family · My Thoughts

DNA Testing—Why Do It?

I had toyed with doing the DNA testing on ancestry.com for years, but I didn’t know anyone who had done it, and I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money.

Lin and I with the driver of our bus on the Ring of Kerry Tour in Ireland, July, 2017

My husband, Lin, and I went to England and Ireland in July 2017 for my second cousin’s wedding in England. It was Lin’s dream to go to Ireland because of his Irish heritage, so we added the side trip to Ireland to this trip. I had no connections to Ireland, so I let Lin know before we left that the Irish side trip was for him; however, I enjoyed our trip through Ireland and loved the people.

When we returned home, we had a conversation with Lin’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law about genealogy. They oozed with enthusiasm over having just gotten their results from their DNA testing. As they described their experience, I grabbed my iPad, went to ancestry.com and ordered two DNA kits.

When they arrived, Lin and I did the tests at the same time—we each had to come up with enough spit to fill our individual container. As we continued, the vial seemed to grow bigger and my mouth dried up, but we finally finished it.

We had to wait for about six weeks, but finally, ancestry.com alerted us when the results were ready. I nonchalantly opened the file and deciphered the results. Lin did his at the same time—and mine shocked both of us!

I knew I had a strong English ancestry—my mom had done our genealogy for both sides of the family, and she had records for the Horner’s, my dad’s side, all the way back to our immigration from England.

I thought I had a strong German heritage. My Mom’s maternal grandparents were stow-aways from Germany, so I thought this would be the largest statistic.

No! My largest ethnicity group was England, Wales & Northwestern Europe with 36%, so that surprised me, but the big shock was the second largest group – Ireland & Scotland with 32%.

I shared my findings with Lin wondering what his were. Irish would be his biggest group for sure. His silence screamed his disbelief. I asked again. He hung his head and whispered, “I can’t believe this! You’re 32% Irish; I’m 25!”

My mouth fell open, then a belly laugh hit me hard! I was more Irish than Lin!

We have had lots of laughter about this new find, but I love the information I’ve received. We got our first results in August and then received an update in September—no the testing didn’t change. Ancestry.com came up with new data and refined our information.

There’s lots of new data. Ancestry recently announced that they have more than 10 million people in their DNA database. That large population allowed them to use 16,000 reference samples to develop their new ethnicity estimates (up from 3,000 reference samples from the previous estimates). This has allowed for refinements of the existing estimates, as well as the addition of new regions.”


https://www.legacytree.com/blog/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-ancestrydna-update

My DNA results changed from 36% to 70% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and but my Irish went down from 32% to 21%. My initial results cited Europe West (Germanic Europe, France) as 16%. The update lowered it to 9%.

Lin’s update erased any Irish heritage identified in the initial results. His original results listed twelve regions of ethnicity. Then his update did the same as mine. It shortened his list to four areas.; I had three.

I like the warning ancestry.com has, “Your results are up to date! Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science we use to analyze it does. Your results may change over time as the science improves.”

So, our laughter continued as we shared our new results. I playfully shared my newfound Irish heritage with family and friends any time I could.

Ancestry.com also chronicles the immigration of my families to the United States to two areas:

Central North Carolina, Southeast Missouri & Southern Illinois, more specifically the Carolina Piedmont Settlers, and Tennessee & Southern States, more specifically West Tennessee, Western Kentucky & Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Settlers in 1700’s. Then our families migrated farther west over the years.

Another advantage to doing the DNA testing is I have had several new contacts with family members I didn’t know before.

On the original report, after the top three groups, I had 7% Scandinavia, 4% Iberian Peninsula, 2% Europe South, <1% Melanesia, <1% Europe East, and <1% Middle East, but these minor groups were eliminated with the update. Ancestry.com explains it this way: “More data and new methods of DNA analysis have given us a better picture of which DNA sequences are—or aren’t—associated with specific world regions. This means that some regions may not appear in your new estimate because:

  • a region has been replaced by a smaller region or multiple regions;
  • new data indicates that a region does not belong in your results.”

The updated report isolated my heritage to the three areas identified: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, Ireland and Scotland and Germanic Europe.

All in all, I enjoyed the DNA testing and results. I look forward to how it might be updated and fine-tuned even more. I also anticipate finding new unknown relatives.

