GRADUATION!! (Grad School)

Saturday, April 6


Family has been on my mind as of late.  One of my multitude of younger brothers returned from serving his mission for the Church in February, which means there was a weekend trip home. It was nice to have most of the family together again. Two years is a long time to be away. (If you have questions about what a mission is you can find answers here) And then we found a long lost brother.... we think. My little sister has been searching for a year now to find my older brother who was given up for adoption many, many years ago. And she succeeded (DNA pending). Building that new relationship is really cool, and so family and what it means has been floating around in my head for weeks. But to define family for me, I have to go back about two decades.....

When I was 11 and 1/2 my parents divorced. My mother quickly remarried and we relocated across the globe, literally. We went from being a small family of four children living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a large family of nine children living in a tiny house in Provo, Utah. I distinctly remember our first family meeting with my new step-father's parents. It was just before the wedding, and my new grandmother looked at each of us and said, there is no step in this family, you are brothers and sisters. (or something close to that). It was firmly ingrained in us that we were a single unit.... and that grew to include the added half-brothers and half-sisters that came through the years.  Even now, I don't use the terms unless they are needed for clarification. Which usually means someone has asked. Of course it wasn't as simple as that sounds, but that is not today's topic.

What is on topic, is that in my mind my family was all inclusive. A quick break down of the family logistically (i.e. technically):  I have 1 older "natural" sister, 1 younger "natural" sister, and 1 younger "natural" brother (that makes up the 4 of the original family). I have 2 older step-brothers, 1 younger step-sister, and 2 younger step-brothers (that makes up the other 5 that married into our family). I have 3 younger half-brothers (they added to the existing 9) and 1 older half-brother (this is the long-lost brother we just found). And finally I have 3 half-sisters (these are Dad's kids).  And a partridge in  pear tree... For those that didn't want to add as they went along: There were 12 of us growing up with my mom and step-dad, add the other half-siblings and that makes 16... Yes, I am one of 16 children. No, I don't know all of their birthdays, but I have them written down with addresses somewhere.

Back on topic. As adults, I thought we had reached a definition of family. In our faith, we believe in the eternal family. That after our death, we will get to live with our family again as long as the family is sealed by the proper authorities (again, a longer Mormon discussion. You can find information here)  So you can imagine my surprise, when in the last month, I felt my definition of family challenged. I grew up in a house full of children and life, and my siblings are all connected to me in some manner. In my mind, my biological parents didn't stick around, but I could always count on my siblings. Even when we were fighting. As an adult, that has only grown. It now also includes my in-laws. They are sealed members of my family now.  I have always known that my siblings (at least the 11 I grew up with), will always be there for me, even if they don't agree with my opinions, or my politics, or whatever.

So the trouble began with my father. As I said, my parents were divorced, Dad re-married and had three daughters, all of which are much younger then his first family. As they were not in regular contact with us, they are some what of a separate family. Yet, as an adult, I try to keep in touch, because regardless of all else, in my mind, they are my sisters. So, a while back, I got a call from an upset sister to tell me that my wonderful father had told her that he was taking his "whole family" on a trip to Florida. I tried to make a joke and ask where our tickets were, but it really fell flat. I felt bad, but there is not anything I can really do to help her feel better. What do you say to a kid (even an adult one), when her father's word choice admits that he doesn't think of her as part of his family. It's kind of devastating. I would say that I am used to it, but I'm not. Even when you expect it, it still hurts. But more I was frustrated. This didn't fit my definition of family.Though, I will admit this was an expected frustration; it has been ongoing since I was 12.

Then came the long-lost brother. It was amazing, the first few days and nights, there were phone calls and Facebook messages. It has been awesome getting to know him. And then came another call. This time a sister-in-law. And this time, I was informed that yet another member of my family (oddly my step-dad this time) had asked her not to friend the new long-lost brother on Facebook because it was a special time just for the original family to get to know our new brother. And I got angry. And I mean really angry, my hands were shaking type of angry. Phone calls made, back and forth, between me and siblings, and me and my step-dad. In my opinion, this one act had set out to re-define what I had always believed about my family. For if just the four us us needed time to get to know this brother before everyone else, it implied that the familial bond, which we had always been told existed, was nothing more then a figment of my imagination. We were not a single familial unit, but different families living in the same space and pretending. I thought we had worked past these questions years ago.  Especially my step-dad, who I have considered to be my dad since I was 12. He was the one who went to my father/daughter things when I was young.  He was the one who taught me what a good man acted like. He is the one that taught me about my faith, and where to look for solace in the chaos that was my childhood. Yet, in one moment, he destroyed that by implying the bond only existed in my head. And I'll be honest.... I was devastated.  The words of my biological father to my sister were expected, but these, these caught me off-guard.

