From Panic to Peace: finding calm in the face of a storm

On September 5th when I went to the South Miami Target they were already out of water, batteries and many of the other “necessities for your hurricane preparedness kit”. They had a lot of sardines. At that point I was still feeling okay, there was a good chance in the predictions that Hurricane Irma would track to the east. On September 6th I helped my in-laws put on their hurricane shutters and got an enormous headache that night, probably from dehydration.

1 of 18 hurricane shutters

I also had my first panic attack with pounding  heart, nausea and dizziness. We were planning to stay in our house. It was built in 1950 and has a strong hip roof (an actual type of roof, not a roof that practices yoga nor one that is up on all the latest trends) and flexible accordion shutters that lock and are built to withstand extreme wind and impact from flying debris. However, we also have a yard full of trees including an amazing  Live Oak tree that was planted when the house was built. It’s right outside our son’s bedroom. I began to run through worst case scenarios and it wasn’t pretty.

Our 67 year old Live Oak tree and the corner of our house

By the 7th the panic was getting the best of me. I had a dream about escaping with nothing but my antique brown suitcase and my rainbow tie dye bathing suit. My journal entry that morning included the following under Thoughts to Clear – “I am going to die in the upcoming hurricane. ” I closed most of our shutters and locked them. The house was dark inside.

Accordion Shutters

Calls from anxious family members and friends increased my feelings of fear. I convinced my husband that we should go to his parents’ house for the storm, taking the dog, cats, food, and water. Although my in-laws are in a potential flood zone they didn’t have any huge trees over their house. My husband came home from work at lunchtime to put up plywood shutters on the two small windows at the rear of the house that didn’t have accordion shutters. I spent the afternoon taking all of our pictures off the walls and wrapping them in heavy black plastic and duct tape. What would I miss the most if it were lost? Our pictures, my journals, the scrapbooks my mother-in-law has made for my son and husband, my great-grandfather’s fiddle. I tried not to keep checking the storm track on the NOAA website but it was like an addiction. I wanted to know what was happening even though I had no control over it. The storm kept growing larger and had decimated the areas it had already hit.

In the late afternoon I took a break and checked my email. There was a message from Shiloh Sophia, about Whispering to Hurricanes. It wasn’t written only to me, it was to all of her subscribers, but it felt as if it had been written just for me. I read it and cried and went out to sit under the Live Oak tree, perhaps for the last time, and told her how much I loved her. I thanked her for sheltering our house from sun and rain, for being a home to animals and orchids, for making so many acorns last year for the squirrels, for being the site of my “sit spot”, an outdoor meditation practice that I have been doing for many months. I prayed for her to make it through the storm. I curled up between her roots and felt loved and held. I found peace.

My sit spot and where I found peace

The 5:00 advisory from NOAA announced the storm was shifting, not to the east, but to the west. While this meant devastation to the Florida Keys and much of the west coast of Florida, it also meant that we would not receive a direct hit in Miami as had been predicted. We breathed a tentative sigh of relief. It was our 9th family anniversary. We had adopted our son in China on this date in 2008. We didn’t celebrate although we did find a moment to take a family portrait on the love seat, with all of us sweaty and exhausted from preparing for the storm. We spent that night in our house. My journal entry included a gratitude list of all that I am grateful for. It was a long list.

The next morning the track continued to go west. I went back to my in-laws to retrieve the dog’s crate and food, my son’s food and some gin.  I helped my father-in-law cut down the awning over their porch so it wouldn’t pull off part of the roof. The storm wasn’t due until the following day but already there were strong gusts of wind and rainstorms as the outer bands from Irma swirled towards us. The power was out when I returned home. Throughout the day the wind and rain increased. I found myself looking at the things around us with a new sense of appreciation but also a realization of impermanence. What happens to those people who have no warning, in an earthquake, a fire, a flood that you don’t see coming?  What would you try to save?

Sunday morning, September 10th, Irma continued west and we had a normal breakfast. We have a gas stove that can be lit with a lighter and a small generator that kept our freezer humming along and our cell phones and computers operating.

