Because Joel Symonds went away….

Because Joel Symonds went away…..

Tsunami – in Perspective

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise AKA Jana and Shannon

This morning, the morning after, I knelt and prayed. I thanked my Father in Heaven for preserving all my loved ones and beloved friends. In my heart I reviewed each and every one, my daughter a nurse in the Newport Hospital and her husband, my son a police officer in Astoria, my pregnant daughter in law and grandchild to be in Warrenton, my son and his wife in Anchorage Alaska, my ward friends, my seaside friends, the Chapmans, the Farmers, my work family and ward family. All the people the Lord has blessed me with in my life. I thanked him because yesterday I thought I might lose them all.

I also asked Heavenly Father to bless all of the people in Japan, all of the souls sent home to Heaven and all of their loved ones left behind. I told him that I hoped that when those lost in the Earthquake and Tsunami came home to his waiting arms they didn’t remember the fear of the approaching water or the terror of the last minutes of their life. Even though I knew their sweet reunion with Heaven and family would make that short moment bearable, I hoped it would be forgotten and lost. Because I know I have once again been changed forever and I will never forget.

Thursday, March tenth, when I fell exhausted into bed early, it followed a three-day crying jag. My job had been demanding, exhausting and often less than kind. People I loved at work had said things that had ripped my heart out and made me question why I was still working there. Income taxes loomed on the horizon like Mount Everest, an insurmountable job that would take my tiny savings account, once again I felt like the house was an unacceptable mess and the next day I had to make the dangerous winter drive over the mountain again to get what most assuredly would be bad news at OHSU. I felt like my life was careening out of control. It all seemed so important as I struggled to shut my mind down and snatch a few moments of blissful unconsciousness.

The small fireplace in my bedroom was burning warm and soft, the room was warm, the blanket thick and my pillows soft as I dreamed of nothing. Across the ocean nameless faceless mothers sent children to school, went to work, and thought it was just another day. They wondered what they would make for dinner and why their husband was always late. They worried about important things like bills, sickness and old age. Then the world rocked.

Can the whole world feel the collective cry of a thousand souls in anguish? Are we spiritually connected across time and space to the souls of our earthly brothers and sisters? When the Japanese Island moved eight miles to the east, the earth’s rotation changed by ten centimeters and tipped on its axis, did I feel it? Did I feel the world change or was I part of the change? When the earth shifted, something in me shifted, and I was definitely tipped on my axis.

My cell phone ripped me from my dreams at about 11:30 PM. My nephew Nathan told Scott and I that there had been an 8.8 (numbers that changed hour by hour) earthquake in Japan and a Tsunami was headed out way. My heart jumped and I went into auto pilot while Scott tried to get more information. Nathan said he was watching the news right now on KGW, and that a Tsunami watch was in effect. He asked if we could we go up and sandbag the family beach house. Scott said no, and hung up. He turned to me, and we silently agreed, people before houses.

We don’t have cable and so we couldn’t just turn on the news and check. I do have a smart phone, but I didn’t want to wrestle with it, while the wave rolled our direction. We didn’t know how long ago the earthquake had happened, we didn’t know what time the wave would get here, we didn’t know if it would be so small you wouldn’t notice, or if this would be the last time we would stand in our sanctuary, our home. But we both knew how we felt. We felt the jolt. The world had rocked. There was a collective cry vibrating in our bones. We opted to get up the hill while the roads weren’t choked with cars, like the last Tsunami warning, and check the phone there.

We quickly dressed, grabbed the seventy-two hour kits we have been meaning to repack, wondered how rotten the food was, and sprinted out the door. Scott ran back in for the portable Tsunami radio, which was scrolling the words, “Tsunami watch”, and I turned the car around. In less than five minutes we were parked on the top of Cooper looking back over the sleeping city. Scott lamented not having a hand-held Ham Radio, while I searched channel KGW on my smart phone and watched the quake for the first time. My heart dropped as I watched the Japanese and knew that hundreds must be dead. Tsunami’s were most assuredly happening and families were torn asunder as workers were stranded in cities hours from home without trains, roads or cars.

