She is Mad but She is Magic: How I Hacked My Family’s Genome.

And Something’s odd –within—

That Person that I was —

And this One – do not feel the same—

Could it be Madness –this? – Emily Dickinson

When I decided to hack my genome in between washing my toddler’s socks and making a scrapbook of her third year, I should have known there would be a few surprises lying in wait. Many people in my position would question whether they really even wanted to know what predestiny held for them in their genes or at least give it a second thought but not me. My overly curious nature determined that I had to know everything about my DNA from the moment I knew it was a possibility. I also had to hack the DNA of all my relatives who could be convinced to give up their saliva for a DNA test that I inevitably bought them for their birthday. They pretty much thought I was crazy, and how right they would end up being.

“A Beautiful Mind” the biopic of the late John Nash, who died this past weekend at 86, is a portrait of a man burdened by schizophrenia and brilliance, what is popularly known as touched by fire. As it turns out, a beautiful mind might be closer to my own reality than I would ever have imagined before spitting in a test tube. My genetic predispositions have made me feel the weight of my 46 chromosomes worth of underachievement and at the same time intensified my awe of men like John Nash who under the darkness of schizophrenia made startling advances in mathematics, game theory and our conception of our world and ourselves. I may be an underachiever but at least I am a profoundly curious one, and what I have come to discover is that there is probably a gene for that.

After hacking my DNA, my mother’s, my father’s and my daughter Eva’s father’s DNA I have put together an interesting picture of our collective medical risks, personality quirks, and a lot of odd facts that I can categorically say I am no better off knowing. For example I have a gene SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) that predisposes me to sneeze when exposed to sunlight. This has plagued me my entire life, and now we are all better off for knowing that I wasn’t coming down with something it is just a genetic mutation on rs10427255, also called a photic sneeze reflex, an oddity I share with about 25% of people.

On a more concerning note both my mother and I have a ten fold higher risk of breast cancer, and my mother is a survivor, something I believe I am better off knowing, especially as my daughter will likely have inherited at least half of those SNPs. Out of the numerous Snps that predispose a person to cancer we have two of the possible 25 causal mutations on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes in addition to a host of other SNPs.

After surmising my discoveries I called my mother and father together for a genetic meeting of the minds or rather bodies, my two genetic donors to let them know all about their DNA and what they had given me other than a good education. “I have one gene for hazel eyes like dad, and three for blue eyes and blonde hair like mom, but that one hazel gene makes a lot of sense because my eyes are not blue like mom’s and a lot of people think they are green, now I know why.” They were bored already so I decided to take it up a notch.

“I am going to die at 11am.”


“Your genes, tell you that?”

“No, I am going to commit suicide.”


“I’m joking… but I have a gene mutation on SNP rs7221412 which means I am an intermediate riser, I don’t wake up early or late, which is true. Research also suggests that I am more likely to die on a morning, shortly before 11am.”

“Is there any good news in our DNA?”

“We all have obesity genes and are part of the 88% of the population who cannot maintain weight loss unless by high energy exercise- SNP GS281. Sorry mom walking doesn’t work.”

“I suppose we knew that anyway.” Mom said.

“We all have sprinting muscles though.” I countered with optimism.

“I don’t think I have ever sprinted to anything but the fridge,” Mom said.

“Well we would all benefit from a low fat diet and staying away from carbs but lucky us we all have the genetic mutation that allows us to digest lactose so we can eat all the cheese we want as long as we don’t care about getting fat.”

Mom reaches for a cracker, I pick up the cheese knife and point it at her.

“Put the cracker down, carbs will add at least five pounds over night.”

Then I reconsidered, “But don’t worry you will live long enough to waste away so you might as well have a few slices, you both have longevity genes unlike me who drew the short straw and have but one gene for a shorter lifespan.”

“Are we going to get Alzheimer’s?” Mom asked.

“No, but I will probably end up with dementia- better hope you don’t live past 100.”

“Good news?”

“Dad and I have an enhanced hippocampal volume, which means we have a higher IQ.”

“Than me?” Mom asked.

“Who knows but this one might ruin my life,” I say reading from my report, “I evidently have a higher risk of diarrhea and susceptibility to the Norovirus. This alone has solidified my decision not to have any more children.”

“You need give us the good news now.”

“I have a better episodic memory- it must be why I am really good at remembering everything for my blog.”

“And I don’t have such a good memory?” Mom asked.

“No mom you just have cognitive impairment with ageing on snp…”

“Okay enough” She said interrupting. I ignored her.

“To tell us all something we already know- we all have at least three addiction genes, especially for nicotine.”

“What no cigarettes, no booze, no carbs, no cheese?” Mom shook her head in profound disappointment.

“Yes and you are still going to get Gout.”

“Good news?” Dad asked again.

“You have high good cholesterol. Must be all the cheese!”

“Well isn’t that the cherry on the top!”

“We probably shouldn’t eat ice cream we have a gene snp for higher sugar cravings.”

By the time I introduced the hacked family genome to the siblings, there was a family backlash brewing. When we went to Government House in Bermuda to celebrate my parent’s dual Queen’s Badge of Honor for community service, the topic naturally came up over cocktails.

