Happy Birthday America

This is my favorite commercial ever created in the genealogy industry.  I love the concept and the execution.  In less than a minute, managed to remind us of the importance of unity and freedom.

This great experiment that is America, survives and thrives by our willingness to be united in supporting the freedom and rights of every human being.  I hope our experiment continues for generations to come.  I hope this lovely commercial can serve as a reminder that there is always more that unites us than divides us.  We are stronger when we are one.

Happy Birthday America.


Thank you for reminding us what we celebrate on this day.



The Price That We Pay as the Keepers of the Memories

PETERSON, Grandma and Grandpa with Kent kids, 1987

My siblings and I with our grandparents – Ronald and Margaret Peterson.  1987

The first time I read The Giver by Lois Lowry, I was in my late teens or early twenties attending college.  I was instantly struck by the lack of true joy that existed in the community because of the absence of historical knowledge and freedom of choice.  The stripping away of freedoms, the complete control of the environment – even the weather itself – eventually led to a deterioration in all that makes us human.  No one chose their own career, spouse, number of children, what to eat.  They took daily “vitamins” to control their sexual urges.  Children were bred and then placed with families.  Members of the community were instructed in every way.  They even lost their ability to see color.

But there was one community member who was the “Keeper of Memories”.  This community elder was tasked to contain all knowledge of the past.  He held the memories of snow, music, dance, colors, taste, love, fear, courage, war, death, hunger, and everything in life that has the potential to bring pain.  He alone could advise the other village elders on matters they did not understand.  He alone kept the memories of humanity.

Jonas, the main character of the story, is selected to be the next “Keeper of Memories” and begins to meet with the man for whom the book is titled.  The Giver slowly pours memories into Jonas.  He begins with pleasant memories.  As time passes Jonas learns all that has been taken from him and his community members.  He learns that joy and pain are two sides of the same coin.  That the deeper we love, the deeper our loss when death comes.

Genealogists are also Keepers of Memories.  Memories of family members and their lives.  Memories of facts and stories.  Memories of how our family members fit into history.  We research, archive, write, analyze, preserve, store, share, and most of all – we tell.

Genealogists may be the Keepers of Memories for their families.  But they are nothing like Lowry’s Keeper of Memories.  We tell everything we can, to everyone who will listen.

We pay a price for our role as Keepers.  We give up time, money, space in our homes and hearts.  We have rooms filled with boxes, photos, albums, records, and artifacts.  We pay far more than we would ever admit for supplies, trips, education, books, records, and subscriptions.  We spend more time than even exists in a normal person’s week on our work.  We fill our hearts to overflowing with connections, memories, and love for people – many of whom we have never met.

There is another price we pay.

It is sharp, gut wrenching pain.

Pain that comes when we open a death record for a little baby and read that they died of measles in their infancy.  Pain we feel again when we hear people refusing vaccines for their children.  Because we know.  We have read the records and seen child after child in the same family die of diseases that are preventable today.

Pain that comes when we learn that some ancestor was intentionally harmed by someone.  Or even worse, when we learn that a member of our family chose to cause harm to someone.

Pain that comes when we doggedly chase lead after lead after lead, hoping to find that one record, that one fact that will finally poke a hole in our brick wall only to face disappointment.

Pain that comes when we have some simple daily reminder of how we lost someone that we love more than we can possibly say.

That happened to me this weekend.

I was watching something from my DVR.  An old episode of Long Lost Family that I hadn’t watched yet.  When it finished and I clicked delete, the TV went right to the channel it was on and a commercial began to play at that moment.  The moment I clicked the off button was the exact moment I heard “…cures Hep C…”.  I instantly turned the TV back on and sobbed as I watched a commercial for the first time, advertising a new wonder drug that can cure Hepatitis C in a few weeks or months with a 95% cure rate.*

My heart immediately ached for my Grandpa Peterson.  A man that I loved with my whole heart.  A man who was good and loving and selfless.  A man who always had time to listen and help.  A grandpa like no other.  A grandpa who spent time with me – lots of time.  He was a Mormon Missionary, a Marine, a University Professor, a Psychologist, a Church Leader, a Marriage and Family Therapist, a School Board President, a good neighbor, and an outstanding son, husband, father, brother, and grandfather.

He died about the same time that I first read The Giver.  I was 20 years old when he passed.  It was a punch to the gut.