As our hearts beat, we reviewed the situation and wondered what to do. We opted for better safe than sorry. I had the appointment in Portland, we could just go over the hill now, and be safe, or we could go to Saddle Mountain, sleep in the car and I could bring Scott home in the morning if all was clear and go to Portland then. At least, we were still in the right direction for OHSU. Heaven forbid you miss an appointment with a specialist.

We decided to call our son in Warrenton and the bishop while we drove. We headed to the Highway twenty-six junction and called Joseph in Warrenton. He and Lindsay talked and decided to stay in bed, they were well away from the coast and two hundred feet up out of the tsunami zone. My head knew they were right, but my heart worried for them. We called the bishop. The tsunami, we now knew wasn’t destined to get here until probably seven in the morning. He opted to wait and watch for now. I told him about the last Tsunami warning before his time in Seaside. As Scott and I approached the junction, grateful that there was no traffic yet, I wanted gum, and realized I had left my purse and medicine at home. Who cares about the meds that keep me standing, I wanted my charge cards! I wanted my family.

Over five years ago there was another large Tsunami warning. I was home alone with the kids, Scott was working in the locked Juvenile facility. My daughter Jamie was living in the Seaside Aquarium, as a night watchman and employee. Her boss Keith, called her. There had been an earthquake and a tsunami was headed our way. Once again, I grabbed the three children living at home with the dog, my visiting parents, sister and her kids and raced up the hill. We went to a friend’s house that perched on the highest point in Seaside and parked. They were awake and watching cable news (something I didn’t have then either). My son Joel, a high schooler, got out of the car with his Dads pistol in one hand and the dog and asked me, “Should I go back for the seventy-two hour kits?”

Later that night, after the entire county had already evacuated, we had called all our friends and were waiting in the summer night. Seaside finally gave in and turned on the Tsunami alarms. With a view to die for, we watched the city come awake. Car lights turned all over town, and from the water line up, headed our direction. People drove for what looked like a few blocks and then the headlights stopped moving. The street and long driveway at our location filled like a parking lot, and people got out of their cars and ran in our direction. Helicopters swooped, police lights spun and loud speakers blared. It was like a bizarre science fiction movie. We had called the nineteen-year-old Mormon Missionaries who lived on the cove. They called my cell back and said they weren’t allowed to come to us. The Police had turned their car onto Highway 26. The police were closing roads and routing traffic. They were too young and excited to know they should be scared.

The wave was supposed to be here. I watched in horror as people on foot were still running up the hill. Luckily for our little town, it never came, and all we lost was a nights sleep. But it was a good warning and for years I drove around with my seventy-two hour kit strapped in my car taking up all kinds of good room. The kits are in back pack form, so we can carry them if we can’t drive.  We keep the tires pumped up on enough bicycles for everyone in the house.

No once again I have had another wake up call. Nathan’s call tonight reminded me that life is precious and that at any moment it can change.

We parked up an empty gated driveway near the Saddle Mountain junction. I got to nature potty, and then snuggle in without a blanket in a cold car. Our temperature sensor said it was thirty-one degrees outside. We watched Japan on my tiny smart phone screen and wondered if we had done the right thing by leaving. Should we go back for my purse? Should we go back to Joe’s to wait with Lindsay, as he would have to go to work? If we went back, would traffic choke like before, and would we get stuck someplace worse? Finally we dropped off to light sleep for a few minutes.

Once again I woke to bad news. An Oregon State Trooper pulled up and asked if we had seen the crash a half mile up the road. I told him, we were just sleeping here. He didn’t even blink or ask why. He told us that a man had run his car into the guard rail and they had reason to believe it was on purpose. He was suicidal and mentally ill, and if he walked by we should call nine one one. “No time to talk,” he said and sped away. Scott and I looked at each other. When his lights left, the night got very dark. “Lets move.” We said together. Nervously laughing at the ridiculous night, we started the car, while we wondered where to go.

