American Made


Most Thursdays I bring you photography of Doors from places I’ve visited. Today is no exception. However, in today’s series, the doors are more of a subject of viewing than the subject of my words.

Or put more simply, if you’re here for only the photographs, feel free to scroll through the photos. It won’t hurt my feelings. In fact, I won’t even know that you didn’t read my words unless you feel compelled to let me know that fact. Also be sure to pop over to Norm’s blog to see more amazing doors.

I have a lot of thoughts rolling around about topics that are practically unrelated and for some reason feel like sharing these discombobulated thoughts.

If you’re curious, the photos are from the ferry ride from Ft. Fisher, North Carolina to Southport, North Carolina. The first two photos are chosen because I’ll be talking about things that deal with “breaking the rules of conventional society” (to put it mildly). The third because I like its “uniformity”. The last is chosen because it has two of my loves…plus my jeep (which also has doors).

American Made.

In case you’re curious about my title, it’s because I watched the movie by the same name last night. One of my teens is sick. In fact, I will be taking them in to the doctor today. Likely that appointment will come prior to my finishing this post. The hubby offered to take me to dinner for Valentine’s, but I suggested we wait until the weekend. Instead we had some wine and watched American Made. I didn’t know what the movie was about, only that it starred Tom Cruise. The movie is supposed to based on the real-life story of Barry Seal, who was a drug smuggler with the Medellin Cartel.

South Florida.

While movies take many liberties with a film, it was rather strange to watch the timeline play out.  The early 80’s were a time of major drug running through Florida. If you’ve read my blog for a long time, then you know that I was born and raised in Naples, Florida. Which, in itself is a broad description. If you’ve read it for even LONGER, you know that I grew up inland. My dad converted a school bus into a home and drove it out to a piece of property in what is now considered Golden Gate Estates. There wasn’t electricity or hot water (I’ve written about how we lived in the highlighted post and others from my past).


Drug Runners.

However, the one thing that I haven’t talked about was the fact that it was well known that drugs were being run in this part of Florida. While I’m sure my parents have more stories since they were young adults and I was between 3 and 7, I do have vague memories. I suspect that these were large drug runs, maybe even cartels involved. It was said that if they saw you when they made their drop, then they would kill you.

Landing Strip.

One of the roads used to access other roads to our home was known as “the two mile landing strip”. I don’t know if planes landed on that road while we lived there. Perhaps my parents know. I do know that if we saw a small plane circling around at night, we shut off the lights to our home. I have a vivid memory of seeing one circling. This was probably sometime in the early 80’s.


Once when my mother was coming home, she saw cars parked alongside the road, so she shut off her headlights to creep past them and make it home. She was certain they were drug runners. Years later, my dad would be conversing with a law enforcement officer who had been around the area a while. That tale would come up and he said it was actually law enforcement and they looked around forever for the car that had driven by with its headlights off, certain it was a drug runner.

I’m sure that I thought it was scary, but I don’t remember being overly worried. That’s not to say I wasn’t, I just don’t remember it. Looking back, I wonder how worried my parents must have been. My mother got pregnant with my brother in the middle of 1981. We lived in the middle of nowhere with the closest phone being about 10 miles away and they had little kids. It’s an adventurous story to look back on in hindsight, but I’m sure it wasn’t so thrilling at the time.


The part of the movie that made us look at each other was when they decided that he should fly the drugs into Okeechobee. After moving from Naples at the age of 30, we landed in Okeechobee. You can’t live in Okeechobee and have not heard of Frank Brady. Well, perhaps, you can…but I doubt it.

Frank Brady.

Frank Brady was a rancher who, according to this article, made the country’s most-wanted fugitive list by fleeing the United States around the time of his 1983 drug smuggling indictment. According to this article, the 13,000 acres of ranch land that the government confiscated was the biggest seizure in U.S. history at the time. Investigators linked him to the Medellin Cartel. I met a lot of wonderful people during my two years in Okeechobee. In fact, I’m still acquainted with some of them. Interestingly, I actually met Frank Brady. I had to verify that fact with the hubby.

The fact that it left no lasting impression tells me that in all likelihood, he’s just a regular person, and if you didn’t know about his past, you’d have no reason to suspect it.

Our Past.

I guess that’s a semi-segway into my next set of thoughts. Unless we share with someone about our past, they really have no way of knowing what it held.

I have been having a rough time this winter. I often do. Winter makes me miss Florida. It makes me miss all my family. It makes me miss my friendships.


I believe in being honest and real, which I am. However, there are also pieces reserved for those who have earned my trust.

And so lately, I have been missing a variety of friends who have traveled with me through important times in my life. Two nights ago I received a text from one of those friends. Its timing and message couldn’t have been more appropriate for what I was dealing with. Something she couldn’t have known.

