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Life Signs Flying Buy

I mentioned a few days ago, I miss when life didn’t feel like a rollercoaster.

I’m going to write about random things as they come to me. This is an exercise in blog discipline and personal exposure.

I applied for a job yesterday, not going to say where, but I’ll say it was a job for a company that has A LOT of power and is very popular (Not wal-mart). What am I trying to say, they don’t really have to EVER worry about finding employees to hire because they always have a line of people who need a job. The online application was a little insulting and I actually thought it was a tad exploitive.  I’m pretty sure a couple of the questions they asked aren’t even legal. For instance, they didn’t ask your age, but they did ask if you were over 18 and under 40. Ya, how stupid do I need to be to read the writing on that wall? And if you don’t answer, you can’t continue with the application.  Then they asked questions about how likely do you think most people steal often? How much do you think people really believe politicians? Ok, ask the minimum wage people if they believe politicians? WHAT?  Compared to your friends are you more satisfied with your life? Or less satisfied than them? But they neglected to ask. DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS. LOL!!  Then they asked, twice in different ways, how likely you were to keep your desk organized and how imporatnt that was to you. Honestly, if I ruled they world, there’s no way that application would fly with me. In a very strong description, I’d say it was like an application a baby nazi created. This  application  was for a very run of the mill job that thousands of very needy, uneducated, educated, no other options people  apply for daily. It’s not a rocket science job, not a job with the responsibility of saving or destroying the world. It’s basically a job to breath air, be a body,  and make sure there’s something for a customer to  pick up and buy. It’s not like a job that involves a gun and travel to another country.  I felt like a guinea pig for some ivy league psych research data base. Everything about this application felt very under the table and shady. I’ll be very curious to see if they call back. Will I get to work in the coal mine and use my paycheck to shop at the business owned store? Time will tell. I should mention, this was not a funeral service affiliated business in any way.

This morning I took my little dog out for her usual thing and through a series of events, she ran off. This lead me to go find her. When I found her she was pointing like a hunting dog and then I saw a big fat dove fly from the ground and cling to a branch above. The dove lost its grip and hung upside down for a moment, then fell to the ground. I watched it resting on the ivy infested  slope of the creek bank. I was a little baffled. I was a little annoyed. Do I really need to start the day out like this? God, I hope this isn’t some sign from he universe.  A struggling dove falling to its more than likely death alone? I thought about going down into the creek to retrieve it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds; mud, poison oak, water, bugs. I just didn’t have time. I thought to myself, nature is just going to have to take its course. In my head I imagined weeks of seeing a big fat dead dove on the banks of the creek. Seriously, I don’t need this right now.  I went inside and did my morning routine. I came out about an hour later and the dove was gone. So, nature did it’s thing and I’m going to assume the bird flew away happily.

Two events, one a lesson in complete human control with calculated sneaky domination over others, the other a lesson in   the ambiguity of the universe, trusting it can handle itself for the best.

Disco always makes me feel better 🙂

A Field Trip for Everyone

Late last year, towards the end of the semester, our program was invited to visit Christy Vault Company in Colma. Christy Vault Company  has been serving funeral, cemetery, and  private families with quality products since 1948.

The infamous vault, the “why do we have to buy that” item.  I often hear people express frustration and disbelief a vault is necessary item in the burial process. I’ve even attended a meeting where a Doctor challenged me in the importance of a burial vault. The vault, a hard sell for many and it’s not really surprising in our culture.

First, you probably don’t want to pay for a vault because in logical terms, the vault will be buried and you’ll never see it. Who wants to buy anything like that?  We like to see the things we buy, we like to enjoy what we buy, use the item for pleasure. So, spending a large amount of money on a vault, no fun for sooo many reasons.

Secondly, we live in a culture already  deeply programmed to believe nothing is  really “necessary” in the  burial process. Most people head into purchasing funeral items with the same thrill of buying a used car. And, ugh! There’s that pesky funeral director to deal with, cough, shyster, right? Why not just take your money and burn it? I mean, getting a root canal seems more fun and worthwhile right?