We decided to go back down to the fifty-three junction.  We parked in the little gas station parking lot and turned the car off again and tried to sleep. Then the cars began to come. At first they came slowly, one, then another, then two at a time and finally in a pretty steady stream. We wondered what to do. We talked to our six kids, making sure everyone was in a safe place and that they all knew we were safe.

Nathan had been keeping us updated. Then we got a call from our son Joel. Joel had been watching online, as he lives in a bay area. He said Hawaii had an earthquake.  Hawaii was bracing for a Tsunami. There were thirty minute gas lines in Seaside and traffic was starting to pick up. That decided it. We headed over the hill to Portland. Scott would go to the doctor with me. He wanted to hear what they had to say anyway. We would go to my cousins. My cousin and I are three months apart. and a matched set. She is my Thelma and I am her Louise. Take us apart and we are anxious, serious, driven and depressed. Put us together and you have instant giggles, adventures and fun. Apart and she’s afraid of heights, together and we leave for the grocery store, make the split second decision to take a small plane out over the ocean, and talk the pilot into breaking FAA rules by flying closer to the light house so we can get better pictures.

We joined the line of traffic and headed up the hill. The temperature had dropped to twenty-nine and traffic was moving at about thirty miles an hour. By the time I reached the rest area I HAD to stop. When we entered the parking lot our four-wheel drive slid for the first time. The parking lot was full. It was about two-thirty in the morning. The pavement was slick enough to skate on. I walked up to a group of serious looking people who were pointing at the road. “What’s going on?” I asked. They pointed at the line of tail lights going up the mountain. “Traffic, and ice,” a man offered laughing. I smiled. “Everyone wants to leave town,” I said. Nervous laughter made it sound like the joke of the year. We were strangers and new best friends for a split second. They were deciding where to wait things out. Camp 18, a restaurant on mile marker eighteen was filling up and there was definitely traffic on icy roads. There was a funny sense of party in the strange heightened energy.

We pulled out of the rest stop, and saw a car turned over on its top to the right of the road, alone. We also saw three or four other cars off the road almost immediately, and realized how bad the roads where. This is why everyone on the mild-mannered coast wants a four-wheel drive.

We made our way over the mountain carefully, stopping to fill the tank in North Plains at the Minimart. It was after three-thirty and the place was hopping. Three women were in the bathroom. “Are you evacuated?” a woman about my age asked. We had a lovely laughing chat, introduced ourselves, and I when I see her again in our small town, we will be connected, friends. Isn’t trauma funny? It bonds us, allows us to break all our boundaries and serve each other in a way we should every single day, without trauma. Why does it take a shake from the hand of Heaven to bring us together?

We finally arrived at my cousin’s home. Close to Thelma, I slept peacefully in her driveway, not wanting to wake her household to a new and different world. A few hours later I woke to a cell call. It was Thelma, wanting to know where I was. “In your driveway!” I laughingly replied.

Thelma tucked me in an overstuffed chair, with a homemade quilt, and while Scotts and my bones warmed she made us ham and eggs. Then we turned on the news and watched. We ate eggs and watched people race for safety. away from a tsunami on country roads, only to find it coming right at them. To see them leap from cars and run a losing race across fields. We joined the helicopters view of death and loss while drinking fresh orange juice and helping her daughter get ready for school. Our world went on.

As we watched the news, our friend and bishop called. He had brought thirty people with him to Portland, always taking care of others. They were on their way to Pat Tanners Temple wedding. Scotty borrowed a white shirt and tie from Thelma’s husband, and while we went to my doctor’s appointment, he went to a temple wedding with our dear friends.  Life went on. Or did it?

