Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't fight it, find it...

I have a calendar that's rather annoying. Unlike your regular calendar that you flip once a month and it tells you the date and day it is, or perhaps if it's a holiday or maybe a full moon. Not this one. It has to be flipped every day. And everyday, it's encouraging me to be a better person. This evil calendar has inspirational quotes and reminders for each and every day of the year. Today's page reads "Contentment alone is enough. Indeed, the bliss of eternity can be found in your contentment."
When combined with everything else that has come my way today, I'm starting to get the message. Don't fight it. But at the same time, don't accept someone Else's contentment. What is right for one does not fit all. Find what makes you happy and enjoy the heck out of it.

For today's deceased, his calling was the military. He was a veteran of both World War 2 and the Korean War. He served our country for 30 years. His wife is the perfect military wife and he raised perfect military kids. Or did he? The US Navy did an amazing service graveside at the small country cemetery. There was a nice service, a fifteen gun salute, taps was played on the bugle (always get the tears) and an official flag folding and the presentation of the flag to the widow. There were tears in everyone's eyes. Except one. His son. Yes, he cried over the loss of his father. Just not the military service. His son was raised in the military and forced to enter upon his 18th birthday. Only problem was, it wasn't his calling. His father did a welcomed service to his country. But the son did the minimum and got out. He needed to find himself, not his father.
We all need to do that. We should not let our parents, church, girl or boyfriend dictate to us who we are. We all need to find ourselves. Only then will we be happy with ourselves. The bliss of eternity can be found in our own contentment.
And if you can't find yourself, then maybe you are looking too hard.
For me, my dictator was the church. And while I still have a love for Christ. It's your "Christian's" that I have a problem with all too often. There are so many that push just a little too hard. A true faith is something that comes from within. It can not come from someone else. And your true self, also comes from within. Each of us already knows what that is. It's only a matter of time before we are able to realize who we are and what our purpose is. It's when we stop fighting it and start accepting ourselves, that everything seems to start falling into place.  And remember to stay flexible. Life is a constantly changing journey. Tomorrow may be completely different and you never know what it will bring. All we have is today... while we are still on the brighter side of the grave.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My first

The setting was nothing like you'd expect for what is to follow. My friends and I gathered at a mutual friend house on a small island off the coast of Michigan. So close to Canada that you could smell the bacon cooking. It was a big party weekend in July. Every year there is a huge party at one of the smallest islands you can imagine that is next to the island where the house is. We call the party Jobby Nooner. It's held on Friday at noon. Thus everyone in the city takes off work to go out on the boat. We all tie our boats up to the neighboring boat so that we eventually form a few "strings" of a hundred boats or so. A virtual boat city. You can actually walk (across the boats) from one end to the other. As for the island, the only permanent structure there is a volleyball net. There is plenty of beach, sun and a few heavenly bodies to drool over. (And many more that you need not see more than once a year) Johnny Z does the DJing from his boat and keeps the crowd dancing on and off their boats. For the most part, the water is only 3 to 4 feet deep so it's easy enough to get around. The picture is an aerial of the island. The land you can see to the left, is Canada with the shipping channel between the two. So we need to stay clear for the freighters. And Customs and the Border Guard is always keeping a close eye on everything and everyone. After a full day of baking in the sun, riding my Yamaha Wavejammer from island to island, boat to boat, generally having fun, we decided to head over to the house and enjoy some tasty beverages on the deck, overlooking the bay with a view of Detroit in the distance (the best view of Detroit).