And so, now here I am. In a limbo of sorts. My family hasn't changed, at least in my definition. But I now fear the definitions of those I call family. It has already been noted by some that they do not see it as I do. And that is what breaks my heart and keeps me up till 5 in the morning these days. That is what I am ignoring, by pouring myself into my school work and reading anything I can get my hands on. I don't want to have to face the fact that my brothers and sisters might not see me the way that I see them. And to be honest, if they don't, I am not sure I want to learn the truth.

I know that birth families are important, but to me, biology and genetics are only a portion of what makes a family. The bonds that created between family members makes up the rest. Nature vs. Nurture. We aren't just our genetic code, we are the community that created us. My brothers and sisters and I have shared experiences that no one else can understand. Even though each of us is unique (some more then others. :P), those experiences defined us and drew us together. Therefore, to me, the words step and half have no meaning. Regardless of whether or not we are best friends with all of our other siblings, we survived our childhood; and therefore, we are family.  I don't share those same bonds with my half-sisters or with my new brother, yet. I hope to have the time to create them.

There is more flitting through my head, but I think this is enough for tonight... Sorry for the unload, but it has been eating at me. Family.... maybe I really just don't have one. Only people that were forced to be around when I was younger.

Monday, December 10

A Normal Mormon....

I have gotten more questions about my faith since coming to Louisiana then any time since Kristen, Beth, and I used to talk religion all those years ago at Managed Objects. Since I am never one to be preachy, I usually focus on the specific questions I am asked. But those questions run the gamut of my faith. From 'do we actually still practice polygamy' (No, not for over a hundred years) to 'can i see your special underwear?' (the answer to that was do I ask to see your underwear?)  Saturday night, while walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans with some friends from school, I joked about what a bad Mormon I was, because all my friends must think I am weird. All they have learned is that, I wear different underwear, I don't plan to be a second wife (or third or fourth :P), angels don't have wings, and there were gold plates that came out of the ground. One of the girls turned to me, and after a moment said, "You know what I have learned? That you are normal." She then went off on what a tongue twister 'Normal Mormon' is. But her comment made me pause.

I learned a long time ago, that the best way for me to educate people around my faith is by my example.  People who hang out with me learn quickly that, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don't drink, or do things that require others to work on Sunday. That is quickly followed by the understanding that I don't consider the term Mormon to be an insult.  But beyond that I try not to push my faith. But I am willing to answer any question about my faith without taking offense. By openly answering one person's questions, it got around that I was willing to answer anything; even if that answer was I didn't know and would have to look it up.  And the questions have come, including those mentioned above, plus our stance on marriage, our belief in the Savior, and of course the Book of Mormon. As a Mormon, we do have beliefs that differ from other Christian faiths but, when we treat ourselves as oddities, people begin to believe the crazy stuff that is said about us. No we don't sacrifice virgins in our temples in any way. Yes, my mother is a second wife, but only because my step-dad's first wife died and he remarried.

So I think one of the greatest things that we can be as Mormons is normal.  We are normal. We are not extremist, or cultish, or any other crazy. We adhere to a high spiritual, moral and ethical code, but we aren't to judge those who choose to not live according to our stance. For me, what it comes down to is that, as a Mormon, I believe very strongly in free agency. One of the purposes of this life if to give people the chance to choose for themselves how they will act and what they will believe. In that vein, I believe making a well-informed choice requires all the available information. We send missionaries to inform and invite people to learn. Never to force or manipulate people into joining our church. Most people aren't planning to join our faith, but they do have questions. And religion has become such a touchy subject in our society, people fear asking those questions. Instead they are left to believe the second-, third- or even twentieth-hand knowledge.

Therefore, my name is Rae, and I am a normal Mormon.

Monday, October 29

Fall has arrived

In Virginia they are battening down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy. In Utah, my friends are getting snow in the mountains... and in the valley one cold morning. Here in Louisiana, I am enjoying beautiful fall weather. the temperature is in the 60s and 70s. I wear long sleeves and light sweaters and spend time sitting on my little porch enjoying the sunshine. People around here are bundled up in winter coats. I have even seen some wearing scarves and gloves. It is odd to me.

But even more odd is this feeling of laziness. I am used to having a very full schedule and, though I am busy, it is not the same type of busy. I now have time to sit on my porch and read assignments or write papers. These days, I have time to do laundry, and clean house. I can cook, though I get bored easily. I learned to make bread and rice pudding. It is just odd. I am an adult.

Thursday, September 27

Another year...

