RootsTech 2020: It’s a Wrap

Before sharing photos and details about the last three days at RootsTech, I want to provide some general observations.

I expected the attendance to be down this year because of the concern about the Novel Corona Virus. There was a lot of hand-washing and sanitizer, but no hand-wringing.

I don’t think attendance was lagging at all. In fact, this show was larger, based on how my feet feel and general crowd observation than ever before. People appeared to be more engaged too.

According to RootsTech personnel, 4 major vendors pulled out the week before the show opened; 23andMe, LivingDNA, FindMyPast and a book vendor.

I doubt there’s much of a refund policy, so surely something happened in these cases. If you recall, LivingDNA and FindMyPast have a business relationship. 23andMe just laid off a number of people, but then again, so did Ancestry but you’d never know it based on the size of their booth and staffing here.

Family Search has really stepped up their game to modernize, capture stories, scan books and otherwise make genealogy interesting and attractive to everyone.

We got spoiled last year with the big DNA announcements at RootsTech, but nothing of that magnitude was announced this year. That’s not to say there weren’t vendor announcements, there were.

FamilyTreeDNA announced:

  • Their myOrigins Version 3.0 which is significantly updated by adding several worldwide populations, increasing the number from 24 to 90. I wrote about these features here.
  • Adding a myOrigins chromosome browser painted view. I am SOOO excited about this because it makes ethnicity actually useful for genealogy because we can compare specific ethnicity segments with genealogical matches. I can hardly wait.

RootsTech 2020 Sunny Paul

Sunny Morton with Family Tree Magazine interviewing Dr. Paul Maier, FamilyTreeDNA’s population geneticist. You can see the painted chromosome view on the screen behind Dr. Maier.

  • Providing, after initial release, a downloadable ethnicity estimate segment file.
  • Sponsorship of The Million Mito Project, a joint collaborative citizen science project to rewrite the mitochondrial tree of womankind includes team members Dr. Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist of the National Geographic Genographic Project, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA, Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA, and me, DNAeXplain, scientist, genetic genealogist, National Geographic Genographic Affiliate Researcher.

RootsTech 2020 Million Mito

I was honored to make The Million Mito Project announcement Saturday morning, but it was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm until Saturday. This initiative is super-exciting and I’ll be writing about the project, and how you can participate, as soon as I get home and recover just a bit.

  • Michael Sager, aka Mr. Big Y, announced additions to the Y Tree of Mankind in the Demo Theater, including a particularly impressive haplogroup D split.

Rootstech 2020 Sager

RootsTech 2020 Sager 2

RootsTech 2020 Sager hap d

In case anyone is counting, as of last week, the Y tree has 26,600+ named branches and over half a million detected (private variant) SNPs at FamilyTreeDNA waiting for additional testers to be placed on the tree. All I can say is WOW!!! In 2010, a decade ago, there were only 441 Y DNA branches on the entire Y tree. The Y tree has shot up from a twig to an evergreen. I think it’s actually a Sequoia and we just don’t know how large it’s going to grow to be.

RootsTech 2020 FTDNA booth

FamilyTreeDNA stepped up their game with a way-cool new booth that incorporated a lovely presentation area, greatly improved, which featured several guest presenters throughout the conference, including Judy Russell, below.

RootsTech 2020 Judy Russell

Yes, in case anyone is wondering, I DID ask permission to take Judy’s picture, AND to publish it in my article. Just sayin’😊

MyHeritage announced their new photo colorization, MyHeritage in Color, just before RootsTech. I wrote about it, here. At RootsTech MyHeritage had more announcements, including:

  • Enhancements coming soon to the photo colorization program. It was interesting to learn that the colorization project went live in less than 2 months from inception and resulted from an internal “hack-a-thon,” which in the technology industry is a fun think-tank sort of marathon endeavor where ideas flow freely in a competitive environment. Today, over a million photos have been colorized. People LOVE this feature.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage booth

One of their booth giveaways was a magnet – of your colorized ancestor’s photo. Conference attendees emailed the photo to a special email address and came by the booth a few minutes later to retrieve their photo magnet.

The photos on the board in front, above, are the colorized photos waiting for their family to pick them up. How fun!!!

  • Fan View for family trees which isn’t just a chart, but dynamic in that you can click on any person and they become the “center.” You can also add to your tree from this view.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage fan tree

One of the views is a colorful fan. If you sign on to your MyHeritage account, you’ll be asked if you’d like to see the new fan view. You can read about the new tree features on their blog, here.