There was still a lot of traffic on the water. The sun was starting to get lower in the west. A beautiful evening to say the least. The house sits at the southern tip of the island. The island is accessible only by ferry and is very quiet because of this. So we were surprised when someone pulled into the driveway. A woman, her two daughters and a son, all climbed out of the car. We had never met any of them. But, it's a party weekend, so the more the merrier. We greeted the family and offered them something to cool them off. That's when the woman told us that she had a strange request for us. Having such a house, we have had many strangers stop by and we always try to be as cordial as possible. So we said "Sure! What do you need?"
She proceeded to tell us the story of her husband being mugged while walking home from the convenience store. Shot and killed for $5 and two 40oz. bottles of beer. Needless to say, the mood changed drastically at our little party. She went on to tell us how her husband loved our little island. He would spend his weekends out here fishing. He never owned a boat, but he loved to come out and fish off the shore or even wade out and put his line in. His time spent on our island kept him sane. Helped him deal with life and keep him centered. She went on to say that they had him cremated and wanted to spread his ashes off the coast that he loved so much. They asked if they could spread them from our dock.
With thirty or so people on our dock today, we thought that it wasn't such a good idea to have a stranger's ashes floating around where we are swimming. So we offered to take them out on our pontoon boat and let them spread him in a more apropriate place.
We then loaded up the boat with the family, myself and my good friend and we headed off to a small light that markes the shipping channel at the tip of the chain of islands. When we reached the light, a few kind words were said by each member of the family and then they dropped the plastic box containing the ashes into the water. They decided that they wanted him all in one spot instead of drifting down through the Great Lakes. A very touching send off. Then we discovered that the box floats. After several failed attempts, we finally were able to manuver the boat and catch the man and bring him back on board. We were able to find a bottle opener in a compartment on the boat and pry the lid off the box containing the man's ashes. Inside, we found the paperwork from the crematory and a plastic bag containg the ashes themself. I handed the papers to the woman and we proceeded to have round two of the surprise funeral. This time, they took turns saying their good-byes and pooring the ashes into the water. Perhaps they should have knelt down instead of standing up. You see, as each one poured Dad out, the wind blew him all over the poor guy driving the boat. Oh! that would be me. And then in honor of how he died, the son poored two 40oz. bottles of beer into the water as well.
When all was said and done, we headed back to the house. As we docked, I offered for them to stay and enjoy the island that he loved so much. They declined and climbed into thier car and drove off.
Of course everyone back at the house was curious as to what happened. After showering, I was in the process of telling them about our adventure at sea when the family came around the corner...
They had reached the ferry to find a traffic back-up that would take them over two hours to get off the island, so they decided to take me up on my hospitallity and came back to watch the sunset over the water. After a little aukwardness, they assimilated into our party and everyone had a good time.
This was all 10 years before I met my husband... the man who got me into this buisness. I guess it was fate that I ended up working in the funeral buisness.
So there you have it. My first funeral. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus Ohio turned out to be quite a nice surprise during our visit to the Pride celebration going on there last weekend.
After all the craziness died down a little, it was nice to relax and enjoy this place for all it was worth.
It was quite a warm weekend. In the 90's for the most part. Now, I like it warm so the fact that some of these areas inside the many glass domes and levels that make up this little wonder in the city, was even warmer, was music to my skin. 
At the conservatory, they have glass blowing demonstrations every day. So they use a lot of hand blown glass in their displays. The shot above is many different styles, layed out on a skylight as you walk through the entryway. There was glass sculptures on the walls, mixed in to the plants, floating in the streams, even on the roof deck. So many colors and styles, they could have a beautiful place just with that.
One whole section was devoted to butterflies. I've been in a butterfly house in Northern Australia before. But this was Ed's first time. It's wonderful to see them flying around without a care in the world. Completely safe from predators. However, trying to capture the magnificence of it with a camera.... very difficult indeed.

Even on the video camera, they are just little flutters now and then. None the less, it was very enjoyable. The whole experience was helping me to feel very zen.
The gardens surrounding the conservatory were just as beautiful as the greenhouses themselves
This shot almost reminds me of a bad movie in a cemetery. I'm not quite sure what they are going for here. But it's pretty.
All in all, we were very pleased with Columbus. This was our second trip there and we'd recommend it to anyone. We were there a few years ago for the Pizza & Ice Cream Expo in the winter. ( We used to own a restaurant ) Although it was bitter cold and we could not do much exploring, what we did see back them we loved. And this trip in the better weather confirmed that this little city in the middle of the country is really trying. I'd have to say that it's doing pretty good.

