Saturday, October 22, 2016

No more wallowing. For a while.

We went to the temple today. Our temple is the Winter Quarters Temple, which might be one of the only temples in a sort of crummy neighborhood (as a side note, the Ostrava ward meets in a "gypsy" neighborhood on the "bad" side of Ostrava. As if Mormons in the Czech Republic didn't have enough difficulties. Sigh.)

We try to go every month. It's pretty far from us (2 1/2 hours), but not too far that we have a "good" excuse to not go.

I love going to the temple. It is really neat to be inside the temple and do temple ordinance work for my ancestors, especially my Czech ancestors.

We went with our good friends and their kids and just swapped watching kids at the Omaha Children's Museum.

While we were watching 7 kids run around like crazy hooligans from place to place (a room full of balls! An inside sandbox! A place to hammer nails! A dark room with glow in the dark things to stick on the wall and halloween lights!), of course I started thinking about how this was a metaphor for life. Ugh I'm always so meta. And whenever I start complaining about how annoying it is that I'm meta, Danny says, "'re being meta about meta?" and I slap him.

But I wonder if God sometimes looks at us as if we are little tiny kids running around in a giant children's museum of earth, wandering from place to place, learning fun new things, experiencing challenges, and he's always following us, watching us. I suppose the biggest difference is that I'm not going to let Cora fall down the stairs and break her arm, but God will let us screw up our lives, because he wants us to be free to choose.

I've also been feeling really incredibly sad recently about the theme of this book I'm reading. While I'm really excited to come closer to understanding my Czech heritage and culture through reading Czech literature, I find the theme of men being animals and women using their bodies as a means to control/influence/reward/punish men a horribly sad idea. I think I spend a lot of time thinking about how unfair some things having to do with gender are, and this perpetual lie half-truth about human sexuality seems to be one of the most unfair of all: that sex is a bartering tool, or meaningless hedonism (and thus, by extension, women's brains don't matter.) Blah I feel so crummy just typing those words.

There are also all kinds of things unfair about being a housewife "nurturer" in today's world. I suppose it's one reason I'm always looking towards the past: I want to find out how women used to manage these issues. But seriously - the alternative - to not have children, to live my life as a self-centered unit of one, I think that would be worse. And it's not like being "the provider" is that great of a job, either. I mean, life sucks and then you die, for all of us, right.

But maybe focusing on these gender issues is like being in one of the areas of the Children's museum. I mean, maybe I'm just really interested in it, but if I walk away, I'll find some other issue. I mean, maybe other issues exist, and I'm just spending all my time stuck in one corner of the building instead of exploring all the interesting possibilities for learning. I mean, maybe it would be a good idea for me to stop worrying so much about sexism in the world; it's not fair, and it's sad, but that should not prevent me from feeling joy, or exploring a different idea.

This is one reason why I feel compelled to believe in God, actually: I believe that a huge purpose of my life is to learn things and feel joy, and that is because God loves me. I sort of understand this love, on some level at least, because I'm a parent. I strongly believe that it is not right to go through life feeling miserable and sad at all of the overwhelming injustices that come with being mortal (and especially with being female). One of the most frustrating of all for me is that I am stuck in this mortal body and I can't communicate with God very well. I generally can't rely on my physical senses to come to know and develop my relationship with him. I have to use faith.

I don't think I'm supposed to become a darkly cynical jaded person. I think I'm supposed to trust that there is a purpose to some of these really hard experiences, and that it will be for my good. I think I'm supposed to try to find joy and peace now, despite the trials.

And just like I was following my 1 year old all around this place, I think God is aware of the little things that happen in my inner world. I feel really pathetic when my trials of loneliness/frustration are not even on the scale of things to worry about compared with some of the trials of my friends, which include such awful things as infidelity, divorce, addiction, violence, abuse, etc. It feels so comforting to trust that God cares about my longing to find additional collaborators in my genealogy world, my worries about being a huge nerd/completely trapna (awkward), my desire to find close friends, etc.

I have a really happy, easy life, and I should make sure to stay away from the wallowing.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Casting my genealogical pearls before swine

I don't have any problems sharing genealogical information about my family with others. I love that familysearch family tree is collaborative. It is "our tree" and not "my tree."

However, I've been really struggling recently with the idea of sharing.

I have been spending almost all of my free time working on one project: transcribing Czech land records. My knowledge and capacity has grown incredibly, though I groan (and often shed real tears) thinking about how little I know, and how much there is left to know.

The fact is, I am still in the infancy of my genealogical education. I know so little. I long for more collaborators to walk with me in my "secret, hidden world" of challenging intellectual genealogical puzzles.

As an extrovert, I definitely work better with real people than by myself. I am so incredibly fortunate and grateful to have one kind mentor to help me. I worry that I am a pain, draining, awkward, or clingy; I long to find others.

