Monday, October 31, 2016


One of the recent transcriptions I’ve been working on has a receipt for the funeral expenses:

for 5 fr 26 which the underwritten has received  to procure the orderly funeral with a silent mass for Veronika daughter of [the deceased] Josef Lidiak of Trojanovice,  buried on 6th April,………

       f[lorins       x [kreuzers]
to the officiating priest               2   24
to the officiating cooperator            36                  [cooperator = a clergyman; forthcoming blog post about this]
to the choir director                            48
to the gravedigger                              44
to the organ bellows operator          6
to the altar boys                                   9
to the carrier of the cross                    3
                                       Total     5 f[lorins] 26 x [kreuzers]
                                                  Con[ventional] M[oney]

This record gives me a glimpse into the world of these ancestors. Apparently, at the funeral a choir sang, and an organ was played. The altar boys were there. Somebody carried a cross. These tiny fragmented details help me consider these people as real human beings who lived in real families.

Recent Loss in my Family
In my family, there are four children: Joe, Kate (me), Sarah, and Dot. Sarah is married to Mykle Law, the son of Steve and Connie Law. Steve died three months ago from a complicated case of pancreatitis. He was only 56 years old. My only other experiences dealing with death in my family has been with old people whose passing was sad but not a tragedy. Steve’s death was a tragedy. We were all very sad. Sarah, Mykle, their kids, and Connie came to visit this week. It was nice to visit with them, especially to reminisce about Steve, and to process our family’s loss.

Steve Law had a degree in library science and worked in the Family History Center in Salt Lake City for 25 years. I miss him because he was one of the few quirky people in my family who understood and shared my obsession with family history. He had a wall in the front room in his house in Provo that was covered in old family photos. I loved it. I decided to do the same thing in my house.

This photo wall is not done. Some of the photos are off the wall because Danny is adding QR codes to the back that link to a story about the family member. But some of the stories are really hard to find, and like most projects, I gave up at ~80% completion.

When Danny and I were married in the Boston Temple in 2008, Steve and Connie flew out to attend. Sarah is my only married sibling, but Danny’s siblings (except for the “oops” baby Ella, who is 14) are all married and I only know their parents well enough to chit-chat at Christmas parties. Steve and Connie had just experienced several tragic deaths in their immediate family, and so my parents were really anxious to help them experience something positive. That is why they came to our wedding. I don’t really remember them being there, but there are photos. The only person I cared about at all that completely perfect day was Danny.

The last email I received from Steve was in January. He had taken the time to cut and paste a Czech article for me from J-Stor so I could read it through a translator. He also gave me some recommendations for collaborators, who I am just now contacting, these many months later.

As I look through these emails from Steve, I realize that he helped me with a lot of random translations and lookups through the years. I know it’s a totally selfish thing for me to miss him because of the great benefit he was in my genealogy world; that other family members certainly feel his loss much more deeply than I do. He would have been extremely enthusiastic to participate in the Czech research and transcriptions I’m working on now. I feel so guilty for mourning this specific loss because it’s so comparatively trivial.

Czech Family Dynamics
It makes me wonder about the family dynamics of people in the past. I think one reason I have always felt like I relate more to my Czech ancestors than the other sides of my family has to do with my perception of their family dynamics. I’ve always wanted a big family; I came from a “big” family (four kids...not big by Utah standards, enormous by Massachusetts standards where I grew up). My Brits must have figured out birth control early or had very cold relationships with their spouses, because their families are comparatively tiny; historically, my Czechs all have big families.
Casual dinner with family. Very, very loud.

As I’ve read more Czech literature, I’ve noticed that the children are more present than in Brit Lit. The kids are not ignored. They are running around, making noise/chaos, and just generally present. Authors paint a much more real picture similar to my own current family experience. We all have our individual quirks and silly personality traits that are both obnoxious and endearing (sometimes at the same time).

Sarah being a dork

I had to put a photo of me being a dork, too, otherwise it would not have been fair.

