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A Month of Miracles
Our Story


December 2002 – The Month Of Miracles Or, What Would Jesus Drive?

December was filled with many hardships for me; at least that was how I initially viewed them. When I look back on December now, I realize my own maturity and how I have come of age. In the past, I would have handled myself miserably through such trials and tribulations. I would have gotten extremely mad or upset, depressed, and subsequently would have done some dumb thing which would further compound my problems. Invariably, by the end of such a month I would say “I hope to never have another month like that again.” My frustrations would have remained with me for days, weeks or months after. Yes, though I was a bit frazzled for much of December, a clear and cool head miraculously prevailed and I am very happy to have had the trials and the lessons.

What were the trials? Everything that could go wrong with my SUV did go wrong. Murphy, the wife, and all of the little babies set up house in my car. In dreams, a car can represent your body, the path you travel along, the obvious: a mode of transportation from one existence/place to another, etc. Well, this was not a dream, it was my life and I was living it. Long story short, this month I spent almost $4,000 to repair my SUV.

At the beginning of December, I contemplated making changes in my life and decided it was time to move on with life and think about relocating – translation: buying a house I liked for a change and leave this horrible piece of house I acquired as a result of someone else’s mistakes. I also contemplated ridding myself of what some would call the “dreaded gas guzzling, people killer, SUV” I drive. The two vehicles I always wanted were the Jeep Grand Cherokee/Grand Wagoneer and a Porsche. In my youth, I found both quite expensive. Now, as a middle-aged woman, I can afford them and I considered trading the “dreaded gas guzzling, people killer, SUV” for a Porsche. I visited several Porsche dealers; test drove a 911 C2 and even started visiting one in particular. I guess my “dreaded gas guzzling, people killer, SUV” got wind of the idea and figured “oh no you won’t.”

Trial No. 1: Rear Brake Failure. I never heard the brakes grind until one evening while on the way to work – just that one time. The next day I took it in for repair – Kaching: $300.

Trial No. 2: Missing And Partial CV Boots.  I heard the clicking sound indicative of CV boot damage only once. The missing CV boots were discovered while the car was in for brake work. The extent of the damage meant I would have to replace the shafts as well. Kaching: $500. When I returned with the car for this repair, the guys finally found the elusive and mysterious leak. Kaching: No Charge?

Trial No. 3: Transmission Failure.  While on my way home from work at 3:00 a.m. on the morning I was to take my car in to have the shafts replaced, my car got within 6-8 blocks from home before it bucked hard three times – but kept rolling on. As I started up my street, a pretty steep grade, the car bucked one more time but kept rolling until I got home and safely in my driveway. The car bucked later that morning as we headed to the shop and after the shafts were replaced, bucked once more on the way home. The transmission finally failed once I was safely off the freeway and again, close to home. Kaching: $2,855.

The transmission failing led to a series of events which turned my trials, as I initially saw them, into lessons I will use for the rest of my life. The tow truck guys showed up en masse to get “HER” onto the flatbed truck. They were so hurt to find “HER” wheels locked and one of them, disappointment in his eyes, walked over to tell me he would have to drag “HER” onto the truck because “HER” wheels were locked. At that moment, the guys at the shop where the car was to return, called me back and apparently, they were talking about “HER.”  One of the guys instructed me on how to disengage the transmission so the wheels would unlock. I screamed the instructions to one of the guys who then shouted them to another. One followed the instructions, the other gave “HER” a little push, and the wheels moved. All of them pushed “HER” to the lip of the flatbed (wasn't that sweet) and gleefully pulled “HER” rolling wheels onto the flatbed truck.

