A Change in Death—Or Not

Thank you for sending notes and letting me know you’ve missed me. I appreciate that.

860293834_4c8f575321_qI finally finished writing the latest Lutheran Ladies Circle novel, and it’s become wildly apparent to me that there’s been a CHANGE in the way we treat death.  Maybe that’s because lately, I’ve spent so much time with morticians.

The main character in Melody Markett’s Crash Course on Life is female funeral director with a checkered past (which she’s carefully hidden). I knew very little about the undertaking process, so I spent time with  folks at mortuaries, crematoriums, and cemeteries.

I discovered a bunch of fascinating details, which my red-ink-happy editors  cut because: “…while it’s intriguing, it doesn’t move the plot forward.”

Well, phooey!.  But then I realized…”Hey, I can share some juicy idea-bits with you.”  So start the organ music and let’s look at a few changes.

GROWING UP in the ‘50s.

Save the dress:

My grandparents (and every old person I knew), had one good dress or suit in their closet which they might wear on special occasions, but they’d be sure to let their nearest relative know, “This is the dress you need to bury me in.” It didn’t matter that the clothing was twenty years old or two sizes two small. The mortician could fix that. Even before people were dead, they were planning what to wear.

And then there was a wake:

But because we’re Lutheran, we didn’t call it that. It was visitations at my grandparent’s Covering-Earshouse, and all of us kid-cousins (who’d been banned to play in the yard) were constantly in trouble. These were the days before attentive parents provided toys and activities, so we hooligans made our own amusement: digging for worms, having dirt fights, or sneaking under the fence to explore the crawl-space beneath the Baptist church down the street. If we were caught and scolded back to the yard (to continue flinging dirtballs), an adult would come out of the house and yell at us for being too rowdy or noisy.  “For the love of saints! Be quiet out here! Your uncle is dead! Have some respect!”

We couldn’t figure out why a dead man would care about our ear-splitting screams. And why did the adults get to laugh and tell stories that carried down the block?

Funeral Parlors

When funeral homes bundled their services into packages, many of our family activities went away—moved to a more professional, air-conditioned, padded-chair visitation room where there was nothing for kids to do but kick each other and dare the youngest cousin to go touch dead Aunt Mildred’s hand.

And then the popularity of cremation brought an end to even more childhood exploits.

CHANGES FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY…New traditions are beginning.

Living Funerals:

These are being embraced by folks with a “fatal” illness. A small group of friends and156097132_d7c96f8eed_q family gather to tell the dying person the heartfelt things he/she wouldn’t have gotten to hear at their funeral. It breaks isolation and allows others to know the dying person is willing to talk about his illness and death, and there’s no need to feel uncomfortable about visiting.

Pre-Dead

If you’re important enough, the NY Times or perhaps even your local newsrag will write your “advance” or “draft” obituary while you’re still alive. A journalist must be ready. The uncomfortable part is phoning the pre-dead for an interview. (I can attest to this. I’ve written two obits for live interviewees who wanted to “make sure the paper got it right.”)

Video Obituaries

A home DIY project (or you can hire a professional), folks are making videos and delivering their own obits to be watched at their funeral.  Maybe you’d like to leave someone a message  that you would’ve never uttered in life?  A company will allow you to create any message you choose and they’ll send it for you after you’re dead.

UNCHANGING Traditions

PicnicOne thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that death may be final, but as long as a person is remembered, they live on.

Sometime over this Mother’s Day weekend the family will head out to the cemetery, armed with picnic baskets and garden implements. We’ll cut and trim and tidy.  Mom did it for Grandma. Grandma did it her mom. Great-grand did it for those who came before her.

And then we’ll spread picnic blankets under the nearby trees and raise a glass of lemonade and a snickerdoodle to those long-gone saints. The kids will throw worms and grass at each other. The adults will tell family flower-galleryplayer.jpgstories and laugh—remembering.

It’s tradition.

Happy Mother’s day, Mom. I’m keeping the tradition alive.

(If you’re interested in the story that evolved out of all this research, check out the book tab above for Melody Markett’s Crash Course on Life.)

