The Good, The Bad, and The Oz-one.


Since moving to Australia a short month ago, we as a family have undergone some expected and some not so expected transitions and experiences. While our Facebook posts boast of our fun adventures, it’s those very experiences that keep my husband and me sane during this time. I just haven’t had the heart to blog about it until now, Valentine’s Day.

While I miss people (and Amazon Prime), I’ve been embracing the walkable aspects of our new life and the convenience to kids’ school, activities, shopping, restaurants, my husband is still yearning for his lifestyle back “home”…and our house which is currently under contract…thankfully and fingers crossed.

My husband has fully entrenched himself in his new university professorship, in fact currently working on grants there as I type. It’s an important role that requires a lot of groundwork and overhaul. Once everything is functional, he will be more settled at least with his job.

My plan has been to get the family settled, however the rental house we are in sprung a bath leak and we’ve been 4 weeks into getting repairs done and me being somewhat housebound during the daytime as a result. The leak flooded what is to be the kids’ bedroom so carpet has been pulled, walls have been checked and painted (painted wrong as well as damaged) and we are awaiting the carpet install into week 5. Also waiting on plumber/tiler to fix their bath. We only have 2 baths, so we all use our master bath shower. So, kids twin beds are conjoined in what is meant to be the home office, their clothes are in our guest bedroom closet. We are hoping the repairs are done before our “slowboat” container of belongings gets delivered later this month or we will seriously have issues with the master plan.

The laid back Aussie attitude has been refreshing and we are keen to adopt some of it, but when you need to get something done, like these repairs, you start developing another kind of attitude. It’s not just the house repairs either; you just can’t get problems resolved at a quick pace. There’s always a form to fill (and physically return), a management chain to go through, emails and phone calls that go into a black hole, several self-initiated follow ups etc. When something does go smoothly, we are elated!

We also have a love/hate attitude for the sun. I realized week 1 that no matter how dreary/rainy/overcast it may be, the sun will find you and burn you. Wear polarized sunglasses as much as possible (sometimes indoors!). There’s a reason there are heavy and heavy duty blackout curtains in our house. Put on SPF 50 straight out of the shower each day, regardless of weather forecast. Always have a visor or hat on you. Polo shirts are best worn with the collar up (not as a fashion statement). Just about everything kills you here and the sun is no different. Not to be Debby Downer but with melanoma rates at their highest here (thinning ozone layer), it amazes me how much worship Aussies still have for the sun. On the flip side, some amusement parks offer free sunscreen at the door, it’s always for sale at outdoor events, and there’s so much product selection. Except (you knew this was coming), all of the products I have found, even those labeled safe for kids have the worst preservative chemicals in them, and forget about finding zinc oxide only unless I want them to have pink or green faces from the zinc sticks. I am prepared to buy in the U.S. and have my mom send them over; as something applied to skin daily (and for 3 seasons out of the year), I won’t compromise on this one. Back to the bright side, the sun dries your clothes on the line sometimes faster than a dryer would. Solar panels are widely adopted and on many homes here. All school kids must wear wide brimmed hats for outdoor play. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing.

So, while we continue to adapt and get tanned without trying, we are grateful to have these experiences good, bad, and ozone.

Forgoing Family Traditions


Our swiftly approaching move to the land Down Under has uprooted the family traditions we’ve started since our first child was born 6 years ago.

Why forgo? Many reasons, but for one, it’s not a family tradition if the whole family isn’t there to enjoy it. This move has meant my husband has had to commute to and from Australia in 2 six week stints. Between the 2 stints, we did what we could to achieve the “annual” tag for the family activity. We sure did go pumpkin picking at this huge farm an hour away from the house like we always did, but we went early in the season (September) on an 80 degree day, and Daddy was gone again before the time was right to carve the pumpkins. So they sat and still do on our front porch uncarved. Daddy missed Halloween trick or treating, so I left the house decorations up until he came home and we are still all eating candy.