Back at the shop, the guys discovered the transmission actually burned up. Since they did not do transmission work I had to find someone who did. I called a transmission shop and talked with the third nicest John I would meet in 2002. John dispatched a tow truck to the other shop, picked up my car and towed it back to his shop. I did not physically meet this John until I picked up my car one week later. That did not stop John from calling me every single day to give me a status report on my car. After the transmission was rebuilt and returned to the car, John test-drove “HER” and did not like the way “SHE” cut off when he put a little stress on “HER” engine.  John put "HER" on the machine and found the Crank Shaft Sensor had failed. Kaching: No Charge? John was determined to get a Chrysler part, not an after-market part, so he went to Chrysler and found the new replacement part was metal. Back at his shop, he replaced the old plastic part with the new metal one and called to tell me all about it. I had to tell John how much I appreciated his attention to detail, his service-with-a-smile attitude, and how he was such a rare find. He never let me sit back and wonder “is it done yet?” Because John was so good to me, I had to be equally good to John so I got a cashier’s check for John. I did not want John to worry about a personal check, I put the money in his hands.

When I picked up the car, and after doing our business, John and I stood outside beside my car and we talked. He saw a footprint on the floor mat, something I had not noticed, and went to clean it and then he said “there’s a lot of power in this Jeep. I don’t know why they made these things with so much power. It’s got a lot of power.” He looked at the tires and said “those are good performance tires too.” A brand new Range Rover pulled onto the lot and up to the stall beside my car and he said “you see that truck there, you’d run circles around him and he’s got truck tires on it, not these kind of tires.” He went on to talk about the suspension and how good the suspension is. Then he asked how long I had it, did I buy it new, why did I choose that year and as I answered him, he kept saying “wise choice.” His words would come back to me later.

Yes, John was right, my Jeep does have a lot of power and a Porsche, well, I believe within three months I would be so over the thing. I can see it as a second car, but not as my primary car particularly when spring comes and I’m in need of perennials and annuals – I can’t see packing a few bricks of annuals in the back along with 100 pounds of potting soil.

As I left the shop, the old Jeep and I took the scenic route home and I reminisced about the Jeep and what I had taken it through the past four years. In 1998, I set out to find an old Jeep Wagoneer in good condition so Christine could pack it full of camping gear instead of stuffing that poor little Mazda she drove. I drove everywhere looking for a Wagoneer and found the Wagoneer was no longer manufactured by Jeep, which explained why most of what I found looked a little beat up and whatever was in good condition was being driven by original owners. Since I no longer buy new cars for many reasons, I decided to bite the bullet and look for the next big wagon in the Jeep line, the Grand Cherokee (aka "ZJ").  Every Jeep Grand Cherokee I saw offered passenger side power seats. What I could not have known then but realized much later was buying the Jeep with a passenger-side power seat would be the best decision I could make. Later, it would prove to be the most comfortable and convenient thing I could offer both my uncle and Christine when they were ill.

I remembered back to the time I drove that Jeep off the lot, calling Christine and driving to her house. I watched her as she flipped the seats down, got in the back, sized it up and contemplated all the things she could put in it. I remembered asking her, “Did I do good?” She looked at me laughing and said “you done real good.” Two weeks after purchasing the Jeep, however, it was put into serious service as my mother and I headed to and from San Francisco. My uncle suffered a head injury and as a result, he didn’t know who he was, who we were, and he could barely talk. End stage renal disease compounded his problems. While he was hospitalized in San Francisco, we were either flying or driving back and forth. When he was finally released from the hospital in San Francisco, my mother and I drove up, in my Jeep, to bring him back to L.A. We would continue our trips north to get his things and haul them back to L.A. for a few months more, in my Jeep.

The same was true for Christine as we went back and forth to chemo, to the store, and on assignments from one end of the city to the other. Christine became quite comfortable with lowering the seat to get in, fastening her seatbelts, raising the seat and moving it forward without the discomfort of jerking herself back and forth.

The Jeep never once complained the entire four years I’ve had it. Maintenance was always catch-as-catch-can. Oil changes were done when I could. I always did the annual transfer case maintenance every year and not always on schedule. This year it did start to cough, sputter, and spit and I had to let it cough, sputter and spit because I did not have time to have someone to put a stick in its mouth and have it say ahhh.