Naples Tribe.

It made me also think about another set of friends who were my “tribe” when I was raising babies. Two girlfriends who were my neighbors and had littles of their own. We’d wander into each others yards while the kids played on the swings and maybe order up a pizza or have a glass of wine.

They kept me sane when I rarely had adult contact.

And then I moved away.

And then another moved away.

We met for a girl’s weekend once and then as happens drifted somewhat farther apart. I still meet the one for coffee when I return home. I love to catch up with her and we text sometimes. The other I see through Facebook, but I no longer have her phone number. I realize this is entirely my fault because friendships take effort.

Yesterday, the one still in my hometown sent me a text. She was asking if the other friend still lived in the town to which she had moved. I was sitting on the couch talking with my oldest about his school day, future plans, life in general…as we often do when he comes home. I had not seen the news that she mentioned.

A school shooting.

I said “Yes, that she lived in Parkland and that “Child” went to “X” school.” Meanwhile, I was trying to check the news to see about the school shooting. I saw that it happened in Parkland about the same time that my friend sent me that text saying that it happened in Parkland, but at a different school. The town is small. Often you know people who go to different schools. I checked her Facebook, but she hasn’t posted anything. I’m sure that she is processing the horror that happened in her town.

My heart breaks for all those affected.

This morning there was an increased police presence at Miss Sunshine’s school.

After tragedies, I wish that I could wrap my children in a cocoon and keep them there forever.

To protect them from the ills of the world.

But just as I cannot control their choices, I cannot control the choices made by others.

Where do we go from here?

I have no perfect answers.


Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it. -Kahlil Gibran photoquote

Let your light shine!


Love and Death

Love And Death


Everybody loves a good love story.


Well, my parent’s love story got its official start (according to the court) on this day 41 years ago. I always had my mom tell me their love story when I was younger. I thought it so romantic. I was the type of girl who dreamed of lifelong love…of some deep soul connection. I did find a connection that spoke at my soul level and have been married to that man for almost 19 years. I’m so happy that my parents have loved each other for so long. They’ve taught me about the hard work that goes into a marriage. They’ve shown me about commitment through their own life together.


I wrote about my parent’s love story last year. You can find that post here.

What I didn’t share in that post is that it also the day that my Grandma Reva died in 2013.

That was because I have this mixed emotion on this day. There is this joy for love…love that created me. There is also sadness for loss…loss that shaped me.


Rock Castle Gorge Trail

If you’ve followed my blog for some time then you already know that she was a major source of love and wisdom for me. She was type of person that everyone was drawn to. Her enthusiasm for people and for life was contagious. She taught me life lessons in the way she interacted with what life threw her way. She forgave people freely. I still can recall a specific conversation where I would have harbored resentment and her response was “their choices are between them and God.” I was in my early teens and that conversation still replays in my mind when I want to stay angry when I feel slighted or wronged. She was also one of my biggest cheerleaders.

I’ve shared before that I struggled as she was dying. Death had not been a big part of my experience in life before 2013. My father-in-law had lost his battle with cancer that February. That day is also associated with another memory, which I shared in this post. That, along with some other things, became the catalyst for our move to Virginia. A move that, although I knew in my heart was right, I had a deep struggle with. I would FaceTime with my grandma and did a video tour of the house we were living in at the time. She was so happy for me. She was more concerned for my contentment than the fact that she was dying.

I dreamed of her last night. A strange dream. But most of my dreams are. In the dream, I was going through photos that I had not seen. I don’t know if I had been the photographer or if I was just organizing them. I was putting them in a series and editing words on them to create a story. The photos were a series of attempts in which she was trying to do a handstand. I remembered thinking it so strange because she was in a wheelchair for many years before her death. The hip replacements had long needed replaced again, but her heart was not strong enough for surgery. What I focused on in the dream was her outfit because it was dissimilar to those of her children, who were also in the photos. She had on white pants and a multi-colored shirt. I can remember it had blues in it.

As I tried to process the dream after I awoke, the thought struck me that the outfit was similar to what she wore to my wedding.

In the photo from my wedding, she is pictured with my grandfather (whose ancestry led to our trip to Scotland) and their four children. From left to right: my uncle, my aunt, my grandparents, my mother, and my aunt, the one who traveled to Scotland with my mom and me (she was also my matron of honor).

It felt like an acknowledgement to love.

Remembering my special day, my parent’s special day, and a special person who was present at both.

The Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Florida from the pier

Grief is a strange thing. Sometimes it comes upon you, unexpected. Other times, like today, you know it’s going to be there. There are still moments when I want to call her up and tell her what’s going on or get her advice on a struggle that I’m having. Moments where I want to show her the photographs I’ve taken or the words that I’ve written. Moments where I just want to hear her voice or kiss her cheek.

