Online Dating

“You can be anything or anybody you want to be 25 miles from home.”

“You can be anything or anybody you want to be 25 miles from home.”

Exposing a con: Let the “buyer beware.” Online dating is not for the faint of heart. The individual creating their online persona can portray virtually anything (or anybody) they want to be. For the sake of personal safety, it is up to the user of the online dating service to decide whether that information is factual or conjured in an attempt to mislead or scam. 

The very definition of the word “persona” is “a social role or a character played by an actor.” How do you know if that stranger you meet online is a quality person versus a scam artist presenting you with a series of elaborate lies? Let us first admit that self-disclosure leaves us feeling very vulnerable. Many of us who are divorced already have issues with broken trust. The decision I made to try online dating sites was met with much trepidation. I had been warned against online dating altogether by some older married friends. This was quickly disregarded because of the number of couples I know that have met and married from online matches (and who are very happy).

“Andrew” was a nice man new to online dating. He had recently been encouraged by his adult daughter Maria to try one of the top online Christian dating sites. Andrew was a lonely widow whose wife had died 2 years ago of lung cancer and we were the same age. Andrew’s late wife had been the love of his life and he had never been with another woman other than her.

His mother (a U.S. citizen) had gone on a mission trip to Germany and it was there that she met and married Andrew’s father. Andrew and his older sister had grown up in Germany where Andrew met his late wife. Together they had one daughter named Maria. It was in Germany that Andrew went to school and eventually became an electrical engineer. Andrew was nearing retirement when we met on the site and was looking forward to having some one to share his life with and travel with during retirement.

He had owned a home in Franklin, KY when he initially joined the dating site, but had just recently moved to Ypsilanti, MI where he was able to find more work. Andrew was an electrical contractor and was bidding on a huge contract for the building of a new motel. He had an upcoming interview in which he was competing with many other well-qualified electrical contractors for the same job. He asked me to pray for him that he would be awarded this contract. (Of course I promised I would.)

The Big Contract Award

The Big Contract Award

That evening, following the interview, I got a phone call from the very excited Andrew that he had been awarded the contract.   He had been awarded an international contract with one of the top international building contractors in the world. He would be in charge of a team of 20 electricians who would do all the electrical work for a huge new motel in Istanbul, Turkey. He would ship all his equipment to the location in advance and then board a plane taking him more than 5,000 miles away until the 30-day electrical wiring contract was completed.

He shared his flight itinerary so I would know where he was and be able to remember him in prayer on his journey.  At great expense, he had obtained a special cell phone plan that would enable him to text and call me while he was still in Turkey. He wanted me to know I could call him any time and he would be available to answer. If he was too busy at work when I called, he would simply text me and let me know he would return my call later. I had never met Andrew, but on the return flight at the completion of the contract, he would be making a stop over on his way back to Michigan and we would finally get to meet face to face.

Over the course of a month, I learned that Andrew attended Faithway Baptist Church in Ypsilanti. His favorites were country music, long walks, swimming, picnics, sitting in a swing in the evening and watching the moon rise. He loved to sing, dance, and play in the snow (especially big heavy snowflakes) followed by a mug of hot chocolate. He loved most of all being outdoors in nature. He enjoyed traveling but this would be his first trip ever to Turkey. Andrew’s daughter was a stay-at-home mom and her husband Tom worked for the CDC in Atlanta in special minority programs. He couldn’t wait for me to meet his family and to meet mine as well.

Andrew’s emails and texts were full of Biblical verses as well as all the sweet, endearing things any woman would love to hear from a man courting her from a distance. He wants to know how my day has gone, as well as other small details.  After all, to love and be loved is the greatest joy on Earth.

After the first week on the job, I got an email from Andrew telling me he that some of his equipment had broken and couldn’t be repaired. He managed (through his personal assistant) to locate replacements, but mistakenly misplaced his wallet and lost his card and necessary documents. The cost of the equipment would be $13,500, but he only had $10,000 available cash on hand.   He was not able to get cash released from his personal bank account because of a different IP address used when setting up the account. Even when he called the bank, they would not release the funds unless he was present in person because that was the agreement he had signed with them. Failure to continue on schedule with the building contract would wreck his professional career and he could actually lose the contract.

The con: Andrew needed me to borrow $3,500 for him so he could purchase the equipment and complete the contract. He was embarrassed to have to ask me to do this for him, but he intended to pay me back with 50% interest.  His request was followed by a string of run-on quotes concluding that “No matter how hard things seem, true love will aide us through it.”

