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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Taxes & Vaping (part 2)

Taxes & Vaping (part 2) 

Vaping is a growing industry in Minnesota, providing many tax paying citizens a ticket to the American Dream, their own company - companies which are providing much needed jobs all over the state. Vaping is an industry some people turn to to quit smoking, all these people are now healthier people who are saving the state millions of dollars in heath care costs, have become healthy & productive employees, etc., making the vaping industry a win - win for Minnesota and it's citizens. 

HF848 - is a MN tax bill that includes an amendment for a $0.30 per milliliter tax on e-liquid containing nicotine. That's an additional $9.00 per bottle tax!!!! All across the state of Minnesota, people have been trying to fight this tax. The House Tax Committee took testimony on this topic last week and this week. Besides all the e-mails and phone calls, 40 people appeared in person to testify against the tax and 6 people appeared in person to testify for the tax. At least 2 of the people testifying for the tax do not live in Minnesota and represented big tobacco, including a CEO from RJ Reynolds Vaping Division (ya'all remember good old RJ Reynolds, the fine folks who brought us Winston & Camel?). 

Today, when it was brought forth that 40 people testified against the tax and 6 testified for it, the Chairperson of the MN House Tax Committee,  Representative Greg Davids,  asked "What if you take out the vapers?" Plug your ears as I exhale a long string of naughty words..... 

I am so disappointed in this comment! Why didn't he ask "What if you take out the representatives of Big Tobacco?"? Because if you did, you would not have your whole whopping 6 people who spoke in favor of the tax! As one of the 40 people who spoke against the tax, I am deeply offended at his comment.  (Click here for my testimony.) My concerns are not important because they refer to members of the vaping community? The fact that I am a Minnesotan, I vote, I pay taxes, I do my fair share of volunteer work, and try to be a good citizen is not as important as Winston and Camel? Oh, excuse me, RJ Reynolds, and all of Big Tobacco? 

Today the House Tax Committee voted to KEEP the e-liquid tax in HF848, largely due to the urging of their chair, Rep. Davids.

Game On............ Rep. Davids, game on.......... We - the vaping community - won't lie down... nope, not a one of us. We've already proven how strong we are when we kicked the smoking habit, we tried and tried until we experienced success. Now that we know success, failure is NOT an option! On to the full House we go, we will keep working to get this tax dropped from HF848. 

Quitting smoking is the only time "quit" will be a part of our vocabulary. 'Nuff said!


Taxes & Vaping (part 1)

 Below is the testimony I submitted to the Mn House of Representatives Tax Committee on 4/20/2015. 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Tax Committee,

Today I am reaching out to you as a Mom, a daughter, a wife, and a granddaughter. I am not an officer of any Vaping Advocacy group, Vaping trade association, or a business owner in the industry.

I am VERY concerned about the proposed new tax on the e-liquids used by the vaping industry. The amendment to HF848, specifically Article 7, Sections 4 – 6 and 8-12 is terrible for Minnesota vapers, terrible for Minnesota small businesses and would provide a major advantage to products offered by companies like R.J. Reynolds, Altria and Lorillard (aka “Big Tobacco”).

My Grandpa died from heart failure caused by years of smoking. My Grandma died from cancer after years of breathing second hand smoke. The next victim in my family of the tobacco industry was my Mom. I sat with her as I heard the last breath leave her body. She died from heart failure AND cancer - after smoking her whole adult life. For the past 5 years I have watched my husband get more and more depressed as his daily activities are limited because he struggles to breath from COPD, caused by years of smoking. My 29 year old son almost died last year, another smoking victim from a 2 pack a day smoking habit. All of what family I have left have now quit smoking, thanks to vaping.

I am TIRED. I am tired of losing my loved ones too soon because of smoking. I am tired of cutting short family activities and holidays or cancelling them all together because of peoples health issues caused by smoking. I am tired of taking time away from my family so I can fight unfair state, county, and city laws that limit or prohibit peoples ability to vape.

Last night I listened to the online recording of the testimony from last weeks informational hearing before the House Tax Committee. I find it frustrating that time for testimony was so limited when this issue is so important to the citizens and businesses of Minnesota. A decision that effects so many people should be given more time to be researched and discussed. I do not believe that we should be hasty in burdening people with additional taxes without doing due diligence in making sure we are making the right choice for the people of our state.

