One of the things that my mom did really well was to teach her children frugality. While it was not a predetermined goal of hers, it certainly was a necessity.

Our childhood years were marked by difficult times and Mom did her best to take up the slack. We didn’t have expensive cuts of meat on the table, our Christmases were often lean, and our clothes seldom came to us new with the tags still on. But she didn’t complain about it, so it just seemed like our lifestyle was normal.

I believe that since she didn’t complain, as we entered our teen years, the “hunt” of the garage sale and the thrift stores was truly a fun thing for us. It was a great adventure to see how far we could stretch our dollars. I came through those years feeling as though I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted. Even still as I go “hunting” I frequently end the day feeling as though God put something in a shop especially and specifically for me.

Frugality is truly a great life lesson.

This life lesson has carried through all stages of my life — even into the present day. Serving a small community in funeral directing is a very fulfilling life. However, it is not the lucrative life that one might think. Yet we have done remarkably well in raising our children, renovating our facilities, and giving back to our community through this life. I believe that God has not only provided the funds, but He has also stretched our dollars in memorable ways.

The latest big thing in our lives is that we are building an addition onto one of our funeral homes. This, too, is proving to be a great adventure to see how far we can stretch our dollars! Sometimes we have the money we need for certain things. Sometimes we re-evaluate to determine if this thing that we thought we needed is really a need. And sometimes God just stretches our dollars to bring an idea to fruition.

My funeral director husband does an amazing job as a general contractor. When you calculate the savings of doing this task himself, he has really stretched our dollars! He keeps his eyes open for less expensive ways to accomplish our objective and very often he is led to just the right solutions.

I am a good match for my husband when calculating up the dollar stretching genius. And even now, during the construction phase, I am looking ahead to the interior decorating and gleaning ideas and making a plan. It is not in my disposition to hire someone to do this portion of a project. Besides, I love creating inviting spaces…when I grow up I want to be Joanna Gaines. Throughout all the decorating plans and ideas, my mom-taught frugality continues to guide me.

As I look at our project, it is rewarding to remember those points where God has undoubtedly stretched our dollars.



Avoiding *

Yesterday’s post may have been a bit overwhelming because I just advised you what not to do. So now what, you’ve found the FTD site and located just the right arrangement. And you’ve nearly completed the ordering process only to be told that “We do not deliver in your area(!)” I understand your frustration.

Let’s not get all hung up on FTD; there is another source for flowers. The local florist. In our very rural area, we are very blessed to have several resources to go to … Doug’s Flowers, Way-to-Go Florist and Greenhouse, Kent Farms, Tami’s Floral Expressions, Hannigan’s. These florists are spread throughout our county and over into the adjacent county. Some of them will deliver to both of our locations; some to only one depending upon where they are located.

We love all of our local florists. They bring in your flowers looking so lovely and professional. If a stem gets broken along the way they provide a new one, or do what they need to in order to make the arrangement look great. They never expect the funeral director to fix a floral problem. They deliver, rain or shine, hot or cold, at just the right time all with a smile and a friendly greeting.

And we happily feature their information on our website, in the “Resources” section.

In looking at funeral home web pages, you will see that most of them offer some sort of assistance in choosing a flower source. If there is no suggestion, simply call the funeral home and ask them for referrals. It is much simpler give out a list of merchants over the phone than to be responsible for getting boxed flowers to look good in the vase.

You could choose an alternative to sending flowers. Many obituaries single out charities that were significant to the deceased. Donations to these organizations in the name of the deceased are encouraged. The organization that receives the donation will send a note to the family indicating that you sent a monetary gift, so you can be assured that your tribute is not just falling into a black hole somewhere.

You could choose to just send a card of condolence to the next-of-kin. Either to the one who is closest to the deceased or the person with whom you have a relationship. You don’t need to fill it with words. Just a simple expression that you are sorry for their loss is sufficient.

And finally, if the area supports it, in a week just order a pizza to be delivered to the family. By then everything will have quieted down, the leftovers will all be gone, and no one will yet be up to cooking.



This posting begins the new category of “unsolicited advice.” Because sometimes, you just have to say it.

Don’t send internet flowers. If it has to be UPS’d, Fedex’d or DHL Express’d … just don’t do it. Boxed flowers are not going to be a satisfying experience. I think I can give you some compelling reasons to avoid this manner of expressing your sympathy.