Have you done a DNA testing? If so, what happened?

Take a look at my 4 books and 3 cook books on my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Stroll over to my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, for 25% discount on all digital copies of my books.

Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

What are Your Christmas Traditions?

In my country childhood, we had many Christmas traditions: the fun and adventure of cutting down a tree from our ranch, hilarious Christmas programs at the church and school, and fun-filled Christmas caroling around our small town. Our family dominated this holiday’s focus.

My dad’s parents lived in the same town, so most Christmas Eve’s were spent at their house with family. See what a traditional Christmas Eve looked like at the Horner’s house!

Santa &amp; Reindeer Graphic

Christmas at the Horner’s

It was a big affair,
     especially when Granddad got all
     sixteen grandchildren together.
That meant a holiday house full.

Each year, my Christmas outfit was always special.
One year
     a white dress with a gathered skirt,
     trimmed in red,
     made by Mom.

Grandma, decked out in her festive apron,
      worried over the meal.
She made the best mashed potatoes,
     smothered in butter.
Granddad’s job came after dinner.

The table was set on the porch so
     we could all fit,
          a long line of smiles and laughter.

For those of us who knew the tradition,
     anticipation set in.
We tried to hurry the process,
     with no success.

Finally after a leisurely cup of coffee and a cigarette,
     Granddad would disappear to the front door.

His shout rang through the whole house!
     It had begun.

“I just saw Santa Claus fly over. Come quick.”

We’d race to the front door,
     and
he would race to the back door.

“No, no he’s out here now. Come this way.”

We’d race to the back door.
This would go on for
     what seemed like eternity,
     and I never did see Santa, a reindeer,
          or his sleigh.
               I was always a second too late!
But this also meant that it was time
     to open our gifts that had mysteriously spilled out from
          under the Christmas tree.

A traditional Christmas with the Horner’s meant
     cousins,
     aunts and uncles,
     sometimes great aunts
          from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
     good food,
     lots of laughter,
and
     traditions that filled my heart with joy and
          family connection!

Copyright © 2014 Larada Horner-Miller
from This Tumbleweed Landed


What was your favorite Christmas tradition? I’d love to hear from you.

DISCOUNTS, SALES GALORE – Visit my Etsy Shop, 
Larada’s Reading Loft

Visit my web site for updates & information about my books!
https://www.laradasbooks.com

family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

How Do You Mourn the Loss of A Loved One?

Program

Grief is a topic that many people turn their backs on–I challenge you to answer the question because I will!

My Aunt Willie Urbanoski died on Friday, October 12, 2018, and because of family circumstances, we didn’t have her memorial service until yesterday, November 10. We did have a private family burial on Thursday, October 18, 2018.

Yesterday, the service was full of stories, pictures, laughter and tears–a real celebration of a woman who lived to be 98 years old–almost 99 because her birthday was Wednesday, November 7.

A second cousin stationed in England couldn’t attend to service, so her sisters did a live feed to her, so she and her husband could attend virtually–a 21st century way to handle loss.

How do YOU mourn the dead? For family? For friends? We all do it differently. My Mom’s sage advice: do it your way. I have a strong need to attend the memorial, view the body and get closure to the relationship. My best friend, Candy, died in 2012, and I was sick and couldn’t attend her service, and I have regretted it for years–no closure for me.

I wrote my aunt a poem for Christmas, 2012, and a week after my Mom died in March, 2013, Aunt Willie asked me if I would read that poem at her funeral. I said I would, but I’d cry all the way through it. She said she didn’t care because she wouldn’t be there!

So yesterday, I mustered my strength and read it–I got almost to the end before the tears came. Here’s the poem–I hope you enjoy it!

La's Poem &amp; John
Presenting My Poem–Some Humor for Sure

My Aunt Wee Wee

By: Larada Horner-Miller

December 25, 2012

Revised: November 9, 2018

You will always be Aunt Wee Wee!

As a child, Bub couldn’t pronounce “Aunt Willie,” so it came out

“Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck.

As I look back through my life,

You have always been there,

Aunt Wee Wee!

When I became an Aunt,

I followed your lead!

I wanted to touch my

nieces and nephews’ lives

the way you touched mine!

I have valued all the wonderful times

we spent together over the years.