I’d like to touch on a couple of points made by people who supported the new tax at last week’s hearing. I have to be suspicious of bringing in heavy hitters from out of state to speak in favor of a tax that effects the people of our state! I ponder what their motivation is, to be so concerned about our citizens?
Mr. Ampolini came from out east. He is the President of RJ Reynolds Vapor Company. He has had a long and successful career working for Big Tobacco. He and other big tobacco companies manufacture the closed type of systems of e-cigs. The kind with cartridges that the consumer has no control of. Their products look like a cigarette, taste like a cigarette, are held like a cigarette, and mimic smoking a cigarette. As an ex-smoker, many vapers do not want anything to do with these types of products. They are too much like a cigarette. The taste and feel of them are no longer appealing to us. Mr. Ampolini led the members of the Committee to believe that this tax is needed to make the taxes on his closed system equitable to the open type of systems sold by vape shops and used by most vaping consumers. This is like comparing apples to oranges. He appeared very knowledgeable about closed systems, but his facts on open systems was lacking and the information he presented to the committee was inaccurate. He claimed that at 30 milliliter bottle of e-liquid would last the consumer 60 days, because he used the amount of e-liquid used in his product and assumed the same amount would be used by any vaping product. This is NOT true. A 30 mil bottle of e-liquid lasts the average consumer 2-7 days, not 60 days. Add an additional $9.00 to a bottle of e-liquid and you are putting vaping back in the category of being as expensive or more expensive than smoking combustible cigarettes. Being as many people turn to e-cigs to quit smoking based on health AND financial motivation, increasing the cost of vaping takes away the motivation for smokers to quit for financial reasons. Less people quitting is returning many families back to dealing with the health issues of smoking and second hand smoke. Mr.Apolini said that a merchant can buy a gallon of e-liquid for $150 and turn it into a $10,000 profit. I don’t have a clue where he got his numbers from, but after talking to several Minnesota vape shops, not a one of them could give me a number even close to that. I know if I could make that kind of money, I’d be the next person jumping on the small business band wagon and opening my own vape shop. WOW, what an amazing profit margin that would be!!!!!!

Allen Smith of Ohio also paid our state a visit to speak in favor of this increase in taxes for Minnesota citizens. He gave some excellent points about harm reduction, and vaping being better than smoking. He felt that taxing e-liquid at a rate less than traditional tobacco products would be a good thing. And it would be IF it lowered the cost of e-liquids, not raised them. This tax raises the cost for the type of product used by the majority of vapers in Minnesota, as most Minnesotans don’t use they type of systems that would see a decrease in tax.

The other speaker in favor of the tax was from the Minnesota Wholesalers Marketing Association. He felt this new tax would help the businesses he represents sell more product, as many of them sell the closed systems made by big tobacco. Why do we want to sell more of the products made by big tobacco? The folks who have cost the people of our country billions of dollars in health care and funeral costs? I do not believe that if big tobacco had their tax lowered, they would pass those cost savings on to their consumers who are already used to paying the current tax. Big tobacco could keep the cost the same, pay less tax and increase their profit margins. I think the gentleman from this association should do a little research. It is not the cost of the systems from big tobacco that chases consumers away, it is the product that doesn’t appeal to many vaping consumers. Consumers prefer the open systems, sold to them by small businesses all over the state. They prefer to use e-liquid made by Minnesota manufacturers.

Lets keep Minnesotans employed. Lets support Minnesota businesses. Lets continue to keep vaping affordable so more Minnesotans quit smoking and lead a healthier lifestyle. Lets be a leader on this and set an example for the rest of the country! Supporting Big Tobacco and helping them make more money is NOT Minnesota’s responsibility. Taking care of our own is our responsibility!

I want to stop being tired. I don’t want to loose any more family to smoking. I don’t want to worry about unfair taxes. If I have to be tired, I want to be tired because I’ve had a wonderful day with my family, because I did something to improve education, because I’ve helped a homeless person find a home, because I made the trip across town to support a Minnesota business.

Please vote NO to the amendment to HF848, specifically Article 7, Sections 4 – 6 and 8-12, it’s a mistake to do this to Minnesota and its citizens!

I Vape and I Vote - and I'm proud to be the newest NON-SMOKER in my family!!!!!

(Click here to read what happened AFTER 40 people testified AGAINST the tax)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If I Ruled The Genealogy World...

I was trying to visualize myself as the Queen of Genealogy Land. I tried to see my silk gown, my fur cape, my scepter, and a sparkling Tiara. But every time I close my eyes, the tiara is sliding off my head. I think I'll leave the tiara wearing to Footnote Maven, she pulls it off way better than I do. Guess I'll just stick to being "me" with my blue jeans, t-shirt, and baseball cap, and be happy to be the tomboy that I am.

Gosh, I thought I hated labels and wanted to talk about those labels, and I start my first paragraph with 2 of them, "Queen" and "tomboy". Oh boy, I'm going to have to work on that! I think I'll start over.