Even though the sadness creeps into the edges of my day, I feel infinitely blessed to have had her for as long as I did.

Amy Lyon Smith with her grandma and mother

36 years of her pouring out her grace, her strength, and her peace over my life.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard



Let your light shine!


Going Back to My Roots.... Airdrie Scotland

Going Back to My Roots…Airdrie Scotland

Today is my mama’s birthday!!

The one who nurtured me in her womb. The one who labored to bring me into this world. The one who cradled me in her arms. The one who whispered words of strength into my ears at every moment that I doubted myself.

Last year, I wrote more of a poetic style post in honor of her special day. You can read that hereThis year, I’ve decided to honor her by writing a little about our Scottish roots. As you know, in May, my mother and I (along with my aunt) traveled to Scotland. This was my mother’s first time stepping onto foreign soil.

There are studies out there that say certain memories are written on our DNA. My gut instinct (though I’m no scientist) is that a pull to your ancestral homeland is one of these memories.  You may recall that my ethnicity according to is 79% British and 10% Irish. My mother is 85% British and 9% Irish. While your parents do each contribute 50% of their DNA, the makeup of that contribution varies. Which is why siblings can have differing percentages of a certain ethnicity. If my dad were to take the test, I suspect he’d have more Irish than my mother since I have a wee bit more than her.

Scotland has always been intricately linked to our knowledge of our heritage. However, that Scottish heritage was through my maternal grandfather, Andrew McLachlan Scott (1922-2011) and he was somewhat of an enigma. He stood over 6 foot tall, had piercing blue eyes, and a tattoo of a cross and flowers that said “mother” along with the initial R.S. (for my grandmother) on his arm. He raced motorcycles in “Hound and Hare” races across the California desert. My mother would interview him before he passed away and we have a great collection of tales,but he only knew little bits and pieces of his family history.

We knew that he had been born in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada and that he had arrived in Los Angeles (his family sponsored by an uncle already living there) when he was about 18 months old.  His mother had been born in Wigan, England and emigrated to Nova Scotia as child. She died at the age of 37. One month after my grandfather turned 10. His memory of her was little fragments here and there. His father was born in Holytown, Scotland and emigrated to Nova Scotia with his family as a teen.  His paternal grandmother, Agnes McLachlan Scott, would come to live with them at some point along the way. Her heavy Scottish accent would have the neighborhood children asking my Grandfather if she was speaking English.

She would be the one that would help lead us down the course of discovering some of our history. This was because, even though she died in 1944, she left records that we were able to use. I always felt a kinship to her because in her “Declaration of Intention” for U.S. Citizenship, which was signed in 1925 (affirming amongst other things that she was not an anarchist nor a polygamist), she was 64 years old and stood at 5’6″.  I read this as a teen, during a time when I struggled over the fact that I towered over most of my peers. (While 5’8″ is not that tall in today’s world, I attended a high school where I could literally see over most people’s heads as I walked the halls). I always wanted to be shorter. Until I read that declaration. I always liked to imagine that was a pretty regal height for that time. That perhaps my height came from those enigmatic Scottish roots.

The document that we possessed that many years later would send us to a little town in Scotland was this one:


The Certificate of Proclamation.

In Scotland, banns were proclaimed in church for three successive Sundays prior to a marriage in case there was any impediment to the marriage.

My mother also has the Certificate of Proclamation that was proclaimed in Airdrie, but this certificate gave a physical address for where my great-great grandmother was living.

We knew that the landscape of Airdrie had changed since the days of coal mining, but we still wanted to walk the streets and perhaps see the church in which they’d been married (if we could discover which that was).

If you’ll recall from this post, our initial plan to travel there while in Glasgow was not possible due to a train disruption.

Instead, we traveled from Edinburgh on the day prior to flying home. The trains run from Glasgow to Edinburgh every 7 minutes. However, Airdrie is not a stop along each line. We also thought we’d be visiting Caldercruix due to it being listed on the certificate. This meant a very specific train. The staff at the train ticket offices were amazing during our entire usage of the rail system while in Scotland. They knew how to get you to all the stops that you wanted to make and the cheapest way to accomplish that. Since there were three of us, quite often it was cheaper to buy a roundtrip Groupsaver ticket.


I did love how all of the stops also had the Gaelic name.

Since Gaelic was originally spoken, not written, there are varying interpretations of what Airdrie originally meant. Most interpretations involve it being a high area. In fact, Airdrie is built across seven hills : Airdriehill, Cairnhill, Gartleahill, Flowerhill, Holehill, Golfhill, and Scarhill.

After alighting from the train (my mother loved that at each stop the train would announce “mind the gap when alighting from the train”), our first stop would be the Discovery Room at the Airdrie Library. The first thing we discovered was that we needed to have a very specific search. You pay for the help of the librarian in that room.