Here we are at Government House: Mom, Dad and the siblings:

Government House

“We should be on spritzers, or we will end up in the Mid Atlantic Wellness Center.”


“We have a genetic mutation on snp rs1800497 for addiction.”

“Half the family is in AA.”

“Or should be.”

“Well mom and I have an officially bad gene snp that predisposes us to really BAD hangovers- our dopamine receptors don’t recover as fast as other people, but in this case I think it might be a protective gene.”

“That is optimistic.” My sister said.

“There is a gene snp for that! Mom and I have a gene for optimism and more sociable, less aggressive behavior.”

“Maybe we should try cocaine instead.” Mom offered sipping her wine with an sly smile.

“Oh no mom, we both have a snp predisposing us to cocaine and heroin addiction.”

“We shouldn’t be discussing this at Government house.”

“I don’t believe a word of it, sounds like airy fairy BS.” My sister said.

“You aren’t going to find this on you know, it’s all written up on PUB MED, this is hard science.”

“Remember what I told you?” my sister asked. I felt a Psychology 101 lesson coming on from her degree twenty years ago.

“What? – that I have an external locus of control, because I read my horoscope, talk to psychics and am now hacking my DNA.”


“Oh I remember, you believe this stuff too- you always told me with horror when we were teenagers that one’s sexual proclivities are inherited from one’s parents, therefore what you like in bed is probably what your mom likes too.”

“No I was going to say you and dad, and Giles must have a gene for being out to lunch, away with the pixies.”

“Oh well there is probably a gene for both, at least we don’t have a gene for liking to be peed on during sex.”

“Thank god for that.”

“We really shouldn’t be talking about this at Government House.” I agreed with my mother for once.

Later on over dinner, Anna Laura’s husband said to me, “I know I am not supposed to notice, but your boobs look huge in that dress.”

“There is a snp for that. I have three large boob genes, lucky me and a ten fold increase for breast cancer so Ill probably have to cut them off eventually.”

There was a collective family eye roll.

“Maybe that’s why people were staring at you at Government House.” My sister added.

“You probably have the gene snp that mom has on rs10246939 – the ability to taste bitterness.” I said with glee.

Saving the best for last, I described to everyone the difference between an Orchid Child and a Dandelion Child. Orchid children tend to be difficult toddlers, prone to externalizing and grow up to become sensitive children who need specific parenting techniques and be coddled into adult existence. Orchids need a greenhouse to thrive, whereas Dandelion children can grow and thrive anywhere, a sidewalk, a metaphorical ghetto, the fifth child of a welfare mother.

“I am definitely a Dandelion.” Announced my mother.

“Me too.” Said my sister.

“Well I’m an Orchid, at SNP rs 1800855 so someone else is an orchid.”

Everyone looked at Dad, who shrugged.

“I think you are an Orchid,” I say to my sister.


“Because you have middle child syndrome- still.”

“What happens to Orchid children who get a Dandelion upbringing?”

“They become drug addicts or generally fail at life, or become highly functioning sociopaths.” I look over at my sister; she looks at me. We laugh.

“What happens to Orchid children who do get a greenhouse upbringing?”

“Orchid children become capable of blooming spectacularly. Eva is an orchid child and I am starting to understand that her raging intemperment and sensitivity is about more than being a toddler, she is an orchid toddler.”—-how-your_b_6158588.html

Another collective family eye roll.

“What is so fascinating is that all of this underlies a new genetic theory which suggests that the very genes that plague us as a species, addiction, orchidery etc evolutionarily persist in our genome because in the right environment they can create the most successful people. “

“An Orchid Bloom.”

“Yes, and what is interesting is that not only are dad and I orchid children we also share the mad genius gene.”

“Does that mean you are mad or a genius?”

I suddenly had a vision of all of my exboyfriends dressed in chorus gowns swinging back and forth in rhythm, singing “Yes Jesus!” and nodding in unison.“Crazy.”

But scientifically I answered, “Possibly both, or schizophrenic. We have a homozygous T:T allele on the Rs6994992 SNP on the neuregulin 1 gene, a 65% increased prefrontal lobe activity, high academic performance, high creativity, high psychosis risk and addiction. Touched by Fire. There is a legitimate link between psychosis and creativity, think John Nash, Sylvia Plath, Lord Byron, Van Gogh.”

“Perhaps this is why most of my followers are mental health bloggers?” I added.

“Genetic Delusions of Grandeur,” offered one of my siblings.

“Leave me alone I am blooming,” I responded.

“Are you going to cut your ear off now?”

“No but I probably would if I had become an accountant, instead I am a writer and artist in a long line of writers and artists with the same genetic predisposition for creativity, madness, and addiction. Can someone pass the red wine?”

“Somehow Dad survived thirty years as a lawyer.”

“He drank a lot of scotch.”

