Summer vacation!

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This week we started a very first “summer vacation”.  Last week BSF, preschool, and dance class all ended.  So we spent this week doing almost nothing…well, by Friday we were bored, and spent the day at the zoo, and then went to small group, and on Saturday, we had the Browns over.

I’m trying my best to keep this summer unscheduled, and we’ll see how we do.  I want the girls to be free…explorers and discoverers, creating the world around them.  I don’t want to fill up time with classes and obligations.  We signed up for VBS and got a zoo pass, but that’s it.  I worry I’ll end up just letting them watch too much TV.  Truthfully, I’m not nearly as creative as I wish I were. But we will do our best.  I made a list of things we can do…hope it helps:

Dance party

Take care of the dollies

Take the dollies for a walk and have a picnic

build a fort

do puzzles

work on our letters

do crafts

do a science project

go to the library

practice yoga

bake

build a city

play catch

play tag

put on a show, record it, then watch it

have a photo shoot

make rhythm band

play hide-n-seek

do

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Growing up

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Tonight, at 35 and a third, I can say I finally feel like a grown up. And I’m sort of the person I hoped to be as a grown up. I floss and use mouthwash almost daily. I read books and watch documentaries. I work out (almost) every day, eat food I’m (mostly) proud of. I care for a home and people who care for me. I do a job I enjoy, volunteer at things I’m good at.  I have furniture that matches, a car that runs, and most of my clothes are not hand-me-downs. 

That said, today I still left my keys in the door, my wallet at home, and forgot change clothes for work. I guess I’ll never grow out of some things. 

Potty training in a day.

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Some kids make motherhood look easy. At 16 months, my sweet Suzanne handed me back her pacifier and said “all done”, and never used it again. At 17 months, she quit nursing on her own and never asked again. When it was time to kick her out of bed, feed her solids, whatever milestone, I have learned to just let Suzanne take the lead.

I rarely confess these things, and when younger mothers asked how I weaned, got her out of our bed, took away the paci, I humbly admit that I have no skills for these things. Suzanne took the initiative in each area. And by saying this I am in no way suggesting that all any parent needs to do is wait for their kids…some kids would never quit anything. I know that. Each kid is individual and it’s a mom’s job to understand her kid. I’m just saying I got lucky. We have other things we work on, but growing up has not been a struggle with my Suz.

Today, she told me that she wanted to use the potty and not wear diapers anymore. “I tell you when I need to use the potty from now on, mama.” It seems too easy, but its possible that she means it. Which will make her one spectacular child. If it’s the case that she potty trains herself, she’s totally earns herself one free pass when she’s 16.

My job

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When people ask me about my job, I usually start by saying that I work in my family’s business.  I avoid mentioning what kind of business.  When pressed, I’ll admit that it’s a funeral home.  This is usually met by a barrage of questions, which I sort of welcome and sort of hate.  First, it requires that I talk a lot, which triggers my anxiety, causing me to talk more and later, have insomnia and a panic attack.  Second, is there a bigger buzzkill than talking about death?  I always hope that perhaps this person’s family used us before, and they can just talk about how nice we were… and maybe I can turn the conversation around to talking about their loved one. But that hardly happens. At the same time, I wish it was a conversation that could be had more casually.  And it will never be more casual if we never have the conversation.

Usually, it goes something like this:

“Do you, like, touch the bodies?” (Usually said with a grimace.)

“No, I work in the office.  But my dad and brother embalm.”  This either takes us down a rabbit hole of people barely hiding their disgust at the thought of being near men I deeply love, or with their admitting a strange fascination with bodies.  But usually it’s followed by:

“Oh…what kind of things do you do?”

“Officey things.  Kind of like any other small business office person.” How do I describe what I do?  I mostly answer phones and emails, pay bills, mail invoices, file insurance paperwork…you know, work in an office. But it’s different too.  When I answer the phone, it could be any number of horrible things on the other end.  One time a call was so awful, so personal, I put the caller on hold, ran away shaking, threw up in the sink, then got back on the phone to professionally get all the pertinent information.  When I do paperwork, I’m writing obituaries, family trees, designing a headstone for someone’s beloved.

And then there’s this: “I’ve bet you’ve seen some crazy things.”

“Yes.  Yes I have.”  But not what you’re looking for.  You want to hear about bodies sitting up, decomposed bodies, ghosts wandering the halls, death at a funeral, family fights that end in police.  Here are the crazy things I’ve seen: I’ve seen a father trying to climb into the casket of his 7-year-old son to hold him one last time.  I’ve also seen a 1-year-old attempt to sit on his mother’s casketed chest. I’ve seen friends come together to make a casket for a man who died too young, and parades of Packards, Harleys, and and American Flag flying Pick-Ups honoring a fallen member of their group.  I’ve seen couples come again and again and again to bring us their lost babies. I’ve seen suicide train victims put back together, and gunshot wounds disappear under the skilled hands of my father. I’ve seen things I won’t even type here, for fear of admitting it exists.