Well, I’d like you to think about where you got your ideas about funerals,  funeral directors, how much you really know about the whole funeral process,  what a funeral might, or should mean to you. Where did you get your ideas?  When it comes to death and the rituals of death, often our ideas are ones that are still handed down, and we have no idea how or why we believe them.  In fact, often they don’t make sense to use anymore just another what? Family tradition? New Science? God is dead why bother moment? Whatever, your beliefs, your desires, you’ll probably find out, you just accepted the ideas and expectations that were given to you over time and without question. If you look a little closer you might even realize there are some stereotypes and sneaky biases going on. What if these stereotypes are wrong and actually  adding more difficulty to an already difficult process in life?

There are many  good reasons why vaults are necessary and I’m just going to lightly mention a couple cause, well, snooze.  First is safety for all who visit and work at a cemetery. You’re probably thinking, “What?”

The fact is, when you place a casket in the ground, over time, the earth will settle, and that space where you’ve placed your loved one, will settle and without a vault would become a large divot in the ground. This might not sound like a big deal, but think about visiting a cemetery that’s scattered with moderate sink holes all over the place; All those little sink holes, where a loved one is.  I dont’ think that’s very pleasant. Without vaults it would be impossible for you to visit your loved one in a very peaceful and organized way. It would be impossible for the cemetery to maintain the grounds in a respectful and presentable fashion that’s safe for employees, as well as families visiting. Maybe this sounds trivial, but if you’ve ever been in deep grief,  you know the last thing  you need is more chaos, visual chaos or signs no one cares about what they do for you or your loved one. Imagine visiting a cemetery where grass, weeds,  and dirt made it impossible to navigate to find your loved one? It sounds dramatic, I know, but that is the reality of a cemetery without vaults. The burial vault ensures  a visit to your loved one is a safe and comforting.

Secondly, the vault protects your loved one from a lot; Water, soil, and other things you may or may not imagine. Why might this be important? It’s a personal thing I suppose. There are people who want to know their loved one remains protected for as long as possible.

So that’s just a couple of reasons why vaults are necessary.

Christy  Vault did a great job showing us around their business. The information I share here, mine. These are two points why vaults are important most people aren’t aware of.  Vaults are much more complex than my oversimplified explanation.  Christy Vault has  a  genuine care for an item a lot of people are resistant to purchase. They did a great job teaching us why what they do matters and helps all those they serve including their community and employees. They are proud to be made in America.

This is a little slide show I made of our trip. There’s a picture of people holding the lip of the vault to feel how strongly the adhesion is, that’s a Christy specialty. The last picture a group picture.

Priorities of a Brainless Flower

These are the last blooms of the year from my small garden. Each flower pictured has been   extremely tenacious. Two grew from seedlings, one has an expensive pedigree,  one re-homed to me, and one has changed its color entirely to survive, me. Sometimes I look at the flower that changed its color and I’m a little annoyed it’s no longer the color I wanted, but then I think I can’t really say anything because I pretty much forced it to change color. Can plants throw a protest? Maybe.

I used to love my garden; In the last few years, not so much. Despite my neglect, there are plants that have refused to die.  I have pushed some of them to their limits more than once,  they still made a cheerful come back. Sometimes I have looked at these flowers and wondered, are they  stronger than me? Do they understand life better than me?  Are they motivated by death and/or life? I’m always amazed  how they  insist it’s very important they bloom before they fade away. Maybe we should all be so tenacious about blooming?

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Rethinking Warrior

Lately my  life has been a little, painfully magical? Are those the right words? I’m not sure. they are what comes to mind for some reason. I stumble upon things, and I wonder why?

