I write this post with a little of a heavy heart. Recounting what happened this summer to a former friend, I realized that this summer there has been my car accident, two friend’s parents died, two friends went through surgery (one brain surgery), I found out that my Mom’s best friend is dying, and that my family has bigger issues than I realized.

Last year, both schools acted like I was a traitor for not being “only at one school” when THEY were the ones that set up the joint program in the first place. It was like siblings fighting over toys. Now, I am no longer part of a joint program, but still doing two Master’s degrees at the same time. My present degrees dovetail better than my previous degrees did, and where scheduling may not fit with one, I then get material in the other. I feel like I am pulling up a zipper and whatever this clothing item is fits nicely.

I am no longer being split apart. It is harder in some aspects because neither school naturally communicates with the other, but I finally got over that at the end of last year and decided that if I was going to do this, I had to keep up and do it on my own. I work as hard as I can with my advisors, but in the end these degrees depend upon my coursework and not on anyone else’s work, ambition, or similar things.

Along with this is the need for a job. I had one job, and then another opportunity presented itself. That opportunity evaporated, and although I may be able to get the old job back, the commuting costs versus the pay and hours did not come together well. I need something else.

School feels steady. I am only starting the semester, but along with that I feel like there is a genuinely secure feel even though nothing is truly set up. Why am I so calm? Why have I been pretty calm through all of the employment shifts and changes? The only thing that really shook me up was the family trouble, and somehow that has to work out. I think that I am extremely lucky that it is the beginning of the semester, and I need and am able to get something together instead of feeling like I am only ending up somewhere.

Despite or because of all of the insanity of the summertime, I feel surprisingly calm. Not exactly happy, but somehow dealing. Not neutral, exactly, just… to quote from the Bible, “I know in whom I have trusted.” (gentle paraphrasing), so I’m not freaking out quite so badly as is customary in a dead economy when nothing really makes that much sense. Pressing forward even when there isn’t time to process life. I guess it’s called growing up.

Best to all,



Gratitude Journal:Death and Dying

The happiest person I know is dying. The friend mentioned in the previous post: she was one of my mother’s three best friends, and she has stage 4 breast cancer.  I learned what that meant earlier in the week. Stage 4 means that you know your death cause, but I didn’t know how long she’d known. Three years. During this time, she had a roommate who did not respect others enough to let them into her life more. But had I realized this earlier, I’m not sure what I would or could do.

When I read how long she had over email today (she could die any day, and there’s no telling how long it will be; sicknesses will get to her, but she will die from organ failure as the cancer runs its course and terminates things.) it took me so much aback that I did not know how to reply. I marked it as “Mark as Unread” and walked back to the El station to take the trip to the bus to get me to dinner and then home. Normally, Friday nights I volunteer at my temple. Without a car for the past while due to an accident, I haven’t been there as much lately. Should have the car back tomorrow.

Rode the escalator to the El platform after a stressful day of editing a movie to finish a class from Spring semester, then read the email enough to absorb what it meant and I started to cry. I put my phone away and kept crying as the El showed up and took me to the bus that was a half hour late, or more so. Pigeons overhead in the rafters, I felt annoyed that they were there, despite the efforts of the city to stick miniature steel spikes in the most likely places. Many people gave up and started walking of their own accord. I finally rode the bus.

This lady is talented, has three kids, one married, one barely graduated from college, and one who is the son of a second marriage and not yet in middle school. Her husband died shortly after the child was born, and she never re-married. She is lucky that she has family, that there is a pretty supportive Church network (ward), and that she has close friends. I’m lucky that I know her at all. She moved to my Church network when I was maybe 12? She saw my family through a heap of life, and she has been essentially surrogate Mom as there are no older women in the family who are like my Mom left. All of the direct-line ancestral biological female relatives are dead. The ones who are alive do not see me as Mom did, save her, and this friend is only related to me back in the 1600’s from a different marriage of some old guy that was either Dutch or in New England. For that ancestor, one wife died and then he married another and their relatives went every which way. I have other female biological or marriage-related relatives, but only see them rarely and then I am in guest roles.