7 years ago today, I started blogging. That won't mean much to most of the world. For me, it means that I was confident enough to let other people read about the chaos that existed in my head. Though, most of the posts have had very little meaning to anyone other than myself, I am glad that I have had a chance to keep somewhat of a journal for the last little while.

In other news... I am finally settling in at grad school. There have been a 3 home football games, 11 classes, 50+ hours of GA work, 1 hurricane, and a bomb threat. I guess that means I am really a graduate student. As the semester continues life gets busier. Homework seems to be a full time job, though, my current courses aren't reading heavy. Though the large number of required projects definitely offsets that. The GA project has me all excited. I am the editor for a research book. I love working on the citation sources. I know not many people are interested in citations or even editing, but I seem to love it.  It has been a great place to learn that I am not as odd as I originally thought. Lol! There are many people who think history is interesting and love libraries. Lol!

I have also  received a calling to the primary presidency. For those that aren't LDS, this means that I will be working with 2 other women to run the congregation's children's meetings. Part of my church responsibility will be to set up the cub scouts for the ward (congregation). We haven't needed a cub scouts troop until now, and I get to be one to set this up. Since I have never worked with scouts before it will be a new experience for me.  It will be a lot of work. I was worried about not being busy enough, and now it has been assured that I will not be bored. Lol!

I can't explain how grateful I am to be here. I really feel that I am here for a specific reason. I don't know what that reason is, but I guess I have three years to figure it out. I am learning so much here and it has only been a month. My classes fascinate me, but more importantly I am learning about myself. I continue to call my friends and family every day, because I miss them so much. Yet, I am having to rely on myself again, which I haven't had to do for a few years. It is nice.

Sunday, August 19


In a little over an hour I am going to bed with the hope that I will sleep for 8 hours...... And then my first day of Grad school shall begin. The last week has flown by. I have met my new ward.... and been assigned a solo part in the Relief Society portion of next weekend's Ward Variety Show. Yeah, I am sure I will survive. My little cottage is almost completely set up. I have just a few boxes of desk items that need unpacked or stored, but I am not sure where I want them just yet. I am thinking of converting my kitchen table to a study area. It is where I end up most of the time these days any way.  I went to orientation both for the grad school and for the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). I have prep'ed and done my readings for tomorrow. There were quite a few of them, but they were interesting.  I went biking to acclimate to the area and spoken to quite a few students in the area about biking to school. Unfortunately between the roads here and the drivers who don't pay attention to cyclists, I am not sure how often I will actually bike.

There isn't much more I can do to get ready for tomorrow...except sleep. Sadly, I fear sleeping isn't what my brain wants to do. So here is hoping that the butterflies in my stomach will settle enough for me to get some shut eye before 6 am.

Saturday, August 11

Onto another adventure.....

Tonight begins the start of another journey on my own. As I mentioned in my last post, my time in San Antonio ended on Friday and Steph headed home this morning. So tonight is my first official night on my own here in Baton Rouge. Tomorrow, I'll head to my new ward (LDS congregational Sunday meeting) and Monday I will head to the school to turn in some paperwork and try to acclimate. Wednesday I have to report for new student orientation, and the following Monday classes begin.

My thoughts are all jumbled as I sit and try to plan for my immediate future. I am excited yet terrified, eager yet nervous, and ambitious yet homesick. Everything is new here, the culture, language, food, and even the temperature. It is amazingly beautiful here. The trees are massive, and everything is so green. Even with all of that, I feel out of place. I feel a little adrift, floating in this sea of southern strangeness. But the hardest part is reconciling to the fact that the only way to acclimate is one day at a time. The last three years in Utah flew by, and I know three years from now I will look back and feel the same. Yet, sitting here tonight it feels as if that time is forever away. I worry about meeting new people. What if I become a hermit? I worry about my new program. At UVU, I had an idea of what to expect. Here I am completely clueless. I am terrified that I won't be able to keep up with the work. Everyone keeps telling me how hard it will be, which scares me even more. I am not stupid but that doesn't mean I won't struggle in my program. What if I don't like it? I have been working towards this goal for 4 years. What happens if it isn't what I thought it would be? Or what if I am not a good enough student to keep up with the dual masters program?  Am I being over confident thinking I can work with both an academic and a professional program at the same time? 

Last time I moved like this (all by myself with no connections to the city) I met Boo, Steph, and Gwen within weeks of arriving in the city. 8 months later (7 years ago this weekend), I moved in with a group of girls and met Kate. I got really lucky. I am not sure I can repeat such luck. I am not even sure how it happened the first time. 

Well, whatever happens, the journey starts here. Tonight. One step at a time. One day at a time. My books and clothes are unpacked. My bathroom is organized. I will work on my kitchen and bedroom tomorrow and Monday. For now, I am headed to bed. 