Our genetic conversation could continue for years, but I decided as a coup de grace I would make the following prediction for my life based on what I have discovered about my genetic predispositions:

I will die at 11am at age 70 while making love to a man half my age ( rs2811712 lack of physical impairment with age) of an exercise induced stroke ( RS1024611 increased risk of exercise induced ischemic stroke) or heart attack (rs5174 increased risk of myocardial infarction) but what a way to go ( rs53576 more likely to be an optimist) and my substantial estate ( rs6994992 mad genius gene) will be bequeathed to AA and the Mid Atlantic Wellness Center, and my very own orchid child, Eva who is mad like me or like the line from a Charles Bukowski poem, “She is mad, but she is magic, there is no lie in her fire.”

Sylvia Plath-Mommy


If you would like to hack your own genome, order a basic gene test for $99 on:

And then when you get your results download the raw data off of their website and then run it through this website for $5:

A Relative History

I was never very good at math, and I might be a bit excitable, but my “fiftieth” blog post last week was actually my 49th, derelict I know. So today is my 50th post. I am always early to a party J

I decided to go back to posting about reconnecting with my mother’s American relatives, because it is so much fun to discover more about one’s roots. I posted a lot of videos on my blog in the spring from the “round robin” video I found dating back to 1985, which is now thirty years ago but somehow hairspray and balloon pants seem like yesterday!

I never found any of the round robin letters between my grandfather and his siblings, but evidently they started in the 1940s and lasted through the seventies until perhaps they all got too old or started to die off. I believe my grandfather although not the youngest was the longest lived when he died at 96 in 2004.

With the miracle of Facebook I was able to connect with my grandfather’s brother Harold’s family and meet my generation on that branch, and lovely ladies they are. One of them sent me their mother’s beautifully etched version of the family history, and what she knew of each sibling’s family.

She begins the history with an apt preface, which I will quote:

Nothing would have pleased me more than to have been able to include some famous writer, educator, or statesman in our family tree, but I’m afraid that like most families ours is unexceptional…. Except for the fact that I knew most of these people… and that I loved all of them.

Although none of us are famous, I am sure there are one or two or three Derelict Moms in the family tree, and most certainly, at least one.

The author also says she will tell you about the Youngblood family as much as she “will tell you what I think I remember from the adults’ conversations and from reading the Round Robin letters.” Inevitably oral history will get some parts right and some parts wrong and the difficulty is in looking back and trying to distinguish one from the other. When I read the section on our side of the family, and knowing the difference made me giggle many times over. Here is what it said about my grandfather Curt:

A book could easily be written about Uncle Curtis… he had the most extraordinary life of any of the Youngblood’s. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas and there were two future governors of Arkansas in his class, Sid McMath and Gov. Cherry. He enlisted as an officer in the Navy and served in the legal department of the navy during World War II. He was legal advisor to the Secretary of the Navy and observed nuclear testing in the South Pacific. At the end of the war he was transferred to London, England where he tried court marshal cases and handled lawsuits that had been brought by private citizens against the U.S. Government. He, His wife Ruby, and daughter Jane lived in a huge home with formal English gardens and completely staffed; chauffeured in a black limo with American and Navy flags on the fenders. ( The U.S. Government felt appearances and protocol important.)

The parenthesis are the author’s. I am not sure if all those details are true, but I don’t think they had a staff- I must ask my mother. The early history is spot on, but as it gets farther and farther away from the common ancestor the story gets farther and farther from the truth and more and more entertaining of course.

Curtis held court in Ireland, Scotland, Italy and France where they collected furniture, art etc and many friends who visited them in the U.S. including the author of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (this part is of course not true) . They continued to travel throughout their lives…

The parenthesis are mine this time… they were actually friends with the author and mastermind behind, The Man Who Never Was, Ewen Montagu, not John Le Carre the fiction author. Mere trivial details!

She continues:

Upon returning to the U.S. he was assigned to the Pentagon and placed in charge of the Navy’s offshore oil well and for the first time they were able to build their dream home… it is right on the Potomac River. The three story house which boasts a fireplace so large you can stand in it was built of brick made by slave labour (purchased when an old federal building was torn down.) When Uncle Stan viewed it he said it was so impressive it looked like the first National Bank of Texas.

I remember this fireplace and it was a pretty normal sized fireplace, which only a toddler could stand in, but that is from my perspective and I did grow up with electricity, parents, shoes, and multiple fireplaces. Of course I also grew up with the family trait of telling tales and never letting an even truth get in the way of a much better exaggeration.

Here is where the story gets funny:

When Curtis retired from the navy he went to work for a publishing company handling their legal affairs. His daughter Jane married a young English Barrister (lawyer) named Rob Spurling and they live in London with their son and two daughters. Rob’s father was Lord Spurling and Governor of the Bahamas, where Jane and Rob lived the first few years of marriage. ( A position the Duke of Windsor held during the Second World War… when the Royal family wanted to exile him for marrying Wallis Simpson.) Oddly enough Jane did not meet Rob in England but at Washington and Lee University. I have probably told you more about Curtis than you really wanted to know but he truly had an interesting life. And yes he did meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip though not in England.. but at a Garden Party at the White House.

I just love the asides, despite the fact that it is totally hilarious, it would have been nice to be the granddaughter of a Lord and grow up in London, with a sojourn in the Bahamas, but alas none of that happened! and my parents met—oddly enough— at William and Mary University. My dad’s name is Rick, we live in Bermuda, my grandfather was a Sir and was never Governor of Bermuda or the Bahamas for that matter.