Seriously? What kind of sucker did he think I was? Apparently a pretty big one!  No, “Andrew” (or whomever he really is) didn’t get a single cent from me. I immediately let him know I was not going to be scammed and then blocked future correspondence from him. However, I wonder how many more women he and other scum bags like him have conned.  This guy was not deterred even when he knew I work in law enforcement, take self defense classes and qualify every year on a variety of firearms.  He must have had gonads of steel or otherwise little concern I would ever be in close contact with him.

I later learned that “Andrew” had joined the online dating site where we met using someone else’s credit card. This resulted in the site administrator removing him and taking down his profile. I only found this out AFTER the attempted scam. A background check (which I paid for before the attempted scam) showed the name associated with his phone number and email address was “unavailable.” There was no Andrew Moore in either Franklin, KY or Ypsilanti, MI with a household contact or relative named Maria. There was no licensed electrical contractor in either city by that name.   There was no one with his son-in-law’s first name working for the CDC who had a wife named Maria.  It just didn’t add up.  That might explain why I was not all that surprised as I read his email request for money.  I wonder if he was surprised when I flatly refused that request and told him I wasn’t falling victim to his scam.  Poor fellow!  His “professional reputation” just got spoiled along with his scam.

This story is a refresher course in basic personal safety. I shouldn’t have felt the least bit guilty for checking out the information I was given. I sincerely wanted to be able to trust.  I wanted to believe “Andrew” was real. I wanted to believe he really cared for me. However, criminals are criminals and most of them have zero conscience. Conning people IS their job and their livelihood. I work with convicted felons on a daily basis. A quote I often hear which fits this scenario perfectly is this: “You can be anything or anybody you want to be 25 miles from home.”

I leave my readers with a few parting cautions:

1)       Never, ever, ever share such personal information as your mother’s maiden name! This is a huge personal security breach.

2)       When considering online dating, the same caution Jesus gave his 12 Disciples when He sent them out into the world applies to online dating:  Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Don’t hesitate to do a background check. It is really inexpensive and will be the wisest money you ever spent in personal security. If someone gives you information that doesn’t sound quite right, listen to your gut! It is giving you a “red alert” and you need to listen and protect yourself.

3)       Don’t waste your time on someone who “disappears” for a week or so at a time without so much as a text saying “thinking of you.”

4)       Don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t court you openly or who changes plans with you abruptly and suddenly becomes unavailable.

5)       Don’t waste your time on bitter or angry people.

6)       Don’t waste your time on “legally separated” people. They are married and therefore NOT eligible to date in the first place.

7)       Make sure you genuinely match on major points; an 80% match is worth exploring.

8)       Don’t give up the search for that special person. Continue to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in the dating experience. Despite this very negative experience, I still believe there are good people left in the world who are legitimate and single.

I’m not the least bit humiliated or embarrassed in the retelling of this true story. I AM, however, disappointed and angry because someone mistook my kindness for stupidity. Anybody can be the target of an attempted con, but the con doesn’t have to succeed. Despite all the phonies in the world, I am still genuinely a nice, caring and compassionate person.  I refuse to allow people like the “Andrews” of the world to cause me to withdraw and isolate myself socially. I have not shed a single tear, nor will I over the loss of a con man. I will, however, be even more shrewd and cautious as I go forward with online dating.

Note: It takes a lot of time to develop an elaborate and believable con. I have exposed one of them by writing this true story and that gives me a great degree of personal satisfaction. It would do no good to share photos of the con man himself, because their faces (& their cons) are constantly changing.  I’d love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com

FOLLOW UP to an attempted SCAM:

Since I shared this story, I am amazed at the number of women who have come forward telling me they had almost identically the same scam happen to them. It must have been a very lucrative scam.

I thought you’d enjoy some follow up information. AFTER I sent “Andrew” an email telling him I wouldn’t be sending him money OR falling for his scam, I was surprised that I got a follow up email!   In that email he “blames himself for trusting in me” and is disappointed in “what you think about me.” He goes on to say “I don’t believe I deserved this from you” but “you always lack of trust.” He concludes with “May God be with you as always.”