  • The release of a MASSIVE 100-year US city directory digitization project that’s more than just imaging and indexing. If you’ve every used city directories, the unique abbreviations in each one will drive you batty. MyHeritage has solved that problem by providing the images, plus the “translation.” They’ve also used artificial intelligence to understand how to search further, incorporating things like spouse, address and more to provide you with not just one year or directory, but linear information that might allow you to infer the death of a spouse, for example. You can read their blog article, here.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage city directories

The MyHeritage booth incorporated a very cool feature this year about the Mayflower. Truthfully, I was quite surprised, because the Mayflower is a US thing. MyHeritage is working with folks in Leiden, Netherlands, where some Mayflower family members remained while others continued to what would become Plymouth Colony to prove the connection.

Rootstech 2020 MyHeritage Mayflower virtual

MyHeritage constructed a 3D area where you can sail with the Pilgrims.

I didn’t realize at first, but the chair swivels and as you move, your view in the 3D “goggles” changes to the direction on board the ship where you are looking.

RootsTech 2020 MyHeritage Mayflower virtual 2

The voyage in 1620 was utterly miserable – very rough with a great deal of illness. They did a good job of portraying that, but not “too much” if you get my drift. What you do feel is the utter smallness of the ship in the immense angry ocean.

I wonder how many descendants “sailed with their ancestors” on the virtual Mayflower. Do you have Mayflower ancestors? Mine are William Brewster, his wife, Mary and daughter, Patience along with Stephen Hopkins and his son, Gyles.

Ancestry’s only announcements were:

  • That they are “making things better” by listening and implementing improvements in the DNA area. I’ll forego any commentary because it would be based on their failure to listen and act (for years) about the absence of segment information and a chromosome browser. You’ve guessed it, that’s not mentioned.
  • That the WWII young man Draft Registration cards are now complete and online. Truthfully, I had no idea that the collection I was using online wasn’t complete, which I actually find very upsetting. Ancestry, assuming you actually are listening, how about warning people when they are using a partially complete collection, meaning what portion is and is not complete.
  • Listing content record additions planned for 2020 including the NYC birth index and other state and international records, some of which promise to be very useful. I wonder which states the statewide digitization projects pertain to and what that means, exactly.

OK, now we’re done with vendor announcements, so let’s just take a walk around the expo hall and see who and what we find. We might run into some people you know!

Walking Around

I sandwiched my walking around in-between my sessions. Not only did I present two RootsTech classes, but hosted the ToolMaker Meetup, attended two dinners, two lunches, announced The Million Mito Project, did two booth talks, one for FamilyTreeDNA and one for WikiTree, and I think something else I’ve forgotten about. Plus, all the planned and chance meetings which were absolutely wonderful.

Oh yes, and I attended a couple of sessions myself as an attendee and a few in the vendors booths too.

The great thing, or at least I think its great, is that most of the major vendors also have booth educational learning opportunities with presentation areas at their booths. Unfortunately, there is no centralized area where you can find out which booths have sessions, on what topics, when. Ditto for the Demo Theater.

Of course, that means booth presentations are also competing for your time with the regular sessions – so sometimes it’s really difficult to decide. It’s sort of like you’re awash in education for 4 days and you just can’t absorb enough. By Saturday, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and you can’t absorb another iota, nor can you walk another step. But then you see someone you know and the pain in your feet is momentarily forgotten.

Please note that there were lots of other people that I saw and we literally passed, hugged and waved, or we were so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t realize until later that I had failed to take the photo. So apologies to all of those people.

RootsTech 2020 Amy Mags

I gave a presentation in the WikiTree booth about how to incorporate WikiTree into your 52 Ancestor stories, both as a research tool and as a way to bait the hook for cousins. Not to mention seeing if someone has already tested for Y or mtDNA, or candidates to do so.

That’s Amy Johnson Crow who started the 52 Ancestors challenge years ago, on the left and Mags Gaulden who writes at Grandma’s Genes and is a WikiTree volunteer (not to mention MitoY DNA.) Amy couldn’t stay for the presentation, so of course, I picked on her in her absence! I suspect her ears were burning. All in a good way of course.

RootsTech 2020 Kevin Borland

Kevin Borland of Borland Genetics, swabbing at the Family Tree DNA  booth, I hope for The Million Mito Project.

RootsTech 2020 Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz with MyHeritage at the blogger dinner. How about that advertising on his laptop lid. I need to do that with DNAexplain. Wonder where I can get one of those decals custom made.

RootsTech 2020 Hasani

Hasani Carter who I know from Facebook and who I discovered volunteering in a booth at RootsTech. I love to see younger people getting involved and to meet people in person. Love your dreads, Hasani.

RootsTech 2020 Randy Seaver

Cousin Randy Seaver who writes at Genea-Musings, daily, and has for YEARS. Believe it or not, he has published more than 13,000 articles, according to the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Dear Myrtle at RootsTech. What an incredible legacy.

