Posts Tagged ‘children’

The empowering feeling of saying “no”

Monday, July 13, 2015
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I’ve always been one of those people who creates work for herself. Even when I think I couldn’t be busier, I sign up for a new club or say yes to helping out with something else. I like to try new things and I get bored easily, so I think it’s my subconscious way of keeping my mind fresh and using up energy.

Not to mention that in today’s world, it’s cool to be “busy.” It’s almost a competition – who has less time, who is juggling the most. But now that I have a baby, things have changed. I AM busy. Even before AJ was born, I knew that she would always be my number one priority. It’s easy to say that, but in reality it means constantly evaluating my activities and decisions to make sure I’m not letting the seemingly important but in reality “busy work” get the best of me and my time. And that means saying, “no,” which isn’t always easy to do.

It’s okay to say “no” sometimes! When I’m asked to do something, either by someone else or myself, I no longer immediately say yes. I think about it, even if just for a moment – is this important? How will this affect my parenting with AJ and my relationship with my husband? Will this mean I get less time with my family? If so, is it important enough to warrant that time missed? If not, then I say no. I’d say this resolve is the closest thing I have to a “parenting style.” Being a parent isn’t the only part of my life, but it’s the most important part.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve put this theory into practice lately. The first you may have noticed – I’ve been absent from this blog for several weeks. I’ve been working on a couple big projects at work, which meant working later hours and weekends. These were important projects and the time was warranted and necessary. So I decided to say “no” to blog writing for a few weeks to make up for some of the lost time with AJ. Now that I’m getting back to a regular schedule, I’m back at it on the blog (I can feel your excitement).

It might seem silly, but another thing I’ve said no to recently is Twitter. I haven’t logged on or posted something in weeks. I’m on many different social media platforms, and frankly I find trying to keep them all updated exhausting. Twitter just happened to be the one I started to ignore.

Sometimes, saying no even means saying no to fun things, like a night out with friends, or traveling. If I’m feeling stressed and stretched thin, adding one more thing I “have” to do to the list (even if it’s meant to be fun) will not be fun for me or the people I’m spending time with. I want to present my best self to my friends and family; I don’t want to give them the stressed, crabby version of myself. So every now and then I have to take a rain check.

Saying “no” also means sometimes saying no at work. When someone contacts me at 4:55 p.m. and asks me to do something, I will ask if it can wait until the next day. The work will be there tomorrow, the same as it was today. But AJ changes every day. Not to mention I have to get to day care before it closes.

Saying “no” means setting clear expectations and being in control of your own time. If you haven’t said no to something lately, I highly recommend you try it. It’s great. The stress you didn’t know you had just disappears, and you can really feel the weight lifted off your shoulders.

I’m taking a vacation day today. When I set up my out of office, I did something wild. I said I would not be checking my email. We all know the standard out of office message, “I will be out of the office and will have limited access to email.” Yeah right. Everyone knows almost everyone has email on his or her phone and can check it whenever they want. So I decided to just tell the truth – I’m on vacation, and I’m saying no to emails. I’m using my vacation day to spend time with my daughter and get some things done around the house. If I’m checking my email, I’m working, therefore not taking vacation.

It might not be “cool” to try to make my life less busy, but I’m a mom, and I stopped caring about being cool a long time ago. I say yes to a lot of things. I like to be involved, I like to help out, and I like to have fun with my family and friends. But sometimes, I say “no” to the non-essential so I can say “yes” to the most important.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Monster

Sunday, July 12, 2015
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I’ve been having issues lately.

Actually, I’ve been facing more than just issues.

I’ve been battling a gigantic, absolutely enormous, out of control monster that has taken over my life.

I once considered the beast to be my friend. It was generous and provided almost limitless possibilities.

Now, it is selfish and wants to steal away every precious moment with its eager, gluttonous tendencies.

For a while, I thought I could control the monster, but it continues to gain momentum and wreak havoc on all things personal and professional.

Lately, it has been doing its best to prevent me from achieving much of anything.

The monster is called time, and it has an incredible talent for speeding up just when we most want it to slow down.