Hi, I'm Skip and I'm a genealogist! Sometimes my life takes me almost completely away from genealogy and my only involvement with my genealogy family is via facebook. I am so honored to have those people in my life. They are a huge group of talented, loving, supportive, and very funny people. It doesn't matter what mood I'm in when I turn on the computer, because within minutes, somebody's post has me at least smiling, if not laughing out loud. On a bad day, my genealogy family collectively spreads their arms and gives me the biggest, warmest, fuzziest online group hug. When I have time for genealogy, it consumes me. I eat while doing genealogy, I dream about genealogy, my family has permanently glazed over eyes because I talk about genealogy so much. I don't know if passionate gives enough credit to how my genealogy family and I feel about genealogy. I am very OK with the genealogy label. Yes, <shouting from the mountain tops!> I AM a genealogist. 

Now that I've let go of the queen thing, I do wish I could work some magic. Genealogy is a good thing, from a hobby to a profession, it has so many rewards. I do feel that even a good thing can be even better. I think I'll wander off to the kitchen, grab my big wooden spoon, pretend it's a magic wand, close my eyes, click my heels 3 times, and say "I want to be a genealogy magician". 

As I wave my magic wand, I see groups of genealogists gathering together to share their passion. Be it a virtual gathering online or a large banquet hall at a major conference, I do not see individual tables. I see one huge, long continuous table snaking its way back and forth around the room. There is no "cool kids" table. We are all sitting together, chatting pleasantly. Everyone is sitting by an old friend and a new friend they just met. Sometimes our conversations are on serious topics and we all share our views in a friendly, open minded fashion. Sometimes, one of us will do or say something goofy and the room is filled with joyous laughter. We have no labels in this room, we are just genealogists. We are not pro vs amateur, there is no regards to our level of experience, the color of our skin, if we are male or female, our income, nothing. We are just like any other family, from the Sr. Citizens to the babies, we all have a common bond. 

Like any family gathering, we can not all sit at the same table forever, we need to break off in small groups to pursue specific interests. As the children run out in the yard to play a game of baseball, the genealogy newbies will branch off to work on a basic skill. Just as we can not learn to play baseball without someone teaching and coaching us, we also can not learn to be good genealogists without mentors and coaches. In my magic world, all those who choose to fill the mentor shoes will be good, positive mentors. Picture yourself grooming in the morning and looking in the mirror. I want each of us every day to look into our own eyes, and make sure we remind ourselves to be positive and welcoming to all who wish to share our passion with us.

There is always a need to break off into other groups to share on specific topics. From learning how to advocate for our rights, to location specific or surname or ethnic specific research, we will sooner or later need to move to a smaller table. So will the society leaders, the writers, the speakers, ones with military work, or ones who function in the legal community. Let's be sure that as we move to those smaller tables, there is always room for a new face. We need to remember that not all people are bold enough to walk up to a table and just sit right down. If we always add an extra chair and look around that room and invite people to join us, we will always appear to be the friendly, welcoming people we are.

In my magic world, no one would consider themselves better than anyone else. We are all people, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Does not make any of us better than anyone else. None of us would be more important than anyone else. We are all members of the same genealogy family. If my powers are not strong enough to keep someone from putting their nose up in the air at others, I would wave my magic wand and have a bird fly over. That bird's poop would land in the nostrils of the person with their nose in the air, to remind them that that is not where their nose belongs. Kinda nasty, but it's how I roll. I really have a hard time with people not being nice to each other.

I'm now handing my wooden spoon on to you. Please feel free to use it and work a little magic. What would you do to make life in the genealogy world even better than it is? No cheating now, you can't use it on your own brick walls. If my wand worked for that, I'd already know if all Katzungs are related, and my personal genealogy mission in life would be complete!

Wishing you love and peace,
~ Skip

P.S. I think these words are so wise:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. " ~ Margaret Mead

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Time Has Come....

My Declaration of Independence!

The past couple of days have been an interesting voyage into exploring how I feel about the latest "hot topic" in the genealogy community. Elitism can be a dirty word. The trip began when someone I admire and respect reached their boiling point and they could no longer tolerate certain attitudes of certain people. A view I whole heartily agree with and a topic that brought about a flood of feelings I thought I had stuffed far enough away to not have to deal with. Another member of our genealogy community also spoke up, and reminded all of us that we should not generalize and stereotype and paint with too broad of a brush. They also mentioned the need to keep things positive. This persons words made me realize that by harboring and holding on to what has hurt me over the past few years has taken all my power away from me and allowed me to go to an unhappy place. By keeping silent, I was allowing my hurt to remain and I was doing nothing to stop what I feel is unacceptable behavior, and doing nothing to prevent others from being hurt, too!

