Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NYE 2013: Skipping the Reflection

Well, it's here kids - NYE 2013. (by the by, its only recently that I understood what the abbreviation NYE stood for - yes, the blonde is natural) I've realized that I am not big on spending my NYE reflecting on the year that's coming to a close. I feel like it's harkening back to Gladiator days, thumbs up or thumbs down? Did you love it or hate it? It was a year of my life - filled with joy, sorrow, victories and struggles. It wasn't perfect, it didn't suck - it just was. I learned some lessons and think I am all in all a better version of myself than I was at the end of 2012 -- that's all a girl can really hope for, right?

I'm also not a resolution person - at all. Let's be real peeps - how many of you have actually made and kept a resolution past February 1st? I don't think setting goals are bad, but lets make them realistic and lets make them about something that matters. This isn't a "resolution", but I told Jim this year my goal is to be more comfortable in my own skin. I want to be happy with who I am, where I am. To quote a Katy Perry song (God, help me) "I have to love myself the way I want you to love me". I want a closer walk with God (always a good one) and I want to continue to grow a loving, healthy marriage (a direct correlation to a closer walk with God, I think). Other than that, I'm gonna try to be me.

I guess my point is: keep moving forward. If you want to look back (briefly) on 2013 and take stock, go ahead. But don't be moored to your mistakes, short comings and struggles. I promise, 2014 will have it's share of problems. But, if we make the choice to look for joy- it will have that as well. And - to get preachy for just a minute - don't hate  the struggles. The moments of joy wouldn't be as amazing if you hadn't been through moments of pain. The mountain never seemed as glorious as when you just walked through the valley. I am a blessed girl. That doesn't mean my life is perfect. But I have husband I adore, a family I love and friends who love me in spite of myself.

So cheers, my friends. Raise a glass of champagne or chocolate milk to yourself tonight. You may not have rocked the world in 2013, but many of you rocked my world. You loved me, read my blog, inspired me to be a better person. You touched the lives of the Sunday school class you taught, the stranger you gave a smile to, the family member you reconnected with.  And that my friends, is worth celebrating.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Don't Matter if You're Black or White

Anytime lyrics from a Michael Jackson song become the title of your latest blog post - you can bet what follows will be epic.

I've been uninspired to post lately (since Easter, apparently) But, I think the dry spell is over. Now, I'm sure by reading the title of this post, you've assumed race will somehow be involved. And, you're right. My husband would probably like me to insert at this point that the views expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. I have an opinion - that doesn't make me right, but if you don't like it , there are a billion other blogs you can read. Moving on...

I'm not sure where I should start... I guess the beginning is as good a place as any. I was raised in the South. (yes, born a yankee - but there was sand between my toes for my formative years -- so all things being equal, I consider myself a southern girl) I didn't grow up with black friends or white friends - I grew up with friends. I didn't give "race" much thought, honestly. Does that make me sheltered? Naïve? A lucky, privileged white girl? Probably so. That's not to say I didn't see color. I did. But, I didn't see the conflict surrounding it. My roommate in college (and, one of my best friends) was black. She taught me all kinds of things (being the sheltered, naïve, white girl I was) but not because she was black. I remember asking her one time, after she used the "n" word, why is was ok for her to do so - but not me? (or, any other Caucasian - for that matter) She had a pretty good answer, I thought. Basically, she supposed it was like how women can call each other "bit&#es" as a term of endearment - but we wouldn't tolerate a man saying it. Same for the "n" word. White people had used it as a label of hate for so long, we dare not say it now.

Fast forward 11 years (yes, it's been 11 years since my freshman year in college -- what?!)

Yesterday I experienced my first black funeral. Enter naïve girl again - I thought a funeral was a funeral. Nope. White people need to take note. I have never been to a better celebration of life. The family entered the church first, followed by 250 folks singing "I'm Free" at the top of their lungs. EVERYONE. Singing, giving praise, hands raised - it was amazing. Everyone was family. Maybe not blood, but they took pride in telling you how they knew the deceased. There was crying, sure - it was a funeral. But - it was - triumphant. I watched it all - in wide eyed amazement. If you felt compelled to stand, raise your hands in praise or call out during the service - you could. Jim and I are currently looking for a church - I kept thinking, I wonder if they would mind us coming here? It was moving - in a way, quite honestly, I haven't been moved in a long time. .