If you don’t already subscribe (it’s free), you’re missing out. By the way, I discovered Randy was my cousin when I read one of his 52 Ancestors articles, recognizing that his ancestor and my ancestor had the same surname in the same place. He knew the connection. Those articles really work. Thanks Randy – it was so good to see you again.

RootsTech 2020 univ dundee

The University of Dundee booth, with Sylvia Valentine and Pat Whatley, was really fun.  As part of their history and genealogy curriculum (you an earn certificates, bachelors and masters degrees,) they teach paleography, which, in case you are unaware is the official word for deciphering “ancient handwriting.” You didn’t know that’s what you’d been doing did you?

RootsTech 2020 paleography

They provided ink and quills for people to try their own hand.

RootsTech 2020 Paleography 2

The end of the feather quill pen is uneven and scratchy. Pieces separate and splatter ink. You can’t “write,” you draw the letters very, very carefully and slowly. I must say, my “signature” is more legible than normal.

Rootstech 2020 scribe

I now have a lot more empathy for those scribes. It’s probably a good thing that early records are no worse than they are.

RootsTech 2020 Gilad Japhet

Gilad Japhet at the MyHeritage luncheon. I have attended other vendor sponsored (but paid by the attendee) lunches at RootsTech in the past and found them disappointing, especially for the cost. Now MyHeritage is the only sponsored lunch that I attend and I always enjoy it immensely. Yes, I arrived early and sat dead center in front.

I also have a confession to make – I was so very excited about being contacted by Mary Tan Hai’s son that I was finishing colorizing the photos part of the time while Gilad was talking. (I did warn him so he didn’t think I was being rude.) But it’s HIS fault because he made these doggone photos so wonderful – and let’s just say time was short to get the photos to Mary’s family. You can read this amazing story, here.

Gilad always shares part of his own personal family story, and this time was no different. He shared that his mother is turning 85 soon and that the family, meaning her children and grandchildren all teamed up to make her a lovely video. Trust me, it was and made us all smile.

I’m so grateful for a genealogy company run by a genealogist. Speaking of that, Gilad’s mother was a MyHeritage board member in the beginning. That beginning also included a story about how the MyHeritage name came to be, and how Gilad managed to purchase the domain for an unwilling seller. Once again, by proxy, his mother entered into the picture. If you have the opportunity to hear Gilad speak – do – you won’t be disappointed. You’ll hear him speak for sure if you attend MyHeritage LIVE in Tel Aviv this October.

RootsTech 2020 Paul Woodbury

Paul Woodbury who works for Legacy Tree Genealogists, has a degree in both family history and genetics from BYU. He’s standing with Scott Fisher (left). Paul’s an excellent researcher and the only way you can put him to work on your brick wall is through Legacy Tree Genealogists. If you contact them for a quote, tell them I referred you for a $50 discount.

Rootstech 2020 Toolmaker meetup

From The ToolMaker’s Meetup, at far left, Jonny Pearl of DNAPainter, behind me, Dana Leeds who created The Leeds Method, and at right, Rob Warthen, the man behind DNAGedcom. Thanks to Michelle Patient for the photo.

RootsTech 2020 Toolmaker meetup 2

The meetup was well received and afforded people an opportunity to meet and greet, ask questions and provide input.

RootsTech 2020 Campbell baby

In fact, we’re working on recruiting the next generation. I have to say, my “grandma” kicked in and I desperately wanted to hold this beautiful baby girl. What a lovely family. Of course, when I noticed the family name is Campbell, we had a discussion of a different nature, especially since my cousin, Kevin Campbell and I were getting ready to have lunch. We will soon find out if Heidi’s husband is our relative, which makes her and her daughter our relative too!

Rootstech 2020 Kevin Campbell

It was so much fun to sit and develop a research plan with Kevin Campbell. We’re related, somehow on the Campbell line – we just have to sort out when and where.

Bless Your Heart

The photo I cherish most from RootsTech 2020 is the one that’s not pictured here.

A very special gentleman told me, when I asked if we could take a picture together, after he paid me the lovely compliment of saying that my session was the best one he had ever attended, that he doesn’t “do pictures.” Not in years, literally. I thought he was kidding at first, but he was deadly seriously.

The next day, I saw him again a couple of times and we shares stories. Our lives are very different, yet they still intersected in amazing ways. I feel like I’ve known him forever.

Then on the last day, he attended my Million Mito presentation and afterwards came up and told me a new story. How he had changed his mind, and what prompted the change of heart. Now we have a wonderful, lovely photo together which I will cherish all the more because I know how special it is – and how wonderful that makes me feel.