I wonder how my Czech family of the past would have supported a recently widowed spouse. It is interesting to read about what the widow receives in the land records [link], but this is just a scratch on the surface. I want to know what kind of emotional support these women would have received, and what their grieving process was like.

It seems like Czech widows and widowers frequently remarried quickly, within 6 months after the death of their spouse. I’m sure that this had a lot to do with the logistic realities of caring for all the young children; men and women both worked hard, and depended on each other in many ways (just like today). But certainly feelings and emotions also had a lot to do with the next marriage. I had not really considered, until talking at length about this with Connie, about being asked to go on your first date after becoming a widow. What would that have been like in the world of the past? If you inherited a farm after the death of your husband, would potential suitors feel like “gold-diggers” (wanting to marry you just for your money)?

Choir and Music
Before he died, Steve joined a choir out in Utah, but was only able to attend one practice until he became so sick that he could no longer sing. Since then, Connie, Mykle, and the other brothers joined the choir as a way to honor him. When Connie was here, we sat around the piano singing. My dad and I took turns playing the piano.

Aside from the LDS hymnbook, my dad has a huge hymnbook full of a diverse range of protestant hymns. I played one that my dad kept humming, and he told me that it was the song he played at “Granny’s” funeral (Grandma Vasicek’s mom, Alma Irene Sutton). He said that he had never heard that song before her funeral, but that all the old women were crowding around the piano and begged him to play it. He figured out how to play it by ear, without music, and he said that no exaggeration, he must have played that hymn 100 times.

It reminded me of when I was 17 and played "How Great Thou Art" on the piano at my grandpa Vasicek’s funeral.
Obviously, it did not sound like this when I played it.

Although I have been to church basically every Sunday of my life, I have only ever been to a Catholic worship service a handful of times, and this was the one and only Catholic funeral I’ve ever attended. It was in Midland, Texas, and it was completely packed. There must have been 400 people there. Everybody knew my Grandpa, and loved him. I remember feeling really disappointed because he was my favorite grandparent, and so it was very unfair that he was the first to die. I also remember that I was very happy to play the piano at his funeral, because it felt like I could do something other than stand around and feel useless.

There isn’t a lot I can do now to support Connie, besides pray and listen if she wants to talk. I really enjoyed listening to her; it makes me realize that I also miss Steve, even though he is not really a very closely related person to me. Did the people of the past who sang in this choir at my great x grandmother’s funeral have some of these same feelings? Was singing a way for them to come close to expressing some of the depths of their soul?

Music as a gateway to the soul
I sing with my parents in my ward choir at church .

I spy with my little eye...something Czech!

There’s a simple arrangement of an LDS hymn that we are singing now. It has some special meaning to me now, here, even though my loss is comparatively minimal.

I liked this video because it shows the humanity, especially the choir director. Also, it was shot at my beloved Brigham Young University in a building where I had several classes; they are definitely singing in the HFAC. My roomie Cindy was in this choir back in the day.

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice, I draw myself apart, searching my soul?

I’ve published a few things on my blog about my desire to have additional Czech genealogy collaborators. I think one reason why this feels so important to me is because I really, really, really want to share this part of myself with others, and for this part of me to be understood. I suppose it’s a small thing, but I really value being able to talk about my interests without being rejected or ignored. Steve shared this interest, but it is very sad to me that my other family members do not.

And it really isn’t a small thing, to have a friend who you can understand, and who understands you. I am finding that my genealogy friends are priceless to me, and that while I have many friends, there are actually only a few who I really trust enough to show all those aforementioned “individual quirks and silly personality traits.” I obviously show a lot of them, sure, but there are some that I keep hidden and reserved because I don’t want to be rejected. Basically: it’s okay to be a dork, but not a really huge dork. And in my heart, I know I’m a much huger dork/nerd than almost anybody around me realizes. It is painful.

Where, when my aching grows, where, when I languish, where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately, reaches my reaching in my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind, Love without end.

