Coincidence?

 

Compass

Life keeps moving forward. Right now, I’m just sitting back and allowing life to fall into place.  As of June 1, I am a retired public school teacher.  I tried retiring early a couple of years ago and a ton of chaos occurred…it simply wasn’t the right time.  As I look back on the two years that took place after trying to force retirement, I understand now that I simply had some people to meet up with.  Those people made me a better person and I think I left a bit of myself with them as well.  Retirement this time around is much calmer and is the right time in so many ways.

A teacher is never really retired.  Teaching continues.  Yesterday, I received a message while I was at the lumber yard.  It was hotter than blazes, but I stood in the brick section and face-timed with a student that I had my first year of teaching.  I hear from her occasionally, but not usually through the face-time way of communicating. She was walking through a crossroad of life and reached out to talk about it with me.    As we talked, she reflected on how things in her life seem to be coming back around to the same place, no matter where she went, no matter with whom she was with.

Two other similar conversations took place over the last few weeks with two other former students. One from my 5th year of teaching and the other from my 10th year of teaching.  All three of these young ladies faced trauma in three totally different ways in their childhoods. All three are extremely strong willed and determined young women trying to figure life out.  They each are raising babies of their own now.

As I think about the commonalities and the differences in these three young ladies lives, I realize the common thread among them is myself.  I was placed into their lives in their upper elementary school years.  The traumas each of them faced, were not easy situations to go through at the 4th or 6th grade level. I remember just loving them through it all, that’s all I knew to do.

Interestingly enough, these three and the recent contact I’ve had with them are feeding into my latest journey of “what’s next” in my life.  I’ve got a pulling on my heart, been happening for a while now, to put together a plan to help young  mothers and older women facing financial and emotional challenges in their life.  I have placed chart paper on my kitchen wall with the sketching of some sort of plan and interestingly enough, those three girls’ names were on the chart before they even contacted me over the last few weeks.  The plan is unfolding more and more each day that goes by.

The conversation in the middle of the bricks yesterday, led to a question “Is it just a coincidence that I keep coming back to this one place?”  My response was….”The more I live out my own life, I understand that nothing is a coincidence. Pay attention to those things that keep reappearing, there’s something there that you need to work through. There’s something there that you need to do for yourself or perhaps someone else.  Don’t ignore their reoccurrence. ”

That young lady didn’t know it, but she helped to verify the path I’m on today.  The compass keeps pointing the way, it’s up to us to keep moving forward in the direction that is laid out for us.

Today, I realize more than ever, that not only does the teaching continue, but the learning as well….nothing is a coincidence.

 

*** As I started to leave this website, I went to my email….I was reminded that another young student from 2 years ago contacted me back at the first of June.  She sent me a random email through my school account to ask how my last school year went.  We have passed several emails back and forth.  Significant? Coincidence? ….only time will tell. Ha.

Moments Within a Frame

Heaven gained this keeper of history. I spent some time working with him as volunteers…the few short hours that we spent together left a huge impact on me.  You know how sometimes you run across people who make you think…“If I could do and know half of what this person knows….I would…..”

I left the following on his obituary page for his family and friends.   I record it here, as well. Richard was a meeting on my path that I know wasn’t a fluke, he has been a part of my journey. 

https://www.barnettfamilyfh.com/obituary/richard-wellman

Richard Wellman

Richard Wayne Wellman

Richard and I worked together on the mounds of photos at the Jefferson County Historical Museum. As he and I sat side by side one afternoon with photographs scattered around us, he walked me through the process of cataloging the photographs. He showed me the files he had started many years ago and he and I worked at bringing them into more current software and filing. We discussed old ways and new ways and combined the two into a workable document. I loved the process of bringing his work into a place where he could see how easy it would be someday for others to look things up. His face lit up when I showed him (theoretically) how the system would work eventually. He knew and I knew that there was a lot of work ahead yet. He was an organizer of his own way and his system made sense to me. He seemed to understand my way as well.

Richard talked about the photos and the people in them as we worked through the numbering and labeling. I loved listening to the stories about the memories the photos would remind him of. We talked of buildings, marching bands and parades, farms, milk bottles and wagon wheels. He taught me how to really look at each photo and to know the person even though I had never met them or their family. While we sorted , part of our conversation one day was about whether or not the photo job would ever get done. He didn’t think it would in his lifetime. I reassured him that I would follow through with what he started. In his gentle way, he laughed and finally said, “One photo, one file at a time.”

