And So Begins My New Life

Join me as I embark on a new life and new career in Funeral Services.

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Location: Southeast, United States

I'm a Funeral Services graduate embarking on a new career. I graduated high school in 1981, served honorably in the United States Navy from 1982-1986, been married since 1986, and have one son. I've relocated to a new state and have begun working in my chosen profession of Funeral Services, and I've never been happier.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

One Minor Correction

It was pointed out to me that I may have been less than specific concerning my rant about babies and cell phones yesterday. I used the term "funeral" in a very loose sense. I should have used the words "viewing", "visitation", or "wake" instead, as that is where most of the cell phone disruptions I witnessed occured, not during the actual funeral service itself.

However, I did work a funeral this morning, and there was a woman who did bring her babies. Thankfully, the service was at a church and not the funeral home chapel, so I did not have to be present at the actual ceremony itself; we all waited outside until the end.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Busiest Day So Far

I've only worked three days in my new profession as apprentice funeral director/embalmer, and today was the busiest of those three. We had an 11am service, which had a huge turnout. We had another service due to begin at 2pm. The family from the first service was still saying their goodbyes to their dearly departed at 12:30. Normally, that would be fine, but with another family due in at 2pm, that leaves us less than 90 minutes to: move out the flowers, move out the deceased, vacuum, clean up the chapel, move in the next dearly departed, arrange his flowers, etc. etc. In addition, even though the service was scheduled at 2pm, families always show up early. Always.
Thankfully, we pulled it off. At the same time as the 2pm service, we had a second visitation in another room. So in addition to getting the one room cleaned, we had to place the second person in the second viewing room and get her flowers arranged, etc.

So at 1:30 or so, both families start arriving. I stood by the door guiding the appropriate visitors to the appropriate room. In the meantime, my immediate supervisor is in meetings with pre-need customers, customers who need to order markers, and other such things. The second guy on duty was playing errand boy, picking up death certificates, dropping off death certificates to be signed by the doctors, running flowers to the family, etc. So for most of the afternoon, I was covering the floor myself. Still, it went fairly well.

Later, we had a 6-8 visitation, which I had to work solo. That went fairly smoothly, except for the lady who asked to buy a Mass card. I have never heard of those in my life. So I called my boss, who told me what and where they were, and how much to charge. So I found one, took the check, and the visitor was happy. All in all, my busiest day ever, which leads me into a brief rant. During today's chaos, I was astounded by two things: the number of people who bring babies to funerals, and the number of people who do not turn off their cell phones. The psychology textbooks say to encourage small children (over the age of 5 or 6) to attend funerals, because it teaches them about death and life and such. Whoever wrote those textbooks has not been in a funeral home with two visitations occuring simultaneously and bored, energetic children racing up and down the halls, chasing each other. I say only very well-behaved children should be encouraged to attend funerals. Secondly, if at any time in your life you should fork over money for a babysitter, you would think a funeral would be that one time. But NO!!!!! Let's bring little Susy to the most solemn, serious, sad occasion on earth and let her fidget and cry and whine. Most of the people who brought babies today spent so much time outside the funeral home, trying to keep them quiet, that they should have just stayed home in the first place.

Lastly, cell phones. Same as babies: if there is one time in your life you need to shut that thing off and leave it in the car, a funeral would be that time. But NO!!!!!! Let's run outside every 10 minutes to see who's calling and what they want. People, get a sense of etiquette and decency about you!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Very Long Day

Today was a long day for me; I worked 12 1/2 hours. I got to work at 8am, and we didn't have too much going on. Two families were due in to make arrangements, then after lunch we had a visitation from 2-4. After a two hour break, the visitation would resume at 6 and run until 8pm. I was asked to work it, so I said yes. The family ended up staying until around 8:30pm. That didn't bother us too much; after all, they are saying goodbye to a loved one. While the visitation was going on (the 6-8pm session) I was taught how to print the memorial pages for the visitation book and how to print the prayer cards. That was very interesting and I enjoyed it immensely, considering how much I like being on the computer.

Back to the lunch; only myself and the owner were in the funeral home during lunch hour; my immediate supervisor had left the premises for lunch, and the only other guy was at the airport picking up the body for the afternoon/evening visitation. The whole place had been quiet as a tomb (pardon the pun) all morning, but the minute we sat down to eat, the phones started ringing off the hook and the flowers started showing up for the afternoon visitation. Talk about dine and dash. It was something out of a sitcom; eat a bite, answer the phone, eat a bite, take delivery on some flowers, eat a bite, more get the picture.