Even my almost 14-year-old daughter has begun to notice the power time holds over us. She was looking through old family photos when she declared, “I’m growing up too quickly.”

She got that right. Only yesterday, my husband and I were wondering if our charming, two-year old would ever grow hair.

Now she receives daily compliments on her long, thick mane and will be a freshman at the high school where her brother will be a senior.

When they were still in preschool, I never imagined myself as the mother of teenagers. That was a distant and abstract concept – like college was when I was in elementary school. Others told me to plan for it, but I never thought that future belonged to me. Then, when it did arrive, it passed quickly.

And so it is with parenting. We are often so absorbed with routine, day-to-day struggles and tasks that we easily forget to enjoy the one thing we are given each day and can never use in the future: time. And when we do that, time becomes the enemy.

Lately, I’ve been complaining that I have too much on my plate and not enough time to accomplish everything I should. The windows are dirty. The basement needs to be cleaned. The closets need to be organized. Each week, my “to do” list gets longer because I can’t seemed to find the time to tackle even the first few items. I wonder how some women seem to have and do it all when I can’t even accomplish the simplest of tasks.

And then, on Saturday, my daughter put my concerns into perspective. After spending a busy and fun day together with friends, she said, “We didn’t do anything, but today was a really good day.”

She was right. We may not have tackled a task that would leave us a with a sense of accomplishment, but we had done something even more important – we’d made memories together.

And despite all of its power, that’s something time can never take from us.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full-time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Different

Saturday, June 27, 2015
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My grandmother died thinking that she had been born defective.

I only realized how deeply ingrained her feelings of shame were when I visited her at the personal care facility that became her final home. I had brought my son, who was a toddler at the time, and handed him some crayons and paper to keep him occupied while we talked.

My grandmother watched as he picked out a blue crayon and began drawing.

“That poor child,” she said shaking her head almost in disgust.

“What do you mean?” I asked as I watched my son scribble. I didn’t think he was destined to be a great artist, but I didn’t consider that to be a tragedy as most of us aren’t.

“He’s left-handed.” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied. I thought the fact was actually cool. Only about 10% of the population is left-handed, and I liked that he was rather unique.

“He’ll life will be difficult because of it,” she said.

I knew she wasn’t just referring to the fact that –  from scissors, to school desks to gear shifts –  the world is designed for right-handed people.

She was referring to the fact that she had been belittled for being born left-handed. In school. she was forced to use her right hand for everything, including handwriting. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I certainly didn’t do well when I was forced to use my left hand after shattering my right wrist. Even the simplest tasks of getting dressed and putting in my contacts were a struggle.

Some people say that children were forced to write with their right hands because their arms dragged across fresh ink when they used their left. That may be true, but my grandmother’s deep shame at being left-handed was rooted in something deeper.

My daughter, who like my son is also left-handed, keeps me, her right-handed mother, updated about the meaning of being a leftie. She has informed me that the Latin word for “left” is “sinister,” and that left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lyft,” which means broken or weak. Many artistic representations of the devil depict him as left-handed, while the Christian church’s blessings are performed with the right. Granted, since most people are right-handed, the use of the right hand makes sense, and I can personally attest to the fact that my left hand is weak.

But none of that explains why my grandmother was taught that being left-handed was so wrong that she needed to pretend that she was right-handed. Being left-handed didn’t hurt anyone – it just made her life more difficult.

While my own children still live in a world that is designed for right-handed people, they no longer are shamed as my grandmother was. For years now, society has accepted that some people are simply born left-handed. We no longer expect them to act in a way that is against their true nature or  to hide whom they really are.

It’s a pretty phenomenal concept that seems to finally be making progress regarding other human differences as well.

It’s about time.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Breakfast Club

Sunday, June 14, 2015
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I fell in love with the movie The Breakfast Club when I first saw it on my eighteenth birthday more than 30 years ago.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine that my two teenagers would enjoy watching it in the year 2015. In fact, I would have found the idea completely impossible.

The movie was about my generation.

The angst of the five teenage characters stuck in detention on a Saturday clearly demonstrated that we suffered from the mistakes and misguided expectations of our parents.

