Thursday, April 28, 2011

Life Lessons... from a meteorologist?

This must be my influential people blog series.  Last blog I told you about Albert Schweitzer and Victor Frankl and the tremendous impact they have had on my life.  As I contemplated what I could possibly blog about next I was drawing a blank.  So I sat, without thinking, in front of the TV watching all the weather and geological news.  Tornadoes, draught and high winds, tsunami damage, earthquakes, severe thunderstorms, flooding!  I have never cared much about watching television but weather fascinates me.  The whole time I'm watching television and looking out my window to see if I can locate the newest developing wall cloud or funnel cloud or smell the smoke from the wildfires or see my car get pelted by hail or washed away in a flood, I'm thinking "Oh, if Dad were only here, we are having epic proportions of severe weather, he would be right in the middle of all this!"

Growing up in our home with Dad as a meteorologist had a significant influence in my life.  My dad wasn't one of the TV guys.  He worked for the National Weather Service, also known as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  For many years we lived in Maryland where he was a forecaster at the Suitland, Maryland office which was NOAA headquarters for the Northern Hemisphere.   In his later years he was Meteorologist-In-Charge ("MIC") at the Albuquerque office which oversaw all of New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Arizona.

There are many characteristics of a man who lives in a world of probabilities.  For instance it was close to impossible as a child to ever get a straight "YES" or "NO" from him.  If I was in a hurry, it would make me crazy!  But, certainly, it was to my benefit to get a "maybe" or a "possibly" on things that my mother might have nixed straight out.  Although, I also remember him explaining to me when a forecast comes out at 50% it is like saying nothing, so one DOES need to take a stand in one direction or the other and not sit on the fence, but it must be well thought out.  Likewise he taught me to question what people call "facts" because quite often those are really opinions and the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. 

Many years later, when my first child developed autism and I was told by the public school system he would never develop beyond what he was at the age of four and I would eventually need to institutionalize him, I questioned the experts.  I decided there must be other possibilities, because so long as I was alive (and after, if possible), I would make certain he was never institutionalized.  Further, I spent so much time with him and could clearly see he was a lot smarter than the school was giving him credit for.  What a gift my dad had given me, believing in all the possibilities!  Nate, now almost 20 yrs old, is amazing!  He far exceeded their expectations, what he understands, what he has learned to do and how he communicates in so many ways.  He is a complete joy to be gentle giant.

My meteorologist dad taught me even more!  About the age of eight, I remember being at the grocery store with my mom.  We were checking out, minding our own business, when the grocery clerk started talking about how stupid the weathermen were, they never get anything right, she didn't know why we even had them as she could do a better job herself just looking out the window.  My eyes grew large as I watched my mom closely, she just smiled and when given the chance changed the subject.  When we got out to the car and we were driving away, I asked what that was all about, how come she didn't tell the clerk that was my Daddy she was talking about and tell her she was wrong!  My mom was smart, she said that is a good question for your father, ask him when he gets home.

With tears in my eyes I went running to my dad when he walked in the door that night and told him all about our trip to the grocery.  He smiled and said there is no need to be upset.  He explained many people do that when they don't understand something.  He told me there was nothing more dynamic on this earth than the weather, meaning nothing changes faster.  He then said, "When people criticize the weathermen they are not talking about me.  They are speaking from a place of ignorance.  They don't understand the science or the math of it.  And that's okay.  I never take these things personal and neither should you."

When we developed The NOAH Project there were many who told me it would never work.  But, it worked beautifully, the children responded in ways nobody could have predicted.  Children who hadn't talked the first years of their life, said there first words and more.  Children telling their mom and dad's they loved them, something the parents had given up on years before.  Children, who were previously enveloped in their own world, began playing interactive games.  Daily we were able to celebrate the progress of these special kids.  Had I listened to all the nay sayers that year of successes would have never happened.

When this case came against me, many people disappeared out of my life and some people spoke poorly behind my back.  And, when I lost the trial, even more shrank away.  And, when I came home after three years in prison, there were even fewer.  I just remembered what my father said, don't get angry or hurt, just keep going.  There are many who don't understand how the justice system works.  Even with the most recent exonerations across the country, there are many who don't believe an innocent person can get convicted.  And, they may never change their belief, even in light of all the evidence to the contrary.  That, I have accepted and yes, I do understand, it is not about me and not about truth, it just is what it is.  So, its up to me to move on, knowing that I am okay and doing what I need to do to clear my name.  A GIANT life lesson.

The final story I want to share with you relates to our annual family vacations.  For all the years we lived in Maryland, my parents would stuff our family in the car and travel out west, sometimes for two weeks and sometimes for a month.  We would see relatives all along the way to Dallas, then head to Albuquerque and finally Phoenix.  I always knew when we would hit New Mexico because my dad would start veering off the road.  My mom would scream and we all jumped to attention.  My father would pull over to the side of the road and point to a massive cloud formation.  He'd say, "You see those thunderheads, see how the top of them forms a perfect anvil shape?  You can't see this until we get out here to the wide open spaces, and that anvil shape signifies the most powerful thunderstorm that exists."  He went on to tell us how important it was to respect such power and how it reminded him of the power of God.  The beauty, the perfection, the absolute strength!  He taught us in those weather lessons to honor and respect our Almighty God.  He gave us visuals to anchor our faith.  How grand is that?

Thank you Dad for being in my life and teaching me such important lessons.  May you rest in peace.  


  1. Wonderful post, Audrey!!!
    What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man!!

  2. Isn't it amazing that God knew what kind of earthly father you would need to help develop you into the adult you would one day become. What a gift to be loved and raised by such a wise man!