The WWII Ration Diet

From the National Archives

From the National Archives

In honor of Veteran’s Day this week, I have several acquaintances who are cooking only from the WW II Ration Plan.

Now, let me say that they live in Australia and England, and as I look at their food allotments, it has to be a real challenge to make meals.

WW2 Rations : Each person: Per Week United Kingdom

Butter: 1/4 Cup
Bacon or ham:  about 4 pieces
Margarine: 1/4 Cup
Cooking fat/lard: 1/2 Cup
Sugar: 1 Cup
Meat: 3/4 pound      <—THIS IS PER PERSON PER WEEK
Cheese: 1/4 cup
Eggs: one per week; supplement with dried eggs
Tea: A couple ounces of leaves per week.
Jam: two ounces a week…think in terms of a DAB on your toast
Sweets & Chocolate: 3 ounces a week.  (HINT:  A Hershey bar is 1.5 oz)

UNITED STATES

So let’s see what we could buy in the U.S for canned goods:

From Ames History Organization

From Ames History Organization

We have 48 points per month.I’d be tempted to blow it on 2 cans of pineapple, but that’s it for the month. I couldn’t buy any other canned food, but other family members could use their points.

As you can see, it would be better to have 3 cans of corn than 2 cans of grapefruit juice to live on for the month.

Some years ago, when I interviewed my grandmother about rationing, she was quick to point out that folks who lived on a farm …even a poor one…were used to doing without.

(Keep in mind they were just getting over the starvation of the Dust Bowl.)

“ANd we  grew our  own vegetables, skinny hogs and cattle. It was fuel and sugar that had us worried.”

With the problem of obesity so rampant, perhaps we should go back to this stricter food choice. We’d have:

  • No Starbucks
    No Fast Burgers or Pizza
    More Meatless Meals
    No food wasted. Instead we’d throw it in a pot and cook it as stew each week

I was admiring and  thinking about copying the WarTime Woman for just a week and eating according to

From the Wartime Woman: Beetroot Sandwiches

her rationing plans, but she lost me at BEETROOT sandwiches.

Hip hop on over and checkout her experiment.

http://thewartimewoman.com/

You’ll look at food differently.

In the meantime, Let us count our blessings. Thanks to both the veterans and civilians who help ensure that we eat in a time of peace.

 

Good-by Phone. Hello Change

Vintage Elgin Men's Wrist Watch, Sterling Silver Case, 7 Jewels Circa 1918

Do you know about the Time Lady?

“Who?” a group of young people at my discussion table asked.

“Used to be…watches had springs and they had to be wound up. Sometimes they ran fast. But usually, they ticked the seconds off slowly. If you asked a group of people what their watch showed, (of course, most people wore a watch—even kids). everyone would have a different time by a few minutes. This meant that before any important caper like blowing up the world or heisting artwork from a museum, crooks had to “sync” their watches.  But first…..somebody in the group had to call the Time Lady.

Actually, back in the 60s everybody called the Time Lady. Usually it was a free service provided by a bank or the electric company. The electronic pleasant-voiced woman would say something like…
Renee at Cafe Marlene on the Old Fashioned Phone - Sunnyside, Queens

“The time is … four thirty-three. The temperature is sixty-three degrees.”

Sometimes lonely people called the Time Lady over and over just to hear a  voice talking to them.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” The young folks shook their heads, appalled at such a hit or miss method to organize schools, trains, and dinnertime. “Well that explains a lot,” one of the young men said. “Now, can you tell me why this weird little barbell is on my icons? What’s that supposed to represent?” Because it sure doesn’t look like a phone.

iPhone: The Home Screen, the Tantalizing Empty Row, and the Four Major Applications

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. Change is coming faster.

Photos: watch-Joe Haupt, woman -Chris Golderg; phone-Pleter Ouwerkerk

How To Speak Hair to Your Hairdresser

I’ve not talked with anyone else about this….

Here's my selfie.

Here’s my selfie.

but do you happen to notice the back of heads when you sit at a play or in church?

Hopefully, whatever is happening soon takes my mind off others around me.
And, I know…I know…liturgy is the work of the people. It’s as though the pastor is the director, we are the actors and God is the audience. Once a week isn’t too much to give a little thanks.