To my friend – you know who you are – thank you! You have blessed my heart. Bless yours😊

The Show Floor

I think I actually got all the way through the show floor, but I’m not positive. In some cases, the “rows” weren’t straight or had dead ends due to large booths, and it was possible to miss an area. I didn’t get to every booth I wanted to. Some were busy, some I simply forgot to take photos.

RootsTech 2020 everything

You can literally find almost anything.

I focused on booths related to genetic genealogy, but not exclusively.

RootsTech 2020 DNAPainter

Jonny Perl and the DNAPainter booth. I’ve written lots of articles, here, about using DNAPainter, one of my very favorite tools.

RootsTech 2020 Rootstech store

The RootsTech store was doing a brisk business.

RootsTech 2020 DNA basics

The RootsTech show area itself had a DNA Basics area which I thought was brilliant in its simplicity.

Inheritance is show by jellybeans.

Rootstech 2020 dNA beans

Put a cup under the outlet and pull the lever.

Rootstech 2020 beans in cup

How many of which color you receive in your cup is random, although you get exactly the same number from the maternal and paternal side.

Now you know I wanted to count these, don’t you?

Rootstech 2020 JellyGenes

And they are of course, called, “JellyGenes.” Those must be deletions still laying in the bin.

RootsTech 2020 Wikitree

WikiTree booth and volunteers. I love WikiTree – it’s “one great tree” is not perfect but these are the people, along with countless others that inject the “quality” into the process.

RootsTech 2020 MitoYDNA

MitoYDNA with Kevin Borland standing in front of the sign.

RootsTech 2020 Crossley

This amazing artist whose name I didn’t get. I was just so struck by her work, painting her ancestor from the picture on her phone.

RootsTech 2020 painter

I wish I was this talented. I would love to have some of my ancestor’s painted. Hmm….

Rootstech 2020 GeneaCreations

Jeanette at GeneaCreations makes double helix zipper pulls, along with lots of other DNA bling, and things not so blingy for men. These are just SOOO cool.

RootsTech 2020 zipper pull

I particularly love my “What’s Your Haplogroup” t-shirt and my own haplogroup t-shirt. Yes, she does custom work. What’s your haplogroup? You can see those goodies here.

Around the corner, I found CelebrateDNA.

RootsTech 2020 Celebrate DNA

Is that a Viking wearing a DNA t-shirt?

Rootstech 2020 day of the dead

CelebrateDNA has some very cool “Day of the Dead” bags, t-shirts and mouse pads, in addition to their other DNA t-shirts. I bought an “Every day is Day of the Dead for Genealogists” mouse pad which will live permanently in my technology travel bag. You can see their other goodies, here.

RootsTech 2020 skeleton

Hey, I think I found a relative. Can we DNA test to see?

Rootstech 2020 Mayflower replica

The Mayflower Society had a fun booth with a replica model ship.

RootsTech 2020 Mayflower passengers

Along with the list of passengers perched on a barrel of the type that likely held food or water for the Pilgrims.

RootsTech 2020 Webinar Marathon

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is going to have a 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon March 12-13. So, who is going to stay up for this?Iit’s free and just take a look at the speakers, and topics, here. I’m guessing lots of people will take advantage of this opportunity. You can also subscribe for more webinars, here.

On March 4th, I’m presenting a FREE webinar, “3 Genealogy DNA Case Studies and How I Solved Them,” so sign up and join in!

Rootstech 2020 street art

Food at RootsTech falls into two categories. Anything purchased in the convention center meaning something to stave off starvation, and some restaurant with friends – the emphasis being on friends.

A small group went for pizza one evening when we were too exhausted to do anything else. Outside I found this interesting street art – and inside Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana I had the best Margarita Pizza I think I’ve ever had.

Then, as if I wasn’t already stuffed to the gills, attached through a doorway in the wall is Capo Gelateria Italiana, creators of artisan gelato. I’ve died and gone to heaven. Seriously, it’s a good thing I don’t live here.

Rootstech 2020 gelatto

Who says you can’t eat ice cold gelato in the dead of winter, outside waiting for the Uber, even if your insides are literally shivering and shaking!! It was that good.

This absolutely MUST BE a RootsTech tradition.

Rootstech 2020 ribbons

That’s it for RootsTech 2020. Hope you’ve enjoyed coming along on this virtual journey and that you’ve found something interesting, perhaps a new hint or tool to utilize.



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Second Sleep, the Rodent and Jewelry

Some stories are difficult to tell, well, at least without giving away all of the family scuttlebutt, secrets and airing dirty laundry.  But, I’m going to give this one a shot.  However, it’s one of those “long way around the block” stories, so here’s the get-your-cup-of-creamed-tea warning.

