Monday, February 19, 2007

Taking a holiday

Today is Presidents' Day, so I have my store closed. I decided to take all the Monday holidays this year. I don't think there are any more in the calendar, however, until Memorial Day at the end of May, so I'm considering taking one Monday off each month, even in months with no holiday. In the Netherlands, the day after Easter is a holiday, called Second Easter, or Tweede Pasen, if I have that right. Easter is April 8 this year, so I could take off April 9. On the other hand, my birthday is Sunday, April 1, so I could take off April 2. And I could take off, say, March 19.

Meanwhile, in February, I have fallen a little behind at the store in completing my framing projects. I think I will catch up this week, perhaps even tomorrow, but it's stressful. So if I'm behind, why am I planning more time off? Well, according to the time management books I'm reading, more time in the work place does not always translate to more effectiveness there. Time spent on hobbies and other interests can make you more refreshed and energized for work. So, we'll see.

I have no doubt that spring will help as well. More hours of daylight, more color--i.e. flowers, and leaves budding out on the tree branches--will all lift my spirits. Already, though it is only February, magnolia trees have buds and crocuses are sprouting. Hooray. But it is rather rainy and cold today and is forecast to remain so all week. Such is the Pacific Northwest.

Today I have some projects I want to accomplish at home, including changing light bulbs (quite a few are burnt out), vacuuming (yuck), dusting, and some others. This evening, I may go into my store and work on a project that I'd like to return to the customer tomorrow. I could go in early tomorrow to work on it, but there's no guarantee I'd finish before it's time to open. Evening is more open-ended. I know I'd sleep better if it were done. But we'll also have to see how I'm feeling by this evening.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Came across an article about do-it-yourself burial of your loved ones. It was interesting, but in writing about this method, the writer expressed the popular (since Jessica Mitford's book) stand that funeral directors deceive, maniuplate, and pressure vulnerable, grieving families into buying unnecessary, expensive goods and services. Perhaps some funeral directors are uncaring, manipulative, greedy con artists just in it for the money. There are probably people like that in every industry. But I think that most people in the funeral business are providing welcome help at a difficult time. My brother, whose birthday was yesterday, died last November, and the folks at our funeral home pretty much just wanted to find out what we wanted and do it for us. By no means did they try to sell us anything we didn't want. I'm sure that the things we did choose cost plenty, but so do a lot of helpful services. Doctors help sick people and also make a lot of money at it. Funeral directors and funeral home staff help grieving families and also make a living.

One person in this article talked about funeral directors "taking away" the funeral service from the church and minister. That was not true in our case because our family does belong to a church community, and naturally we had the service at the church and a beloved pastor (my other brother) conducted the service. People who opt for services in a funeral parlor with a funeral director conducting the service probably don't have a church community. It is not the fault of the funeral workers that so many people have no church to go to at such a time. Given that people lack a place of their own to turn to, it's probably a good thing that funeral homes can provide one.

I should think the main reason so many death rituals have shifted from family, friends, and communities to professional services is not because those professionals are shysters, but because in our society so many people, sadly, are distanced from their families, have relatively shallow friendships, and lack any true community. Deeply meaningful death rituals can only occur when the life preceeding the death has been deeply enmeshed in a community that has developed those rituals.

This article seems to indicate that the way to go is to invent your own rituals, and I suppose that's the best option for people with no history, heritage, or traditions.