Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Survived a Category Five

 I Survived a Category Five
 Puerto Vallarta, October 23, 2015.   

That's what the tee shirt is going to say. Not that I will need a reminder, but because  I want people to ask about it, so I can share the story of the miracle that happened on that day.  

I don't keep up on the news when I'm on vacation, especially in a place like Mexico, where the news is in a language I don't understand. So, the first we heard about a hurricane approaching was at dinner on Thursday night, when a waiter tried to tell us that we were in the path of Patricia.  The facts really didn't register, it was warm and calm, the sky was clear, the waves and swells in Banderas Bay were small. We were on vacation, it was perfect.  

Perfection came to an abrupt halt the next morning when a phone call from the resort management told us to pack essentials and be prepared to evacuate.  The TV was tuned to a Spanish speaking weather station, and there was no mistaking the severity of the storm.  This was to be the worst hurricane in history, with 200 mile/hour winds and 20 inches of rain.  It was also very slow moving, so it had potential to totally destroy this beautiful place and its people. Our anxiety grew as we were then told to pack everything and be ready for transport to a safe location, then there were conflicting notifications, and language difficulties that made things more confusing .  

Taxis queued up in front of the main lobby of the resort to take us to the Convention Center, then that was changed  because it was full or damaged or something.... We then took a roundabout ride through the cobblestone streets that were rapidly filling with water and with busses and cars and cabs trying to evacuate the town of Puerto Vallarta.  The water made its way to the sea, and the traffic all converged on a football field sized building already overflowing with families and tourists.  There were some plastic chairs and tables, all already taken; bathrooms already overflowing, and a continual influx of people lining up to sign in to this so called shelter.  This building would not have held up in the storm. It was here that the anxiety started to morph into outright fear that we were really, truly in danger.  

A bus arrived, and an announcement was made that the people from Los Tules, our resort, were to be taken somewhere else.  So, again, we loaded up and were driven to a  school compound that looked a bit more sturdy.  We lined up to repeat the sign in process and then we were directed to various classrooms where we would be locked in when the storm hit.  Women here, men there... Couples and families separated and tearful.  The announcements that came around were in Spanish, translations were poor; so we probably looked as dazed and confused as we felt.  

With a quaver in my voice and fighting tears, I called home to tell my family I loved them and optimistically said I would call when it was over.  I texted other friends and family members to ask for prayers and to say "I love you "..... Just in case...... Others were doing the same.  We were all frightened, but putting brave faces forward.  

News and weather reports were sporadic, but the English speaking tourists kept each other informed  as we waited.  
There was no food or water, we apparently missed the announcement to bring your own....and there were policemen at the gate of the compound preventing anyone from leaving.  I wondered how I could get a pizza delivered.  We spent time trying to determine how to prevent injuries from flying glass in these classrooms, and hung sheets over some of the Windows. Would it help? I don't know, but it was better than doing nothing.  A few cots we're brought into each of the rooms, and then a little tuna sandwich was given to each one of us..... A last meal or a communion of sorts.  We were hungry; we ate them.  

The announcement came that at two PM, the power would be turned off for the entire city and we were to be locked into our rooms at the school..... Hurricane Patricia was on her way, with wind and rain and flooding and flying glass and trees..... She was just off the coast, south of Banderas Bay, ready to hit the small towns and then cross into the bay and destroy Puerto Vallarta.  

We waited, the power stayed on and the doors remained unlocked. The police continued to guard the gate, however.  The storm was slow; they were postponing the lockdown until five or six PM......  We were still hungry and thirsty, but no more tuna was forthcoming.  It began to rain, soft and warm, no wind, no thunder.  The calm before the storm we decided.  We continued to wait. It was hot and humid, people wandered from room to room, catching weather reports or other news, then sharing it throughout the compound.  We passed time getting to know our fellow refugees.  There were sounds of laughter and comfortable conversations... Fear and anxiety were disappearing. 

