“New Year, New Me”, and I actually mean it this time.

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2016 was a rough year. The stress of finishing school and the pressure of getting a job towards the end of the semester made the last month or so of 2016 extra stressful. Now that the holidays have passed and we’re into the new year, I wanna reflect just a little. I normally look like the meme I used for this post, but I actually mean it this time! Here’s why:

I passed both sections of the National Board Exams just before Christmas, and therefore, officially met graduation requirements. I continued working hard at my job, but felt like it wasn’t getting me what I thought it would, or taking me where I feel I deserve. I’m a glorified maid, until there’s a service that I can assist on, and then I enjoy my day. Otherwise, I’m filling copy machines and making coffee like a damn intern, so I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground for something else.

I was tempted into applying for the place I’m currently at with the possibility for starting my apprenticeship. Once I got in there and started working, I discovered that there’s not really a need for another embalmer, and it was “up to me” to make friends with the one guy, to even try and get a shot at an apprenticeship. Once I realized how the game works at this place, I realized that an apprenticeship was not gonna happen. Nor did I really want it after seeing the quality of work our establishment produced.

There’s also another coworker of mine who’s been there for 2 years, graduated a year before me, and wants to be an embalmer, so I’d be competing for a spot against her. There’s another coworker that’s in school right now, but has been there over a year, so they’ll both have seniority over me if I were to try and move up in any kind of way.

I told myself that this wasn’t going to be my job for much longer, and I made it happen. A friend of mine worked at another home right around the same time I got the job at my place. Our stories of going to work could not have been more different. She LOVES her work and coworkers. She gets paid a livable wage. She has benefits and enjoys what she does each and every day. In December, she didn’t have a date to her company’s Christmas party, so I tagged along with her and met everyone at her work. They were a small bunch, but you could tell how much they got along. They were a little family, and I could not have been more envious! I walked out of that dinner thinking, “I want this!”, and it just so happened that my friend was moving out of the area and her position was going to be opening up. Without telling me at first, she talked to her boss and coworkers about me and put a good word in for me to take over her position (whata sweetheart, right?!).

So cut to this last Saturday. I wake up to a phone call from the boss, asking if I could come in for an interview on Monday! I had an opening shift at my job that day, so I had to hurry over right after I clocked out. I got to the new place and reintroduced myself to the office ladies and the other funeral director. He proceeded to take me to the boss’ office and had me hang out while he went to find him. In the maybe 5 minutes that I sat and waited, and I could just feel the difference between the two funeral homes. I gave myself a little pep talk just before he came in the room, telling myself, “You’ve got this, you’re awesome. Make it happen!”

After he came in, we just chatted for a little bit. We talked about the establishment, the pay, the days I would possibly work, the possibility of acquiring another funeral home in the future and expansion before taking me on a tour of the place. On the tour, we ran across 2 bodies that were sitting ready for their prospective funerals/visitations the next day, and he took me up to them to look at his handy work. I could tell just from these two cases, that this establishment was far beyond where I was currently working. The decedent looked great! There was good color in their hands and face, the makeup wasn’t caked on like a layer of paint, the mouth (OH THE MOUTH!) looked natural! Our cases, each and every one that comes through the door, gets super glued shut. I always feel it makes their expression funky and sad.

We went to view the decedent in their chapel, and after he told me that this one had scraped his head in a fall and lost tissue on his hand, I took a look at the case and couldn’t tell one way or another that there had been reconstruction work in anyway! It was amazing, and I made sure to praise his work (without brown-nosing of course!). We made our way back to the arrangement room we started in, and I was told to fill out the application (formality). When I was done, he had me go to the office to hang out and chat with the other 3 potential coworkers. They were finishing their day up and didn’t have very many questions for me. The other funeral director did ask me about when I graduated, if I had my licenses, if I passed my NBEs, if we had any mutual acquaintances from the program, etc. Once we were kind of talked out, the boss hurriedly entered the room, exclaiming,”YOU WENT TO PACIFICA!?” (my high school). I told him my graduating year and he says,”OH! Then you would know my daughter!”