I then thought, “well old girl, it’s our time now.” Whatever “SHE” wants, whatever “SHE” needs, “SHE” can have it because “SHE” has been a dutiful and faithful servant these past few years –and I am okay with that.  

The Lessons: In the past, I would have moaned awhile about this experience. Why me? Why now? Oh the money. Now I won’t be able to go there or do that. I would have kicked and screamed and moaned awhile. And worry – oh no one could have known the worry I would have worried about worrying. But there were lights in the darkness. They were:

  • I got home at 3:00 a.m. without being stuck on the road waiting for a tow truck. I got home. I need to repeat this – I got home. One friend said Christine was pushing me home – no doubt;
  • The guys found the elusive leak -- no more pouring gallons of antifreeze in every week;
  • I had the pleasure of seeing eight men display pride in workmanship, in their jobs, in what they did, and they were all service oriented. They understood word of mouth is truly your best advertisement;
  • Okay, I’ll say it again. I got home at 3:00 a.m. without being stuck on the road waiting for a tow truck. I got home and Christine probably did push it up to the house – no doubt; and
  • I was off the freeway when the transmission died. It did not freeze up in the center lane with cars going 70 miles per hour around me.

When you find yourself sitting in the dark, allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness and only then will you see the light which will lead you out of the dark. If I had been the hard hot-head of my youth, I would never have seen the gifts I got for Christmas.

The lessons in December served as my encouragement to go back into business. All of my life I have had a business; from the time I was a child I sold Stuart McQuire Shoes, was a babysitter, collected bottles, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, raked leaves, or sold figurines door-to-door. As I got older and became proficient in photography, I became a club photographer, a fashion photographer, runway photographer, did actor/model composites, sold darkroom services, was a wedding photographer, and portrait photographer. Later, I promoted/produced fashion shows and was a freelance magazine/newspaper photographer. In 1988, I purchased my first XT compatible computer running at a top turbo speed of 12 MHz.  I also purchased a 300 bps modem to do some surfing and I don't mean "the internet."  At that time, Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) were popular and I found myself in the minority as a woman on most of those boards. The men, however, were very helpful and taught me a lot about computers. The software I acquired came from the men I knew who lived near me or met online. These men also taught me how to repair computers – they walked me through the "stuff in the box."  One guy even told me about a box I could purchase at an electronics store that would convert the language from my Panasonic typewriter to Epson Printer Control Language and I was then the only person to have affordable letter-quality printing. That launched my typing service, which evolved into a office support/secretarial service, which evolved into a transcription service, which continues to evolve.  My motto has always been "service-with-a-smile" and contributed to my success as an entrepreneur.

The Gift And Revelation:  I have always believed that after each trial, there's a rose.  Mary Jo used to tell me this often because she was inspired by St. Theresa "The Little Flower."  She would say, "after a trial, look for the rose."  There's also an old gospel song which refers to the "Lily in the Valley." 

Two days before Christmas, I had one last unknown bit of turmoil and knew it had nothing to do with the Jeep or the Porsche I had begun lusting for and thought I would have by now. I couldn’t figure it out. I kept coming back to the guy at the transmission shop and the conversation we had. The words that kept coming to me were "you have more power than you think you have and stop judging yourself by others.  Look at what you have."  As I sat staring in my living room for some time, remembering the guy's words and trying to figure out what it all meant, I thought forget it, I’m going to bed.

About an hour after getting into bed, one of my dogs – the one Christine often referred to as the “dummie” started barking. He does this weird thing some nights and one night I snuck up on him and found him in the kitchen, in the dark. I quickly turned on the light and found him standing in the center of the floor barking at the door. I thought him truly stupid, turned off the lights, and went back to bed.  Now, here this dog was doing it again. This time, he left the hallway and went into the living room. What I noticed however, was the other little one did not get up to bark with him. Usually she sails off the bed or jumps and turns sharp corners to catch up with him to join him in barking.  Not this time.  I continued thinking “what a dumb dog,” turned over, and he did finally shut up.