I made a promise to get out of "emotional mode" and get myself to "just the facts mode" and share my unhappy experiences in a positive, educational manner in the hopes of freeing myself from my pain and helping others see that words are a very powerful thing! When we deal with only the written word, with no facial expressions and no tone of voice, our words are open to a variety of interpretations! We all need to be careful that the meaning of our words are understood by those reading them, and not taken in a way that can cause hard feelings. I am finding it very hard to put down words when my heart is not moving my fingers! So, I will try to keep my emotions in check while sharing my experiences. I tried for 3 hours yesterday with no emotion, but could not get past this quote:

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching" 
~ C. S. Lewis

Doing the right thing means speaking up. Being as the point of this is to be educational, to make a point about something that I feel is not OK, there will be no need to throw stones. I will refrain from mentioning anyone's name or any specific organizations. I just hope that I can motivate all the good people in my genealogy family to be aware of a couple of rotten eggs and try to steer those eggs to a more positive way of interacting with the rest of the family.

--->Before we delve into the "ugly" part of this blog post, I first want to say that the majority of people involved in genealogy are some of the most amazing people on earth. They are fun, kind, helpful, and supportive people. You couldn't pay me enough money to trade off my genealogy friends.<---

My personal bad experience is with a few people who have worked for and earned some real nice letters after their names that have not been nice to me. (Most people with letters after their names ARE nice to everyone!)  I hope they are proud of those letters. I will never have an issue with anyone being proud of themselves for having earned something. My issue is with the very few who choose to rub the noses of those with no pretty letters after their name in that fact and then to take it upon themselves to decide that people with no initials are less important, less qualified, less valuable, etc. in our genealogy family. We ALL have something to offer! From a newbies enthusiasm to an old timers experience, it isn't the fancy letters after some names that makes the genealogy world what it is. If your definition of a professional means you have to have letters after your name, please be sure that definition includes your behavior towards others. I don't see a useful purpose in the genealogy community to have any noses stuck in the air!

To the person who was very excited about a new project and needed volunteers, I hope your project was a great success. It was a compliment when you asked if I could help with the project! It was NOT ok when you got angry when I declined the opportunity. It was not ok to send me a nasty email telling me I have to volunteer, because non-pros like me are the only ones who have time for these projects because the pros need to be working for their clients making money so they can pay their bills. You are fully aware I volunteer a lot, and not just in the genealogy world, but in my own community. You know I very rarely say no. I feel sorry for you that you can not comprehend that I also have a life with limited amounts of free time, and that I also need to work and pay my bills, even if my work is outside of the genealogy world. As of today, I am free of you. I will no longer feel bad for having said "NO" and I will no longer be angry with you for the e-mail chewing me out that was longer than this blog post so far. I wish you well in the future and I hope you have found a friendlier way of recruiting volunteers, so that you can be successful in getting the volunteers you need.

To the person who was mad at me when I joined the "Save the SSDI" bandwagon outside of the organization who works hard at raising awareness of saving access to records, I forgive you, too. It was so nice of you to introduce yourself to me with a name and letters after your name and an amazing list of achievements and experience, only to finish that intro with how important it was that I listen to you because you are a pro and I am not. You did not need to threaten me that hobbyists like me are going to hurt the genealogy community because we haven't a clue what we are doing. I have a lot of respect for the above mentioned organization. They have worked hard at fighting for and educating about saving our access to records. I have NO issue with the work they've done. But they are a small organization, and like all of us, their members only have X amount of hours in a day for life and genealogy. I can not be a member of this organization, because I don't have the proper credentials. I do not believe in sitting on my butt and waiting for others to fight my battles for me. I believe there is strength in numbers and the louder we raise our voices, the better chance we have of saving those records we all depend upon. I believe in the power of social media and communicating to as many people as possible as quickly as possible when we are aware of an issue. I am glad I didn't listen to you. As of today, I will no longer feed into your attitude that you know more than me or that you are better than me because you are certified and I am not. I just so happen to be a good person, with a big heart, and I believe that my involvement with others in fighting to save access to records has HELPED the cause, not hurt it. If you really believe that saving access to records is important, I invite you to dismount from the high horse you are on, and give ALL people who have a passion for genealogy an opportunity to participate in all matters important to genealogists. Seriously, we are not lower ranked than you. There are some really talented people in the non-certified world. And FYI, even though I don't have those pretty initials after my name, I am much more than "just a hobbyist". And even if genealogy was only a "hobby" to me, that doesn't mean I don't have talents and skills to offer the genealogy community.

Speaking of the SSDI, there was another pro who called me a moron for fighting to keep our access to the SSDI and other records. Their claim was that I was hurting the genealogy field because I was protecting identity thieves and that would make the public not want to engage the services of genealogists. I should leave the politics to the professional genealogists who know what the heck they were doing. Sigh..... I am not a moron and it is better to do something than nothing at all. It is time to declare myself free of the hurtful words of this pro and move on.