As the character Andrew, played by Emilio Estevez said, “Everyone’s home lives are unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.”

The first time I heard him say that line, I thought no truer words have ever been spoken. I couldn’t wait to put as much distance between my parents and me as possible. I was sure that all of my faults were products of my parents’ faults. My only hope for a normal life was to escape them.

Now, watching the movie with my own kids, I have a different perspective.

Hairstyles may change, fashion may change. technology may change, even language may change, but human nature doesn’t change that quickly.

The Breakfast Club is about the ridiculous social constructs of high school. By the end of the movie, the characters recognize that individuals are much more complicated than the labels they are given.

All these years later, I realize that those social structures and labels from high school aren’t that different from those in the world today. As adults, we just do a better job at pretending we’ve outgrown them.

We haven’t.

The people with money and connections make the rules. Those with the right social contacts are recognized and applauded for their good work even though others do just as much. The misbehavior of athletes is often accepted, and low-income people are blamed for their situations.

When The Breakfast Club was first released, my generation hoped we’d be better than that.

We rolled our eyes during a scene in the basement of the school that features a conversation between the principal and Carl the  janitor. Principal Vernon warns Carl that, when they get old, the kids are going to be running the country and they should be worried. At the time, I just considered Vernon an old guy who was out of touch with young people.

Now, the generation that scared him IS running the country, and, unfortunately, we do  demonstrate the self-absorbed behavior about which he worried.

But, there is also hope.

Unlike Principal Vernon, I’m not nearly as concerned about the generation coming up behind us.

From what I’ve observed, they are more accepting of differences and more likely to challenge the status quo. In other words, I think they really do get the lessons in The Breakfast Club.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Taking a Stand

Saturday, May 30, 2015
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For hours, I’ve been debating whether or not to write about the situation that unfolded at my daughter’s middle rainbowschool this past week.

My daughter has more or less told me not to share it, but she also knows I’m a person who writes stories that need to be told.

This is one of those stories.

To be perfectly honest, I only know one side of it  – the one that my daughter and her friends are sharing. But even if they don’t have all the facts straight, it is their actions – not that of the school personnel – that others need to know about.

Thursday night was the eighth grade dance, the last middle school dance for my daughter and her friends. It was a big deal. Many of the girls were picking out their dresses weeks ago, and my daughter, who usually takes less than ten minutes to get ready and rarely wears makeup, spent at least an hour beautifying.

Later that evening, no one was talking about what people wore or with whom they danced. They were talking about the girl who was kicked out of the dance.

At first, no adult minded that the ninth grader, who had attended the middle school the year before, attended the dance. But after spending time with her date, another girl, something happened.

Other students are reporting that she was told to leave by a member of the faculty who made derogatory comments about homosexuality and said that the teenage girls are too young to know about their sexuality. She called them “confused.”

I don’t know if that is completely true, partially true or not true at all.

What I do know is that the eighth grade class wasn’t going to tolerate even the hint of homophobia.

The next day, the students made a collective statement. The painted rainbows and the words “It’s okay to be gay” on their arms and even their faces.

I know there are still people who don’t agree with them, but I think everyone should be proud of 13 and 14 year-olds who are willing to stand up for others.

I was a teenager in the 1980’s and am part of a generation that has a reputation for not caring about much of anything but ourselves. Sometimes, I wonder if the world would still be plagued with so many problems if we had been a bit more passionate about people who were different and a little less worried about meeting our own needs.

As I listened to my daughter talk about what an entire eighth grade class did, I didn’t just swell with pride for her and her peer group.

I also filled with a sense of hope for the future.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Duggars’ Greatest Crime

Saturday, May 23, 2015
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This is one of those times when I have more to say than I have words to express my emotions.

And yet, I will use this limited space to share the anger I’ve felt since first reading that Josh Duggar admitted to molesting young girls, including relatives, when he was a teenager.

I’ve never watched an episode of the Duggars’ television show, 19 Kids and Counting, and up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know the name of even one Duggar kid.