Still, I'm loving every minute of it immensely. We'll see if I'm saying that six months from now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What A Day!

My first day on the job was spectacular. It started out slowly, with me doing a lot of standing around wondering what I should be doing while waiting for someone to give me some guidelines. About 8:30 am (I got there at 8) family members started arriving for the 9am visitation and funeral. So for two hours I played doorman, greeting mourners as they arrived. After the funeral, I was told to dismiss the crowd, which I did by approaching the podium and saying something like, "Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the service for __. On behalf of the family, I would like to thank you for coming. In the next couple of days, ___will be laid to rest in her hometown {out of state}. In the meantime, the family will be available for any questions or comments. Thank you for coming."

After the funeral, I took my lunch. Right in the middle of that we got a first call {when the family of the deceased calls the funeral home to arrange to have the body picked up}, so me and another guy went to pick up the body. This was my first removal, ever. We made the pickup and returned to the funeral home, where we immediately began the embalming process. Right in the middle of that, we got another first call, so while we continued the embalming, someone else made that pickup. About the time we were finishing the first embalming, the second body arrives, so we embalmed that one and called it a day. A very busy afternoon and a very welcome change from the mall where I used to work in a previous life.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Have Arrived

Well, I was pretty accurate about my prediction for the travel time involved. I left at 5:30am and arrived at 6:30pm, so I was on the road 13 hours. It wasn't all straight travel time; I made frequent and lengthy stops to allow the car a chance to rest, and I did not drive over 65mph. A good thing, too, because on one lengthy stretch of the interstate I saw at least a dozen, if not more, cops keeping an eye out for speeders.

Tomorrow I will go get my haircut and get settled in and then call the funeral home and let them know I have arrived and am available to start Wednesday.

After 5 years of school and 5 years of looking for a job, I am still dazed and amazed that I'm finally here. At one point during the drive I just kept thanking God over and over for the opportunity, for all of my blessings, for the beautiful day to travel, for the landscape and the scenery and for keeping me safe during the trip and keeping the car in good working order.

Thank you, Lord, for everything.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It's Finally Time To Go

Tomorrow morning I leave for my new job. It's about a 10 hour drive, but I plan on taking my time, resting the car every couple of hours and not driving too hard or fast. I estimate I'll be on the road closer to twelve hours. I don't know when I'll be able to post again or reply to any comments or questions.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Farewell Lunch

Today the store where I worked had me come in for a farewell lunch. We ordered pizza and I got a chance to tell everyone goodbye. It was very thoughtful and very much appreciated. As much as I hated that job, I'm going to miss the people I worked with.

I've got my stuff packed up, for the most part. I will load up my car Sunday night after church {they are also hosting a farewell dinner} and depart bright and early Monday morning. It doesn't look like I will be able to get a whole lot of stuff in my car, but I will squeeze in as much as possible.

If all goes well, my first day on the new job will be Wednesday, the 26th. I'm very excited!

I have added links in my sidebar to the National Board Exam sample questions. If you're curious what the test is like, click on the various subjects and see how well you do. However, bear in mind that while there are only 10 sample questions for each section, my test consisted of a grand total of 340 questions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Last Day In Retail

Yesterday was my last day in retail, and it was a memorable one. For reasons I won't go into here, I had to leave early and travel out of town. However, the one and only customer I waited on was typical of everything I despise about retail. This old codger comes in and opens up with, "Can you tell me the approximate value of..."
At this point I know I probably won't be able to help him, because we don't do appraisals and we don't have a lot of knowledge about collectible watches or clocks, but I let him finish on the off chance I may know something. He finishes his question with something on the order of, "...a 1965 Omega Seamaster?" I tell him, "No, sir. I'm sorry, we can't." He gives me the old 'deer in the headlights' look and says, "Why not? Can't you look it up in your computer?" I tell him, "No sir, we can't." Again, his question is, "Why not?" I tell him, "Our computer is basically a glorified shoebox; it just holds money." He then asks me, "Well, can't you get in there and look up information on your products? Prices and things?" I tell him, "Yes, we can; we can look up all kinds of information on products we sell, but we don't sell Omega." At this point he finally clues in to the fact that our computer is not the Oracle of Delphi and it will not reveal to him the information he desires, so he scuttles on back to Red Lobster or Joe's Crab Shack or wherever these crusty old grouches come from.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Random Bits Of Nothing

If you've been here before, you may have noticed I moved my favorite Bible verse up to the top of the sidebar where it's more visible. It took a little trial and error, as I'm still experimenting with HTML, but I'm pleased I was able to figure it out.