I almost went to a genealogy conference that was within driving distance. It would have been my first one. There was someone I knew from facebook that I really wanted to meet. I sent this person a message and asked if we could hook up during the conference. Their reply shocked the heck out of me! They could not meet because they had recently gotten their certification and they were trying to build up their professional status and it wouldn't look good to fellow genealogists or potential clients to be hanging around with an amateur. Hmmmm, how was anyone to know who was pro and who wasn't? I had contact with a couple other people who were going to attend the event, and they also seemed snooty, and I canceled my plans to go. Next time, NO ONE is going to have this kind of power over me! If I can go and I want to go, I'm going. I'm going to learn and I'm going to make new friends and I'm going to have a really good time talking to people who's eyes don't glaze over at the mention of genealogy! Thank-you for teaching me what kind of genealogist (pro or not) I would never want to be. No matter what I do in life, it will be my goal to be nice to people, to welcome them, and to include them. As of today, I am over you. I am over the hurt and anger and being made to feel like I am not good enough. Writing this makes me realize that it is you who was not good enough. You were not a good ambassador for the genealogy community, and it has nothing to do with pro or not pro. I hope life has made you wiser and you've found a way to fit in with the whole genealogy family. It will make you a better person and more appealing to more clients. It feels good to be free of you.

At one point, I was co-director of a group of volunteers who do a valuable service to the communities they serve. They work in the field of forensic genealogy and bring closure to families all over the world, and lessen the burden on tax payers. I was privately confronted by a pro with those pretty initials after their name telling me I had NO right to be a director of this group because I wasn't a board certified genealogist. That work as important as this has no business being under the leadership of an inexperienced hobbyist, who will make rookie mistakes and damage the reputation of paid professionals. This cause is near and dear to my heart, and I would NEVER do anything to knowingly hurt this group or the work they do. So now, I am going to stick up for myself. To this "pro", if you had acted like a "pro" you would have done your research and verified your facts and you would have learned that the other directors were not "pro's" either, and you would have learned that the founder of this organization is also someone without all those pretty initials after their name, and they are a very respected and well known member of the genealogy community! You, who acts this way, are a disgrace not only to "Pro's", but to all of the genealogy community. You weren't even a member of this organization, and you don't have a clue just how "Professional" not only our work is, but our behavior and our treatment of others. It just so happens we work very well as a team, in a very professional manner, and never cease to amaze the government officials and the families we serve! You should follow our example and try to achieve our level of professionalism. We are a shining example that letters behind your name do not make you a professional in every sense of the word. Your actions truly let the world know just how unprofessional you are. Now I declare myself free of your lack of facts and your insulting words. I have learned from you to believe in myself and the causes I make a commitment to.

Moving on, I'd like to address the professional do-gooder who felt it their mission in life to contact some of my friends and I and inform us that we should not be calling ourselves genealogists because we are not certified, that if we were good at our own family trees, it would be ok to call ourselves family historians... I AM a genealogist. If I would give myself a little more credit and quit letting jerks like you take the wind out of my sails, I could probably shout from the roof tops that I am a pretty good genealogist. As of this very moment, I am also free of you. You do not have the power to define who I am, what I call myself, or where I think I fit in in my world. I dare you to loosen up your definition of who or what a genealogist is. I dare you to open your door and put out the welcome mat. You might just get lucky and get to know some of us nice people out here, and we might actually rub off on you. Who knows? Maybe we will even help you find your happy place! In the blink of an eye, I am now free of your meaningless words.

The next example of my experiences with unprofessional pros didn't even hurt my feelings. They made me down right angry. I was volunteering with a group that tries to find the families of deceased veterans. A credentialed pro took it upon themselves to contact me and tell me I should not be working on veterans cases. That all veterans deserve to rot in hell because they fought in wars and wars are against God's word. It's us amateurs who are giving the genealogy field a bad name and hurting future work of pros because we do such controversial work. This one is hard to refrain from name calling! <Taking Deep Breath> I feel that the work that pros and amateurs do in the field of forensic genealogy to help veterans, their families, and the military is very important. I don't believe that our work hurts the field of genealogy at all. I think it helps the field of genealogy. There are some very talented and good people working in the forensic area of genealogy and I just might as well admit you can't fix stupid and not waste anymore time on this person with very strong feelings, because I am never going to change their mind. I'll just say a little prayer for them, ask God to give them a guiding hand and move on. I am now free of my anger directed towards this person.

Life is all about balance, and I found that balance with the person who was mad at me for NOT volunteering when I got a private message from a person who was upset with me FOR volunteering! They actually called my volunteering evil because people like me do too much of it and if all us amateurs would quit volunteering maybe there would be some paying work so the pros could afford to pay their bills. Another pro who needs to do their research, because there are lots of pros who also volunteer, and much of the volunteer work we do has no way to turn it into paying jobs. If it gets done, it gets done by volunteers. Maybe this person should try networking by doing some volunteer work. Maybe it would lead to some paying work. I don't know, and I don't care. I'm free of this persons angry words. I will always be proud of the volunteer work I have done. I encourage others to volunteer.

