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Poverty Pornography

Me playing Angry Birds with a young Guatemalan. Photo credit Jessica Chenevey Shyba.

Today I saw children destined for a greatness that will go unrealized.  Undernourished until the age of three or four, their bodies will remain in an underdeveloped state where body, mind and spirit will be delayed from now until death.  In this area of Guatemala, 9 out of 10 children suffer from this debilitating chronic malnutrition.

Ultimately, they suffer from poverty.  And when I say “poverty” your mind may conjure up photos and videos that act – in some way – like poverty pornography.  These imagines depict a situation with all the flesh and emotion without the person.  You’ve seen plenty of poverty porn on commercials that attempt to guilt you into sponsoring a poor kid with graphic images of “poverty.”  Or that god-awful traumatizing Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial that guilts you into adopt 100 homeless dogs and cats.  I want to move beyond the starving puppies and move towards the humanity in poverty.

Poverty isn’t just basketball bellied African children with flies hovering around their desperate imploring eyes.

And those who are impoverished aren’t so because they are evil, or because God has cursed them or because they have a bad case of the stupid.

Poverty isn’t simply a lack of financial means.  Nor is it caused by a LACK of hard work, responsibility, character or godliness.

Poverty isn’t always a choice brought on by people who would rather sit on their couches than work an honest day’s labor.

And poverty IS NOT something you can climb out of all on your own.  You can’t just get out of it with an “I can do this all by myself” good ‘ol ‘Merican attitude.

Those in poverty are not deficient human beings who are on a lower rung in the echelon of human evolution … one step above the really smart sign language monkeys.  They are people just like you and like me.  Well, except they haven’t watched the latest Breaking Bad episode … and they probably know nothing about the iPhone 5s and 5c release.

“Those people” are the people who go hungry because they’ve given all their portion to their malnourished children.

People who work harder than you and I and yet still don’t have enough funds to provide the basic nourishment needed for the physical and mental development of their children.

Like the family I met today.  The husband walks from farm to farm looking for stable work, waking at 5 AM and coming home at dark, while his wife tends the children and their garden of corn and beans at home.

These are people who believe in Fate because they have no control over the outcome of their sick child.  With no access to healthcare, it’s “que sera sera” (now that song will be stuck in your head all day … mwahahaha).  There is no fix for sickness, no doctor for healing and no saving grace of medicine.  There is what will be, be it life or death.

And this impoverishment produces a cycle of generation poverty.

When a child has chronic malnourishment and the permanent physical and mental delay that comes with it, there isn’t any opportunity here in Guatemala for him or her to be anything more than a low paid worker, or – worse yet – a gang member.

This is the reality.  And it’s not nice.  Of course poverty exists in America, but this isn’t America’s poverty.  There’s no brush that I can use to paint rainbows and unicorns on this canvas.  The picture is gut wrenching, dark and sad.

This isn’t the life they want, nor is it a life they can choose to escape.  The reality is this: people in poverty need the help of you and me.  It’s just how it is.  Let them realize the greatness God intends.  Join me with World Vision.

Can Grief Hide and Come Back Later?

I was recently asked this question by one of my followers:

Will grief hide itself and come back later?

And, while I was thinking about my answer, this picture showed up in my life to confirm what I was already thinking.

“Life is a spiral. Not a Circle.”

We live in a culture that doesn’t always honour the grieving process and usually much sooner than is good for us we are thrown back into work and our other roles.

We are forced to develop coping mechanisms so we can get through the day in a socially acceptable way. ie. not crying in front of a table you are serving (I did that once ;) )

“Life is a spiral. Not a Circle.”

This means that even though we may push our feelings of grief away (as a very intelligent coping mechanism) Yes. it will resurface to be healed (sometimes at the most inopportune moment ;) )

This is a blessing in disguise. Life/the universe/whatever you want to call it has your best interest at heart. It wants you to heal and will continue to give you the opportunity to heal until the work is done.
I know, perhaps not what you wanted to hear, but once the work is done I’m living proof that grief actually can improve your life.

So what do you do about it?

I’d like to offer you some potent tools to keep in mind for the next time the spiral comes around.
Child's Pose

1. Remember to breathe.I would choose Ujayi breath which is calming to the nervous system. (You can watch this video for 3 calming breaths). Bonus points if you do your breathing in Child’s pose which will further the relaxing effect.

2. Give yourself permission to grieve. Feel your feelings as they come up without any judgement. Let go of resistance and allow yourself the space and time you need to process. Let the feelings (whatever they are) bubble up so they can be released. Cry. Scream. Journal. Trust your instincts and do what feels right for you.

