Why I Believe In Miracles, Christmas and Otherwise

I think I can safely state that MOST people know both sides of their family. Unless of course you were adopted  or like me your parents divorced and you lost nearly all contact with one entire side of a family tree.

I am nearly 50 years old and I have blocked much of my childhood out. I remember bits and pieces but the huge volume of memories most people have I can’t access. I grew up hearing different stories about my dad’s family , but I didn’t have holidays and visits to reinforce these memory’s like most people do.

My parents divorce was messy like all divorce, but with the added component that my dad was from Mexico. So custody or visitation was not an option.

In fact attempted parental kidnapping was a serious issue for my family. The entire time I was in elementary school until middle school, I was NEVER allowed to walk home. My mother was terrified that my father would kidnap us (my brother and I) and she would never find us in Mexico.

One time when we lived in the City of Orange I remember my dad showing up with a car full of men, while my brother and I played outside. I screamed for my brother to run inside, I followed. Running through the garage, through the yard to our house, I locked all the doors and woke my mom up. I don’t remember what happened after this, but it was terrifying enough that I remember it.

Flash forward ( because I don’t feel up to sharing the messy details of the time in between then and now) suffice to say my life took many jagged turns. I fought God and faith ALL the way. I would say most of my adult life I was an agnostic who didn’t believe in Jesus or any organized religion for that matter.

In 2003 I met my husband through work over the phone. I worked in advertising and he was one of customers. In December 2004 I decided to take a complete leap of faith, selling all my furniture and packing my little Ford Explorer up with all my treasures and my cat.

The rest is a blur of blessings, from becoming U.S. citizen before we got married, to having our 2 daughters. In the words of Fernando Venezuela “Ohio has been berry berry good to me”.

Last year I asked my family for an Ancestry.com DNA kit. My mother had told me her vague recollections about the Anaya side of my family. Things like how funny my dad was, how they once threw a party that lasted all night and guests just passed out on the floor. *That is my kinda of PARTY!

When the results came back I was SHOCKED to find out I was 87% European, so she was right the Anaya’s really were from Spain (read my other blog post about Dabbling in DNA).

I didn’t do much more with the information. But just last month I received an email from the Ancestry website, that said I had a message from a fellow member.

im_shocked

The email

Hi- I just did my DNA test and see that we’re first cousins. I was placed for adoption as an infant, and am searching for my biological father. I would love it if you could do some family investigating and see if you have an uncle that created a child with Marilyn C. while in his senior year of high school. He was probably living in Portland, Oregon, although I’m not positive that is where the conception occurred. I’m interested in knowing about your side of the family. Thank You- Leah S.

My mind was racing like Speed Racer (zoom) who could it be? Well in order to narrow the pool of suspects I had to know what year she was born, because my Grandpa Cason had been married twice before he married my Grandma Jane. So it could have been one of my Cason uncles. So I asked her for some more information (birthplace and year).

Then I took a leap of faith,

Dun dun dun…..

Hi Pilar! Thanks for writing me back! I was born in Portland in 1973. I have my bio-mom’s info from my birth certificate, but she doesn’t want contact. My old adoption agency won’t release his name, and it’s not on any court documents. All I know is his height, that he has olive skin, played the guitar, was Catholic, and was a senior in high school. Maybe your mom could shed some light on your dad’s siblings.

So right away I could rule out my brother (born 1970) my maternal grandpa Cason, my own father Alphonso who was already out of law school. This left me with 9 other Anaya siblings that could have moved to Oregon and married an American?

I texted my mom and she said that had to be my Aunt Estella

Hi Leah,

First can I just tell you I am overjoyed and so happy that you were adopted by a loving family! I was just talking to another school mom and we were discussing all the children (including her’s that are adopted) and adult parents (also adopted), sister-in-law and both her children, 3 neighbors on my street (all of us Catholic).
Which makes me wonder if it’s because we live our Pro-Life values we have so many beautiful families created by God through adoption.

