Thursday, April 28, 2011


I have always prepared for earthquakes and for tornadoes. When the children were small we had normal regular drills for these, even when the areas we lived in weren't actually tornado or earthquake hotspots. We thought it was part of well rounded disaster education and that it was much better to have your children prepared for this, than to try to calm a screaming child in a genuine emergency. The kids enjoyed our drills. How ironic that we should lose Daniel from Earth, even though we always took such great pains to keep all of our children safe.
In the last few days, tornadoes have occured in multiple states. Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia had a total of 318 tornado caused deaths (correct as of this date.) As emergency workers search rubble for more survivors,and others lie in critical condition in hospitals, this number may rise. Other tornadoes also occured in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Many people were injured. There is a great deal of destruction. This is not over, as there are tornado watches for today here as well.
Last night was the busiest tornado evening I can recall. Our farm was in the approximate path of one tornado, moving from the South to the Northeast, and then only a few minutes later, we were very close to an even larger one which moved from our West on a Northwesterly course. The pictures posted here are of many different types of tornadoes in many different places, but ours were very broad, not the thin variety. Fortunately, I had e-mailed all the kids during the day of the tornado warnings, and everyone came home as soon as school or work were over, so everyone was home for the genuine events. It is normal here to have tornado warnings In July after the long hot days during thunderstorms, however multiple VIEWABLE tornadoes appearing here and there all around the area, in April, is highly unusual and quite dangerous. So far as I know, the deaths from Virginia tornadoes in the past day occured in Southwestern Virginia. We have much property damage and destruction in Central Virginia however. I am told that last night, we had four tornadoes come very close to this farm.
When we built the farm we had a fortified basement built for both tornadoes and for earthquakes, and although this is better protection than many people have and we are grateful for it, nothing can protect from a true direct hit from a substantial tornado. A direct hit from a powerful tornado can turn almost anything to matchsticks in seconds. This morning my husband called while on the way to work. Apparently one of the tornadoes has done significant damage to the forests on either side of the interstate highway as well as to the large forested median in between.
Today we pray for the people who are in the path of todays tornadoes and storms. We pray for those who have lost family members to these storms in the past few days, and for those who have loved ones in hospitals as the result of them. We pray for those who have lost their homes, their livestock and their pets.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Quantitative Easing" and Other Mistakes


It is my opinion that the currency manipulations which are going on in the world, coupled with the "quantitative easing",the voracious printing of money, unbacked by anything in particular is a bad path, not only for the United States, but for the world in general. Printing extra money which is unbacked simply results in more paper money. The goods that these dollars chase do not multiply. There are more dollars, the supplies are stagnant, and simply cost more dollars, and this is termed inflation. Inflation benefits no one. Inflation means that the money I have saved, actually diminishes in value, because with it, I can buy less. My diminished spending power means I can buy less from the stores in my state, and less from Ireland, England, Canada, Germany, and all the nations which make something which is special or necessary to me. Multiplied with my neighbors, this means that the entire world sees less money,from me, and from everyone else.
Since the dollar's value shrinks next to the Euro, the Yen, and the Canadian dollar, for example, and the value is less stable and may fluctuate rapidly, the dollar becomes a less desirable currency to save and to trade with. After WWII,when Britain's pound sterling lost its position as the World's Reserve Currency, the US Dollar became the desirable currency in which much of the world traded and bought goods. There are already meetings going on in Europe which discuss what the next World Reserve Currency should be following the dollar, which is no longer seen as the stable financial safe haven it once was. If the US dollar loses its status as the World's Reserve currency then the effects cannot be completely foreseen. There may be a US Depression which by virtue of current population, makes the Depression of the 1930s look like a transient job loss.
As unpopular as "austerity plans" are in Europe and other parts of the world, the US must start paying its way. It can't print money to get out of its debt ridden state. The only way out, if one still remains, is to own up to its debts and stop spending like wildfire.
Daniel knew this in 2008. Sometimes I am just the smallest bit relieved that he will not need to live with a sick economy with diminished job opportunities. Of course, his siblings and everyone else will.