So we headed back down to the main part of the library to narrow down our notes to specifics. The day happened to be June 6th. The time just before 11 am. We were able to join in with all those around us, as well as all of Britain, in the minute of silence held for the victims of the London Bridge attack. It was very emotional to be this foreigner participating in this moment… on their lands. Almost like a sacred space to which, as an outsider, I’d been invited into to come alongside and share in their grief and horror.

Once we had our questions together, we returned upstairs. 1881 census records told us that Agnes McLachlan Scott lived on Flowerhill Street, along with her mother Agnes Baird McLachlan and some siblings. Through the microfilm records in the Discovery Room of the library, we were able to get an actual address.

We were interested in walking up Flowerhill street, because we knew from the 1841 census records that Agnes Baird McLachlan also lived on this street when she was a five year-old, and that her father, James Baird was a Hand Loom Weaver, which we would see as the same occupation for Agnes Baird McLachlan at the age of 15 on the 1851 census.

Airdrie was known for its weaving community during that time. Nearly every weaver had his own home and garden. My mother purchased a copy of a photo of what the homes would have looked at that time. Those homes mostly having been replaced by apartment buildings.

The librarian helped us learn how to maneuver the Scotland’s People website and even found the marriage certificate for Agnes McLachlan and James Scott. We learned that they were Baptist and that they had been married at 38 Shanks Street, her home, not at a church as we’d previously thought. We think this was due to the fact that the Baptist Church located in Airdrie hadn’t been completed at the time of their marriage. However, the name of the pastor doesn’t align with that Church and we haven’t been able to discover where he may have ministered.

We looked at some old maps of Airdrie to see what it may have looked like at the time.

I’ve highlighted the areas that we planned to walk around.  Our starting location was in the lower left of this map, out of view.


Given that we had not eaten lunch, we popped into Chunky Monkeys Coffee on Anderson Street.

I kept seeing advertisements for Appletiser, so I decided that I must try one before leaving the U.K. It was tasty. It was a very cold and rainy day, so my aunt opted for hot chocolate covered in marshmallows and a warm soup. My mom and I split a sandwich because we may or may not (definitely may) have been saving room for one of the decadent treats in the display case. After fueling up, we went to brave the rain. This was the rainiest day of our entire time in Scotland.


So rainy that this is the only photo that I pulled out my camera to take. And you know how I love some good architecture! This is a Category B building dated 1920 and erected from Red Ashlar Sandstone. We passed this building located at 56 Stirling Street more than once and this was taken at the end of our time there, after I crossed the street to return to the train station.

The walk to Flowerhill is uphill… like are we going to get to the top uphill. I had already visited Stirling Castle with my aunt and mother so I had no doubt that their legs would accomplish this feat….but that rain! Our raincoats kept us dry, but our legs and feet were at the mercy of the sideways rains. My iPhone was loaded with Google or Apple maps directing our footsteps. Once I attempted to switch to the camera, but realized that some water had found an entrance into the case and that the touchscreen had been rendered useless. I was horrified that I may have ruined my phone, and even more concerned that we might indeed get lost if the phone quit working. My mother had a mini umbrella that was supposed to withstand wind. It almost lost the battle, but it did hold up while I removed my case, dried my phone and put it back together.

We admired the land surrounding Flowerhill Street and then continued on, a school crossing guard helping us make it across the busy roundabout at the top. We passed Central Park and then discovered there would be some more uphill climbing before reaching our final destination.

Shanks Street.

Though the homes are not the same, it was an amazing feeling that after having traveled so far and having spent the afternoon slogging through the rain, we had arrived.

Arrived at this little intersection of the world that had called our name for so many years.

Walked across land that had once held vows spoken upon its air.

Vows of a life together…vows that would begin a family. Vows that would take that family across the ocean to a place where a son would meet the woman that he loved. In that love, they would have a family. A family that they would take across the border into a new land to the place where a son would meet a Los Angeles beauty who used to kiss the sailors coming into port. Their love would ultimately give birth to four children. Number three would would fall in love with a long-haired Floridian boy in 1976. This love would produce two children. Of which, I am the first.

And it all began on Shanks Street.

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell. -Louisa May Alcott

Let your light shine!



Street Corners of Amsterdam

Street Corners of Amsterdam

One thing that I’ve noticed about traveling to new places is that around every corner there are exciting things…unfamiliar and yet, exhilarating.

So today, I thought we’d take a stroll around the street corners of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam was the first place that my feet trod on foreign soil (outside of the German airport layover…but we’re talking “literal” soil).

If you’ve been reading my blog for sometime then you know that I traveled to Amsterdam this past April… a mere 4 1/2 months ago.

If you’d like to read some of my other posts from Amsterdam, you can find a few here, here, and here.