  1. They don’t arrive in a timely fashion. — Often, boxed flowers arrive at the funeral home at a peak activity time. This means that your funeral director and his staff are occupied with the business of preparing for a funeral. When boxed flowers arrive, someone has to devote considerable time and attention to this service. If things are going smoothly in the funeral home, then the boxed flowers will get reasonable attention. If there are complications in the funeral home, the boxed flowers will fall to a low priority.
  2. They don’t arrive IN TIME. We returned from a post-funeral dinner to find this on our porch.img_20161111_125014560
  3. The flowers require a great deal of work. Just getting the product out of the packaging is time consuming. Next, the discovery is made that all the stems come in the same length. This means either dropping the conglomeration into the vase “as is” or trimming stems — and that takes time.
  4. A beautiful bouquet is dependent upon the skills of the arranger. Funeral directors and their staff may not be (read this: are not) trained and accomplished florists. Try as we might, the end result is not going to go so well. Those stems need to be trimmed and bows fluffed and just so much primping to make a bouquet look right.
  5. The flowers are not going to arrive in good condition. Consider the weather. If it is down to freezing at night, those flowers are going to wilt. If it is below freezing at night, those flowers are going to freeze. Alternatively, if there is a heatwave, the flowers are going to show the damage. Consider the weather from where the blooms begin their journey all the way to where the journey ends. At any point in the transport, your daisies are susceptible to some sort of weather related incident. The merchandiser likes for you to believe that flowers are resilient and will “perk back up” but, well, you know.
  6. You will be disappointed. Well, if you’re sending internet flowers, chances are you won’t even see them. But the display will be a disappointing tribute of your affection. Take a look at the images below.


In the “What they got” image, you cannot tell that the rose tips are all brown.


In this example, the item that they purchased was named “Stunning White Lily” arrangement. None of the lilies were in bloom. The snapdragons were suffering from having been too cold. The directions on the box were followed exactly. This arrangement arrived about 40 minutes before calling hours. Though the box promised that warm water would induce the blooms to open, the lead time was not sufficient to make that happen. The blooms on this arrangement did emerge three days later.

The blue accents were added. Though a person could not tell it by looking, the arrangement actually looked worse without the additions.

While the marketing on the outside of the boxes pledged “Better Flowers,” I believe that the actual product fell far short of meeting the promise.

I have given you only two examples. But not once has the final result with boxed flowers led me to believe that this internet product is a good value.


The Picnic Basket

My children had never “lived in” a funeral home prior to our move to Andover, New York in 2003.

At the time, I didn’t consider what a transition that would be for them.  Suddenly we were going to have to share our house with a lot of people on a regular basis. When we first took occupancy, our personal space was only somewhat separated from the funeral space. There was no basement living space at the time. The only access to our upstairs bedrooms and the “TV room” was via the stairway inside the funeral home space.

To complicate matters, our private bathroom was upstairs. The funeral home restroom was in a very public and awkward location for the children to access.

It is not unusual for arrangements to include calling hours in the afternoon, calling hours in the evening, and then an actual service the next day. In light of this pattern of events, it became apparent that we were going to have a bit of a problem. At the time, I was homeschooling all four of our children which meant that they were home all day. So the question became, “Where are the kids going to be during all these events?”

As I have never centered our living room around an entertainment center, changing the purpose of our living room just didn’t appeal to me. Quite frankly, the “living room” was pretty small at the time, given that the majority of the space was being used for home school!

But, I could have placed an entertainment center there and somewhat solved the problem. (The bathroom issue still remained.) The complication with doing that was that when these events were not happening, our living space would be centered around an entertainment center. At the time, we were running in the neighborhood of 35 calls each year. So for conflicts of 70 or less days each year, did I really want the TV in the living room? I decided “no.”

With the configuration of the house at the time, sound from the TV was going to be a huge consideration. Having a TV in the living room just was not going to work. So, our kids were going to have to bear the burden of being inconvenienced by remaining upstairs during calling hours and funeral services.

After the first “set” of calling hours, they emerged from the TV area all in one piece, but “hungry.” Of course, if you’re watching a movie, you just have to have a snack! I’m sure they took something up with them at the beginning. But it probably just wasn’t exactly what they thought they wanted. Anyway, it became apparent for several reasons that they needed to have access to the kitchen and living room.

So, we came up with a “plan.” The kids would stay upstairs during all the aforementioned services. They were allowed a certain number of “trips through” the funeral home during each set of services. In order to go through, they had to be fully dressed, including shoes and socks, in presentable clothing, their bodies clean, and their hair brushed. Anyone who did not meet the criteria could not go through.

So, over time what we saw develop was this … our kids would set up camp in the upstairs portion of the house. They spent their time tinkering, reading, or watching a video. Occasionally, if a person watched closely, you could see a cute little preteen coming down the stairs making his or her way to the private portion of the building. After awhile, you would see that same person on a return trip with a picnic basket in hand! (Their idea, not mine!)

