Sep 26, 2015

Another sad passing . . .

As you reach the status of elder in your family, you begin to understand on a fundamental level that life doesn't go on forever and that you'd better make the time you have left as meaningful and enjoyable and full of family and friends as you can.  It's one of the challenges of retirement, in a way, to make the shift from living and working for others to living for yourself -- how can I make this time a happy and productive one for me?  What do I want to do?  What do I like to do, what makes me happy?

At my age, I am reminded of the shortness of life far too often, if you ask me.  In the past two months, I've lost three people that I cared about:  a fellow teacher in the Writing Program at San Francisco State, a colleague from the dean's office who was like a brother to me, and now, my Stanford advisor, Arthur Applebee.

Those who have not gone through a doctoral program sometimes have difficulty understanding what the advisor/student relationship is like at that level.  Though you take classes from a variety of professors, you work most closely with one, and that relationship can help set the path of your doctoral work and beyond.  Without Arthur Applebee, I would not have had the career or, in a real sense, the life that I have enjoyed for the past 25 years.  Though I would eventually work with Judith Langer on my dissertation (another person to whom I owe much), Arthur was the constant presence during my years at Stanford and a major influence on my life.

Though Arthur was a man of formidable intelligence and great accomplishment, he was not one to put those qualities on display and most often encouraged his students to think issues through on their own.  I remember early in my program going to him with my registration form, asking him "So what am I supposed to take next quarter?" and his answer was typical, "What do you want to take?  What interests you?"  The requirements were very open and he wanted me to create my own path.

Many students entering a doctoral program suffer a bit of culture shock -- it's hard to go from an M.A. program, a smaller pond where you were likely a big fish, to the great big pond where suddenly you're not the smartest or most praised or admired.  You discover that many things you know are not valued any more -- one of the worst things you can hear in response to something you said in class is "that's anecdotal," as opposed to being research-based, and you sink down in your chair a little.  Certain 3rd year students feel compelled to show off the knowledge they've acquired by making critical remarks to first-year students in class, and your grades on papers sink from A+++ to B, barely passing for a doctoral student. 

Arthur helped me weather all those storms, offering support when I wanted to make better presentations in class, giving me helpful criticism on the papers I wrote.  It took about five quarters, I think, but finally I got a paper back that said, "This is a well written and well thought-out literature review.  A."  I actually cut that piece of Arthur's handwriting out and put it in a frame  -- I had worked so hard to receive that kind of praise, and when it came, I appreciated it deeply.

Arthur also went to bat for me in a number of ways.  When he and Judith Langer (his wife) decided to leave Stanford after she was denied tenure, the word from the Dean's office was that only those students who had passed their qualifying exams and were working on their dissertation would be allowed to continue with them as advisors (they were to come back several times over the following year).  Since I was close to my quals but hadn't done them and hadn't begun my dissertation, this was a disaster of major proportions -- to start over building a relationship with another advisor was something I couldn't imagine having to do.  I had an awful meeting with the Associate Dean that left me in frustrated tears, because he countered every argument I had for continuing to work with Judith, in a particularly condescending way.  Of course I went to Arthur, and of course he worked everything out.  I had a combined qualifying exam and proposal hearing in short order and went to work on my dissertation, finishing it within the year in which Arthur and Judith were returning to work with us.  I wanted to repay his confidence in me, and I did -- going from quals to the dissertation defense in one year is a major accomplishment.

In my genealogy blog, I want not only to share the history of my ancestors but also the events and people that have influenced my life.  I wouldn't be who I am today if not for the quiet, strong influence of Arthur Applebee.  He left us too soon, and he will always be remembered with great affection.  God bless, Arthur.  Rest in peace.

School of Education Mourns the Loss of Distinguished Professor

Sep 25, 2015

Long time no post . . .

I can't believe it's been over a month since I posted anything.  So much has been going on that my blog has unfortunately fallen by the wayside.

First, my sister and I enjoyed a fabulous trip to Alaska as part of the Federation of Genealogical Society's cruise.  The conference was very well organized, the speakers excellent, and the fellow travelers we met were wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed the sessions by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Judy Russell, but all were good.  We were so happy to be a part of this wonderful event.

Canadian sunset

When I came home, I immediately got sick (the very day I got home) -- on the ship, they were squirting Purell at us every other minute, but I must have missed a couple of squirts, because I came home with a horrible cold.  I'm still at the tail end of it.

I've also been deeply absorbed in planning our November trip to Paris -- I've been putting so many events on our schedule and paying for them in advance that Wells Fargo put a hold on my credit card!  I didn't know I had to call them before we even went overseas.  Anyway, we're looking forward to a wonderful time.

So both genealogy and my book have been a little bit on hold -- but now that I'm pretty much set with the Paris trip, I'm going to turn back to my research and writing.

And I'm putting in two proposals to speak at the SoCal Jamboree next spring!  One would be on German research and the other on "The G-Word," using grammar to strengthen your writing.  Wish me luck on those!  I'm an unknown quantity in the genealogy speaker's world, but I've done many presentations in my professional life.  We'll see if they're willing to take the chance on me.

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