Oh, yes, and there’s another warning too…this is one of those husband-wife kinds of stories.  And believe it or not, there is DNA in here, eventually, but nothing at all like you would ever expect. I guarantee that!  And no scrolling ahead either.  Just enjoy the story.  It’s full of surprises with a couple twists along the way!

miss trouble copy

Since I’ve invited all of you along on the trip to the British Isles, you all know that Jim, my husband, was along with me.  If you recall, our original goal was to visit Lancashire, land of the Speak family, and the trip itself grew from that week into a month.  We added a few days onto the front of the trip in London.  Jim had never been to London.  I had been there, but it was long ago as a student and most of my memories….well…never mind about that.

I actually searched through my old photos to see if there is one of me in London in 1970 to share with you, but unfortunately, I’m not actually in any of my photos from that trip.  I’m taking the photos and in retrospect, I wish I had understood photography basics at that time.  Let’s just say I have a lot of out of focus pictures of the backs of people in front of buildings that I can’t identify, and pigeons, lots of pigeons.

London pigeons

In any event, before Jim and I left for the British Isles, we scheduled our time and our transportation and pretty much knew what we were going to be doing when, more or less.  Neither Jim nor I are strangers to travel, so we know enough to plan generally and to leave enough flexibility to adapt to local circumstances.  For example, some years back, we discovered in Vancouver that one city tour picked up at our hotel, where the others didn’t.  But we didn’t discover that until we asked at the hotel, so we were glad we hadn’t prebooked and prepaid.

Our London itinerary that we so carefully planned around 2.5 precious days looked like this:

  • Day 1 – arrival and half day historic tour including the Tower of London and possibly the Science Museum
  • Day 2 – full day tour of London or Stonehenge, depending on weather
  • Day 3 – full day tour of whichever one we didn’t do on day 2
  • Day 4 – leave bright and early with our family group for the Lancashire part of the journey

Please notice that there is no spare time in this schedule, no spare half day, and both day 2 and day 3 are kind of an all or nothing thing.  In other words, you either go on the tour or you don’t, there is no half-day option.  This will become important in a little bit.

And if you’ll remember, Day 1 did not go well, or at least not as planned.  That’s the day I learned to swear in Brit….Bloody Hell….and we wound up staying in a very small, very expensive room in a hotel with no air conditioning, (because we had no reservation in the hotel where we were supposed to be staying) in a heat wave.  We not-so-affectionately called this hotel the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.  Just to set the scene for you.

On the evening of Day 1, after our delightful impromptu afternoon tour with Said, our chauffeur, I fell asleep about 8 PM, which is unheard of for me.  I’m a night owl.  The red-eye from the night before just wiped me out.

Now, keep in mind we are sleeping in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.  It’s hot and very close as the room is very small – like 18 inches of clearance around the bed small.  No AC but we have a fan that helps a little.  I didn’t care, I was exhausted.  Oh, there is also no bedside clock either.

So I fell into a dead sleep and woke up quite refreshed.  There is one window, with a light blocking curtain.  It appeared to be dark outside.  I got up and fumbled around since I didn’t want to wake Jim up by turning on a light.  By the time I found my phone, and discovered it was about 1 AM, London time, I was wide awake.

Now my cousin, Elaine, a historian, is probably laughing heartily now, because she identified this concept as that of “second sleep.”  It turns out that our ancestors all slept in two shifts. They would sleep for 3 or 4 hours, get up for awhile and do things like write letters, or make babies, and then go back to sleep for 3 or 4 more hours.

So, I had in advertently instituted the concept of second sleep.  The problem is, Jim didn’t know about second sleep.

I was also hungry and managed to grope around in the dark and find a bag of trail mix. I was quite proud of myself for not having to turn on one of our two light bulbs in the Kenner Easy Bake Oven.

About 2:30 AM, Jim wakes up.  Not entirely, just a little, and hears something.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Jim thinks, “Oh Heavens, that’s a huge rodent.”

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

”Really huge.”

Click, click, click.

”The rodent is typing?”  ”Huh???”


Now mind you, he wasn’t concerned about me – he wanted ME to go and take care of the rodent problem.  Sigh.

He was quite startled by the crunching, clicking rodent and by then he was awake too.  I explained to him about second sleep but he was a skeptic and gave me “that look.”  So, as long as he was up anyway, I asked him to help me upload photos from the camera since I was working on his MAC and not a PC.  For some reason, being the middle of the night, he had an issue with this but since we were in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven and he couldn’t sleep either, he did help me.

