MyHeritage DNA Test: Comparing My Mom’s Results to Mine- We’re More Jewish and Middle Eastern than Italian?!

Despite growing up “half Italian, half Mexican”, my mom learned about a month ago after I took a DNA test through MyHeritage that the Italian side… well, wasn’t so Italian after all.

I showed up as 0% Italian, despite my great-grandfather immigrating to America from Italy over a hundred years ago; having an Italian first and last name, as well as speaking only Italian. Turns out, like America is now, Italy served as a melting pot; as did Spain. So while my Italian great-parents were from Italy and were culturally Italian, they weren’t necessarily Italian by ethnicity.

To make things more complex, these DNA tests don’t measure the exact percentage of your actual ethnicity, but instead, they reveal the more dominant genes that you adopt from both your parents. Therefore, for example; siblings can take a test and one can show 12% Irish but the other doesn’t show any Irish.

After finding out I showed up as 0% Italian, my mom got too curious and decided to take a MyHeritage test as well. Unsurprisingly, knowing what I know now, my mom’s test shows some decent percentages that didn’t show up at all on my test. I’ll place in bold font the ones that largely matched mine:

32.9% Central American (Mayan/Aztec)

22% Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese)

15.2% Sephardic Jewish (via Spain)

14% Middle Eastern/West Asian (Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Palestine and Georgia)

7.8% Greek

4.5% Italian

2.6% Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)

2.0% West African (Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo)

Thanks to my mom’s test results, I learned, in theory, I am about 7.6% Jewish, 7% Middle Eastern, 3.9% Greek, 2.25% Italian and 1% African.

Those particular ethnic traits didn’t show up at all on my DNA test; other than mine showing up 0.8% Middle Eastern. But clearly, my Middle Eastern DNA is very weak, whereas my mom’s is very strong.

So as for my mom, my sister, and me, we are definitely part Jewish, Middle Eastern, Greek, and even African.

If it weren’t for my mom’s MyHeritage DNA test, we would not know this.

Of course, that’s in addition to knowing we’re more Mayan/Aztec and Spanish/Portuguese more than anything on my mom’s side.

But the story doesn’t end here, because now, my sister has ordered a DNA test. In a another month or so, we’ll learn if there are other parts of our DNA hiding in there somewhere…

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Dear Holly: You Instantly Start Dancing When Anyone Sings “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”

1 year, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend we drove to Fort Payne, Alabama for Boom Days; as the plan was catch up with people I grew up with in my hometown. However, you ended up taking a two hour nap from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, which meant it was lunch time before we were able to leave, then after lunch, it began raining for most of the rest of the afternoon.

So instead of Boom Days, we went to Uncle Andrew and Aunt Dana’s house. When they bought the house, they decided to make the formal dining room into a girl’s playroom, for your cousins Calla and Darla.

The moment you walked into the girls’ playroom, it might as well have been a Disney princess castle. Because that’s how you saw it.

You were so fascinated by all the pink, by all the toys, and all the girly stuff, you didn’t even smile. Instead, it was in the likeness of the retro game show, Supermarket Sweep, you had to play with as many of the girly toys as you could before your time was up.

For a couple of hours, I didn’t even have to be responsible for you. That’s because you were completely independent as you entertained yourself in the playroom.

I think you could have spent all day in there and never needed adult interaction. You would probably even forget about food and the need for a nap.

As we were all getting ready to leave, to head back up to Nonna and Papa’s house for dinner, I finally checked out the playroom to see firsthand what exactly you were up to. Once I sat down on the floor, Aunt Dana starting singing “The Alphabet Song”.

You immediately began dancing, as if you knew designated motions to the song. The motions seemed to imply you were acting out the song, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” so I had Aunt Dana sing that next. And yes, your motions matched it.

So now I know, if we sing a song that sounds anything like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, you’re going to be dancing along!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: This Picture is Proof You Know about Gun Safety… I Think

6 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

I was proud to learn you can easily recite the gun safety tips you learned in school. You had obviously paid close attention:

“Always keep the guns locked up. Never play with guns. Never point guns at people. Guns are for hunting animals…”

The way I found out you knew all this is when this week, you brought home a drawing. Taken out of context, your drawing could have seemed disturbing. But knowing that you drew this as a result of learning about the right way to use a gun, it quickly put things into perspective for me.