As it turns out, my potential employer’s daughter and husband are former classmates of mine. We also share a mutual acquaintance because of his daughter and my friends growing up who played soccer! A woman who I call my “other mother” (and who I used as a reference on my application), is someone who this guy knew for YEARS! “Small world” is an understatement!

So I’m flying when I leave this interview. We had great conversations, everything they offer sounds AMAZING ($4 MORE than what I’m currently making, full time, the apprenticeship, medical and dental benefits, 401K, etc etc), their establishment feels cleaner and newer, their cases look awesome, and I go home and start telling my family about how BADLY I want this! One of the last things one of the ladies said to me before she left was, “so when do you start?” And I stuttered back with,”uhh, he hasn’t given me a date yet?” To which she follows with, “Well, I guess we’ll see ya when we see ya!” My boyfriend is sitting here telling me that I have to get it if they think I already have it, but I’m not counting chickens before they hatch.

Cut to Tuesday night. I just got done vacuuming and finishing my duties at my current job. I can’t quite leave yet because the retort in the crematory is still reading too hot, so I need to kill some time and let it cool before I lock up. I go back to the office and grab my phone. There’s a missed call and a voicemail from the new place saying that he wants me to call back and that he’s there till 10pm. My head starts buzzing! Do I call now and get it out of the way or do I wait for the crematory, drive home, and call back once I’m there? Of course I do the former, since I’m at work all by myself and I’ll stress myself out more if I don’t call back immediately!

When he answers the phone he asks me if I was running because I seem out of breath. I told him that that was because I had just finished vacuuming (and because I was stressing myself out, but didn’t tell him that), and his reply was, “oh, so they’re showing you the business end of a vacuum again?” (HA!)

We chat for a few minutes. He reiterates the pay, sick time, vacation time, the fact that I will be set in the schedule we talked about for 2 years and if i was OK with that (I was). He then told me,”well I talked to [your ‘other mother’] and she had nothing but good things to say about you…I also talked to your boss there” I clammed up because I haven’t mentioned in ANYWAY about looking elsewhere. He continues,”We had a nice talk, and he said he’d be sad to see you leave, because you are, you’re hired!” After a bunch of thank you’s and “oh my gosh, I’m so excited”, we decided that I would be putting in my two weeks notice and starting at the end of the month!

I still can’t believe that my year has started off so well! I keep feeling like something’s gonna happen to fuck it all up, but for now, I’m staying positive and excited! My dude and I are finally gonna be making money in “adult jobs”. Not only that, but our dream of moving is closer than ever! We’re going to make it happen in 2017, I can feel it!

I hung out with the coworker/friend that got me the job at my current place and broke the news that I was leaving. She was bummed that I’m leaving, but more bummed that she’s still stuck there. I thought she was going to be a little mad that I was going so quickly (I’ve barely been there 4 months), but she’s happy for me and told me to keep my ear out for anything for her to try and apply for.

Now, I have to say, I don’t want to talk shit about any home. This is a very small industry, and I wouldn’t want to say something that could get me in trouble, or insult a family, or anything that would just be a dick move. They let me dip my toes into the industry, and made me see what I don’t want to be, but that doesn’t mean the ones who have been there for a long time are doing it wrong, it’s just not what I want for myself. I wanted to find a place that was more like minded to me, and this place and I couldn’t have been more different. The new home is awesome and I can see it meshing with my ideas much more, so I’m really excited to start working there.

Also, every place has coworkers that you just don’t get along with, but my biggest gripe or reason to not want to be at my current place is this: I just don’t fit in with those guys. I feel strongly that there’s a place for everyone, and I was a square peg in a round hole at that place. They were a group that I was just not going to be able to mesh with. They’re nice people, they love what they’re doing, but I’m not going to make them like me or change their mind. They weren’t going to treat me any different than I was already being treated. I was seen as a secretary or each of their own personal assistants. But not only that, I was shit on and given the stupid shit they just didn’t want to do. They all treated night attendants (my position there) as “less than” a funeral director, even though I was licensed and 3 of them weren’t.

