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.

Death of a house Keeper

The Brady bunch is just a group now, Alice has died. 😦

I watched the Brady Bunch growing up. I loved the house they lived in. I loved the whole enchilada. To me it seemed like they lived on another planet because my life was nothing like what the Brady Bunch had.

Alice. . . can you imagine a time when it wasn’t odd for a family to have a housekeeper? I think I fell in a time between some homes having one, and not having one. In my family home we didn’t have one, but I heard stories about a time when other generations did. The stories always hinted at the strong influence and affection felt for these women. My grandmother, on the other hand, had a weekly housekeeper who I grew up feeling as though she was a part of my personal history.
I’ve never had to clean another families house for money. Honestly, I think it would be a hit to my ego.
I loved this woman, I was expected to show her respect like any other guest that came to my grandmother’s home. It was the absolute best coming home after she cleaned my grandmothers house, all lemony fresh. I’d even admit I found watching their personal and “professional” relationship amusing at times. I think i’d even go so far and say it was delightful at times.

As my grandmother got older, I got older and the housekeeper got older we all accumulated special glances towards one another. My grandmother would glance at the housekeeper, about me, it was the young woman are stupid look. I would glance at the housekeeper, about my grandmother, it was the old women are so crazy glance. Guess who was in the middle all the time? The housekeeper. Then when my grandmother began to fade and so did the housekeeper it was a double hit to my heart. They were a couple on some level. There was a loss when this relationship no longer existed on my life.

Alice, from the Brady bunch, keeper of glances, secrets, and mediator between kids and parents. I wonder if all families aren’t missing something when this sort of third party is missing? A sort of buffer? A witness?

Alice, I hope you find your dust free heaven where all spills dissipate in an instant. I hope all the rags are now infinite riches. I hope you cross paths with the beautiful wan who was much more humble than I am. I hope you and her can exchange war stories about how crazy and unique each family is.

RIP Alice

Funeral For Home

When I got my first iPhone I had no idea home much of my life would change.

Pre-iphone– a clock radio would wake me up. I’d take a shower, make breakfast, turn on the TV, get the news. Now I wake up, reach for the phone and BOOM! CNN, twitter, Skype, MSN, email.

First news of this day– Maya Angelo has died. I didn’t see that coming. I admire her work, no one can’t say she didn’t live a full life filled with love and respect for herself and others.

However, I wonder what her funeral will be like. I wonder who the funeral director is, did she make prior arrangements? I wonder who will be in charge of her funeral? Who will speak? who won’t?  Clinton? Oprah? I wonder if she insisted it remain simple, just a matter of fact, with little time to mourn? Or did she think a funeral should be a unique human expression like so many of her poems? I suspect, her funeral will inspire a lot of ideas about what a funeral looks like. I’m not sure most people will realize this, I doubt she did. How she and her family choose to openly, or privately,  illustrate the need and practice for a funeral will be quietly educating a lot of people about the value and necessity of a funeral, if in fact there is one in our culture.

I have completed my semester of studies. I was surprised how much about funerals I didn’t know legally. It’s very strange how little we know about what we can and can’t do when it comes to a funeral. Who can have the ashes? Who can attend a funeral? Where can a funeral home be located? When can you bury someone on private property?  We spend nine months  preparing physically, mentally and socially for a baby, a sudden death happens and we only have hours or days to prepare. Everything that happens in within time has the potential to be intense, make it or break it moments in relationships.

This week I was surprised to see a program for funerals for homes in Philadelphia. Funeral for homes? Yep, and I think it’s important. We are so blessed in this country. We are so blessed we actually have the luxury to forget how blessed we are; this forgetting is beginning to destroy neighborhoods and even large cities like Detroit and Philadelphia. Have you seen Detroit lately? Just google “detroit” images and see the blocks an blocks of blight in America. Blight in America?  A fifth of Detroit’s properties are considered blight, according to a report by the Blight Removal Task Force. If we can throw away homes, what else are we capable of throwing away? A home, a car, a job, a neighborhood  . . . huge parts of the American dream. Are we forgetting and throwing away the American Dream? Should we have a funeral for Detroit? Or is that just going too far? If so, Why?

How do you have a funeral for a home? I was trying to think how I might have one. At first, I thought this was such a silly idea. However, I realized one of the hardest things I had to do after my grandmothers death was sell her house. Her house was, and still is, the most powerful home I’ve ever had. It’s good to consider the space where you live with those you love the most in this world. look at it the house,  honor what that home gives to you and everyone under its roof. A home is like another member of a family, it offers shelter, requires attention and it can stress you out in a big storm. If you have a home you know you want this home to succeed, you are aware what that home says to others about you. If you really stop to think about it, a home is another member of your family. So, why not give it a funeral? Doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a practice of care that reminds us what matters most and how blessed we are.

Here is info about the program. There are photos of the home in life and death that are really beautiful. I’d put the snowy one on my wall. The site notes, “Every year nearly 600 homes are demolished in the City of Philadelphia.”

http://funeralforahome.org

Funeral for a Home is a Mantua-based effort designed by local artists Billy Dufala, Steven Dufala, and Jacob Hellman working collaboratively with the Mantua Civic Association, Mount Vernon Manor, Inc.; Mantua Community Improvement Committee, The H.U.B. Coalition, and Peoples’ Emergency Center CDC. Patrick Grossi is Funeral for a Home‘s project manager.

The Funeral-

WHEN May 31, 2014

WHERE 3711 Melon Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104

TIME 11:00 AM

This is a short panel discussion between the artists and the community. They make some great points about the project. However, one  thing I  really admire in the discussion is a small  dialog about the role artists can have beyond simple creator of cool objects for elite collectors. They remind us there can be a greater, larger, and even equal role for artists in a community.

 

 

Flourish

I watched a video of Steve Jobs describing how perfect his company is because of their teamwork. However, at the moment, I’m frustrated with the majority of my Apple products. In fact every single day I wonder if Apple makes my life better or worse? Having multiple Apple products in my life must be similar to having a loved one who slowly inspires you to develop a serious personality disorder from all the frustration and broken promises. Every morning for the last few weeks, I’ve wanted to trot on down to the Apple store and unleash a major case of frustration and insist they give me my money back for a couple of items. Ya, I’ll leave it at that.

So then I saw this video. I might be the last one to see it. This is teamwork , Apple. This is the stuff that really changes the world.  Need a business model? Watch this.

Global Warming

There is a lot of interest in Nigeria right now, I decided to see who are, if any, powerful women in Nigeria. Through a series on CNN I discovered Diezani Alison-Madueke,

the Minister of Petroleum Resources Nigeria for OPEC. You can see her here-

Published on Feb 10, 2014

What OPEC advertises about Nigeria, From their  website-

The most populous country within OPEC, Nigeria has over 167 million inhabitants. Located on the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s western coast, Nigeria covers an area of around 924 thousand square kilometres. Abuja, the capital since 1991, has a population of more than one million. English is Nigeria’s official language, although many local languages such as Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Ijaw are also spoken.

Apart from petroleum, Nigeria’s other natural resources include natural gas, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc and arable land. The oil and gas sector accounts for about 35 per cent of gross deomestic product, and petroleum exports revenue accounts for about 70 per cent of total exports revenue. Its currency is the naira.

Nigeria’s President is Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The country joined OPEC in 1971.