By seven PM, it was clear that the storm had turned south and east of its projected course and the rain we were experiencing was all we would get.  Oh, it was enough.... The streets ran like rivers, everything was wet, flooding remained a concern.  Ready to be freed and return to our homes, hotels, and condos we waited for the powers that be to open the gates. And, we waited, and waited, and waited.  The authorities finally gave the go ahead about eleven PM,  and we went through the process in reverse.......line up, Sign out, Line up again to wait for a cab, or a van, or even a stranger with a car that will bring you to your hotel for one hundred pesos.  

It was over. We were safe.  Warm, dry clothes and food made all the difference, and by midnight we were about ready for bed.  It wasn't until the next morning that I realized that we ran off like spoiled children on Christmas morning..... We received the gift we asked for and never stopped to thank the Giver. Our prayers and the prayers of our friends and families and the prayers of strangers were answered.  We watched the worst hurricane of all time make a right hand turn and abruptly lose its strength just before it would have destroyed the area and possibly taken our lives.  At the very least, our vacation would have been ruined.  

The morning dawned bright and clear. There was no trace of the storm. It was if the previous day never happened. The only notable difference is that the resorts are fairly empty, reservations were cancelled for this week with the news reports of the damage Patricia caused south of us.  Those of us that remained felt a bond with each other. Friendships were forged during those hours we spent together as refugees in a foreign country, facing the unknown.  This never would have happened if we sat around the resort, and swam in the pools, the and walked on the beach, never facing the storm. 

The tourists will return, the resort will fill up again as the sun continues to shine. The newcomers won't know what happened here, that we experienced a miracle last Friday when the hand of God turned the storm.  They won't share the friendships with each other that we have experienced in the days that followed.   

I survived a category five....   The sky is bluer, the grass greener..... love, and joy, and gratitude fill my soul . I can't wait to share the stories of answered prayers and Gods love for us as he calmed the storm.   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Letters to a friend, part four

#4   Leap, and the net will appear!

As you said, We are created in the image and likeness of God. It all began ( and sort of ended) in the Garden of Eden.   God sought fellowship and made man.  It was perfect for a while.  When Adam and Eve fell, and were cast out,  the woes of the world began.   Since that time, the Old Testament recounts the multiple attempts God made to return us to Grace.  Noah and the flood, The atonements of blood sacrifice in the law, and eventually the prophets.  Lots of unsuccessful trials to restore fellowship.  Man continued to do his own thing, ignoring the call. 
It is that sin that keeps us apart from Him, God cannot look upon sin. Finally, as a last resort, He figured The only way to get 'er done, was to do it himself....through Christ.  God became man, dwelt among men, and lived without sin.  He became the atonement, the sacrifice for any and all men. But only if we acknowledge and accept it....like a gift.  It is a gift, that of Eternity in the presence of God.  
By accepting Jesus' death and resurrection as the atonement for our personal sins, we are restored to fellowship and a personal relationship with God.  It ain't Eden, but it's as close as we will get in our lifetime! 
It doesn't mean there won't be any more sin or problems or doubt or fear, but that there is a direct line to Him and the opportunity to fulfill His plan in our lives.  The point here is that there is a plan and a purpose for your life.  You are called to this and it is up to you to step out and answer the call. 
I can't tell you how it's done, there are a ton of folks to keep track of, that's for sure.... But the bible says that He knew me before I was born and has counted the hair on my head and numbered my days.  This is for each of us.  We don't need to understand the "how", just believe it to be so.
There's a verse that says " obedience comes first, understanding later". We are not privy to the mind of God, especially when we are out of fellowship.  We see " through a glass darkly". Once we restore that relationship, " the scales fall from our eyes " and  we begin to put it all together.  Faith builds faith. Just a little bit will grow and more of the mysteries are revealed.  I do have a long list of questions to ask when I get to Heaven, though! 
All I can say, is that I wouldn't trade this in for anything, even if I could.   This has been one hell of a ride! I have a peace and a hope that carry me through good times and bad.  Things make more sense this way, my path is lit.... If only a little bit in front of my feet!  I guess you have to take the leap to know what I experience.   Just leap, and the net will appear!  
I do think you are being called.. I am a poor messenger,  and am not as articulate as I'd like to be.  But I know that you grew up with all the same teachings I did, good bible verses that are locked in our minds waiting to come to life when you take that step.  Until then they are only nice words. 
It's pretty silly, but what pushed me over the edge on that day I asked Jesus to come into my heart and I accepted that gift of salvation, was the thought "What if they're right!?!?" 
So, I say to you...... What if I'm right? There's nothing to lose, and everything to gain.   

