Okay, we’re calling it—Mar Tobiason is the most intriguing woman from The Father’s House. AS TOLD TO BETHANY MAVIS
What does it mean to be an intriguing woman? We believe it means to not only arouse our curiosity and pique our interest, but to also be an inspiration for other women to live life well. (Look for this annual profile on the Daughters Blog.)
For our first-ever “most intriguing woman” award, the editors have named Mar Tobiason, thanks to her lifelong pursuit of adventure. (In fact, when she was asked for the interview, she was in downtown San Diego holding a balloon in a parade!) Originally hailing from the state of Washington, Mar has been married for 41.5 years to Sid. They have three kids and seven grandchildren. She has completed two Freedom Challenge climbs with women from TFH and will be on the Moldova team this summer, helping raise money to save trafficked and vulnerable young women. Read on to learn a little more about this compelling woman, in her own words.
How long have you lived in North County, and how did you end up at The Father’s House?
Our middle daughter moved to San Diego and our oldest daughter moved to Maui. Then our middle daughter joined our oldest daughter in Maui. They lived there a couple of years, then both moved to San Diego. Our son later moved here too. They all married and started families here. We bought a condo downtown and visited once a month for five years. Almost six years ago, we started looking for a house when Sid’s work offered to pay for a move down to the San Diego office. I saw the house near Lake Hodges for sale on the Internet, so we looked at it, fell in love with it and made an offer. It happened to be owned by Stacy and Tommy Brown. After we purchased it, we asked what church they attended and they invited us to The Father’s House. We attended and stayed. This was a God thing for sure.
How did you meet your husband, Sid, and what do you love most about your love?
Sid and I met in Japan. We both grew up and lived in Washington state just 20 miles from each other. We both took Red Cross swim lessons locally at Silver Lake, we both held summer jobs picking strawberries at the same farms, we both went to the same skate rink and the same YMCA; however, it took us being exchange students some 5,000 miles from home to actually meet. We attended the same high school, Yamate Gakuin, in Japan for a year along with other exchange students from around the world. Three years after we returned, during our college years, we married.
We helped each other through college, through the struggles of looking for the first “real” job, raising kids and building our home. Through it all—the ups and the downs—God has been our rock. We have always said that we could make it through anything as long as we have God as No. 1 and each other. Whether we live in a restaurant basement or a big house, live on boxed mac and cheese or steak—we have done it all. If we had not experienced the hard times, we wouldn’t appreciate life as much and we wouldn’t have the foundation of strength and trust in our relationship. I have to mention that we laugh an awful lot too. We are thankful.
Tell us about your kids.
We have three amazing children. Our daughters are Tasha, a labor and delivery nurse at Scripps La Jolla, and a wife and mom of two; and Tarah, who works with her husband flipping houses and running a VRBO, a wife and mom of two. Our son Selig, a 3-D digital artist who worked for Lucasfilm and currently works at Sony Digital, is a husband and a dad of three. They all live in the San Diego area.
We hear you’re a big traveler—how do you think you’ve passed down your love of travel?
We have seven grandchildren! We love it! Our oldest grandchild, Emi, turned 10 last summer. We decided years ago that we wanted to take each grandchild on a trip, one at a time. Ten is a good age and we let them decide where they want to go. We didn’t put any parameters on it, not thinking it totally through. Apparently, kids these days think bigger than we realize! Emi chose Paris! We had an amazing time with her. We even got her ears pierced in France. She is a great little traveler. Two weeks went by so quickly and we created a bond with special memories that we all will cherish forever. The next trip will be with our grandson in 2018.
As you and Sid are both skilled builders, what’s your favorite thing that you’ve built?
Sid and I make a good team. One thing we have fun with is building things. We started with our first project—a roll-top desk in a college class. Since then we’ve built furniture, cabinets, grandfather clocks and houses. We sold most of our [carpentry] equipment when we moved, but someday would like to have the time to do some more.