Particularities what do they matter? I wonder if they got these details from my grandmother’s Christmas letters, which tended like my Mother’s Christmas cards to be a more glamorous telling of the year’s events than an even truth. We are working on the 2014 version as we speak so I will be posting about that soon.

What amuses me most about the family history is that although Curtis “had the most extraordinary life of any of the Youngblood’s,” his life story is told through all the people he met or didn’t for that matter: Sid McMath and Gov. Cherry, John Le Carre, The Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, and the Queen of England …. Not to mention the fireplace.

It’s pretty funny just think if he or she had written a memoir.

Xx Derelict Mom.images-7

This 2 Will Pass


When I started this blog in January I never thought I would be blogging about genealogy, in fact I had to look up how to spell the word, but now I am hooked. My “uncovering” led me to my grandfather’s albums, which had been temporarily forgotten in a box in my parent’s vacation house. I have no idea what might have happened to the albums when my parents sell the house they are putting on the market this week.

At home, my husband gets madder and madder every evening when he discovers another book or file from the 1930s spilling pages stacked up on the back of his couch, when there is no room left he might move out. And then there is poor Eva who with my blog, scrapbooks and videos and her misfortune to be born to a documentary filmmaker mother, she will be both immortalized and exaggerated for time immemorial. My current philosophy regarding hoarding is, it’s an underappreciated art form but I digress.

My grandfather Curt was a lovely sentimental man who left us at the ripe old age of 96 and with a few mysteries to figure out. In his album, he did not disappoint- we found a secret pocket with correspondence from an ex girlfriend who had suffered a mental health breakdown, and a family secret hidden in a letter hidden behind a photograph. My mother discovered it by accident and we then had to pull out every other photo and look behind it. All of that to say, that in the same album I came across this poem cut out and glued in, which in a way inspired this post.

Curt- This Too Will Pass001 copy

All of our lives are quickly passing, brought home to me recently by reading love letters clearly penned by a teenage boy whom I only knew as an old man. The same is to be said of watching my little toddler grow up and change from an infant into a little girl. Don’t worry I am not getting sentimental – Hell will freeze over before I get sentimental about the first six months of Eva as a baby. I don’t want that back ever. When I was crying to strangers, with a boob hanging out, unable to get a grip on my life, there was always that advice, “This 2 Will pass.” It was the only thing that helped, I knew at some point Eva would have to stop screaming. Five months in she grew out of her colic and things began to improve. I no longer looked at people who had bathed that day with wonder and jealousy and I had reclaimed some control over choices in my life, now if I don’t shower it’s because I chose not to. It wasn’t grand but it was better. What didn’t work was this advice, “If you think having a baby is hard, just wait until you have a toddler, it’s worse.”

Now that I have a toddler I have a new theory on that piece of advice and it is this: People who complain about toddlers must have had easy babies. It just can’t compare. Give me a tantrum any day over breastfeeding that doesn’t work, a baby that doesn’t sleep, sterilizing six times a day for months, mastitis, and weight gain that gets worse after birth, and no way to communicate with a baby who clearly did not want to be born into this century or maybe she just didn’t want to be mine, the last theory is still on the table.

Eva I would say is a pretty good toddler, but tantrums do occur sometimes and sometimes at the worst moments. A few weeks ago was the Bermuda International Film festival. Every year I try and take part in some way. This year Jan Harlan was Chief Juror and he returned to Bermuda for a second visit after coming last year for the Screenwriting in Paradise workshop I hosted. I was happy once again to see him several times over the week. A friend Susanne and I had planned that on his last day here, she would drop him off at my house, I would entertain him, take him to dinner with Eva and then to the airport to catch his night flight back to London. Sounded like the perfect plan but seldom does anything with a toddler work perfectly to plan. I always have hope, I am not sure why.

On the evening in question, I was running late as usual and drove into the house at 5:30 but managed to get Eva’s dinner packed and her sorted out before Susanne and Jan arrived. Jan Harlan for those that don’t know was Stanley Kubrick’s brother in law and longtime producer, collaborator and friend. Jan now keeps Kubrick’s films and legacy alive by travelling the world setting up the Kubrick exhibitions and lecturing and publishing books about the man, his films and his legacy, which is Jan’s legacy as well.

After Susanne left, I took Jan over to meet the Gruncles, (Eva’s Grand Uncles) to show him that all things on Speaker’s drive aren’t derelict and that there were people who lived here who had class and good taste. Eva tagged along, happy to visit their toad pond, and dressed head to toe in a Tinkerbelle fairy costume. We approached their glorious house, two stories surrounded by wrap around balconies, over St. George’s harbour and framed by a collection of palm trees. Walking up the brick welcoming arms onto the porch, I detected a slight reluctance in the little fairies hand I was holding. I nudged her along.

After admiring the nasturtiums in full bloom, we entered the Gruncle’s house through two huge suspended temple doors. It was like passing a threshold and entering the Ming Dynasty except that there is also a fully equipped modern kitchen with all the latest appliances, (except for a red kitchen aid mixer as that is at my house.) By now Eva’s reluctance had turned into a “No, I want to play outside.” To which I responded,

“We have to go inside and see the Gruncle’ Michaels.”