You grace so many

of my memories!

As a toddler

I can remember

when I looked into your eyes, I saw a playful sparkle

saying,

“Yeah, Larada,

I love you!”

In my childhood,

at Branson dances,

I remember watching

you and Uncle Hughie dance,

and the fun you had.

I remember 4th of July picnics and fireworks

Bub and I couldn’t wait until you arrived with Black Cats!

You came all the way from Albuquerque!

As a family, we went to Albuquerque.

You shared your beautifully decorated cakes.

We went on shopping sprees to the mall.

Delicious Thanksgiving dinners shared!

Our fishing trips

Our time together at Springer lake

You sat religiously by the lake, pole in hand.

While Uncle Hughie and I set up our poles

and roamed!

My week stay with you in Albuquerque-

A visit to Old Town

The Tram and dinner on the top! I felt like a princess!

As a young adult

You attended all of my major life events:

My 8th grade graduation

Princess at the TSJC tournament

My high school graduation

My TSJC graduation

We’ve continued that

precious relationship into my adulthood.

My weddings

You attended my first 2 weddings.

No one attended the third.

Lin and I knew you were with us in spirit at ours.

As our second anniversary approached, Aunt Willie repeated often,

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Yes, Lin and I celebrated our second anniversary

with you in Pueblo— pictures, cake, laughter and love abounded.

I had several special visits while you

were in Logan, UT and now in Pueblo.

Some people I’ve known for a short time

and they only know me one dimensionally.

You have known me forever, and you know the many

sides of me.

You smile, and

you make me smile.

You know all about me,

and you make me feel good

about being me.

You love to laugh and enjoy life.

Often you catch me by surprise

with your witty humor, and we share a belly laugh.

In that laughter

I am no longer 59; You are no longer 93.

We are young again, frolicking on the floor.

My Aunt Wee Wee!

That’s the power you have always had–to make me smile

To make me laugh and

To make me feel good about myself!

What a gift!

I haven’t called you

“Aunt Wee Wee” for years,

but you always will be — my Aunt Wee Wee!

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


How do you mourn the loss of a family member? A friend? I’d love to see your comments. Remember–there’s no right or wrong way to do it!

Visit my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Visit my Etsy Shop for holiday specials: Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Ranching

Who is the Biggest Gambler in the World?

ace achievement banknote blackjack
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What’s your guess?

  • Their livelihood depends on Mother Nature
  • They have no control over what they need to prosper
  • They watch the skies, hoping and praying for rain!
  • They go about their daily business while their hearts ache for a reprieve!

photography of a person riding horse
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

My dad said repeatedly, “Ranchers and farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world–always depending on Mother Nature for the precious rain they need for crops, for reservoir water, and to grow grass.

Could you handle the stress? the strain? the not knowing? If you have a predictable payday, then you have no idea what these men and women face every day.

My brother and I inherited our family ranch five years ago, and the droughty years stress me out. This year we have gotten rain for grass but many of our reservoirs were empty all summer and finally have gotten a little in the last couple weeks.

We had a storm on Wednesday in the town I grew up in which is just 4 – 6 miles from where we need our ponds filled. We got almost two inches in town, but the storm lightened up the further east you went, so the reservoirs that need it right now preparing for the winter didn’t get it.

I agree with my Dad, a rancher his whole life, “Yes, they are the biggest gamblers, but the perks are worth it.”

Let it rain!


Could you be a rancher, a farmer?

 


Check out my books about the ranching life at my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Visit my Etsy shop for my books:  Larada’s Reading Loft 

family · My Thoughts

Happy 4th of July—Our Plans Were Changed!

For the last twelve years, our family tradition today is to be in Cuchara, CO, but because of the Spring Fire, all roads in Cuchara are closed, and firefighters are working hard to protect that delightful mountain village. My holiday has a dark shadow of sadness today.

So Plan B for the Horner family is a trip to Red River, NM for WestFest, a celebration of country life by Michael Martin Murphey.

As children, our aunt and uncle came up from Albuquerque, NM for the holiday and brought my brother and me Black Kat firecrackers. We swam at the Folsom Falls then returned to Branson for the fireworks display the local town fathers had organized. We started the evening’s fun with Sparklers then marveled at the colors and explosions.