Now, celebrating our daughters’ birthdays one week apart around Thanksgiving is the payoff for missing Halloween. Daddy refused to miss these huge milestones, so we are back on track in the best way.
This means for me, Mommy has to make choices about other things we forego due to our belongings currently being sorted, donated, trashed, organized, packed before the movers carry it all away for the slow boat in a couple short weeks. It’s always been important for me to make them a homemade cake or cupcakes for their special days and ya know, that’s the furthest thing from my mind right now. Not to mention I will be selling my KitchenAid standing mixer as quickly as I can–it’s going to cost HOW much in Oz? I will however, substitute that with making fruit kabobs for the school celebrations and ordering a sheet cake from Costco for their joint birthday party (something I said I would always keep separate). I still have to get through Thanksgiving dinner, which now features an already cooked turkey from Whole Foods!!

Next holiday up, Christmas. How do we do this when our ornaments are on the ocean on their way to our new continent? Breathe, I tell myself. No homemade Christmas cutout cookies with buttercream frosting. We will be OK! Tree, scaled down from our typical 9 foot live Douglas fir…. not sure at this moment but am thinking one of our new pines in the back yard may work! At least we have Christmas lights here as they won’t work in Oz! So we will light the heck out of a tree and due to our friends having a wine tasting party, our kids made decorations that we will save and put on the tree and offer up to Gramma to take as keepsakes.

Getting this all out in a blog is already lifting the Mommy guilt of not doing the annual traditions we love so much. I have to tell myself, we will create new ones, this is a blip for now, we can always celebrate fully when we get there in January, wait….Summer? Thinking ahead, depending on the weather at Christmastime, it may be too hot to even think about cranking the stove heat to bake!

Anyway, I am beginning to embrace the sacrifices we had to make to our traditions to take on this fantastic adventure, and realize there are new ones we have yet to create for ourselves. My December and the girls’ November birthdays mean we could actually have POOL PARTIES! Oh yes, I feel much better now.

The Great Migration – Modern Era


I had always imagined I would travel the world but I guess had never imagined living anywhere outside of the United States. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling, although not as much as I’d like to have under my belt. Now, I’m actually moving to Australia, to live for an indefinite amount of time. Huh? Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine trading deer for kangaroos.

Thanks to an amazing work opportunity for my husband, we are packing up two small children, two cats and a dog and leaving our American life behind. Unlike migrations of generations past, ours will be on a huge ship in the sky and take just over a day of travel to get there, not months. We are also making the choice for new personal and work opportunities, not leaving due to famine or religious persecution, at least not in a literal sense.

This is difficult in some obvious respects; we are leaving my family (hubby’s a Brit) and our dear friends behind. We have to shed all of the small luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to like fast internet, nice (and fast) cars, a home on an acre of land, my day job which has always been the higher breadwinner for us, and modern convenience.

Why are we doing this then, leaving what many would call the American Dream? Because, and simply put, there’s a greater opportunity elsewhere and we are a bit disillusioned with the current state of the American Dream. My husband has been trying to grow his research program at his University here in the US but they don’t seem to be interested in supporting his work. Even though he has had funding success-what happens with ever shrinking NIH budgets when he doesn’t get funded? It’s a bit too focused on making money at the moment.

For me, I’ve lived in the pharmaceutical world for over 10 years and it’s dismal. Corporate integrity is on the line as my company pays for past mistakes, the anticipated blockbuster sales are lackluster, and I am in a current position I didn’t strive for and which buries my talents. I also have my genealogy business that deserves attention to see what it truly can become. The time is now for greener pastures.

While not exactly green, we are headed to Melbourne, Australia, which seems to be in the process of a reinvention. Named the most livable city in the world the last several years, we are about to see what all of the fuss is about. I visited in February for less than a week but it was enough to know Australians are friendly and my husband would be supported in his line of work. No longer an island, there was a true team dedicated to propelling science that encourages an active lifestyle and its direct effects on chronic health conditions.