3. Get support. People really do want to help; but, you may have to ask for it. A simple  available, “Can I have a hug” can work wonders. (Remember: I’m always here for you)

Be gentle on yourself. Be Kind. Healing is a process you are doing a beautiful job.

Big Love + Hugs,

Nicky xo


Today’s post was written by Nicky C Jones, B.Ed, YTT, who helps women make peace with grief one softer symptom at a time…
<After losing her boyfriend to cancer and her mother to suicide within a 13 month period, Nicky was stricken by how little support there was for her.  She felt desperately alone, like no one really got it and unable to grieve authentically. Because of this she is on a mission to hold a safe space for women who are grieving while offering them tools to soften their symptoms in the most self-loving and holistic way possible.  Nicky is a skilled teacher, yoga teacher, yoga therapist, energy worker and Thai massage practitioner who wants nothing more than to lift the stigma of grief in our society one beautiful woman at a time.  Be sure to visit her website at for free tips & tools and instant access to her video “Reclaim your Joy”.

So, You Wanna Be a Mortician?

The following post will be my attempt to destroy your dreams of becoming a funeral director.  If you can make it to the end of this incredibly pessimistic post and your dreams are still intact, then maybe – just maybe – this “profession” is right for you.  I know I’ll get push back from other funeral directors / embalmers who will say I’m wrong on this or that — or that I’m being too negative — but the purpose of this post isn’t to encourage you, it’s to help you see if indeed this work is for you.

One.  Nobody who “wants” to be a funeral director will make it.

It isn’t something you want in the way that you want a boy/girlfriend or a new car.  No.  It’s more like marriage.  It’s a commitment that’s intended to last.  It’s not a job … nor is it just a profession … this business is a lifestyle.  And if you’re not ready to marry it, then move to another job that demands a less committed relationship.

Two.  Unless you’re born into a family business (God help you), it’s tough to get your foot in the door.

I don’t know which is worse: being born into a family business and being pulled into the death machine or actually wanting to enter the death machine on your own initiative.  The irony is this: those who are born into it don’t always want what’s being given to them; and those who want to be in this business are hardly ever given anything … they’ve got to earn it.

And some will earn it by pulling the night shift; others will start with washing hearses, mowing lawns and making trips to Wal-Mart to buy a cheap bra for Ms. Smith (whose family forgot to send one along with her clothes); and still others will be stuck making pick up after pick up after pick up.  Others may earn it by learning how much cream and sugar the other staff want in their Starbucks coffee.

And once you’ve put in ten years, you might eventually be allowed to do the meaningful stuff like meeting with families, etc.  And then you’ll be able to command other people to get you your coffee!  Power!

Three.  You won’t make much money.

Funeral home owners make decent money.  Unless you’re an owner, expect less than a nontenured public school teacher’s salary.  I know, I know … everyone thinks we’re loaded with the bills, when actually we’re just loaded with school loans and a lot of caffeine.

Four.  If you’re lazy and don’t have an intense work ethic, don’t apply.

You know what they call a lazy funeral director?  They call ‘em dead.  Because the only time most funeral directors quit working is when they die or get maimed by a unicorn.

Five.  If you’re not a patient person ….

Have you ever been around grieving people?  At times grieving people act like they’re out of their minds.  And, there’s times when grieving people can act … well … they act kinda crazy.  And it’s their right.  In fact, it’s the reason WE exist.  Their world has been pulled out from under them, they haven’t a foot to stand on and everything that they used to know is suddenly … gone.  And you’re here to help create semblance in the crazy.

And if you don’t have the patience to walk with a person whose mind is clouded with grief then funeral service isn’t for you.

Six.  You need to be a (somewhat) stable person.

I’m not really sure what a stable person is; but I do know what an unstable person is. An unstable person doesn’t know how to show up to work on time because he or she has been out drinking the night before with his or her friends.

An unstable person brings personal relationship issues into work.  “OMG, I know exactly what it’s like to lose a spouse ‘cause last night my girlfriend left me.  You and me are like soo going through the same stuff right now.”

An unstable person loses their cool too easily.  “Hey you in the second row!  I told you to turn your damn cell phone off during the service.  You’re interrupting everyone!”

Seven.  Getting your license can be complicated.

Each state’s (in the US) requirements for licensure is different.  Some states make distinctions between embalmers and funeral directors.  Some require three years of education, some less and others more.  Some states don’t even have a Mortuary School.  Most states (all states?) also require you to have an internship before you’re licensed.  And then there is the state test and the national test that you have to take.  And some states make you learn how to embalm a Sasquatch … because in some states Sasquatch actually does exist and it’s a well kept secret that Sasquatches like to be embalmed.

Eight.  You hit your pinnacle in this “profession” when you get older.

