Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lessons From My Mother: Part 2

Dear Mama,

Over the last six months or so, I’ve made it a priority to go to bed in my room and fall asleep without the television.  The goal isn’t too hard to focus on since I only have one television and I keep it in the living room.  So far, it works pretty well and I’m able to fall asleep without it – a task I never would have thought possible a few years ago when I used to need the television on just to sleep.

While I’ve mostly gotten over that habit, there are still some nights when I just need the TV on.  On these nights, I walk with my blanket and pillow to the futon in the living room and turn the television on.  The simple act always reminds me of you and your insomnia.  I flip through the channels and try to avoid your shows – always the crime shows – in an attempt to not think about you.  But try as I might to avoid the latest episode of Law & Order (and the 20,000 variations of it), my thoughts still go back to you.  It isn’t long before I settle into my makeshift bed and put on The Daily Show – of course, it reminds me of you.

We used to watch that show all the time.  It was our way of bonding over politics, a starting place for our debates and discussions.  Arguments over President Bush’s policies, the Wars in the Middle East, healthcare, education, just about anything.  While it was all about the politics, it was never really about the politics.  It was all about developing an opinion, seeing things from another perspective, and learning to speak my mind.

I remember one such occasion during the summer of 2001.  We had just moved from Seattle down to San Marcos, California and our condo didn’t have much furniture in it yet.  It was morning and we were reading the newspaper while we ate toast.  I always loved the opinion section and you always loved the news.  Something in the “Letters to the Editor” section caught my eye and I was suddenly furious.  I started to rant about how incredibly wrong this person was and how my opinion was better.

“Why don’t you tell them that then?”

“Tell who what?” I was confused.

“Why don’t you write to the newspaper and tell them your opinion?  Give them your take on things?”

“I’m 12.” I said flatly.


“So… why would they listen to me?”

“You won’t know if you don’t try.  Worst they can do is not publish it.  But at least you will have gotten your opinion out there.”  You shrugged the whole thing off as if this was the most obvious idea in the world.  I was in shock because you actually thought a newspaper editor would listen to me.

“You just want me to stop ranting, don’t you?” I asked.

“I’m just saying that if you feel so strongly about the subject, then you should write in.”  The smile on your face gave you away.

But I followed your advice anyway and wrote in.  And then not-so-slyly attacked the newspaper every morning for the next two weeks, flipping like a mad woman to the editorial section.  And each morning I tried to hide my disappointment when it wasn’t printed.

Until one day, it was printed.  And as soon as I saw it, I screamed.  And jumped.  And screamed some more.  You worriedly looked at me.  I pointed down at the newspaper, way too excited to form a coherent sentence, and continued screaming.

“ME!  MINE!  LOOK!  AHHHH!”  The excitement was overwhelming and you only smiled.

I quickly grew to love speaking my mind and debating.  By the 10th grade, I had joined the debate team – which is saying something since we met at 7:00am every morning and often had competitions early on Saturday mornings.

You were the one that taught me to speak my mind and express my opinions.  You were the one that taught me to “back it up” with facts and sources.  You were the one that taught me to speak up, even when I feel like no one would listen to me.  And it was because of you that I inherited a determined stubbornness that always seems to play out in arguments.  I guess my craving to be right comes from you too. (But how boring would I be without it?)

We were good at arguing and I think we spent nearly every moment of my teenage years perfecting those skills.  I pushed your buttons.  You pushed my buttons.  You screamed.  I screamed.  It was our version of normal.  And yet, as much as we screamed (and we screamed a lot), we seemed to always be able to forgive and go back to being our typical laughing selves.  I still feel sorry for our poor neighbors though.

During my teenage years, I was really good at speaking my mind but not so good at knowing when to bite my tongue.  While I’ve certainly improved my diplomacy and wording skills, my big ole mouth still gets me in trouble once in a while.  But then again, if I didn’t get in trouble for running my mouth once in a while, I wouldn’t be able to call myself your daughter, would I?