A marvelous invention!

We were able to communicate with our loved ones and reassure them that we were safe. The tropical storm force winds whipped leaves and branches from the trees,  and snapped some trees at the trunk.  Hard rain came in bands and we were happy we had reinforced the front door with sand bags, a tarp, and our large TV cabinet. My relief at having dodged the worst of the storm shifted to sorrow for those who were being hit hardest. I worried about our greyhound who was afraid to go out in the rain and wind.  Each time the rain stopped and I opened the back door to look outside, the landscape had changed. More palm fronds on the ground, another small tree down, our neighbor’s wild almond tree snapped in half and lying in the back yard. Finally, around 6 p.m. the storm lessened and we were able to get Magi outside to relieve himself. It had been 22 hours since he’d last gone!

I checked on our neighbors’ friends who were expecting a baby and staying next door, broke out the gin, and started cooking dinner. We had made it. “It’s good to alive” as my husband posted later that night. And amended “to be alive.”

On September 11th, the anniversary of the terrorists attacks on the U.S, we walked outside to an altered landscape. The sound of chainsaws filled the air and we realized how lucky we were after seeing other homes that didn’t fare as well as ours.

A neighbor’s poinciana tree that snapped in the wind

We checked in with friends and neighbors, offering ice and cold drinks. We rescued two of our neighbors’ five koi that had made it through the night without a working aerator.

Our neighbors’ fish, enjoying the bubbler in our pond

People we had formerly only waved at now stopped by to offer gasoline for our generator. Disaster can bring out the best in people. On our 10th day without electricity we are now accustomed to cold showers, cooking on the gas grill and walking around with a headlight.  The streets are mostly clear and school is scheduled to reopen tomorrow after more than a week of being closed.  Clean up continues and there are power companies from all over the U.S. and Canada restoring electricity to Florida. Many of our neighbors now have power and I’m editing this post and adding photos from the comfort of one of their air conditioned houses.  Soon I’ll go back home and I know I won’t remain in a peaceful state for the entire day. Bands of frustration, impatience, and anger will be interspersed with moments of sincere appreciation for little comforts like ice in a glass of water, enjoyment of the fact that I have a house to return to, the feel of a fan blowing on my skin, and connection and love for my family. I don’t expect to stay in a state of bliss but I’m a lot more aware of when I’m happy. Watching the stars at night, seeing the breeze blow through the branches of the Live Oak and taking clean laundry off the clothesline are all opportunities for experiencing peace and joy.May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you love and be loved.

p.s. We are now tracking Tropical Storm Maria and won’t put the generator away, even if power is restored!


Heeding the Call to Create

For many people the idea of creating something on a regular basis is full of barriers.  “I’m not creative enough” or “I don’t have time”  are two of the main excuses we use.  I used both of them for many years and yet I kept feeling called to be creative. When I was still teaching I had opportunities to be creative with the children I taught, but I never gave  myself permission to go beyond art projects suitable for a class of 4-5 years olds.  While I kept journals for many years it wasn’t something I was willing to share with anyone. I didn’t feel like I was creative enough for anyone to want to read what I wrote.

The more I reach out to people, the more I realize that I wasn’t the only one with those blocks. I see people on Instagram who are just beginning to dare to share their work and I know they feel vulnerable. What if someone is critical? What if no one “likes” it? I read others’ blogs who are just starting out and I recognize that feeling of wanting to apologize before I even hit send. What if no one reads it or what if it’s boring or what if there are spelling or grammar errors and it seems


The first time I went into Blick art supplies I was completely intimidated. I felt like a fraud! Only real artists were allowed to shop there! But everyone was nice and I even stuck around for a demonstration and bought some watercolor pencils. The first time I published a blog post I was terrified! It took all my courage to hit the “send” button.