Ok, ok -- time to tie it all together. What does all this rambling mean? Well, maybe nothing to you - but I had a realization. I think, like a lot of people, I have always towed the line that we are all the same. It seemed wrong to suggest that any of us were different. Guess what, we're different. All of us - men/women, white/black, gay/straight -- and that's not a bad thing -- it's a beautiful thing. I don't want us to all be the same - how boring would that be?

Living your eulogy or your resume?

There was a great post on Connecting Directors today. It was entitled Are You Living Your Eulogy or Your Resume? It was written by Arianna Huffington and is certainly worth a read. I fought the urge to send it out as a company memo. You can read the piece for yourself (and I suggest you do) - but here's the premise: The bullet points we are constantly trying to add to or live up to on our resumes are not likely to appear anywhere in our eulogy. I remember my grandmother's funeral. She sold insurance for 20+ years - it wasn't mentioned once. Jim's uncle died in February. He was THE small town doctor. I heard from hundreds of people that turned out for his visitation - not one said, "he really did a great job curing my shingles". They talked about his kindness, his humor, the love he had for his patients and his family.

I've been battling with this issue myself for a while. I'm not "ambitious" in the traditional sense. I've discussed it here before - but climbing the corporate ladder and getting the top sales award doesn't appeal to me at all. I realized a long time ago that my legacy wouldn't be forged in a board room. At the end of the day, you are reduced to the nice things (hopefully) people say about you at your funeral. My biggest fear in life is that a) there won't be anyone that comes to my funeral and b) those in attendance will have nothing worthwhile to say about me. Seriously, I worry about this. Occupational hazard? Maybe. It drives Jim nuts.

I'm not going to radically change lives with this blog and Arianna Huffington probably won't with her thought provoking piece - but I hope it does give us all a pause. We get busy. We get caught up. We try so hard to keep our jobs in order to preserve our lives - that we fail to live the lives we are trying so hard to save. Jim and I realize the reality of this better than most. That doesn't necessarily mean we do a better job at doing what's important.

Work isn't bad. It's noble, honorable - and if you are lucky, what you do on a daily basis to earn a paycheck can impact lives in a positive way. I just hope we all look at the other opportunities we have to impact our families, our community. It will be nice to have people say wonderful things about you at your funeral. But, even better - those things will be the true representation of how you lived your life and made the important things a priority.

On a completely related note, my husband is skinning a rattle snake in the garage as I type this. If he goes first, that's definitely going in his eulogy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Prodigal Daughter returns...

I haven't written a blog post since Easter. Coincidentally, I have been absent from church for about that long. Interestingly enough, my anxiety has been pretty high in that time as well. Moral of the story: I need Jesus and I need to write.

I'm revamping The Great Undertaking. I think I was worrying too much about having something profound to say. This blog isn't only about big things - it's about me and my everyday life as I find my place in the world and in the world of death care. (maybe I should call it "end of life care" ... better ring??) I'll have to add a disclaimer to the top of every post: the views expressed here are not necessarily those of Simplicity Lowcountry Cremation & Burial... blah, blah, blah.

Now, back to Jesus. Yes I have been on an extended hiatus from church. There's no big reason - other than Jim and I were putting our feelings, our "busy" lives and ourselves before God. Actually, that is pretty big. I think we had just settled into comfortable denial about our lack of Jesus when someone (ever so kindly) pointed it out to us. God never ceases to amaze me. He is a pretty cool dude. He uses people you never dreamed of him using to get you in the places you need to be, when you need to be there. Jim and I were invited to a church function by a person we know and like, but don't know well. We hemmed and hawed (what does that even mean?) about going - guilt and obligation winning out in the end. We went. I was uncomfortable. God smacked me in the back of the head. We were in church the following Sunday. Thank you Jesus. There was more to it than that - but I covered the high points.