But last week…there I was…noticing the head in front of me, and the haircut I wanted to wear.

I had to resist the urge to pull out my camera phone and take a picture. It’s been made very apparent that, “I don’t speak “hair.”

In case you don’t either…here are some handy-dandy “helps” to make sure you don’t come out of the salon, wearing a headful of something that you couldn’t  wear to a late-night convenience store.

HOW To Speak HAIR to your Hairdresser

  • BRING PICTURES.

    Front. Back. Side. Whatever you can get…which means I’m stopping ladies in grocery store aisles and asking, “Can I take a picture of the back of your hair?” I usually don’t ask for the front lest they think I’m a “Creeper.” Several times, I’ve taken pictures by using the zoom on my camera of haircuts that I’ve seen at concerts and plays.

“Really?” my stylist said with a cocked eyebrow, looking at my blurred photos?  “You want something that resembles an aviator’s helmet?”

Well at least it isn’t a photo from a magazine. She broke me from bringing those to her. I thought Meryl Streep had an awesome “do” in The Devil Wears Prada.  When I brought that photo, I earned TWO arched eyebrows.

“You do understand it’ll take about 5 days to achieve this look?”

“No…” I said meekly.

“Well, it’ll take about 4 consecutive visits to lift all the color out of your hair, then one or maybe two visits to put it back in and work the style.

“Just cut it like usual.” I shrugged.

And that’s when I learned—from every stylist in the salon—what it takes to make hair look like it does in a photo shoot. Lights, chemicals, cosmetics, clothing specialists, 4-5 days of work … “And it’s probably a wig,” one of them added.

Okay, okay. So now, I only bring in pictures of real people in bad lighting.

  •  DON’T SAY, “I WANT TO BE BLONDE

    Look at hair samples. Then grip your seat as your stylist tells you that because of the color of your hair, your color-job won’t turn out like that. (Or…it’ll take about 5 days to…etc. etc.)

When the stylist says, “It’s going to turn out more like…this,” and she points to a sample shank of hair in another color family, trust him/her. Don’t hope he/she is wrong and your locks will morph into a Julia Roberts sheen if you use a little “anti-frizz” oil and Big Sexy Root pump.

Again…trust me. I’ve learned the hard way. Now if I want a red streak in my hair to advertise the Church Blood Drive, I rub a hank of my hair with a red piece of chalk.

  • DO NOT LIE TO YOUR STYLIST.

Lutheran Lady secrets

Photo by Jehane

Perhaps you’re mature enough to remember Clairol’s advertising ploy…”Only her hair dresser knows for sure”?

Well…Confess all your hair sins! Your stylist MUST know what you’ve done to your hair.  Statements like, “ I haven’t used color on my hair in a year,” won’t fly.

“Are you sure? Because it looks like it has had color,” the stylist said.

“Oh…no.” I gave a solemn headshake. “I stopped that long ago.”

And then when she put her chemical mishmash on my hair, strange and unexpected greens appeared. I wasn’t being evasive on purpose…when it comes to hair… I forget.

“Breakage” occured in the follow-up days to fix the green sheen.

It turns out that the “color molecule” stays in the hair shaft long, long, long, after the “wash and wear” promise on the box has faded.  Actually, the only way to get rid of it is to grow it out and cut it off.

I’d like to say I’m mature and responsible hair owner. (Ha.Ha.Ha.)

I’d like to say … my stylist has whipped me into shape and taught me lessons about chemical pomades, nutrition, and even drinking more water. (Snort!)

What I’d really like is for my hair to look good without any effort. (I’m lazy like that, and if you’re one of those people who shampoo and run your fingers through your hair to let it air dry, and look stunning…well…I’m happy for you…about like I’m happy for the mother in my kid’s play group who used to say, “I never have to remind my child to do her homework. She just does it.” (BLaaaagh)

Photo by Stilfehler

So for now, I sit in church and notice the back of heads.

