Of Moms and Mitochondrial DNA

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY – to my mom and all the other moms out there…

Mom & mule 800wI’ve known my mom for a long time. (my whole life) She’s always been an inspiration with her “can do” attitude. There was no task that could not be accomplished with perseverance and hard work. Now that she and dad are retired, she’s applied that same philosophy to having fun and adventure. They set off across the country in 60+ year old cars. They climb to the top of Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia (gasp) and they ride mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The old car stuff is pretty much dad’s idea, but the mule ride was something mom always wanted to do. So, she booked the trip, and they did it. For those of you who don’t know about this ride, it involves riding mules on skinny trails next to steep cliffs with deadly drop-offs. And riding on a wooden suspension bridge that goes waaaayyy across – a huge distance above a river (and lots of sharp rocks). The fact that they’ve “never lost a rider” would be little consolation to my very much afraid of heights brain. But they survived, and had a very good time, too. I am flattered that she chose HoofPrints’ Tao of Equus jacket to wear on such a memorable trip.

Gina and MomI searched my photo archives and found scant few of mom and I together – because whenever we are together, at least one if us is always manning the camera. This one was taken a few years ago at Carhenge in Nebraska. Mom is the original photo-archivist in our family; she’s always there snapping pictures to document every event – large or small. One of the best gifts I have EVER received in my life, bar none, is the scrapbook she presented to me as a college graduation gift. It was chronologically arranged, from my birth through all my school years, and finally college. Most of the photos had horses, and there were lots of newspaper clippings of 4-H accomplishments and what-not. Little mementos that didn’t seem like they should be important enough to even save, suddenly became part of a cohesive story that documented my life from birth, until that day. What a wonderful treasure – a visual spark for hundreds of small memories that otherwise would have been forgotten. Thanks Mom!

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The fun graphic pictured here is by an unknown artist. It first appeared on etsy, but is now marked unavailable. Apparently I am not the only one who enjoyed the genetics reference, as it’s shared all over the internet by other folks who feel the same way.

Mother’s Day also marks the anniversary of my grandmother’s death on Mother’s Day weekend, 2009. My grandma (more about her below) was one of the strongest women I ever knew, she was a hard worker, enterprising, and smart. She lived her life to it’s fullest, right up til the end, even when her aging body was failing her spirit was strong.

Noted women’s health doctor Christiane Northrup speaks of mother-daughter wisdom, and the role of mitochondrial DNA. Forgive my wretchedly simplified unscientific explanation: mtDNA is essentially your cells’ mechanism by which food is converted to energy. Your ability to take a little fuel and keep going, your guts and fortitude, so to speak. The fascinating thing about this DNA is that it only is passed from mother to daughter. Not one bit of mitochondrial genetic material is inherited from the father. This explains perfectly, now, why horse breeders of old placed such value on the tail-female line, and why the mares (mothers) were so prized.

So, I hope that I can live up to the legacy of the mothers that came before me. I am just not quite ready to ride a strange mule along the side of a cliff to the bottom of a rocky canyon. But maybe someday I will… My riding adventures these days look a little more like this – French & Saunders are a comedy duo from the UK. Check out this spot featuring two women and their horses here.

Family Favorites for Newsletter
Shown here is Family Favorites, a sweet picture by famed Victorian artist Arthur Elsley. I have both framed and unframed versions of this 16″x20″ print available here.

The Saint Bernard is an old breed of Swiss origin used for three centuries of rescue work at the famous Hospice in the Swiss Alps. They are credited with saving thousands of lives.* The dogs’ highly developed sense of smell made them ideal for locating people lost during snowstorms. (More info at AKC’s website here)

My grandparents raised these big dogs, so my early childhood memories always included having lots of puppies to play with. Grandma kept all the correspondence with the owners of their puppies, and in going through the boxes of pedigrees, letters and photographs, I came upon some documents that surprised me; my grandmother’s advertising copy. In spite of a college degree in marketing, I have written promotional copy badly for many years, and somewhat better (hopefully) for the last few… Grandma was a rural Indiana farm woman; she raised 3 children, ran a small dairy on their farm, and nurtured up countless baby orphans of all species. The promotional copy she wrote nearly 50 years ago – for the purebred Saint Bernard puppies they had for sale is informative, confident and sincere. With no formal training she wrote with a high level of polish and professionalism – something that I have worked on for over half my life, and still struggle with.

Here’s a snippet from a letter she sent to purchasers of her puppies:

“Take your Saint through obedience school if at all possible, and then when you start to show it, you’ll have a dog that will obey and understand what is going on. Not everyone that enters a dog show takes home the ribbons, but if your dog has behaved in the ring you’ll be surprised to know how many others have noticed this and admired it, and many will compliment you on your dog’s behavior. You’ll leave that ring, maybe not with the ribbon, but with a lot of pride in your heart and a true sense of accomplishment.” (this is great advice for anyone showing dogs or horses! Way to go, Grandma!)

My maternal grandmother, Goldie Masters, embodied this anonymous quote - touching hearts and souls of everyone that met her. Here she is with my son Jordan when he was a little boy.
My maternal grandmother, Goldie Masters, embodied this anonymous quote – touching hearts and souls of everyone that met her. Here she is with my son Jordan when he was a little boy.

*With all that said, the Saint Bernard is not a breed for everyone. They slobber, shed, and need good training and socialization. They’re described as “…willful, stubborn and independent animals who sometimes listen and other times do not.” (more here) As you can imagine, 150+ pounds of “doesn’t listen” often lands these dogs in shelters. One of my favorite rescue groups that I follow on Facebook is Big Fluffy Dog Rescue. At first blush, the name is, well, “fluffy” and doesn’t sound very serious. However, these folks really have their act together. They are working with placing huge breeds (Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands and their mixes) in good homes. This may be a 200 pound dog that can (and will) drag a person or barge over them because no one ever taught them not to. With all that hair can also come skin problems. Super size skin problems. And scary sounding orthopedic issues with names like luxating patellas… You get the idea. They tackle these issues full steam ahead and keep their eyes on the goal – and they are having success – as evidenced by the 437,000+ fans supporting them. Anyway, even if you’re not in the market for a Big Fluffy Dog, you’ll enjoy the “resumes” of the available dogs on their Facebook page. The admins for the page do an excellent job of marketing these dogs in an informative, truthful, and entertaining way.

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