Generally, you work with older people and older people prefer to work with people within their generation.  So, it can be hard for a younger person to establish themselves in this business, but it’s very possible.  There’s no 18 year old prodigies in funeral service because being a funeral director is about life experience, not business acumen.

Nine.  It will be tough on your family.

Holidays.  Baseball games.  Weekends.  Death keeps no schedule and neither will you.  If you work for a larger funeral home, you may be able to work shifts.  But shift work in the funeral business is not normal shift work.  If you want to enter the funeral business, make sure both you and your family are prepared to see less of each other.

Ten.  There’s bad smells.

You take those smells home with you.

If you made it this far with your hopes intact, click here for Ten Reasons I’m a Funeral Director.


The Undertaker

(The gender pronouns are slightly outdated in this poem, but it’s easy enough to substitute she for he.)
Written by Darlene Rush

This is for the undertaker,
Whose story is sad to tell,
For what he does is never mentioned,
and often overlooked as well.
He’s not at all what you might picture,
He’s not wrinkled, old and gray.
His face is not the pasty white,
Like storybooks portray.

Some people laugh and make their jokes,
And some turn up their nose,
And many think that he is strange,
For the life that he has chose.

But there are many things that they don’t see,
And even more that they don’t know.
Like all the nights he gets no rest,
But never lets it show.

I have seen him work both day and night,
With no time to eat or sleep.
To care for those in mourning,
And comfort those who weep.

The load he carries on his shoulders,
Is more than you or I could bear.
But he always seems to find the time,
To show you that he cares.

So when you see the undertaker,
Make sure you see the man,
That does the job that no one wants
And that no one understands.

Take the time to shake his hand,
And a moment to just say “hi.”
I think you’ll find the undertaker,
Is just an ordinary guy.

How to Plan for Death

For most people, planning for death isn’t their choice way of spending an afternoon. Most people avoid the thought altogether, until they get older and accept death as just another part of life. As most people know, your death doesn’t only affect you; it affects everyone that you surround yourself with, and it’s important that you leave this world on good terms. There are many ways to make amends with your loved ones before passing, but of these things are a few that stand out above the rest.


All fuzzy feelings aside, preparing yourself and your family financially for death is one of the most important things you can do with your last remaining years. There is a list a mile long of ways to ready yourself and your loved ones for your passing, and it’s crucial that you square as much of it away as you can beforehand. Death comes quick, and if you aren’t ready, it can wreak havoc on your finances.

  • Funeral plan insurance from GIO and other similar companies can be beneficial in paying off funeral costs, debts and any other expenses during the grieving process.

  • Drawing up a will as far in advance is possible is highly recommended as a way to settle disputes over your estate and assets upon dying.

  • The earlier you start planning, the more money you’ll have to leave for your family. For those that don’t plan, expect over 40% of your assets to be claimed by taxes.


Death is a scary, confusing thing for everyone involved. It takes years to understand, and even as you near your death bed, there are countless questions to be asked. During this time, for your sake, and the sake of those around you, opening a dialogue about death can help ease the tension. It may be a fearful time, but it’s also a time where you can speak freely and grow even closer to the people in your life.

  • Having the talk isn’t easy for anyone, but only you can speak to what you’re going through. So, use this as an opportunity to tell people how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing.

  • If anyone has questions about death, answer thoughtfully and insightfully. Unless there’s someone you know dying right next to you, you’re the authority on death and can therefore offer insight as to what it feels like.

  • Always remember to be open-minded, and encourage your loved ones to be as well. Discussion is important, but it also needs to be respectful.

Make Peace

It may sound cliché, but as death looms, it’s up to you to make peace with yourself and others. The concept itself is very vague and subjective, but it is an important part of the process nonetheless. Although easy to take for granted, making peace offers an opportunity to both atone for possible wrongdoings in the past and to celebrate all the joys that you experienced in your life.

  • There’s not a particular right or wrong way to make peace. It’s mostly about acceptance of the inevitable by all parties.

  • Before you can really make peace with yourself, you have to make peace with other people. This can be your immediate family, friends or even people from your past that you haven’t connected with in a long time.

  • If there are bridges you have burned, building them back up to reconnect with people is important as you break on through to the other side. Don’t overextend yourself, but think back on how you have affected other people’s lives and reach out to those that you have influenced the most, and those that have been influenced by you.

Death is one of the most terrifying aspects of being a human being. No one wants to go through it, but unfortunately, it’s more inevitable than you think. So, before you croak, make sure that you’re taken care of, and more importantly, that those around you are taken care of. You only have so much life to live, but if you make the best of it, you’ll be able to live on forever as a memory.


Today’s guest post is from Chris Jensen.  Chris is a freelance writer and life insurance adviser. His family means the world to him and he’ll do anything to ensure a bright future for them.

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