You drew yourself hunting deer- and successfully shooting one. And you definitely didn’t spare the blood.

Perhaps the impact of the bullet into the deer looks more like the result of a grenade exploding on the deer… but either way, you definitely know that guns are for hunting animals- not for playing with, not for pointing at other people, not for shooting other people.

I love how innocently you drew this picture. There you are, in the middle of the woods, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and with a big grin on your face.

Granted, Mommy discreetly asked you not to draw pictures with guns anymore; because even in the right context, like maybe if you drew a policeman or a soldier in the line of duty firing their gun at another person, it’s just too mature of a drawing for a 1st grader.

Of course, I have to point out the irony of you drawing yourself shooting and killing a deer:

We are a vegetarian family. So the thought of hunting deer is a little bit ironic…

Yet still, if you truly wanted to learn how to hunt once you get older, I would be open-minded to helping you learn.

I appreciate your creativity.

Love,

Daddy

Dad Bod Vegan Weight Gain: The Struggle is Real (The War against Saturated Fat, Not Just Cholesterol)

It’s been over a week now since I revealed that I can barely fit into most of my pants anymore, as I have gradually gained weight; even though I’ve been a vegan since March 2013. While my size 31 pants comfortably fit for the first couple of years of my vegan lifestyle, that began slowly changing around the time my wife become pregnant with our daughter, in June 2015.

I began eating more desserts with my pregnant wife, like vegan chocolate bars and vegan cake. The calorie increase didn’t stop after our daughter was born in April 2016, or since then.

It didn’t help that I found a loophole in the vegan lifestyle in that it’s actually fairly easy to eat at Mexican restaurants. Most Mexican restaurants cook their food with vegetable oil now, instead of lard. And most Mexican restaurants have a veggie fajita option. So I would just order that, without the cheese or sour cream. (But that’s still a lot of oil!) Plus, most Mexican restaurants around here have cheap Margaritas. (That translates as extra sugar!)

Yes, I had been living the life of a vegan king.

I had taken advantage of all the ways to increase my fats and proteins without eating any meat, eggs, or dairy. All the while, I was never consuming more than 0% of my daily cholesterol intake. And I was so successful, that I gained enough weight to keep from fitting in to my pants.

So how do you lose weight when you’re already a vegan, but only 3 pounds away from being overweight?

This past week, I went back to the mindset of when I first became a vegan 4 and a half years ago. I asked myself, “What was I doing then, that I haven’t been doing the past couple of years?”

Ultimately, 5 things came to mind:

1.      I was mountain biking back then, not running.

2.      I wasn’t consuming as much chocolate or peanut butter or sweets.

3.      Instead of having the equivalent of a glass of wine or 2 a day, I only had that much per week.

4.      I was actually eating lunch every day; typically leftovers from dinner the night before. Compare that to the past couple of years, I’ve either just eaten oatmeal or sometimes Ramen.

5.      I wasn’t drinking orange juice back then, as my eczema was still remission at the time. 

So to simplify that even more…

I was A) doing exercise that engaged more of my muscle groups, including my core, B) I was consuming less saturated fat, and C) I was consuming less sugar, whether in the form of desserts or alcohol.

This past week has served a sort of trial run for figuring out how I need to make adjustments to what I thought was already a strict diet.

One of the huge discoveries I made this week is that by default, I was subconsciously consuming foods with higher amounts of saturated fats; despite consuming 0% of my daily cholesterol allowance. It was my body’s way of finding ways to consume extra calories, since I had stopped eating a solid lunch.

I realized that the cocoa powder, peanut butter, and coconut milk had high percentages of my daily saturated fat intake; along with the chocolate I was consuming in my oatmeal each day. In theory, I was easily consuming more than 100% of my daily saturated fat intake each day.