I worked on a special project with a pro. They thanked me for assisting and complimented me for the good work I did. They took all the work and made it look like it was their own, and gave no one else credit for their involvement in the project. When I inquired about this, they said this project needed the clout of a professional and it was better for the cause for the work to be presented by a pro and not include the amateur volunteers. The pro got all the credit. I still have the satisfaction of a job well done and for doing a good thing. I need to let go of the disgust and believe in Karma and that someday, this pro will really get the TRUE credit they deserve.

Looking through this I realize that besides the bad taste a few pros have left in my mouth, one of the other reasons I changed my mind about going pro (as in getting a degree or board certification) is that volunteer work is an important part of my life. I had a pro tell me that if I continued to just volunteer and not start charging for my work, then I can never call myself a "pro" or belong to "pro" organizations, because "pros" have to have paid clients. 

Even if I give the above examples the benefit of doubt and justify their words and try to say they meant to be helpful, their words were not helpful. I am not going to let the above people have me upset anymore, but I am also done being silent. From now on, when I experience such things or see others being treated in an unfair manner, I will speak up. I am now free of hurt, pain, and fear. I am now free to be my big-hearted & fired-up old self!

Although my personal experiences are with pros who have an issue with something an amateur is doing, the whole point of this is that genealogy is a big sandbox, and what gets my undies in a wad is those who think they need to have their own sandbox and don't need to make room for others to play. No-one in our community / family is more special, wonderful, amazing, or deserving than any of the rest of the people who share our passion. We all need to be kind and respectful of each other. We all need to give people a chance to shine. Let's not cut someone off at the knees because we have some preconceived notion that they need to have or not have a degree or certification or membership to specific organizations, etc. 

We can be elitist in many ways. When we go to conferences, do we make it a point to get to know people we've never met? Do we invite them to our table to socialize with us and our friends? Or do we appear to be elitist because we only sit with our old friends, or our fellow bloggers, or our fellow speakers, or our fellow society members? When we participate in public forums, etc. on websites, do we include that quiet lurker who's afraid to join in? I think even those of us who make it a point to not exclude others can make sure we put out a bigger and better welcome mat and make sure we are the politeness police and we make sure ALL are welcome and ALL are treated in a decent, friendly manner. We can try to make a new genealogy friend every time we interact with fellow genealogists. WE will then have the power, and WE will be responsible for growing genealogy.

Let us all write our own personal code of conduct and let's have being nice to others the first thing on our list!

 ~ Skip

A side note:

The whole exchange of thoughts and feeling expressed by myself and others on facebook moved someone who I think the world of to contact me privately and inquire about my feelings. I shared with this person part of the above list, and it's the first time I have shared that list with anyone. Remembering the list brought up some of my hurt feelings and brought tears to my eyes. I have no shame in not being a pro - someone with board certification or a degree - the thing that has bothered me in the past is how others treat me because I am not a "pro". This person then shared some of their thoughts with me and paid me a compliment that just lifted me out of the depths of darkness and made my spirits fly way up to the sky. If this person reads this, they will know I am speaking of them. I wanted to publicly thank them for being such a good person and such a good representative of genealogy and paying me one of the best compliments I could be paid by a fellow genealogist! They said...

..."YOU are one of the people in genealogy who I admire and respect. I consider you a professional genealogist. You were involved with running a major genealogical organization, and certainly fit my definition of a genealogical professional. I am surprised that you consider yourself an amateur. Getting paid is not the definition I use."

"I'm so very sorry that you've met some unkind people in genealogy. I am surprised by that too, especially if they were board-certified. I've just not really run into that, so I guess I've been lucky so far."....

Gotta tell 'ya, I am GLAD this person has not had a run in with the ones who choose to be nasty. I hope it stays that way! I hope we all make it a goal to be like this person and reach out to our fellow genealogists and make them feel good about what they do. ~ Skip

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Defense of Marriage Act & The Supreme Court

It surprises me as a person over 50 (and I'm not saying how much over 50 I am), how differently I think now than I did in my younger days. I'm less of a risk taker now. Some of  my thoughts are much more conservative than they used to be and some are way more liberal. I question things more, and I no longer accept what I've been taught or have always known. I find myself questioning things and drawing my own conclusions and opinions. Some of my thoughts would make my poor Grandma gasp in shock and I often wonder if I make her roll over in her grave! My Grandma Carrier couldn't even say the word "pregnant", in front of children or men-folk, it was referred to as someone being "p.g.". 

The Supreme Court ruling today makes me give deep consideration to all I've been taught about the whole gay thing. I was taught that it was wrong, that it wasn't natural, it was in violation of God's will, that is was a choice to be gay, and all gays should be shunned.I grew up never knowing an openly gay person. It was adulthood that opened my eyes. It is my belief that what goes on in the bedroom is personal and private and none of the business of anyone outside of that bedroom. I don't discuss my sex life with anyone and am not comfortable when others openly discuss theirs. It was many years ago, when I had to take a long, hard, honest look at the topic of people being gay. I HAD to, I had become friends with some wonderful people who were gay. 

