Asbestos Awareness

I grew up in a house with asbestos shingles. Most of the houses on my street were built with these hard, brittle tiles. It was common for builders in the 1940s and 1950s to use asbestos shingles. My parents bought their house in 1949 and lived in it until they died in 2006 and 2009.

Asbestos became popular among builders in the late 19th century because of its tensile strength, resistance to fire and heat, and affordability.

The prolonged exposure to and inhalation of asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer.

EVERY YEAR AROUND 3,000 PEOPLE ARE DIAGNOSED WITH MESOTHELIOMA. On average, they are given 10 months to live. That’s 300 days.

HeatherHeather Von St. James

Fellow blogger Heather Von St. James was one of those who got the diagnosis in 2005. Her daddy was in the construction business. Asbestos fibers were on his clothes that he wore home from work, and she would sometimes put on his coat. Heather was diagnosed at the age of 36, three months after she gave birth to a daughter. Now she is a 7-year survivor and has made it her mission to spread awareness and hope.

Please visit Heather’s page and learn about asbestos today.

A few facts:

1. About 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used each year.

2. Asbestos can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial buildings.

3. Asbestos was once used in more than 3,000 products, including toasters and hair dryers…some of which may still be in use.

The house I grew up in that is covered with asbestos shingles is still there, housing people. So is the house next to it and the one across the street and others on down Deering Street.

Silent Peace, Part 2

This is a followup to yesterday’s post, “Silent Peace.”

How do you know? How do you know when your deceased loved one comes to visit you?

One way…

When out of nowhere comes a snap remembrance of him, maybe on an important day, and the tears come immediately, not in drops but in cupsful, and you can’t stop them, and you are overwhelmed in the scope of a few seconds, and your heart pounds…the spirit of the person is there for that brief moment.

Silent Peace

Hard to believe how fast time passes, but tomorrow is eight years since Dad took in, let out his last breath.


Since that Friday evening March 31, 2006, I’ve learned a lot about death. Shy of two years after Dad left this earth, my husband died. Then a year and a half later, my mom.

I’ve told these stories many times, but I think they need to be told and re-told, and I think they bring comfort. Here is what I believe based on what I have experienced.

The person who crosses through the veil between this realm and the heavenly realm of the after-life can visit with his loved ones and even take care of them for some time after death. He doesn’t just go away and close the veil door behind him.

A few weeks after Dad died, I went back home to visit my mother. After a six and a half hour drive, I pulled into her driveway, and my tire went flat right then and there. It would have been a blowout on the interstate, and I would have been stranded and possibly involved in an accident. Dad? I thought so. He was taking care of me. But even more compelling — and funny — was the night before I left my mother’s house to go back home.

I was packing my stuff, and I could not find the dog’s favorite pillow. Mama and I looked under furniture in every room of that house, and it was nowhere. I told her I’d just buy another one at PetSmart. It was cheap enough, no big deal. And we all went to bed. The next morning I woke up and there was the pillow in the middle of the room in plain vision. No explanation. You have to know my father to understand this. He didn’t like any unnecessary spending of money. He would have been appalled that I would pay three dollars for another white fleece pillow!

You may think these are silly little things, but they’re not to the person who has experienced loss.

My experience at the moment of my husband’s death is beautiful and telling, and I tell it often, too. I was sitting in the waiting room at Vanderbilt Medical Center, and he was in his third surgery in a thirty-seven-hour period. I was trembling all over. I knew this was critical.

I looked up at the ceiling lights. I felt a warmth approach me, soak in to me, literally wrap around me and cover me, and I felt a peace like I had never known. Then I heard my husband say, “I’m going, I’m going.”

It was my husband coming to me to tell me he was dying.

This takes on more meaning, however, when you consider the last two lines of our wedding vows we wrote: “I want to endure all things with you. I want to walk home to God with you.”

He was walking home to God. Was God, the Holy Spirit, walking with him at that point? Was I in the presence of God? Were he and God fulfilling that holy promise to me? It was a holy peace.

I don’t have the answer. You can decide. It doesn’t matter. I was in communion with something heavenly and holy and powerful, a force that gave me silent peace.

Many times during that first year I felt my husband’s presence. I always knew he was there with me. And because I asked for him to, he came to me briefly on the fifth-year anniversary of his death. I could write a book on the ways he spoke to me and came to me! Oh wait, I did. (You’ll have to read my book to know more…Remember the Dragonflies: A Memoir of Grief and Healing).

All this to say, I learned in experience and not just by faith that there is life after death. We do go somewhere. At least my husband said he was going. And death is not the kind of finality that is abrupt. We can see, communicate with, and comfort our close ones; we can find ways to cross that veil and touch our precious families. Sometimes they may be aware; sometimes they may not be. I believe all this, and I am counting on it.

So now, here’s to Dad. Thanks for holding that tire together and thanks for finding that pillow. And thanks for all the many ways you have spoken to me and taught me things — alive on earth and alive in heaven.

I will always remember that final Friday at sunset as my sister and I stood in the front yard and watched the hearse take my dad away from our family home. Yes, the sun went down. And then the sun came up.

Life is that way.



Spring Forward

I set the clocks forward last night before I went to bed, all except the clock in the bedroom, which I never changed last fall when we were supposed to fall back an hour. So now, it’s right.