All of my life my family has celebrated this day with fireworks, good food, and lots of laughter with family and friends. I will do the same today with an ache in my heart for Cuchara and the surrounding area where they are fighting for the survival of their homes and way of life.

Today I want to reflect on how blessed I am to live in this wonderful country–the land of the free and the Home of the brave. I cherish the rights I have to live as I choose, to believe in my God as I understand Him, and to have my political views. We each have those same rights; I encourage you to think about those rights today and be thankful and stand up for what you believe.

Happy 4th of July to you and yours! A special kiss and hug to my husband, Lin, who wasn’t able to join us today!

family · My Thoughts

My Two Aunts — Two Strong Women

I hope your Memorial Day weekend was great. My Memorial Day vacation has been full of family, especially two lovely, elderly aunts.

On Sunday we celebrated my Aunt Joan’s 90th birthday with a theme party. She loves the Kentucky Derby, so it was derby day at her house. We donned hats, her great-grandchildren had stick pony races, and I listened to wonderful family stories. Her five children were there, and many of her grandchildren too.

Aunt Joan is an amazing woman. She had seven children–one died at birth and her second oldest son died from heart problems about ten years ago. She was a hard-working rancher’s wife, contributing to the school activities and local community.

She is my Dad’s youngest sister, and she loved to ride horses. My Dad’s favorite story about her was she could rope a calf better than most men. In fact, when she was the rodeo queen, she did a roping demonstration.

My brother and I sat next to her to eat at her party. She told us she’d like to go sky diving–how about that!

Larada, Aunt Joan, Bub

On Monday we went to visit my 98 year old aunt in a nursing home in Pueblo, CO. We had a delightful day with her enjoying holiday barbecue fare–hot dogs and hamburgers. We visited, laughed and did a FaceTime phone conference with my husband who wasn’t able to come.

“I’m mad at you,” was her greeting to him. He wasn’t able to come on this trip but reassured her he’d join me on my June visit.

Aunt Willie worked in Albuquerque, NM at Sandia Labs for her career, raising one daughter. She loved decorating cakes as a hobby, and we all loved her humorous, gorgeous cakes.

Aunt Willie was nine years older than my Mom, her sister. My favorite memory of those two was at my Mom’s house at Christmas a few years ago. They were standing nose-to-nose, fists quenched, reigniting an annual disagreed–all in good fun.

One said, “You add milk.”

The other said, “No, Mama taught us to add water to make the turkey gravy.” This good-hearted disagreement went on at any holiday they served turkey.

My Mom passed away five years ago, and recently I asked Aunt Willie, “Are you the water or milk person in the turkey gravy dispute?”

She giggled and said, “I don’t remember!”

Larada, Aunt Willie

My life has been richer with these two. Long lives, happy dispositions–these two women embody what I hope my future holds. I hope you enjoyed my small portrait of two strong women that have influenced me. Who are the women in your life? Let me know–I would love to hear your stories.

Visit my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Visit my Etsy Shop: Larada’s Reading Loft

Ireland & England · Travel

Day 20 Train Trip to Cambridge

Our family met at the train station in Bury St. Edmund’s and rode the train to Cambridge–about a 45 minute trip. I loved looking at the lush green countryside as we whizzed by.

IMG_4443 Train Station.JPG
Train Station in Bury St. Edmund’s

On the train ride, we passed by Newmarket, famous for “Newmarket has over fifty horse training stables, two large racetracks, the Rowley Mile and the July Course and one of the most extensive and prestigious horse training grounds in the world.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newmarket,_Suffolk

This was exciting for me to see–a country girl at heart!

After we arrived in Cambridge, a group of us walked to the main part of Cambridge and others rode the bus. Seeing all the beautiful buildings as we walked was awesome. Again as in Oxford, there were bikes everywhere.

IMG_4481 Bikes.JPG
Bikes–The Preferred Means of Transportation

Look at how narrow the streets are!

IMG_4489.JPG
Narrow Streets

Cambridge is made up of several colleges, like Oxford.

Here’s Trinity College:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We continued our walk and saw other colleges along the way. Then part of our group decided go “punting.”