Love ya', Bro.   

Letters to a friend, part three

#3 Driving along the Highway

The story of my spiritual growth is analogous to taking a long trip in an old car. There have been smooth roads, deep valleys, and  steep hills it could  barely climb. Sometimes wind, rain, or fog that made it difficult to see ahead, and many breakdowns  have stalled the Journey....sometimes for months.  Occasionally,  I get lost or miss a turn, accidentally or on purpose, and end up on a dead end. Never the less, I continue.  There is no other option, no turning back.  
The Bible is the fuel, it is high grade, premium, and free!  It is also the map or GPS.  It's the vehicle that has the issues, needing constant maintenance and repair. These come through prayer, counsel, and studying the Word.  Sometimes, simply sitting quietly and waiting for direction is all that is needed.
I seem to learn lessons the hard way, maybe that's just human nature, maybe it's me. Some lessons need repeating, over and over and over..... Like being stuck in a traffic circle.  Instead of   " exit second right", I keep going round and round. Free will can be a nightmare for a strong willed child of God.  He shakes His head, and waits for me to come back around to the second right.   
The kids have taught me many lessons, thereby sparing a great deal of car trouble. Their faith is strong and true, never a hint of doubt, sure in God's love, Grace, and power.  They pray expecting the prayer to be answered...... And it usually is!  When Jesus said we must come as children, He was talking about my kids.  They have a simple " God said it, I believe it" faith, they sing and praise and worship, they pray for others, they have a solid hope of Heaven and look forward to reuniting with family and friends.  They seem to be driving a sleek new car with all the bells and whistles, no slow downs or stalls.  I hitch rides with them when I'm parked on the side of the road in my old beater, steam rising from the radiator....
People have said they admire what we have done for these kids.....little do they know how much these kids have done for me.  The stories of miracles, faith, and answered prayer are countless. They keep my faith alive and well.  They also reinforce the message of God' s love for me. As a parent, I not only provide their needs, but their wants and desires, I love them unconditionally, and would give my life for them.  Oh, there are behaviors I don't like, and then consequences they don't like..... And, it's true that it " hurts me as much as it hurts you".  But, they will always be my children, I will always love them, we are bound together, parent and child, forever.  
This is a picture of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. His love is constant and consistent.  It doesn't change if I am on a straight away, in a traffic circle, or in the ditch...  Jesus loves me. 