I’m an odd bird, there aren’t too many people who could live my life, and sometimes I’m not even sure I’m the best person for my life. People frequently look at me and think I have a lot, have it easy. All I can say is, I have never been Kim Kardashian. My road, bumpy as hell like everyone else’s road.

Lately, Ive realized there are things I’ve lost and will never get back,  you know, like time. It’s one thing to start life and see hope in the future, it’s another when, at certain age, you realize there are things that aren’t coming back and can no longer be hoped for. How do you keep going? What sustains drive when all the typical reasons, motives, and hopes are slowly disappearing and become gone? Do you reinvent your hopes and dreams? Start living from a blank sheet of paper? Or start a new TO DO list no one has ever seen before? Could that be the scariest TO DO list ever?

So, I came up with this idea yesterday to actively consider death daily. Later in the day I started over thinking it, I was even feeling a little scared about it. I was getting insecure, even thinking maybe this isn’t a healthy thing to do? What if I end up hurting myself more than . . . what? Helping myself? What’s wrong with me. LOL!

I usually go to bed and watch a movie. Last night I watched Blood Brother, directed by  Steve Hoover. I innocently stumbled upon it thanks to Netflix. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, seemed like the same old story, entitled westerner goes to India to help suffering kids, changes his life, hero,  yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

Well, this movie ripped my heart apart. Grab a tissue! what am I doing with my life kinda movie. It’s true, the movie is about a guy who goes to India to help kids, but the amount of love, bravery, dedication and fierce drive in his heart  is truly what  makes this movie a MUST SEE. The movie shows the striking contrast between his life in the US, and his life in India. Look at the relationships with his blood family, and the family he builds in India.  Poor kids, with nothing but secrets and health issues live, love, and glow more than the most comfortable adults and children in America? Why? Are these kids living through their feelings? Needing feelings to survive? Aren’t these kids suppose to be depressed?  Living with life and death can make you glow from crying and laughing?

This country has incredible issues with health care. We force people to have health care, why? Because it’s too expensive if they don’t? Or because we care and think it’s important they are taken care of? What is our collective consciousness on this? Who is it too expensive too? Tax payers? communities?  A governmental budget? When and why did it become so expensive? How did we decide the priority of expense and care? What is the true illness health care is really trying to solve?

Big Brother, challenges viewers to consider how they love, how they care, what their community, and relationships look like. Many foreigners visit India, leave, this guy moved there to help. The community didn’t always love him, in fact he faces a crisis and his safety is in question at one point from helping. His heart told him to go to India, but his heart didn’t promise a smooth or comfortable road.  He faced huge moments of mind-blowing grief and rejection from the community a few times. The film does an excellent job of sharing how those moments created mental, as well as physical doubts he was doing the right thing with his life and how he overcame his doubts.

The most extraordinary thing about this film is the love and care given and received. There are a number of kids that will touch your heart, but there is one that will just smash your heart to bits for all the right reasons. A child who wasn’t receiving the best of health care, had AIDS, and everyone feared to touch. You will want to step up your care game after you watch how much love, care and dedication this complete stranger gave to this little boy.

We focus so often on warriors that hold guns and kill. I challenge you to watch this movie , if for no other reason than to reconsider what a warrior  looks like to you.  I dare you to tell me Rockyanna isn’t a warrior the world couldn’t use more of. The world, including America, needs more warriors like Rockyanna.

The American Way Of Death

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Do you have a negative attitude about funeral homes? Hate the idea of dealing with a funeral director?  This book, The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford might be what inspired  you to feel that way. I often hear this is THE book that rocked the funeral service world so deeply, even today,  funeral homes still deal with the impact of her words.  I decided to check it out, see what all the fuss was about. How did this book turn an industry upside down for generations? Make those in the funeral industry the bad guys? I can tell, just from the inside sleeves, there won’t be much love for the funeral service world. I guess one of my questions, where do we get our ideas about what a funeral should cost? When did we decide funerals shouldn’t cost much? When did we decide spending money on a funeral is very close to feeling like wasting money? How long have these ideas existed? Before or just after this book?

