  My ancestors were some of the first to settle in and establish the town of Norka (now called Hekpacovo) located in the Volga River region of Russia.  Things went well for them for a couple of generations until Catherine’s grandson rose to power and started taking away their freedoms.  My great-great-grandparents ended up fleeing Norka in the dead of night with their young children in tow and eventually made their way to the United States in 1900.  My maternal grandfather’s mother was born on that journey.  They ended up settling in Portland, Oregon which is where most of my family still lives.  If you’re interested in learning more about this unique culture and their lives once they settled in Portland, there is a great website for Volga Germans in Portland that is definitely worth reading.

There’s also a whole lot of Scandinavian in my family tree.  As mentioned above, I knew that my mother’s side of the family had Swedish in it but I didn’t really know the extent of it.  That much has been proven: My maternal grandfather’s father was of Swedish descent.  In the late 1800s, much of Sweden was facing famine and times were tough all around.  My great-grandparents on that side both made the brave decision to immigrate to the USA to seek a better life.  It probably wasn’t a hard decision for my great-grandfather, who was born out of wedlock to a hotel maid and whose father was a notorious abuser, but my great-grandmother left a very large family to follow a man she wasn’t yet married to halfway across the world.  I don’t have any record of her having kept in touch with her family after immigrating to the USA, so I am actively trying to find descendants of her siblings to see if they have anymore information about that lineage.  From what I’ve been able to piece together myself, both of those lines originate in the southern Swedish county of Skåne from parishes in and surrounding Lund.  I’ve been able to trace back as far as about 1700 thus far, but it’s been really difficult.  Hopefully I can track down a distant cousin or two on that side who will be able to verify or disprove my findings.  Anyway, I’ve mentioned my mother’s Swedish heritage but I also discovered that there is a significant Norwegian heritage on my father’s side!  My great-great-grandmother on his paternal side was from a parish just south of Lillehammer.  Thanks to some invaluable assistance from a distant cousin I recently met, I have managed to trace that lineage back to the early 1700s as well.  Unfortunately that’s as far back as I’ll be able to go unless I manage to find distant relatives in Norway.

Admixture aside, this project has helped me discover so many amazing stories about my ancestors.  In a way, I feel like I understand more about my outlook on life and the way I was brought up because I feel like I know some of the people that have made my life possible.  That is such a precious gift.

As mentioned above, my genealogy project is very much a work in progress.  I’m sure that I will get more specific with names, dates, locations and stories as time progresses.  In the meantime, I am going to spend the rest of my day off doing more research.

Where do we draw the line on social awareness and activism?

I wrote this post about a month ago and decided to sit on it for a while and let it ruminate in my mind.  Between applying for jobs and going on loads of interviews over the past couple of months, I then forgot about it.  😉  I was going to delete it and start a new post, but after reading it again I wanted to post it anyway.  It’s something that has long been on my mind.  I’ll do another post on the topic I came on here to do later.



Merriam-Webster defines activism as “a doctrine or practice that emphasises direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue”.

I’m a child of the 80s and 90s, and anyone that was alive and aware of their surroundings at that time knows that social activism really helped shape those decades.  Western society went from coveting excessive wealth, possessions and prestige to becoming more self-aware and, moreover, aware of others’ suffering – sometimes as a direct result of the excess that generation loved so well.  A lot of different issues fed into this including the AIDS epidemic, genocide in far-flung corners of the globe and generations of people becoming fed up with going to war for no good reason demanding resolution, and the adoption of 24/7 news put the issues right in our living rooms.

We had to act, so we did.  Real change has continually occurred as a direct result of social awareness and activism.  I would like to think that people have developed a more natural way of interacting with their world and the people in it as a result.  Sure, it’s an ongoing process, but society has already come a hell of a long way at achieving equality for women, people of colour, religious acceptance, LGBTIQ, etc.  The list goes on.

But.  (You knew there was a, “But…” coming!)  Where do we draw the line?  At what stage does it become a hindrance or just plain ridiculous?

Now before you get your knickers in a twist, let me say that I am not advocating ignoring the real issues here.  I’m a native of Eugene, Oregon and tie-dye, protesting and fighting the good fight is in my blood.  And really – any second grader can tell you that if your mistakes aren’t brought to your attention, you can never learn from them.  Social awareness and activism IS a good thing overall.

I saw a story on Facebook the other day about a woman who was sitting at a cafe when a man approached her.   He leaned down to her and asked her if she was single because she was gorgeous.