Letters to a friend. Part two

#2 The Journey

It hasn't been all peaches and cream, there are no angelic choirs singing in the background.  Life is hard,  for everyone. I think it goes double for Christians because we have an enemy, " like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."  They say that the more opposition you encounter,the more you are in the center of God's plan for your life. 
The fact that God had a plan for my life, and that by accepting Jesus as my lord and savior I filled that " God-shaped void", I  was ready for whatever and wherever He led.  I had visions of pith helmets and and jungle tribes or teaching Bible lessons in prisons or far away lands.    Ha, He laughed.  That would be in my own strength, He prefers His to mine, and I agree.  
We embarked on a short-term Mission trip to the Navajo Rez, Michael, four kids, and me. We were laborers; painting ,remodeling an old trailer into a radio broadcasting station, visiting prisoners at the Tribal jail, and helping in a daycare center.  A good experience, but not where we were supposed to be
Our true calling came to us as we travelled home, and saw our family being brought together through adoption.  Our hearts desire was to bring home the children that nobody else wanted..... This had to be God's doing, I had my tubes tied after two kids when I was twenty.  I didn't see myself as much of a parent, and knew that I was much to selfish to devote a lifetime of care,  not to mention the expense, to very needy children.   But, that's how He rolls! 
The lesson here is that I only needed to be a little willing and obedient, He would take care of the rest.....and He did.  I am a broken vessel, on my own I am not worthy, I stumble and fall and backslide and turn my back on Him all the time.  But  God views me through my redemption in Christ and calls me His child through adoption ( of which I have a better than average understanding!)  I hold onto the promises He has made to me, and to all who call on Him.  
Since we are " In the world", there  are the same trials that anyone faces... Sickness, death, turmoil, financial hardship, natural disasters, and on and on.  The only difference is that I have an anchor, I have God's words in scripture, and I hear a still, small voice ( if I really listen) that guides and comforts me, even in the worst hours.  Those are the times when I feel His presence more than ever, like the Footprints poem..... I have a deep abiding joy on the darkest days.  He carries me to higher ground.  
I hope this doesn't sound all holier-than-thou, because I'm not.....  I still yell at the kids when they bug me, fight with Jim, swear like a sailor, watch dirty movies, eat the wrong foods, and skip my vitamins.   I am in the palm of His hand, saved by Grace, and He knows my heart.  All any of us need is a tiny bit of faith, and the slightest move in His direction, and He comes to meet us more than halfway.  He's been waiting, like the father of the prodigal son, and will throw a big party, kill the fatted calf ( or the tofurky for vegans) ,h ire a band, sing and dance, and rejoice.   He will do the work, all you have to do is turn toward home, just as you are.  

Letters to a friend

I wrote  a series of letters to a friend who asked me about my belief system and my faith in Jesus Christ. He was going through hard times and knowing that I had been through similar experienceswondered how I kept my positive attitude and remain peaceful in spite of circumstances.
And posting them to preserve them for myself to share a bit of my faith with anyone who would care to read them.

#1 The Beginning.  

On a hot summer night, on vacation with family in Iowa, of all places, Billy Graham asked those responding to his altar call out in TV land to stand up and put their hand on the television set and he would pray. I felt silly, but went ahead and wondered if this small act would secure my place in heaven.  I was probably 12 or 13 years old.  An act forgotten by the next morning. Years later, we met some folks that shared a similar "mother earth news" lifestyle, and became friends, I was initially skeptical, seeing a bookshelf full of Bibles and other books that led me to label them Jesus Freaks. I remember saying, " i like them fine,as long as they don't lay that stuff on me".  
Our friendships grew, and we spent some fun Friday nights at the little country church down the road, watching family friendly movies and eating popcorn. There were no movie theaters within fifty miles of little Shoestring Valley in Western Washington.  We saw comedies and classics, like Swiss Family Robinson. 
One particular night, the film was a fictional account of the Rapture and ensuing events, like planes crashing and important politicians
 missing.  Quite an eye opener, since I had never heard of this Rapture business.  It seemed pretty far fetched at the time, but the discussion backed it with Biblical chapter and verse, and our friends all seemed to believe it to be so.  My thought was, what if they're right??  The movie had ended with a prayer, similar to the one ol' Billy had prayed years before, and on the way home in the car, I said That little prayer to myself....."Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins,and come into my heart and life.....I accept your gift of salvation, provided for me by your sacrifice on the cross."    Well, no lightning bolt or harp music, so I figured I got it wrong.  I tried it again, remembering as many of the words and phrases as I could..... Still nothing.  At that point, the kids were fighting in the back seat,and I had to threaten them with dismemberment or extra chores, and forgot all about the Rapture, God, and  my little prayer.  
The next day, as I was cleaning and vacuuming, I became aware of a smile on my face,  joy in my heart,  and a peace I couldn't explain.  The grass and trees were greener, the sky bluer, the day brighter.  I know now, it was because I was seeing with new eyes, I was renewed, reborn, if you will.... And didn't have a clue!
My faith has become a part of me. I trust God's word completely, and am sure of His love and His grace.  I'm not churchy, like to go to the local evangelical church on occasionally, and sometimes a little Catholic parish, and sometimes Cowboy church.  But, it isn't about church, it's about a personal, real relationship with Jesus Christ.  
There are so many things I could say, but it boils down to answered prayer, miracles, guidance, and correction ;  a real presence as I walk this road.  Whatever comes my way,  Gods grace is sufficient.  I have buried four children, my marriage ended because of Michael's terrible illness, multiple sclerosis kicks my butt,  and we have the day to day stresses and problems that everyone else has. There are days that I am angry, depressed, sad, or bitter, even then I am  aware of His comfort and care.  
I picture God as a  loving father, the Abba of the Bedouin camps..... This is how He describes himself, to give us something to relate to.  Those Bedouin lords were responsible for all in their tents ......wives, children, servants, stockmen, and livestock. Children ran to him with joy, never fear,  and he held them on his lap and loved them for who they were.  This is the image our God wants us to have of Him and his deep, unconditional love for each of us.  
This is the story of the beginnings of my faith.  It continues to grow, I continue to grow, as well. I'm not perfect, but a work in progress.  I can't imagine life without this lamp to light the way.  
I know that I am assured a place in Heaven, and that no matter how far I might stray in this life, that as soon as I turn toward Him, my sins are wiped away, and I run to His arms and jump into His lap..... he gives me a noogie, laughs, and tells me that I am His favorite black sheep.   