I couldn’t wait to respond! So this is what I replied:

“Andrew”

There are so many discrepancies in your story. For example: you have a phone that is untraceable. There is no Andrew Moore in Franklin, KY OR Ypsilanti, MI. There is no professional license or record of you as a contractor. Christian Mingle took down your profile because of fraudulent activity—you didn’t even use your own credit card. There is no Tom with a family member by the name of Maria in the entire employment of the CDC. Your contract is completely bogus. So was your airline itinerary.

Just how naïve do you think I am anyway? I wanted to see just how far you would carry this con. No doubt it was worked well for you in the past.

Yes I was disappointed that there are men who make it their life’s work to prey on women. No I don’t trust you. Thank God I didn’t. I am EXACTLY who I say I am and I have worked hard for every dime I’ve ever earned. There was not one untruthful comment I made to you. One day, if you even have a conscience, you might wish you had a good woman by your side. Maybe not, but either way, I am exposing your con to the public for everybody who wants to read my story. I may even publish your phone number. In fact I may have computer forensics check your IP address to trace you.

Get a real job, whomever you really are and quit taking advantage of people who actually work and earn their money honestly!

Pam (my real name)

If I can save even one woman from being a victim through sharing this story, I will consider it a mission accomplished!

Disclaimer: There is no intent to harm any honest individuals whose names appear in the context of this story, nor any company mentioned within this story. The name “Andrew Moore” was the name given to me, but it is most likely a fictitious name.

The names and faces of a con artist are always changing. Recognize the scam instead!

The names and faces of a con artist are always changing. Recognize the scam instead!

Con artists are many and there faces are constantly changing. Therefore the photo included MAY be that of an honest person. Only the con himself knows the answer as lies come easily for them and they continue to be polished.

On a parting note, I doubt you are surprised to hear that “Andrew” never responded to my last message!   If you or anybody you know has experienced the scam or one like it, I would love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com

 

 


Posted in Dating, Dating Relationships, SOCIAL MEDIA, STORIES, The Journey by with no comments yet.

A Love Story

Some can say "I care for you" but choke on the words "I love you"

Some can say “I care for you” but choke on the words “I love you”

Choosing to love is a decision to be made without expectation of reciprocation. This is a love story from my personal journey.

Most of us have spoken the words “I love you” many times over the course of our lifetime. There are many different types of love . Perhaps we would save ourselves confusion if we simply asked for clarification when we hear those words spoken to us! Love is far more complex than the romance and intimacy version “eros.” Love is ultimately a gift one person chooses to give another, whether or not it is rejected or reciprocated.

My dad was the first person who demonstrated the profound meaning of love through action. He was the 10th of 11 children, so his ability to show love had nothing to do with his ability to lavish me with material possessions. Through his story telling, giving of his time, gentle touch and comforting after a childhood injury, piggyback rides, defending and providing for my safety, he showed me a love story in small intangible ways. I always knew I held a special place in his heart. I also knew I could unconditionally trust my daddy with my whole heart. He was my childhood protector and “knight.” My dad exhibited a love story of the natural affection a parent has for their child.

As I grew older and became a young adult, I experienced a disconnect between those outside of my own family who said they loved me, but whose actions failed to demonstrate that love.  Suddenly the words “I love you” became twisted into deceptive, hollow words that had no value whatsoever. This deceptive counterfeit love became not only conditional but temporary and revocable.

Real love should never result in brokenness or dishonor of the other person. Love is not a consuming fire that leaves the one who is loved in ashes. Love should not cause pain or result in drama or destructive behavior. Rather love should build up the other up and result in joy.

Sadly, some have spent a lifetime in pursuit of love that seemed to evade them at every turn. What then, does it mean to love and why is it important to be able to extend love to others? I think God’s word demonstrates a love story toward each of us far better than I ever could.

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I mentioned earlier that love is an action word. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8   Do you know someone who would actually die for you regardless of whether your behavior was good or bad? I do. His name is Jesus.

John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in        love.” Isn’t the insecurity of fear really a lack of trust in the other person? Lack of trust comes from a place of brokenness.

If you truly know how to extend love to another person, then you are bearing fruit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

How is this a love story from my personal journey? “I have been persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:9

On my journey, I have been loved with empty words and actions. I have been “loved” as a consuming fire and left to gather up the broken pieces and sweep up the ashes of what was left. I have given of myself and been left a broken, wounded person afraid to trust and love again. Over a period of many years I finally forgave myself for my own mistakes and errors in judgment. I was angry with myself for choosing to accept crumbs rather than the feast God had prepared for me. I mourned the wasted years and broken trust. Where, I wondered, was this man by God’s own design who knew how to love and to demonstrate love to me? My Daddy had taught me about this kind of love, so surely it still existed!