I wasn’t so removed from popular culture that I wasn’t aware of the family who periodically appeared on the Today Show to announce another pregnancy, but I never gave them more thought than they seemed out of touch with reality.

I am the same age as Michelle,the matriarch of the family, and I remember thinking that she must have very low self-esteem to need to keep having babies to get attention.

Then, a couple of years ago I was so bored while waiting for a hair appointment that I picked up a magazine with the Duggars on the cover and read an article about them. I learned more about the family than I ever wanted to know. They aren’t just a really big family. They are a really big family that thinks women should be subservient to men. For example, they believe that a woman destroys a husband’s manliness if she is financially independent and should submit to him. Even worse, they teach their children that women must cover their bodies from head to toe so they don’t tempt men.

In other words, men can’t control themselves, so women are responsible for ensuring they don’t make unwanted sexual advances. The family even has a code word – Nike – that they use when a woman they consider to be scantily clad (which might mean she’s wearing shorts and a v-neck t-shirt) walks by. When the word is uttered, the males in the family are supposed to look down at their shoes so they don’t “see things they shouldn’t see.”

And now the oldest Duggar son has admitted he is guilty of incidents of sexual assault that were hidden from the public for years. During those same years, the Duggars’ media dynasty grew right along with the size of their family. During that same time, Josh’s victims heard the Duggars talk about how women need to cover up because men can’t control themselves

In other words, the victims not only had to endure the silence about Josh’s crimes but they had to listen to the Duggars perpetuate the myth that victims of a sexual assault did something to provoke their attacker.

While that is not be a criminal offense, it is a terrible, terrible crime.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Mom’s Performance Evaluation

Thursday, May 14, 2015
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I don’t need warm weather and blooming flowers to remind me that spring has arrived.

I’ve got our human resources department to do that.

Each May, everyone where I work experiences the slightly painful but absolutely essential requirement of enduring multple-personalitiesthe annual performance evaluation.

This past week, as I sat through mine, I kept thinking “If my husband and kids were here, they’d be convinced that my supervisor was completely delusional.”

In fact, they would be rolling on the floor in fits of convulsive laughter as they listened to comments about my ability to go with the flow, communicate effectively and maintain an easy-going demeanor.

The woman they know wants life to go as planned, talks too much, asks too many questions and is wound way too tightly.

And yet, I am both women.

When I told a friend I’m afraid I suffer from multiple personality disorder, she said that every mom suffers the same phenomena.

“We are just different with our families,” she said. “They see a side of us that we don’t show the rest of the world”

I understood what she was saying, but I also wanted to disagree. I take pride in being completely authentic in every aspect of my life, and her words made me question whether I’m being truthful with myself.

And then, I realized we were both correct.

My friend wasn’t saying I’m not authentic. She was saying that mothers are simply programmed to be on high alert when it comes to their families.

No matter how driven and motivated I am to be successful in my professional career, no matter how much I try to make a difference in my community and the people my organization serves, and no matter how much I want to be respected in my field, being a mom takes everything to a different level.

That’s when my primal instincts kick in.

Even though rational, professional me knows that people need to adapt when things don’t go their way, I don’t want my kids to face as many bumps in the road as I did. While the social worker in me realizes that I shouldn’t react when someone behaves in a way I don’t approve, I can’t remain quiet when my kids do something with which I disagree. And despite the fact that I don’t freak out when my co-workers make mistakes, I obsess over my children’s missteps.

Because of that, I know that my children will never give me a stellar performance evaluation. I’m o.k. with that. because what they do give me is absolutely priceless.

Ten Clues That You’re Not a Royal Mum

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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I won’t say my life has become completely chaotic lately, but it has been incredibly busy.

Take, for example, the fact that I had no idea that Kate Middleton had given birth ttiara1o her second child, much the less a princess, until that princess had a name.

My mother-in-law, a compulsive Anglophile, would be completely disappointed if she knew that I knew nothing about Princess Charlotte until she was, well, Princess Charlotte.

For the record, and to appease my mother-in-law, once I actually learned about Charlotte’s arrival, I did read a couple of online articles. Both featured pictures of Kate Middleton holding Charlotte in front of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

Apparently, the photo was taken only ten hours after Kate had given birth.