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to just stroll along the streets.

I love to see the architecture.

Europe has much older architecture than in the United States so it was a treat to see the historical buildings as I walked along in Amsterdam.

While I admire architecture, I am not well versed in recognizing the period in which the styles came into construction. History, as well as geography, were never my strong subjects. I was a math and science girl with a little creative writing thrown in to round me out. It wasn’t until I became interested in traveling that I began to take interest in history and geography. Given that I’m still new to foreign travel, I have quite a bit to learn.

Amsterdam’s history dates back to the 13th Century.

At the time of my visit, I did not realize that I too have a history that winds its way through the streets of Amsterdam.

My 10th great-grandfather was Jan Frans Van Husum (Van Hoesen, Van Huss, Vanhooser). He was from Husum in Schleswig, which was part of Denmark at the time. He married Volkje Jurrians from the island of Nordstrand. Little is known about them prior to their marriage, but there was a great flood in 1634 that was devastating to Nordstrand and the coast of Denmark, including the city of Husum.

They were married in 1639 in Amsterdam and were living on Tuinstraat.  Little did I know while I was visiting the Anne Frank House, that across the canal and up a bit, once had lived my 10th great-grandparents. I do not know how long they lived in Amsterdam prior to their marriage, but a few months later they would set sail for America.

They sailed for New Amsterdam, which was the southern tip of Manhattan.

In 1662, he would purchase hundreds of acres around Claverack from the Mohicans.

He was the first of his name to come to America. All variations of his last name eventually make his way back to him and Volkje.

My line would make it’s way down to North Carolina and eventually Kentucky. I once read that the family name change from Van Hooser to Van Hoose was a disagreement between brothers over sides during the Revolutionary War. There are those much more knowledgeable than me into the genealogical history of the name that would know the details.  My 6th Great- Grandfather was John B. Van Hoose who was married to Mary Bryan. There is great debate and mystery over her heritage as the Van Hoose’s did travel to Kentucky with the likes of the Boone’s and Bryan’s.

But, nonetheless, that heritage that would travel to my maternal grandmother, Reva Van Hoose, would start with a marriage that took place in Amsterdam.

I wonder what the street corners looked like as they strolled along them?

Did they wave hello to Rembrandt as they made their way across town?

Did they stop and admire tulips or were they not in Amsterdam prior to the Tulip Bubble burst of 1637?

Street corners hold thousands of daily tales.

Do yours have any to tell?

Let your light shine!



wpc: corner

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Glasgow, Scotland

Oh how I love thee.

When I traveled to Scotland with my mother and aunt at the end of May, we broke up the trip into 3 stays… 2 nights in Edinburgh (since that’s where the plane was landing), 2 nights in Glasgow, and then 3 nights in Edinburgh (since we were flying out from here). While we were trying to plan the trip, we had no idea what we would truly accomplish given that we were relying on public transportation. Since Edinburgh had easy access for our day up to Stirling Castle and a lot of well known spots to visit, we made that our longer home base.

Our trip to Glasgow was mainly genealogy based. We knew that we’d take the train to Airdrie to visit the library there and walk the streets that my great-great grandparents (Agnes McLachlan & James Scott) had walked. We knew that Agnes’s father, Hugh McLachlan, was born in Glasgow, but most of the ancestry information we had at the time was from small towns surrounding Glasgow.

We arrived in Glasgow on a Friday morning and took our bags to the hotel. We had purchased our train tickets to Airdrie along with our train to Glasgow that morning prior  to leaving Edinburgh. There are two train stations in Glasgow, Central Station and Queen Street Station. We had arrived at Queen Street so that is where we returned to head to Airdrie. We didn’t see it listed so asked an attendant who told us that we needed to leave from Central Station.  They aren’t too far apart so we walked there and again no train to Airdrie. It did indeed run from Queen Street, but there was a service disruption. I went through the process of getting our tickets refunded, all the while conscious that my mother was on the verge of tears. This was our only day to get to Airdrie from Glasgow since the research library is only open Tuesday through Friday. Over lunch, we decided to make the trip from Edinburgh to Airdrie on Tuesday and to make the most of the time that we had in Glasgow.

We could already tell that the architecture was stunning. There is a palpable difference between Glasgow and Edinburgh, even in the architecture. I can’t put my finger on it because I am not a historical or architectural expert. The only way I can describe the difference with the architecture would be that Glasgow’s is “more imposing” or “masculine” and even that would not properly explain it.

My mother and I decided to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. After the exhausting morning, we planned to take a taxi. However, we walked a block too far past the taxi stand. So a mile and a half walk it was! As we got close, our approach brought us through Kelvingrove Park, which was originally created as the West End Park in 1852.


The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is located on the west end of the city.

We entered from the Park side. There are also elevators located here.