We also went to the famed Columbus Zoo. Because it was so hot, most of the animals were sleeping and I am not pleased with the shots that I got. We didn't even see Jack Hanna. But it was father's day here in America and they asked if Ed was my Dad. Because they were letting fathers in for free with their kids. I thought it was funny. I don't think Ed thought the same though.
So there it is. Our little trip to Columbus.
And now we resume our regular programming.....
Poor Ed is out right now in a thunderstorm doing a funeral so that I can type this.
Thanks Eddy! I love you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ohio has pride

Just returned home from a great trip to , of all places, Ohio. Yes the Columbus, Ohio Pride Celebration.
The weather was a perfect 90 degrees and mostly sunny. Could not have asked for better. Which is more than can be said for Chicago, I hear. Columbus is an amazing city. It's very clean and modern. Anyone who looks down on Ohio, can come visit Detroit and think again.
The parade started a little slow but they seemed to group things together unlike Toronto that seems like it is first come, first march. One of the first groups to come through was the churches. Churches that accept people for who they are. Not who they say you should be. This banner was one of my favorites. It kind of says it all.   "Welcoming & Honoring ALL People... As God Intends"                             Sometimes, "Christians" can be a little Non-Christ-like. As we saw following the parade. They marked the last parade vehicle with a sign that read "The End" And then there were those angry "crazed Christians" that came shouting afterward that we are all going to hell. That last vehicle was a semi truck and it kept blasting it's horn to drown them out. And as that truck went through, the whole crowd got up and followed along to the end of the parade route, turning our backs to the haters.
We then had an amazing fun-filled day at Goodale Park with entertainment for everyone and vendors selling their wears. I found this guy, hanging out at one of the booths looking all cute, so I had my hubs take a photo of him and I together. I have been following Shannon's blog for years and it was great to see him in person. It's hard to believe he would come from Sydney AU, all the way to Columbus, OH for such an event. But, if someone wanted to pay me to fly around the world, I guess I'd have to kiss the dog good-bye for a few days. For those not familiar here is his blog.  

So we had a great time. Only got a little sunburnt.
Afterward, we spent the day checking out the Franklin Park Conservatory and the Columbus Zoo. The Conservatory has an amazing butterfly house and surrounding gardens. But, I think I'll save those shots for the next post.
Thanks for checking in and enjoying the Brighter side of the grave.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

a little graveside fun

While I've got a new post in the works. You can enjoy the image in your head of Monday's funeral.
Picture 2 dozen Jamaicans graveside with 3 fifths of rum and a drum. Even the priest was dancing. I think the corpse finished off a fifth on his own.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Life is full of little surprises
It all started when I came home from my midnight gig at 6am and found all of these had just exploded all over the garden path. You can actually see what's left of the path on the left side of the picture.
Then when I got to the garage to take the hearse out for a spin around the cemetery, I was blessed with these wild daisies growing all along the fence. Several hundred feet of wild daisies.
When I got to today's cemetery, I found three more little surprises. First it was an old cemetery dating back to the mid 1800's. Which in Michigan, is about as old as you are going to find. The town is pretty remote being up the coast a ways. There isn't even cell phone service there. There is a little church on the cemetery grounds that was built in 1853. As this little white wood frame chapel sits just off the shore of Lake Huron and has been there a few days, it is showing it's age pretty badly. The wood floor is a little soft and the walls are a little wavy. Not a fancy place, but quite a nice little place on the shore to offer praise to God. As I was driving the casket over to the grave in an older section, I noticed a little bridge over a creek and a small revine that was originally built for the towns people to get from town to the chapel. This little bridge is about 25 feet long and couldn't be more than 2 feet wide. All made of wood and obviously been there a while, I'm not so sure that I'd like to cross it. Especially wearing my nice black suite. I found this to be a very pleasant place. Someplace that I would like to share with my readers. So, I reached for my camera. Only to discover the third surprise out there. I'd left it in my car, back at the garage. So, I guess that my words will have to do for now. And I promise to share this peaceful view with you soon.