Ten hours – and Kate was wearing a designer dress and heels. Not only that, but she was  wearing makeup.  Seriously. Makeup.

Ten hours after I gave birth, I was still wearing a hospital gown and wasn’t even thinking about mascara.

That’s when I realized that I was never intended to be a royal mother.

The fact that I’m American is irrelevant. My genetics and family tree all lead back to England.

I’m simply not cut out to be a royal mum.

The signs are all there.

#10: Photos holding a newborn don’t require a makeup artist.

#9: Photos holding a newborn don’t require a standing position. Lying in a hospital bed (to indicate that the baby didn’t magically appear) is quite an appropriate pose for a first photo with baby;

#8: Photos holding a newborn don’t even require streetwear, much the less an extremely feminine dress. Giving birth is all the proof you need to demonstrate you are female.

#7: Your baby has a name before you leave the hospital. When my son was born, my roommate was held hostage until she finally decided on a name for her son. (She had four daughters whose names all began with A, and she had made the unfortunate decision to let them help name their brother. I honesty can’t remember if they decided upon Andrew or Austin.)

#6: No one places bets as to what you will name your child. When I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I made a decision not to let anyone know what we had chosen to name him. We wanted the choice and the opinion to be ours and ours alone. We told everyone that we were naming him Deuteronomy and would call him Deut for short.

Before our daughter arrived, we  never even pretended to reveal her name.

#5 The names that you do choose for your baby have absolutely no historical meaning and are far too modern.

#4: Your baby doesn’t have multiple middle names.

#3: The first time the grandparents (or great- grandparents) meet the baby does not require a press release.

#2: The baby’s first home is not an estate, and the concept of a nanny is laughable.

And the number one reason that you know you were never intended to be a royal mum is that your children would never thrive under the public scrutiny.

Or, even worse, you would realize, like I do, that your children would be entirely different people if they had been required to do so.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

 

On Memories and Possibilities

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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Memories are such strange possessions.

Of the thousands of daily conversations and brief encounters we experience, we only manage to carry a limited number with us into the future.

Even the most meaningful events tend to hide in the background of the new experiences that consume us during the simple act of daily living.

Some memories are sewn tightly into the fabric of everyday life while others only emerge decades later to be taken out, reexamined, and recognized for their significance.

And so it was for me last week.

My daughter, who will be starting high school in only a few months, is on a mission to identify her future career.

time machineI don’t like to brag, but I can’t deny the fact that she is extremely smart and excels academically.

And yet, like her mother, she isn’t drawn to a career that has much potential to be  financially lucrative.

She wants to write for a living.

If she can’t do that, she wants a career that somehow embraces the arts. Money isn’t important to her. Expressing herself is.

I could tell her “Been there. Done that. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” but I know my words would have as much influence as, well, those of the mother of any 13-year-old girl.

But my daughter isn’t any 13-year-old girl. She’s my daughter, and I want her life to be easier and even more meaningful than mine has been.

Yet all I can do is provide expectations for her current life, emotional support for her life’s journey and a bit of advice based on my memories.

And sometimes those memories aren’t all that wonderful, because pursuing your passion instead of a paycheck often requires sacrifice.

At the same time, another memory has surfaced – one that has been hidden for decades.

I was about the same age that my daughter is now when my dad made a tough decision about his own career. He had just accepted a job that would require his family to move across the country.

I was sitting at our round, wooden table while my mom fixed dinner, and Dad stood in the middle of the kitchen contemplating the enormity of his decision.

“I’m not just making this decision for me,” he said. “I’m making it for everyone whose life I touch. The people whom our kids marry could be affected by my taking a job in West Virginia.”

I’ve been reminded of those words during my recent conversations with my daughter – not because I’m worried about her future marriage possibilities but because I’m reminded of the enormity of decisions my children are currently facing. Where they go to college and what they choose to study will set each of them on their own life path. That path will not be a straight line. There will be plenty of curves and detours and bumps. But that path currently has multiple potential starting points. The starting point they each select will influence the people they meet, the values they develop, and the passions they pursue.