Do you recall the movie “Forrest Gump?” Remember the day Forrest decided to start running? He ran without a purpose or destination in mind. He amassed a huge following of other people willing to run aimlessly alongside him. Just as suddenly as Forrest decided to stop running, so did I. One day I decided I had run long enough and had lived as a broken person long enough. I finally decided to allow God to reassemble the broken pieces of my heart and restore me to wholeness. It had only taken me 26 years in the healing process!

What happens when love dies or when you realize you were given counterfeit love versus the real deal? Does the love you once freely offered then turn to hate or scorn for the one who rejected your love? The answer is: only if you allow it.   We can choose to allow God’s unconditional love to transform and restore us from a place of brokenness to a place of wholeness.   First we have to release the crumbs and hurt we are holding onto with clinched fists, give it to God and allow Him to heal us.

I have now made the choice to love—even without reciprocation. When I say “I love you” I truly mean it. My friends hear these words from me and know I mean it through my actions. I have learned to love the person and the heart and soul of the person, rather than the gift wrapping on the exterior. If that person rejects the love I offer (whether it is the love for a friend or something deeper), then that is their choice not to accept the gift I offer them.

I am finally strong enough and confident enough to walk away from any relationship that is not fashioned by God’s design and still remain a whole person. No longer will I leave broken pieces of my heart and my life strewn behind. That is a love story for me, a gift from my Heavenly Daddy whose capacity for love far exceeds anything my Earthly Daddy could ever give. I choose to love, knowing that giving love to another doesn’t diminish me, but enriches my own life in the process.

What about you?  Have you ever known someone who simply could not say the words “I love you” and the best they could say is “I care for you”?    I’d love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com


Posted in Dating, Dating Relationships, Fear, Seniors Dating, The Journey, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

Daddy’s Girl

If you are a “daddy’s girl,” nobody has to tell you are.  You know it because your daddy will always be your hero, whether he is still with you or not.  Daddies like my dad and my son continually raise the bar for dads everywhere by exhibiting love in action. Through their determination and creativity, their little girls come to believe there is nothing their daddies can’t do (or fix).  I am not talking about the kind of daddies who hand over a credit card or who are financially able to buy their children everything their hearts desire (or enable them by bailing them out every time they get in trouble).  I am talking about the evidence of love through intangible gifts of time.  One such friend is Bryan.  He recruits an entire team to join him as he jumps in the chilling waters every winter to support Special Olympics and honor his daughter.  My friend Jonathan supports his children in their sports and musical aspirations (even the basic cooking and baking skills).  These dads are part coach, part mentor, part hero and each of them exhibits love in action in their own unique way.  THIS is the kind of daddies that inspire this story. 

As a child, I thought my daddy could do just about anything. My earliest memories of him cannot be confirmed. Apparently a baby of crib age doesn’t remember. The experts can’t disprove the memory I have of my daddy’s smiling face leaning over my crib wearing a red plaid cap. Granted, as an adult I can’t imagine my daddy wearing anything other than a UK blue cap, but that’s a different story altogether.

I remember the tender moments shared by the little girl version of myself and my dad. I remember him teaching me to tie my shoes.   I remember the piggyback rides. I remember writing notes back and forth with him when he was on evening shift and gone to work before I got home from school. I remember the storytelling, the banjo playing and his infamous “Bottle Rump Jim” jig he did while playing that banjo. I remember the whistles he made for me from the stalks of Speckled Jewel Weed  But of all these, the thing that stands out in my mind as a huge gift of time and love was the hand made swing set.

I grew up in the 1950’s when children still spent a lot of time outdoors playing instead of indoors on electronic devices.   My dad had grown up in the early 1900’s when there simply were no toys in a family of 11 children in the rural areas of southeastern Kentucky.   As a child, he and his siblings learned to play games and create their own fun. They swung on grapevines and climbed trees. But the 50’s were different. On our playground at school, we actually had a real swing set. Unfortunately, there was also a really long line for those swings at recess. I must have mentioned this to my dad more than once, but I never remember actually asking him to buy me a swing set.