Stay tuned.......

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hip hip hooray!!!

After three years of pain and increasing limits to my mobility, I finally went to the Doctor and jumped through the Radiology and Medicare hoops that allowed me to have the muscles of my left thigh sliced and stretched open.  This provided access for the surgeon to saw off the top third of my femur, and replace the the bone and the socket with a fancy titanium and ceramic replica.

I was a little apprehensive  to say the least. I like all my parts and hate to have them removed. Especially, something as useful as a hip; although it wasn't of much use anymore. It all happened so quickly, it belied the seriousness of the procedure.  In on Friday for surgery, home on Sunday. Up and walking the morning after the surgery. Physical Therapy has been the worst part. Initially, it was here at home, now I continue weekly at the office in town. I have a daily regimen of exercises to build strength and stamina.

Life is good, now. No pain.  I had not realized how dark my world had become with the constant pain..... I was depressed, nearly suicidal, a virtual shut-in. It had crept up so slowly, I didn't realize how bad it was until it was gone.  I have gained compassion and empathy for folks experiencing chronic pain.  My heart goes out to them and their families.....everyone is affected.

I am looking forward to Spring when I can get out and walk up and down the hills, ride my horse and my bike, dance with my husband, climb bleachers at sporting events, and play in the dirt in my garden.  I missed all these things so much.  I am resisting the impulse to play bingo and the urge to become a member of the Senior Center. I think those are side effects of a total hip replacement, it must be something in the ceramic ball.  I will, however, gladly take my Senior Discount when ever available.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Doldrums

As I sit by the bay window in the living room,  the fog rolls in once again and turns the view to a black and white photo. Nothing moving, just enshrouded stillness.  At first, it was beautiful. Now, tiresome. In fact, I'm sick of it.  Where is the sun? I need color and light, I need the days to lengthen and become warmer. I miss mornings in my garden and evenings around the fire pit.  I miss shorts and swimsuits and sweating.
This has become a very long winter. It certainly isn't the worst one we've seen, but it is grey and foggy, there has been snow and ice up here on the hill making it impossible to get outside to work or play.  We need to drive to the barn because of the layer of ice that makes walking hazardous.
Perhaps it is because I am home now, having retired in September. No more forty- plus hour weeks under a fluorescent sky, with no time to even think about outdoor fun.  So, here I am, ready to do all the things I put off for this time,  and the winter weather laughs at me.   It's been darn depressing.
The groundhog did not see his shadow, so I am hoping for Spring to come early....maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am trying to be productive by cleaning places in the house that rarely see mop or broom, emptying closets of items that I had hoped would fit someday, and planning the garden and greenhouse chores that will have me spending delightful hours outside in the dirt.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Congratulations, Joe

To Joe, On his Graduation Day

   Graduating from high school  is a huge event in our lives, marking the end of our childhood and the beginning of adult life.  A milestone we all remember well, no matter how long ago it occurred.  I'm sure it will be memorable for you. 