When I close my eyes and remember the concern in my father’s voice as he talked about his decision to change jobs and move, I also remember the child I was who listened to those words. I couldn’t believe my dad was even thinking about his children getting married. To me, marriage was a vague concept that resided in the very distant future.

Now, as a parent, I realize how quickly the years can rush by, and I understand my father’s concerns. I also know that our move to West Virginia did affect whom I married. What I can never know is how different my life may have been if we had stayed in Oregon or moved to another state. Just like our memories, possibilities that never happened are a part of life and a part of whom we become.

As a mom, I’m responsible for helping my children understand that making tough decisions is all about choosing robert frostwhich possibilities they are willing to give up in order to embrace the possibilities on which they will build a life.

It’s my toughest job and the pay, like so  many others I’ve held, is lousy.

But the memories I’m making along the way are very, very rich indeed.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Where I Come From

Friday, April 10, 2015
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past-present-futureAt some point during my formative years, I began asking “where did I come from?”

I wasn’t curious about biology and human reproduction. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was curious about biology and human reproduction, but I was even more curious about my family history.

Perhaps my interest was piqued by peers who proclaimed they were descendants of famous historical figures. I was convinced that my family tree was a common Elm while everyone else’s was a Giant Sequoia.

All these years later, I’m inclined to think my classmates had active imaginations and an innate ability to stretch the truth. But at the at the time, I just wanted to be related to someone famous.

“Your great-grandmother was a Houston, and you’re related to Sam Houston,” my mother told me. That wasn’t a lie. I am related to Sam Houston. I’m just not related to THE Sam Houston. My pedigree, or lack of it, had been confirmed. I was a mutt.

Decades later, before the birth of my son, my interest in family history was renewed.

There is something about babies that binds us to our past. We realize that our existence is completely dependent on previous generations and that we will forever be connected to people we never met.

As I began to pursue my family’s history, so did my husband, although he had an unfair advantage.

His uncle Jack was so passionate about genealogy that he actually wrote a book about the family patriarch who moved from Bavaria, Germany to the small village of Shepherdstown, West Virginia only to be thrust into battle during the Civil War. It was a good story, and my husband took pride in his Bavarian roots. So much so that he was excited when he submitted his DNA to his surname family group in Bavaria. He knew he would discover even more about his family.

He did find out more – just not in the way he expected.

“Your DNA doesn’t match anyone in this group,” he was told. “Do you want us to expand the search outside of the surname and the region?”

He agreed while still insisting that he was German. When the results came back indicating he had roots in Denmark, he blamed the Vikings.

“They pillaged German villages all the time,” he said. “Denmark borders Germany. I’m sure the Vikings  invaded a Bavarian village and that’s why I’m showing Danish and not German blood.”

I tried to politely suggest that one of his grandfathers had been adopted or that maybe, just maybe, one of his great grandmothers had fooled around a bit.

He wouldn’t hear of it. The paternal side of his family was German, and no one would convince him otherwise.

Even when his mother bought him a Viking hat for his birthday, he refused to see any humor in the discrepancy between what the family tree said and what his DNA indicated. He may have Danish blood, but he will always be German.

He has a valid point.

DNA may provide the genetic code for the color of our eyes, our skin tone, and even our predisposition for medical conditions, but the core of who we are is so much bigger than that.

Just as none of us would be whom we are without our DNA or ancestral heritage, neither would we be whom we are without people who gave a piece of themselves to us.

I am a compilation of all the people who believed in me, challenged me and, most importantly, loved me.

The person I am today came from the elderly neighbors who provided a refuge when I ran away from home on a regular basis as a child. The person I am today came from the teachers who chose to see beyond my academic performance and also wanted to nurture my creative and empathetic tendencies. The person I am today came from all the people who hurt, betrayed and abandoned me and from the people who encouraged, supported, and loved me during those same times.

The person I am today could never give a simple answer to the question “where did I come from?” No biology lesson or family tree can even begin to describe where I came from. Only my relationships and the stories I pass on to my children can do that.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.