When I first started blogging a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea how much time I would wind up spending here on this site. Not only updating, modifying and maintaining my own blog, but also reading other peoples blogs. In addition, I find myself keeping my mail retriever (Mozilla Thunderbird) open all the time, waiting for the musical "ting" that announces an incoming message, hoping someone has posted a comment. I have also been spending a fair amount of time checking my other mailboxes, looking for responses from family and friends who did not comment directly on my blogsite.

From what I've seen on other blogs, I am not alone in this addiction. However, in a few days I will make my relocation to my new state, and I will be severely limited in my computer access, so regular readers may notice a drop in the frequency of postings. Once my wife arrives (with my computer) three weeks later, things will hopefully get back up to speed. Until that happens, I may have to do what I can from the public library.

Tomorrow is my last day at work. While I am grateful to be moving on to bigger and better things, I am leaving behind 9 1/2 years of myself in that store, so I'm not surprised that I'm feeling a little twinge of nostalgia and sentimentality, despite my abhorrence of that job.
I'm leaving behind a lot of good friends in that store; CST, ACT, ETB, BBL. You guys know who you are. I'm going to miss you all.

Monday, April 17, 2006

You Can't Go Home Again

All of my life I've heard the phrase, "you can't go home again." I never really understood what that meant until my 20th high school reunion. I was hoping to reconnect with friends I had not seen in two decades. Of all the people I was hoping to see, only two showed up. We traded email addresses, phone numbers and such, but nothing came of it.

Then a couple of years after that, I started looking for another old friend. I found him, emailed him, traded phone numbers, arranged a time we could talk on the phone; he never called.

A number of years before the reunion, I looked up an old friend, got his phone number, talked to him once or twice. We traded a couple of emails, then he quit writing. I chalked it up to occupational hazards (he's a pediatrician) and not enough time on his hands. So at Christmas time I wrote him a Christmas greeting and emailed it to him. Nothing. Possibly his email address changed, I don't know. I don't even care anymore.

Recently I've heard from another friend. She actually found me; we traded emails back and forth for a couple of weeks, then silence.

Now I understand the phrase, "You can't go home again."

Nothing will ever be the same. Times change, people change, including yourself. No matter how much you want things to be like they used to be, they can't. And for me, the nostalgic, sentimental person I am, that's very sad.

This is why I will most likely never attend another high school reunion, ever.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Some Thoughts On Easter

I am not a scholar or theologian or a biblical expert by any means. The following topic is my opinion only, written by me to satisfy my own curiosity about what Jesus did on the cross and why. I welcome your comments, opinions and insights.

Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

God is God: All powerful, all knowing, eternal, immortal, from Everlasting to Everlasting. He could have saved us any way he chose. Why send his son to die?

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

One: Romans 5:8 holds one answer; it proves God’s love for us. God sent his own son to be tortured and murdered. God knew Jesus would rise in three days, but does that change the fact of his cruel abuse at the hands of men? Would you let someone you love be tortured to the very brink of death, even though you knew they would eventually recover and their wounds would heal?

Two: By dying on the cross, Jesus brought the gift of salvation to man. Salvation is not, cannot be, about what we do. Anything we can do of ourselves can be undone. Jesus cannot be uncrucified, he cannot be unscourged. His gift was permanent, everlasting.

Three: Nothing else He could have done would have the same meaning and impact. Would people devote themselves to Him if all he had done was to offer us a token gift? Would Mel Gibson have made his movie "The Passion of the Christ" if the Passion, the gift, in question were a few encouraging statements or some trifle, like a bookmark or pen and pencil set?

Four: Nothing else could or would inspire our faith and require our faith. Would missionaries put themselves in mortal peril over encouraging statements? Would they travel thousands of miles into strange countries to tell people who, many times, are hostile to the gospel that God loved us so much he gave us some bookmarks to live by? Would they risk their lives over some trifle of a gift?

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus ALWAYS practiced what he preach. He is our standard, our example to emulate, the embodiment of how we should be living our lives. Jesus never asked anyone to do what HE himself was not willing to do.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It Feels Really Strange

My time in retail is rapidly drawing to a close, and I thought I would be ecstatic over escaping a job I have despised with every fiber of my being for the past 6 or 7 years. I am finding this not to be true, and it feels really strange. Maybe it's apprehension about the upcoming move, maybe it's the fact that I will no longer be a very large fish in a very tiny pond, but rather a minnow in the ocean. Maybe it's some bizarre twist on post-partum depression; Post-matriculation stress disorder. Whatever it is, it's uncomfortable. Perhaps I'm just in a funk, I don't know. I will be glad when it's over.

