Genetic Counselors...more about the retreat just for you...

I spent some time cleaning out piles of papers on my desk last week and came across a page upon which I had scribbled my New Years Goals for 2019. What a surprise! I forgot I made them. How had I done with meeting my goals in the first ten months of the year?


A quick review led me to see I had done pretty well with some of them (numbers 1 and 2, check!). But I had totally forgotten I made myself goals to drink more water and turn off the phone and confront the ever-present dishes in the sink a bit better. Those were good goals but had been fully ignored!

Finding this list was a reminder to me that meeting goals we set for ourselves requires two things:

  1. figuring out what they are

  2. reminding ourselves of them over and over and over again

In other words, achieving our goals requires both time for creation and commitment.

Sometimes we lose track of a goal because other things take precedence. We might realize with time that our goals have changed as life has marched on. We might even discover that a goal we set for ourselves was one that someone else set for us rather than it being driven from within.

I drank more water and less coffee today. It was a small step that made me feel like I was back on track, listening to my wiser self. If I hadn’t found that sheet of paper on my desk, I would have forgotten that I have both things to celebrate (I published a book in 2019!) and things on which to keep working.

All of this is a reminder that taking time to think about your goals is worth it. For my genetic counselor colleagues who are stretched thin by professional and home demands, I’ve been there. I know what you’re going through. And you are worth it.

If you haven’t heard about the retreat yet, head on over to the original post that talks about Blue Ridge Retreat for Genetic Counselors.

Here’s the link to request more detailed information: Request More Information

and here’s the link to hold your spot: Reserve My Spot

There’s no guarantee the retreat will come again, and there’s no guarantee the spot Rachel and I have created for you will wait. Today’s the day to plan on an escape from your everyday in May 2020.

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Blue Ridge Retreat for Genetic Counselors 2020 - registration now open!

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So many of us are stretched thin each day.

Whether we are content with our careers or are wishing for something to change, there are Things That Have To Be Done that distract us from making changes that would benefit us and everyone around us. Jobs to show up for, dinners to cook, and relationships to maintain – whether close or distant. Finding the time to shut off our computers and put our phones down - and to think about the future we want to create - can be impossibly difficult with all we juggle.

When I left a secure job at a reliable institution to start a solo specialty practice, I was not sure what the future would hold. It was an idea I had contemplated for two years before I made the leap. The planning and learning it took to be able to set off down an unusual path was spread out over months and years. It had to be done during the tiny bits of freedom I could grab between working a job and caring for a home and a growing family.

I continued showing up for my daily work, trying to bring my best to the team I worked with but continuing to feel like something was off. I had worked so hard to become a Certified Genetic Counselor, yet here I was battling discontent and negativity. I knew I could do good work, fulfilling work even, yet my best qualities and skills had been lost somewhere. The Sunday night dread was terrible. 

I remember thinking, I NEED MORE SPACE TO FIGURE ALL OF THIS OUT. More information would not help me take the next step. I needed to get my head in the right place, find the resolve to make the leap, and do it.

What I needed was dedicated time to work through the internal dialogue and get clear on my needs and goals; I needed to turn off autopilot mode. I now know after having other GCs reach out to me that the struggle I was going through silently was the same struggle others are going through right now.

So I reached out to Orchid Story founder Rachel Nusbaum and asked her to create with me an opportunity that I wish had been available back then. 

The Blue Ridge Retreat for Genetic Counselors will be a chance for you to come together with a small group of other genetic counselors, to work individually, together. To escape from your everyday. To reconnect with your purpose.

Perhaps you feel like there is something you are meant to be doing with your days but have not found your way there yet. Maybe you have a destination in mind, but haven’t had a chance to sketch out the steps you need to take to get there. Perhaps you have considered going back to school for another degree, or are hanging on to a job you don’t love, to push through a few years until you can retire and escape it all.

Rachel is a genetic counselor who also has set off on an unusual path, pursuing a passion to help others find meaning in their life stories by reflecting and writing about them. She and I have created a retreat experience that will allow you to capture time for yourself in a beautiful green space to explore the questions you find yourself asking yourself. 

We have designed the retreat specifically for genetic counselors, with a balance of activities that will challenge you to identify your unique skills and interests while still having space and time to rest and breathe. Although Rachel and I are co-leaders, we’ve been through growth journeys of our own and will be involved throughout the retreat, challenging you and providing encouragement as you move through the activities and experiences we have created for you.

Look ahead to May 2020 and mark your calendars for a weekend that can set you on the path to a future you create.

Here’s the link to request more detailed information: Request More Information

and here’s the link to hold your spot: Reserve My Spot

We wanted this retreat to be small enough for group discussion time, so we have only ten spots available. Is one of those spots for you? Don’t wait! Start creating your future with a time out from everyday life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Research Opportunity: Have you had medical genetic testing after using home DNA tests?