Just as now, the world is right because it’s warming up after a brutal winter, the most brutal I can ever remember in my long, long life. Plants in my yard that are supposed to make it through the cold months are burned brown. The lenten rose, for example. It sits in wet dirt with scattered and faded mulch around it left over from a year ago, and its leaves are dried and toasted . . . and yet there are new fresh blooms, winter white, tender, vulnerable. I feel like that, too.

lenten rose

As the world grows ever toward the newness of spring, I feel a surge in my spirit. I cleaned up my deck yesterday. My favorite things to do this time of year are: eat breakfast on the deck, eat lunch on the deck, eat supper on the deck, build a fire in the chimenea on the deck, read on the deck, take my laptop outside and work on the deck, sit on the deck and look at the yard and figure what else I can plant out there, look at the Medicine Wheel herb garden and feel a need to go out there when the sun is warm enough and refresh it to look like the first chapter of my book, Remember the Dragonflies.

As the world grows ever toward the newness of spring, I want to get my pink fingernails in the dirt. I want to plant tomatoes. I want to plant more vegetables, berries, and flowers. I want to plant. Period.

I want to spring forward in the newness of spring.

Stop Pulling My Chain!

I just realized something. My desk lamp is coming on by itself. I swear it is.

I have a nice little Staples lamp with a chrome base sitting at the right of my office desk next to the window. It has a chain pull. I rarely use it because when I come up the stairs, I turn on the office ceiling light. It’s always early-morning dark, and I need to get to my desk without stumbling and spilling my coffee.

Staples lamp
Yesterday, I worked a bit at my computer and then went down to get coffee. When I returned to my desk, I noticed the lamp was on. I frowned and shook my head. I didn’t remember turning it on. I didn’t think I did.

This morning, the same thing. I went downstairs to make toast with peanut butter and honey and get a fresh cup of coffee. When I returned to my desk, the lamp was on. I did not turn it on. I know I didn’t.

I remember something like this happening five years ago, only it was the garage door opening, and I wrote about it in a blog titled “Things That Go Bump in the Night.”

Maybe it’s starting. Maybe I’m losing my mind.

I’ve got to collect my wits.

Who’s pulling my chain?

Resolutions. Now?

I’m thinking about resolutions. It’s January 12, you say. Too late to be thinking about resolutions.

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Before New Year’s, I did make a few resolutions. Even wrote them down. Two of them, I’ve kept.

Walk every day, or at least five days a week. The second part took the heat off.

Keep better financial records. “Better” is the word that saves me here. Because I can’t keep worse records than I did in 2013.

But there’s no goal on my list. Nothing I plan to accomplish in 2014. I don’t know how to live without a goal. I can tell I don’t have anything pressing on my slate when I wake up in the morning. Instead of popping straight up out of bed, I lie there and ask myself what it is I need to do, or want to do today. In years past, I’d know and jump up and get right on it.

That makes me think that people who don’t believe in resolutions will achieve nothing.

You know what you want to do. But are you committed to doing it? You didn’t resolve to do something toward achieving that goal on a regular basis? You don’t have weekly goals or monthly goals? Mark my words: come December 31, you won’t have anything done to reach what you think you want to reach. You might as well pack it up and forget it.

I don’t want to be in this bunch. I’ve got to sit down right now before the Ides of January and figure out some exacts, some reasons to get up at five in the morning and get going, some goals to better my life and position.

climbing ladder
I need resolutions. With them, I know I am making progress. If in the end, I don’t reach the top of the ladder, it’s okay. I’m at least halfway or three-fourths of the way up. And that is good.

What about you? Do you have them? Are you keeping or breaking them? Are you at least making progress?

Tabula Rasa

Blank slate.

Remember the Etch A Sketch? The drawing toy that came out about 1960, with a gray screen in a red plastic frame? It had two white knobs at the bottom left and right of the frame which you could turn to move a stylus that left a solid black line on the screen. Then when you’ve drawn a hundred line segments, made efforts in all directions, drawn all kinds of erratic lines, and messed up your screen with a bunch of jumble, you can shake the whole thing up and clear it all off. A clean slate. Then you can start over.

That’s tabula rasa.

New Year’s feels sort of like that. Of course, there are things you can never wipe away, but there are things you can change to be a better you. If you made a bad decision last year, shake it all up and let it go — leave it behind.  What can you do to improve on what you did last year? What can you accomplish that you’ve desperately wanted to do?

New year. New start.

The days before we cross that line into a new year are for evaluating, planning, setting achievable, specific, and concrete goals, and even developing a dream list. I find it helpful to:

1. Pick specific and realistic goals. Instead of Exercise more, pick Walk five days a week.

2. Define the goals. If you want to finish writing your book (wow, that’s way too broad!), what incremental steps can you take to get there? Assess where you are. What will it take to finish the rough draft? How many chapters? How many chapters can you write in a week, or month? Can you even finish it in 2014? Is that realistic with your life and work schedule?

3. Set a schedule for carrying out your goals. Write it down.

I like to consider a few fun things just to dream about. Maybe buying a pink sapphire ring? An iPad? Taking a trip to that Oregon town and the hotel right on the coast to just stare at the waves coming in? It might not be practical to do any of these, but it is my choice, and I can break these resolutions easily and not feel badly about it.

That lets me focus on the other goals and have a better chance of achieving them.


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