She started to cry, so I picked her up and brought her inside.

“This is my Uncle Michael,”

Jan shook Michael’s hand,

“And this is my other Uncle Michael.”

He shook hands with Big Mike. He didn’t look confused even if he might have been.

The Michael’s poured us glasses of white wine, on a glorious late afternoon in a Bermuda spring. It couldn’t be a more beautiful day.

Jan took in the whole house, the blooming pink orchids, the scent of sumac, and cardamom, to the tall ceilings and art and artifact of the Michael’s previous lives and adventures through Asia. Classical music was tinkling out of the sound system and the air had the promise of summer.

“This is magnificent, just magnificent.” Jan said taking in the palms that almost surrounded the house.

Eva was a bit of a liability in a house like this, there was always a risk she would want to take a trinket or a souvenir out of the Ming dynasty Pagoda and it would disappear and turn up months later in her Peppa Pig doll house if at all. Or worse be dropped in the toad pond, and forgotten. Babies and toddlers probably didn’t belong in the Michael’s house, so when she was there I tried to keep a close eye on her. Worst possible scenario is she would try to mount the Tang Dynasty camel.

Eva was patient enough to see if she was getting a present, usually when she comes over she gets either a new Chinese outfit or at least a dumpling. She was 0 for 0 this afternoon and she didn’t drink wine yet. Eva didn’t know or appreciate it but the dumplings that appeared in our freezer were put there by the Gruncles.

I had just sat down probably for the first time that day, and brought the glass of wine to my lips when I got a tug on my trouser leg.

“Mommy, I want to go outside.”

I put the glass down.

“Ok in a minute”

“No now! “

“No in a minute, Mommy is talking.” Mommy wasn’t talking she was trying to drink a glass of wine and have the option of taking part in a civilized conversation that didn’t involve Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse.

“Outside now” Eva barked, this time I didn’t respond. She stewed.

A few sips of wine later, I was thinking about pitching to Jan how he should try and sell the idea of my screenplay to his friends at Warner Brothers.

A Perfect Day,

A Glass of Wine

A possible entre to Warner Brothers

The perfect moment.

And then it happened.

Eva shut her eyes, balled up her fists, opened her mouth and there was just silence and then an ear piercing scream followed by short rapid breaths, blind kicking and punching movements vaguely in my direction but with enough force to knock her off her own feet. Then muffled words came out between the scream-breaths.


I put down my glass of wine, gave Jan and the Michaels a sheepish smile while they continued small talking while pretending not to stare at what is known as a TANTRUM.

The side door was the quickest exit. I whisked her out immediately. That is always your first goal as a parent, when the TANTRUM strikes, remove child from the direct vicinity of anyone even if they have hearing aids. A piercing scream would make anyone think twice about saying how cute Eva is.

When we got outside, meeting the demand, which started the TANTRUM, Eva was not satisfied as the TANTRUM usually ends up being about anything other than what actually started it.

“What is wrong Eva, What do you need?”

“I want to go to my house.”

“You can’t Eva, we have to stay with the Michael’s and Uncle Jan.”

I don’t know why I try to reason with a toddler, it’s futile but we still do it I think with the false hope that suddenly her capability to reason will grow up by twenty years.

She cried and stomped her feet.

“Mommy has to go back inside, are you coming with mommy or do you need to be by your self.”

“No, No. No” She said.

“Okay Eva you can stay out here but do not leave the balcony, you can come back in when you have calmed down.”

When I closed the screen door to rejoin the party, the TANTRUM regained strength. Her stomping turned to thrashing which turned into running, and soon there was a screaming, stomping Tinkerbelle Banshee running loops around the wrap around balcony, each one getting faster and louder, as I enjoyed my glass of white wine inside chatting to Jan and the Michaels.

“The wine, the body is full, but it’s so light and zippy.” I say commenting on the Pinot Grigio, kissing up to the finer palated in my midst.

“It’s quite fruity.”  replied Jan in his Teutonic tone.

“Pardon me,” Said the Michaels.

I swirled the wine in the glass like you are supposed to do. I smiled and did my best to indulge in an over thought out analysis of the short films that won at the festival.

As the screaming and running continued unabated, I thought to myself:

“This 2 Will Pass. She won’t scream forever.”

Conversation drifted to Coral Beach, the exclusive private club where Jan had been staying, the highs and lows of the food at the restaurant, the view, the general ambiance as we, the four of us tried to collectively ignore Eva’s pacing and screaming. Eventually I spoke to what no one else dare comment on. The TANTRUM.

“Let me just check to make sure she hasn’t thrown herself off the balcony.” I exited stage right onto the porch.

She looked up at me, stopped running like she might have finally won,

“Eva, have you calmed down now, would you like to come inside?”

“No, !!! I want to go to my house.”

I knew she wouldn’t leave without me, so I shook my head and returned inside the threshold of the screen door.

She returned to her well worn loop.

When back inside, I said, “She is only 2, she has to get tired at some point.”