While the transition planning, hubby’s Oz job commute 2 times for several weeks, house move and sell are all big factors and adjustments for us now, we know in our hearts this is the right next step for us and are open to what our Oz future holds.

Stay tuned, there’s always more…

Have State Archives, Will Not Travel


Most of us into genealogy, religiously watch TV episodes like Who Do You Think You Are and Following Your Roots. We all get a charge when {insert celebrity name here} walks triumphantly up the stairs to a state archives building with hopes of uncovering new information in their ancestral quest. These buildings themselves are often quite majestic and full of rich history.

But when you’re immersed in assisting a client with their family research, it all seems so grandiose to propose going to the state archives to research and hopefully retrieve juicy documents relevant to the research. If you’ve got all of the time and money in the world and love to visit on your own, fantastic! But as an efficient genealogist and steward of my client’s funds, I approach the work strategically.

I am an hour away from my state archives building so there’s mileage, my hourly rate, parking fees, research time there locating records, copying records (as permissible) or taking copious notes. It just doesn’t make sense to me to do all of that without a strong sense that the records will produce what clues I am looking for. Granted, some records are only available if you visit, as photocopying might be prohibited but I consider it one of my last resorts after exhausting other research paths.

My latest client would most likely agree that this approach was well worth the time and money, as I have ordered what will amount to roughly 400 photocopies, through the state archives online portal from the comfort of my home office. They will be shipped to me and I didn’t have to look up, look for, or photocopy all of these documents. Delegation! Price tag, $98.20.

Time that my clients pay preciously for, should provide a return on research investment from using resources effectively, and give the most bang for the buck.

Only drawback so far is waiting up to 10 business days for the near ream of paper to arrive. Ah, the life of the impatient genealogist.


Family Recipes – Tried and true

Kept, on the left

Kept pile on the left

If you’re at all like me, over the years you’ve been collecting recipes from family, friends, magazines, blogs, websites, food delivery services or jotted them down quickly off of a cooking show.

What happens to all of those recipes? In my case, I have amassed a kitchen drawer full. So full in fact, I always have a hard time opening and closing it every time I reach for my oven mitts which are always shoved back in the top of the drawer.

This morning I am going through this drawer piled high with paper and purging, digitizing or saving as keepsakes. With an impending international move, I can’t feel ok anymore with dragging these paper scraps with me. As a professional genealogist, I’ve been digitizing a massive amount of family photos, why should this area of my life be any different?

End result, I have put a stack into the recycling bin and digitized about 10, and kept 5.

What the heck have I been doing all of these years carrying this stuff with me? I like to cook but all of these things I thought I would “try” someday never happened. And the tried and true recipes I could count on cooking or baking year after year? Yep, those special recipes passed down generations in my family.

Are you sitting on a pile of recipes too? What’s your plan for them? Share your ideas here. Next stop, cookbooks….

“God will forgive me, won’t he?”


These were some of the last words spoken by Sister Mary Jude as we said our goodbyes.

This Memorial Day weekend was spent making a pilgrimage of sorts to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was Sister Mary Jude’s 50th Golden Jubilee of her Profession as a cloistered Dominican nun. It’s not often one gets a glimpse of this contemplative and prayerful life behind the monastery walls and when invited to share in this special day, I didn’t think twice. So with my mother and five year old daughter in tow, we flew to Buffalo, NY.

I had been there before, 25 years earlier for the Silver Jubilee and my first time before that was in the early 80s with my mom and grandmother. I wanted to keep with that “tradition” and share the experience with my own daughter. Those that know me well as non-religious found it hard to believe this was such a big deal to me. Why would I be canceling my trip to Vegas in favor of hanging with cloistered nuns in a monastery? What’s the draw?