Looking at what I was taught...

1. Being Gay is wrong. My thought about this is why? Before I cast a stone at someone else's perceived "wrongness", I should take an honest look at my own life. I was taught it was wrong to have sex outside of marriage. Well, I failed in that department. I was taught it was wrong to live with someone of the opposite sex and not be married to them. Another fail in my life. I lived with the same man for 20 years before we finally wed. In my youth, I dated some real losers. Men who were very bad for me. I learned from the doctors that I could not have children. I always believed that if I ever had a relationship with a good man, no matter what the doctors said, God would give me 1 child. That child would be a boy. A wonderful boy with blond hair, blue eyes, and freckles. 14 1/2 months after my future husband and I started living together, God did bless us with a son. A wonderful son, who as a child had blond hair, blue eyes, and freckles. If it was so "wrong" for me to be with the man of my dreams, why did God bless us with the child I was supposed to not be able to have? If it was "wrong", should I have been banned from working where I wanted to work, living where I wanted to live, etc.? NO!!! It always bugged me that my future husband could not claim me as a dependent. He has always supported me and taken care of me. He has been a good provider. In other states, I would have been his common law wife, and I would have been able to be claimed on his taxes, and in some states, I could have gotten benefits as his wife. Being as my state does not recognize a common law wife, the federal government did not, either. So, he could not claim me as his wife on his federal returns as a dependent. Makes me relate to gay couples, who can be recognized as a married couple some places, but not others. To me, that is wrong, and it certainly is not fair!

2. It's not "natural" to be gay. Say what? What is not natural about being attracted to someone? What is not natural about loving someone with your heart and sole? What is not natural about wanting to be with your special someone forever? If being "gay" is not natural, how do you explain same sex couples in the animal kingdom? Never heard of that? There was an interesting article in the New York Times a couple of years ago, called Can Animals Be Gay? I understand the need to have opposite sex couples to have offspring and continue a species, but that doesn't mean it's the only type of situation that is "natural" or "right". What about people who choose NOT to have offspring, or can't have offspring, or adopt, or use artificial means to get pregnant, or use a surrogate mother, or a sperm donor? Is that not "natural" or "right"?

3. Being "gay" is a violation of God's will. Hmmmmmmmm see #2 above. If you believe in God, and you believe that all things on earth are created by God, and if animals don't make choices or have thought processes like people do, then how do you explain same sex couples in the animal kingdom? Even if you still can't get past the "God" thing, then weren't you also taught that God is the judge of all mankind, and it is not our place to judge our fellow mankind? We are too lowly a creature to try to do God's job and must leave the judgement day up to God. 

4. It is a choice to be gay. OK, let's take a logical look at this. If you are not gay, can you tell me what day in your life you made the choice to not be gay? Or are you just who you are and you're attracted to people of the opposite sex? If you are gay, can you tell me what day you decided to face a life of being cast aside as an outsider, to face judgment and discrimination every where you go and be attracted to people of the same sex? I'm betting most people in the world can not answer the question that pertains to them. Now that I'm old enough to draw my own conclusions, I don't think it is a choice. It is just being who you were born to be.

I am an American. I value the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to all Americans. If I am a thief, an abuser, or a murderer, I am hurting others and I deserve to have my rights and freedoms taken away. But if I am an everyday citizen, obeying the laws and hurting no one, it does not matter if I am black or white, rich or poor, walking or in a wheel chair, I have rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to me. Why should that be any different for gay people? 

I have one final thought on this subject, and that is the example we set for others and what we are teaching our children. Times change. There are many people in our country that now have the rights and freedoms that at one time, only able bodied white men had. It is because we have grown as a people. We do not have to hold on to the prejudices that our ancestors held on to. We know better. We should be proud of that. Even if you know it's true that ALL people should have the same rights and freedoms as any other citizen in our country, if you find yourself uncomfortable around someone who is different than you, be conscious of how you react and what you say. Help the youth of our country be even better than what we are! I work at a group home. All of the residents are adult women with some form of disability. I am also female. One day, I took one of our residents to Walmart. This resident will take off and walk around and not watch for cars. I had her hold my hand as we made our way into the store, to keep her close to me and keep her safe. Coming out of the store was a mother with a little boy who was probably about 6 or 7 years old. As we walked by, the boy asked his mom "Are those ladies gay? They are holding hands." How sad that a child so young would even have to worry about such a thing! Children learn what they live........