Jan looked at me with a slight smile, one that was either a smile of understanding or of disapproval; I could not tell, and then he said,

“It seems to me that there is a battle of wills going on, who will win, that is the question, who will win?”

“I will win the battle, she will win the war.” I thought.

A few minutes later, after I had gulped my wine when no one was looking, I saw a little face smushed up against the screen. She was breathing heavily, sort of snorting but she wasn’t screaming any more. Her face was red and she had worked up an appetite.

I bent down to her level, and asked,

“Eva have you calmed down?”


“Are you going to cry anymore?”


“Okay, would you like to go to your house?”


“Would you like a dumpling?”


“Sometimes they just have to get it out of their systems.” I explained.

Eva and I had come to an understanding you might call it a TRUCE.

Jan, Eva and I said farewell to the Michaels and stepped out of the Temple doors and went back to our house. Later we met daddy at the restaurant, had a pleasant dinner where she was surprisingly well behaved and then we took Jan to the airport and said our goodbyes before returning home to put Eva to bed. It was the end of a typical day in the life of a 2 year old and her Derelict Mother.

That night as I was going to bed I was reminded of those people who said, “If you think a baby is hard, wait till you have a toddler.” They were wrong. I wouldn’t trade this for the world, sure my Warner Brothers moment was ruined but she had already pretty much ruined my career, if you could call it a career. But when she was a baby- that – almost ruined my whole life, but I knew then as I knew in this moment… That This 2 Will Pass. I will have to admit that I will in later years look back at my raging Tinkerbelle and miss her spirited rebellion and hey anything where I can still sit down and have a glass of wine- it can’t be that bad now can it. It’s nowhere near as bad as breastfeeding a baby. A friend who had had a similar experience sent me this link this week to a blog about breastfeeding.. I would say it touches on what it was like for me, but I made it far worse for myself by working and refusing to give up. I won’t be writing a blog about breastfeeding, I will be writing a book, forthcoming. # Crazy and Derelict!

Xx Derelict Mom

Where do I come from?


I always felt a little out of place in my family and now most of the time I look out of place too. Sure my dad wears blue jeans but my mother and sister look like they spend most of their time shopping at Saks. In comparison when I walk into a room my mother just shakes her head. I never think twice about what to wear it’s always what is at the top of the drawer but sometimes I make mistakes.  I never seem to notice but I am constantly wearing my clothes inside out, tags and seams out for all the world to see, maybe it’s a new trend. The other thing I have been doing recently is putting on my exercise pants backwards.  I don’t notice, they are spandex anyway, but my mother’s pointer finger makes an appearance at some point during the day,

“You know those slits, go in the back.”


“Go in the bathroom and put your pants back on the right way.”


Backwards, forwards, does it really matter? It matters to my mother. Maybe I am adopted.

This morning feeling inspired I put on a “brand new” top. It’s designer. When I went into wake up Eva she said,

“Why are you wearing that?”

“It is Mommy’s new shirt.”

“What happened to the other one?”

“It’s dirty.”

Does she think I only have one shirt? Maybe. I think my mother would like my new top, until she finds out I got it second hand from my dog walker. Someone died and their clothes made a detour by my house, but its designer!

When I went to college we used to shop at Thrift City in New Orleans, I used to get so excited when I found something interesting in the pockets of my “new” clothes even though that meant they probably hadn’t been washed. I used to make up stories about the people who had worn them before, the people who had probably died before having their wardrobe cleared out by a relative. My mother would love to do that to my wardrobe but I am still alive.

My sister and mother give me hand-me-downs now too, as well as my dog walker. I must really look like I need help.  My recent hand me down from my mother was a Longchamp bag, hey its designer! She got fed up with my old purse, which was so grungy it looked like it had barely survived the first two years of a toddler’s life, kind of like the toddler’s mother.

Lets just say I always felt like a bit of a black sheep who shops at thrift stores, who watches movie marathons while my siblings are out running real marathons. I would not be caught dead trying to run 26 miles unless it was on horseback.

Since I was little, I felt intuitively that it was extremely important for me to know how to ride a horse.  In high school I was on the riding team, which was a bit of a joke because technically I was useless, but they kept me on the team because I could get over any jump without falling off.  They gave me all the donation horses to break in because I was the only one who could stay on. I remember my favorite horse, Cinnamon. Don’t be deceived by the name, she used to tear ass around the ring kicking any horse that came near her and when I asked her to canter she would try to buck me off. It was in this struggle that we gained a mutual respect for one another. She was my first bucking bronco and I loved it; it was in my blood.

When I see the word Rodeo I think of Cinnamon and the real rodeos I watched in Montana.


But when my mother and sister see the word: Rodeo they see this in their mind:


My point is that I have always been a little bit country despite my upbringing. In college my favorite beer was Schlitz and I never tried more than one Cosmopolitan.

My daughter Eva seems to be cut from the same cloth, or saddle we might say in this situation as since she saw her first horse she has been in love, and she even holds the record for the youngest donkey rider at Docker Park Farm in Lancashire, U.K.  Here she is on a horse at age 18 months.  Her new nickname is Eva “giddiup” Worsick.