Approximately one-half hour later, he started up again and the little one still did not bark. I decided to sneak up on him again to see where he was and why he was barking. I initially thought he might have been at the fireplace and perhaps something got in. I got up, tip-toed into the hallway, peeped around the corner and there he was sprawled across the living room floor, looking up at something and barking “wolf” then he wagged his tail. “Wolf, wolf” and he wagged his tail again. I came completely around the corner and leaned against the wall. This boy can be so focused and so intense when he is barking, he barely notices me sneaking up on him. The little one, however, walked around me, sat and just looked at him. She did not go into her usual momma alpha dog mode running up to him growling as if to tell him to shut up. I felt she knew exactly who was standing in front of him.

I’m sorry, I have no logical explanation for why this dog was laying flat on his belly, apparently looking up at someone, barking playfully at them, and wagging his tail. I just do not have an explanation for that. Dropping books that mysteriously open to particular pages – I can deal with that. Mysteriously retrieving the wrong file that reminds you, specifically, of someone – I can deal with that. Music playing at the right time after a particular thought – I can relate to all such incidents as these. But, a physical presence standing before my dog and my dog – no, both dogs see it – never been down that road.

The next day, I called “Oh Logical One,” my mother. If she can’t see it, feel it, taste it, it don’t exist. In order to not make the event a big deal, we talked about everything under the sun for a while and then I told her “what my stupid dog did early this morning.” My mother got real serious. “What do you think he was looking at?” she asked. “I don’t know” was my response.  “Was something on the roof you think?” I responded “he was not looking at the ceiling.” “Was he looking in the kitchen?” I said “no, he was looking up and the kitchen was dark.” “How did you see him then?” I told her “both the lights in my office and living room were on.” “Was he looking at a spider?” I told her “if the itsy bitsy spider was coming down from the ceiling, since his head never moved to track the spider, I walked over to see what he saw and there was no itsy bitsy spider, rabbit, mouse, moth, nothing.” Somewhere in the middle of this question and answer session my mother switched from “What do you think” to “Who do you think he saw?” To keep the questions going with “Oh Logical One” I responded “I don’t know.” Then she asked "did the hair stand up on the back of your neck, did you experience any fear?" I told her “no, I was actually quite comfortable.” She asked again, “Who do you think he saw?” This time I answered with my first thought when I looked down at the little one – “I wondered if Christine was in the house.” My mother calmly responded “talk to her.” She went on to say “you must be going through something because she showed up last night to let you know she’s there if you wanted to talk.” Well, after I retrieved my teeth and put them back in my mouth I was actually quite comfortable with the idea.

Christine and I talked every day, often several times a day about everything. Why should it be any different now?  For the next several days I did just that.  I carried on and talked about everything I felt, my frustrations, my anger, asked questions, I just talked and did some catching up. Well, she answered me Sunday morning between 12:00 midnight and 8:45 a.m. Ironically, the same time I awoke in the hospital before she died and the same time I went to bed that morning. The same experience I had for seven weeks after her death on Sunday mornings when I would awaken before or exactly at midnight and remain awake until 8:45 a.m -- the exact time I would walk over and reset my alarm clock for a time later in the day.

That morning, I learned many lessons and realized an error in judgment when I took a dream literally. In the dream, when I left Christine’s house and turned to look back, the neighborhood changed and I found myself driving up a different street in a different neighborhood and I heard Christine, as if she was sitting next to me say “this is where you should live.” I took both images literally and thought I should not look back at her literal house after finishing there and I should find a house in an wooded area just like the one I saw in the dream. Partially right; partially wrong.  Though I dislike the house where I live, I have come to love and enjoy the area and the little fuzzy neighbors I once found annoying, the coyotes, the possums, the skunks (who got my dogs one night), the little raccoons, Mr. squirrel and his family, and the cute little family of humming birds and I so dislike leaving my serenity to go into the city.  The city does not hold the same excitement it once did, not anymore.  I have also been one who disliked being stuck and looking back, but for whatever reason, I have been standing here at a fork in the road looking back down the path where I’ve come.  It’s time to say goodbye and move on. 