Mom’s friend rarely complains, and she gives me reality checks when everyone around me either acts like I’m great or awful, or can’t give me solid advice to save their lives. My friends are extremely good people, but she never tells me anything for her gain or with personal bias involved. I’m not that good all the time and want to be. She also inspires me to do better. She knows at least six languages, and is always learning. I love that about her.

My birthday is soon, and in my selfish self-pity I thought about the timing. I found out that an extremely good friend was dying after a very long day and then I looked back across the bus stop filled with birds and their droppings and feathers to where people came off the El. Thought about how each of them had their own story, and how God is their Father, too, and wondering how in the world He kept track of us all. I couldn’t do what He does, that’s for sure. (Not without serious, massive help at the minimum.)

Anyway, I am tired, have much on my plate, but despite things beyond my control, I made it through the day and I should make it through tomorrow. Just have to finish these last items, and then school starts immediately thereafter. A little scared, and if there is a sudden death, then I’ll need an airplane flight. Otherwise, must keep going. Living at this point in time means that there isn’t that much time to process. Have to keep going no matter how dreadful or how joyous life gets. I wish that there was more joyous. All that I can do is to try to be good to people, comfort, and be kind.

The Things That Matter

I found out today that one of my Mom’s best friends has Stage 4 terminal cancer. It’s not the sort of cancer where she will be dead tomorrow, but now… cause of death is known for when it happens. I wish not to be blase about this, but seeing as this is knowledge in advance of the death versus a sudden death, it’s strangely “easier” to deal with.

No, I’m not glad about it. No, she’s not in extreme pain or such. There are plenty of medications that she is on, and she just had brain surgery to relieve one of the tumors, but she’s still alive. She does have a great attitude about it, all things considering. I don’t think that it is less usual anymore for people to know in advance that they only have so long to live. I’m also a little surprised that I’m dealing with it as well as I am. Over the last seven years, there have been eight deaths. Some sudden, some not-as sudden. Call it preparation for part of what may lay ahead.

I’m also not scared about where she is going. It’s not trust in a dead religion. It’s that I know what needs to happen to “go to heaven.” It’s rather plainly spelled out in the doctrine of my Church and it’s not the effect of a frenzied mind that I believe it. It’s being true and knowing that there is more than life here. Life is more than simply the efforts of the natural creature eking out a living from point A to B. There’s a lot more to it than that. Lifting my head above that mess, there is a light and it is real.

It’s hard to think that there are people who refuse to believe in anything. Not sure whether that is selfishness in that they don’t want to follow anything outside of themselves and basic ethics of the land, or if it is a fear of responsibility once they figure out that there is a God. It’s not just some step in AA. Belief in a higher power is a fundamental principle of society- family is part of it, and without God (whatever religion, so long as it’s not Satanic) I don’t know how people make it from day-to-day.

Better said, denying God, I don’t know people survive. So much of my thinking, so much of my decision-making processes… you come to know who God is, and how He acts over time and experience, and see that He honestly leads you in better paths than you may choose for yourself. Good things or bad things… events change, but God does not.

So back to heaven and hell. Yes, both places exist. The fundamental core doctrines of Christianity agree to that. From there, I have an innate confidence born of testimony from God that there are certain things needed for returning to live with God, and I know that my friend is about as okay as you can get in this regard. There is so much confusion in the world which the gospel makes clear.

The rock solid base is that the truth is what it is, and the gospel is true. My friend and I discussed her death a little, but neither of us freaked out about it. You freak out when you don’t know either a) where people may go after mortality is over, or b) when you really don’t know where you stand before God. Is she Polly Perfect? Nope. Is she working hard, has her heart in the right place, and trying her utmost to be the person that God wants her to be? Yep.

For all of the philosophizing away that many people try to do, God exists. He loves us (His children), and there’s nothing that other people try to say or do that changes that. It doesn’t make His children unaccountable, and it doesn’t eliminate need for grace and for personal righteousness. There are more tools in the bag, and a better chance of having the right tool at the right time. That’s what religion does. Things work better when there is functioning religion centered in Jesus Christ. I like people from all the faiths encountered to this point who wish to be good people, and I treasure truth more than life.

