Yes ladies and gentleman, today I went out into the wild world to garner material, and also to do some errands that were overdue. Here are the highlights:


I went to the Monument Store. You know the one (yup). I was helped by the same very knowledgable, matter of fat fact woman. She is still quite helpful and quite enormous. I still wondered where she finds shirts that fit her.


I ordered up a grave marker for my mom. You may be wondering, “But lisa, didn’t your mom die in 2005?” And you would be right. She did die in October of 2005. Need I remind you that, first of all, it was late in 2005. Secondly (a nod to my mom who hated me to say ‘second of all’) I left this task to one of my sisters who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with Erin,and who was unable to complete it. Thirdly, I’m just barely getting by managing my own life, so get off my case. Lastly, I was busy managing her estate and her unimaginably complex and weird survivors.

But when my grandpa called inquiring if we needed help with paying for a marker because he had been to the plot and there was no marker, well, things got more urgent and done adequately was better than stunningly un-done. Nothing like a little shame to light a fire under my butt.

It’s going to have my mom’s name (her born name, maiden name), Susan Elizabeth Dunn, her birth year and the year of her death. It will have a celtic tree of life inscribed into it on the front face, and the names of all 4 kids and 11 grandkids on the back.


I’m seeking advice on a couple of things, because the final text is changeable for the next week or so:

First, is the maiden name thing OK? She never changed her name back from her second husband’s name, and never took her third husband’s name, so it seems weird to put either of those. Am I breaking any big taboo by reverting to her maiden name?

Second, we planned to put “Mom and Grandma to” …. And all the names, but she was Daughter, Sister, Wife, Friend, Mom and Grandma, so is it too busy to put all those things? I went with just mom and grandma because that was typical, but the other things were just as important. Any opinions from those who know us or those who don’t? This is where comments would be really appropriate.

So there is the Monumental Errand. Done mostly.

Next, I had to try to find a sunscreen that won’t give me zits. Another part of aging that sneaked up on me is the fact that my face doesn’t tan any more. It splotches. As if someone smacked me with a henna teabag on the forehead. So I’ve taken to wearing a hat with a wide brim almost everywhere. And I’m no longer young enough to make it a statement. I’m just another middle aged woman in a hat. I might even qualify as officially eccentric.

The guy who cut my hair said shell out the dough and go to the department store cosmetics counter (something I am loathe to do) and ask for a good sunscreen that won’t give you zits. He was right, of course, because at Herbergers they will take back your sunscreen if you don’t like it, unlike Walgreens. I got some stuff, and I’ll get back to you about if it is zitless, but let me tell you about the woman who helped me. My God! The real world is interesting.

Young woman, in her late 20s, lots of make-up. Dressed all in black, capri leggings and fishnets stockings, over high heels, with a black lab-coat thing over it all. This is all pretty standard. But when Iasked her about a good sunscreen that won’t give me zits on my face, she looked at me and started to talk about what might work for my skin type. Every time I looked up, she was looking at my neck, which I took to be some sort of make-up counter trick she had been taught about calculating skin type. It made me a little worried about how my neck looked, but that was fleeting.

She had me follow behind her wobbly heeled-fishneted self to a different counter, and then she leaned over the counter and said, “Do you think it ‘s the titanium zinc oxide that is making your skin react?” I’ve forgotten the actual substance she said, because this time when I looked at her, I realized with a very disturbed sensation that she was (get this) Still Looking At My Neck! Or maybe it was my shoulder, but it was never, in fact, my face.

For the rest of my distracted description of what I wanted in a sunscreen (sun blockage and no zits), I kept trying to catch her eye. She never waivered from looking at my neckish-shoulder area. She smiled and furrowed her brow at all the right places in the conversation. Her posture was attentive. She just never looked me in the eye. Never.


In case you don’t know. When you talk to people there is a standard polite way to make eye-contact. Babies know it. Children know it. Make-up counter women are almost always good at it. No one has to tell you to make better eye-contact, for the most part. Too much, and it makes people nervous and intimidated, too little they get nervous and suspicious. Although I recently read that men love lots of eye contact from women.

We’ll set aside Native American cultures and the Orient for the sake of this discussion. No let’s not. Even in those cultures, you either look down, averting your gaze, or you make fleeting eye contact. There is no culture in the world where the right thing is to look at the other person’s neck. None. Shoulders? No. Chest? Only in the bar scene.

And let me tell you, there are only three possibilities here. Either I had something horrible on my neck (believe me, I checked), she had some sort of brain disorder, or she was doing a college research project on how people react when you stare at their neck. I bought my 30 dollar sunscreen, which was tinted, even though I said I wanted un-tinted, and got the hell out of there. She came over, cocked her head and smiled at my neck and said, “do you wear lipgloss?” offering me a free sample. I didn’t look at the color,didn’t blink, “Yes. Yes I do. Thanks.” Damn it was disturbing.

I do feel a little tricked, because now I have tinted sunscreen with an SPF of 15, when I wanted a clear one with an spf of 30, but what the hell. I’m not sure I’m willing to go back. When I asked if I could return the stuff she was suggesting, she said, “Oh yeah, I’m the manager of this counter, just ask for me.” Brutal.


12 thoughts on “Errands

  1. David says:

    I think the name thing is a good idea. It was the name given to her at birth. It is respectful to your grandfather and her siblings.