If my memory serves me correctly, it was usually our oldest daughter who made the food run for the whole group. But I know that each of them made some “trips through” over time.

Bud began the renovations on the Andover building in the Spring of 2003, so this format didn’t last indefinitely. While it was inconvenient for the kids, I think it was a good experience for them. And the memory is a good one for me as I think about seeing one of my smiling kiddies walking softly down the stairs and moving with consideration through the people visiting that day.

I don’t remember my children ever once complaining about the plan or the fact that they had to alter their lives for other people for a few hours. One could look at it on the surface and simply call it an inconvenience. In our house it’s just the way it was. And in my mind, it was a built in opportunity to develop poise and thoughtfulness of others.

So I’ll take a moment now and thank my children for their cooperation with “the plan.”


What’s in a Name?

So as I have been contemplating this blog, I came up against the name. A person could travel down so many paths just in the choice of a blog name — some of them not so good.

I have a creative family, so I enlisted their help. I even engaged one friend, who I find particularly creative and I think she’s still puzzling over it. From the tone of her texts, I think she was laughing her way through the dark ones and still had not turned the corner yet. Maybe someday I’ll hear about those that had her in a state of “rofl” . . .

Back to my family … I got return texts that looked like this:

The Morbid Details
Lilies and Kleenex
We Put the Fun in Funeral
Grave Situations
The Many Adventures of Christopher Funeral Mouse
“I got nothing… I gotta think on that”
Life in the Business of Death (And the author immediately recognized that it sounds like an assassin’s blog.)
Grave Stories

But “Life in the Business of Death” did get me thinking. I looked for recognizable references to death and thought of one of the most used phrases in funerals … “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death … ”  So there you have it “”

Research showed that this name with .com/.net/.org were all taken. These are the common extensions so now what? I really like the “life in the valley” part. An easy fix would be to add the word “my” … But I didn’t like that so much. So I started looking at extensions. Did you know that there are a plethora of extensions available?  As I researched, I found several interesting ones…

.coffee, .ninja, .cool, .shoes, .today, .rocks . . .

I paused on “.us” — and my conspiracy nature took over, feeling like this was putting a target on my blog. Hacker to Hacker friend: “Let’s crash all the domain names with the extensions of .us!” I know, ridiculous!

I even found “.rip” — yes, it really is there.

And the list of extensions just goes on and on . . .

And the list of extensions just goes on and on . . .

So I immediately sent that out to an analytical son-in-law and an edgy millennial daughter. My daughter loved it … … just as I thought a millennial would. My son in law pondered it and posed questions.  I considered this one for awhile … Life/rip.  Ultimately, this one died on the vine because I felt like it sent conflicting messages (but I did enjoy the chuckle.)

I am just so not wanting to add “MY” — what an easy way out … But unknown extensions? What to do, what to do…

What not to do — not doing “my.” And so, we end up with an unconventional extension.

Remember, “Life in the Valley” is a blog from me, not my funeral director husband. Therefore as I might have perspectives that he does not, I think the extension is a reminder that the “opinions and interpretations found in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of our resident funeral director.”

More than likely in five years, multiple extensions will not be a big deal. But until then, you might have trouble finding me. So, keep the name handy and share it with others too!

So, what’s in a name? A lot of research and thought!

Life in the Valley

Welcome to the first installment of what is bound to be an eclectic blog!

This site is born of a desire to remove barriers, inform, and share life from a particular perspective. My husband owns two funeral homes in Western New York. This is a very rural region of our state. In our area, it is not uncommon for a funeral director to have his residence on the property of the funeral home.

I have spent the last thirteen years living nestled all around our funeral home facility. We have living space on the main floor; our bedrooms are upstairs; our school room turned family room is in the basement.

Throughout all these sixteen years, I have assisted my husband in various ways in the funeral service. I have seen, heard and experienced many interesting things. One thing I have heard over and over is “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . ” This is the inspiration for the name of this blog.

The families that we serve are, in fact, walking through a very hard situation. Unlike them, I find that we are in this valley very frequently and it has been imperative that we have a real life while we assist others in navigating the valley.

I am not a funeral director. I do provide technical services for all of our funerals and memorial services. I am instrumental in the marketing portion of our business. I assist at funeral services and memorial services. As we are now an empty-nest family, I find that I have time for some creative aspects of our business.

It is my hope that I will share insights, humor, and information that will be uplifting and helpful. I also know that our industry has a certain threshold of mystery or fear attached to it. That doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps along the way, you will learn something that will remove the cloud for you. Of course you are welcome to ask questions…I’ll do my best to answer you.

So let the journey begin.journey