So I hope this info helps your husband find some answers,
My dads name Alfonso Anaya (Flores)
Paternal Grandfather Salvador Anaya
Paternal Grandmother Maria de Jesus Flores

So in Mexico you get your mom’s maiden name as part of your full name
So my dad would be Alfonso Anaya Flores

When you look for my Aunt Estella check for her last name as Anaya Flores (maiden).
Let me know what you find, I’m so curious about my dad’s side of the family.

Not 72 hours later I get this message from who I now know is my 2nd COUSIN Leah, daughter of Roger(1st cousin), son of Estella(my Aunt). My family just grew exponentially!

 

 

Family-Reunion-21012-1024x470

(Random family I found on Google not my Tribe)

So Leah wrote back that not only had she found my Aunt Estelle (Leah’s paternal grandmother alive at 92 and living in Oregon) but she also found one of Rogers sisters Beverly (my cousin). All of this was thanks to the AMAZING sleuthing skills of Leah’s awesome husband Vince.

For this I have to thank Vince he did all the research and stayed up late many nights, digging through Ancestry records and gently prodding Leah to get her DNA checked. All he asks in return is a “Life time supply of carnitas” I think he could be my brother from another mother! #Carnitas #YumYum

You see Leah was adopted by a loving family (miracle) who wanted nothing more than to have a family of their own and couldn’t without adoption (this is another reason I am Pro-Life). As Leah’s story unfolded in these messages I realized that God had this plan all along because God NEVER makes a mistake, we do but God has a beautiful plan no matter what.

So Leah was adopted by a Mormon family, her biological mom is Mormon so this may have had some sway in her placement, but when Leah grew up she became a Spanish-speaking missionary in Texas (see the humor in her choosing that language coming from this family)? This is a brief part of her mission trip story she shared with me.

I was a Spanish-speaking missionary in Texas, and one of my best experiences was with a Catholic Priest. There is so little beauty in Texas, and we had stopped at this exquisite Catholic church by the side of the road out in the country. It was all white stucco in the Spanish style, with white arch ways and a walk way and flowering vines all-over. No one was around, and we just wanted to stand there and rest, but were worried because we were clearly missionaries from another church. We didn’t want to look like we were being disrespectful or proselytizing on the property. Sure enough, we’d only been there a minute before the Priest came out the door toward us. We started to apologize, but he interrupted us and said, “Sisters, you do good work. You’re welcome here anytime.” I’m crying now remembering this, which may sound silly, but to tired missionaries, his words of acceptance and confirmation meant so much.

Meanwhile she replied with this BOMBSHELL

Hi Pilar- I talked to your cousin Beverly (Estella’s 4th child) for a couple of hours tonight. She was 13 or 14 when I was born, and was able to tell me the whole story. She was wonderful to talk to, and now I know what I wanted to know. It’s quite the story. FYI, I was confused you and Ana (Daniel’s daughter) are actually my aunts. I think we’re close in age because Rodger was Estella’s oldest, and I was born when he was so young. The important thing I wanted to tell you is that as a teenager Beverly was witness to a heartbreaking situation when your dad hunted at the court-house for your address in San Fransisco and came to your apartment. Your grandma wouldn’t let him see you, and he was devastated. Beverly tells the story with much emotion. Maybe she can tell you more about why you didn’t get the relationship with your dad that you should have. She was an unusually precocious teenager to absorb all of these stories.

Overjoyed

Wait WHAT?! You’re telling me you found my long-lost family and they want to talk to me? They even remember me! WHAT!? How can this even be true, but it is.

How do I even begin to thank these strangers who are now my family? How do you thank someone for helping you heal your broken heart? How could I have known that a few years ago when I decided I really needed to forgive my Dad (whom I assumed was deceased) for all the things that could never be undone? I had so many cracks and crevices in my heart, empty spots that I didn’t realize existed until I spoke to Beverly (my cousin).