One day, my daddy went into the woods with a double bit axe and came home hours later carrying a huge locust post on his shoulder. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t even get curious when he made several more trips on subsequent days, bringing home still more locust posts. However, I became curious when he started digging holes in our back yard below a huge Mimosa tree. At this point, I began to do what any daddy’s girl would do. I stuck by his side, watching his every move as the poles went in the ground, holes were drilled, boards were cut for the seats and chains were hung suspending 2 swings—one for me and one for my brother. Our swing set was constructed of rough-hewn, unpainted locust posts, but it was so sturdy, nothing could tear it up.My daddy couldn’t afford a store-bought swing set, but he cared enough to use his creativity and take the time and energy  to build one for my brother and me.  I spent hours every day swinging on that swing set while singing the lyrics of Que Sera Sera.  I was a child and I didn’t have a care in the world.

We were the only children in our neighborhood with a swing set and it wasn’t because we were rich. My daddy loved us enough to want to give us the little things he couldn’t afford to buy.   As you might imagine, neighborhood kids enjoyed that swing set right along with us for years to come.

Since my own daddy was a stand in dad for my children, I am sure my son learned a lot of those same wonderful attributes from him.

“I'm not a carpenter. I'm a Baker who's a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”

“I’m not a carpenter. I’m a Baker who’s a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”

“I’m not a carpenter. I’m a Baker who’s a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”  These were the words of my son, Shad as he began construction of a doll bed. He is that special kind of daddy inspiring yet another little girl (my granddaughter) to become a “daddy’s girl.” With all the doll houses and dolls my eight-year-old granddaughter has to play with, what she lacked was a suitable bed for them. Thanks to a little girl’s “need” for a doll bed and the creativity of two loving parents, my granddaughter now has a doll bed that may one day be handed down to her own daughter.

In writing this, I give due recognition to my wonderful daughter-in-law as well as my son. My daughter-in-law Melanie makes doll clothes, furniture, and even made the mattress, pillows and blankets to complete this doll bed project. She is extremely creative and talented and is inspiring the same in my granddaughter. Together she and my son are a great daddy/mommy team (which is as it should be!)

Are you a daddy’s girl?  What special memories do you have of the way your dad showed love in action through the intangible gift of his time and/or talents?  Please share in the comments below.

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com

Children today don’t have to wait for the Christmas catalogs from Sears, Roebuck and Company, Montgomery Ward or J.C. Penney to shop for toys. Children know how to search for the newest and greatest on the internet. They haven’t yet learned about budgets and the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. Sadly, children are continually the targeted for advertising on television as well as the internet. Advertisers know how persistent children can be when they want something.   This is why it is important to teach children the difference between something they actually NEED versus something they WANT. It is important to teach them the value of money and saving their money to buy the things they want most. It is also important to inspire children to be creative.


Posted in Leaving a legacy, Mindset, STORIES, The Journey, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

The Journey

Sometimes you don't see where the path leads and you have to overcome adversity along the way.

Sometimes you don’t see where the path leads and you have to overcome adversity along the way.

The way we view relationships and dating experiences changes over the lifespan. Priorities (at least for me) have changed dramatically. I couldn’t count the times I’ve been accused of being picky.   I don’t deny it and furthermore, I make no apologies. If past relationships have brought you more grief than joy, it is time to re-evaluate your choices. The experiences that brought me to “pickiness” are reflected in the journey.

I was the typical teenager in many ways; I was far too concerned with being liked and popular. Still I was the sheltered small town girl and was never part of the “popular” crowd at school. I made friendships as a result of being in band and chorus, school plays, and was even editor of the school paper. My mother admonished me to “be a lady” every time I left the house. Misbehaving was not an option.

Before age 20, I still believed in the fictitious “white knight” that unfortunately never came. I dreamed of being loved, cherished and protected.   I still clung to romantic notions of finding a soul mate. I was married by my senior year of high school (in what I perceive to have been an arranged marriage).  It was a terrible mistake that has set the stage for my entire adult life. The young man had asked my parents but never actually asked me. My parents had said yes and both had signed consent (even though I never asked them). He bought the rings. How does a 16 year old back out of that?   The blessings of that relationship were my two children.