I continue to do everything in my power to find another collaborator, including blogging more, contacting more people, engaging in the niche Czech genealogy community more, reading more, and especially fervently praying to find more like-minded souls with whom I can share my very niche genealogical education journey/world.

So why then, if my soul earnestly craves collaboration, have I not posted our transcriptions on my blog? Why do I hesitate to share my priceless genealogical treasures with the great dark void of the internet?

I wonder if it is a form of "my-tree-itis" or if it is something else?

If I truly cared about other people interested in Czech genealogy, of course I would share the truth and knowledge that I have gained! What I would give for my grandparents to have taught my father Czech, so that I would be able to speak Czech fluently! What I would give for somebody else to have shared this with me sooner.

In Matthew 7:6, the Savior says:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
The fact is, I cannot bear the thought of casting my genealogical pearls before swine. What if what I consider great masterpieces, things of inestimable value, are mocked, criticized, derided, or rejected? What is even worse: what if nobody even cares? What if they are just completely ignored? I can hardly bear the thought of asking one more person to collaborate with me, because I know the inevitable response will either be, "no," or just silence, which is more painful.

As I was thinking about this, I wondered, "Isn't this the same exact issue as sharing your testimony of Jesus Christ with others?"

I do not want to pressure people. I do not want to judge people. But isn't it actually more judgmental for me to think, "I cannot share my [transcriptions/testimony] with that person, he would NEVER listen"? Do I sometimes avoid talking about my beliefs with my friends out of fear of rejection?

Honestly, the only way I can actually understand what that verse means is through the Joseph Smith Translation, which is:
 Go ye into the world, saying unto all, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you. 
And the mysteries of the kingdom ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet.
For the world cannot receive that which ye, yourselves, are not able to bear; wherefore ye shall not give your pearls unto them, lest they turn again and rend you.
I think this version of the scriptures differentiates between basic knowledge and mysteries.

Our land record transcriptions would certainly qualify as basic knowledge and not some kind of deep, shrouded mystery.

I am, frankly, sick of people singing my praises when I am fully aware of how little I know; don't try to convince me that having transcribed about a dozen land records makes me an expert. Saying that just betrays ignorance and deepens my loneliness.

If I am willing to share these priceless gems with the genealogical world, then why would I not also share the priceless gem of my testimony with the world - and especially with the people I admire and care about? Why would I hesitate? What is the source of my pride? What do I need to do next?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rodičovství je posvátnou povinností

"Visiting teaching" is a really neat thing in my church. Every woman over the age of 18 is assigned a partner, a "companion." We are also assigned other women to go visit-teach, which basically just means going to their home, talking with them, and sharing a spiritual message once each month. But really, your job is also to be there for them if they need help, and to let the bishop or relief society president know what they need.
I have taken many dinners to my visiting teachees, watched their children (many, many times), listened to them cry when they needed a friend, brought them our hand-me-down clothes, given them rides to and from places, and even helped them receive church welfare (food, money, etc). Visiting teaching is the system that my church uses to ensure that families and individuals are getting the temporal care and relief they need.
The message this month is about parenthood. You can find it here.
I decided to read it in Czech. It's probably really awful. But I thought I would post it anyway.

I think parenthood is really important. This belief is directly connected to my interest in family history. It is interesting to me to understand what my ancestors thought about parenthood. The more I learn about them, the more respect and love I have for them. I believe and hope that someday, I will be able to meet these people who I spend so much time thinking and learning about. It will be really wonderful to be able to thank them for making my life possible through their choice to become parents.
I hope that I am and will always continue to be a good mother.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I am so frustrated.

You can't just wave a magic wand and *POOF* abracadabra! You magically have friends and collaborators that share your passion and interests.

Fortunately we live in a world with the internet, the great equalizer. It allows me to communicate (or attempt to) with others who share my same interest: Czech genealogy.

I obviously have more than one interest. And I'm not a stupid person. I take care of myself and my family. It's just... It's so freaking lonely sometimes. I hang out with my mom friends and really have to make an effort to be present, to care about the conversation; my brain is wandering to my genealogy problems and questions.

There are millions of questions. I have so few answers. What's thrilling and exciting beyond description is to have begun to find some answers. It's just so frustrating that I'm crippled by so many stupid pathetic obstacles: the Czech language, the German language, how the demographic of people who share my sub-niche interest is not often an extremely tech savvy bunch, how the vast majority of my Czech genealogy colleagues are male, making it super annoying and awkward when I'm trying to read a book describing Czech birth control folklore...yeah no, I can't handle translating euphemisms for coitus interruptus with a guy. It's too awkward for me. So instead I get to spend 20 minutes plugging in various options to my translator, feeling like a pervert because I really, really, really want to understand this part of my ancestors' lives. Finally I get it and it's so dumb it makes me roll my eyes: "go to church but don't stay for mass." Or "till but don't plant." Ugh. Danny says, "even that one would be understood in English." Yeah except when the words are archaic, it just causes me to want to tear out my hair and scream with frustration. I just want to "get it." Why does reading Czech (modern Czech! 18th century land record Czech! Abbreviations in Czech archive descriptions!) have to be so difficult?! Whine whine whine.