    As for the other conent…

    “Mother and grandmother to…” is very nice. But, if more grandchildren were to come along, would you / could you have them added?

    “Daughter, Sister, Wife, Friend, Mom and Grandma” is also very nice, but if you are going to start adding names, where do you draw the line… Your mom was “friend” to so many people! The “Daughter, Sister, Wife, Friend, Mom and Grandma” by itself (without adding names) does sound nice too.

    So here is what you need to do. Go on a “Spirit Quest” or “Vision Quest” of sorts… Send everyone away. Dark out the room, turn on some meditative or new age music, light a couple of candles, burn some insence (or aroma therapy), have a nice picture of your mom with you, maybe a glass of wine (or two) to help fuel the cerebral synaptic receptors. Give yourself an hour. Focus on your mom. Pray, reflect, meditate, or channel what you feel best represents your mom. Make it a positive experience! You will know what to do.

    Do as much or as little of the above as you need to really focus on your mom. I have a feeling one way or another – she will let you know what to do.

  2. lisa says:

    When I channel my mom, she says, “Jeezus Christ, just give me the cash.” She was never sentimental in that way. But the stone is for the living. So I had to have her talk to the hand.
    Andy says, do all the things, but only list the kids and grandkids by name. I’m still taking advices.

  3. David says:

    Seems like a reasonable compromise.

    I, like your mom, am a bit more practical. Since the funeral ritual is more about the living, and the cemetary portion is also more about the living (and, truthfully – for about two generations. Anything past grandchildren – and it’s family genealogists that’s are the only ones who care.) Why sink that much cash into the ground…

    BTW – when you channel your mom she says she wants the cash? Hmmm.. I always assumed that we would not need currency in “the afterlife” (whatever that may be)….

    Maybe your mom is trying to tell you that you CAN take it with you when you go!

  4. emily says:

    i, too, approve of the maiden name. it seems to me a graceful way of acknowledging she was always the same person, even though her name changed a few times.

    i had a friend in college who had just the merest hint of social anxiety. she told me once that she avoided eye contact, but instead imagined a triangle from the shoulders to the nose and looked anywhere in that triangle. hmm. sounds like she was going around making a lot of people nervous and suspicious. 🙂

  5. emily says:


  6. lisa says:

    I get your point, dave about the dead not needing currency. But I assumed that when I channeled her, I was channeling the alive her. I’ve got this all horked up. But I do think it will be OK in the end.

  7. lisa says:

    Em, social anxiety or no, it really does make people nervous. We’re hardwired to notice a gaze moving, even momentarily from our eyes. We can tell even a quarter inch off the eyes. It it’s quick, it won’t really register much.
    But if your friend was really not making eye contact most of the time, my humble opinion is that she could have been feeding her own social anxiety. She was nervous;, she didn’t act quite normal (and it only takes a little of some things), so it made people nervous, which registered back to her as bad feedback and so she got more nervous…
    We can be grateful for the things we don’t stop to think about, and most of us just do right. Like where your tongue belongs when you sleep. Should it fall backwards if you’re on your back and to the side when you are on your side?If we think about these things they have the potential to really disturb (some of ) us.

  8. David says:

    I think when you sleep on your side, your tongue falls out and wicks drool out of your mouth and on to your pillow.

    Then the pillow soaks it up over night, and it is slowly difused through the whole pillow and (because of the heat your head generates) the drool evaporates. You awake in the morning, all refreshed and happy – oblivious of the wicking and evaporating that went on all night!

    That’s what I think!

    (FYI – The currency deal was ment to be a funny!) You’ve got it just fine, AND you will get it right in the end. Stop worrying!!

    Emily… Hey – Nice smile! (grin)

    Anyway – I’m outta here – heading up to Ed’s place in Duluth on my days off – gonna do some smokin’ and some drinkin’ and some roofin’. (I took three days to help him put a new roof on his house! (I just hope I dont deep fry myself in my own fat up on the roof!))

    I’ll be out of touch until then. Let me know what you decided on!!
    Until then, I’ll bid you lovely ladies a fond farewell.

  9. David says:

    Lisa, what did you decided to do?

  10. tikkunknitter says:

    I am creating a set of knitting projects based on the Tree of LIfe to support a community art project, the TikkunTree ( Your celtic Tree of Life design would be spectacular if translated into knitted cables … may we use it to honor both your mother’s memory (I would be glad to include her name in the pattern) and the hope for peace?

  11. Rochelle says:


    My name is Rochelle Jones. I live in West Chester PA where i attend college. I have been looking for a celtic tree of life that just hit me in the right way. The history behind the symbol has grown on me so much that i in fact plan on getting a tattoo on my back of it. Your tree of life is the most beautiful but very simple and elegant. I would really love to make that my tattoo. I planned on getting it done next friday the 22nd of Febuary 2008. If you could maybe get back to be before then by email i would be very thankful. Thank you so much


  12. Stephanie says:

    Ms. Lisa,
    I too am very interested in your celtic tree and was wondering where it came from and if you would mind if I used it in some of my home decorations? I have a wonderfully beautiful Meade Hall ( a traditional gather place for merry making and song) that my husband built and on either side of the fireplace is wood boxes that I have been fretting over getting the right kind of door for. I wanted to know if I had your permission. I also plan on a tattoo in my life and this is one of the most elegant tree designs I have come across. Please lt me know if these requests are acceptable and accept my admiration of your work. Thank you,

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