He died of complications from Hepatitis C that he contracted from a blood transfusion in the eighties.  Near the end, he had Congestive Heart Failure that was so advanced he slept in a wooden rocking chair most nights.  He tried everything the doctors suggested.  He tried Interferon treatments that left him even sicker, much like chemo treatments.  He was on a no salt diet and meds for his CHF.  Nothing was working.  As a last ditch effort, he had heart surgery.  There was a slim chance he would recover and then they could give him a liver transplant.  But he never left the hospital.  He died two weeks later, three weeks after his 71st birthday.

As I watched the commercial, I sobbed for the years that I lost with my Grandpa.  And I thought about how we, as our family’s Keeper of Memories, can’t help but connect everything we see, hear, read, and experience to some part of our family’s history.  I’m not the only member of my family who remembers how we lost Grandpa.  There are plenty of others who share in the same pain.  But there are so many other parts of our family story that are kept only by me.

I am my family’s Keeper of Memories.  I pay a price because of that.  But it is a price I would pay again and again because the joy, understanding, and connections that come, outweigh the price every single day.  Even on the days when a TV commercial reminds me of one of my greatest losses.  The depth of my pain only exists because of the depth of my love and the joyful memories of a grandfather who loved being a grandfather – who loved me completely and let me know it.

I treasure my role as Keeper of Memories for my family.  I don’t need that red sled.  I’m staying in this role until I know it’s time to pass the torch.  I will keep telling everyone in my family who will listen, the precious tid-bits about our past.

My Grandpa is one of the reasons I embraced this role that came to me.  His memory should never be forgotten.  I will do my best to make sure it isn’t.


What joy and pain have come to you as your family’s Keeper of Memories?



*I’m not sure if I got the numbers from the commercial exactly right.  That is what I recall.  I didn’t want to find it and watch it again.


ps – I believe that Families can be Forever.  This belief means that the flip side of my pain in missing my Grandpa is the joy of knowing I will see him again.  I treasure that knowledge.  His death was the first that I experienced in my family.  (Not counting great grandparents who I didn’t know nearly as well.)  That, and the manner in which he died, and the strength of our relationship, have made his loss more painful than many others I have experienced.  Which makes my gratitude for Eternal Families even deeper.  You can read more about what I believe here.


Memorial Day 2017


Memorial Day 2017 with my family was really wonderful.


Part One:


While driving north to begin our adventures, we talked about the origins of Memorial Day, our cousin James Boles and his life and sacrifice, and where we were headed.

Part Two:


A picnic lunch with my 4th great grandmother, Maria Amanda Dolby Skeen at Lehi Pioneer Cemetery.  This sweet little cemetery is just a grassy park surrounded by trees and a flowing irrigation ditch.  There is only one marker sharing the history of the cemetery.  We know that Maria is buried there.  She was the mother of 9 children, 4 who pre-deceased her.  She died in 1854 at the age of 36, leaving her husband with 5 young children.  Maria and her family were Mormon Pioneers who experienced extreme persecution and were driven from one place to the next, finally traveling with the saints to what is now known as Utah.  A few short years after their arrival, Maria passed away.



Part Three:


A few hours in the American Fork Cemetery.  We had a list of ten of my husband’s ancestors to look for, and 16 little star shaped flags to post on any veteran’s graves that had no decorations.  This year I couldn’t find actual flags so I had to make do with my Dollar Store find.


This little darlin’ was so fascinated by everything about the cemetery.  He wanted to know all about every headstone he came upon.  He was searching for “soldier headstones” and “B-E-C-K”.


He was so happy when he found his first “B-E-C-K” headstone.  Of course I missed his huge smile and caught his explanation instead.  😉


Jacob S and Elizabeth H Beck, my husband’s 2nd great grandparents


With my camera in hand, I obviously had to photograph any headstone that caught my eye.  I have a bundle to add to findagrave.


It was a lovely cemetery visit, to a beautiful cemetery, in a fantastic setting, on a perfect day.

Part Four:


We made some new family memories exploring the beautiful Cascade Springs.














Even the drive home was picturesque.  The summit took us to an elevation of 8060!

It was a Memorial Day to remember.