There was no procedure or training. They would just say,”don’t do that”, after I was already doing something a certain way (that I was told to do!) for a month. There was no consistency, and I am not an idiot so don’t treat me like one. The last couple of weeks, I’ve started assisting and taking over services for some of the directors and getting little to no recognition from my coworkers. But they’re the first to try and point out something I did wrong (even when it wasn’t!). I just really needed out of that environment, and I’m so happy it happened so quickly.

I didn’t really mean for this post to become so long, but I didn’t update in a long time, and I really wanted to document my excitement! I can’t wait to start my apprenticeship, and I’m one step closer to becoming a licensed embalmer!

“New year, new me” is very fitting this year! I can’t wait to see what happens for me this year!

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The Aftermath

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I did it.

I’m done.

I finished my last final on Friday, December 9th @ 11:24 AM. I walked down the GIANT staircase for the last time, to my car, came home…and didn’t know what to do with myself.

I went to work, had a viewing for a young kid and a lot of people showed up. Ran around like crazy, but everything closed down smoothly. Went to work early on Saturday morning. Went to a nice dinner Saturday night. Ate a late night snack at Denny’s with my dude because I hadn’t gotten to hang out with him for days. SLEPT IN FOR ONCE. Got lunch/dinner with grandparents and parents in celebration for my graduation.

It’s now Sunday night, and I’m sitting here wondering what to do with myself. I don’t have anything due tomorrow; no tests to study for, no discussion boards due. The only thing I HAVE to do, is sign up to take my National Board Exam (NBE) once I get the email. I’m kind of nervous for the NBE, and I have to get it done before December 31st in order to actually receive my diploma.

I also need to register to take my Embalmer’s test. I want to get that out of the way now, so that when I complete my apprenticeship, I automatically get my license. That’s something I feel I can push into January though, so I’m gonna take my time on that.

It’s still not setting in, and I’m sure it’s gonna take a while, but right now I’m just glad to be sitting here with a glass of Jameson watching television without a care in the world. Life is good.

Finally Finals

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I know I said I wasn’t going to post until I was a graduate, but it’s been a hell of a week, and there’s only one more left, so I wanted to get it all down before it’s too late.

Right now, it’s the Thursday before finals. The last week of test. The last week of school. I’m so BEYOND ready to be done with it all! I took 4 tests on Monday, 3 today, and then 1 everyday next week (2 on Friday), and then I’m DONE!

It still feels a little unreal. I’ve been doing countdowns to finishing semesters for over a decade now (I know, I know! I’m old and I need to get out of school already! I’m workin on it!), but this time it’s different. I’m going to be DONE done with school, and it’s probably not gonna feel like it’s over for quite a while.

I’m steps closer to completing my computer class. We register for the National Board Exam (NBE) on Monday and take the last of the practice tests. I finish my embalming lecture on Tuesday, and I finished my lab today! Wednesday is my restorative arts final, then Thursday’s Chemistry. Then finally, Friday morning is my Counseling final, and then I wrap it up with the capstone final in the afternoon

I wish I could go celebrate when I’m out on Friday, but I’ll have work that night and then early morning on Saturday. So after work on Saturday, I’ll go celebrate/schmooze potential new employer(!) at my friend’s company Christmas party. It’s gonna feel real like to get out and feel like a person again.

I’m gonna have to go back and see just how many tests/quizzes I took over the 18 month program, because I’m sure it’s stupid how many we took. I mean hell, I’m about to take 14 test over the last 10 days of school, so I’m gonna guess somewhere around 100 tests *dies*.

I just spent way too much time making paper cranes/stars and stringing them into a “wreath” for our memorial ceremony for our counseling class tomorrow. I just hope it goes smoothly and it’s not as stupid as I feel it’s about to be. I wish I had committed to paper cranes when I thought of it at Thanksgiving, that way I could’ve actually made one for every case in lab like I wanted to, but 149 paper cranes in a day and a half wasn’t happening. Oh well, the meaning’s still there.

Off to bed now, one week…one week…*sigh*

We’re in the home stretch now!