IMG_4524 Our group
Our Group Punting

“A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, a shallow draft vessel that is structurally different, and which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punt_(boat)

“The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge enabling you to enjoy fantastic views of the world famous Cambridge College ‘Backs’ from the comfort of a traditional Cambridge Punt.”

https://www.visitcambridge.org/things-to-do/punting-bus-and-bike-tours/punting-tours

While the group was punting, Lin, my cousin Meghan and I roamed around Cambridge and had a delicious lunch.

When the group got back together, part of us did a walking tour of Cambridge and saw more of the colleges: King’s College, Corpus Christi College, and Christ’s Church College. We were across the river from Christ’s Church College–what a spectacular view!

IMG_4578 Christ's Church.JPG
Christ’s Church College

The tour guide told us that Steve Hawkings was often seen around Cambridge, and I would have loved to see him, but we didn’t. We did see Claire College and Trinity College a second time.  We also saw St. John’s College. We ended the tour with the historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Round Church, and was built in 1130.

IMG_4624.JPG
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

After a stop at a pub along the way for refreshment and relaxation, we walked back to the train station and made it back to Bury St. Edmund’s safely. What a memorable day in Cambridge!

My web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

My Etsy shop – Larada’s Reading Loft – Mother’s Day Specials at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Have you ever been to Cambridge? If so, what was your experience? I would love to hear about your experience there!

Christmas

Cutting Down Our Own Christmas Tree

hometree Growing up in southeastern Colorado, we could choose any tree on our family ranch to become our star Christmas tree every year. We never bought a Christmas tree when I was growing up. Why would we? We could cut our own–free for the selection and lots of fun.

Mom and I would start looking for this year’s Christmas tree during hunting season in October.

“There’s the perfect one,” Mom pointed to a small three foot piñon pine tree that she wanted to put up on the coffee table. She went on and on about the virtues of a small tree. Dad, Bub, my brother, and I moaned and groaned. Oh, not this again, but we knew her–she always wanted a small tree.

Driving a little farther near the canyon, I spotted a regal six foot piñon pine tree and exclaimed, “Here it is! Let’s mark this one. This is it for sure–our Christmas tree for this year.”

Dad and Bub shook their heads in agreement. We continued our back and forth about small trees and big trees. Then we would continue our task of hunting for a deer to have venison meat for the winter.

This routine repeated itself throughout the months of October and November and into the beginning of December. Mom lost most often with the three of us outnumbering her on the big tree.

One year, the three “big Christmas tree lovers” overdid ourselves though.

The time had come to go to the ranch to cut down our tree. For some reason, Mom didn’t go, so the three of us knew there would be no argument and that the tree would be big this year. We scouted out familiar ones that I had mentally marked throughout the fall, but Dad and Bub spied one they wanted. The saw came out, and they cut it down as a team, laughing about how Mom would reacted. Yes, it looked fabulous out on the ranch against the deep blue sky. We admired our tree and laughed about Mom’s possible response.  What added to the joy of our selection was it was our first year in our new home with higher ceilings, so the taller the better.

We prepared for Mom’s comments–rehearsed our answers to her probing questions. We drove up out front of our house and backed the pick up into the driveway so it would be easier to carry it in.

I hurried up the walk to talk to Mom. She stuck her head out the door, quizzing me about the size. Kidding her, I replied, “It’s your size.” Her laugh told me she didn’t believe it.

It took both Dad and Bub to carry the tree up the walk and set it on the porch. Already I realized we were in trouble. The tree seemed to go on forever.

Dad took out the hacksaw and cut the bottom of the stump off evenly and slid it into the stand and tried to get it in the door. Bub and Dad wrestled with the tree and the door, trying to carry it up upright in the stand, but it wouldn’t fit, so they laid it out lengthwise and finally shoved it in the door.

Mom had cleared the area in front of the front window to showcase our tree to the world. Dad and Bub set the stand on the floor and raised the tree.

All four of us gasped at the same time–the tree reached the ceiling and curled down at least a foot! What do we do now?

Dad took control, “That’s easily fixed,” so he and Bub took the tree out on the porch and cut a foot off the bottom of the tree and brought the shortened tree in and set it up. The top of it brushed the ceiling but fit.

We stood back and admired our beautiful six foot plus tree and laughed. Mom said next year I’m for sure going with you three so we can get a smaller tree.

We all laughed, joyful at our selection and adjustment.