By the way, as you can see, there were very few comments about my Embalming post, and no email questions at all.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Everything You Didn't Want To Know About Embalming

In one of my first posts, I invited readers to email me with their questions about the embalming process. Not surprisingly, I've had no takers. Apparently a lot of people are uneasy discussing death and death-related issues. So allow me to enlighten you, dear readers. Read on at your own risk.

The first thing to be done when a body comes into the prep {preparation} room is to lay it out on the prep table and remove the clothes. Once this is done, the body is thoroughly washed, including shampooing the hair. Next the body must be properly positioned. The hands are usually folded across the stomach, with the left hand atop the right hand. This is to allow the wedding band {if any} to be seen. The head and shoulders are elevated; the head is placed on a head block, with the head turned slightly to the right {the deceased's right}. This is to allow proper viewing of the deceased as they lay in the casket. Underneath the shoulderblades a positioning board is placed, which raises the upper back slightly off the table. In addition, the oral, nasal and ocular orifices are sprayed with a strong disinfectant. The nostrils are cleaned out and the hairs trimmed. For male bodies, a shave is usually given. It is important to shave the body prior to embalming; doing it afterward can result in razor burn and make cosmetizing difficult.

Next the facial features must be properly positioned. This is referred to as "setting the features." Eyecaps or cotton are inserted underneath the eyelids. This is to promote a roundness to the eye, as the eyes tend to flatten and sink slightly into the socket after death. The lids are closed, but contrary to popular belief, are not stitched shut. Usually nothing special is required to keep the lids closed, but if they persist in gapping open slightly, a slight touch of aron alpha (superglue) is sufficient to keep them closed.

Once the eyes are properly closed, the mouth must be closed. If the deceased wore dentures, it is preferable to have them available to place back in the mouth. They are brushed and cleaned before being reinserted. The mouth of a deceased person will not naturally stay closed; it will want to drop open.

Warning: Graphic Content Ahead. There are two methods for keeping the mouth closed. The most common is with the use of a needle injector. The other method is the mandibular suture. I prefer the needle injector. This is a device that drives a barb with wire attached into the gumline. One is anchored in the upper gums, the other in the lower. The wires are then twisted around each other to draw the mouth closed. The mandibular suture, which in my opinion is even more violent, consists of stitching the mouth closed by inserting the needle through the roof of the mouth and into the nostrils, through the septum, back down into the mouth, and out through the jaw just posterior {toward the backside} of the chin, then back up into the mouth, where it is tied off. The drawback to this method is the suture under the chin leaves a dimple, which must be covered and cosmetized. Once the mouth is closed, cotton is usually inserted behind the lips to raise them up and give the mouth a natural looking contour.

Once the features are set, the vessels are raised. The most common site for arterial embalming is the right common carotid artery, with drainage out of the internal jugular vein. An incision is made through the skin at the collarbone, then the vessels are exposed by a method called blunt dissection. This is a process where the underlying fascia is pulled aside with instruments called aneurysm hooks. Once the fascia is cleared out of the way, the vessels are exposed and scraped clean of the material encasing them. This cleaning allows them to be more flexible. The vessels are then pulled to the surface, and ligature {string} is tied around them. Each vessel gets two pieces; one toward the head, the other toward the torso. Once the ligature is attached, the vessels are then cut halfway through. The reason for this is you don't want them to snap back down into the body; they would be nearly impossible to find and retrieve. Once the vessels are cut, the arterial tube {cannula} is inserted in the artery and tied down with the ligature. The drainage tube is inserted into the vein and similarly secured. Once your instruments are secured, the embalming fluid is pumped through the cannula and into the circulatory system. As the mixture is injected, the blood will begin draining out of the drain tube. It takes about 1 gallon of fluid for every 50 pounds of body weight, so a person that weights 200 pounds would receive roughly 4 gallons {give or take} of fluid. During the injection of the solution, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 or more, depending on rate of flow, distribution of fluid, adequate drainage, etc., the embalmer periodically massages the extremities to promote good distribution. In addition, he/she checks the coloring of the fingernails. They should turn pinkish if fluid is reaching the fingertips. He/she also checks the elasticity of the skin. If a body is getting good distribution, the skin will lose some of it's "snap." The embalmer pinches a small portion of skin and pulls on it. If it slowly settles back into place, that part of the body is receiving the embalming fluid. If for some reason {blood clots, atherosclerosis, damage to the vessels} fluid is not being adequately distributed, the embalmer may have to raise more vessels to treat the appropriate areas. For example, if the legs are not getting fluid, the femoral arteries and veins may need to be raised and injected.
A note about drainage: the prep table is usually inclined, with the head of the table higher than the foot end, which is usually positioned above a drainage sink. All of the blood flows down the table and into the sink, which in turn drains {warning!} into the sewer system. That's right, your tap water was once filled with blood and body fluids. However, in cases involving highly contagious diseases (AIDS, Creutzfeld-Jakob, etc) the blood is collected and disposed of as hazardous waste.