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I didn’t mean to keep putting off getting on here and writing about things, but I hit the busiest time of the semester and any free time went to sleeping and sanity. I have a couple papers due this week and a presentation next Monday, and that’s about all of the biggest stuff left besides finals! In just a week and a half, it’ll be Thanksgiving, and then, FINALS. I can’t believe this is it, it’s really ending. I never thought 18 months would feel so long!

Work is also ramping up (since the winter months is the “busy season” in this industry), and I’ve been working late nights and early mornings. I should know by now that this job was gonna come with funky hours, but I’m still getting used to it. Once this semester’s over, I’m debating whether or not I want to continue working where I’m at, or to go somewhere else. I think it might be in my best interest to go somewhere else now-ish since it is the busy season, and more places might be willing to hire. It also might be in my best interest to stay where I’m at and get the most experience I can, before trying to get my foot in the door somewhere else.

I will say (and I think I’ve said this before), that Saturday’s at work are my favorite days. I get to experience the most stuff and I’m usually out of the office the whole day. This last Saturday, I got to witness my first (Japanese) Buddhist memorial service full of chanting and incense, a Christian memorial service full of songs and hymns, my first Hindu dressing with the daughter and her 2 friends, and a witness interment (that finally went smoothly). I love the variety Saturday brings! I also say “finally went smoothly” because the last 2 witness interments I was apart of took way too long and we somehow ran of dirt and had to get the tractor to bring more *face palm*.

Tonight should be a slow night, Tuesday’s usually don’t have a lot going for them. Unless there was a viewing/visitation/rosary going on at night, I’m usually out of there quick. It’s really nice to be there by myself too, so I don’t have to keep checking on someone or making sure they did something. I do everything, and I get it done quick, and get the hell out of there!

I feel like these last couple of posts have been forced, or at least something I’m not going to care to read later on, so I want to try and recap maybe some small things from the passed week that I might not think of in the coming weeks/months/years.

Last Thursday, I went to my first “vendor night” dinner for the Orange County Funeral Directors Association (OCFDA). It was pretty cool, but smaller than I thought it was going to be. For whatever reason, the way people talked about it, it sounded like a huge event, but there was maybe 20 tables. It was mostly a drinking and talking to people I already knew. Plus, I couldn’t eat the dinner (GLUTEN FREE STRIKES AGAIN!), so that was a bit of a downer.

BUT what was nice was that I happened to sit at a table (or they happened to sit at MY table, whatever) with an owner and his partner who have a mortuary that he tries to hire students as much as possible. The only problem was that it’s in Torrance (which is NOT close), and they’re in the middle of moving, so it’s not a viable option for me right now.

I ended up getting tipsy and chatting with my teacher who was there promoting the school, and it was nice to freely talk about work and school just one on one with him. I sometimes feel I can’t express everything I’m feeling, mainly because of how candid (see: colorful language) I am with talking about work (he works there too). It felt nice be able to be around like minded people (my teacher and that owner) who are on the same wavelength as I am. I’m not in this for the business or money, I’m in it to move this industry out of the dark ages and focus on families and their healing through dealing with death.

We lost a member of our embalming lab team, so it’s down to just my one friend and I! While I miss our teammate, I kind of like the freedom we now get to have to do more and more things each week. I actually feel tired, like I DID something, each Thursday now. Competencies start this week, meaning it’s the start of making sure I actually know what I’m doing before I graduate. I think I have everything down pretty well, except for the selecting of fluids. There are so many varieties out there, and I’m just confused on what to do half the time. Hopefully the case we get next week isn’t too crazy when I have to pick fluids. Last week, my teammate and I were told that our aspiration and cavity treatment competencies were pretty much done, so if that’s already noted, I’m probably good on everything else.

I’m excited for Thanksgiving, it’ll be the first time I’ve hung out with my extended family in a long while (I think since July!? Yikes). Food’s going to be delicious, people are gonna be fun, I don’t have to work that night, it’s gonna be nice to have that small break. Once that break’s over though, it’s basically the end of the semester, so I doubt I’ll be posting before then!

…I’ll be a graduate the next time I post…holy shit.