Okay.  Again – before you get up in arms, I will say that he probably shouldn’t have leaned down to her because that can be intimidating, particularly if you’re reading and are generally unaware of your surroundings.  I wasn’t there to hear his tone of voice or see his facial expressions when he asked her this question, so I also can’t attest to his demeanour.  But I think we can all agree that it’s a somewhat creepy thing to do no matter who you are.  Even so, one would think that she would either politely brush him off or if she was really offended by his asking that question, politely advise him that she doesn’t appreciate what he is insinuating.  That is, at least, how I would have handled the situation and, I might add, have handled such situations in the past.

What does she do?  She yells something along the lines of, “Piss off, dude – I don’t want to talk to you!  Go away!”  The story goes onto say how he gets pissed and makes a complete ass of himself, proving once again how we need feminism.

And you know what?  I agree.  We DO need feminism and the fact that he got so angry after her rejection, called her names and threatened her proves that he was a total skeeve that needs to be brought down a peg or two.  I’m not disputing that for one second.

However, did she REALLY have to react so strongly in this instance?  My parents taught me to treat others like I want to be treated.  As far as I remember, there was no caveat to that lesson pertaining to nuisances (which, let’s be honest, this dude clearly was).  Newton’s third law of, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” isn’t contained to physics – it works just as well on a social level.  This is just one woman’s pondering of the situation, but I felt like her reaction was far beyond his original action.

One more time: I’m not placing blame on anyone.  I think the dude was probably a loser, but all I am saying is that I think she could have handled the situation more diplomatically and, quite possibly, achieved a better result.  But she didn’t – she went down the “femi-nazi” route and, in my honest opinion, over-reacted, and as a result of her over-reaction, she received an equal and opposite reaction.  (Good ol’ Newton.)

And before you start dismissing me as anti-feminist, don’t.  Just don’t.  Let me be clear: I believe that feminism is a very good thing and it is extremely necessary in today’s society.  But my question to the great wide world is this:

How far should it be taken?

Equal rights and respect for women?  Absolutely 100%!  No question or doubt about it.  But when I hear a self-proclaimed feminist demanding respect in one breathe and saying things like, “I hate men – they should all be killed!” in the other it makes my skin crawl.  That’s not equality, folks.  If we go back to Merriam-Webster, we see equal defined as “of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another”.

The moral of this rather long story is in two parts:

First, treat others as you would wish to be treated by them.  Let your good deeds toward others speak louder than your words.  If someone else acts like an ass, don’t stoop to their level.  You don’t yell at your coworkers to get stuff done in the workplace because they won’t respond favourably, so why do it elsewhere?

Second, if you have to be forceful, be forceful with purpose.  Did that woman think that by yelling at him he would go, “Well shit – I was wrong.  Thanks for making me realise how pervy I sound!” and go merrily on his way?  Or did she just want to prove she was a good feminist by being the loudest in that moment and posting about her glory online for all to see?  We’ll never really know, but I just look at that whole situation and wonder what the point was.  All I know is that I would rather see more women out there being forceful in a positive, constructive sense like Malala Yousafzai.

The fatal flaw with discovering your ancestry

Genealogy absolutely fascinates me.  I first started getting into discovering my own ancestry years ago, but quickly lost interest.  It wasn’t until last year when I decided to get the DNA test offered through Ancestry.com that this passing interest became a full-blown hobby.  Now that I have some research experience under my belt, I wanted to kick off what will undoubtedly be several posts about genealogy by sharing one particular challenge for novice genealogists that concerns me.

Several years ago, I started building my family tree on Ancestry.com.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at the time and being a rather impatient person in some ways led to my first mistake: I tried to find a “quick” way to achieve my goal and built a huge family tree simply by using the function that allows you to review and save entries from other people’s family trees.  I thought, “Hey – it’s on this many other people’s family trees, so it must be right!”  This eventually led to a ridiculously sized family tree with ancestors dating back well into the BC’s.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Ancestry.com is a fabulous, user-friendly service that contains a wealth of information.  I also do see the value in being able to look at other people’s family trees.  In fact, this function recently allowed me to track down a distant cousin of mine – a connection that has yielded some really wonderful results.  But, people should only be using this function to find POTENTIAL leads.  This function should, by no means, be used to actually build your family tree.

Why do I say this?  Let’s consider what we are able to do on Ancestry.com: We can build a family tree – that is obvious.  How do we generally start this?  By manually entering the name and details of ourselves or a relative.  When you add a person to your tree, Ancestry.com doesn’t check to make sure that entry is correct or accurate.  You could, quite literally, make up a completely false person and enter it as your ancestor’s father.