My answer, Sister Mary Jude is my Great Aunt Terry. She is my maternal grandmother’s sister and in her days on the outside lived life to its fullest. She was known as daring, free-spirited, beautiful and stylish and with the voice of an angel. She sang in her Uncle’s band and always made time to visit the children at each of her sisters’ homes. She was also engaged to be married before she received her calling.

Since 1961 she’s been a different kind of sister, but hasn’t lost her spunk. She still keeps the other nuns on their toes and is still quick to enjoy the finer things in life, situation permitting, or fitting should I say.

When we told her she accepted communion but did not partake of the wine, she seemed disappointed in herself and was sure she would make it up with two sips next time. Our cousin came to the rescue and brought a water bottle filled with remnants of strawberry and mango Arbor Mist. A quick spin of the turnstile and it was in the grateful hands of Sister Mary Jude. Time and prayer has affected her ability to raise her head very well at the ripe age of 86 but damned if she didn’t throw that sip of wine back in a hurry. She joked it was no problem to raise her head when she needed to.

Once during our conversation she had also honed in on my daughter who was sitting at the table quietly coloring in one of the religious coloring books offered there. My daughter was also snacking. “What’s she eating?” my Aunt Terry asked.

In an instant we were also introducing her to Pirate Booty. Enter Sister Mary Emmanuel who has been in just a bit longer than Aunt Terry, having entered when she was 18. She’s the perfect compliment to Aunt Terry and you can tell they enjoy each other’s company. We introduced her to Pirate Booty as well…and then the iPad.

Both were amazed by the technology and ability to see the rest of the family members in an instant. Sister Emmanuel got the finger swipe mastered in all of 2 seconds and I sat there just caught in the emotional moment of my littlest daughter on the other side of the cloister grill work in the loving hand of Great Great Aunt Terry (to her anyway). The joy it brought to both sisters was so heart warming and I started to get the idea that all of the nuns should have their own iPads. But then again, that kinda goes against why they are there in the first place.

At the end of the visit for the day, it was just my mom, my daughter and me and even Aunt Terry was finally alone on the other side. We were all having a hard time letting go. At our urging, we proposed the sneaky idea of her coming out of the cloister door to say a physical goodbye. She had done it only once before that we were aware of. It seemed to take forever to unlock and open the door, but once it opened we all wasted no time in getting huge hugs and kisses with Aunt Terry. Before she hugged us she said with a twinkle in her eye, “God will forgive me, won’t he?”.ImageImageImage

Yes Aunt Terry, I think for you, he will forgive this moment and by the way your huge shipment of Pirate Booty is on the way to the monastery. Love you.




RootsTech 2014 and a month of Mormon



Any genealogist worth one’s salt (yes, pun intended) at some time must make the pilgrimage to the city which boasts the most family history records on earth.  This was my first time there and having exhausted the microfilm deliveries in my local Family History Center, it was time to develop a robust research plan and couple a trip to the Family History Library (FHL) with RootsTech 2014, the largest US gathering of all things genealogy, technology, history, story.

Sparing the play-by-play (which is what Twitter and Facebook are for), I will glean some of the highlights. Day 1, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. Her keynote was filled with the luscious ingredients of family, farm and food woven together to create a beautiful and moving story about her life on the plains and humble blog beginnings to the amazing brand she has created. Her story was peppered with images of her children, her basset hounds, a close-up of her Marlboro Man husband’s backside in Wranglers and a precious image of a cow walking right up to the open home windows to say hello. Oh and of course pictures of delectable food dishes! I had no idea after the moving keynote event that I would get an opportunity for a selfie and a quick Q&A with her!


The FindMyPast seminars were one of the most informative and additive to my Irish research, however if I could skip the sponsored lunch with them that I paid $25 for to watch them go back in time in a Delorean and the Dr. Who TARDIS, I would. I was on a mission to replace that moment in time with much better food and never ate a thing in the convention center. 