Now we’re in the thick of it…

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I ran out of free time (or what free time I had was taken up with sleeping and trying to find a normalcy), so I didn’t get to post about the next to last group project I’ll EVER have to do for school, and the last couple of days at work. My presentation went well enough though. We got some feedback, but I also got some criticism from classmates on how we delivered our information. When you only have 45 minutes for your group to talk about all of the information that was covered over 3 semesters, it’s really hard to hit every single topic. It’s also funny that some people felt the need to say that we didn’t cover something or that we didn’t add something to our outline, but it was sitting right there IN the outline, so I don’t take it to heart. There’s obviously people not paying close enough attention in the first place, so I’m not gonna let it bug me.

My last(!) presentation isn’t for another couple of weeks, and there’s plenty of other shit I gotta get done before then. I managed to knock out a 24 page paper in 6 hours last week. I need to read a small book and be able to answer discussion board questions and discussion in class, so I need to get on that. I have a research paper for my embalming class due next week. I have 4 tests this week (technically 3 cuz I took the one this morning). It’s just all coming together all at once (like I thought it would be), and I’m so close to the end! Plus! We take our “class photo” next Friday, and day by day, I’m closer and closer to that graduation date.

Work has been going better too. I can tell that I’m getting more comfortable because I don’t have to ask about as much things as I did before. The one thing that kinda sucks though is that when I do ask, I get sighs and eye rolls and less than helpful help. BUT, I’m just gonna keep ignoring it and move on. I don’t see me being at this particular place for a long time, but I’m gonna soak in as much knowledge as I can while I’m there.

Highlight of my weekend definitely came on Saturday though. I had only been at work for about an hour or so, and I had a little old lady come in the front door. I’m expected to be the doorman in this place, so I made my way out there and greeted her with my usual smile and “how can I help you”. I immediately saw the anger in her eyes and she started on her, “I just have to tell you, someone needs to do something!” and proceeded to tell me that the children that were with the big group present for a graveside committal, were climbing on, jumping over, and running across the markers and the monument that we have in our veterans section. She was furious and I didn’t blame her. She kept saying that these kids were grabbing the flag chain and swinging it around and screaming and yelling, and said, “this is a sacred place for our veterans! This is NOT how you show respect!”

And then it happened. She said, “I can’t even hear myself try to talk to my husband…”, and her voice cracked, and the anger turned to tears. I couldn’t stop myself; I stepped forward and gave this poor woman a hug. As I embraced her, I told her, “I will do something for you”. She came out of the hug with a soft thank you, and I could tell she felt listened to and cared about.

That’s all I really want in this profession. I want to be able to help people, diffuse a situation, bring comfort to someone, do something to help them. I went back into the office (a little choked up myself), and my coworkers asked what that was all about. I told them, and they said that I needed to be the one to go tell the kids/family, but said it in a very “NOT IT!” kind of tone, but I was more than happy to do it myself anyway.

I also got a nasty comment from a coworker, that I need to go disinfect myself after touching people, because “that’s just disgusting” and shuddered. That alone confirmed for me that there’s some hardened people in this business, and I would hate for one of them to have gotten to her first, because they would’ve showed her zero sympathy. I’m sure they would have even been a little mean, and pointed out that the kids were no longer on the monument, and not done anything about it. Instead, I showed her compassion, and took it upon myself to drive the golf cart over to the graveside.

I stood by the monument for about 5 minutes, and no kids came running towards me. I did see them running around, but they were done messing around in the veterans section by the time I got there. The graveside service they were there for was ending, and I didn’t see a point in disturbing the family as they were hugging and leaving by saying, “hey, by the way, get your kids cuz they were doing something people didn’t like about 20 minutes ago”, so I just hung around until I saw cars start to pack up and the kids went back to their parents.

I didn’t actually fulfill the lady’s request by telling someone something, but I at least did more for the situation than any of my coworkers would have done. OK maybe not any of my coworkers, but definitely the couple of them that were in the room when I talked about what happened. I just hope that that woman came back, either later that day or the next day to have her time with her husband. And I really hope that no one disturbs her the next time she comes back.

So today is October 24th. Next week is Halloween. Then there’s a couple quick weeks full of projects and tests, then it’s Thanksgiving. And then before I know it, it’s going to be December and I’m going to be DONE. It still feels far away, but this is gonna sneak up on me so fast!