This is a famous song from the Civil War Period of the United States.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in 2011

This was one cold Easter egg hunt when Daniel was five.

Easter was one of Daniel's favorite holidays. Living out in the proverbial sticks, I have not been a big proponent of dressing them up on Easter Sunday and parading them to church. I have thought that it was more important that they knew God the entire year, and that they were mindful of who Jesus Christ is, and why we believe in Him. I am not one for window dressing. Losing someone we love changes the way we do everything, including the way we celebrate and redefine the holidays for ourselves. This year, we bought treats and supplies and took them to a friend in a nursing home. When Daniel was here, we might have been too busy to do such a thing, on the actual holiday.
Daniel's favorite part of Easter was our Easter Egg Hunt, that we would have on our front yard,usually the Saturday before Easter Sunday. I would locate my collection of plastic eggs, fill them with wrapped candy, get my baskets down from the attic, and place the eggs far and wide, and then all the kids would gather them. In later years, as some of the kids were in college, and always needed money, we put quarters in the eggs and they were grateful for the cash. This allowed us to continue the tradition for Daniel who loved the hunt, I think, more than anything else.
This year,although the lawn in neatly trimmed and the weather today is nice enough for the traditional hunt, James does not wish to do this. At 15, he feels too old for the hunt. Instead, we did another tradition I think Daniel would like. Daniel loved an omelet breakfast. Sometimes, we would have an omelet morning, if we were all going to be here. We would chop green peppers, onion, chopped tomatoes, cheese, bacon, in small quantities, and make small omelets, personalized for each person with toast. Daniel was a good cook and would custom make the omelets. His favorite was a plain cheese without onion. He would joke as he cooked. I would say, "What kind of omelet is that" and he would say, it's an "om-e-let you live" omelet ! Afterward, I gave each person a small bag of chocolate treasures, except our daughter who got a special bag with salad fixings and more appropriate sweets (as she's a Type I diabetic)
So, we let go of one Daniel tradition this year and embraced another. I hope you and your family find a way to find meaning in this Easter. Our loved ones might be gone from this plane, but we are still here.

This is Nichole Nordeman performing "Crimson" which is based on Chopin's Prelude in E Minor, Opus 28

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Daniel's favorite contemporary musical performer was weird Al. This was pretty amazing to me because I remember Weird Al when he was fairly young, performing at my college.I missed his concert then but my friends said he was “brilliant” and “fantastic”. How amazing to not only make a living so long at essentially song parodies, but after this many years, to still be at the top of one's game and have what is such an impressive body of varied work. He is listed as a songwriter, music producer, comedian, satirist, singer, and parodist. He is best known for parodies of popular songs in which he makes light of popular culture. Interestingly, weird Al was born in Downey, California, which was home to the Carpenters for so many years. He is extremely bright and holds a degree in architecture.
Daniel asked one year for his birthday, to go to a Weird Al concert and as much as I thought this might be on my list of things I really didn't want to do, we took the entire family. Adam and a date came, Stephanie, Matthew, Daniel, my husband and I all travelled out to an area north of Richmond in Virginia, Glen Allen, I believe it was, for Weird Al's concert. Everyone enjoyed it. The man is apparently very close to my own age, yet has somehow escaped the ravages of time which would make it difficult for me to perform for three hours like a teenager. He had remarkable energy in his performance. (I want whatever he's eating) He was truly engaged in everything he was doing, and managed set changes, costume changes and a wide variety of happenings on stage as if this was a once-in-a-lifetime performance. He also is so intelligent and so mentally quick that he engaged different members of the audience at intervals during the performance. I honestly count our seven tickets as an excellent investment in entertainment. This was really saying something because it rained through part of the performance, and we were in open air seats ! When we departed, Daniel, who strangely wore a cowboy hat that evening, was solidly a fan with a new dimension than he had been before. Daniel had always been a commercial jingle writer since about two, and a parody writer from about six. Daniel wrote excellent parodies of his own, and was a great singer. Somewhere here there is a video of Daniel doing a parody of a Weird Al song. Weird Al was the pinnacle of that career to him. That night, we had planned to go to dinner with Daniel afterward, but decided to go another night because the concert had been long and the weather had been bad. It;s funny that I can't remember the birthday dinner out which must have followed a week or so after.
When Daniel passed suddenly, I notified weird Al, telling him of Daniel as if his biggest fan, had passed as if he would want or need to know. I never heard anything back. Perhaps the sudden loss of weird Al's parents a few years ago makes it hard for him to address death. I'll never know. This week Weird Al is releasing a new album following a dispute with the camp of Lady Gaga. Apparently, Weird Al has ethics which preclude him from using the songs of other artists in parodies without their permission, even though Fair Use Laws make this legally unnecessary. I admire that this intelligent, and creative man has ethics in a business in which I can personally tell you, often does not. It appears now that all permissions have been granted and that the new album with the Gaga song will be released soon. Daniel was wise to select an ethical and intelligent man as someone he admired. I wish Daniel were here to buy the album. We have all of Weird Al's other CDs and DVDs in his room.