The truth is that my creator already knows all of my dorkiness and loves me anyway. He knows all my thoughts and feelings, and all the answers to all of my questions, even the most trivial ones.

I know that this is true.    

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Magic Lotion"

In this post, my friend referenced this comic strip, "the Rychlé šípy." But it just didn't translate very well at all so we chucked it from the final English translation, [which I'll put a link to once we finish it and post it].

But it was too charming to just toss in the trashcan. So instead I decided to blog about it, because it was totally hilarious to me, and background knowledge that apparently most Czechs have but most Americans lack.

According to Wikipedia:
Rychlé šípy ("Rapid Arrows") is the name of a fictional club of five boys, consisting of Mirek Dušín, Jarka Metelka, Jindra Hojer, Červenáček ("Red Cap"), Rychlonožka ("Speedy") and a dog named Bublina ("Bubble"). They were invented by the Czech writer Jaroslav Foglar. Rychlé šípy are universally known in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, virtually everyone is familiar with them. The name Mirek Dušín has even become proverbial, referring to someone who is extremely upright, honest and hard-working, and usually used sarcastically.[1]
In this particular comic,

jak tohle vysvědčení doma ukázu, to sa'm nevím! čtyř, nedostatečné, to je hruza!
How can I bring this report card home? F's aren't good enough, this is awful!

žádné strachy! vyrobil jsem, takovou vodičku, která z papíru vymaže každé písmo! zkus ty nedostatečné vymazat a napsat tam místo nich dvojky a trojky!
Don't worry! I made a magic liquid which clears the writing from any paper! Try it without erasing and instead write there B's and C's!

jarka, nám řekl k čemu tě menčíř navádí. nedelej to! je to podvod, a stéjne vyjde nazevo!
Jarka, Mencíř told us what he was advising. Don't do it! It's a scam, and it will be found out!

vám se to mluvý! kdybych ale takové vysvědčení přinesl domů, tak by mé snad tatínek zabl
That's what you say, but if I bring this report card home, then my dad is going to beat me senseless!

jé - vždyt ta natřena místa úplné vypadla!! Mencíř mi musel dát nějakou žíravinu nebo co
Ahh! Where I painted, the paper completely dissolved! Mencíř must have put some sort of caustic agent in it! Oh noooo!

snaž se, aby ses už nikdy nemusel bát ukázat doma takove vysvědčení, jako jsi dostal ted'
You never had to worry about showing such a report card at home like what you have here.

Už abych to měl za sebo
Did I do this?

tak se pojd' pochlubit se vysvědčením, pojd' pojd'
Alright, show me your report card, come on, come on.

ty darebáku! cos to udělal s vysvěd čením?! chtěl jsi mne podvést! to si spolu vyřídíme!
You rascal! What did you to do to your report card?! You wanted me to cheat! You're going to get punished!

tak se přjznej kdo tě k tomu navedl
Who put you up to this?

mencíř, tatínku!
Mencíř, daddy!

a navedl ho pry k tomu néjaký hoch mencíř pane řediteli!
The prying cheat Mencíř is to blame for this, Mr. Principal!

vysvědčení je úřední listina! za jeho padélaní dostanete oba dva čtyřku z mravů
A Report Card is an official document! For forgery, you both get F's!


Originally, the metaphor was trying to show how this parish register looks like it was touched with "vodičkou kozelnou" - the "magic liquid" - because it's full of transparent places.

Or, you know, covered in grease.

But it was so funny when I put it into google translate, because it showed up as "the magic lotion." So now that is an inside joke in our house. "Hey, honey, can you please pass me the magic lotion, I need to pour it on my cereal." "Hey, I think we're out of magic lotion. How will I brush my teeth?" "Can you please rub my back with some magic lotion?" bahaha

We are nerds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rodinná historie - pokoj, ochrana a zaslíbení

There was a good article about Family History in this month's "Liahona" magazine. Here is my attempt to read it in Czech, and in English.

Even though I get a little bit choked up at the end, I still read it literally twice as fast in English.

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?