Life went on, but not the same.  Thelma’s son called. He is a rescue diver and was packing to go to Japan to do humanitarian work. They were leaving tonight. He is an amazing young man, and we reassured ourselves that he would be fine, but we also knew he would be changed, changed forever.

Later that day, we sat in PF Changs giggling like school girls until our gluten-free meal was over. As we finally wound down, I looked around the restaurant and thought, isn’t amazing that the world goes on? The waitress brought fortune cookies, but because I eat gluten-free, I passed. “No,” Thelma said, “It’s tradition.”  I opened it. It read, “You will soon be going on a fun road trip with friends or family.” I laughed out loud.

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?” I asked Thelma. She laughed, because we always do. Then in a serious moment I asked her, “Would you do it all again?”

“You mean have seven children, struggle, and watch them struggle?” she said. “Yes. Absolutely.”

“Me too,” I said laughing, because I always do. And I thought, each moment with those we love is precious, and this was a good one.

Later that night we celebrated our friends’ new life together and we got to lay in our own bed and snuggle by our fire. Somehow it was sweeter, warmer, softer and all the serious problems I had been struggling with were smaller and put in perspective.

The next day our little Seaside Ward had a preparedness fair. I know… ironic isn’t it? But it was planned long ago.

My friend Amber was there. I asked her what she thought about yesterday’s events. Being a wise woman, she shrugged and said, “Well, all you can do is prepare. If you’re prepared you don’t need to be afraid.” I smiled and laughed, because I always do. Looked around the room full of friends and enjoyed one more great moment in this wonderful life.

Family - precious moments

Scotty Symonds be our Valentine!



What kind of man wants to marry a woman and adopt her five children? Scott Symonds is the answer. Scott Symonds was the oldest of seven children born to his seventeen-year-old mother. His mother taught him absolute unconditional love through example, and in my opinion, by letting him live. His father taught him a work ethic that would put most young men to shame.

Scott was a good big brother who loved his brothers and sisters. Although they were known as “those Symonds kids,” Scotty would fight anyone who said anything bad about his family. His family always included one or two more of the children’s friends. When I met Scotty I overheard someone at church talking about, “Those Symonds.” They said, “Why you know she has an Indian sleeping on the trampoline and a black man living in the garage! I wonder how many others she is going to take in.”  They were going to take in my five children.

I moved next door to the Symonds in 1987. I was a single mother with five kids. I rented an old house with a large piece of land. Clareen immediately offered to help and was kind in every way. Whenever anything was broken (and with five children under age six things were broken a lot) she would send one of her boys over to fix them. She kept telling me about her oldest boy who was coming home from Texas – Scotty. Eventually Scotty came over to fix the screen door.

My oldest girls, Erin and Jamie, plotted with Scotty’s sister Shannon (not to be confused with me) to get Scotty to marry Shannon. It worked! From day one, my children loved Scott and Scott loved them. Some of Jodi’s first words were, “Wait Scotty Potty…wait!” every time he tried to leave a room. Scotty spent endless hours building a bicycle for Joseph and a bat mobile for Christmas. There was not anything the poor man was not willing to build for the kids.

What kind of single man with a truck and motorcycle, living the good life, gives up everything to raise a family? The answer is a man with endless love like Scotty. Scotty sold everything he owned without complaint including the motorcycle. He even gave away his hunting gun because I was afraid Joseph would shoot his eye out.  He worked harder, longer and went to school and eventually stood in court, interupted a judge, and offered to adopt our children.

The work did not stop there. But, the fun had just begun. Baby Trish joined our family and pulled us together through nights in the hospital and days with the feeding tube.  It has been over twenty years of happy marriage and a journey I would take again in a heartbeat if you asked me. This may be written in haste and secret, but it will be the best thing I have ever written when I say, “Scotty I love you eternally and am grateful you are my Valentine.”

Now my children and friends, care to comment?


Seaside sun


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