I recently received a very nice e-mail from a fan of "Weird Al's" who has ties to his group. She says that he is dealing well with the passing of his parents and always focuses on "how supportive they always were" on all of his endeavors. She also says that Al does not always have something helpful to say when something terrible happens, and she thinks he might choose sometimes, rather than to say the wrong thing, to say nothing. She thinks this may account for why we did not hear anything after we informed Al of Daniel's sudden passing.//

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Myth of "Having It All" as it Applies to Women

When Daniel passed so suddenly, I felt a lot of guilt. How could he have has something that caused him to die, when I did not know that anything was wrong ? There were many feelings, much confusion, and I am literally taking years to examine them all and describe how I am examining them, and ultimately I hope, setting them aside. Among other deep feelings, it renewed the issue of coordinating work and motherhood, at least for me.
In my childhood, which was spent mostly in American schools, we were told that every woman could enjoy a career as fulfilling as a man, and that if we were attentive, we could mix the raising of a healthy and successful family. The message was pervasive. Home Economics courses were amended to include convenience foods and even sewing focused on short cuts and quick hems, rather than learning to do anything completely or well. We continually received the message that we could raise families but we could also have careers that were fulfilling as long as we were shortcut savvy.
Being the good student and obedient young person I was, I prepared through college for full time employment and raising a family. I had it all mapped out. I graduated from college in the early eighties, found work despite a recession, bought a home, and in fairly short order, gave birth to a daughter and a son, a year apart. Parenthood ALWAYS changes everything. I could no longer be an amazing dedicated employee, while simaltaneously being a wonderful parent, who was up all night with a tiny daughter who had apparently not read the developmental texts in which they claimed that she, as a newborn should sleep twenty of twenty-four hours. She has never required the level of sleep others do, and as a young adult, still doesn't.
I have held many jobs in either varieties of nursing, in multiple specialties, and in teaching, and although I have found that at times, I can be an exceptional employee, and at times, I have been an excellent parent, I have never been able to do both in tandem. I used to persist in the illusion that some women, with some jobs could do this, but I don't even believe that anymore. My friends who have had really successful careers combined with childrearing, have all cut back working for their children's protracted psychiatric care, or to get to know them before those children head to college. My friends whose careers were sidlined by a child with a medical problem, dropped back in their careers. I have come to believe that I am not the only one who could not "Have it All, All at Once". Some of my friends from college chose never to have children, and this is a valid choice for some people, and should not be overlooked. Being a parent to someone was always an integral part of who I was and wanted to be, but this is not true for everyone, and shouldn't be pushed for those who wish something else. I have decided that it is not really possible to "Have it All". You can have years or blocks of time where your focus was your children and your family life, and you can have years or blocks of time where your primary focus was a beloved career, but I now believe that no one really can do them simaltaneously.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Strange Dreams Continued

Part of the farm

This is actually a continuation of yesterdays post. It is unusual for me to have bad dreams or truly disturbing ones, but I did overnight in the early morning. In this dream, my husband,one of his his brothers, Daniel and myself took a trip to a town 30 miles from here early one morning. (There is no town just 30 miles from here in reality from that trajectory) I had thought we should stay home that day, but we did not want to disappoint those in our party. I think I might have been a Saturday. We were in the minivan listening to the radio when Rush Limbaugh came on telling us of an attack on America. Not a minute after that, we saw planes and bombs from the sky. There was loud noise and destruction around us. Traffic was quickly obstructing our path in the minivan,the road was damaged, and we were sitting ducks. There was a man who was was killed in the street by flying glass, and a dog who was injured whose owner was calming him. We parked the minivan between some white concrete buildings in a small parking lot, and left a note with our cell phone number, saying we would be back to get it when we could. One of us did that while I took Daniel in one of the buildings to get drinks. (The store which had the small parking lot) We had eaten, but we needed lots of bottled drinks, if we were going to walk. We put the drinks in our pockets, and I had Daniel drink one now. We all rejoined in the store where the woman was strangely still taking money despite the goings on outside. We noted that whomever was bombing the US was doing so in open areas, probably to inflict maximum terror. We had no weapons and at that point,other people as well as bombs could be dangerous to us. Our cell phones still worked but we were not able to reach the other kids who were home on the farm. Our strategy became to walk the remaining thirty miles while in view of the road home, but by doing so from just inside the woods where we would not be seen. Since we are heavily wooded here, this would be possible. One of us was assigned to watching ahead and navigating the woods while using the road as a guide to direction. One of us was assigned to walking while watching the sky, the third adult was assigned to protecting Daniel, and helping him walk and covering his head and getting down should we come under attack. We rotated these jobs periodically as we walked, and were making good time. Strangely, we must have been in shock because there was no time for us to become frightened or irrational, just time to quickly formulate a plan in order to get Daniel out of this hazardous situation, with his seeing a minimum of disturbing injuries to people and animals. The adrenaline was not yet waning, and we were successfully walking these miles to head for home, where we would have supplies and other family members when we arrived, when I woke up. I have no idea what this dream means, other than the obvious which is that Daniel travels with us in a sense, no matter what we endure or when. He was alive in this dream and we worked hard to keep him that way, although there was no mention in those moments of my dad. I woke up with a racing heart and anxious.
In retrospect, our plan was less than perfect, as even walking within view of the road takes us near bridges which would likely be taken out in any rational attack.

This is Leslie Harter, and her brothers Michael and Scott, from Arizona who now work as "The Harters".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Strange Dreams

Part of the farm

the cabin in the dream was similar siding and roof but with large front windows

Today was a busy day. Tosh, Daniel's cat needed to go to be neutered today. We put away his food at 10 last night as we were told, and the cat was up from about 3 am on, meowing. My husband and I finally got up at 6 am, and took Tosh to the vet. This morning I ran some errands before coming home in the early afternoon. Since I had been up with the cat since three in the morning, by four in the afternoon, I was really tired. I decided to lie down for just a minute on our bed, and I fell into a really deep sleep. I had a strange but very clear and detailed dream. For some reason, we had built another house on the farm in addition to the one we have. It was deep within the farm and was brown cedar with large front windows and I was inside cleaning. Outside, a lady from the postal service, with white hair, very fit, about 60, was looking in the windows from the front porch. I have never seen her before, and she does not work for our local post office, which incidentally does not deliver mail here anyway. We must go to pick it up. I went outside, and she exclaimed that she could see Daniel inside the house when she was looking for us to deliver our mail. In the dream, I knew Daniel was there, but I could not disclose this to her, and so I told her that she had seen James instead. (Even though they do not look alike) I remember thinking I needed a stronger gate and curtains in the front windows of the cedar house deep on the property. She delivered some certified mail, that hadn't needed to be certified. Then outside became very blustery and we had all the windows open. The high warm swirling winds from outside blew things over and put dust everywhere inside. I was running around to secure lamps and close windows. The winds were so strong that I could not close some of the windows.
At that moment, I awoke to realize I had fallen into a deep sleep, and that it was now nearing dinner time, and I was late in putting it all together. I was still half asleep as I made dinner.
I have no idea what the dream was saying to me, other than my acknowledging that Daniel is with us, just not in an official sense where you could take him as a tax deduction or inform the post office, yet dwelling here at times, at least figuratively, nonetheless.

Nichole grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Now a wife and mother of two, she lives in Texas, and her singer songwriting has garnered her multiple Dove Awards.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the Land of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe

"Monticello" in Spring

Close up of Jefferson's home "Monticello"

Map of the area of Monroe's "Limestone Farm"

Monroe's Lifelong Home "Montpelier"

"Montpelier" as it appeared, prerestoration
in 2003. Photo by: Andrew Shurtleff

Daniel was homeschooled along with his two older brothers and sister. He enjoyed this immensely as it allowed us to spend a huge amount of time on something which was interesting to him, and to move quickly though something he got rapidly and on to something new. At first, he wasn't all that interested in American history, thinking that ancient history and particularly mythology was much more interesting. He was only about eight when he gleefully realized that the founding fathers and many of the Presidents we were learning about, had homes quite near our own in Virginia, and lived their lives here. Thomas Jefferson's parents, Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, owned a fair amount of land locally, Thomas ultimately inherited this. In addition, Thomas Jefferson inherited the land of his mother's and his wife's family as well. His home, " Monticello" is not far from here, and is well worth the visit. Eventually his holdings comprised huge portions of different counties, although at the end of his life, he carried significant debt as well. Oddly enough, today would be his birthday. James Madison and his wife Dolley Madison's home "Montpelier" is in the next county, and I look forward to visiting, as it has fairly recently been renovated and opened for tours. Daniel was the one who located "Limestone Farm" which is apparently one of the homes of James Monroe.
Daniel never toured any of of these. We should have gotten to Monticello, but the days were always filled, and we always had much to do, and sometimes, he wanted to be home to read and draw. Montpelier had not yet had it's restoration complete and was not yet open for visits, and so Daniel never got there either. Limestone Farm, is not open for visitors, and is privately owned, although Daniel and I used to drive past often on our way to other things, and he clearly noticed and mentioned it's significance to me.
Being the parent of homeschooled children, it is important that they not learn things in a life seperate from the world in which they live, so we took pains to include them in homeschooler organization activities, and things which bridged the gap with regard to history. We worked to help elect our Congressman, Eric Cantor, some years ago. Eric is now the Majority Leader in the US Congress.
A couple of months before Daniel's passing, he and I went to a Republican fundraiser locally at Orapax Plantation, where Daniel met and spoke with Eric Cantor for the first time. Orapax is a beautiful place in its own right. Daniel, who read a great deal, cautioned Eric about runaway spending, particularly bailing out the banks. Unfortunately, this was done anyway. Daniel also met and spoke with Roxane Gilmore, our former Governor Jim Gilmore's wife, who made a speech that day. (Daniel congratulated her on her fine speech....and she must have been privately amused, being encouraged by an articulate twelve year old.) Daniel also met John Hager who had been Lieutenant Governor. Since John Hager's son had recently married President George Bushes daughter Jenna, I think Daniel asked him something approximating what it was like to be an in-law with the Bushes. Everyone was gracious with the tall young man who spoke so confidently and eloquently. "Surely he could not be just 12 ?" people exclaimed. They asked him to recite the "pledge of allegiance" with a microphone when the event actually began, but Daniel declined. It would have been a great honor, but Daniel was an interesting mix of confidence and easy speech, along with shyness and not openly or deliberately causing attention to come to himself. He enjoyed the rest of the day, walking around that farm, and enjoying the wonderful food, which had been hamburgers, beans, and cole slaw, and every manner of drink you could imagine, all catered and very very good. At one point, Daniel picked up a brown bottle he thought was a nice root beer, but it was a real beer and so it went back. It wouldn't have served to break a state law in front of all the lawmakers ! I often think back to that day, and wish I could have held time, and that moment for longer. I had no knowledge that only weeks later, Daniel, and my Dad would be gone from Earth.
We also have friends who are Democrats. In fact, our homeschool diplomas are all signed by Lawrence Douglas Wilder, a wonderful man, who was the Governor of Virginia, and holds the distinction of being the first African American State Governor within the United States.He also, much much earlier, penned the Virginia statute which allows us to lawfully homeschool. His most important distinction however, though is that although he is a politician, he is an honest and rational one. I wish he could have been President now.
We did as much as we could while Daniel was with us, but there still are so many things I wish I had taken him to see and do. I never sensed that his time here on Earth was to be so short.

James Monroe also had another home in Charlottesville, Virginia called "Ashlawn Highland" which can be visited.

UPDATE: August, 2011: As I drove past Madison's "Limestone Farm" today, I noticed that the privately held farm is now up for sale.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Week of Many Trials

Daniel and Dad,

As you know, not all days here on Earth are filled with inspiration and light. Some of them are days not only that are hard, but they remind us that nothing on Earth is pure, easy, or achieved without a lot of work, or strife.
Politically, we are watching fuel costs skyrocket, and many places go out of business. Getting something done, like the glass replaced in the minivan, is now something which takes signficant driving from here, because no one who does that is still in business for many many miles. Our normal inspection station is gone too. We must go to another county. Jobs, especially for the young, are almost impossible to find. The news is filled with wars and natural disasters, and we have an impending federal government shutdown shortly due to lack of agreement with regard to financing it.
The kids here are soldiering on, but this week there have been trials. Daniel, in a dream a while ago, you told me to "Help Matthew", and I have been watching him. It seems that his prior grades in college, from 4.0 are slipping badly. He is no longer cultivating a variety of friends there, and he thinks he might like to quit college, get a job and move in with some friends from college. Of course, if his plan were viable ones, then we would support his maturity and his entry into the world, but his plan cannot work without money saved, a job, a concrete plan, or a way of paying his health insurance and his car insurance. He is also bitter and resentful toward his siblings, his college, and us. He denies that he has reached an impasse in the processing the loss of both of you, but I think we know this is impacting him also, and contributing to what I think may be depression. I have made an appointment for him next week, at the college, with someone who can help. Please pray for Matt in this really difficult time.
This next week we take the cat to be neutered, but this week, a female cat has been coming by the farm, and Tosh is uncharacteristically hostile with us. He put a gash in Stephanie's nose which bought her a mad dash to the emergency room for treatment (as she is diabetic and also needed a tetanus shot) We came a hairsbreadth from their jurisdiction impounding Tosh, because rabies in endemic in Virginia, and a rabies shot alone is no longer assumed to guarantee immunity.
In less than a couple of weeks it will be time to pay our federal and state taxes. This will be difficult since we have already paid property taxes, and personal property taxes on cars etc. Life on Earth and concerns for loved ones while we are here and don't have the big picture is tough stuff, and getting harder. We miss you both more than I can ever say here or in my dreams when we speak.

This is Tennessee based JJ Heller

Monday, April 4, 2011

Riot at VCU

Part of VCU at Broad Street in calmer times.