One of the last times I talked to him was when he called me on the telephone. We talked about setting a time to get together again, but didn’t pinpoint a date on that day. He did encourage me by telling me that he had noticed how many photos were already put away in the file cabinet. I told him that I had put them in the folders, but the computer work still needed to be done. He laughed and reminded me, “One photo, one file at a time.” Richard told me he would add to the computer files he had already started when he had time. His eyes tired easily and had just settled into his new home and was getting things situated. I laughed and I said, “One box at a time.”

Richard was a kind, soft spoken man who left a part of himself with me in the few conversations we shared about photographs and families of Jefferson County. May each of you, his family members and closest friends feel the warm embrace of God’s love through each of the memories shared throughout this time. Even now, I feel him saying to each of us, “One photo, one file at a time.”

 

As I think about the promise I made to him, I wonder how on earth I will fulfill that promise in my lifetime. There are literally thousands of photos waiting.  I keep thinking I should recruit some history majors at the colleges nearby. 

My Freak On?

Cardinal

 

I’ve traveled over 1200 miles in the last few days….making the trek from Kansas to Florida.  When I left Kansas, heavy downpour greeted me at 4:00 in the morning.  While I  feel like I’m a great driver, the windshield wipers didn’t keep the rain cleared off very well and the headlights played off of each of the raindrops that created a bright shimmery highway.  Thank goodness, I was on a four lane highway and the few people who were out that time of the morning were going in the same direction as I was and not coming at me.

Travel went well until the Tennessee/ Mississippi line.  By this time I had gone over 600 miles and been on the road for close to 12 hours.  Heavy rain found me and a ton of other people were trying to get to our own destinations.  My plan had been to drive until about 8:00 pm but that didn’t happen.  Even though it was daylight out and I was on a four lane highway, it was hard to see the people in front of me…especially those who didn’t see it proper to turn any lights on (Really?).  I searched the radio stations hoping to find a weather report, hoping to get an idea of exactly what I was in the middle of.  I finally came to an exit to New Albany, I took it. I took the right one, lodging was scattered on both sides of the highway.

When I pulled into the Best Western to inquire about a room, the front desk clerk informed me that we were in the middle of a tornado watch.  The county to the west was in a tornado warning.  That would explain the heavy winds that accompanied the heavy rain.   I was glad to find out that in my infinite wisdom at some point, I had signed up for the rewards program.  I also used my “teacher” status to get me more of a discount.  Brittany, the front desk clerk proceeded to tell me where the “shelter” was should the need occur.

A good night sleep was gratefully appreciated.  I was also thankful that the call to the laundry room shelter didn’t occur. Ha.  I was back on the road by 6:00 am..new time.. 5:00 am old time.  Time sprang forward overnight…a little Twilight Zone thought enters my mind as I type that….I could run and play with that thought, but will try to stay focused.

I arrived in the gulf area, my destination, a little after lunch.  As I entered the area 40 miles northwest of Panama City, I began to see the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.  Sadness started to set in at the sight of what I had only seen pictures…reality was much worse in person.

My sister has a vacation condo in Mexico Beach, the small coastal town that took the brunt of Hurricane Michael’s fury, my destination for my spring break week. I chose my location “with an eye of an artist” but also with an eye of compassion and connection. I have visited and been a part of the Mexico Beach life and local families many times.  While my sister has kept me updated as to everything going on and I had seen videos and numerous photos, one cannot even describe adequately what I saw in both Panama City and Mexico Beach. Lives were changed forever.

I had made arrangements to stay in Apalachicola, Florida for the week, so decided I would let all that I saw sink in, and go find my home for the week. It was about 40 miles further east of Mexico Beach.

My sister’s condo is still standing but received extensive damage. Crews began work after the 90 wait period and have been working steady since. June or July…the condo should be back up and open again.  (There was a holding period where no-one could start reconstruction.  FEMA and utility services were worked on during that time.)