I've struggled for a long time with moving forward after making mistakes. I feel like once I've messed something up, it's hopeless to ever start again. The only thing people will remember is that I messed up. I feel like I am a failure and maybe don't deserve a second chance to put it right. I slacked off writing - guess people didn't miss me, guess I wasn't good at it anyway, guess I messed that up. I stopped going to church - guess we can never go back there, guess I let God down, guess they know we aren't perfect now. Guess not. Every time I let God down, myself down, Jim down - its one more chance to do better, get it right, try again. Thank God for grace. I'm baaaaaaack :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter With Judas

So, like many, I have been thinking a lot about the final days of Jesus. As we approached Easter, attended Good Friday service last night and look forward to celebrating his resurrection tomorrow, I can't stop thinking about Judas. Is he the most sinful, evil human to ever live -- or a decent guy who made one HUGE mistake?

Jim and I recently saw a production of The Thorn. It's great. I loved it. Watching the Passion does something to me. I'm sure it does something to everyone - how can you watch the miraculous workings of Jesus, see him take on the sins of the world, witness the empty tomb and NOT be moved? The production comes to Charleston every few years - so I've seen it before. But this time - this time I couldn't take my eyes and my mind off Judas. As a key player in the biggest event EVER, how did I miss him before? I was so intrigued that I've spent a good bit of time researching this disciple turned betrayer. The Old Testament tells of a betrayer, as clearly as it speaks of a messiah. Many scholars on the subject believe God knew Judas would betray Jesus, but Judas still made the choice. So why do it? Why betray the man he'd followed for three years? Why then try to take the betrayal back? Why commit suicide after Jesus was crucified?

I don't know. The more I read, the more questions I have --- and my point of this post is not to debate the motivations of Judas, but rather to highlight that there is a Judas in all of us. What?! Did she really just call me Judas? Settle down. Yes, I did. Think you've never betrayed Jesus? You have. I have. It's called sin. To me, that's a betrayal. Especially because we know we're doing it.

Romans 7:18-20 (NIV)
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Not only do I find this a perfect illustration of all of us - but I would venture, a pretty good illustration of Judas. In any conversation about sin - comes the question of forgiveness. Did Jesus forgive Judas? Again, I don't know. Only the Lord knows the answer to that question. But --- I believe that IF Judas asked for forgiveness, it would have been granted. He committed suicide -- I would argue that showed remorse. But, I digress -- not my point here to argue the motivations of Judas. Forgiveness -- now, that's something to think about.

Ok- so, here's where I'm going with this. I am a sinner. I've made some pretty big mistakes in my life. Mistakes that would have separated me from God had Jesus not died to pay for my sins.  God has forgiven me...."Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" .... so I am called (no, REQUIRED) to forgive those who have done wrong to me. And...........enter the title of my post: Easter With Judas. How many of us feel like we are sitting across the Easter ham from our very own Judas? Kinda snuck up on ya with that one, didn't I? If you've never sinned in your life, point that finger. Hold out on forgiveness and judge the rest of us until Jesus comes back. But, if you're like me, and are saved by grace alone -- maybe you should turn that finger around and examine the Judas in the mirror. Just sayin'. Happy Easter, He is Risen! :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One Year Behind Us

I crack myself up sometimes. My last post (on February 1st !!) was entitled "Too Busy"... and, I haven't written a post since. Why? Because I've been too busy! Ahh.... thank God for irony. Now, without further delay, read on my friends!

One Year Behind Us

Well, on March 12th Simplicity Lowcountry Cremation & Burial closed the book on our first year in business. It was a whirlwind, to say the least. It seems like only yesterday Jim and I were painting at 2am and eating our body weight in Little Caesars. (oh, the happy days when gluten was still in my life...) We have been blessed to serve many families and hopefully provide them comfort during a difficult time. God, and I can say it had to be Him, has helped us put together an amazing staff and we are all finally feeling like we are "in the groove". When we started this journey, I made a list of things I learned during our first month in business. Well, its been a year and there isn't a day that goes by when I don't learn something new. But - for the sake of brevity, I picked my favorite 10 for you:

The 10 (new) Things I've Learned During Our 1st Year in Business:

10 - I am a licensed crematory operator. I won't go into all the things I had to learn to get that piece of paper, but trust me - I earned it.

9 - There is no end to the "death" jokes. Now I know what lawyers must feel like.

8 - I married a Dobbins. I had forgotten (briefly) the level of drive and determination they are born with. I remember now.

7 - Graveside services in the dead of winter (pun intended) are no place for fashion. Its cold. Dress accordingly. No family wants to see a funeral director's wife with blue lips, it's creepy.