You see I believe that I needed to start forgiving my dad because NOTHING was going to change the past or bring my dad back to me,NOTHING! So only when I could start letting go and praying for and the repose of his soul could this miracle come into my life by God’s great and powerful mercy! (Can I get an AMEN?)

Beverly called me on a Tuesday night and we talked for 6 hours! If you know me in real life you will understand this is totally normal but whats hilarious is that Beverly like me talks with her hands!

She shared so many great stories she had me laughing hysterically until my face hurt!I love when I meet people like me and we CLICK like a spark that turns into a raging BONFIRE!

Women w Coffee

Talking with Beverly and reconnecting with all these lost cousins on FB and WhatsAPP (an international texting app) has been like a balm on my wounded heart. I could have never guessed how healing this process would be for me.

One of the things she said was “Pilar I hope you’re not offended about what I am about to tell you” Me “Beverly NOTHING you could say would offend me I promise, I am just so excited to finally find you!”

She said “We were with your Dad when he searched the records at the court-house and he brought us to your house. He asked me to go up and ring the doorbell your grandma opened the door her face turned white (because she knew Beverly was an Anaya and my dad was close by) he came up behind Beverly and told my brother to grab the girl and he would grab the boy!”

Well Beverly’s brother said “No WAY! I don’t want to spend my life in stripes” (meaning prison) he knew even at 17 that kidnapping was a crime.

Beverly said they eventually came in and my mom and dad had a heated talk while she and her brothers played with my brother and I.

Beverly just reinforced what I knew and remembered. But she also shared is that my dad was everyone’s favorite Uncle/Tio. She said he was hilarious and a prankster, which I knew from my mom.

But she also shared that he went through a many years long depression when our family split up.

This made me sad and I realized that divorce hurts everyone involved.My life was no picnic growing up, but I also understood why my mother left. My friend Kara says all these things made me the strong woman I am today, she’s right.

Now I am reconnecting and texting with cousins and branches of my family from Washington State, Oregon, Mexico and all points in between! All of them with their own unique story to tell me and I can’t wait to hear each one.

Leah is planning a reunion with my Aunt Estella and Cousin Beverly for the day after Christmas 2017. I wish I could be there but God willing we can all meet up in the summer of 2018. Leah’s family has also grown exponentially.

Sadly Roger, Leah’s biological dad died in 1992 of a seizure disorder. Again Leah was raised by a loving family who wanted her and she has a wonderful family of her own now. But Roger had wanted to marry her mother and keep Leah, but because he would not convert to Mormonism he was forbidden from seeing Leah’s biological mom ever again.

This broke my heart, but I am honored to be part of Leah’s journey of discovery because she brought me a MIRACLE along the way!

Stay tuned for more on this unfolding tale of DNA and family.

I just want to say Thank You to Leah for graciously giving me permission to reprint excerpts of our correspondence for this post.

I want to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and pray that you have miracles in your life as well.

Your Friend

Pilar The Papist Squirrel

Gift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Happens When You’re Someone Else? Dabbling with DNA

SilouetteFor Christmas this year I asked my family for a DNA kit. Let me just state that my mother-in-law could NOT fathom why I would want to know my DNA background. According to her what’s the  point.

Pilar kindergarten 3

Me,1974?

Well, I guess if I had been adopted this would perhaps be a burning question at some point in my life.

Or if like me you were raised with no contact with your dad’s side of the family. So I was left with my mom’s vague recollections and family folklore. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we moved A LOT!

Add to this the fact that my grandma (The Head of Chaos (GET SMART) as I call her) is the matriarch of the family and is rather sketchy even when she had a good memory. Sketchy in a kind “Witness Relocation” kind of way!

We are a family that doesn’t seem to keep roots down for long. So for me who we are and where we’re from has been a nagging question most of my adult life.

It became more of a question when I had children and they started  writing ancestry type reports in school.