It still feels unreal that it has been two years since you have passed and two years since I’ve had a great argument.  Oh the things I would do to be able to argue with you again…

In Loving Memory ~ Sharon Doerflinger

June 20, 1959 – February 28, 2010


Lessons From My Mother

Dear Mama,

Why is it that I always get the best ideas while I’m doing the dishes?

And why is it that I always call you “Mama” when I am not feeling well?

I hate doing the dishes.  But you’re well aware of that fact because you spent nearly every moment of my teenage years practically pulling teeth to get me to do the dishes.  I don’t know why I hate that chore so much, but I would do practically anything to avoid the dishes.  But now that I live on my own, I’m forced to do the dishes.  Maybe my mind drifts to you as I do the dishes because I’m trying to distract myself from how much I hate doing the dishes.  Or maybe it is because I’m trying to ignore the fact that it has been almost two years since you’ve left this world.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter much anyway.

While I was doing the dishes this morning, I started to think of you.  My life seems to be rapidly changing and moving these days, so much so that I wonder if you would even recognize it.  My future teaching career feels closer than ever, no longer feeling like some distant dream, but much more like a reality.  It is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  I can’t place my finger on exactly when I crossed the platform from childhood to adulthood, but it is abundantly clear somewhere along the way, I’ve done it.  You’d be so proud of me and I only wish you were here to see it in person.

You’re probably the only one that would understand my need to teach.  It isn’t a choice for me and never has been.  Teaching is a part of who I am, so ingrained in my DNA and very being that it would be impossible for me not to teach.  Since the age of five, I’ve known that I had two possible paths in life to follow: Either I could be a princess or a teacher.  Since I don’t have any princes knocking on my door, I’ve settled on just wearing a tiara once in a while and focusing on being a teacher.

Even when I tried to avoid a career in teaching, you stayed patient and let me discover it on my own.  I made every excuse for why I didn’t want to be a teacher: the pay is horrible, too much gossip between colleagues, parents never seem to appreciate you, those kids that don’t listen, the fact that I’ll be spending my own money on supplies for my classroom, the fact that the system is so broken and far too many children fall between the cracks…  The list seemed endless

“I could be a journalist.  Travel the world.  Interview important and interesting people.  Write articles.  That would be cool.”  We were eating breakfast at a local diner, both of us reading the newspaper.

“Journalist?  Yeah, I suppose.”

“What kind of salary do you think they make?”  I took a long sip of my iced tea.

“No idea.  But I don’t think the average journalist makes much more than a teacher would.”

“Who said anything about being an average journalist?  Average journalists don’t get to travel or interview super important people or-”

“If you think being a journalist would make you happy, then go for it.”  Your voice was dripping with frustration.

“What does that mean?” I asked, raising an eye brow and using a tone that I knew you wouldn’t like.  I was pushing your buttons, feeling offended and hormonal.

“All I’m saying is that at some point in your life, Elyse, you’re going to have to decide what is more important to you: being happy or being rich.  Since you’ve suggested just about half a dozen career choices in the last week, I’m assuming that you are trying really hard to convince yourself, and everyone else in the process, that you would be perfectly happy as long as you had lots of money.  I’m not contradicting that.  I’m just saying that the choice is up to you and you have to figure out what matters more to you.  Teaching may not be a glamorous job that pays great, but you know you love it and you’d be an amazing teacher.  You might not have a giant bank account balance, but you know that you would change lives.  And at some point, you have to decide what will make you happy.”

I sat across the table, trying to hide the shock on my face from your bluntness.  We ate the rest of our breakfast in silence – and if I remember correctly, I gave you the silent treatment for the rest of the day.

I also remember 4th of July of 2006.  I had a horrible fight with my then-boyfriend and spent the day moping around the house.  After a few hours of this, you had had enough.

“Get up.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, sitting in front of my computer.

“Get up.”

“I don’t get it…”

“Get up and get out of this house.  You have moped long enough and it is time for you to go do something.  It is 4th of July and you’re telling me that suddenly you have no plans?  Don’t let some boy ruin you’re night.”