Since you have always been such an " old soul", the transition before you won't be a difficult one. You are ready! I see nothing but success and joy in your future, in whatever direction you take. 

I have always admired your positive outlook , your strong spirituality, your musical talent, your sense of humor, and your ability to think for yourself, even if it means feeling like you are swimming upstream. You live big, and all of these experiences have built your rich character. You are one fine man!   

Continue to grow and refine your gifts. 
Develop an attitude of servant-leadership; for as we focus on helping others reach their goals, our own dreams  are realized. 
Be a listener.
Try new things.
Embrace every experience.
Be humble.
Follow your heart.
Always do the right thing.
Laugh a lot every day.
Give out of your own needs.
Keep an "attitude of gratitude".
Remember that you are so loved.

In my mind's  eye, you will always remain the little boy in tights and a fur collar, singing and dancing through Cats. We all knew then that you were absolutely unique and special. And, although you have traded the tail for the trumpet, you remain very unique and special.  I am so proud of you, and I am so excited to see where the future leads you. 


Thursday, August 2, 2012


My Medicare card came in the mail the other day, and Social Security is set to begin in September. Life as I have known it will cease, the job; career really, and all the attendant responsibilities that have been a part of me for so many years will end and i will officially be retired.  I will leave the clinic with more than a bit of anxiety and many mixed emotions.  My days in medicine are over, since I have chosen to not renew my license. There's no turning back.  It is time to reinvent myself, as a newly ( and happily)  retired colleague counseled. His exuberance is encouraging, I am less frightened by the changes that are fast approaching. The fear is of the unknown, leaving the safe and familiar; even though it has become energy draining and stressful. The fear is of losing a large part of my identity, that of a damn good practitioner, and really loving the work I have done. There is anxiety in admitting that I am getting OLD! Medicare, grey hair, reading glasses, a little arthritis, post-menopausal weight gain...who is this person!
Thus, the need to reinvent me, this new me.....with freedom from a job, to go when and where I please,  and to be more responsible now for my own life and decisions than for the lives of strangers. I have interests that I have not had time or energy to pursue, I have cleaning and laundry and yard work that have always been such a chore because all of my energy was spent on the job. And, not less than these, a family that has waved goodbye in the morning and not seen me again for two days! And when I came home, all I wanted to do was sleep! We sacrificed much for my career.
So, the possibilities in front of me now are endless.  Time.  Energy.  Freedom.
It's the leap that scares me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Goodbye, Dr. Welby

Another doctor sent out his retirement letter today. I read it, thinking that we are seeing the end of an era. The days of your family doctor actually being your doctor "til death do you part" is over, gone the way of house calls and the traditional black bag he carried. We have replaced them with computers and sub-specialists. This is the day of a team of specialists, none of whom really know who you are, and rarely communicate with each other....or you!
Don't get me wrong, Medicine is better than ever! Knowledge has increased dramatically, new drugs and procedures save lives, everything that science has brought us has improved both longevity and quality of life.  This is the science part of the "Art and Science" that is Medicine.  Art, however, has diminished in popularity and importance.
 There seems to be an inverse correlation between the two, which is tragic as far as I'm concerned. The smarter we get, the less we care about the people we see every day.
We care about symptoms, test results, standards of care, even wait times.....but don't know the person it all revolves around.
The old way of black bag medicine and house calls told us so much more about our patients. We could assess mental status, depression, financial well being, diet, and safety concerns in just minutes in a house call. That throw rug could be removed before the fall that fractures a hip. Is there enough firewood or heating oil for the winter? Who else lives here?
I don't think "health care reform" will do much good. We need more time with patients, more hands on, low tech medical care....not the fancy machines and tests and computers that substitute for real caring.
Medicine IS an art and a science; unfortunately Art is being overshadowed by Science and a growing corporate mentality. Money has replaced ministry. Computers take the place of compassion; and the entire process is rushed and depersonalised.
Hippocrates is rolling over in his grave!