I should not have been surprised then when looking through my grandparents belongings I found a video message from my grandfather’s extended family in the southern U.S. and out west, the same VHS tape from 1985 I talked about in a previous post.  I never remembered seeing this video when it was made, but then again maybe he purposely didn’t share it with us. I always wondered where my country, came from, and here it was on VHS: my answer:

I gave my life to Jesus and thats how I met my husband?

Country Living

I like to Crochet and Dance!

(I will be posting more entertaining clips from this video in future posts.)

After the VHS popped out of the machine I was in total acceptance of my country roots, but I wondered if my mother would accept it, after all she was one generation closer to that side of the family. I was pondering this as she sauntered in from the spa in fresh makeup with her new line of fashion purchases.  I wasn’t too sure she came from that side of the family, until I opened the fridge door and found a bucket of KFC with a tell tale shade of Guerlain Voilette de Madame smudged on a chicken wing. We must be birds of a feather after all.



NB: My mother finally read my blog last weekend. She says she did not use the word “hell” when she said “Why the hell do you want to be part of the DAR?” so this is hereby a retraction of the word “hell.”

My father who was a witness said she said “hell” with her tone of voice. I wonder what her tone of voice will have to say about today’s blog installment.

I have asked her to become a guest blogger, “Derelict Grandmama.”

Xxx Derelict Mom.

Long Days Journey into 1985

I can shoot a gun and ride a horse

I can shoot a gun and ride a horse

A few weeks ago I went to see my friend Timothy Trimingham Lee’s play in the Bermuda Festival. He came back from London to put on a production of the Eugene O’Neill play Long Days Journey into Night, and that it was – a long night was had by all. The original play is four plus hours and Tim was able to expertly cut his version down to three and a half hours, which is quite a feat to do seamlessly. Nevertheless it is a hard ask of a modern audience to watch a play that was written in 1941 and set in one location for four hours.  From a critical rather than entertaining perspective it is a towering play, Eugene O’Neill’s best, a thinly veiled autobiography of a family plagued with addiction. Although the play is certainly not modern it’s themes are and they resound for an island where families so often reside together or near each other (like our family) and cannot escape the ravages and temptations of addiction nor can they escape the temptation to argue with one another and life is generally better when the booze stays locked up in the garage outside. That’s where James Tyrone of the play locks up his liquor from his sons, and coincidently my father does the exact same.  My dad says he keeps it locked up so the handy men don’t steal it but I think it’s actually so his wife and kids don’t help themselves.  For some inexplicable reason he has now moved it out of the garage and put it under his bed. Our family of course comes from a long line of drinkers in the Bermudian tradition of rum swizzle mixed in a washing machine, vodka everyday and champagne only on special occasions. During the play I am sure we were all thinking, “Geesh it’s Friday I could really use a drink.”  I made my way right to the bar during intermission, but I think I might have been the only one to know we had another almost two hours to go.

Most of my family attended the play: myself, Chris, mom and dad, Aunt Ann, and the Uncles Michael and Michael. At about 11:30pm the play came to it’s long awaited climax when the drug addicted mother now finally completely insane and wearing her wedding dress, in faded glory, representing all she and the family had lost went on a crazy monologue about the past because everyone knows Mom has to have the last word. When the curtain fell, there was a moment of disbelief that the play had actually ended, for those of us who remained, who hadn’t snuck out at intermission, or made an exit in the second half when it was clear the play was not going to end before last call in the front street bars.

Leaving the theatre there was a heavy cloud following us out, the awkwardness of not being able to say what an amazingly life affirming play, but being haunted by its truths and reflections. Ironically Eugene O’Neill had found solace in Bermuda from his alcoholism and inspiration for this play, perhaps by watching the other ten thousand or whatever the population was then, alcoholics clinging to the rock.

Standing outside waiting for everyone to emerge there was a collective sigh, as everyone wiped their brows, “Phew my family is not as bad as that.” When my mother and father tracked the rest of us down, my aunt laughed and said to my mother,

“I remember a party when you came out in your wedding dress.”

“I remember that too!”  I said, imagining her swigging off a champagne bottle, but in reality it was far more sophisticated than that, it was Crystal champagne flutes and the wedding dress was worn to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary.

“It wasn’t just me!” my mother defended.

“All the guests were wearing their wedding dresses,” and they all happened to be swigging champagne too.

Looking at our watches it was after midnight, so instead of turning into pumpkins we went to the after party.  I had a glass of champagne, which was followed by a hot flash and I had to go home like Cinderella, as the clock crept farther past midnight and closer to Eva’s waking hour.  There is nothing like a toddler to curb your social life.

The next morning I was digging through old pictures for a genealogy project I am undertaking for Eva and I came across a picture from that infamous anniversary party of my mother in her wedding gown. I figured out it must have been in 1989. My mother looks great, my father looks like he needs a makeover but it was the eighties. We already saw in a pervious post what I looked like in the eighties and it wasn’t pretty. I was thinking about how our family had its vague similarities to the Tyrones, but we are really more happy drinkers, although we have all been known to have a monologue or two.