  • The mother who didn’t have time to do her own hair because she had children to herd.
  • Girls who have braided tresses without flyaways and loose ends sticking everywhere, and what tremendous patience SOMEONE had to have to accomplish that.
  • The lady who has a big hole in her hairdo because, like me, she never looks at the back of her head.

 And then there are the ladies with no hair.

And I remember why I’m there.

Talking to the Creator of the Universe about hair is different than talking to your stylist, isn’t it?

“Thanks for giving me a head,” is about all that’s needed and puts the rest into a perspective.

From that angle…we all look good.

A Burger for Church

Woman in ApronUsed to be, any mention of fast food caused nose wrinkles among Lutheran Ladies. We’re talking about women who were taught how to cook  as soon as they could waggle a spoon in a bowl without slopping the ingredients in a two foot radius.

Of course, they were wore aprons. (Old aprons for everyday use and nice frilly aprons for fancy-dress events)

Of course they learned from older women who threw handfuls of flour into bowls. When asked how many cups a recipe needed, the white-haired ladies would shrug and tell you “Until it looks right.”

These teaching-women didn’t know if the recipe was correct until they felt the dough, or tasted it, or watched it drip off a spoon (or bounced it on the counter—which Grandma liked to do when making noodles—I’m not sure why, but it was fun. Wa-hoo!)

So you can see why the mention of a fast food burger would make one of these ladies say: “I think we can do better than that.”

And then things changed…

Barbie_McDonaldsYou can blame it on:

  • More women working
  • Families loving hamburgers more than spinach
  • Being worn ragged by figuring out what to have for dinner, going to the store, prepping it, cooking it, serving it, listening to kids complain about it, and cleaning up the whole mess, hoping to fall on the couch by 8pm.
  • Doing the whole thing again the next day
  • And the next
  • Burgers were available AND cheap!!!

Note: (the original McDonalds was a burger shack in 1940 where two brothers cooked. It went corporate in 1955 with a franchised opening by Ray Kroc who later bought the McDonald brothers out).

Every bitty town had a burger place. And you were really a big city if you had a couple of burger joints AND one was a McDonalds.

BURGERS WERE TAKING OVER THE WORLD!!!hamburger

And then…Lord bless the Roman Catholics.

(Yes, I know this is a Lutheran Blog, but if it weren’t for our Catholic buddies, we’d be buried in burgers).

They obeyed Vatican II mandates and didn’t eat meat on Friday.

So McDonalds came out with a HULA BURGER for those worshipful Friday folks. It was

  • A slice of pineapple.Hula-type burger
  • A slice of cheese.
  • On a cold bun.

YummY!

 

Soon, everybody was going to the Catholic church for the Friday Fish Fry instead of the local burger barn. At McD’s the Hula burger was discontinued in less than a year’s time and morphed into Filet-O-Fish burger.

If you’re like me, after the holidays, the remains of burgers and fish patties are still hanging around (on hip, belly, and bottom).

So…it’s time to turn to the famous Lutheran specialty….

SALADS

Jello saladOkay. Okay, we’re most famous for gelatin salads…not green, healthy salads….but that’s still a diet plan, isn’t it?

  • Just leave out the marshmallows.
  • And add pineapple. (In honor of the deceased Hula Burger)
  • Stir “Until it looks right,”
  • And be sure to wear your pretty apron.

 

 

(photos: litlnemo,Thomas, The Bees Knees)

What Should Be in a Church Restroom?

All the lambs have needs

All the lambs have needs

You’d think church restrooms would be a no brainer. I mean all you need is a plumbed porcelain seat and a sink. And both of them should function properly.

But honestly, I’ve been visiting a number of churches of different denominations lately (what with Holy Week, meetings, and presentations), and let me tell you… I think Lutherans could beef up their bathrooms a bit and be in the running for “The Best Place to Hide Out if You Want to Avoid ‘Sharing of the Peace.’”

For those of you who don’t know about “Sharing of the Peace” it’s a custom in which a person turns to the person next to them, extends their hand and says, “Peace be with you.” It occurs after the sermon and blessing, and then congregants are encouraged to share the peace with one another.