Another Day Closer…

Another day closer to graduation. To working more hours. To getting on with my life and never having to go back to school! One day at a time. Today (being my only day off) consisted of errands that I can’t get done during the week or at night, which included finally getting my car washed, buying new wiper blades, treating my dude to new blades as well, getting lunch with him because I feel like I never get to see him, and now I’m winding down my day by doing homework/presentation project for school.

This month started the ramp up of a bunch of shit I need to get done. Definitely need to get on my readings that need to get done too, that stuffs gonna take time that I don’t have a lot of.

Work is going well now too, I mean, as well as it can be. I got to take my first “first call” on Tuesday, and that was nerve wracking to say the least! I’m not the most comfortable with answering phones, and I’ve had a hard time sometimes when trying to hear people. I think it’s dependent on whether or not they’re on a cell phone, but I have a really hard time understanding them sometimes. Luckily, the hospice nurse I was talking to was calm, and I think that brought down my nerves just a little.

A little pat on my back, or a toot of my own horn if you will, but I think I’m making leaps and bounds at work passed other people that have been there a little longer than me. It’s nice to finally feel a little more comfortable too, and I bet if I worked more days in a week than I do, I would’ve been comfortable faster. This post was kind of a blah blah blah, word vomit, bored on a Sunday night, but I wanted to get on here and write something down. So I did 🙂 SO THERE.

Just keep swimming…

3fe296fa7ec5d0d3f7b9b2f5e9748e46I worked my first (hectic) Saturday at work. My schedule before was Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, but they moved me from Sunday to Saturday’s for the month for more experience. This Saturday I opened, next Saturday I close, so on and so forth for October. It was pretty exhausting since I closed on Friday and had to be right back there, but it was worth it. I helped assist in a viewing on Friday night, and then helped with the service on Saturday. I wasn’t technically the assistant on the service, but the director was pretty happy to have another set of hands for the day.

The chapel was packed and we were bringing in all of the chairs we could spare. I helped moved flower stands and vases out of the chapel when it was over because we had another service in less than an hour. The second service was much smaller, but still very rewarding to be apart of. I was a little more hands on with the second one since there was only one service director on it, and it was nice being apart of it. I like working mornings only for the fact that I can come home and have a night, but man I was worn out.

School is starting to catch up with me as well. We have a couple projects that are coming up that we need to get on. And by “we”, I mean me. I’m being very stubborn with myself and procrastinating more than I want to. The project should be something that I take very seriously, but I’ve got no motivation to start on it.

I did have a great time in lab on Thursday though! We had a full autopsied case! The embalming 1 students who started on him in the morning found the arteries and tied them off, and then embalmed the arms and legs. But all the “good stuff” was left for us embalming 2 kids. We embalmed up the head, and since there was a cranial autopsy, we had to make sure to stop any and all leakage for maximum distribution.

I got to be the one to put the organs, that were marinating in cavity fluid, back into the body! It was definitely a surreal feeling placing organs and absorbing chemicals back into the abdominal cavity. And just when I thought it was over flowing and it couldn’t take anymore, we sutured it all back together (I did an amazing baseball suture if I do say so myself!) and it was like nothing was wrong. Well, besides the fact that the Y-incision was on their body, you would never have thought there was anything wrong with the internal organs.

Hypodermically injecting fluids into the splayed open flaps was a little unsettling as well. You wouldn’t want the body to be decomposing in one place and embalmed in another, so you gotta do whatcha gotta do! After they were put all back together and cleaned and wrapped up, I couldn’t believe it was the same person, and THAT is what gets me excited about my job! Being able to give someone the gift of a loved one as they remember them has got to be one of the most rewarding feelings. Granted, this person might never be reunited with their family, assuming they had some around, and I won’t be able to ever meet the family, but I hold in my heart that if that were to happen, they’d be happy with our work.

Moral of this post: I’m getting more confident at work, I need to take projects at school a little more seriously, and I need to make sure I graduate in 2 months…2 MONTHS! I can and will do this…flat1000x1000075f