6 - The intrigue of late night removals has worn off -- sleeping is better.

5 - Melt away peppermints are like crack, we go through buckets of them.

4 - It is possible to have hearse envy. Thank you Craig Kempf.

3 - I appreciate so  much more what my parents must have gone through being in the funeral business in the 80s. No cell phones, no internet, no Facebook. How did they do it?!

2 - The police have a pretty fast response time to our facility - that's a comfort.

1 - This is only the beginning :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Too Busy.

My new least favorite word in the English language is “Busy”. I just love talking to people and all they do is go on and on about how busy they’ve been. In my head, I always think “doing what?!” Then, undoubtedly I will be talking to someone and launch into how busy I’ve been…. I can feel the slap of my own words coming back at me… “Doing what?!”

What does this have to do with my life in the death care business? Everything. What does it have to do with you? Probably, a lot. We’ve all gotten so “busy” lately. I use the “quotes” because busy is subjective and more often I’ve realized, an excuse for not following through on something. Sorry I didn’t call you back – I’ve been busy. Sorry I didn’t get those cookies made for the bake sale – I’ve been busy. What am I really saying? I’m too busy for you or the commitment I made to you. Are we really all that busy? And if we are, what are we busy doing?

Jim hears it all the time in the funeral home. I wish we’d gotten to spend more time together – but you know, life gets busy. I meant to take her back to XYZ place before she died – but you know, life gets busy. I hear it, use it and deal with it in my own life. I’ve started 30 projects I haven’t finished. Why? I’m busy. I haven’t called my Grandmother since Thanksgiving. Why? I’m busy. (If you’re reading this Gram, I’ll call you soon – promise!) It’s excuse, after excuse, with excuses on top.

We live in 2013. 2013 people! We have phones that are smarter and more capable of getting stuff done than most people I know.  We have all the technology, modern equipment and gadgets we need to make our lives easier. And yet, we’re busier than ever. I think back to the old days. People got up at the crack of dawn to WORK – really WORK. Manual labor stuff. Working like your life depended on it (because it did, back then) Not this stuff most of us do daily (no offense). THEN, they came home and the work didn’t stop. What do we do now? We have our kids in every activity imaginable – guess that counts as being busy. We fill our non-working hours with things that supposedly make us feel better about ourselves – “Me Time”, as they say. I don’t know about you, but other than that – I’m not really all that busy. I have a full time and then some job AND help my husband with our business when I can. I have two fur-kids who require attention (yes, just as much as human kids). I have a circle of friends. I have hobbies, like to stay fit and of course, have a house to keep up. (ish…) But, I still have time. More importantly than having extra, I could do a better job of prioritizing the time I have. That sound you just heard? That was me hitting the nail on the head.  Priorities people, heard of ‘em?? That’s another soap box. (Yes, I have a soap box collection – get off me) You can’t afford groceries? Maybe you should get rid of that iPhone and the freshly manicured nails your texting on it with. P.R.I.O.R.I.T.I.E.S.  (whew, I feel better now)

Anyway, I digress. My main point is busyness. When did having a full schedule become an excuse for putting off the things that matter most? I got Jim a couples devotional for Christmas. We made a promise to each other that we would get up early and do it each morning. How many times during the week have we done that since Christmas. ZERO. We’ve caught it a couple Saturdays, but sporadic at best. What’s more important than being with my husband and working to make Christ the center of our marriage? Hmmm…. Can’t think of one single thing. I see it so often, to the point I was immune to it for a while. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret. Facebook had become a priority in my life for a while. (priority, addiction… tomato, tomaaato. ) I got rid of it. Simple as that. And you know what? I don’t miss it. Honestly! If anything, I feel like a huge weight has been removed from my life. Now, I’m not saying you have to go that drastic --- but what would happen if you refocused your energy and time on things that really matter in your life? Matter for your marriage, your family, your faith? Sounds simple – and I think it is. My marriage is more important than 10 extra minutes of sleep in the morning I’ve been making more important than having devotional time with my husband. Calling my grandmother regularly is more important than….well…. almost anything. Don’t look at this as some monumental feat you can’t take on. After all,  you’re busy. Look at the little things – the small areas you can trim back the unimportant and beef up the important. Just a thought. Carry on.