Once the body has been embalmed, the incision site(s) are sealed and stitched closed. Now comes the part I was most concerned I would have difficulty with {but didn't}: cavity treatment.

Warning: Graphic Content Ahead.
The body is filled with hollow organs and fluid filled organs. These must be treated separately, and differently, from arterial injection. The gasses and fluids must be removed, or decomposition will set in, despite the arterial embalming. A device called a trocar is attached to a vacuum, and then inserted into the torso. The point of insertion is 2 inches above the navel, and two inches to the deceased's left. Once inside, the trocar is maneuvered around in an attempt to puncture all the hollow organs and draw out all the fluids, gasses, and waste material. These organs include the lungs, heart, stomach, spleen, kidneys, intestines, urinary bladder, and cecum. There may be more, it's been over a year since I performed my last embalming, but those are the vital ones. From the lungs you want to collect any liquids, such as from pneumonia. From the heart, blood, from the bladder and kidneys, urine, from the spleen, bile, and from the cecum, fecal matter. Most vacuum tubes attached to the trocar are clear, so you can observe the progress of this process, called aspiration. If you see clear fluid, you're getting fluid from the lungs, yellow=urine, red=blood, brown/black=feces, and so on. Once the cavity has been thoroughly aspirated, a bottle of cavity fluid is attached to the trocar and pumped inside the cavity. Usually one 16 ounce bottle for the thorax {chest area} and one 16 ounce bottle for the abdomen. Once cavity injection is accomplished, the puncture wound made by inserting the trocar is closed up by one of two methods. It can be closed with a cone-shaped button that is inserted into the opening and then twisted shut, or a purse-string stitch can be used, which draws the wound closed like a medieval coin pouch.

Once the cavity treatment is complete, the body is then washed again, dried, dressed, placed in the casket, then cosmetized. Depending on how many vessels need to be raised, this entire process can take anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours.

Any questions?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm Proud Of My Son

I know I have entitled this blog "And So Begins My New Life," but it's not always about me. I can't always come up with some appropriate post concerning my transition from retail to funeral services. Previous posts have covered my Grandparents, the Navy, my profile photo and nickname, and various other topics not related to my blog theme.

Today I am adding another off-topic post.

My son came to me tonight after church service and said he had a burden for his generation. During one of the revival sermons this week, the preacher said that only about 4% of people my son's age are saved. This hit home with him, as he has many friends who, by observing their lifestyle, appear to be unsaved. I'm not saying all of his friends are lost, but if they are saved, it does not always show in their music, their language or their behavior. Not that his friends are bad kids; far from it. I like every one that I've met and they are welcome in my home any time.

So my son is concerned about how to witness to them. When we returned home from church services, I began an internet search on witnessing tools. I found this article concerning Share Jesus Without Fear, which I emailed to him. Perhaps tomorrow we can go to Lifeway and pick up some materials that would be of help to him. I'm proud of him for caring enough about the eternal welfare of his friends to be motivated to help. He's a fine young man and I love him very much. I'm proud of you, son.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


My last day in retail will be one week from Thursday the 13th. I am really looking forward to not only ending my retail career, but beginning my professional position in a funeral home. It will be a very welcome change from the work I've been doing for the past 20 years. In addition to my new duties and responsibilities, my new employer would like to start producing video tributes. Since I will be the only computer-savvy employee he will have, he has asked me if I would like to help with this. I told him "Absolutely!" So I'm looking forward to learning embalming and funeral directing from him, and he's looking forward to learning how to work with computers from me.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thank Your Manager, Kids!

I was looking over the work schedule I had cobbled together for this week. My manager is on vacation; has been since Friday the 7th. She reports back to work Thursday the 13th, is off Friday, then back at work on Saturday. Thanks to this generous time off she's given herself, I am having to work six, count 'em, six days this week! You can rest assured I've adjusted the schedule to give myself a few half-days off wherever I could squeeze them in, including this coming Saturday (10-2). Just one more reason I'm grateful to be leaving retail.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My Last Sunday - Not Without Some Drama

As you all know from my previous post, today was my last Sunday in retail. I prayed before I went in, as I do every Sunday I work, "Please, Lord, let this be an unventful day. Keep the crazy people away, keep the irate people away, don't overwhelm us with customers. Let it be a nice, slow, normal day." And it was, for the most part. The first few customers were really pleasant and easily dealt with.