Other seminars that were particularly useful to me were digital organization and workflows, blog features with WordPress, and communicating in a sea of social media.

I did have a ticket for late night at the FHL on Friday night, but I started to get smart about planning my days so I could beat the crowd. I skipped the next 2 days of keynotes after discovering they would be online at later. No sense in smearing my mascara each morning during those emotional speeches so instead I went to the library. Here was my view:


Yes, I geeked out here while most people were on date night. While I think I only uncovered one piece of info to help my own research along, it was always a nice visit there. All of the volunteers (read Mormons on missions) were a delight and so flirtatious even the eldest of the ladies!

Food-well once I got past the conference food experience, I was on the hunt for local, tasty eats and I have a couple recommendations which are all within walking distance from the Salt Palace Convention Center. Sixth and Vine is a yummy American comfort food stop in Nordstrom. You get to watch your meal prepared before your eyes (counter service for 1) and it warms your soul. I got braised short ribs with mashed potatoes, spinach and the best onion rings I’ve ever had. Dinner was Naked Fish and I had the best sushi I’ve ever had-seriously, no lie, it was like butter. The spicy garlic edamame was very tasty as was the vegetable tempura but you must try the sushi!

To wrap up these highlights in a pretty bow, I have to say the thing I yearned to do the most with each spare moment was to view the sights around Temple Square. The architecture is magnificent and no detail spared. The Tabernacle was acoustically the coolest place to whisper in and hear your sound travel on the wind. As I was wandering through, I came across a man training his Belgian Malinois puppy. Why is this a highlight? Because my conversation with him made me realize I should never get one of this amazing breed even as badly as I had wanted one before. Too much drive and needs constant training, like all day and shouldn’t be left alone. OK, that’s all I needed to hear.

So in a matter of days, I was back to my reality at home and then snowed in for 3 days with the kids. I still have so much more to blog about and need some real time to do so. But this month would not be complete without a Broadway Show about…you guessed it, Mormons.


A fondness for table scars


Cleaning the kitchen table after dinner tonight I discovered all of the new scratches and scrapes. I shrugged and said to myself, this is life. We didn’t spend much on this table but the value it holds is immeasurable.

This table was the ideal replacement for the one the previous occupiers of our home had used when they owned this house. I remember loving their cute little table in the eat-in kitchen and we even offered extra cash at closing for it, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They had spent so much time and memories were created over that table and it was going with them. I never realized then what importance that table brought to them, I just thought it looked cute and we wanted to have that furnishing taking care of when we moved in.

Fast forward almost 7 years and I am getting teary-eyed over our current table. There’s nothing special about the furniture itself, but there’s no way I could ever part with it. Why? The chairs for one have seen baby booster seats strapped to them and have worn away the finish from the milk and countless other sticky items that have been encrusted under the seat. Both of our girls have stabbed the table with forks, we’ve planted countless herbs and vegetable seedlings, hosted parties, stripped some of the finish with nail polish remover as we’ve painted nails, and the grooves along the edge are filled with dried yogurt–yes this table is a keeper.

My oldest daughter in the past week has remained quiet on the car ride home and refused to tell me how her day was, what she learned at school or why she’s sad about something until our family is sat at the table so she can tell us all at once. I live for the moments at our table. Whether it’s a meal, a card game, a science project, a craft or playing under it with blankets and figurines, this is the precious time and memory that this table absorbs.

My youngest daughter likes to steal food, solicit hugs and kisses, climb across, jab and scrape with any sharp object, and spill any drink (on purpose) on this table so it must be important to her as well. This table is a living thing in this house.

Both kids without prompting (and mind you they are 5 and 2) both offer to clean the table and chairs when they see me cleaning it. They wipe the dirt, food smudges, drips and we start all over again the next meal, moment, memory.

Do you treasure your table like we do? Share your story with us!