By age 27 I was a single parent with only a high school diploma struggling to raise two children without monetary support. (Times were much different then in terms of child support laws.) The vows we took on our wedding day had been broken, but not by me. I was crushed more by the betrayal of a close friend, who had also made a bitter mistake. But that is someone else’s journey to share.  There is no room for bitterness or malice in my heart.  This event redirected the journey for me and my children into uncharted territory.   Two small children depended on me for their survival, so there was no room for failure.  Survival was a struggle for the 3 of us.  We learned that, by sticking together, we were invincible…..with the blessing of Jesus to accompany us on the journey.  We had many heart-to-heart family meetings as a threesome when things were really tough.  As children, they didn’t realize how many bridges to the future we had to build along the way.  That’s one reason why my favorite poem is “The Bridge Builder.”  It so perfectly symbolizes the journey of overcoming adversity.

We were a close knit threesome and that became my adult identity

We were a close knit threesome and that became my adult identity

In my 30’s, harsh reality left little room for dreams. I was about the business of survival and raising my children and that was priority one for me. Bridge building on the journey had to begin and my tools were education. In the 1980’s I earned an associate degree in mining technology, then went on to earn a diploma from a practical nursing (LPN) school and immediately enrolled in an associate degree (RN) nursing program. Eventually I earned 2 more associate degrees.

A major part of the journey that changed me was my decision to marry a second husband 5 years after divorcing the first (& for the same reason). There was no one but myself to blame for this mistake and my poor judge of character.  It has taken years of personal insight (and healing) to realize what a broken woman I was when that marriage ended. I never felt so used, abused, rejected and abandoned in my entire life. I never believed that I was bitter, but because of that brokenness I lost all desire to date.  Trust was gone. Maybe that “white knight” was just a fairy tale after all.

In my 40’s, I worked full time while attending baccalaureate nursing classes full time. I had a total of 2 weekends off a year. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but that is what I needed to do and somehow I reached down deep into the well of God-given inner strength and did it.   At the age of 41, I completed my BSN degree, becoming a first generation college student in my family. My children would follow me to claim their baccalaureate diplomas in 1996 and 1997 (education and agronomy). My total focus was to be a living example to my children of the value of hard work, determination and overcoming adversity. Mission accomplished!

In my 50’s, I watched as each of my children took their places in society and began building lives for themselves as independent and responsible adults. My friends always said it was a great thing that I had my children when I was aged 19 and 21. When they were grown, I would be able to do anything I wanted to do.

The funny thing is, my focus was never on self-discovery of what I wanted to do when my children were grown. I never saw past my mission of getting them both through college. Consequently, the “empty nest” reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I was still viewing my identity as that of struggling single parent. The image I had of myself had to change. For the longest time, I just wanted my children to be close to me. Unfortunately, that desire resembles smothering instead of mothering. They didn’t need ME anymore, but I was the one who needed THEM.   Beyond raising and educating my children, I had long since forgotten how to dream for myself.

The journey to change that image of myself was monumental. There were years of rapid changes that happened faster that I could adjust. There were personal, professional, financial and health-related challenges to overcome. There were times I felt abandoned.   There were times I felt depressed.   There were times I lost my sense of purpose and felt like most of my useful life was behind me. I was lonely in a city of over 295,803 and had no idea how to change that. In fact, it was a fearful proposition to think about.

My 60’s have been a growing era of redefining the person I have become further down the journey of my life. It has been an era of learning how to dream again. Six years after my oldest child left the nest, I learned how to wave good-bye to my former identity as a single mother. It was the result of many, many baby steps. Sometimes those steps were taken through tears and loneliness.

I had to come out of my safety zone and establish interests and friendships separate from those I had had with my children. I had to learn to invest in myself.  I had to forgive myself for my past mistakes. Now I care far less about being liked and popular and far more about being respected for the journey that has molded me into the woman I am today.  If my “white knight” is still out there (and since I’ve learned to dream again, I believe he is).  I now believe I would recognize him if I saw him.   I know the qualities (not physical attributes) I’m looking for and where I will accept no compromise.   He must be a man who loves the Lord first.  Finally I am ready to meet him!

What about you? Where are you in the journey? What have you learned along the way? What adversities have you overcome?   I’d love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com


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Hurricane Katrina Disaster Volunteer

Red Cross Feeding Station in Slidell, Louisiana September 2005

Red Cross Feeding Station in Slidell, Louisiana
September 2005

It was August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina touched down on the Gulf Shore causing mass devastation and loss of lives. I was with a locker room full of gym friends that morning as we watched a live news channel and anxiously waited to hear how Louisiana and Mississippi survived Katrina’s landfall. It was an intense feeling of helplessness and anxiety as each of us wanted to rush to help. None of us had a clue where to begin or how to prioritize help where it was most needed. This is a story of my experience as a Hurricane Katrina disaster volunteer.