Kelvingrove Art Galley and Museum first opened in 1901. In 2003, it underwent a refurbishment and reopened in 2006.


The first piece that we came upon was Floating Heads by Sophie Cave.

I had previously seen that this sculpture was located at the Kelvingrove.

Over 50 heads with different facial expressions suspended from the ceiling of the foyer.


And while the masks are white, the lighting accenting them changes colors and makes you notice something different about them each time.


Also, once you start climbing the the grand staircase to the second floor, you begin to notice the different expressions of those faces at the higher levels.

Kelvingrove contains 22 galleries and displays 8,000 objects.

We did not even begin to have time to take in all of the astonishing collections.

There were works by the Scottish artists, collectively known as the Glasgow Boys. There was beautiful sculpture by George Lawson. I spied a Rembrandt as well as one  of their most well-known pieces… Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali. I have not typically been a fan of Dali because Surrealism is just not my preference, but I did love this piece.


That’s one of the things that I love about art. There are endless ways to create. We will be drawn to some and not to others. We may stand in the same room as another human who loves what we perceive as unattractive.

I’m not a fan of pretending to know what the artist or writer intended from their work unless they have specifically shared their intent. At that point, your opinion is subjective and no more correct than anyone else’s. I am, however, a fan of finding art that I find to be beautiful… whether that be in words, on a canvas, in a photo, in music, in architecture, or in the way that nature creates a scene so spectacular that we could only begin to fathom creating something as divine.


The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is amongst the top three free-to-enter visitor attractions in Scotland, and one of the most visited museums in the United Kingdom outside of London.

We left the Museum because it was closing. Otherwise, we would have spent many more hours strolling around. We exited on the Argyll Street side.

The building is stunning in its coloring and architectural details.

The beautiful red sandstone came from the Locharbriggs Quarry in Dumfries, Scotland. The architecture combines a variety of styles, but is most commonly referred to as Spanish Baroque. It is a category ‘A’ listed building.



Besides a slight crop, neither of these two exterior shots from Argyll Street have had any post-processing. I attribute this both to the amazing light and to my Sony Alpha 7II, which produces crisp shots even when shooting hand-held.

Sometimes we would imagine our family walking these streets of Glasgow. We thought perhaps that sometimes there would be a reason to come to the big city. Since then we’ve found that my 3rd great-grandfather, Hugh McLachlan’s parents (Hugh McLachlan and Mary McLachlan) were married in Glasgow on October 7, 1827. At the time, Hugh is listed as a Seaman. Given that the Hugh that is my 3rd great-grandfather was born in Glasgow in 1835, it would appear that my 4th great-grandparents did indeed walk the streets of Glasgow for some time. I’ve not found the death records for Hugh or Mary, but at the time of Hugh’s (3gg) death in Airdrie in 1881, his deceased father’s occupation was listed as a Private Coachman.

Perhaps he never left Glasgow?

No wonder Glasgow felt so much like home.

Next time I return, I will definitely spend more than two days in Glasgow.

From the Kelvingrove, we would walk to the grounds of the University of Glasgow… but that’s for another day.

Let your light shine!


Are you Irish Dna Testing

Are you Irish? 


Kiss me, I’m Irish.

Just kidding about the kiss me part.  Not about the Irish part. (I love snapchat filters even though I have no intention of snapchatting anyone other than my daughter.)

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.

A celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.

Today, I’m going to share a little about my DNA, history, and ancestry. And some news I’ve been dying to share!

If you’ve been following me for a while then you know that I had my DNA tested last year. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I expected to be more Scandinavian.  I also expected to be more Irish.

Prior to my testing, I had stumbled across some Irish mythology on the Tuatha de Danann while initially researching some Welsh mythology.  Some of the stories have overlapping similarities.

There are some claims that based on descriptions of the Tuatha de Danann [tall, red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, pale skin, came from the sky on ships] that these were really Nordic vikings on ships, the likes of which had never been seen, emerging from the mist.

When I read about that, I thought… AHA!  When I take my test it will show Irish, but it will  be ancestral Scandinavian and will answer why I am not petite and am pale.


I mean look at my dad…red hair, freckles, pale (Florida sun hides this reality).


One of my children was born with red hair.

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Alas!  I am 10% Irish.  Less than my husband’s 20%.

I have also run my DNA results through (you can upload your raw DNA here and find matches who may have used other testing companies).

There are admixture with oracle-4 tests [I am still learning which to choose- I chose the MDLP K23b. If you are knowledgeable in this area, feel free to jump into the comment section as I am claiming no knowledge, only sharing my results].

These tests can also show a breakdown of your ethnicity. I have read that if your ethnicity is as homogenous as mine, these programs have a hard time really pinpointing the region that your DNA comes from.  I don’t know if this is true or not.