But sometimes I hear from someone that my words made a difference for them. That in combination with someone else’s words or an image or an idea that had been floating around they became inspired to make a change in their life. And it’s bringing them joy.  That reading my book with their child was fun and they stayed up past their bedtime to finish it. Or I might hear back from a friend that a picture I shared on Instagram reminded them to feel gratitude for the little things.  And that’s all it takes to make me realize that my fear is just fear. That sharing our creative ideas is good not just for the person creating but also for those that receive it.

Most of the time when I paint something  (on canvas, with acrylics!) I don’t share it, but invariably when I do people are kind. There is a community of people who create for the joy of it. Some of them are making a living at it and  others dream of making a living at it. But the real reason we’re creating is because it lights us up.  We create because we love it. And because we are called to.

If you’re feeling called to create, what’s stopping you? Is it fear? Are you creating but not feeling “good enough” to share? If you have blocks and want help getting over them I’d love to talk with you about it. And if you’ve gotten over your fears and are sharing your gifts I’d love to celebrate with you!

My next post will be about the second excuse; “I don’t have time.”

Until then, Happy Creating!



Perfect is the enemy of good

There are all kinds of reasons for not finishing something and getting it out into the world. For more years than I care to count, I’ve had a vintage metal lawn chair that belonged to my grandmother, Dean Donovan, on my dad’s side of the family. It found its way to my house in Miami, a little worse for the wear, but still a very serviceable chair. It’s comfortable, rocks just a little when you push with your feet against the ground, and brings a lot of good memories.

I forgot to take a picture before I started sanding, but you can get a good idea of what it looked like.

For a long time it has sat on my back porch, covered with a towel, slightly rusty, sometimes used by the cat. I rarely sat in it and it always made me a little sad to see it there. Many years ago my husband stripped off the original navy blue paint and another layer of forest green paint and sprayed on a coat of primer. And for some reason, it never got finished. I kept telling myself I would paint it someday but I was worried about getting it right.

I love the lopsided smile that says “Yes! Paint me!”

This week I got a sudden desire to paint the chair. Monday afternoon I went to Home Depot (site of my previous run in with the roofing project!) and bought a beautiful light aqua color of Rustoleum spray paint. My husband has a nifty little electric sander and collection of sand paper. The primer and rust came off pretty quickly and in two days the chair was sanded down to bare metal.  On Wednesday I sprayed on the first coat of paint and although there were a few drips and a bug or two flew into it, it looked pretty good. Today I put on the second coat and let the chair dry in the sun.

The paint job is not perfect. If it were, I’d probably be afraid to sit in it! But it’s done, it’s good enough and I will enjoy it for many years to come.  As I’m starting my new business I find myself getting caught up in the same kinds of procrastination. What if my website isn’t perfect? What will people think? What if my intake form is missing something? What about scheduling and blog posts and having the right niche?  So I’m putting it out there as I build it, knowing it’s not perfect, but realizing that sometimes it’s more important to have a comfortable chair than a perfect chair. Is there something that you’ve been putting off because you want it to be “just right”? I’d love to talk with you about it, and if the weather is nice I’ll be doing it from my back porch, sitting in a comfortable chair that’s been around for a long time.

p.s. Speaking of imperfection, my friend and fellow coach, Tina Peacock, let me know that she wasn’t able to respond to my last blog post because the contact information wasn’t set up correctly. I tried to fix it but I don’t know if I did it right! So if you want to contact me just send me an email at 

I would love to hear from you!

I did it!

As of 9:58 this morning I am a certified Martha Beck Life Coach!

It’s been an amazing year and I’m so grateful to have found my way to this path. Thank you to everyone who allowed me to practice my tools with them. Thank you to all of you who have wished me well, referred me to friends and written wonderful testimonials! Thank you to my fellow life coach cadets who have joined me on the journey and are out there in the world doing wonderful work. Thank you to the Martha Beck Life Coach Training teachers and support staff who made this process so awesome. Thank you to my family, my in-laws, and my husband and son who have supported me every step of the way. And now for a pink drink! (Well, maybe not immediately, but at some point today!)

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