When I returned home, I was telling Pugsley how nice all the flowers were down at the garage. And of course he insisted that I take him to see them. He quite enjoyed running up and down the fence line, peeing on all the pretty flowers. It's what he does. It makes him happy.
Have you had any little surprise that brought a smile to your face lately.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do you have enough

The secret of life:  Is to have a task. Something you devote your entire life to. Something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And most importantly, this thing, it must be something you can not possibly do.         -- Henry Moore

For me, I have chosen to save the world from itself. Impossible, I know. But that is the point. If I can live my life as an example for others, then maybe I can effect someone else to join the cause.

Often when someone decides to be more aware of the environment and use less etc., they choose to leave society and almost become the freaks that live out in the woods. This is not an example of something that the average person is going to follow.  We need to make changes in the way that we live, right where we live. Where everyone can see us. When they see how happy we are with our choices, then they will be effected.

I live in a suburban area that experienced a major expansion about 10 years ago. I find myself surrounded by people that drive to everything and live in huge houses with two story windows in their livingrooms. They complain all winter that the house is cold because their gas bill is too high. Every child has their own bedroom and each has a television in it. There are countless electronic gadgets in every room in the house that run 24/7. The road in front of the high school has a major traffic jam every week day because all the kids drive to school. The school buses are almost empty and the road is bumper to bumper with mini vans and sport-utilities from days gone by (the cars they have inherited from their parents).

I love technology. The internet has changed the world for the better, no doubt. New electronics take up less space and do more than we ever dreamed of back in the 80's. While the gas burns around me and the electric meters spin out of control, here at Chateau Stew, the electric bill is down 25% from two years ago. The gas bill is down 10%. I have chosen to supplement my electric consumption with 80% wind power offered by the local electric company. We actually have more lighting than we used to and I never shut off this computer. The lighting is all either CFL or LED. We can turn on 4 or 5 times more lights and still not use the amount of power that we used to. We have switched our lawn care to entirely electric as well with a rechargeable trimmer and mower. What little bit I do drive is in a small car that gets more than 30 MPG. And I plan to replace that car someday with one that does twice as good if not better. We make choices everyday as to how we will live. The choice is yours. You can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Finally this came as part of an email from a friend and I thought it worth sharing....

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.

The past week brought three final good-byes for my family. So I've got some Hello's to catch up on.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

All three of the people that were lost in my life did their best every day to bring happiness to those around them. I will continue their efforts and hopefully preserve this earth for the future generations. Teaching others along the way that we don't have to destroy the world to enjoy the world.     

One last quote...
What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know.
It's what we know for sure, that just ain't so.      ---Mark Twain

Maybe it's time to start looking for new ways to do things.                                                      

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A great loss

We will forever remember Memorial Day 2010.
It is the day that my sister-in-law lost her battle with cancer.
     As promised, we made the three and a half hour drive to be the ones that transported her from her lakeside home in Northern Michigan to the funeral home in the S/E quadrant of Michigan.
     The call came just before I was finishing work before 5 am. I quickly made my way home where my husband had the hearse ready to go. I quickly changed and off we went. Unsure of what we would find when we got there and if we were ready to see her in her current state. Still in disbelief that such an amazing woman could fall to such an evil disease.

When we arrived, her husband, son and many close family friends were there. What we found, was not her at all. She had lost so much weight even since we last saw her a month ago. We loved her, however this was not her. Her spunk and charisma had left her. This was simply an empty shell like you might find on the beach.
     She did not want a viewing at her funeral. At first, we felt that people would feel cheated by that. And after witnessing what this cancer had done to her, I completely agree with her. This is not how we need to see her for the last time. We need to remember her for what she was and who she was. A loving woman that cared for so many people. She gave her life to helping others. We will always love her and we will miss her.