After that, maybe about 4 AM, he starting using words like “crazy” and started singing “lunatic” songs, which made me laugh.  No, not just laugh, but laugh like the crazy woman I obviously am.  Somehow the sheer lunacy of being in a tiny very hot room in London wide awake in the middle of the night and Jim’s large rodent seemed utterly hilarious. His last words to me before we finally fell asleep after laughing ourselves into hysterical tears was “If you tell me you’re tired tomorrow I’m going to beat you with an organic carrot.”

The next morning, he woke me up about 8:30 to get ready to go on the Stonehenge tour, and I really didn’t want to get up, so I groaned, rolled over, and said “I’m tired” and the peals of laughter began all over again…..

I will share the very special story of Stonehenge with you in a few days.

Stonehenge Jim and I

Stonehenge closeup

On the way back from Stonehenge, a 2 hour ride on the bus, we started to discuss the itinerary for Day 3, and then Jim started to do “the husband thing.”

Yes, that husband thing.  They all do it, but each one has their own style.

It’s what they do when they know they are about to be in trouble, that’s Big Trouble or maybe even BIG TROUBLE.  When they are at the point where they have to fess up.  In Jim’s case, he generally mutters and pretends that he told me something already, and then acts offended that I didn’t remember.

Now keep in mind that we had very carefully discussed and planned our 2.5 days in London…for weeks…and that after arrival, on Day 1, we decided on which day to visit Stonehenge and which day to do the London city tour.

So, here’s how the conversation went.

Jim – “I think we should leave for the tour tomorrow a little later.”

Roberta – “What do you mean by ‘a little later?’”

Jim – “Like late morning, around lunch time.”

Roberta – “Why would we do that and how can we?  The tour leaves in the morning.”

Jim, barely audible – “Because I have that appointment in the morning.”

Roberta – “What appointment?”

An appointment?  What appointment?  Jim doesn’t know anyone in London.  How the Bloody Hell can he have an appointment?  And it just came up in the last day, while he’s been on vacation, since we last discussed this?  I’ll just leave the conversation above, at this point, for the sake of decency.  Let’s just say, it was headed in a downward spiral and I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.

It seems that one of Jim’s international customers had an office in London, or so he claims, and Jim saw the opportunity to be a hero by “sacrificing” one of his vacation days and calling on said customer to “explain something.”  Well, of course, that’s not how Jim phrased it.  His version included the words “had to” and “salary continuation plan,” but I know Jim.

Did I mention that I was doing a daily family blog, for the kids, my quilt sisters and cousins to keep up with our great adventure?  I also find that blogging, which is really, in the case of my “Journeys” blog, shared journaling, makes it much easier to organize photos later too, as we upload them daily to a file folder and I select from them as I write the blog.  The biggest challenge is getting a signal and bandwidth to post the blog as we travel, but I digress.

Let me share with you the family blog from Night 2.  It was a little different that the one from the night before which included the hysterical laughter episode.  Let’s just say that the only people laughing about Night 2 were the readers…

“Hmmm, Jim is asleep and I’m obviously not.  Now Jim is also in trouble.

Jim made a customer appointment for tomorrow morning.  I can hear you now….”he didn’t!”  Yes, he did…and yes, without talking to me about it.  We only had 2 full days here and he took the morning of one of the days so that means we can’t do a full day tour tomorrow.  Well, I could, but the problem is that because of the hotel booking screw-up, we have to move hotels in the AM and I am NOT dragging all of his luggage plus mine to another hotel several blocks away.  I mean, his main suitcase alone is over 50 pounds, and full of electronic gadgets.  It would take me several trips like a Mama cat moving her litter to move all this luggage. So, he’ll just have to come back here and retrieve his mad-as-a-wet-hen wife in the lobby sitting and waiting with all of the luggage because it’s after checkout, even after late checkout.  No, the appointment was NOT first thing in the AM. Yes he’s in a lot of hot water which makes this Kenner Easy Bake room seem cool by comparison.

So, all things considered, would it be terribly evil of me to turn off the light, get the trail mix, sit down on the floor beside the bed where he is sleeping….and crunch??????”

Suffice it to say that Jim was lucky that he wasn’t sleeping on the only couch in the place which was located in the lobby.  But regardless, I was really steamed, and not just because I was sleeping in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.

Now, if you’re a female, right about now, you’re probably shrieking, “He WHAT?????” and if you’re a male, you’ve just dropped your head into your hands and you’re shaking your head and groaning, “Oh no,” because you know what’s coming.

Now in Jim’s guy-brain, it would just all be OK because I would just stay in the hotel, with the luggage, and wait for him and we’d go on the tour later.  No problem.

Well, we have two huge problems, aside from the mad-as-a-wet-hen wife problem.