Composure

BIrthing

I spent a ton of time writing a post about my Death Cafe experience, and for some reason (GRRRR) it didn’t save on WordPress. Soooooo I’m sorta frustrated and feel like moving on. Long story short, Death Cafe Good, check one out if you can.

This morning saw a video of a guy who jumped into a shark infested ocean to “surf” a dead whale. I wondered, where did he learn so much comfort and acceptance of death? Of fleshy decay? They guy practically sinks his face into a decomposing whale.  At the Death Cafe, I guess I am going to write a little about this, many people seemed frustrated American society seems to have an unspoken ban on talking about death openly. For example, I mentioned I went to a Death Cafe to a few people, they thought it was creepy and too depressing to ever go to one. Ironically, it also happened to be Halloween and half the people I saw– Zombies? We can’t speak of death, but we can play dead? Is this a subliminal message we’re all missing?

What if we felt as comfortable with death? Took it a step further, became comfortable with all the unpleasantness that comes along with death? You know, the emotional pain, the bloat, the stiffening, the smells? Is ignorance truly bliss when it comes to death?  If we think about it, the process of death, of decay, is about as green as you can get. Being green is good, right?  It’s sort of the ultimate homage to going green, but this is the unspoken green? The decomposition of a body is as natural as the composing of a fetus. When we welcome a life we study, prepare, learn and fill many lives with hopes and dreams. When death arrives we scramble, grasp, wonder, and often stress the strongest of relationships with grief and  loss. A palliative care doctor in my group asked, “When did death become such a tragedy in America?”

So, here’s this guy, on the other side of the world, jumping into shark infested water, sinking his face into rotting flesh, floating around, living life to the fullest? Or is he just interested in Building the worlds most unusual bucket list? Was he so over educated in how to be cool, someone forgot to educate him about death? Now, he says he was an “idiot”.  Did he realize ignorance motivated his actions?  If families don’t talk about death, if communities don’t talk about death, aren’t we all capable of surfing a dead whale too?

BTW no, I’m not advocating dead whale surfing and yes, I am rambling a bit.

Blinded by the Darkness

I’ve decided to attend a death cafe tonight. Just before I leave, I realize something pretty valuable popped out of my car when I opened the door to get my mail in the dark last night. At the time I thought a cheap hair clip was the soft little cadinky dink that hit the pavement. As I prepared to leave for this death cafe, I realized it was a valuable pair of sunglasses I love.

I thought about all the ironies of this day and the choice to attend this cafe. A ping of fear stuck me when I imagined attending this group, maybe they might be offended a funeral service student was attending? Would I feel comfortable explaining this to them? I thought, i could tell them my beloved dog is currently being consumed by Cancer. A big deal to me, maybe not so much to a person losing a child? What the hell was I thinking?
I was thinking I’m trying to learn. I’m afraid as anyone else to put myself out there, but I do it. I do strange curious things like this because that’s who I am.
Then I realized, my glasses were gone. And I spent 30 minutes looking for these suckers. I REALLY didn’t want to lose them. I’m not gonna lie, I started to bargain with the universe to give them back to me. They were symbolic to me, a little indulgence, a stroke of good luck, something I really loved and was proud of. Something that made me feel like the universe was thinking of me with a little love, giving me a break for a change. I guarded them more than other things. They were precious to me. Then I realized, ugh! They fell out of my car!! My heart sank.
It’s seems like such a small and trivial thing. But in my life, this loss just before a group meeting specializing in loss seemed pretty mean and ironic.

I know I sound like a materialistic baby to most, but objects, the loss of them are many of our training grounds for our feelings and reactions to loss. I bet everyone can think of an object, valuable or not, that hurt to lose. I have a list of things, people, and places I’ve lost during my lifetime. The feeling of helplessness, the violation, unfairness, the grief, all special gut twisters.
I’m late now. It sucks. Being late, you can’t seem to truly be a Californian without being late. I miss being Texan sometimes. I never seemed to lose as much there.