On top of that, the sugar from the alcohol and the orange juice was helping ensure that the extra saturated fat I was consuming was staying in my body.

And even with all the running I was doing, my body wasn’t getting the overall workout that mountain biking can do for me.

This are the things I taught myself this week. So obviously, there are permanent changes I have begun applying, which will get me back to my proper pants size of 31.

For my breakfast smoothie, I have switched to unsweetened vanilla almond milk; as almonds have much less saturated fat than coconuts. I have also switched to carob powder, as it contains zero fat, as compared to a decent amount of saturated fat in cocoa powers. And as for the peanut butter in my smoothie, instead of using a huge heaping spoon of it, I’m barely using a tablespoon of it now.

Similarly, for my oatmeal, I’m switching to almonds, instead of trail mix; which contains peanuts and dried fruit which is high in process sugar.

As for alcohol, I have literally been drinking only one ounce of wine after dinner; as a way of symbolically finishing my meal, and my calorie consumption, for the day. I have not consumed any vegan treats this week either. And I’m back on the mountain bike, as opposed to running.

I am proud to share my story with the world. This is the “before” part of the story. I will eventually get to the “after”, but first, I have to earn it.

In the process, I will prove that I can predictably get back to those size 31 pants, by permanently adjusting my lifestyle, and without going hungry.

And again, the obvious irony, is that while there are still people out there who believe vegans don’t get enough protein, I’m having to proactively and aggressively figure out how to lose the weight I’ve gained during the years of my vegan lifestyle.

Dear Holly: Nixing Your Baby Bottles and Pacifier in the Same Week

1 year, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

This is the last new picture of you with a pacifier.

The time has come. The days of “no more pacifiers” have begun. This picture was taken on your final day with a pacifier; last Saturday.

Things changed on Sunday. That marked for the first time you had to learn to fall asleep without a pacifier.

I helped you cry it out. I laid on your bedroom floor, next to you, as you exhausted yourself in tears; eventually giving up the fight and allowing me to wrap you up in a blanket and rock you to sleep.

Since then, each time has been easier for you. Sure, you sort of form a make-shift pacifier out of your little burp rag, but you’re getting there.

Personally, I didn’t care or think much about you still having a pacifier. But Mommy had been telling me that it was past time for you to still be using one.

So I used this opportunity to help, but with a personal selfish motive…

Mommy had also been telling me that it was time to get rid of your milk bottles; that you should be drinking out of sippy cups instead.

It now is safe to say that you no longer drink out of your baby bottles, nor use a pacifier. I personally saw to it. In just one weekend, it all ended.

There were two reasons I didn’t want you drinking out of those bottles:

First, those bottles were just extra trouble to be cleaning every day.

And second, I am personally opposed to you drinking any more dairy than you have to. I know you have the same genes as me; you can’t process dairy either. It just leads to eczema and sinus issues.

Since taking your baby bottles away, I have already noticed you naturally don’t even want to drink much milk anyway. I want to see you eating more solid foods.

I guess this means we’ll be able to see your whole face in pictures now, and hopefully, less skin rash as well.

Love, Daddy

Dear Jack: Listening is Just Harder to Do When You’re a 1st Grader

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Just a few weeks ago during Parent-Teacher Orientation, your teacher was very specific in reminding us parents that our child’s ability to listen to instructions at home will reflect how the child listens in the classroom.

Sure enough, I’ve been noticing since you’ve started 1st grade, it’s like it’s been fundamentally more challenging these days for you to listen to, and then follow, simple instructions.

“Jack, please don’t touch your sister while she’s trying to walk. Just give her space.”

Ten seconds later…

“Jack, I just got finished telling you not to touch her- and that’s the first thing you did. Now she fell down on the hardwood floor…”

Your response: “Oh, sorry! Sorry, Daddy. I forgot.”

I don’t blame for you for your impulses as an almost 7 year-old. I have to imagine that while the wiring in your brain has caused you to comprehend read and math skills like never before, the trade-off is that it’s difficult for you to follow through after hearing simple, specific instructions.

Yet still, I’m your parent. I have to hold you accountable. I have to teach and motivate you to listen to instructions the first time.