Then we get a phone call. It seems one of the first few customers in the store (a mother and her daughter) left a Victoria's Secret package somewhere. The daughter called and asked me if anyone had turned in her package. I told her no, but that I would look on the floor on the outside of the counter. I took a lap around the counter and did not see it, so I told her we didn't have it. About 5 minutes later the mother calls, asking the same thing, and asking me to double-check. I did, and I told the mother, no, I'm sorry, there's nothing here. She then asked if there was a lost and found for the mall. I gave her the number and she hung up. About 10 minutes later the dimwitted duo comes marching through the store and says, "I don't suppose you've found it yet?!" Then marches around the counter and out of the store.

If the daughter did leave her package in our store, another customer walked off with it. No one turned it in to us, and we didn't find it at all. But I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach this mother is convinced we stole her daughter's package.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tomorrow Is My Last Sunday

Tomorrow is the last time I have to work my retail job on a Sunday. The reason I mention it is that Sunday is the day of the week I hate to work the most. There are several reasons this is so: usually we only have two people working in the store, which is sufficient sometimes, but many times we are just absolutely overwhelmed with customers. Sundays are when people usually bring multiple watches for instant repair; we seem to get more head cases (crazy people) coming in than any other day of the week; if you're going to get an irate customer, it's usually on a Sunday; we get more campers (people standing right outside your door, waiting for you to open) on Sunday because they assume the mall opens at 10am like the other six days of the week, so they've been wandering around the mall for 2 1/2 hours before you open and they are impatient and cranky because they are too stupid to read the signs on the mall doors and understand the mall opens late and closes early on Sundays. {Ok, that last sentence was a run-on, but it expresses my mood, so it stays}. Sundays could be better spent at home, with my family.

Technically this town has a blue law on the books, meaning merchants are supposed to close on Sundays, but when it was first voted in back in 1996 {and passed} the merchants in the town complained the ballot was confusing and people did not understand what they were voting for.
A judge said he would table the election results until after the Christmas holidays and then review them after the New Year. 9 1/2 years later and we're still opening on Sundays.

Regardless, tomorrow is the last Sunday I work retail. Thank You, God!

Friday, April 07, 2006

I Learned A Little More HTML

Last night I was reading through the help menus here on Blogger and I found out how to set up a link to open in a new window. I went back and corrected all of my links, so if you follow one of them, it will open in a new window and you won't have to navigate your way back to this page.

My mom sent us some pictures of our new apartment. I've seen it already, since I'm the one that picked it out while I was there for my interview, but this is the first time my wife has seen photos. I found out, also, that instead of being slightly smaller than where I am now, it's slightly larger, by about 50 square feet.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

National Board Exam - Sciences

I am thrilled to report that I passed the Sciences section with a 90. No more tests, no more school. Now I can concentrate on the move and getting things ready to go and begin my life.
I was hoping to be able to post some sample questions for your perusal, but as yet I have not received permission from the National Board to do that. So for now, just follow the link to see some sample embalming questions.

Edit: The link is broken and no more sample questions are posted on the website, so I removed the link.

This Is It - Today's The Day

Today I take the sciences portion of my National Board. My exam is two and one-half hours from right now. I feel like I'm living through the opening sequence of the movie, "Capricorn One." The astronauts are departing for the mission to Mars and the PR guy for NASA is on the intercom telling the press what the crew was doing. "The astronauts were awakened at 3:45am, allowed a final shower, and at 4:30am were fed a breakfast of steak, eggs and orange juice."

Except my morning announcement would be something like this: "Granimore was awakened at 9:30am by the ringing of the phone. After a visit to the toilet, he logged on to the internet to check his email and see if anybody commented on his blog. Following that, he turned on the TV to watch "King of the Hill" on FX while cooking and eating a frozen pizza. Afterwards, he returned to the computer to visit the National Board website and review some of their sample questions. He then checked into his blog to make this post."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

National Board Exam - Sciences Section

Thursday I take the second half of my National Board Exam. I took the Arts section last week and nailed it with an 88. I hope I do as well on the sciences. Despite my love of science, I usually don't do as well on the science section of the practice tests as I do on the arts. Still, I've been reviewing the materials and taking the practice test out of my study guide, so I believe I should pass. Even so, the experience with the Arts section has made me wary; some of those questions were tricky and obscure. If you're a praying person, please remember me Thursday afternoon.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Operations Specialist Class "A" School