The Deadliest Food on Earth

I’m taking a break from my academic hell of memorization. Feeling a little stressed out, the concept of comfort food  popped into my mind; Ahhh, comfort. Oooy, gooey, bad to the bone comfort food.

So, I did a small search on comfort foods, seemed innocent enough, right? However, I quickly realized most comfort foods seem more like feel like crap foods. How is feeling like crap a comfort? I can’t remember  a time after 20 when eating fried chicken, or mac and cheese made me feel good. How are these cheesy, fried, and sugary foods suppose to be a comfort during a loss? And when did tortilla soup become a comfort food?

Does a food become a comfort because it has a history?  A Tradition?  Or because a loving person made the dish?  Is it just because they’re what’s available or received? How do these foods, that ordinarily make us feel like crap, guilty, and fat, suddenly make us feel loved and secure during a time of loss?

I tried to think of what I ate during the loss of my grandmother, I couldn’t remember a single flavor. I thought it was odd, because I associate a lot of foods with the memory of my grandmother, her life, and my time with her. I eat things specifically in her memory to this day. Thanks to her, I am that crazy lady looking for whipped unsalted butter much to the horror of other shoppers. The real irony, as a kid I hated she wouldn’t buy margarine like everyone else did and you can bet I let her know it. Now I laugh and think what a spoiled brat I was. Hopefully she’s in a better place  waving her butter knife telling everyone, “I told her so.”

So why all the take you closer to death comfort foods? Maybe we like them because they remind us we are alive?  Maybe they help feed the small parts of denial or numbness we might need to cope with grief? Maybe they just remind us there will be another tomorrow because in the morning WE WILL NEED TO WORKOUT? Comfort food, A dangerous way to know you’re loved and life will go on?

I saw this recipe a number of years ago. I’ve never made it, I’ve only dreamed and been astonished by it. You’ll see why. 😉

 

The Return

I think I’ve just completed one of the rules about having a blog, I didn’t write for a long time, and now I’m back.

I stopped, why? I’m not sure. Summer came, that was part of it for sure. I’ve had other things going on, and I’ve had personal questions about my choice to work in funeral services. Like starting a blog,  funeral service beginnings are wildly easy, all the work on the path, not so easy.

It’s been interesting to hear the various attitudes towards the funeral industry, funeral directors, and death from all sides of the fence. I am sad to say much of the general public embraces a fairly negative, and acceptable stereotype towards much of funeral industry. I am happy to say, from the very beginning, my program has made it very clear the job is to care about the families you work with. I have been very surprised how much dedication and commitment my funeral service program expects in order to earn a degree in Mortuary Science. I think people would be very surprised to know how much we are expected to know legally, ethically, and medically to pass. I can tell you, the standards are high and very well regulated for consumer protection by agencies such as OSHA and the FTC.

Personally, as many might suspect, I have been wrestling with the embalming part on two levels. Of course, the first, do I really want to do embalming?  Can I do it? I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty intense; fascinating too, but WOW, Really? The second part is, what’s the point of learning embalming if the demand isn’t going to be there? Current numbers suggest embalming might be a thing of the past. Sooooo . . . am I wasting my time? It’s a lot of time, by the way, microbiology just doesn’t cross over your membranes like a deadly virus. Flashcards, Flashcards, flashcards . . . Make them go away!!

So, this is a short post to begin again. I have numbers of fungi, algae and protozoans calling my name, demanding I spend the day with them. Why? So I can make sure families get the best care they will need in the future during a painful loss. For some reason, Trypanosoma Brucei Gambiense helps in that cause. I’m posting a small video about this little gem of a vector. Frankly, this critter scares the bageebers out of me so I share him just in time for Halloween. Ya, I’m not going to Africa to trick or treat or anything.