The 1 population approximation lists me as (top 3 and the @ is distance from similar ethnicity.):

  • English @ 3.29 (I’ve rounded these numbers)
  • Irish @ 3.34
  • English_Cornwall_GBR @ 4.16

The 2 population approximation is 50% German-Volga + 50% Orcadian @ 2.62.

3 population approximation is the same, they just change it to 25% Orcadian + 25% Orcadian

The 4 population approximation is:  German-Volga + Irish + Orcadian + Scottish-Argyll-Bute-GBR @ 2.57.

I do have an ancestral history of Germans who emigrated to the United States from the Palatinate region.  Palatinate Germans were some of those who emigrated to Russia upon invitation by Catherine the Great.  Perhaps that is why I show German-Volga. In case you are wondering, Orcadian is the native population of the Orkney Islands of Scotland who are historically descended from the Picts, Norse, and Scots.

While I think the ethnicity estimate is an amazing tool, most things will remind you that your genealogical research is always key.  I am by no means an expert when it comes to genealogy.  I am barely a beginner.

I’ve shared before that I was not interested in history until I took this DNA test.  This history became tangible when I applied it to people that I descend from.


One of my distant relatives, my paternal 8th great- grandfather, was William Durkee. He was born about 1632 in Ireland (I’ve seen it listed at Meath, Ireland).  He is thought to be one of the first Irishmen to settle in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He arrived in Massachusetts on November 9, 1663 as an indentured servant to Thomas Bishop.  He came from Barbados and is thought to have been sent there during Cromwell’s military invasion of Ireland (There is a lot of controversy surrounding myths and facts about that situation.  I am not a history major…not even close.  I will not be addressing that.)  The reason so much is known about his indentured servitude is because there are court records.

Most of the court records that I have seen deal with the fact that he impregnated Martha Cross, who is believed to have worked in the house of Thomas Bishop.  There are records of them coming before the court, charged with fornication, and the option of being whipped or paying fees.  There are records of a suit by her father for abuse of his daughter (the impregnation) and a counter-suit by William for her father withdrawing consent to marriage.  They would marry December 20, 1664, and two weeks later my 7th great-grandfather, John Durkee, would be born. For some time, William Durkee was not able to purchase land because he would not renounce his Catholic faith.  I have seen that he eventually did purchase land, but am not sure what led to that possibility.

Almost all of the Durkees in the United States and Canada descend from his 3 sons. If you’re curious about my line it’s: William Durkee>John Durkee>Stephen Durkee>Phineas Durkee> Experience Durkee>David Woodbury>John Milton Woodbury>Laura Louise Woodbury (my great-grandmother).


The only other family line that I’m pretty confident originates in Ireland is my maternal great-great grandmother, Agnes McLachlan Scott (in the picture above). I’ve shared a little about my Scottish history in this post.

A synopsis is that Agnes McLachlan was born in 1865 in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of Hugh McLauchlan (the census spells the name differently repetitively) and Agnes Baird.  On December 20, 1889, she married my great-great grandfather, James Scott (son of James Scott and Mary Munn).

James Scott was a miner and this would lead them to immigrate with their four sons to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1911.  Based on the typical naming pattern used in Scotland, I was able to discover that my great-grandfather, George Brown Scott, was actually named after a stepfather.  Mary Munn married George Brown in Barony, Lanarkshire, Scotland on December 30, 1872 (I do not know what happened to James Scott) and appears to have had 4 more children bearing the last name of Brown.


My McLachlan trail is hard to follow as there are many Hugh McLachlan’s in the area. My reasoning for believing that at some point it becomes an Irish history is because of the McLachlan name itself.

The Clan MacLachlan is a Highland Scottish clan that claims descent from Lachlan Mor, who lived on Loch Fyne in the 13th century. Tradition is that he was a descendant of Anrothan, an Irish prince of the O’Neill dynasty who moved to Scotland and married the daughter of the King of Argyll.  Further back, the lineage claims descent from Niall Noigiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages), High King of Ireland in the 4th-5th century.



Remember some weeks ago when I shared that I was planning a trip with my mom and aunt?

Well we haven’t actually booked the tickets yet, but I can’t stand it any longer!!

My mom’s passport came in…

and at the end of the summer…

we are planning to take a trip…


Not only do we plan to see the sights, we are hoping to find some of the places listed on the census records and stand on the streets where our ancestors feet have stood.

Any tips or words of wisdom are greatly appreciated! has a referral program that saves you 10% on the kit and rewards me $10 if you purchase through them.  You can find my link on my twitter account, which is in the side menu of my blog. This post has not been sponsored by them.  The referral program is offered to any person who purchases a kit through them. And even if you don’t use my link, they run specials all the time with a percentage off of the full price (usually around holidays when you might like to know your lineage).