My fourth great grandmother Veronika Schablatura's parents were married in 1779. They didn't have a baby baptized until 1783. That's super weird. What happened? There should have been at least one child born in that time, more likely two. And if it was me, it would have been 3 (our first three kids are 14 months apart each). So yeah, understanding birth control in the late 18th century is definitely super relevant. If she had a baby that died before they could be baptized, would there be any record anywhere of that child? Can we assume infertility? Or ::shudder:: infanticide or abortion? This options seem unlikely. What is the deal?

What I truly want is a group of people who care about these questions. I found one person. There MUST exist others. You can't just magically create relationships. They have to be cultivated. But I don't WANT to cultivate, I want to learn. Again, whine whine

I think I'll just have to dedicate an amount of time to blogstalking. Commenting and following bloggers. Hopefully I will find some female Czech soul out there with whom I can translate sensitive blushworthy material that contains answers to my questions. It's lame and pathetic and humiliating that my brain is such a blank freaking slate, that cultural knowledge that is just intuitive to a native Czech literally has to be written out twice for me: once in Czech, once again in English. Three times if you count google translatese, which is its own beast to slay.

I just feel really grouchy about putting so much effort into trying to collaborate, and finding myself unsuccessful at the cultivating relationships part. I'm totally an extrovert, I totally just want to interact with humans. Hence the blog.

Ugh. What a negative post. Maybe tomorrow I will feel better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ravenous Insatiable Hunger

I'm not really sure who reads this, but I feel compelled to write, and I know that good has come out of my efforts to get my genealogical mind dumping "out there" for others to read.

So, you who are reading this out in the great wide nether beyond, might have picked up on the fact that I have been working as much as I can on my Czech genealogy recently.

I feel a ravenous desire to find my ancestors. This feeling continually gnaws at my soul. Since the beginning of August, I have been spending almost all my free time engaged in one single thing: transcribing Czech land records. After years and years of frustration, I finally have found the method and tools that work for me to transcribe these records: collaboration.

I feel somewhat frustrated to be so reliant on others (mostly just one other researcher) to help me understand my records. But the truth is, I don't especially care about that. I mostly just want to read *and finally understand* the records. It is one of my heart's deepest desires: to read these Czech land records and be able to interpret their meaning. 

Right now I feel irritated because the Opava archives website's server is down (, and it went down right in the middle of my search in Gross Kunzendorf.

See, the trouble with my Czech lines is this: even though they did not move around very much, BOTH the parish registers for Gross Kunzendorf AND Vratimov are missing for the years 1785-1835. I have lines from both these places. Unless they magically appear (which they won't), I will need to rely on the land records to fill the major gap in the records.

The second irritating thing: I keep running into land records that I want to transcribe and translate...but they are in GERMAN. I'm just whining now because what I really want is to read right now are the CZECH land records.

Blah. What I need to do is sit down and really figure out what all my Czech genealogy "ends of the line" are, so that I can take them back. Grumble grumble.

The other fact is that my husband and I both jointly decided that it would be a really great thing for me to turn my genealogy research into my career. More on that later. But basically, that is why I have been spending so much time on the transcriptions: it is the key skill that I lack. And I am starving to learn more. It is almost painful how much I long to know how to read these records so I can understand what they say. It is a ravenous insatiable hunger of the soul. I cannot express this feeling with words.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Czech cases on my blog: or, in which I prove definitively that I am a nerd

As if my nerdiness were ever in question? Pretty sure that it is a long established fact. Sorry kids.

I'm really excited. I've been working for months years really, trying to figure out how to organize my life.

I've decided that what I really, truly desire is to make my genealogy work my career.

So that meant I had to rethink my blog situation. I mean, my other blog, Czech out your ancestors, well, it's been my baby! And it's basically time to admit that it is growing and evolving into something new. I am in the process of moving the less relevant posts to this more informal, personal blog. But I will continue to be myself (duh) on the other blog, just more focused on your research than mine. More focused on my goal to help you with that research. More focused on my career.

And it really is kind of separate; these goals. My personal genealogy goals are related, but not the same as my main goal.

My main dream, my driving purpose is to connect family. I do this because it is good and it brings me and others so much joy. Connecting family helps us understand ourselves, and who we can become.

More meta-blogging later...but always here, where it's not going to be clutter.