Problem one is that you can’t just leave later on the tour, so in essence he was going to ruin the entire day for both of us, more than one third of our time in London.  I would have gone without him, except I couldn’t because of problem two.

Problem two is that this was the day we had to check out of the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven by 11 AM and return to the hotel where we were supposed to be staying and where we were meeting the rest of our tour group.  Unfortunately, check-in there wasn’t until 3:30.  I told the gal at the front desk the situation, and after she stopped laughing, she said that I could extend the checkout until noon, but beyond that, I’d just have to bring my stuff to the lobby and sit there and wait, or haul all of our luggage, a month’s worth for 2 people, by myself, to the other hotel, where I could sit in their lobby and wait until check-in time.

Now, the good news….the lobby was air conditioned.

The bad news….Jim didn’t know what time he was actually going to be back.

The morning of Day 3 wasn’t fun no matter how you paint it.  Jim left early to deal with transportation issues.  I got up and packed both of our luggage, ate breakfast and then moved to the lobby and made myself a nest on the couch.

luggage in lobby

When I was arranging for late checkout and then checking out, I had to explain to the gal on the desk about why – especially when I had the same credit card but a different name entirely.  When I explained the situation, she said, “Well Honey, you have his credit card. You just put your luggage back here behind the counter and I’ll keep it safe until he gets back.  I’ll call you a taxi and I know a wonderful jewelry store.  You can shop until time to check in at the other hotel.”

I thought about this, then asked, “But how would I know when Jim got back?” and she said, “I’ll call you….no better yet…I’ll just call the taxi driver….and I’ll tell your husband exactly where you are and what you are doing.”  And she smiled a very big smile.  I really, really like this gal.  I’m sure that back somewhere in time, we’re related!  We obviously share the jewelry gene.

Now for a minute, I did consider that.  I seems like SUCH a good idea.  I even considered just faking it to see Jim’s face.  Seemed like a Kodak moment just waiting to happen.  But in the end I just went and sat on the couch.  I really did not want to escalate this little “tiff” into a war….so I waited, and waited, and waited….and I thought about calling Said but then I would have had to admit to Said what boneheaded thing Jim had done….and then Said would have had to deal with all of that luggage…if he was even available.  Plus, Jim had, inadvertently I think, taken most of the British cash.  So instead, I stood outside within sight of the luggage and took a picture of the tile sidewalk that looked like a quilt, and then I sat in the lobby, feeling quite abandoned, and stewed…and read a book…and waited.  At least it was air conditioned and it was a good book.

London tiles cropped

When Jim finally returned, late, sometime after lunch, which he had eaten and I hadn’t because I couldn’t leave the %#@*^ luggage, we moved to the hotel where we were supposed to be originally.  After we checked in, we then verified that it was too late to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour, and that’s when we decided to walk to the Science Museum.  We enjoyed the Science Museum, especially seeing the double helix model.  I’ve already shared that with you…but you didn’t know the back story then.

But just for good measure, obviously in a moment of fleeting insanity, Jim immortalized the non-event and took a picture of me pointing to the tour at the Hop-On location that we walked right past, but were too late to take!  Yep, that’s the red bus we weren’t on, right on that poster!

tour we didn't do

That evening, we met the tour group that included my cousins and went to the tavern and ate fish and chips…what else, and spotted dick.  I was almost over being mad at Jim, almost, when I discovered two things as he visited with my cousins.

First, he had showed his customers my family blog entry about him being in trouble.  I guess he was, or maybe he wasn’t, amused.  I don’t know which and it didn’t matter.  I’m not sure whether he was trying to engender sympathy or show his corporate dedication, but suffice it to say that the female account rep offered to give me the addresses of “good” London jewelry stores.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for Jim, we were headed out of London.

Second, and this is what sealed his fate…he replied to my family blog with a comment….and this is what he said, waxing philosophic.

“It would be impossible to plead my case here, so I will not even make any attempt to. Perhaps it is best to simply say that sometimes the most difficult of situations makes for the best of possibilities overall.

I am also confident that jewelry may salve the wounds of a few lost hours of vacation time.

Life is an unscripted journey, and without a few detours or speed bumps, where would the fun be?”

I was so mad I was making up my own swear words…kind of like Bill Cosby who got so exasperated in his old “Himself” series of stand-up comedy videos that he couldn’t even talk without stammering and sputtering.

By now, both men and women are probably groaning and saying, “Oh no.  Someone take that man’s shovel away from him cause the hole he’s digging is just getting deeper and deeper.”

Well, yes and no.