Let your light shine!









Don’t wait until it’s too late


The trouble is, you think you have time. -Jack Kornfield

I have never professed to be a good housekeeper.  Indeed I am far from it. But I am trying. Part of that is working on the process of decluttering.  I could talk all day about that process. And I may… but on a different day.

A few weeks ago, while going through a box of “where in the world does this stuff belong”, I came upon a letter written by me in 2013.  A letter written to my father-in-law.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you may remember that his passing away on February 9, 2013 was the major catalyst for us seeking a move to Virginia.  I touched on this somewhat last year in this post.

My father-in-law joined the Navy as a fresh out of high school, 18 year old. He and my mother-in-law were high school sweethearts and would marry in 1952 when he came home on leave. He would spend 20 years in the Navy, starting as an enlisted man, and working his way to Warrant Officer and then as a Lieutenant, serving as a Nuclear Weapons Officer on the USS Saratoga. He would then go on to become a teacher of elementary and middle schoolers, eventually getting his Master’s and becoming a school counselor.  He would work with children for 20 years before retiring.

When I met my future father-in-law, I was 20 years old and he was already retired from two careers.  I would celebrate my 21st birthday during that first trip to Virginia.  We would sit on the back porch every morning drinking coffee.


On that trip, we took in a football game at my husband’s alma mater and where the first born grandbaby (my niece) was cheering.


He would be my husband’s best man at our wedding.  Making everyone laugh during his speech with his request that we give him some more grandbaby’s (to add to the four he already had).


And we fulfilled that request.


Later, he would end up having leukemia. He had it for years. I usually spent two weeks every summer at their home, driving up with the kids and then my husband flying up for the second week. We often visited over Christmas Break as well. The Christmas of 2012, he was not feeling well. We opted not to go up because he was sick enough that all the germs we would bring would not be good.  They said it was now lymphoma. He was not getting better. A few weeks later my husband would be traveling up to help his brothers and mother set up hospice. At that point, I knew that I would never see him again.  And so I wrote him a letter.  I had hoped he’d be able to have it read to him.

That did not end up being possible.

In my college English class, I read the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.  I can’t even begin to explain why that poem struck me so deeply.  I was a 17 year old girl who had not even begun to taste the sting of death.  And yet, that poem became my favorite poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


My father-in-law did not go gentle into that good night.  The end was not easy.  He asked to speak to me once on the phone.  There was closure for me in that he remembered me in those moments.

So today I share the words that he was never able to hear (abbreviations have been used in place of some names).

In Case I Never Told You

In case I never told you I wanted you to know:

That I noticed when you made sure to spend time with each of the kids separately- whether it was teaching H to drive, teaching D about the mighty power or taking S to feed the neighbor’s pets, amongst all the other things.  I appreciated the fact that you took the time to make them feel special and create memories.

That I admire the fact that you taught for 20 years.  My patience level is low and you have always been so calm with my kids.  I imagine all those students felt special.

That I think it’s great that you love science so much because I find science fascinating.  Your innate curiosity about all the wonders of the world is inspiring because I feel like I can never get all the information I want to gain.

That I love your library.  In it, I discovered Ludlum, that there is more than one Oz book, and a plethora of other great books.  Because of our mutual love, one of my kids’ favorite place is a bookstore and they love the smell of a library.

That I’m glad that you passed on to M what he calls the “Smith family curse”.  The one that makes you repair everything yourself.  I can’t imagine being married to a man who couldn’t fix things.

That I’ve loved our talks by the pool- watching the kids swim.  You always added a fresh perspective on my struggles in raising children.

That I thank you for serving our country.  I don’t come from a military family so that was all foreign to me, but how amazing to share such tradition.

That even though some of the jokes you tell make us groan, they are you.  And when M tells one that makes us groan, we say that sounds like a joke your dad would tell.  And when our kids tell one, they are like M and so on and on it goes.  What a privilege to witness not just a physical passing down, but also personality.

That I love you for accepting me wholeheartedly into your family. You have given me such a blessing just by knowing you, but also in raising a man that is a man who takes his vows seriously because that was modeled by you.

I have done my part in evolution.

I have evolved from the 21 year old that you first met, but a lot has stayed the same and one of those things is that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you even when our views differ.

I will help out with the survival of the fittest though because I think M and I have produced some pretty amazing kids.

Keep Strong and I love you.

There isn’t anything earth-shattering in those words.  We did communicate regularly over the years and he knew that I loved and respected him.   I share them because they are still things that I wish I had said.

Don’t wait until it is too late to say those things you want to say to people you care about.  Don’t hold on to grudges that you might later regret.  Tomorrow is never promised.  I leave you with my father-in-law’s words, written 18 years before he would leave this earth.


Let your light shine!