Research Opportunity: Have you had medical genetic testing after using home DNA tests?

If you had genetic testing ordered by a healthcare provider to confirm findings from a home DNA test, researchers at Stanford University would like to learn more about your experience. Find out if you are eligible to participate in a phone interview for the study:

5 Tips for an Adoption-Related Search

5 Tips for an Adoption-Related Search

 Being involved in searches both in my extended family and as a professional working in the genetic genealogy world has brought me into contact with a lot of experiences, opinions, and resources.

Here’s some advice I’ve gathered for those who are considering or already have involved DNA testing in an adoption-related search. Much of what applies to situations of adoptees searching for biological family applies to those conceived by sperm or egg donation, or those who find out their parentage isn’t what they thought (NPEs).

When the DNA match results are wrong

Slate released a story a few days ago that will be a surprise to many readers. Sometimes 23andMe reports an inaccurate DNA relationship between two testers. This revelation will come as a shock to some people but was not to me.

I’m a genetic counselor who specializes in analysis of DNA results from ancestry tests. In my work with clients, I have come across situations of a DNA relationship between two people being reported incorrectly.

Congrats, it’s a (30-year-old) girl!  Suggestions for the newly found biological father

Congrats, it’s a (30-year-old) girl!  Suggestions for the newly found biological father

My guest blogger Molly and her family have been through a stressful time after the discovery of a DNA relative they were unaware existed. Molly’s husband unknowingly fathered a child who is now an adult; a DNA test taken by a relative enabled the discovery.

Molly wanted to share with readers what she has learned from the experience being married to a newly found biodad, to provide for someone else the guidance that she thinks could have benefitted her husband who found himself in entirely uncharted territory.

This blog has been around nearly four years and during that time, dozens of other guest bloggers have talked about various aspects of the NPE/DNA surprise experience. This is the first time we’ve heard from a spouse. Most who have shared so far have been adult adoptees and NPEs. You can read some of those stories here:

Base Pair Richard and Andy

Base Pair Richard and Andy

My next Base Pair is one of the most fun couples I’ve dined with while on the road for work/at genetics conferences. William A. Faucett (who goes by Andy) and his husband Richard Fogaley are partners in life, and for many years, they also were partners at work.

Here are some fun facts about my connections to this Base Pair: Andy was my boss when I was employed at Geisinger as part of the NIH ClinGen project (Poor Andy! I can’t imagine trying to manage me!). And I once wrote and performed a ukulele song about Richard at a company holiday party.

Oh, the stories I could tell from those two short years at Geisinger. They were tough, they were memorable, and they created some (hopefully) lifelong friendships that I maintain with other Geisinger colleagues to this day, these two and more.

Meet the next Base Pair, Andy and Richard. I feel lucky to know them! Feel free to post them a message of well-wishes in the comments box below as they prepare for new adventures in 2020!

GSA video on YouTube

GSA video on YouTube

There isn’t much available to read online (or in books for that matter) about Genetic Sexual Attraction, a topic I have written a post about in the past. As a genetic counselor working with people who have gotten surprise DNA results and are reuniting with biological family (whom they might have or have not known existed previously), this topic comes up in conversations. I know that there is more interest and curiosity to understand ‘what is going on’ in those with whom I do not cross paths.

Research Opportunity for DNA Testers

Research Opportunity for DNA Testers

If you have not yet tested, but are getting ready to, the UBC Genetic Connections Study would like you to participate in their study. They will follow your experience before and after your results come back. Website:

Elle and Ashley - the Base Pair that podcasts together

Elle and Ashley - the Base Pair that podcasts together

The next Base Pair comes from all the way from around the world (and down-under!). Elle and Ashley are a pair of Australian genetic counselors (counsellors) who teamed up to create a podcast. I’ve enjoyed listening to their episodes, and I can’t stop thinking about the ethical issues discussed in one early episode about the uncovering of spousal abuse and a non-paternity situation after the DNA testing of a minor child in genetics clinic. The work that genetic counselors do is so challenging sometimes. I wanted to learn more about the origins of the GC Chat podcast and invited Elle and Ashley to be the next Base Pair. Hope you enjoy reading about it! -Brianne

Umbilical Cord Blood Donation and Ancestry Testing

Umbilical cord blood donation allows a type of stem cell transplant. This is my third post specifically about stem cell transplants and ancestry testing and it’s the first that focuses specifically on umbilical cord blood. You can read the first two about a case of bone marrow transplantation affecting an ancestry test result and how to try to go about DNA testing if you have already received a stem cell donation: