Thursday, November 29, 2012

God Sends Encouragements


    Yesterday was a difficult day.  It was not only the fourth anniversary of the passing of Daniel, but it was a day in which we realized the future does not look financially very bright.  In the midst of inflation and our investments unquestionably broadly losing ground, while homeowners insurance and taxes continue to climb, we have taken some losses.  We don't need or aim to be wealthy, however we need to finish the task of educating our children and provide somewhat for our older age, so as not to be a burden.  Some of our friends think that Mr. Obama's health plan will kill older people off by bringing a government run, plodding and choiceless health care system, which will end most of our lives sooner, but I am perhaps foolish enough to plan to be here for awhile.
                    Many of the women in the mother's bereavement group to which I am a member, believe that their loved ones who have passed periodically provide them with encouragements in some way, on the anniversaries of their passings perhaps, or during times of trouble or challenges.  I suppose I believe this too. I believe such things can happen: I just believe they don't usually and won't to me.  Last night I went to bed with not only the knowledge that things are not good financially for us right now, but that the new toothache I have will need some attention.  I went to bed early and was very cold as I climbed in. I dislike those newer mattresses which make the bed too high to climb into without gymnastic precision.

(Photograph:  In your dreams, it may not be Autumn.

                      Sometime this morning I had a dream. My husband and I were driving the car, which incidentally was a silver diesel Volkswagen Passat, if you would like the stage set,  and we moving some things to a place where our adult children were already staying. At one point, we looked into the back seat and saw Daniel, as a baby, at about one year of age.  In the dream I said to him, "I thought you were dead".  The answer came telepathically,  "No, I am still with you, always".  "But you are not a baby" I countered.  "I get here the easiest way I can" he said.  "Oh, good" I said, and then we drove on to our destination.    I certainly hope that God and Daniel bring me these encouragements from time to time. Lord knows I could use them !


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Day, Once Again

Coming soon........but not today.

    Once again, I am sitting on this dark day.  This morning, it is four years ago today, that Daniel got up in the morning, got ready to go Christmas shopping, ate a bowl of cornflakes, and then collapsed and died in the bathroom just minutes later.   Immediate CPR did nothing.  Two epinephrine injections did nothing.  The AED the sheriff's office brought did nothing. The helicopter from the major medical center did everything, to no avail.  I still cannot fully believe, even four years later that God can call and reassign us in just a second.   I guess I always knew God could do this, but I had never seen it, in this way, as a registered nurse, or as a human being.
                Since then,  our family has struggled to make sense of the life which remains. Sometimes we have done very well, recognizing and accepting that Daniel was an incredible gift from God to all of us, and accepting God's calling him home with a clean autopsy here on Earth.   Other times, we give way to the very human anger and deep sorrow that losing our youngest family member with no notice whatsoever brings.
                 Grief is a very strange thing.  In some ways, Daniel's departure from Earth seems like a very long time ago. So much has changed here since.  Two of our children graduated from universities, one bought a house, and we brought another family member home through adoption, as Daniel has always wanted us to do.  Other times, his loss from Earth seems so recent, so acute, and so focal.

Sunrise this week over our farm   (Photo: David Krehbiel   copyright 2012)

                I am also so struck by how different this day is year to year.  The year Daniel departed, the leaves were just beginning to turn and autumn was not well advanced. Other years, this one included, the empty winter is sternly upon us, as if our farm itself, knows what day this is, and that it should grieve.
                In this life, we largely make our own joys where we find them, and I am determined to make what the bereaved mother's groups call an "angel-versary" count.   This year, very shortly, a book sharing some of our experience of Daniel's life, his loss, and our survival will be released worldwide.   It had been my intent to have it released today, but book publishing lacks the scientific precision of rocket science, and so it should be forthcoming very very shortly.  Besides, I am starting to realize that there is a plan to this life, and that most everything does have a reason, or at least, a rhyme.
                Please pray for our family as even now, four years after the loss of our youngest member, we each process the loss in a different way, and on different timelines and speeds.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Hurried Thanksgiving Journey

This is Augusta County, Virginia.   We drove through here on our way to Staunton and environs.

                   Today, one of the adult kids and I made a mad dash to Staunton, Virginia which is a couple of hours from here and over the mountains.  I don't go that way very often, but we had a rare opportunity.   In the Spring, we are moving the alpacas from their original barn here to the new barn and pastures and we will need all new fencing in the new area.  This is normally extremely costly. Not only does the wood and the fencing materials for a large area cost quite a bit, but the labor for digging such deep holes for fence posts is expensive, especially in Virginia's rocky mountainous soil and clay.   The last time we hired someone to help us with this, it was very costly.  This week, we learned that a large hydraulic diesel auger was for sale in the mountains, from a large farm equipment sales company, but that the owner expected it to sell very quickly.
Somehow, I arranged to move the money from one account to another.  Then, I had one of our sons bring a truck which could tow such a device.  We took off early this morning when we could have been cleaning the house, and readying for Thanksgiving.
                 I haven't been through that area for about two years. My son joked that it was a shame my husband did not have today off, because this was a task that normally men would do. It was a regular "man-venture" he said.   Afton Mountain was steep and foggy and the pre-Thanksgiving traffic was heavy.  The Garmin kept telling us we were on track.  As we passed through Waynesboro, I had forgotten that all the great outlet stores had closed.  I noticed a closed Books a Million too.  As we continued before hitting Interstate 81 I noticed a huge Mennonite-styled barn with a huge cloth sign which said, "Pray for Recovery".
               We saw lots of things for sale, and animals for sale cheaply as we headed toward our destination.  Eventually, we easily found the store which had the auger.  It started easily and was in good used condition.  We paid the man, and my son attached it to the back of his truck.   We stopped at a restaurant with a large parking lot for our long load, in Waynesboro, and took a needed lunchbreak.  Then, we headed back onto the interstate again.  The autumn is so beautiful even this late in the season. This area has already passed its first snow this year.  As we navigated the hills and mountains and passed the scenic overlooks to the valley below, the song below played in my head.  It's funny that the music of today only rarely matches how powerful I remember the music of my youth having been.  Then, I remembered that the musical artist singing it, has passed now.  Sometimes it feels like so many people have passed from my early life, that only my husband and parents and some friends remain. Maybe this is how God intends it to be. Perhaps with so many people we love in Heaven, we don't wish to fight or argue when it is our turn.
              We got home in time to take a break and then tackle the tasks we had shirked to run our errand. Now, we will be able to dig those corner posts and fence posts including gate posts easily.  Our daughter may even be lucky enough to get us to install the gate she needs.
                 Tomorrow, will be Thanksgiving, the holiday in which so many of our family members passed.  Both my parents, and our youngest son Daniel, all passed around Thanksgiving.   This year, we worked really hard to pretend not to notice.

               Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

This is another Daniel, other than ours who is very much missed from Earth.  Dan Fogelberg passed in late 2007.  We are thinking of his wife Jean, especially at this time of year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Power of a Blog

Daniel loved a slice of pumpkin pie with cool whip this time of year. ( Photo: ) 

     I am not a super-blogger. You know the type, the type of blogger quoted in the news, and the type who is interviewed for political programming.  I know some super-bloggers, and I am not one of those.  This blog began almost four years ago when our youngest son died suddenly of uncertain cause.  As we were learning that well children can literally drop dead from a heart rhythm disturbance no one ever detected, and still have a normal autopsy, I began. Blogging became a way of dealing with grief, setting it out, and of tethering myself to a world that at that moment, was so terrible that I was not completely sure I wanted to remain here.   By setting out what had happened, and by literally counting my blessings, sometimes daily, I found reasons not only to remain here on Earth, but meaningful work to do as well.   The blog began just a couple of weeks after Daniel's "Celebration of Life".   It became partly a journal in which I counted time and distance in bereavement. It also became a place where I believed that both my father and Daniel could read and see how I and the family were doing.  It also helped me examine and sort many of the complex feelings and responses I had which follow such a devastating and unexpected loss.  It helped me connect the very ordinary and lack lustre world we have today, to Daniel, who was full of life. laughter and creativity when he was here.   It wasn't long before this blog brought me to be acquainted by many other people.  Some of them are people who have lost children suddenly. Some of them passed in almost an identical manner as Daniel. Some did not.  These people comforted me, and I comforted them, and I thought this was the maximum mileage of a blog such as this. Then, I occasionally heard from famous people, some whom I had mentioned in the blog, or some whose music was profiled here.  These people send condolences for Daniel, and I think he would have been very amused at this. We really do occupy the same world as some of the people Daniel used to hear about.

            Despite the fact that Daniel never really was a boyscout, and we have no troop in our rural community, he believed in being prepared.  He used to help me check the car emergency kits, and the first aid kits, and from time to time, I wanted to blog about this, but a blog which was principally designed for support and bereavement was not the correct venue.  So, in September, 2011, I began a short lived radio program which was podcast all over the world on the subject of preparedness.  I called that program "Rational Preparedness".  Because I often mentioned products or ideas on the air, listeners suggested that I create a website or a blog, and so the second blog "Rational Preparedness.......The Blog" began in September, of 2011.  Daniel would not only have been proud of the work we do on "What I Learned from Daniel.....The Blog" but he would also have been very proud of the work we do on our sister blog, "Rational Preparedness: The Blog" .  Neither blog has ever had a huge number of formal followers, but many people worldwide come to both blogs to read entries which they find through a search engine somewhere.  I was simply proud of that, and thought that's where it would end.
          However, through one or both of these blogs, we have made the acquaintance of so many incredible people.  There have been people who who learned something pivotally important to them on one of our blogs and who took the time to write and let us know. There have been people who have connected with us because they identified with something said here. There have been people who wanted us to take a look at their own blogs because it related in some way to something we were saying.
           This year, through these blogs, I was provided the chance to write a book on each topic.  First written was "What I Learned from Daniel", a book about the experience of Daniel's life, our loss of him, and our survival afterward, in perspective. This is different from the blog in that it is written with a different focus and with some different experiences that I did not always share in the blog.  The second book was "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness" which is a concise guide to prepping for those with limited time. This is also quite different from the blog which bears it's name.   Interestingly, the "What I Learned from Daniel"  manuscript was delivered to publishers in advance of the "Rational Preparedness" book, but "Rational Preparedness" was released in late October, and Daniel's book won't be until the end of November.  Publishing it seems, is a very complex and sometimes confusing process depending upon your goals and your experience. Writing both of these books has provided me with broad and interesting experiences I would not have enjoyed, had it not been for these blogs.  Many lives have been impacted by these blog posts in the last few years.
            My point is, that writing a blog can be a private and very solitary undertaking. You may think that no one reads it, or that it might as well be a private journal of your own.  Don't worry about the advertising. Don't worry about your numbers. Don't worry about the number of your followers.   Instead, think of your blog as a way of sharing your thoughts, ideas, amusements and encouragements with others. No one knows what the intangible or even tangible rewards of doing that will be.
          This week, an author reading our blog directed us to a study of cardiac conduction disorders which in ongoing. This particular study is not taking place anywhere but in this particular location, and I did not know about it prior.  Daniel's family will be studied, and perhaps we can better identify the conduction disorder which took his life, and perhaps we can save present and future members of Daniel's family.   Make no mistake, blogs are powerful, and they can lead to doing many, many positive things.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I Learned from Writing, "What I Learned from Daniel"


     I would have liked to believe that writing the book "What I Learned from Daniel" would be all the things you might like to say it was, therapeutic or cathartic, as well as a monument to a wonderful human being who happened also to be our child.  So far though, I am not there.  Since Daniel's passing, and writing this blog, which is a snapshot of certain feelings along this sometimes dark passage, I always knew that it should be a book also.  I knew that in addition to the world's seeing a snapshot of take-away moments as in blog, that it should also have a sequential story of Daniel's life on Earth, what happened which took him from us, as nearly as we know, and our sometimes strange journey afterward.  I knew that the book should be, but starting it was hard, and the words on the page often could not immediately convey as monumental experience as having him with us on Earth, really was.
                  I started with an outline. Sharing so much about one's life, it would be easy to go off on tangents. I didn't want this particular book to be about the experience of raising all our children, and it easily could be. This book was to be about Daniel, what shaped him, what the circumstances were which brought him to us, and how great a loss losing him was, and how we survived and moved forward in spite of it all.  I tried to discipline myself to write a bit each day.  My most productive writing time is from about four a.m. to seven or eight a.m. and then, I am afraid, real life with phone calls, errands, and other chores and issues begin to intrude. Some days, I could really roll, and others, very little appeared on the page. This is simple, I told myself. You are only telling the story of your meeting this wonderful child, given to you by God, and you're taking the reader with you as he grows and through parts of his life that help them know him. Then, you must tell them the truth about what happened to him. Then, you must share what happened afterward.  Piece of cake !, I would mentally tell myself.  But of course, it wasn't.  Sometimes, each word was hard fought for. Sometimes, I felt like a painter trying to create a painting with one color. I felt ill equipped to paint all the dimensions of Daniel, with simply words. "There should be music", I thought. Well, that would be a movie, not a book, I told myself.
                  In the four years since Daniel has been absent from his "flesh suit" and here on Earth, I have been very faithful to his blog in terms of providing snapshots of our journey every few days. The blog was extremely helpful to me, not in telling me what to write, because it is an entirely different project from a book and has different focus, but in helping me to establish and check timeline. I was surprised at how essential moments and even deep sorrows from my own life had blurred a little in terms of sequence, especially when viewed through tears.
                I also learned something practical. Have you ever read a book in the present day and found punctuation or spelling errors ?   I am not very gracious when I have paid my money and I find simple words clearly misspelled. I discovered how this might happen, and it may have little to do with the author or even the copy editors.  I wrote all of "What I Learned from Daniel" using a particular office document program.  Then, I converted it, and of course, checked it, when I had to convert it to a "Rich text document" for submittal to the publisher. Then the process of copy editing began.  The copy editors made suggestions for often subtle changes, and would return the manuscript to me in rtf format.  I would open it in the program my own system uses.   In one of these exchanges, ALL of the punctuation was wiped from the document.  Another time, when I was telling about one of Daniel's malapropisms when he was a small boy, I found the system had corrected the error !   Well with the error corrected, the reader would not see what Daniel was saying and why it had been so funny !  So, we remain in copy editing hell.   I correct, I send, they review, and make suggestions, and then we square dance once again.  We also have disagreed on some of the corrections. When I write, I believe that God should be capitalized, and that the word "internet" should not. However, Merriam-Webster the reference used by the copyeditors feel differently.   Normally, I am not a spelling or grammerian goddess, and so I just take the corrections, but this time, God is staying capitalized, and the internet will not get country or person status from me.    I very much want this book available on the anniversary of the fourth year since Daniel's passing, and we are running out of time for this to be.   So, lesson one for aspiring authors, make sure that the program in which you write is the same as the writing program in which your publisher receives submissions. It will save a lot of editing headaches, and was strangely not an issue with my first book.
               I also learned that there will never be a day in which reading some of the passages of this book will not bring me to tears. It is not possible to proofread parts of the story of your hardest moments on Earth without a response, and many times, that response will be tears.
              Please know that I am working to get this book out to you as soon as possible. This is a world in which inspiration and a picture of bereavement and life afterward, is so sorely needed.


     Late today I learned that the book is having its cover created and that it is being formatted.  It won't be long now !


Friday, November 9, 2012

Another November Sudden Arrhythmic Death

William Wayne Jones III was a defensive back who played football for Tennessee State University.

    It doesn't matter who you are. Whether you are black, white, French, Italian, Brazilian or English.  It doesn't discriminate. Deaths from SADS or Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome are up.  The latest terrible loss to this issue is William Wayne Jones III who happened to be a college student and freshman football player at Tennessee State University.  Yesterday, when attending a non-contact practice, he collapsed, fell to the ground and became breathless and pulseless.  Reportedly, he had just caught a ball and was about to throw it back when he collapsed.  We don't have autopsy results yet but although a percentage of cases identical to these show a slightly enlarged heart, sometimes from a virus, or sometimes not, a percentage of these cases show a completely normal heart with no clue whatsoever as to why a heart rhythm disturbance led to a rhythm which was incompatible with life.   William had no known medical issues up to this time.

          Four years ago this month, my own son Daniel, 12 1/2, collapsed and died here at home, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after playing a short spirited game of soccer.  He was completely fine and was excited about Christmas. He walked into the bathroom to get ready to go Christmas shopping on that Black Friday, collapsed, and was gone.  CPR was ineffective.   I had never heard of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome until that day.  Now, I hear about it every couple of months. Daniel has a completely negative autopsy, and no explanation as to why this occurred.

          William Wayne Jones III is remembered as a person of great promise and of great value. Here are the things said about him in a statement by  Dr. Portia Holmes Shields, the President of Tennessee State University.

 "Not only did Wayne exhibit a high level of maturity and sense of responsibility during the camp, he also made many friends through his sense of humor and excitement about being a student here.  Wayne was an outstanding, personable young man, who was on his way to becoming a leader as shown by the skills he exhibited among his friends and team mates. We shared a space on the sidelines at our games where he could be heard cheering for the team and encouraging them."

          My heart goes out to the family of William Wayne Jones III for whom this journey is just beginning. May God and those around the Jones Family hold them close now and through these upcoming holidays, and may they feel the presence of God with them always.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tracing the Slide of the American Economy From Craig's List


    Those who read this blog regularly know that our eldest daughter who graduated from university a couple of years ago was fortunate enough to buy a home.  Of course, having spent almost every dollar she had in order to close on it, it has taken her time to do the requisite cleaning and repairs. There were a lot of those to do.  The house had been a government repossession, and it seems that the government should move in a speedier fashion sometimes to prevent some of the damage which occurs prior to some foreclosures.  Now, a number of months later, she is ready to buy appliances and move in.  Of course, she doesn't have abundant funds, and the money she has saved should be retained as an emergency cushion and not be spent on the appliances she needs.  This is one of the challenges of being a good parent to an adult child.  You know they have grown and that they need to make sense of the world themselves, but you also hate to see them flounder or have less than they genuinely need.  Our best suggestion rather than buying new appliances on credit,  was Craigslist.  Of course, we asked her to be careful and to take one or several of her brothers and a truck.  We became familiar with Craigslist a couple of years ago when friends of our eldest son furnished all of their college apartment using Craigslist, and then upon graduation, sold everything they found there all over one or two days, on Craigslist also.
            Our daughter needed an electric stove, a refrigerator and a washer dryer set.  Since we kept some of the nicer furniture from my mother's home, and our daughter really liked it,  she didn't need much furniture.  I bought a really lovely large kitchen table and chairs from a local garage sale for her.

Yes, her refrigerator is a Maytag.
             Craigslist is an interesting examination of the American economy in itself.  Of course the information I am conveying is anecdotal, but it is interesting nonetheless.  The first item we began to seek together was a refrigerator.  She needed this even before she moved in !   She and my eldest son were installing new oak floors together and they needed somewhere over the summer to store cool water, gatorade, soda and sandwiches they'd brought while working. So,  I would peruse Craigslist and make the calls, and then my son and I would go to see the item on my daughter's instruction usually while she was working.    Some of the available refrigerators are available because people are redecorating and are seeking another color or a completely different style or size. Others are available because they have sold a house and the new buyer already owns one they prefer. There were plenty of them in all types available and they ranged from fair prices to costing almost as much as the same item new, which would also have come with a warranty.  Our daughter eventually settled on one in our own county where the family was redecorating a kitchen. We brought it to her house, let it sit for a day or so.  Then, we took all of the interior apart and washed it all in mild bleach solution before drying it, airing it out, and  putting it together again.  Then, I placed a refrigerator thermometer in it, and a another one  in the freezer, turned the frij on, and made sure that both sections would maintain the desirable temperatures in each area.   It worked perfectly, and we were encouraged.

I placed one of these in the refrigerator and one in the freezer which I will leave permanently in order to make sure the settings are correct, as the required settings do vary a bit in summer, and in winter.

              We had difficulty locating a stove.  Many of them were luxury or professional stoves or were gas operated.  Eventually we found one, two counties over in a gated community, and we arranged to look at it. This family was installing a Jenn Air grill and the original stove to their new home was no longer needed. The family had an exceedingly steep driveway and we, therefore, had a heck of a time loading it into my son's truck and then relocating it to my daughter's house.  It too works beautifully and was worth every dime we paid.   We carefully cleaned that too.


               The very last thing she needed was a washer and dryer.  This proved to be the most difficult of all. There were an abundance of very expensive front loading sets which were about $1200. per set, even used.  This was much more than she could afford.  We found a few sets which fit the space she had available, but when she called, they had been sold.  The good ones seemed to go within hours of being listed. As of thiis week, we have been looking for a washer dryer for more than a month.  I decided to look at stores which had new ones, in the hope that someone had a sale.Unfortunately, my favorite appliance shop, Ron Martin Appliance has gone out of business.   Interestingly, earlier in our process,  people selling appliances had simply been redoing homes they had chosen to remain in.  However, the people parting with washer dryers now are people who were either losing homes, and needed to sell these appliances for rent money for a new rental, or people who had been transferred and needed to part with everything quickly.  There was not only turmoil in the lives of these families but a desire to sell quickly and there was a tinge of desperation with some of them also.
             This evening,  my husband and I brought home a fairly new washer dryer from a city a distance away.  A man who had sold a rental house found that the new buyers had their own washer dryer and did not want the one that was in the house.   These were fairly new, as was his rental home, and without somewhere to adequately store them, he needed them sold quickly.    Tonight marks the first night that our daughter's home has all the appliances it needs.  Tomorrow, we will run a bleach load through the new washer, and wipe out everything in both.

               One of the things to remember if you are buying appliances or certain pieces of furniture from Craigslist or from any used source, is that you should run a search on the internet with the brand and model number for possible recalls.  As it turns out,  our daughter's refrigerator has been recalled, but the manufacturer will come to the house to replace a potentially defective relay free of charge.

             Daniel would be so excited that one of his siblings has their own home.  Now, she plans to expand and replace the security system, and put in a water filtration system on her own dime.  Then, she and a roommate will finally move in.

              If you have a chance, check out Craigslist.  Be careful, but it could be a great place to sell some things you need to, or to acquire some things you really need.   Make the time to be sure that the things you acquire are safe and enjoy your purchases.