20th annivesary001

My pride in my familial line was brimming over as I began researching our history but little by little going through my parents’ files I found things that started to chip away at that family image previous generations had done their creative best to create.  I have to admit I am still a little disappointed I can’t trace my lineage back to Queen Victoria (she used to have dachshunds like me and sometimes I wonder if she let them kiss her like I do.)

I decided to dig out some old VHS tapes of my grandparents which I had transferred after they died and found one dating back to 1985.  Watching it I was instantly transplanted into the mid eighties of suburbia Texas around about the same era as my parent’s twentieth wedding anniversary.  While my parents were swilling champagne celebrating their anniversary our relatives in Texas were “letting Jesus save them.”   I didn’t know whether to be horrified, entertained or order myself a mid day bloody mary.

My mother has been denying the existence of relatives and Jesus for that matter, for years.  In 2009 I was inspired to trace my American lineage with hopes of becoming a Daughter of the American Revolution, and when I asked her about her father’s family tree, her response was:

“They were poor, their parents died young, all the siblings went their own ways and didn’t stay in touch so no one would know anything, and why the hell would you want to be a Daughter of the American Revolution?”

Fast forward to 2014, being under employed I decided to finally complete my side of a photo book Eva’s Great Gran (who is 105 and remembers the Titanic) created for her with pictures of relatives dating back to the 1800s up to the present with the respective family trees etc.  Digging through family files, I came across a file with my grandfather’s initials: CTY. Inside was a partial family tree and correspondence from at least two branches of the family descendant from his siblings.  I announced its existence to my mother who denied knowledge of it, leaving me wondering who filed it away, but I did recognize the handwriting on the file tab.

My mother has never been interested in her genealogy and I had always put that up to her not being interested in history or the past, as she was more concerned with her current social standing, even if she alternated that concern with threats of arson and moving to Hamilton (only a few miles but a world away.)

After reading the genealogy file on her side of the family and watching the Texas video from 1985 I think there is more to it. Her whole life had been a detour from the past, her family gradually moving East and simultaneously moving up in the world until mom ended up in Bermuda swilling champagne. I remembered a detour we made a few years ago on a family trip to Montana to go “glamping”  (glamour camping) at an exclusive ranch resort called Paws Up.  My mother’s mother’s family was from Montana so after landing in Billings we detoured to a little town called Harlowton for July 4th celebrations on our way to the resort. Despite the fact that I found it almost impossible to find a vegetable in the entire place, it had the rustic charm of a ghost town. I even met one of my grandmother’s old boyfriends who was able to continue smoking thanks to his handy wheel around oxygen cylinder.

We visited the house on main street where my great grandmother once lived which was now a museum. We went shopping at the local antique stores; we all bought cowboy hats and my father just to be different picked up a bear skin rug that the owner had shot and killed. Next door to the museum was the Graves Hotel, a railroad era establishment, which had long ago been shut down, but perhaps because they heard we were in town the bar inside was still in operation. We bought a few rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon beers for the locals and they let us share in one of their bar side delicacies: Chicken gizzards, fried to order right next to the beer taps.  A few gizzards and beers in, Chris started dancing with the locals, but our happy hour was called abruptly to a close when the meth addict lady with no teeth tried to kiss Chris in the corner. I shook my head sure she would end up revealed as my long lost cousin. To get away from her Chris had to trade his Bermuda t-shirt for his freedom and like true out of towners we high tailed it out of the saloon wishing we had brought our horses.  This incident was my husband’s (who is from England) happy initiation to the Wild West and my American roots.

Some of the country must have rubbed off on my father, because when we got to the resort, while the rest of the family were enjoying happy hour at sunset, he crept behind a rock wearing his bear skin rug and scared the hell out of everyone especially the Uncle Michaels who called out for a rifle. Miraculously no one dropped their cocktails and Dad was able to shed the rug before he was shot by his own brother. Let’s just say there is a little bit of country in all of us, and we discovered on that trip how important it was to be able to ride a horse and shoot a gun.  A few years later my sister considered naming her daughter Montana, but decided against it after my mother convinced her it wasn’t appropriate.

Back in present day digging through these family files I realized that what I discovered in Montana and what I would discover in tracing the family, is that we are all human, the meth addicted toothless Montana cousin, the God Fearing Texas folk on the VHS tape, and us.  In the words of a cousin in her letter to my grandfather in the eighties,

“I started to research my family tree a little over a year ago, and at that time I promised myself that I would do research without judging the actions of our ancestors. Understanding that people live different lives in different generations and circumstances, it was not up to me to judge their actions as right or wrong. In our lines I have found ministers, lots of farmers, a family who sold one of their children, two committed to insane asylums, a family who chased down Indians to retrieve their captured wives, two murders and one suicide. Pretty much what most people find when they research their family trees.”

Most people? Okay. The first thing I thought was that she left out the alcoholics, but with this letter I was hooked on investigating the family tree starting with my mother’s side.  Because mothers always have to have the last word, even Derelict Mothers, I will end this blog post with a quote from Mary Tyrone in Long Days Journey Into Night  “ The past is the present isn’t it? It’s the future too.”

More on my genealogy in blogs to come, with video clips too.

Photos of the Graves Hotel:

Harolowton bar