Listening to Laila El-Hadaad was incredibly interesting.  As a journalist, blogger, Gaza activist and mom, Laila is an inspiration to women everywhere.  Like she said in her opening, not many people are aware of what is happening in Palestine.  Most people, myself included, are limited to thinking about bombings, drones, war and poverty.  I appreciated her idea of what Palestine is actually like once you got over the wall and peeked inside of any apartment building.  It is easy to forget how to be compassionate and humane for other people, especially when what you hear in the media is mostly bad publicity.  It is also easy to be ignorant of other’s situations when they are not in your backyard.  In the end though, we are all human beings and we are all deserving of happiness and safety. 

As a major “foodie”, I really enjoyed learning about Palestinian cuisine.  The food Laila brought with her was delicious.  The tomato and cucumber salad was my favorite.  It was full of flavor, vibrant and alive.  I purchased a copy of the book Gaza Mom, and I’ll be testing out some of the recipes soon! 



I am currently banging my head against my desk. I am struggling to complete this outline for my 6 page narrative essay combining observation and research. Maybe I am thinking too hard about the outline, as Professor Kizzier did mention it is an informal outline. Outlines generally always help, as your information is strategically laid out for you before you begin to write and structure sentences.

I need to incorporate my observations and my research into a fluid 6 page essay. I have spent several hours personally observing a funeral home as well as an actual funeral. I have researched a lot about the benefits of green burials, family owned funeral homes vs corporate funeral homes, environmental statistics about modern funeral practices, cremation pollution and the booming world population (who will all certainly die). I am still unsure of what to do next. I am having a hard time trying to incorporate what is needed without sounding clunky. As of now, I don’t feel that my research and observations flow together as well as I want. I am trying to find ways to add tidbits of factual research or statistics in to my own stories. I also am trying to figure out how to add vivid description in without, yet again, sounding all over the place and clunky.

Hopefully with just some more editing and writing, I can make this happen. Six pages sounds intimidating right now, but the final paper will be five pages which means one page will be eliminated. That one page hopefully will be full of the clunky, sloppy writings that are currently plaguing me.



For my immersion project on being a funeral director, I found several controversial subjects within the topic. One argument could be made regarding family owned funeral homes versus corporate funeral homes. Another controversial issue stems from the basic decision of burial or cremation. A third interesting subject of pre-planned funerals versus no arrangements prior to death came to mind. I decided I was most interested in the argument between “green” (aka natural) burials and traditional burials.

First, I want to point out that while I called it a “traditional” burial, it is actually not traditional at all. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is a phrase we are all familiar with yet modern funeral practices prevent our bodies from returning to the earth. A truly traditional burial is more of a green burial, opting for a plain pine casket or shroud and being buried in a green cemetery or even on rural land. In older times, a deceased was actually laid out in the home for relatives and friends to view. The body was not embalmed.

Money is always important in life so why would it not be an important factor in death? An average funeral costs about $10,000 whereas a green burial starts at about $2,000. It is a significant amount of money saved or spent. Many people do not pre-plan their funeral arrangements and many cannot afford the cost of a funeral service. When they pass away, it is the family members that have to take the financial burden on. Personally, even if I had enough money to blow, I would prefer my family members be able to keep and spend that money to how they see fit. I would rather that difference of a possible $8,000 be put into my grandchildren’s college fund.

The environmental impacts of funeral services are astounding. We fill our cemeteries with thousands and thousands of tons of steel, endangered wood, and toxic chemicals. We even allow our bodies to be filled with embalming fluid, which contains many cancer causing chemicals. I know I am dead, but I still squirm at the idea of all those chemicals coursing through my body. The National Cancer Institute reported that morticians have an extremely high risk of developing leukemia due to working with embalming fluid. The Environmental Protection Agency lists formaldehyde (one of the chemicals in embalming fluid) as a known carcinogen. Even with cremation, many toxins are released into the air. Remember all those fillings you got when you had cavities? Those fillings are poisonous in our air.

We plan every aspect of our life and many American trends recently revolve around being “green” and sustainable. Why do we let our future death go by the wayside? We can plan our “last party” if you will, and we can plan it to be environmentally sound. We need to protect the earth, while we are here and even after we are gone.





1. Options for Green Burials on the Rise by Tasnim Shamma. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/08/26/green-burial-options-increase.html

In “Options for Green Burials on the Rise” Tasnim Shamma reports on the interest of going green extending to funeral practices. The author elaborates on the growing percentage of adults now choosing green burials generally consisting of a biodegradable casket. Shamma speculates that the decision to have a green burial stems from the high cost of typical funeral services and caskets as well as the negative environmental impact that cremation causes through air pollution. Shamma informs on the growing number of green cemeteries. Tasnim Shamma also reports on some states having approved the practice of resomation, also known as “biocremation” which emits no carbon.