I learned that morning we all have choices, we choose our paths, and the paths contain the lessons we need for the next task we are to undertake. There is no wrong or right path, no good or bad choices, or good or bad lessons – just lessons we learn along the way. You can choose to stop, stall out and stay put and that’s okay. However, it is the forward motion of walking the path where we learn and experience the many lessons in life and invariably, we'll come out on the other side to yet another fork in the road – more paths, more choices, and more lessons. We need to keep our minds, our bodies, and our spirits finely tuned -- or as one homeless man told me once, "pay attention" -- so we can make wise choices for our own personal growth. Good and bad, right and wrong are perceptions and often the perceptions of others can influence individual choice. Then again, you can still choose whether you will be influenced by the perceptions of others or walk to the beat of your own drummer.  I have no reason to continue standing here, my transmission has been repaired and I've got plenty of power.

The special gift I received the morning of December 29, 2002 was the meaning of Caleb and the relevance of the message. I guess I studied too long and hard on the history of Caleb when in fact, I needed to focus (pay attention) to where I was lead at Joshua 14:6. I’ll let everyone do the math here, but this year I will be 45 – I would never have gotten that. Yes, 2003 will be a very happy new year for me as I emerge from the desert to inherit the land my feet walked across. And, yes, the stone the builders thought worthless turned out to be the most precious stone of all. You never know who you might meet and for what reason. 

I want to thank my Patron Saint, Christine, for the little pup she carried home to me in her arms, particularly since she did not like dogs.  I was actually shocked to see her carrying a dog. Her name is the title of my all-time favorite song which was a surprise for me then, but now I know what it all meant.

What would Jesus drive? I can only tell you what Jesus drove these past few years – a big Jeep Grand Cherokee with a gas guzzling V8 engine. He drove with my mother and me to and from San Francisco. He drove with my mother and me from San Francisco with my uncle in the back seat. He knew this four-wheel-drive vehicle would easily make the frequent trips over the mountains and around the hills. While he was driving, little angels were holding parts together; the brakes, the CV boots, the shafts, the transmission, and they had their little fingers on the pipe with the leak. They fell out from underneath the car with a collective sigh of relief when He told them I had everything I needed now to move on. Often He drove a Mazda Protégé and one time he drove a U-Haul from San Francisco. I don’t think he much cares about what you drive. I believe He cares most about what you do . . . with what you have.

Happy Trails (with a spotter of course).  Have you noticed how Trials and Trails have the same characters.  Hmmmmmm.

In this world there’s much confusion
and I’ve taste the city life and it’s not for me.
Now, I do dream of distant places.
Where? I don’t know now, but it’s destiny...
If it’s the rich life, I don’t want it.
Happiness ain’t always material things.
I want destiny, it’s the place for me, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Give me the simple life.
I’m getting away from here.
Let me be me, come on, let me feel free.

Now, I’m a woman that’s for all seasons.
And what the city offers me ain’t naturally.
I looked to greet the stars, but there’s no stars to see.
I’m going to search this world until I find my destiny.
If it’s the rich life, I don’t want it.
Happiness ain’t always material things.
I want destiny, it’s the place for me, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Give me the simple life.
I’m getting away from here.
Let me be me, come on, let me feel free, let me be me.

I wanna get far from here
Or should I up and fly away so fancy free
Nobody can change my mind
the words of destiny are calling me wild time...

Destiny. You and me -- so fancy free.

Destiny -- The Jacksons

Well . . . maybe not.

It's time for me to close one chapter and start another as this will probably be my last commentary for a while.  I do want to encourage anyone who is interested in contributing and sharing "Their Story," or commentary to forward to or mail to ProWord Services, P.O. Box 432, Altadena, CA 91003. 

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