In my last post I mentioned Class "A" schools. When I joined, I deliberately chose a job that would give me the best chance at going to sea. I chose Operations Specialist. You can follow the link to learn all about it, but basically I worked with air and surface search radars, tracked and plotted contacts, and engaged in anti-submarine warfare operations (my favorite part of the job).
School was in Dam Neck, Virginia, near Norfolk and Virginia Beach. While we had more freedoms at school than at boot camp, it was still very regimented. We were not allowed civilian clothes, so if we wanted to leave the base, we had to change into dress uniforms. The absolute worst part about school was our proximity to a nearby pig farm. Anybody who has grown up around massive quantities of pigs will know the stench to which I am referring. Imagine waking up every morning to the sweet smell of methane in the air. And I don't mean just a whiff, I mean a stench so overwhelming you could cut it with a knife. But after an hour or so, it faded and we were able to breathe normally once again.
The curriculum was pretty straightforward; we studied maneuvering boards (mo boards) and learned how to calculate the course, speed and CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of radar contacts. I was surprised to learn that if a contact was on a collision course, we were not supposed to call it that; we were taught to refer to it as CBDR (Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range). Should we find ourselves in this situation, we were taught how to calculate a course that would allow us to pass the contact at a specified distance, be it 2000 yards, 3000 yards, whatever the Officer of the Deck requested. We also learned how to calculate True Wind and Relative Wind (important for flight operations) and how to calculate Crash Corpen (in case of an aircraft crash on your flight deck, you want the wind blowing the smoke and flames abaft of the ship, so as to allow your firefighters the best opportunity to approach the wreck).
We learned how to talk on the RT (Radio-Telephone) net; as you can imagine the Navy has very strict protocols for radio traffic. We learned how to plot contacts on the status board, how to relay reports to the bridge, how to plot contacts on the DRT (Dead Reckoning Tracer), how to deal with man overboard situations:
"Officer of the Deck! Starboard lookout reports man overboard, starboard side! Combat recommends all stop, combat recommends hoisting flag Oscar, combat recommends putting a boat in the water..." and several other commands which have eluded my memory. ("Combat" is short for Combat Information Center, where the Operations Specialists worked).
We also studied ASW (anti-submarine warfare) procedures. As I grew into my job aboard the USS California, I came to love this job the most.
As part of our final week of study, we participated in mock combat, being required to track and report multiple targets. I graduated number 2 in my class, and as a result got to pick my assignment. I chose the California because it was homeported in Norfolk, and my uncle, the retired career officer, lived nearby. One of the benefits of joining the Navy was the opportunity for me to grow closer to my aunt and uncle, who welcomed me into their home for many a weekend off, and were kind enough to feed me and let me do my laundry, as well. Thanks G&B, I love you a lot.
Unbeknownst to me, however, the California was not moored at the Naval Operations Base (NOB), but was in the shipyards in Portsmouth, finishing up a year long overhaul. It was a full six months after reporting aboard that I got my first taste of the sea. It was beautiful!
Shortly after leaving the shipyards, we discovered we were to be transferred to the West Coast. It seems that somebody somewhere decided a ship named California should be homeported in the state of California. The then-mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein (DiFi), had pulled some strings and arranged for us to make our home in Alameda (where they keep the Nuclear Wessels, according to Ensign Chekhov). After some excursions into the Carribbean, with stops at St. John, St. Martin and St. Thomas, as well as Puerto Rico, we made the transit of the Panama Canal and arrived in San Francisco Bay, where I lived until my discharge.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Join The Navy And See The World

I graduated high school in June of 1981. I had no real focus or goal to aim for, no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. After working on and off for the next year, I ultimately decided to join the Navy. I never even considered the other branches of service; I knew I didn't have the physical stamina to become a Marine or soldier, and I really had no interest at all in the Air Force. Besides, I came from a Navy oriented family. My father and two of his three brothers joined the Navy. One was an officer and went career, the other started out as enlisted then eventually got his warrant. The third brother went Air Force, but we love him anyway.