Happy Wednesday!  I hope you preserve a special memory today.



ps – Why do 15/almost 16 year olds insist on being ridiculous in photos?  Sigh.  My 19 year old recently told me I need to lecture his teenage brother and tell him to just smile for photos.  Haha, he was the scowler/face maker not so long ago.  A normal phase I suppose…



Memorial Day Tribute – James Boles

photo 4

My marvelous middle child, Memorial Day 2014

Today is Memorial Day in America.  A day to honor those who died in service to our country.  A day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For many, it has become the kick off to summer – a day for barbecuing and playing outside.  I suppose that even those who fail to remember the price that was paid for their freedom, are still a tribute to the bravest among us.  The whole idea behind defending liberty is so that there can be a peaceful place for families to live and work and play together.  A place of freedom.  Freedom to remember or not.

Today, I choose to remember.

Earlier this year I discovered another family member who died during military service.

James Boles.

James wasn’t an American.  He was born in Scotland.  At the tender age of three, James left his homeland bound for South Africa with his siblings.  He and his family were seeking a better life.

As a young, unmarried man, James drew up a will.  In simple terms, he left everything to his parents.  James was heading back to Europe.  This time it wasn’t to improve his own life.  It was to fight for the freedom of others in the Great War.  James was part of the 4th South African Infantry.

On the 13th of April 1918, James was killed in action in Flanders.

Today, I honor and remember my cousin, James Boles.

James, thank you for your service.


James Boles – my 1st cousin, 4 times removed.  Born – 11 October 1887 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland to John Thompson Boles and Christina Montgomery.  Brother to: Agnes, James, Isabella, Christina, William, Helen, Elizabeth, John, Agnes, John, and Alice.  Died – 13 April 1918 in Flanders.


Rest in peace dear cousin.  I will think of you today as I post small flags on the graves of veterans close to home.


H - Memorial Day 2014

My Littlest Sweetheart, Memorial Day 2014




Photograph Showcase: A Marine

PETERSON, Ronald Skeen in marine uniform - smaller for FT

That handsome Marine is my Grandpa.  As a young girl I knew that my Grandpa had been a Marine but I didn’t understand what that meant.  I had no context for war, military service, and especially the draft.  Grandpa wasn’t drafted, but he knew he would be.  He chose to enlist.  He wanted to live.  He saw his friends being drafted into the army and so many never came home.  He intended to enlist in the Navy but ended up in the Marine Corps.

As a girl with no understanding of my Grandpa’s service or what the war years were like, I learned to play The Marines’ Hymn on the piano.  I remember playing it at an extended family Christmas party.  My Grandparents were so proud, and emotional.  That didn’t really make sense to me then.  I didn’t even play it all that well.  😉  But now, I think I’m beginning to understand.  I’m proud of my Grandparents’ sacrifice in an incredibly challenging time in history.  I love my Marine Grandpa.


Tell Me a Story – The Day You Were Born

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.


My oldest boy who is just days away from turning 18.

My first baby was born 11 weeks early after 6 weeks of bed rest – 3 at home and 3 in the hospital.  He was so small, just 2 lbs. 8 1/2 ounces.  The day he was born was something I will never forget.

It really started the night before.  I was exactly 29 weeks pregnant.  I was feeling sorry for myself and having a rough day.  Things were winding down and I realized that I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while.  I had a popsicle to see if the little one would wake up and give me a kick.  Nothing.  I ate another popsicle and finally there was one little kick.

I had an appointment scheduled for the next morning so I went to bed and hoped everything would be normal when I woke up.  During breakfast I felt one tiny kick.  The doctor listened to the heart beat and said everything sounded fine but he sent me over to the hospital for a non-stress test just to make sure.

The non-stress test was not great.  Baby’s heart rate stayed the same during the entire test.  They gave me snacks and buzzed my tummy with no change.  After 30 minutes of this my doctor ordered an ultrasound with a kick count.  It was my first ultrasound with this doctor.  We found out we were having a boy.  We had been so sure that we were having a girl and we were going to name her Anna.  We didn’t have any boy names picked out.

Well, baby boy passed the kick count and I was sent back to OB.  The nurse looked at me and told me I could go but she would stay until everything felt normal.  I started to cry because my doctor had told me that if I was admitted for anything I would stay in the hospital until my due date – 11 weeks away!  But I stayed and within a half an hour the baby’s heart rate was dropping from 160 to 60 over and over.  The nurses were faxing the strips to my doctor and to the specialists in Spokane.  It was very quickly decided that I needed an emergency c-section to save baby.