To my dear departed Grandma, I know that what I now know and believe is not what you knew or believed, but I hope now that you are in heaven, you know God loves all His children, and it didn't matter if they were straight or gay, what mattered is how good of a person they were. And now I hope you're OK with what ever the truth is about your brother Carl. Send me a sign, I really want to know the rest of the story, and not just have to remember the little whispers I over heard as a teenager.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Veterans & Archives, My Letter to Governor Deal

10 October 2012

Governor Nathan Deal
Suite 203, State Capitol
206 Washington Street
Atlanta GA 30334

Dear  Governor Deal,

I have the deepest respect for anyone who puts on a uniform and is prepared to defend the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this great nation of ours. Your Georgian roots run deep, and you have a long history of service to your state and your country, via the military, the judicial system, and your long political career. You’ve been one of the lucky ones to live the American dream. An education, a beautiful family, and a fulfilling career have all found their way on to the timeline of your life.

Unfortunately, many of the men and women who place an American uniform on their backs do not end up living the American dream, their lives turn into the American nightmare. Veterans make up 11% of the adult population in our country and 25% of the homeless population. Many homeless veterans die alone and forgotten, and don’t receive the honor and military burial that they deserve. All too often their families never know what happened to them.

Across America the forgotten cremated remains of our veterans are sitting on the storage shelves of funeral homes. Some of them have been there for decades. Veterans organizations such as the Missing In America Project are researching the unclaimed cremains of funeral homes, identifying which ones are veterans and arranging military burials for them. Forensic genealogists at organizations such as Families For Forgotten Heroes go to work and identify the living next of kin of these veterans to notify them of the death and burial of their hero. The story of a veteran's life is not complete until they have received their military burial and their families have been found.

Deceased homeless veterans also end up in the morgues of Coroners and Medical Examiners. The issue of the unclaimed dead (civilian and veteran) is experiencing increasing numbers. This has caused a huge burden on tax payer dollars, as counties must take over the responsibility of the expense of burial when families can’t be found. A group of volunteer forensic genealogists at Unclaimed Persons assist coroners and medical examiners with finding the next of kin of unclaimed deceased people, so that families can be notified and make arrangements for the burial of their loved one.

Forensic Genealogists also assist JPAC - Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, with their mission of accounting for Americans lost during past U.S. conflicts. When the remains of our missing American heroes are found, the remains are sent to the JPAC lab in Hawaii. Forensic Genealogists assist JPAC by identifying living next of kin of these heroes, so that DNA samples may be taken to match families with the remains. It’s a very emotional experience, to see a widow or a child of our military from past conflicts finally receive the closure they have longed for!

Forensic Genealogists can not do the work they do without access to records and documents. I have been following the story of the closing of the Georgia State Archives with great interest. The closing of those archives will inhibit the ability to find the families of the above mentioned veterans, when they or their families have ties to Georgia.

On behalf of those veterans, I implore you to find the means to keep the Georgia State Archives open to the public for the rest of this year, and in January work with the leaders of your state to find additional funding to return the archives to being open at least 5 days per week.

Look into the eyes of yourself, the soldier from a few years ago. One nasty twist of fate, could have turned your life from the American Dream to the American Nightmare. You could have ended up as one of those unclaimed, unhonored, forgotten heroes. PLEASE help us keep access to the treasures in your state archives, so that forensic genealogists can continue their work to return each and every soldier of our country to their families!

Sincerely Yours,

Kim “Skip” Murray
Genealogy Team Leader (Retired), Research Volunteer - Families For Forgotten Heroes
Co-Director (Retired), Research Volunteer - Unclaimed Persons
8807 Gwynn Lane
Brainerd, MN 56401


To those of you who are checking out my blog, if you wish to help in the efforts to save public access to the Georgia Archives, here are some resources you might find helpful:

Friends of Georgia Archives & History

Georgians Against Closing State Archives

Petition to save the archives

Occupy Genealogy

Need ideas on how to write a letter? Check out these examples!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I'd Love for my Birthday!

My Birthday wish list………..

A hug from my Granddaughter, hubby, and son.


My genealogy friends to send a letter to or call the governor of Georgia (cc the Secretary of State) and tell them why the state archives should remain open.

RPAC, FGS, AGP, NGS, GAGP, ICAPgen, BCG, NIGS, CAFG, etc. to submit letters to the governor of Georgia (cc the Secretary of State) and tell them why the state archives should remain open. List of letter writers would include any genealogy / lineage societies, associations, or organizations. Hopefully, a portion of this wish is already done and I just don’t know about the letters. 

 A job. Would be nice to find full time with benefits at a place where I can put a smile on peoples’ faces, help others, make the world a better place. A job where I can be helpful and useful. Any job will do, but a rewarding job would be awesome!!!!

One last wish….and that’s for anyone reading this to do a Random Act of Kindness on Oct. 3. Be nice to someone, make their day better. It is as easy as sharing a smile, a hug, or opening the door for someone. Pay for someone’s coffee, donate to the food shelf, help a family with a sick child, the options are endless when it comes to being kind to others.

Thank-you for being a part of my day!