“I don’t think I could do it.  How do you do it?”  “You’re right.  You probably couldn’t.  I compartmentalize.”  I remind myself that I need to be the strength for people.  My professionalism is a buoy in their grief-ocean drowning.    I shove all that sadness, that sense of injustice, in a closet in my brain.  And when it fills, I go home and weep it all out.  Then I remind myself that none of those griefs were my griefs.  My people are still here. And even those days when I fear the loss of my people…I lean heavily on my faith to see me through.

Sometimes people ask: “So, are you guys less busy with all the cremation going on?  Do people even have funerals anymore?”  Or more rudely, “You know, people don’t need even funeral homes.” “Well, yes, you kind of do.  You’ll need somebody.”  You can’t cremate or bury in your back yard…not without a heck of a lot of legal problems.  And try explaining the dead body in the back seat when you get pulled over.  While it’s true that more people are choosing cremation, that’s hardly less work for us.  And it’s true that some funeral director rejects run little more than garbage disposal operations out of their vans in which they will eventually take your loved one from their place of death and bring them to the crematory and might get the cremated remains back to you for a low, low price.  But when most people find themselves with a family member dead, they want someone they can trust to handle that beloved body. Our job has little to do with the choice of cremation or burial.  We’re surprisingly flexible.  Tell us what you want…we’ll do it.  Have a budget?  We’ll figure out something we can do with it.  We don’t do this job for the glory of it, or the money.  There are much better ways to make money.  We do it because somebody has to.  And we’re really good at it. But it’s a really hard job, in more ways than one, and we do have to make a living.

“I don’t want anybody to look at me/I want to just be cremated and scattered/I just want to be buried in a pine box in the backyard.” “Ha, ha.  We hear that a lot.” But my mind screams: Oh yeah?  Well guess what- it’s not your decision.  You’ll be dead! It bugs me a lot when people say stuff like this.  It’s all vanity.  Your death is not about you, it’s about the love you’ve earned. Whether you’re being falsely humble or vain, it’s not your business to tell those who love you how to grieve.  If you’re family wants to see you, let them.  If they want to bury you where they can visit and plant flowers, let them.  If they want to throw you into the wind, let them.  If they want to respect traditions, let them.  Let them let others comfort them.  Let them let others feed them.  Let them grieve, and don’t pile guilt upon it.

“I just don’t think I could be around all those dead bodies.” “Oh, you get used to it.  And really, I barely see bodies.” My job is NOT about dead bodies.  My job is about the grief-stricken.  For every dead body that passes through our doors, we are met by the grief-stricken tenfold.  Nearly everyone I meet is having literally the worst day of their lives. They are exhausted, shocked, uneven at their best.  They are thoughtless, self-centered, and scatter-brained;  and I’m amazed that they get it together enough to walk through the door on time.  I sometimes wish my job were about dead bodies.  They would be easier.  But I can’t comfort a dead body.  I can’t guide them through the next steps on their journey.  And that is what makes my job worth doing.

 

Privilege

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I’m white.  Suburban, private school, upper-middle class white.  I can trace my heritage back to Europe.  In fact, I’m also 100% Dutch.  I think I could count on one hand the number of people of any color that I called a friend, even through college.  I’m including southern Europeans.

But then, in my 20s, I spent a good deal of time talking about race.  I started attending an activist church, worked in racially mixed environments. I lived with a few people of different races, including a teen mom.  A black, product-of-foster-care teen mom.  I dated a few black men.  Race was part of my every day.  I thought a lot about my white privilege, about the systems of oppression, about the problems of poverty and how intertwined poverty is in our country with race and opportunity. And while I thoroughly believe that each individual person is responsible for his or her own actions, I understood that the reward or consequence of those actions varied greatly depending on a person’s outward appearance, which, in turn, begat a new set of actions. I got it. I got that I didn’t get it at all. I figured out that I really knew nothing about what it meant to be black in America. It was exhausting, but I felt that in those dialogues, real things were happening. The world was changing, and I was part of it. Racism existed, but we were fighting to make it better!

But my interactions with people of color (not coincidentally) accompanied my own slide into poverty.  And I found that poverty didn’t suit me well; I found it rather uncomfortable.  I had a degree from a private college, after all.

So I acted out the greatest of white privilege.  I left.  I got tired, got married (to a white man, also 100% Dutch), had white babies, and moved to a suburban, private school, upper-middle class white neighborhood. I started attending a white, wealthy church.  I hardly ever talk about race anymore.  It has almost nothing to do with my every day. An idea that is almost sick at it’s very root, as it implies that by being white, I have no race.  Which is of course, not true.  I simply have no penalty in life because of my race.

She’s crafty

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Salsa con queso

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I hate Velveta, but love queso. What’s a girl to do?

Figure something out. That’s what this girl did.
8 oz chihuahua cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1 c shredded Colby jack
1/2+ c milk
1 jar salsa or 20 oz can of chili no beans
1 can rotel tomatoes

Melt chihuahua cheese with cream cheese. Stir in Colby and milk until creamy. Heat more if necessary. Stir in salsa.
It’s rich. Share with lots of friends.