Tuesday, August 7

Another ending...

This week marks my last week in San Antonio. On Friday, Steph and I will caravan to Baton Rouge, where she will leave me. I will then have 10 days to prepare myself before the official start of classes. The day that I have been working towards for the past 4 years will have arrived.

So what am I doing?

  • I visited with my brother and his family over the weekend. They will be a long 12 hours away and visiting won't be easy. 
  • I have started packing things up here. I hadn't realized how much I stuff I have. I know it all fit in my car at one time but good night nurse. Now I have to pack it all up again. 
  • I am still reading. Some fiction to ease the nerves, as well as some of my textbooks. I want to be ready to jump in on my first day. 
  • I have plans for lunch with friends that I have made here.
  • I plan to hit the Riverwalk before leaving the city but it is August and hot... it might not happen.
And that is about it. I am nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers, but there isn't much I can do about it. I have to go about my daily life. I can prepare, but only so much. I don't think I will fail, but it is always a worry with me. Whatever comes, I will handle it. will be alright in the end. If it isn't alright, it isn't the end. 

Monday, July 23

Found while lost

Today I decided to get out of the house and do something touristy. I have been here for weeks and haven't visited any of the important landmarks. So I thought "what the hey, I will get up early so I can be out before the heat gets too intense." I figured my luck was high when I found a parking spot and someone gave me a pass for free parking. But quickly realized that I needed a better map.

After wandering downtown for about half an hour I made it to the Alamo and paid for an self-guided, audio tour. It was only 10 am but the temperature was already high so I learned quickly that I was going to be sweaty and gross. How do people live here? But it was awesome to see all of the artifacts that have been recovered from the various centuries here. The architecture itself is some of the oldest in San Antonio. Inside the shrine and the long barracks there are no pictures allowed so I didn't take any while wandering. But I did take the opportunity to listen to the story of the battle. One of the older volunteers walked visitors through the battle in the courtyard. I would definitely suggest stopping by if you are ever in San Antonio.

But the coolest part was when I got lost for the second time trying to find my way back to my car. I saw a sign for the central library and wanted to see it. I never found it but I did stumble across a cool old building in the middle of downtown.  And directly in front of the building was the veterans memorial plaza.

A large flag pole in the center of the memorial had it's flag at half mast to recognize the loss in Colorado last week. It also had an inscription dedicating the plaza to the soldiers who served in Vietnam.

To the immediate right of the flag pole was a marker honoring the men and women from San Antonio who served during World War II.  Interestingly it was the smallest marker in the plaza. I thought it an interesting difference between the massive WWII monument in DC, which is much greater than the other monuments.

Past the WWII monument to the far right is a statue of two men in a foxhole, it commemorates the soldiers from San Antonio who served in the Korean conflict. The bricks surrounding the memorial include the names of the men and women who served. The massive foxhole is awesome to see. And not an awesome like "cool dude." Awesome as in awe inspiring. Recognizing that awe, someone had taken the time to drape a flag and flowers on one of the soldiers.

Following the path back around to the other side of the plaza takes visitors to the largest memorial. This memorial was to honor those soldiers from San Antonio that had served and had fallen during the Vietnam conflict.
 Dwarfing visitors, this massive monument includes plaques explaining it's purpose and design. A design which includes and airtight compartment in the middle which includes the names of every soldier that was lost or killed during the conflict. Again flowers had been added by someone. I was amazed at the sense of awe that was created in the middle of a busy downtown. In DC the National Mall and all of it's monuments are cushioned from the real world of the bustling DC metro area. It is expected that everyone will feel the significance of the memorials there. Yet, in the center of downtown San Antonio, this memorial plaza creates that experience on a smaller scale. I spent a few minutes just sitting in the shade of a few trees and enjoying the plaza.

I had fun this morning and look forward to more exploring here in Texas.

Thursday, June 14

The End of the first phase

Picking up where I left off yesterday.....

After the Martin Luther King Jr, National Historic Site, I headed out to meet with Lara and the kiddos for lunch. Lara and I met when I lived in Virginia before she and her husband Nick were married. I haven't had a chance to catch up with them in real life since their wedding. Since they now have two children, the oldest of which is three, it was good to be able to sit down to lunch and just chat. Lunch ended just in time for me to head off to World of Coca-Cola Museum in Downtown Atlanta. I know it wasn't a serious historical exhibit but it was a fun chance for me. I did go to see the vault, where they keep the secret recipe, but really I think that exhibit is over-rated. The chance to see the changes that have been made to the logo, the bottle, and even the signage fascinated me. I also got the chance to see a bottling plant in slow motion. It was pretty cool. The coolest part, was the tasting room. There were 64 different flavors on tap for visitors to try. Various brands of the Coke family from around the globe, including things like Nestle and Fanta. Beverly from Italy was just nasty... but the drinks from South Africa, Brazil, and France were pretty good.