This is the fatal flaw and where the danger lies for other novice genealogists.  If your family tree’s settings are listed as public (which most are initially set to), other people who may be researching your ancestor will come across your fake entry for their father.  If they don’t know what they’re doing, they can then use this function to add this entry to their own family tree.  Over time, more and more people will do this and spread this false record as gospel.

This is exactly the situation I ran into my first time building a family tree.  I finally got to a point where I was waaaaaaaaaaay back in time and the birth dates listed for parents were hundreds of years different from those of their alleged children before I cottoned onto the fact that this wasn’t going to be acccurate.  Frustrated that I couldn’t pinpoint where things went wrong, I left it for several years.  When I picked it up again last year, I went back and deleted the most recent ancestor in each branch that I couldn’t confirm with other sources and started again.  (Unfortunately, this is flawed as well because it only deletes that link – not the ancestors listed before it as you would think.  So those false entries still exist out there until you go in and manually delete every single one.  Ugh!)

The moral of this story: When commencing any genealogical project, don’t take a lead at face value.  If you want to use the function that searches other people’s family trees, go for it!  As I mentioned before, it can be a useful tool.  Just don’t use it to actually add anyone to your own family tree.  Have a look at that person in other people’s family trees and see what sources THEY have used before adding that person to their own family tree.  If you don’t see any sources listed or can only see that they’ve used other people’s trees as the source, move on and start manually doing your own research.  Here’s an example of what you DON’T want to see – an entry where the only source to account for its credibility is other Ancestry.com members’ family trees.


What are credible sources?  I’m still learning myself, but here’s what I do know: For your closest ancestors, there should be some sort of official records available such as census forms and birth, marriage and death records.  As you go farther back (particularly in Europe), many church records are quite accurate.  Going back further still, you will undoubtedly run into the Millennium File and GenealogieOnline which track the lineage of European nobility and royalty.  There’s a fair bit of debate as to the accuracy of the Millennium File due to who it was built for (the Church of Latter Day Saints) and why, but according to Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink GenealogieOnline may be a better starting resource if you make sure to check the references they provide on the site before taking it at face value.  Also if you’re dealing with European nobility and royalty, chances are there are plenty of historical records that provide information on that person’s lineage and how accurate (or improbable) it may be.  As a rule of thumb, I generally stop tracking any lineage at royalty because there are countless historical records available developed by much more skilled historians than I.

Happy researching!

When you’re not enough

In case you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, I’ll throw out a disclaimer that this is not going to be a cheerful post.  If you’re after sunshine and roses, it might be time to read one of the other blogs you follow and come back to mine later.  While I could give you a rousing rendition of “Everything is Awesome!” I did promise to be frank with my discussions on here regardless of the topic.  So, here I go.

Job hunting is one of the worst parts of life.  I am absolutely convinced of the accuracy of this statement.  Think about it: You are constantly living with a sense of instability because really – you have no idea when you’ll find something.  Even if you do find something, it could go to hell in a hand-basket because you just don’t know what you’re getting into.  You have a limited amount of time to review very few (and sometimes non-existent) resources in order to gain an understanding of the organisations you are applying to, and you have to be “on” whilst writing cover letters and attending interviews.  The entire process is exhausting.

All of that aside, I think the hardest part is when you’re just not enough.  Now, I’m not exactly a rookie in my profession.  I have several years of valuable experience under my belt (despite not yet having that piece of paper that says “degree” on it).  I also have a keen desire to move up in the world.  My goal is to one day become CEO.  I feel with my whole heart that I am ready to step into a more senior role and I have so much potential to be a great manager.

But, I can’t quite get there.  I am missing a certain level of experience in a particular skill that most organisations in my sector want their managers to have.  What’s worse is that it is something I know I could do and that I could do extremely well.  Unfortunately, confident isn’t going to cut it.  This was ultimately the reason I didn’t get a management position I interviewed for months ago, and it’s the reason I didn’t get another management position I applied for recently.

So, the old confidence has taken yet another beating.  I don’t want to give up trying because you never know what will happen if you simply try.  At the same time, it can be rather soul-crushing to constantly put yourself out there and continually fall short.  Sometimes (like today) I have to rely solely on my faith that things will turn out okay in the end – that my skills and expertise ARE valuable, and that someone WILL see my potential and eventually snap me up.

Don’t worry.  I’m not giving up.  I’m ultimately the kind of person who, if you tell me I don’t have the ability to do something, I’ll say, “Watch me!” and make it happen.  I’ll give myself these few emo moments, but then I’ll wipe away the tears of frustration that currently adorn my eyelashes and…well…make it happen.

Cheers to all of the poor suckers out there that are in the same boat as I.  It’s a rocky SOB, but I know we’ll find the shore eventually.