You see, as it turns out, Jim was, um….er… r, i, g, h, t.  This is probably the only time I’ll ever say thatlemon, and publicly, no less, but it turned out that he was right.  Yes, seriously.  Hey, when you’ve got a lemon this big you have no choice but to make lemonade cause it’s too sour to eat and too heavy to carry around!

Well, truth be told, by now Jim is probably regretting being right, because, you see, it led to innovation, reinvention, metamorphosis and of course…you know what’s coming… jewelry.

I spent the entire rest of the trip looking for jewelry….because he, most assuredly owed me, big time, and being a wife, I had a certain wifely obligation to not let that opportunity go unfulfilled.  Kind of like the time he accidentally spent a bunch of money in the casino on a cruise, way more than he intended….he came back to the room with jewelry.  He may be a guy…but he is not dumb.  That jewelry made me forget entirely about his casino tab!!!  I mean at that point, there is nothing you can do about the tab so might as well enjoy the jewelry!

I told Jim this was my DNA trip so my new jewelry was going to be my DNA jewelry. But I never found any jewelry that I liked, and I certainly found nothing that reminded me in any way of DNA.  I was disappointed, to say the least.  Free ticket to jewelry and I can’t even find any to purchase.

So, I told Jim, I’m just going to have to design it myself.  A look of horror shot across his face.

By this time, Jim was actually actively encouraging me to buy something, anything, to settle the debt.Claddaugh ring

“Here, don’t’ you like this?  Look, a Claddaugh ring with a green stone.  How about this?”


“How about this red bus charm?  Reminds me of the London busses.” red bus charm

“No, not that one either!  Reminds me of the tour we didn’t get to go on.”

And so it went.  I think he was getting frightened.  I think maybe he realized, all too late, just how much trouble he was really in.  Ah, the cost of being right.

But I found no jewelry.  This jewelry had to be special jewelry.  Really special jewelry.  Worth-a-day-in-London and being-abandoned-in-the-Kenner’s-Easy-Bake-Oven-hotel-lobby special jewelry.  The more I thought about it, I really did want DNA jewelry.  What started as a half-joke meant to be a cute throw-away comment became an inspiration and grew on me.  So I googled, and nothing…no DNA jewelry, or none that I wanted.

So, I came home and set about designing my own, with my long-time trusty family jeweler, Al Hummer of Ore Creek Custom Jewelry.  He made our wedding set years ago, and since then, those of several friends and family members too.  And better yet, I took some older jewelry I had and rebirthed it, kind of like DNA, recombined it and gave it some mutations. Oh, no, not my wedding set.  I wasn’t THAT mad at Jim.  The new DNA ring was ready the week before Christmas.  Amazing, the timing of that…and the necklace and earrings will be finished after New Year’s.

It’s actually going to be a new custom jewelry line, called the Helix line, and it’s beautiful….stunning…fitting of the DNA legacy and helix name.  We’ve already designed a second helix inspired set too that will be available in the spring of 2014.  Maybe by Valentine’s Day!  What timing!

So yes, this will be available for everyone, not just me.

But I can’t tell you any more until the line is finished, the before and after pictures of the rebirthed jewelry taken and the professional photography of the Helix pieces completed.

What, you want a sneak peek?  Well, OK, but just one, and don’t tell Al that I let you peek, because he wants the new line to be just perfect and make a splash in the jewelry and DNA world.  He’d be mortified at my own “DNA ring selfie” picture.

See the helix?  I’ll tell you all about the process later.  It’s been wonderfully fun and it’s full of personal significance, just like our DNA!

DNA Ring

Oh, and what about Jim you ask?  I bet he’ll never say anything like that again.  I mean, the man in essence gave me a blank check, obviously in a fit of macho bravado…in writing…with witnesses.  I mean, how does it get better than that?  I’d have to get Judy Russell’s opinion of course, but IMHO, that was a binding contract.  I guess that is the price of being right!  And he was.  Jewelry is salving the wound, every single day.  Right this minute in fact.  That “hiccup” led to the birth a wonderfully innovative and transformative jewelry line.  Who knew?  Sometimes opportunity knocks in mysterious ways, wearing work clothes, or maybe in the forsaken lobby of the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven hotel in London.

After all, as Jim said, life is an unscripted journey, and without a few detours or speed bumps, where would the fun be?”  Sometimes the blessings and the successes are in the detours.  I’m always reminded that Thomas Edison’s first 99 light bulbs were “failures,” or experiments, or as I’d prefer to call them, “learning experiences,” but no one knows about those.  Number 100 couldn’t have happened without 1-99, but it’s only number 100 that counts and is remembered today!

So now, when we announce the Helix line sometime in early 2014, you’ll know at least part of the rest of the story.  And yes, of course, there’s more…;)



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