After almost an hour and a half at the Coke Museum, I jumped in the car and headed to a local Barnes and Noble for the Laurell K Hamilton author event. Now, Laurell K is not someone I talk about regularly. Her books are very dark, and there are very few friends I recommend her to. I think she is an awesome writer and her heroines are the kind that kick butt and take names. Usually women who have learned to take care of themselves. Yet, there is a lot of violence and quite a bit of sex in the later books in the series. This is the first time I have attended one of her events and it was interesting. Her husband Jonathan was with her and even answered a few questions. They were very open about many topics that most society seems to shy away from. Granted, I was surprised at some of the questions that people asked. But I guess after more than 20 years as an author who writes the scenes she does, shy wouldn't be in her repertoire. Yet, you could tell she wasn't completely comfortable being the center of attention. The first thing she did, after introducing herself and Jonathan, was ask the staff to remove the podium so she could pace. I have some pics on my phone, but haven't had a chance to download them. Yet, the session was an open Q&A, and she answered every question that was asked. She then took pictures with everyone that stood in line. It was pretty cool.

After the signing it was off to the home of another friend of Boo's for a good nights rest (or to read until 2 am and then snag a few hours sleep) before heading on to the next leg of the trip. I had planned to take longer on my drive from Atlanta to Richmond Kentucky, but there wasn't anything that really interested me. So the only places I stopped were at the Welcome Centers. I took a few minutes to stretch my legs and take a picture and each center in Tennessee and Kentucky. There is an awesome outdoor Appalachian Museum just outside of Knoxville. I went to it on my original journey from DC to Utah 3 years ago, so I didn't feel the need to go again. (I put the link in there because anyone who is in the area really should stop in and see it.)

So a quick 6 hours and I was at the cat farm,..... without cell reception. I am feeling a little adrift. How can I live without my phone? So, it has been quiet here, I took a long nap this afternoon and I plan to hit the hay here in just a bit. I am not sure how long I am staying. I have to check in with my recruiter. It will depend on when I need to be to work. But I am here till at least Sunday. :)

Wednesday, June 13

Road Trippin'

Blogging time is not a priority on this trip so I will have to catch as catch can. Today I have a few minutes while I wait to meet up with friends for lunch. It has been a pretty cool trip. Yesterday was quite a whirlwind. I got to tour the LSU campus, and by that I mean get lost over and over again. Lol! The old buildings are so cool. It is everything I imagined. The air was hot and muggy and the world was green. And there were massive trees everywhere. I mean, EVERYWHERE!

I did take a look at the graduate housing, and if the linoleum floors hadn't turned me off, then the roaches probably would have. But in reality, the part that made me most nervous was the fact that the front wall, aka the front door, was a set of sliding glass doors. Kinda like a closet. I know they said it was safe, but I would never have felt it was. So, I will have to find somewhere else.

After the housing tour, I set off for the next stop on the trip: Montgomery, Alabama. There was a lot of driving.... but I stayed close to the coast. It is amazingly green. It almost feels as if the forest was closing in on you. Once in Montgomery I had dinner at Sinclairs, per Boo's suggestion.  I can't remember what I had, but I do know that there were parmesan crusted tomatoes, Shrimp. Scallops, and Crab meat. It was GOOD! I stayed with a Friend of Boo's, Abby, and was up and out early yesterday morning.

The drive to Atlanta was great. While driving I passed a sign for Tuskegee University and decided to take a short detour. I didn't take any pictures and the tours weren't open but I did drive around the town for a bit. The buildings are gorgeous and the history of the area is amazing. Just one more place that I can add to my "I have been there" list.

After Tuskegee, I finished the drive to Atlanta and to my first stop which was the Martin Luther King Jr, National Historic Site. There is a museum and then various buildings that impacted Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. I took the time to go see the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King first preached, as well as the freedom walk that been created to house the tomb and the eternal flame. It was a gorgeous day, and I felt humbled by the work of this great man. As I was leaving I noticed a set of engraved stones in front of the museum. Each stone had the name of a great man who impacted the Civil Rights Movement. I was excited to see the stones for both Ambassador Andrew Young and Julian Bond. As a student at Utah Valley University, I had the privilege to hear these great men speak. I was even able to attend a dinner with Julian Bond. It was an exciting connection for me. I was also reminded that the UVU History department ROCKS!