The life flight team was called and I was prepped.  As soon as the team landed on the roof my doctor started my c-section.  Our first baby boy was born at 29 weeks and 1 day weighing 2 lbs. 8 ½ ounces and measuring 15 inches.  I was taken into recovery and a few minutes later they wheeled baby into my room.  A kind nurse had taken a few polaroids of baby and then took a few of me reaching out and touching his hand.  And then baby and hubby were off on the helicopter to Spokane and I was all alone.

That night in the hospital was one of the longest of my life.  I couldn’t sleep, I was so worried.  I just alternated being staring at those polaroids and praying.

It wasn’t the entrance I was expecting for baby #1.  But he turned out to be a fighter.  He made it out of the NICU in just 7 weeks and 2 days.  He never had a surgery, antibiotics, or a setback of any kind.  We brought him home at 5 lbs. 3 oz. and he fattened right up.  He had a perfectly healthy, normal childhood and now that little tiny baby of mine is about to turn 18, graduate from high school, and leave on a mission for our church.

He always was in a hurry.  I guess it makes sense that he’s ready to leave the nest.  I could not be more proud of my tough little guy!

One Minute Story

My first baby was born 11 weeks early.  He only weighed 2 1/2 lbs!

Top Ten Stories List about Me:

  • The Saint Bernard
  • How I finished college
  • Miracle Baby #1 (or The Day You Were Born)
  • How I got my name – sub-stories: meeting another Amberly, pulling up my schedule
  • Miracle Baby #3
  • English for Families
  • Working mom, heart surgery
  • Spiderman Shoes
  • My scrapbooking groupie
  • Finding out I was pregnant in August (don’t get too excited, this was a few years ago)


Tell Me a Story – $1 Dog

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person (or in this case a family pet).  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.


I LOVE this sweet photo of my oldest boys with Noodle.  I was 18 weeks pregnant with our youngest boy this day.  We had gone outside so the boys could take a picture of me and I snapped this and several others of the boys with Noodle.  I’m so glad I did!

In March of 2011 we decided we wanted to get a dog.  We’d been thinking about it for a while and putting it off.  Really, it was me that was on the fence about it.  Then one day my sister told me all about their new dog Goldie and how much her kids loved Goldie.  Her sweet anecdotes pushed me over the edge and I started looking for a dog that very day.

My oldest and I scoured the local ads, researched best breeds for families and allergies and decided we wanted a miniature dachshund.  There were two miniature dachshunds listed, one was a very young puppy and one was a mature dog listed for $1.

$1?  I knew there must be a story.  I called and asked some questions.  It turned out that the family listed their dog for very sad reasons.  The mother of the family was pregnant with baby number seven and she had just been diagnosed with leukemia.  She wasn’t far enough along to deliver and they couldn’t treat the leukemia while she was pregnant.  To give her the best shot they had to move into a brand new home and get rid of all their pets.  She needed a sterile environment.  They didn’t want to sell their dog but in order to list the dog there had to be a dollar amount, so they went with $1.

My heart broke for them and what they were going through.  I knew this was a dog that had been well loved and was good with kids.  I was sold.  I called my husband and asked him to go get the dog.  He called to make arrangements and was told that a different family was coming from an hour away to see the dog and they had called first.  My husband called me back and told me he didn’t get the dog.  We were so sad!  I told him he had to get the dog somehow.  He very nicely pointed out that he didn’t think that was possible.

When he got home from work that day our two oldest boys and I were sitting on the living room floor looking online for other miniature dachshunds and feeling sad that we had missed out on “our” dog.  We heard the garage door open and then when he came in we heard little toenails clicking on the hardwood floor.  He had worked some magic and brought home that $1 dog!

Noodle was nearly seven years old the day she joined our family.  We loved her instantly and never regretted our decision for a second.  She was great with our children – so patient and affectionate.  We had five wonderful years with her and I am so very glad that I made an uncharacteristically impulsive decision that day to get a dog.  Our life was so much richer because of Noodle.

One Minute Story

Our dog Noodle was almost seven when we got her.  She was listed in the local ads for $1.

Top Ten Stories for Noodle:

  • Bringing Baby H home from the hospital
  • String Cheese
  • Never asking to go out while I was pregnant & recovering from sinus surgery
  • First to greet you at the door
  • Fierce defender
  • $1 dog
  • “Go to bed Noodle”
  • Saying please on her hind legs
  • Burrowing in her blankets
  • “You should get a dog, then you never have to clean up your spills”