Anyway - as I was racking my brain as to how I was going to change the organization of my blog, I decided that it would be a hilarious inside joke with myself if I had my pages roughly correspond to the 7 Czech cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, and instrumental.

This is really mainly for my own benefit. See, there is no way I would have been able to type all 7 of those as quickly as I had if I hadn't been reviewing (and re-reviewing, and re-re-re-reviewing) them in my mind this afternoon as I started to embed links etc.

But it is really nerdy. I guess I take some kind of weird pleasure in being like this (proud of being different in a potentially socially awkward way.) I probably got that from my parents! hahaha

More future metablogging and brain dumping on the subject of genealogy (or whatever) to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Spoken Czech and the schwa (ə)

On my first trip to the Czech Republic (I suppose I'm supposed to call it Czechia, but that sounds so ridiculous I can't bring myself to even write it, much less say it), I realized that my beloved Czech genealogy is inextricably linked to the Czech language. Therefore, I must not only learn everything there is to know (!) about Czech genealogical research, but I must become a fluent speaker of Czech.

I'm so excited about this! I love learning languages, and I really especially love Czech! Learning to speak Czech is a totally achievable goal, through a lot of hard work, of course. I know this because I am an advanced-high speaker of French, advanced-mid in Arabic, and I'm guessing that I would get an intermediate-low for several other languages if I were to randomly take an OPI right now. Too bad the Foreign Language Achievement Testing at BYU (the only test of its kind in the nation!) came out a year after I graduated. Anyway, it doesn't have Czech. Yet.

The point: I love languages. I studied how to teach world languages. I'm quite excited about learning Czech.

Part of me feels that my whole life has prepared me for this goal. This is the first time that I have been in a position to learn Czech, really. In High School, the choices were Latin, French, or Spanish. In University, I would have taken Czech, were it available on a 100 level course. Sadly, it was only available to returned missionaries at a 300-level. So I took French, Arabic, ASL, and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) instead.

I sometimes wish that I had taken German. After all, that would be so much more relevant to my study of Czech genealogy. However, I think that my skills in Arabic also prepared me to learn Czech.
  • Arabic a marked language. This helped me to understand cases.
  • Arabic is difficult. It helped me realize that I can do difficult things.
  • Arabic is a non-Indo-European language. While Czech is technically Indo-European, it is from a totally different branch from English: the Balto-Slavic branch. Experiencing a language that is farther from my native tongue was helpful
  • I learned how to navigate a language (and language pedagogy!) that has very few materials for English speakers. This is totally similar to Czech. If anything, there is more material for English speakers wanting to learn Czech than those who want to learn Arabic.
And as a side note, my fifth cousin's brother in law was from the exact part of Jordan (Irbid) where I spent a semester studying at Yarmouk University, and he knew the family with whom I stayed. So, that was a really funny coincidence.

But Czech...well, going to Ostrava was like a crash course in it. Did you know that Ostrava is one of the largest cities in the Czech Republic, and yet it is nowhere on the CR's tourist bureau information app? That's because it's basically the equivalent of Pittsburgh, which used to be the steel capital of the United States. Who would go on vacation to...Pittsburgh!? Ostrava was the steel and manufacturing capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and its industrial production remains relevant today. For example, the Czech Republic exports more cars per year than its population, or so I was told. Well, many of those cars are made in Ostrava.

Me with Ostrava in the background

My husband and I were stupid tourists in a place where there is very little tourism, which meant we had to speak Czech. And we don't speak Czech. We are definitely novices. But I got a feel for the language. 

My first impression continues to be validated now that I've come home and started a concerted effort to learn Czech (thanks Amazon! The Pimsleur course is really perfect for my lifestyle, since I'm always driving or cooking or cleaning) : spoken Czech is full of the schwa (ə)!!!!

It's just full of it! When in doubt, schwa it out!

Seriously! Any ending, if you don't know how to pronounce it, just slur it into a schwa sound and it will be at least comprehensible. 

But let me tell you, it's really difficult (in a fun and challenging way) for me to differentiate between ulici and ulice, between kdy and kde, and 100 other words. It's just...there's so much schwa. SO MUCH SCHWA. 


Ted' jsem just being stupid...ale co jiného je zřejmý? Užívám moje "nerdiness." I recently described myself this way, and I really think it fits: a nerdy, bookish, extrovert. That kind of defies the stereotype, but so it is!

What is life for if not to find joy. I can't tell you how much happier I have been since discovering my love of Czech genealogy, and trying to find answers. I feel that the trip Danny and I took significantly expanded my vision. It feels frustrating, humiliating, and daunting: but it's also so exciting and fun. It's the kind of fulfilling challenge that I have been craving for the past decade.

Thanks, schwa. You're great.