It is not a secret that two of our children are graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. VCU is the largest university in Virginia. It has an excellent medical school, and a dental school, and a very wide range of college majors. One of the reasons that we relocated to Virginia when the older children were small, is that this state offers almost any conceivable college major. (Veterinary Medicine is covered at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Law School can either be attended at University of Richmond, or at University of Virginia in Charlottesville) Pretty much, any other major, including varieties of engineering and informatics are covered at VCU. It also has a highly rated art school, also with a broad variety of art majors. The sculpture department, for example, is rated as the top undergraduate sculpture program among public universities in the United States. This spurs a number of foreign students in attendance as well. Presently, there are 34,000 students attending, during any one semester. This is a completely decentralized campus in an urban setting. On one corner there may be an official office of the college of some kind, and next door might be an African grocery store. It is a completely porous campus where students, and just about anyone can enter or exit many areas at will. In addition, Richmond still has many of the cobblestoned narrow streets and multiple insensible "One Way" signs, and traffic circles. The first year one of the kids were there,and I would come on occasion, to help them buy supplies, and to have lunch with them, I remember thinking that they should confer a degree just to anyone who'll navigate the roads there. Students there routinely get parking tickets, not becessarily because they park in the wrong places, but because often, there is nowhere to park. It can also be a dangerous campus. Both my older kids can tell pretty scary stories concerning robberies, and the activities of peculiar people who often don't have anything to do with the university, but frequent Monroe Park which is on the edge of the university. During my son's time there, a sculpture major,(Tyler Binstead), who had a studio next to my sons, was robbed and shot to death in the back, in Monroe Park in front of his girlfriend. The year before that a new student disappeared and was found murdered. (Taylor Biel) It was eventually found that she was acquainted with her killer, a former VCU art student. This past year, a British exchange student disappeared on his bicycle.(Jonathan Dorey, also known as Jonny Dorey from Guernsey, England) His bicycle and backpack was found near the James River near the campus. His whereabouts or his body, never have been.
Still, Virginia Law excludes carrying a handgun for protection there, even for those of us who have a Concealed Weapons Permit. This is especially ironic because this is really where you would want to carry one, and some people in the area, just do anyway.
Despite all this, Daniel wanted to study Kinetic Studies there, and planned to. Our son Matt went to college elsewhere, vowing never to attend a place with so many people which seemed so chaotic and such a large machine which can be difficult to navigate at times, due to its clearly decentralized nature. The first year our daughter was there, she had classes in three different zip codes.
This week, VCUs basketball team got down to the final four. This is apparently a great honor. Students gathered for one of these games. Our kids did not travel there to attend, but some of their friends did. At one point, students began removing their clothes and burning them in boxes. They started fires in the streets and let off fireworks in dense crowds. They broke windows. Some threw bricks at police. According to "The Chicago Tribune", they set fire to people's trashcans. Swat and Riot Teams were mobilized and tear gas and rubber bullets were used. One of our friend's kids was hurt by the tear gas.
Multiple versions of this event are found on YouTube. I am bothered by a number of things. First, in a country which is nearly bankrupt, in a state where we are almost out of money, who allocated funds for riot police, SWAT teams and every group of Virginia police who were all drawing overtime that night ? Who is paying for these police and the multiple cannisters of tear gas which cost at least seventy dollars a can ? Secondly, was anyone arrested ? It strikes me that setting fire to things, stripping and letting of fireworks in disorderly crowds endangers the shops on the street as well as other people. Some of them behaved like houligans. This was disorderly conduct if ever there was any. Lastly, if you don't have enough room to imvite VCU students to a game without routinely calling riot police, which I am told is done, then you should rethink having sporting events in Richmond entirely. I know that some of the young people present on these videos are area young people, and not VCU students, however, these did not seem like our best or our brightest. If losing a game to Butler University in the final four games results in this kind of tantrum-like behavior, I am terrified to think about what would happen if something occured that was worth demonstrating about ? VCU has released a statement saying that the bulk of their staff and students this night "behaved responsibly". Unfortunately, VCU Administration has a time honored tradition of covering over things which are unpleasant for them, or hurt their bottom line.
I am just thankful to have our kids out of there. At one time, I thought about arranging a scholarship for a promising student in Kinetic Imaging at VCU, in Daniel's name. I think I'll look for somewhere else. This place doesn't look like it espouses any of our values......and I am not that inflexible.

VCU Riot after 2011 Final Four from MONDIAL on Vimeo.

Friday, April 1, 2011

When Focus Changes

While I am on Earth, I will never understand why God saw fit to call Daniel home to him, just 31 days after my beloved Dad was called to him also. Even with my husband, my daughter, two other sons, and then the gracious gift of an adopted son, making the son count on Earth, three, I feel alone, and sometimes abandonned, even though I know I am not.
Since their passings, the world has become busy, frenetic, insensible, and inharmonic. The world that comes after this one, has become clearer, safer more orderly. I suppose in the days after their passings, I was no longer safely anchored to this world. I became focused in part on the next one, and closer to it. Perhaps this is one of the things God intended.

Laura Story is an accomplished singer-songwriter presently from South Carolina.