My husbands family has an Uncle George the family genealogist, they have photo’s going back nearly 120 years. Like my friend Barb that can name all the family members in her old family pictures, going back several generations. #Treasure

We have some photos of my grandma as a child, grandpa with my mom, aunts, a few of my own baby photos. I say a few since after the divorce my mother cut my dad out of most of the pictures, which makes it difficult to grasp at memories if he ever held me and loved me?

I have one single photo of my dads family with all my aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Anaya Family

The Anaya Family

My mother can’t seem to remember if my dad is the littlest boy in front or the baby on my grandma’s knee? Or which are my Aunts Marina and Aurora?

But I see a striking resemblance in my youngest daughter to my Aunts, who look like Spanish film stars. The ears are another family trait I inherited, like my brother, who also got the red head gene from my Grandpa Anaya and the Cason side of our family. Or the weird mole on the back of my neck like my brother and my dad, which means I can’t continue to claim my brother was a troll we found under a bridge!

Growing up I was a clone of my father, even mannerisms and personalty according to my mom. She used to say he never met a stranger, which is what my husband says about me.

But when you have unresolved issues with an absent parent and they die before you can grill them about their motives, it leaves a huge empty spot in your life. Not to mention the whole medical history side of family history.

This is not to say I don’t picture this side of the family when I pray during mass for the faithfully departed, but I can’t pray for them by name like I should be able too.

 When you don’t know who or where you come from, pictures and DNA help you like an ancient map.

Silouette

So I finally received the results of my DNA from Ancestory.com and I find out (drum roll) I’m 87% European.

Hun? I thought that would have been spilt a little differently, not what I was expecting at all, maybe 56% but 87%?

Let me be clear that 24% of the “Anaya” DNA comes from the Iberian Peninsula. Spain and Portugal, which I had heard we were Spanish, but most Mexicans claim this and it’s probably not correct. I also expected Ireland( more red hair genes), England, Scotland, France (hello France boarders Spain, who knew!)

But what made me laugh, is the 8% Native American!

Have you ever watched those ancestry shows on PBS? You know where the people are certain, beyond a reasonable doubt that they have a Native American great grandma, and the results are always NO. Zero, Zilch, Do not Pass Go or Collect $200.

But nearly every person of Jewish decent is related to Barbara Walters! (Now that’s just odd). I was holding out hope that I may be a little Jewish, which would have been so awesome to be one of God’s chosen people! No Luck.

People have asked me what if the test is wrong? My answer is this , they have suggested my brother as a nearly 99.9% match (with different last names) and the region of Mexico that they predict I share DNA (Colima & Western Michocián) are within a 100 mile radius (give or take) where I was born and my fathers family lived and probably still do.

So I’m fairly certain that even with my families sketchy lack of history that the test is reasonably accurate.

Which leads me to this question, if I’m not half Mexican like I always assumed then what am I?

I have a joke I tell  “Between myself (1/2) and my 2 (1/4 & 1/4) daughters we make one whole Mexican!” People either laugh or they look really confused. #ItsAJoke

Rats! This means I need a whole new schtick! I can’t call myself the Mexican Vampire that can’t go in the sun. Or claim that alarms sound in every house in Oakwood when I enter the city limits (another joke).

I feel like I may have opened up a Pandora’s box full of questions. But by nature of my birth and birth certificate I am a Mexican, if you count the country of my origin? Why is this so weird now?

Ultimately, I would say I identify as a Catholic foremost, a Mom, a wife and an American, in that order.

Looking at my DNA now I can see a heavy Catholic influence, which my mother discovered when she paid a genealogist to research our family history. My mother said we had been Catholic going back 500 years, then came to America and rebelled against the Church becoming Protestants. #Rebels

I have yet to see this report, my mom is not good with the follow through.

So what about you friends, have you dipped your toe in the DNA testing pool? Let me tell you from my experience, you may be SURPRISED with the outcome.

Your friend,

Pilar the Papist Squirrel

Formerly known as “The Mexican Vampire”