That’s when all chaos breaks out for Lutherans. For years we’ve been taught to sit quietly in our pews, chairs, or whatever sitting device is being used. No waving of the hands, or shouting random “Amens”, and sermons are rarely interactive.

But things have changed. At first, folks were reticent, but they’d been sitting a while, listening to a sermon and speaking the liturgical script, so they were ready to stretch their legs a bit and whisper a shy, “God bless you to their neighbor.” But now…like many changes…we start wearing it like we thought of it. At the mention of “Share the peace,” folks jump out of their seats, grab hands and start pumping them, adding a blessing. Borders are crossed. People who have sat in one section of the church all their lives take a tour through other sections. The choir makes a break from their music stands.

If it’s cold and flu season, we’ve been instructed not to share our germs, but many “Peace-givers” cheat by bumping fists and even rubbing elbows. My Lutheran ancestors would be wide-eyed with shock.

As you can imagine, there are some who don’t care for the practice, but they’ve found it’s a great time to make a bathroom exit.  (After all, sometimes the sermons are long, and we’ve just had 2 cups of strong, Lutheran coffee).

You thought I’d forgotten about the topic, hadn’t you?

For Your Restroom Beautification Pleasure…here’s your checklist…

  • Good smelling soap (Well, of course, this is a committee smell-test project)
  • Hand Lotion (Not the stuff that didn’t sell at the church rummage sale)
  • Hygiene products for our soft parts
  • A plunger (Nothing’s more embarrassing than trying to find someone to tell about the toilet that’s overflowing).
  • A box of tissues (Make that two boxes. The restroom is a favorite crying spot.)
  • A step stool for our “little soon-to-be-women”
  • A couple of tasteful wall decorations. (One holy and one non-liturgical to appeal to both members and visitors.)
  • And for St. Peter’s sake, put the trash can next to the door!! We use the same paper towel to dry our hands AND grab the door handle. Don’t make us heave the towel across the bathroom as we exit.

I recently had the chance to use the Award-winning “Best Bathroom” in Vancouver, British Columbia. (I’m not kidding…there was a contest.)

I submitted these pictures to our church property committee, hoping they’d make structural changes in our old restrooms.

A two-seater in the same stall. Because women like to go to the bathroom at the same time.

A two-seater in the same stall. Because women like to go to the bathroom at the same time.

The door is appropriately marked

The door is appropriately marked

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re still laughing.

Any more bathroom recommendations?

Fancy-Toilet.1

Advertisements appear in the mirror. Who needs a newsletter? Just go to the restroom and check the mirror.

How to Get Women Working

Lutheran Ladies Circle: Thanks for Leaving…Book 3 has launched.

I know I should talk about it, but hold on for just a moment,  I really want to discuss the woman in this picture. Taken in 1942 It’s called “Girl in a Bubble.”( Photographer, Alfred Palmer, War Information Office )
It was going to be the cover of Thanks for Leaving, but it ran into a few snaggles.

Beta/Focus/and Critique groups said, “We like it. What the heck is she doing?”

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY.

This WWII photo was a carefully crafted propaganda shot to encourage women to leave their approved place (the home), and go to the factories.
Note:
• the carefully displayed wedding ring. (Message: Men, let your wives work).
• the lipstick and manicured nails. (A woman could work and not lose any of her daintiness. As a matter of fact, many factories had charm classes).
• Stylish head covering and colorful uniform. (Many women objected to covering their curls.)
By 1945, 6 million women had entered the workforce for the first time to build planes, bombs, ships and ammo. Which is phenomenal when you consider most women had never even worn slacks. For better or worse, it changed women’s roles forever.
Sixty-eight years ago, everyone would’ve known this woman was working on the nose cone of a B17.
Today, most viewers  thought she was working on a spaceship.

I think that’s a blessing.

Many words like: blackout, plane spotter, loose lips, meatless Tuesdays, and rationing aren’t part of our daily conversation anymore.

Book Three

Book Three

And women continue to work, to support, and to grow in wisdom because of all those gals ( our foremothers) “did what they had to do.”

But that’s another story—a funny and touching one—with a different cover.

You can read about it at Lutheran Ladies Circle/Books.

Did women working or serving in WWII change your family’s story?