So that’s what matters. Friends who are family, and understanding each of our fundamental roles in the various aspects of life.

Hoping for goodness and blessings,


My New Book

I love it when movies inspire people to do good things. That is why I watch them, dependent upon the mood for the day. It’s 1:30AM, my roommate is asleep, and I am listening to the soundtrack from the Help over Koss headphones that I grabbed in the major move from six years ago. My writing style is anything but academic, and yet I’m having fun.

As for the title of this particular blog, anyone who is actually following it, (I think that there is one of you), you read about how I want to write a dissertation on trauma following death and perhaps how to get out of it. At least one close friend is against this. She is in the middle of her own issues and this is too close. I never realized before how many friends have recent deaths in the family. That is not why I chose this topic for the dissertation. I chose it because of my experiences of six deaths in seven years. From natural causes, from accidents, and one murder, death is a prevalent theme in my life of late. the last death brought unexpected closure to the series. I have no idea of the arch of the book for the dissertation, but in the meantime, I feel like I need to write a Memoir. That is the purpose of this particular introductory blog, and the scariest thing that I have ever done. I’ve talked myself out of it more times than I can count. The closest that I’ve gotten to writing it is 50 pages and an outline, all stored on the hard drive that just crashed. It would cost about $700 to restore the hard drive and I don’t have that kind of cash whatsoever. So, I get the privilege of starting over after writing the first four chapters.

I am not sure how different it will be seeing as the timeline is my own. The names are changing to protect innocent and guilty parties, but what I will write is all truth. No varnishing. No changing it up outside editorial license. I don’t know what good or more likely what ill it will do. Nice little LDS girls don’t write Memoirs. Well, maybe they do. Some phenomenal LDS female writers out there are my heroines. I don’t read LDS fiction, so I don’t know what there is outside of Ender’s Game. At least, I’ve read a couple of LDS books, but nothing since I was a later teenager. They’re not a massive influence on me. I like classics, quirky writers with heart who occasionally swear but get their points across. I do not intend on swearing. I need to write what I want to read.

So, this is the birth of Almost Ten Years at BYU: An Absolutely, Unbelievably True Story. Tagline: The Names are Changed, the rest is the same. My family may hate me by the time it’s done. That’s the one thing that I don’t want. I also don’t want law suits. Being careful of what I write is important. I also will be, as my mother used to say, “brutally honest.” This isn’t going to show a beautiful picture unless a person wants parts of the human heart that matter. I am an idealist. I completely set that forward right now. Although I  wish for no rudeness, and  not to be mean to people, there is a strong possibility that people will get hurt. That is what has kept me back for years. The people who say to just go ahead and write, you don’t know the implications. It means that you see how it could effect your family, and you think about how the concept makes a difference. Of course I care about the people who I’m writing about. I’m not sure why I need to write it, but it’s been on my mind off and on since maybe 2007? The hard part is writing when you’re not exactly sure what the end is, and tonality during writing… do you write like you were a freshman, or do you write as the wiser student who is finally finishing these years later? I love the story. Yes, I’m in love with my life, but that’s only happened due to severe trials and hardships or heart aches in the meantime.

My life now is so different from where it was back then. I learned and loved so much. I would never replace it, and couldn’t replace it with anything else. What does one semi-overweight white girl from DC who grew up LDS have to share with the rest of the world, especially about some weird, out-there place called Utah, combined with LA and NYC? Yeah, great settings, I’ll admit. My life feels like a chick flick. Gag me? *grins* I’m a bit different from most, if not all people, but I’m also the same underneath it all. My life is one lived in faith. Wonder if that could ever come across were this to become a movie someday. *shrugs* We’ll see. All that I know is that I’m the main one who could write my story. The post-9/11 under play when seen from someone who was close to a lot of the major events of the ages. Yes, I was close for proximity to 9/11. I was at the President’s Initiative on Race in 1998. I was at the Napster hearing at BYU and I lived near to campus when Jimmer caught the basketball world on fire. Things like that.

