“Plans Change,” Oct. 15, 2019

My grandmother used to say, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” As a child, I couldn’t see why God would find that so funny. But that was before I was old enough to make plans.

As an adult, I often think I probably keep God in stitches. But there was nothing funny in our latest change of plans. Recently, my husband and I were looking forward to going to Los Angeles for a few days to see my son and his wife and their, oh, so adorable 6-month-old.

Those plans were put on hold when we realized we might need to stay home and pack the contents of our freezer and fridge on ice in a cooler.

On Wednesday morning, Oct. 9, with weather forecasts in California calling for extreme winds and low humidity — conditions that would dramatically raise an already high risk of wildfires — Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to some 700,000 homes or businesses in more than 30 counties in Northern California.

We expected Monterey County, where we live, to be included, but the outage only extended as far south as Silicon Valley. Initially, it was thought it might last a week, but power was restored to most by Friday.

With a sigh of relief, we decided to go to LA after all. We planned to leave Saturday for the five-hour drive. But Thursday night, before bed, I saw a news report about a small wildfire burning near Sylmar, 20 miles west of my son’s home. I started to call him, but didn’t want to wake them. And I didn’t want to seem overly protective, which my kids always say I am.

The next morning I woke early to check the news. The fire had exploded overnight, moving west, closing several highways and forcing evacuations. Winds were gusting over 70 mph.

I called my son. No answer. I left a message: “Call me.”

Minutes later, when he called back, I could hear my grandson babbling in the background. My son assured me they were in no danger, and if that changed, they would leave.

I believed him. When it comes to his wife and child, the boy is even more protective than I am. We agreed it was not a good time to visit, and not just because of the fire and the smoke. Traffic in LA is always bad, but with multiple road closures and 100,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders, it would be insane.

“Keep me posted?” I said, and he promised he would.

While people in Los Angeles fled from the fire, I followed news reports online, from the comfort and safety of my home.

At the same time, 1,000 personnel from Los Angeles’ city and county fire departments, along with crews from CalFire, worked past exhaustion — many of them risking their lives — to stop an inferno and save countless lives and homes.

I’ve always been in awe of the kind of person who is willing to risk everything — to run toward danger, rather than away from it — simply for the good of others.

I wanted to thank them, and their families, personally — to hug their necks and feed them pizza and tell them that they are heroes. They probably already know that. I surely hope so.

On Saturday, the weather cooled, the winds calmed, the fire was about 40 percent contained, and the evacuation orders were lifted.

I’ve never been forced to leave my home, but I’ve known others who’ve had to flee from fires or floods or storms. It’s a sobering reminder of how precious life is, and how quickly it can change.

We will go see my son and his family soon, I hope. As my grandmother would say, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”


  1. In “Wind brings change of plan” you reference your grandmother saying, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” This fairly common phrase is often misconstrued. It turns out that the phrase was written by Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was a politician and Indian agent. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the U.S. to return to Washington. In his response, he was said to write, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because he capitalized the word “Creek” it is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body of water. Now you know.

  2. Sandy Westrand says

    I used to laugh about changed plans. I always worked and saved so that as a single mom, when I retired, I could live frugally and do some of the things I couldn’t. do while I was raising four children. And God laughed. I retired earlier than I planned and at 70 I adopted my 7 year old grandson when his father died. It is a different trip than I had planned, but at least I have a traveling companion! Even though your weekend trip didn’t work out, I glad your family are ok.

  3. Sharon-
    I’m so glad that your son and his family are safe!
    I just wanted to thank you for making me smile. When I was young and living at home when I said goodnight to my dad he would often say “Good lord willing the creeks don’t rise I’ll see you in the morning at 7:05.” I hadn’t thought of that in years and your last line brought back that memory. He committed suicide 17 years ago and I still miss him every day – thank you for making me smile.

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Oh my dear Sharon, thank you. My awesome BIL is one of those who run toward danger… even though his over-protective SIL (that would be yours truly) keeps telling him that, at 56, it’s time to retire from LAFD. He’s a firefighter paramedic, does swift water rescue and was on the helicopter last week dumping water on that fire for three days. And yes, it’s dangerous, very dangerous. I’m going to send your column to him and my baby sister (the one I always treated extremely well 😜😜). Thanks are always appreciated.

  5. Nothing is set in stone around our house something always comes up change plan’s. My granny said the same thing Lord willing & the Creek don’t rise. We just pray for another day.

  6. So glad your son and his family are safe. Scary times. Our Santa Rosa area families were evacuated last year. Their neighborhoods were safe, but the unknown was worrisome. My husband and I have our mental list of what to take if we need to leave in a hurry. Besides the usual ID & cash, iPhone, iPad, etc., we’d pull our computer backup drives. Memories, photos – all in a convenient easy-to-carry container.

  7. Patti Peters says

    I am so glad you were safe. I just returned from a friend in Big Bear Lake for 3 weeks and watched in horror the fire issues. I can’t imagine this here in Ohio, especially the brave who fight for the average person. Bless them all and keep them safe. I wish for rain for the whole west coast!

  8. I’m so glad your son and family are safe. We live in Northern California and were part of the power outage for two days along with thousands of others who were without power for longer. We made the decision a while back to get a full house generator with direct input to our home so we would not go without power. I think a lot of Californians will have to make similar preparations in the future because I believe this will become the new normal. I love the way you put information for your columns into written word it is a beautiful thing. Thanks Sharon.

  9. Jeannette Buck says

    Ain’t it the truth! OH ain’t it the truth!

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