Turkey legs and it’s a small world


Our recent family trip to Disney World was both an exciting adventure for our little ones as well as chaotic!!
Most parents who have been there (and judging by the parental faces I saw there) would agree!

Our first day in Magic Kingdom was full of fun and a quest for princesses. Following my husband’s and oldest daughter’s wild ride on Splash Mountain, we were meandering back toward the castle and grabbed turkey legs to munch on. It was something I had my heart set on before we even arrived but they were so hot to hold and hard to eat–not to mention greasy! On our way to find a place to sit and snack we briefly ran into Tiana from “Princess and the Frog”. She is an all time favorite of our daughter’s but even princesses need a break and that’s where she was headed. Oh no, no photopass pic or autograph for our books?! OK Tiana, when will you be back? 5pm, ok we need to wait an hour in line; can we hang that long?

We did on a nice covered bench near her “station” and proceeded to try and eat those turkey legs. An older couple sat down at the bench near us with their sleeping grandson in a stroller. After a short while the woman asked me if my turkey leg was good as she’d always wondered about how they tasted. I told her it was all of the aforementioned things above and was ok. She then went on to ask about the ages of our girls, talked about her grandson and then said they were from St. Petersburg.

I’ve always thought that there’s always a slim chance people you meet know people you know. So I asked and gave the name of the cousin I found doing my personal family tree research (also living in St. Pete’s). This was the same cousin (if you read my earlier posts) that I went out of my comfort zone and state to meet in person. The one I had a non-stop fun-filled weekend with at casino, church and beach! Yep, this woman knew who she was, in fact she was so excited to tell me how their sons were best friends growing up. She asked me to take a photo of them and email it to my cousin and say “Hi”. Done. Right, this was was what I was thinking….It’s a Small World. But oddly enough, we never got around to going on that ride this trip.

Have you ever had what seemed like a casual conversation (in this case turkey legs?!) which turned into something much more meaningful? Did you ever meet an unknown relative or friend of a friend this way? Please post a response if you care to share your story.

Talking with the dead


I was trying to get this blog post out sooner but then I realized (besides my lack of time this time of year) that this would be better fitting during the holidays when most people celebrate their faith, traditions or customs and remember those that are no longer with us. I wonder if by merely remembering them in the holidays past, we are communicating with them.

The Long Island Medium would probably say yes. In fact, I took my mom to see her in October. I knew I had a spiritual experience there although I don’t practice a religion. I really felt she talked with the departed and brought comfort and closure to so many people that night. Will their holidays be a little lighter this year after that experience? I hope so. What do you think? What experiences have you had of a supernatural kind like that that helped you to find peace with losing someone? Every time we think or dream of a person, look at the clock at the same time out of habit, have a light that flickers at a certain moment, is that a sign from the dead?

One tidbit I’ve shared on my personal Facebook page is the connection I’ve felt between my grandmother, her sister (my Great Aunt) and my now 2-year old daughter. After having our first daughter through IVF, we were a bit shocked when we found out I was pregnant with a second while in the urgent care suffering from an upper respiratory infection. This day we also heard the news of my Great Aunt’s passing. Aunt Margaret was like a surrogate Gramma to me as mine passed when I was 13 on Thanksgiving Day. Growing up I always felt it was hard to be thankful on Thanksgiving Day when my Gramma was taken from us on that holiday. Cutting this story to the quick, my daughter was born later that year (12 days earlier than her December due date) on November 28th, the same date as my Gramma’s passing. This year of course the day fell again on Thanksgiving. A birthday celebration with this new little life has brightened even the saddest of memories of loss. I am a firm believer that if you pay attention and are open to it, signs and communication come from the dead.

As a genealogist, I feel like I am in constant touch by bringing stories to life from the grave. It’s the untold relationships and stories that I stumble upon that enrich my own family search or provide insight and clarity to others. I welcome you to post replies sharing signs you’ve received or other amazing events that have occured and how they’ve brought you closure and closer with the dead. Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!