So let’s just say it’s never been more challenging for you to be able to watch or play anything on the Kindle. You have to earn that right on a daily basis.

Right now it’s especially difficult for you because you sincerely want to play with your sister and help her… but because she’s so quick to wobble as she’s still getting the hang of walking, your attempt to play and help often leads to her falling down; and in the process, it actually prohibits her being able to get practice.

You just want to help, I know.  You’ll eventually learn the right balance between helping her and knocking her down.

Until then, it’s just going to be a challenge as you learn to listen, as a 1st grader.

Love,

Daddy

Vegan Friendly Review of Boone, North Carolina: Featuring the Best Veggie Burger I’ve Ever Had in My Life!

As the Manliest Vegan on the Internet, I revealed this week that I can no longer fit into my size 31 pants, despite being a vegan for 4 and a half years. That’s right, I have undeniable gained weight and gained a dad bod. Looking back, it might have had something to do with my family recent “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna.

Why go to Gatlinburg when you can just go to Boone, North Carolina instead? Seriously, Boone is undeniably a vegan-friendly city and it also has the private woodsy atmosphere of Gatlinburg.

Sure, we cooked some of our own meals in the cabin, but we definitely enjoyed visiting some of the many vegan-friendly restaurants in Boone.

Let me start my proclaiming that I’ve now had the best veggie burger of my life! It was at a place called BBQ, Burgers, & Brews, just a few miles from the cabin where we were staying.

Openly, I admit: I didn’t specifically ask the waitress if the veggie burger was vegan. That’s how I am when I am travelling. I turn a blind eye to the possibility there are add whites in the veggie burger, knowing that traces of egg whites are consistent with the “0% cholesterol” aspect of my vegan lifestyle.

Why was this veggie burger so awesome? Let me tell you…

First off, the bun. It was big and round with sesame seeds; reminding me of what a good hamburger bun is supposed to taste like. (Again, there may have been traces of egg in the bun as well, but I didn’t ask.)

Next, the veggie burger was topped perfectly with the classic veggies I want on a burger: Lettuce, onion, and tomato.

As for the burger patty itself, it tastes so good that I legitimately feared they accidentally had served me beef. However, I’m confident wasn’t actually meat because after nearly 6 years of not eating meat, I speculate my digestive system would have immediately rejected any meat.

(Needless to say, I had no digestion issues whatsoever during my trip. Of course, becoming a vegan over 4 years ago pretty much illuminated all those problems. Before I stopped eating meat, I suffered reoccurring stomach and sinus issues.)

Lastly, the BBQ sauce! Seriously, that stuff was legit. My brother-in-law, who was sitting next to me, joked that he should see if he could get a huge gallon size container of it. My favorite was the BBQ mustard, though there were several options including sweet, spicy, and vinegar based.

But I can’t not talk about the fries and the onion petals!

Though I love fried pickles, which were also on the menu, I decided to upgrade my side (for an extra dollar or so) from fries to onion pedals. Like the burger, they went so well with the BBQ sauce.

Lucky for me though, my son didn’t finish all his fries, so I got to try them as well. They are my favorite style: big and crispy.

I endorse BBQ, Burgers, & Brews 100% percent. In fact, if you don’t visit them on your next visit to Boone, North Carolina, then it would be a crying shame. Ah, I already miss that place! But it wasn’t the only great place for plant-based food.

In addition to picking up some vegan groceries from Fresh Market and Ingles supermarkets to make meals back at the cabin…

There was of course Mellow Mushroom, a fine establishment we visit on every single road trip in the South…

And the extremely vegan-friendly Barberitos, where my family perfectly loved our burritos.

I also want to point out the glory of Higher Grounds, where we all stopped for coffee each morning. I particularly loved their spicy Mexican Mocha. But of course I would, as my recent DNA test confirmed I am like 53% Latino.

It was a fun place for the whole family to hang out before we began our activities for the day.

There you have it. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, go to Boone, North Carolina right now.

Just pass “go” and just pass Gatlinburg… you’ll enjoy Boone more anyway.