“He isn’t just some boy.  He is my boyfriend.”

“Yes… I remember,” you said with a grumble.  You never did like him, always insisting that he was a jerk – but of course, I didn’t see that until much later.

“I don’t want to go out.”  I said flatly.  Turning back to my computer screen.

“Go call someone.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Get up.  Go call someone.  Get out of the house.  Go cause some trouble and don’t come back until you have a smile on your face.”

I vaguely remember rolling my eyes at this and flashing an ever so fake smile in your direction.

“Don’t make me be the one to call your friends.  You know I’ll only embarrass you to no end.”

“You wouldn’t.” I said confidently, turning my back to her in an obvious sign of avoidance.

“Is that a dare?  Oh Elyse, you know how I just can’t resist a dare.”

I sent my strongest teenage stare in your direction.  You returned the stare and didn’t break it – not even for a second.

“Fine.” I said angrily, admitting defeat.

“Oh good.  I knew you’d see it my way.”


“Life is too short and you are too damn young to be this hung up on a boy.”

“He isn’t just any boy!”  I said again angrily.  But rather than engage me into what surely would have escalated into one of our shouting matches, you walked away.   I got out of the house that night, choosing to go with a friend to the beach and watch the fireworks.  At the time, I refused to admit that you had been right: life is far too short and I am far too young to be hung up on a boy.  So once that boyfriend and I had broken up for good, I took your advice to heart and refused to sit at home moping.  I left the house.  I hung out with friends.  I tried new things.  Because life is too short and I’m far too young not to.

When I do the dishes and your memory creeps into my mind again, I avoid the sadness of your absence and choose to let your adventurous spirit fill my thoughts.  I think about all the possibilities the future could hold: the places I’ll visit, the people I’ll meet, the new things I’ll try.  As I place the last dish on the drying rack, I think of the lessons you taught me.

Life is too short and I’m far too young to be anything but happy.

Mom and I

In Loving Memory ~ Sharon Doeflinger

June 20, 1959 – February 28, 2010


Happy Valentine’s Day: Grandma and Grandpa Doerflinger

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to post about my adorable grandparents, Max Doerflinger and Margaret “Sis” Harney.

Margaret "Sis" Harney and Max Doerflinger were married 12 Jun 1934 in Seattle, King county, Washington. Based on how young they look, this photo was probably taken just before the couple was married or shortly after.


Aren't they just adorable?

N02/5348526348/” title=”Max and Margaret Doerflinger by GenealogistElyse, on Flickr”>Max and Margaret Doerflinger

Together, Max and Margaret "Sis" Doerflinger raised six children. Even after the devastating loss of their son, Eugene, in a car accident, Max and Margaret carried on. Margaret "Sis" met 4 of her 5 grandchildren (she passed away about 10 months before I was born) and Max met all of his grandchildren.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!


Salt Lake City: Day 1

I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah this morning at about 10:30am local time and thus far, every moment has been a blast!  There is so much to talk about… where do I begin?

Being a southern California girl, I’m not generally used to cold weather.  Luckily, I came prepared with my sweaters, jackets, gloves, and scarfs.  It certainly looks like it will be a cold few days.  I’ve read weather reports that it is expected to snow tonight and tomorrow.

I went to the Family History library for the very first time today and it is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  Floor after floor of books, microfilm, and happy people to assist you.  It is definitely overwhelming the first time, but totally worth it.  I didn’t stay long today because I’m still recovering from the food poisoning I had two days ago, but I plan on going back before I leave.

I stopped and had lunch at the Nauvoo Cafe – most delicious roast beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  I wish I had more of an appetite because I would have eaten a lot more.

I had dinner with a bunch of fun geneabloggers at P.F. Changs – delicious food and even better conversation.

But now… it is time for me to get ready for bed.  I’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to set up the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall.  If you are here at RootsTech, please make sure to see Chris Whitten’s class on WikiTree tomorrow morning.

Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Genealogy Idol Competition and yours truly will be competing.