“Marrying Absurd” struck a personal chord for me.  Last year, I had the awesome experience of being part of a wedding in Las Vegas.  My mom and her boyfriend of ten years had finally decided to bite the bullet and get married.  My twin brother lives in Los Angeles so Las Vegas sounded like a good compromise, as far as location went, to be able to have my brother attend.  Having been married once before, both my mother and Bob thought Las Vegas would be a simple and painless place to officiate their love for eachother.  We had a blast.  


The author researched marrying in Las Vegas through a personal observation.  In several paragraphs, she notes her observations.  “One night about eleven o’clock in Las Vegas I watched a bride in an orange minidress and masses of flame colored hair stumble from a Strip chapel on the arm of her bridegroom,” she writes.  In another observation, she recalls another wedding party she encountered.  “I sat next to one such wedding party in a Strip restaurant the last time I was in Las Vegas.”  


Peppered in through the essay is factual information about the services that people seek in Las Vegas.  The author includes details about the laws regarding marriage in Clark County, Nevada.  It is also noted that “The Clark County Courthouse issues marriage licenses at any time of the day or night except between noon and one in the afternoon, between eight and nine in the evening, and between four and five in the morning.”  The actual facts regarding marrying in Las Vegas seem to be researched from the Courthouse itself.  

The mix of observation and factual recorded information allow for a compelling story that is not just an observation or solely textbook information.


The frame of “How to Get Out of a Locked Trunk” by Philip Weiss would be the course of one “hot Sunday”.  While Philip also includes information on several other afternoons, the story starts with and ends on this particular Sunday, where Philip experiments with being locked inside of a car trunk.  He avoids the cookbook method of writing by including details surrounding the steps of getting out of the trunk.  He does not simply just list the ways he was able to escape the trunk.  In addition, he explains what the lock in Emmett’s Mercury Grand Marquis looks like.  He explains that “when you shut the lid, the jaws locked on to the bend of a U-shaped piece of metal mounted on the body of the car.”  He also tests his experiment on a few other cars, and he even decides against one last try as he unloads the BMW that is filled with his and his fiance’s belongings.  He notes that “there seemed to be some kind of cable coming off it that you might be able to manipulate so as to cause the lock to open.”  I think that the main idea of the story is about Philip’s “question that had been nagging me:  Is it possible to get out of a locked car trunk?”  Even though we learn information about his friend Tony’s picture project, and he also mentions his upcoming nuptials, the main point of the story is to answer that original question.  Through several experiments and some research contacting different people such as Jim Frens, from Car and Driver magazine or Debra Barclay of the Cter for Auto Safety, we were able to conclude that yes, it is possible.


I think the frame for “How Susie Bayer’s T-Shirt Ended Up on Mama Yusuf’s Back” by George Packer extended about the course of a week.  I would suggest to say that the frame of this story is from the moment the shirt was donated to the time it ended up in Africa and then retailed again.  I think it’s important to note that the story involves many details about all the places the shirt winds up and how many people interact with the shirt from the start of the process to the end.  The cookbook method is avoided here because George Packer avoids giving us the basic steps of the donation and shipment process.  As I was reading the story, I almost forgot that I was indeed being taught what happens during this process.  There was so much detail that at first didn’t seem to matter as far as the end result but indeed did matter.  We actually don’t even meet the title character, Mama Yusuf, til the end of the story.  The main point of this story was to the show the journey that a donated item of clothing goes on once it leaves the original owner’s possession.  From start to finish, we see where it leaves, visits and ends up.  Not only did Susie Bayer have contact with the t-shirt, but so did George Packer, Marilyn Balk, Virginia Edelman, Eric Stubin, Mama Prossy and Philip Nandala before winding up the property of Mama Yusuf.  A single old t-shirt traveled across several continents, leaving one to start a new life of wear on another. 


In both stories, the authors aim to teach us about the original topic (how to get out of a locked trunk or the journey of a donated t-shirt).  Instead of just fixating on that topic, they include information and vivid details that relate to the topic. 


The House With A View

     I’ve only lived here for a year but my neighborhood fills me with a sense of nostalgic peace.  I live on a quiet street, set against Frog Mortar Creek.  Across the vast creek, through the bare branched trees, I can see the runway at Martin’s Airport.  The planes look like Matchbox toys and every so often, one departs, lifting into the air with ease.  As I sit on my rain splattered porch, I watch a plump grey bird pecking at the fruit of a holly tree.  Next door, my teenage neighbor Adam works ardently in his shed, fixing the engine of his ATV.  Adam’s mother, Patrice, arrives home and as she waves to me, I breathe in the fresh air and wave back.  As I take in the serenity of my little neighborhood, I think of the saying: Home Sweet Home.