I left for boot camp in June of 1982, almost one year to the date I graduated high school. I reported to the Naval Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. This was the same boot camp my father had attended. At the time I enlisted there were three Navy boot camps in operation; Great Lakes, San Diego, and Orlando, which is where female sailors trained. Today, Great Lakes is the only one still operating. The most challenging part for me was the physical fitness portion. I was never very athletic or active; fortunately, even before I joined I had been jogging laps at the high school track with a friend of mine. I started out jogging only 1/2 mile, but after a couple of months, I had worked my way up to a mile and a half. Before leaving for boot camp I had taught myself rank recognition and some basic nautical terms. Overall it wasn't too awfully hard; the worst part was "Service Week." This is a one week period where recruits take a break from their training routine to work at supporting the operation of the base. Most recruits worked in the mess hall (dining room, to you civvies out there). Some helped the mess cooks, some worked the dining room itself, keeping the bug juice (kool-aid) flowing and the drink machines continuously refilled, and some, like myself, worked in the scullery (the dishwashing room.) The work itself was not hard, it was the hours that killed us.

Bear in mind that at any one time, there are thousands of recruits in training. As a result, the mess hall was open from about 5:oo am until about 7:30pm. From the minute we opened until the minute we closed, there were recruits waiting to be fed. In order to cook enough food to open for breakfast at 5:30, we had to wake up around 2am, get dressed and report for work around 2:30 or so. Around 4:30am we would be allowed to eat our breakfast, then back to work. Breakfast ran until about 9am or so, then we would "secure" (close down-I really need to publish a glossary with this post) from breakfast in order to clean up. I was in the scullery, and when a sailor finished his breakfast he would drop his tray and silverware through the window, where we would load everything up in the "dragon" (a huge commercial dishwasher, about 30 feet long. The dishes would get loaded on trays, which were put on a conveyor belt which ran the length of the dragon and were delivered, clean, out the other end). Once we secured from breakfast, we would remove every component possible (other than the actual machinery) and clean and dry that beast from stem to stern. This process took so long, that by the time we finished, we had maybe a 5 minute break before it was time to eat lunch (around 10am). Once we had our lunch, it was time to open up the mess hall again and repeat the process. Lunch was served until around 1 or so, then we secured from lunch and cleaned the dragon all over again. Once more, we would finish just in time to eat supper (around 4pm). We would then open for supper and work until about 7 or 7:30, clean up and get back to the barracks by 9pm, just enough time to shower before taps (lights out) at 9:30. Then back up at 2am to do it all over again, for seven straight days.

Despite the rough service week and my struggle with passing the physical fitness tests, I persevered and graduated boot camp in August. I immediately reported for duty to the Fleet Combat Training Center, Dam Neck, Virginia for class "A" school. "A" school is where sailors learn their primary job duties, such as Electronics Technician, Gunner's Mate, etc. More about my school in a later post. By the way, the photo accompanying this post is my ship, the USS California, a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser (CGN36).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why Squidward? Why Granimore?

Unlike many bloggers, I do not feel comfortable putting my identity on display for the public. Partly because I'm a little shy, but mostly because my family and friends know who writes this blog, and that's enough. Also, once I enter the funeral profession in a month or so, I will continue to update this blog on my work and how things proceed there. To protect the identity of my employer and any families I may serve, I choose to remain anonymous.

As my photo for my profile, you will notice I have chosen the character Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants. If you watch the show, you will understand when I tell you I am Squidward. For those who are not familiar with the show, Squidward works in a fast-food restaurant and absolutely hates his job and the customers. One of my favorite Squidward moments was when a customer asked for more sauce. Squidward tells him they are all out of sauce. The customer says, "Could you check?" Squidward, being Squidward, deadpans "No."

As for my handle, Granimore, it comes from one of my favorite movies, Joe Vs. The Volcano. This is an old Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie. Tom Hank's character, Joe Banks, is sent on a spectacular adventure by Mr. Samuel Harvey Graynamore (when I chose the nickname, I spelled it phonetically instead of paying attention to the credits). Joe must hurl himself into a volcano to appease the volcano god and save the island of Waponi Wu. It sounds strange, I know, but it really is a cute little movie. One of my favorite quotes comes from Meg Ryan. She's standing on the dock, ready to take Joe Banks on board her ship for the trip to the island. She snaps some smart remark to her sister, who says, "Well, you're in a rotten mood!" To which Meg Ryan responds, "It's the sunshine; gets me down."


I received an email from my mother today and she pointed out a couple of errors I had made in my original Meet My Grandparents post. I have since corrected the original posts, but for the benefit of family and friends, I will point them out. I had mentioned that my dad's dad was a steel worker; he was an iron worker. I thought he was killed on a TVA project (that's Tennessee Valley Authority, for people not from around here), but it was the Ford building in Nashville.
As for my mom's parents, I erroneously reported they were married 57 years. In fact, I was ten years off the mark. They were married 67 years.