I served a mission in LA when the DC sniper was shooting literally close to my home. Technology and the world entirely changed when I was away in LA. Then, New York, and falling in love with that city. Coming back, and being independent and staying as strong as possible with the gospel. Things are hard, but endurance is good. What we create is a very good thing. I need to go to bed now, but those are some of the thoughts going through my head as I finally write this pre-write. I need to start somewhere. Better late than never. Bring it on. 🙂

The Genealogy Doctor

So This is Christmas: Dissertations and Becoming Dr. Death

At least, it will be on Sunday. Yesterday I had an academic shifting-discussion with a lady on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to LA. I made her, her seat mate, and the mother across the way small crocheted snowflakes on the flight. Found out that the lady, P, for short, was on her way to Melbourne although she grew up in Chicago and loves cheese and caramel Garrett’s popcorn. That was for documentary purposes at some point. The man had a scotch, and the mother had twin children, a boy and a girl.

The thing that seemed important to me was that while speaking with the woman, I decided on a doctoral emphasis and general research topic. I am between my first and second semesters of graduate school for double Masters degrees and although my life will probably change dramatically over this next year, and I hope that it does in a very positive way, I think that this doctoral emphasis could help someone. Helping someone know that they aren’t alone is incredibly important to me. The emphasis is trauma following death.

Once January ends, it will be six deaths in seven years. I was batting par for the course there for a while, but this past year has been (knock on inanimate object) the best. My first without a major traumatic life experience since 2005. Well, I moved across the country and started grad school. That is a different version of trauma all together. From my oral history class, I learned more about how to cope with and deal with trauma in real-time. That was definitely not a part of the intended learning outcomes of the course, but life experience being what it is, it happened. We read a lot about people in traumatic situations, and I am beginning to see it with a bit more of a clinical eye. Not with an eye that doesn’t care, but everyone goes through trauma eventually.

Whether or not a person believes in the Afterlife, this is still a case where it’s one of the hardest things that a person can go through. Some people never leave the state of trauma that happens with death, and some eventually find their way out of it. Seeing the quantity and sheer size of disasters these days, knowing how to deal with post-mortem trauma in survivors is important. I have no plans of becoming a psychologist, but I do plan to give some degree of relevancy and “Your life matters” to the people who get left. As universal as family and food, so is death. I also do taxes. 🙂

Relevancy when it comes to death is something that I prefer to establish through historical context. I don’t know whether that many people would see things the way that I do. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I have a unique perspective given my experiences in family history work, and a sincere love of all things old. Okay, that doesn’t make me unique. Add training and education, and I may still not be unique. However, it’s not every day that a person decides to take on the task of learning how people deal with after-effects of death in a historical context. At least, I’ve never heard of it before. I want to really become a genealogy doctor, able to help anyone who needs to know a given resource. While I consider this, I also know that I’m great at starting things. It just takes me a long time to finish them, especially to finish them well.

It concerns me how studying this topic could negatively impact my future family life. The other side is that it could give my family members a  unique perspective contributing to positive reactions, and defying the “bad fear” of death. I prefer that my children some day not have “death wishes” or that they don’t act to hasten an untimely demise, but instead never to fear death. I don’t. It’s a time for going home, but it’s not yet. You work hard in this life and you make sure that you have the relationship with God where you understand that His grace saves. That never means that you stop working hard, helping others, etc. It means that you step it up a notch and remember where that grace comes from, particularly intent on moving forward, on progression and helping make good things happen. Never step on anyone else’s agency, but help channel influence in positive directions.

There’s also an app that I am trying to figure out how to make, or to make an “appative” as it were. (App as an additive to already-existing software or freeware= appative.) Working with existing technology to make something that works better. There are things that I need to make happen, and I hope that I can do this, or find a way of making things work properly.

Yours truly,

The Genealogy Doctor