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Your Roots Determine Your Fruits

Yesterday, I saw my family for the first time in months. As always, I was thrilled to see them, hear about what they’ve been up to in person as opposed to over the phone, and see first hand just how much my niece and nephew have both matured over the last 9 months. Although I’m kind of used to being away from them for extended periods of time, this time was particularly hard, not only because I was in a whole different country, but also because as newlyweds, my husband and I want to spend as much time with our families as possible as we transition to this new chapter in our lives together and prepare to start our own family in the (distant) future. It really is true that your roots determine your fruits, and we have both been increasingly interested in our families’ histories and how our legacies will impact our marriage and our potential life as parents someday.

While I was in Italy, I created a genogram. A genogram is in essence a map of family relationships including important information about each member. Starting with my grandparents on each side, I delved into the relationships and events that have shaped me as a person. In family counseling, genograms are important because, generally speaking, family patterns repeat themselves across generations. A genogram can be used to help an individual understand him or herself in a multigenerational context, understand the impact that culture and historical events had on his or her upbringing, and recognize family life cycle and intergenerational issues. Overall, creating my family’s genogram helped me to realize several things to keep in mind as I try to better myself spiritually, personally, and professionally.

Sample Genogram; Photo from

While making my genogram, it became apparent to me that I must be extremely careful about diet and exercise to ensure that I stay as healthy as possible. Many members of my family have struggled with (and passed away from) issues regarding heart disease and high blood pressure. Realizing this motivated me even more to take care of myself, eat right, and workout on a regular basis. One key pattern that emerged in my genogram was that relationships among women are cherished in my family. Because of my paternal grandmother’s influence, the women in my family are extremely close to one another and these relationships are something that we all really value. This appreciation for sisterhood and strong bonds with other women likely partially explains why I chose to join a sorority in college (Skee Wee my Sorors). Creating this genogram allowed me to take a deeper look at my relationship with my mother and really appreciate why we are as close as we are. I also realized why I am so much closer to my dad’s side of the family than my mom’s and why my late father, who I am named after, did so much to ensure that I would be successful.

Creating a genogram taught me so much about my family’s history and why things are the way they are. The experience really put a lot into context for me and I am so much more appreciative of my family as a result. Self-reflection is key when it comes to personal betterment, and accepting the role that my heritage has had in shaping me as a person was a truly eye opening experience.

My family and me on my wedding day (August, 2014)

My father, Charles Allison Mathis, Jr., and me after my high school graduation (May, 2008)

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