Apalachicola skirted the hurricane on the most part…there is evidence of some wind damage, but is still mostly as it always has been.  Apalachicola is a fun little place with small unique shops, places to eat and relax and enjoy.  It’s nested in a port area where shrimp boats can be seen coming and going. After checking into the place I rented (a room in a historical building where 3 other people are in the rooms sharing the hallways and a kitchen) I walked down to the port. As I soaked in the 73 degree weather, (thinking about the 33 degrees I left in Kansas) I was so glad to be there.

I came upon a bookstore that was liquidating their used book inventory.  There were several books I wouldn’t have minded having, but chose two.  The photo on this page comes from one of the books I purchased The Song of the Cardinal by Gene Stratton Porter.  It was first printed in 1903.  The book wasn’t in the greatest shape, but I was drawn to it.  I now know why.

Live music was playing in several of the places. I did chuckle when I saw  a chalkboard sign outside of one of the places playing music that said “Same shit, different chalkboard”.  Coming out of the place was a young man who let me know that they didn’t serve beer on the sidewalk.  I laughed and told him I would need to go in then I guess.  I walked in and there were a handful of people there.  I found a place at the bar and sat down and ordered a drink (I’m not much of a drinker, so was thinking I would be safe to just order a beer, but settled on a Hard Ice Tea) LOL. Not sure why I felt the need to just write that, but I’ll leave it…I think it actually fits into all that this piece of writing is leading to…chosing my location.

The young lady behind the bar was friendly and held small conversations with me.  Karaoke was beginning, so I asked the man sitting next to me if he was going to sing.  He laughed and said, “You wouldn’t want me to.”  We talked and I soon found out that the man’s name was Joe and his hometown was in New Jersey.  We exchanged hometown stories and it turns out he had been to Kansas before doing some work within 50 miles of where I live.  The conversation continued….but the following question came out of the blue and still now that I think about it, has me shaking my head.  He asked me, “What’s your freak on?”  Ok, now…what the heck does that mean?  What was he asking me?  I wasn’t sure exactly, so I asked.  Being 60, I no longer feel like I have to bluff my way through not knowing something, that others make you think you should know.  He turned my question on me and asked me what I thought it meant. I responded after encouraging him once more to give me his definition. I said, well, two things…one a sexual connotation and the other a life connotation.  He said with a grin, “Let’s go with the sexual definition.”  I laughed and politely said, “I don’t have those conversations with someone I just met.”  We then had a conversation to the affect of …noone here knows you, you won’t ever see me or them again after this week, so you can do whatever you want, dance on the bar, if you want.

I went with the second definition…but the second one took me by surprise. Maybe it was the tea by that point….what is my freak on?  What really excites me?  What makes me energized and getting up in the morning? I had just traveled 1200 miles thinking about such things as that…you know…purpose in tomorrow, purpose of this trip, purpose in my career…etc.

As I sat there and stumbled around with my words, I realized my only response was….”Living life’s moments.”  Joe kept prodding, “What moments, in particular?”  He then said….”You traveled all this way looking for something, what are you looking for?”

Great question, Joe.  I know my reasons on the surface for coming here were varied, 1) Leave cold weather back in Kansas. 2) See if there was anything I could do for anyone in Mexico Beach 3) Put my feet in some sand and listen to the birds.

I do know that I’m on a “spiritual/soul” journey.  I felt a call to come here.  I may not know exactly what that is yet, but I “chose my location with the eye of an artist.”

So.. I am going to close this, grab my camera, my journal and I am off for the day.  My destination is Mexico Beach.  I am off to live life’s moments…to see what God has called me here to see and do.  I leave this morning with an excitement deep within that is full of anticipation and a knowing that this journey is not my own.  That, my friends, is my “freak – on.”  What’s yours?

 

 

Gingham Apron

How many times have we thrown our apron over our head

wanting to escape a world of chaos and dread

Hidden beneath a cloth that keeps all the world at bay

so many things our heart needs to cry out and say

Take time to rest and be strong

as each trial and tribulation comes along

“See that your clock doesn’t run down”

Exchange your weakness for the strength in His robe and crown.

 

https://lakeshoremosaics.blog

 

 

 

 

A Painting…A Life

A painting, a life

colors…. mixed and unchosen

restraint and darkness…heartache expressed

a canvas…. sad and depressed

 

A painting, a life

colors…. scattered and released

uninhibited and random, heart sought  glee

a canvas…..happy but seldom free

 

A painting, a life

colors…..defined and chosen

blended and connected, heart tones content

a canvas…time well spent