What work have you done with the Red Cross? How did you get involved originally and what world disaster relief efforts have you been a part of?
I taught at a Montessori school for six years before homeschooling our three children. I’ve worked various jobs—worked for a veterinarian and an insurance company, taught First Aid and CPR, sold disaster products, taught quilting and fabric dying. My longtime “job” would be volunteering for the Red Cross. I have volunteered for more than 23 years and I have had various positions—often three, four or more at the same time. A few jobs I enjoyed with the Red Cross were speaking about disaster preparedness to groups and companies, being on the board and becoming chairman of the board for a few years and sharing what the Red Cross does and how we all can help in times of disasters. But the most rewarding is being deployed to a disaster. I have responded to local and national disasters—floods, landslides, wildfires, home or apartment fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.
The days are long and you never know what you’re in for, but it’s rewarding. I have slept on cots, on floors, in army barracks (they had to roll the tanks out to have room for the cots), schools, community centers and hotels. I have been without power, Wi-Fi and cell services, using only satellite phones to full hook-ups. Each deployment is an adventure but the focus is on those who desperately need our help. More often than not, they have lost everything they own—sometimes family members or pets. My primary job as public affairs is to work with media, making sure information is getting out correctly and to get stories of those affected out to the public so donors can see who they help and why. I am pre-deployed in case of hurricanes or events where there is a warning. Red Cross has a team of nearly 90 trained national advance team members that are first boots on the ground. We are required to be able to get to an airport within five hours of a call and work five days to three weeks at a time. My bags and supplies are always somewhat packed. I am so blessed to be able to help others in this way. It’s hard work—both physically and mentally exhausting—but I have loved it. That’s why the decision to retire was so difficult. But I am officially retired in 2017. God has given me strength and courage to do this and I continually called on Him to be with me, help me hold it together and be strong in front of media as I told the stories of the victims. I told the story of a family who barely survived a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. I also told the story of how a retired pastor (83 years old), his grandson and their dog clung to a tree all night long after the house was swept away during Hurricane Katrina. When daylight came, the tree they were in was the only one left! I told the story of a father who tied a rope around a mattress and tied his children to it when flood waters rose higher than their house—it floated and all survived. Hugging and encouraging these brave and fragile souls, saying silent prayers for them and sometimes praying with them when they allowed, blessed the socks off me and made me feel I was the one being helped.
As an outdoor woman, what has been your favorite hike/climb?
My hardest climb was summiting Mount Rainier. It was the only technical climb I’ve done—so far. Our team was roped up and we wore crampons on our mountain boots and helmets for rock and ice fall. We also used ice axes. It was exciting but scary. The crazy thing is you can’t unrope! If you have to go to the bathroom you ask the guys to please turn their backs. I’m a private person when it comes to that but the guys were very decent. Another highlight in hiking was the trip we took to Kilimanjaro. It was great. Our daughter and her husband joined Sid and me, along with some of our friends. It was a tough five days up and two days down but it was amazing!
What encouragement do you have for other women?
God has created each of us in a unique way. We can’t be afraid to step out in what He has for us. It might be just doing normal everyday stuff that He can use us in. Maybe you aren’t supposed to be preaching on the street corner or be a Billy Graham, but maybe you are. Maybe God just wants you available to whatever and whenever He calls. My life is ordinary but I can hike and raise funds to help others. My life is ordinary but I can talk and share stories and volunteer. Maybe your neighbor needs a little help pulling in the trashcans or a friend would like to chat over coffee. These are ordinary things that God can use. I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t stepped out years ago to sign up for an exchange program to some scary foreign land or if I had been so stubborn in what I wanted that I wouldn’t move. To have freedom in Christ is to be open to listen and do what He asks. He loves us and wants the best for us. Just live life.
On behalf of the Daughters of TFH, thank you, Mar, for living an abundant life and using your creative service for the life of the world. Fellow women, we encourage you to introduce yourself to this intriguing TFH Daughter.