A Cry For Help

In the weeks following Katrina, the world watched as desperate people literally begged for help without an immediate and coordinated flow of relief and aide. Most of us have learned something from that event and fortunately it has changed how the world views and trains for natural disasters.

Bureaucracy and the Call to Volunteer

Appalled by the slow response and lack of coordinated effort, churches and small teams of volunteers all over the U.S. began descending upon Mississippi and Louisiana to help meet the urgent need for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief volunteers. Our church was one that committed to send groups of volunteers on a weekly basis over a period of months to help with recovery work.   Volunteers were based at First Baptist of Slidell, an official Red Cross Feeding Station and a hub of recovery activity.

The Journey

Porter Memorial Baptist Church Team #2

Porter Memorial Baptist Church Team #2

I was with a team of 13 volunteers, the second sent from my church, departing the week of September 19th, 2005. We journeyed by church bus, packed in with supplies and luggage like sardines. It was an 11-hour, almost 800 mile non-stop journey with all of us upbeat for the tasks at hand. We were eager to roll up our sleeves and give those unfortunate survivors our best efforts, hoping to accomplish miracles in the process.

We watched in amazement as the scenery around us changed in route from huge trees snapped off like toothpicks to near-total devastation.

The Accommodations

Co-ed accommodations inside church sanctuary

Co-ed accommodations inside church sanctuary

Upon our late evening arrival in Slidell, we were greeted by scores of other very weary-looking, but none-the-less smiling volunteers. We were then shown to our spacious co-ed accommodations, a sea of cots completely filling a recently flooded church sanctuary.

I have no idea how many of us, mostly total strangers, who slept side by side on those tiny army cots. Later, when I heard volunteers were still finding snakes from Lake Pontchartrain’s breach of the gymnasium roof, I was grateful for that tiny cot.

Psychological Effect on Volunteers

There were watermarks over 3 feet high on the walls throughout the church. Wet insulation had been recently torn out and the walls treated to prevent the formation of mold.

All disaster work is intense. Disaster relief workers themselves are often running on empty both emotionally and physically as they reach out to help others.   Faced with the enormity of the tasks at hand, it is hard to shut your mind off even to get a few hours of sleep. It is very humbling to feel equivalent to the size and strength of an ant compared to the magnitude of the need.

If you’ve ever studied ants at work, they are a visual lesson in the teamwork and personnel required to accomplish disaster relief work.

Like colonies of ants, volunteers can accomplish amazing things when they work together in a well-coordinated effort. Desire alone though, is simply not enough.

My mind refused to shut off, flashing images in my head of desperate, broken people who had lost everything. My desire to help was so intense, the task so enormous, who could possibly be selfish enough for the luxury of sleep? The workdays easily stretched to 16 hours, leaving us fatigued to the point of exhaustion. Still I could not sleep. There were too many tasks to be accomplished to sleep.

The “Colony” of Volunteers

We had little time to tour the devastation around us as our team was assigned a variety of tasks, subject to change at a moment’s notice to accommodate fluid priorities. (If you’re not flexible, disaster relief work is probably not for you.)

Tearing out to rebuild

Tearing out to rebuild

Men helped tear out walls and insulation, treating for mold afterward. Some helped feed the masses and give out food, water and cleaning supplies to the disaster victims.

Serving up hot meals to be delivered to disaster victims.

Serving up hot meals to be delivered to disaster victims.

Some helped unload and organize donations as they arrived in a continual flow of tractor/trailers from all across the U.S.

I happened to be the only nurse on our team, so my initial task was to render any necessary first aid to our team of volunteers. That too was a fluid assignment. St. Tammany Parish (Slidell) Health Department was out of commission and only the emergency room remained open at the local hospital.

Bonding

There were names and faces of both volunteers and disaster victims we never had time to learn. Regrettably, there was contact information we never had time to exchange. Photos are my only reminders of the temporary bonds made as each of us was gripped by the power of the same disaster that brought us together.

 

Preview of Coming Attraction

Be sure to subscribe for the follow up story: “If You Build It They Will Come”

This is the story of how my initial assignment as team nurse evolved into something far bigger.

What has been your experience as a disaster volunteer? Have you ever been impacted as a survivor of a natural disaster?   I’d love to hear your stories.

Pam Baker, RN

PamBakerRN.com

 

 


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