Gratitude Celebration 38: You Can Do This

“You can do this. It’s not that hard to install a window.”

I’m grateful, today, that Larry Niemiec opened that window in my life! He was right too, as Larry generally is about construction because that’s his mastery. In fact, he managed the construction one of the skyscrapers in Atlanta, Georgia! What a blessing it was for me to have his friendship when my new husband and I had moved in to an old house.

We thought it would only need touching up and redecorating. We were wrong about that! When we scraped the wallpaper off the dining room wall, the plaster fell off with it. Once the plaster was off, Larry, and other “rehabbers” in Covington, KY, advised us to remove the wooden lath as well. With the lath removed, it was logical to install insulation. And with the walls reduced to studs, it made sense to relocate and update the windows…… and move walls for better traffic flow………….. and rewire the house……………… and update the plumbing.

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Gratitude Celebration 37: Deepest Riches

“Give yourself to Love, if love is what you’re after.” I put this quote from Kate Wolfe’s song in an embroidered picture for  John Reiter, whom I want to thank with all my heart today. He didn’t want gifts for his birthday or holidays. “Every day should be special, if any day is special.”

This Gratitude Celebration post is my most challenging so far, not because I can’t get to gratitude, but because the depth of gratitude is so huge that it’s hard to say it clearly. So, I can dance around it a bit with the facts.

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Gratitude Celebration 36: Healing Dance

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I’m writing 60 essays of gratitude for people who have helped me along my path, at least in a way that stand out! Today, I’m remembering Jean, who was a perfect mirror for on of those Limiting Beliefs that I had about how my life was and would always be! Read on and see if you can relate!

Jean Butterbaugh was my apartment mate for a year when I worked at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center in southern Ohio. The camp board had decided that year to have staff live off the camp property, and found a NEW apartment complex in the tiny town of Peebles, about nine miles south of the camp. They proposed that I share a brand new apartment with Jean, the volunteer office manager for the camp. The best thing about that was that Jean was NOT one of the staff I supervised!

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Gratitude Celebration 35: Smart Organization

One of my colleagues at Woodland Altars gave me a great chance to learn about “Projection”, although I didn’t know it at the time. Brad was the chemist turned maintenance director at the camp. I would often hear him from Roger, the Director’s, office, sighing and running down his list of maintenance tasks to do. That would bug me, and I would silently criticize, “He makes it sound like he has more to do than anyone and we should be pitying him for the unfinished projects, but that’s his job, so why do we have to hear about it.  If I were maintenance director, I would blah, blah, blah.”

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Gratitude Celebration 34: Confident Creativity

“But Roger, why did you tell that principal that we have that program? We haven’t done that before!”

“Well,” he responded, “You could do it, right? You and your staff could offer that, couldn’t you? If that’s what it would take to have a new school come to Woodland Altars, why not say ‘Yes’ and then go put it together?”

I had not operated that way before, and yet, what he was saying made sense. It was that kind of thinking that helped me, in my two years as Program Director at the Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center in southern Ohio, book more schools for residential programs than had ever been there before.  With Roger Cruser’s encouragement, my new staff and I did all sorts of things we hadn’t done before, including host a weekend workshop for local teachers and do outreach programs for the local schools. The students loved our show-and-tell visits to their classrooms with a boa constrictor and a red-tailed hawk. Although animals were quite familiar to these rural kids, most of them had never met people who weren’t killing hawks and snakes, but revering them!

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Gratitude Celebration 33: Naturalist Colleagues

My next Gratitude Post in my series of 60 essays for my 60th birthday, is dedicated to the first group of naturalists I worked with at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.

“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Well, really it sounded more like 8 hoots in the dark of night, but naturalists all say the Barred Owl asks that question about dinner!

My outdoor education group, timidly excited on their Thursday night hike, whispered, “There’s one” with eyes wide enough to be seen in the dark. I called back in my believably authentic owl call, honed and practiced during staff gatherings or doing dishes with the students.

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Gratitude Celebration 32: “It’s a Zoo!”

It’s ironic that for the first time I’ve been writing my Gratitude Essays on the porch of a cabin in Maine, a camp adventure group with ten canoes is landing at the ramp nearby. How fitting that this is the day I’m writing about the woman who introduced me to my life’s favorite workplace – Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.

I had already met Maureen “Mo” Sullivan, a short, cheerful Nature lover with red hair to match her Irish surname, at Camp Blue Heron a couple of summers before. At camp, she was the long-time Dorm Counselor of the girls. She rarely went on the long canoe trips that I led because her job was to keep life flowing smoothly at the base camp in the backwoods of Ontario. And she did! With Nell, the Director, Belinda the Science Counselor, and the male Dorm Counselors Mike and Alec, she brought a consistent atmosphere of fun and exploration to the campers. Sometimes the outings to the swamp and the garnet quarry and the ice cream shop sounded like so much fun, I wanted to stay at camp so I could go too! Continue reading

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Gratitude Celebration 31: Simply Friends

Mike O’Brien stands out as one of my best friends. It would have made some sense for us to be a couple for more than the few months that we hung out with each other, but there was just something about Mike’s personality, his exuberant self-confidence and drive that I couldn’t match.

I’m not exactly sure how we met. Mike was a unique visitor to the Thomas More College dorm. He seemed to always be there, but he didn’t live there! He lived just a few miles away, but had made friends with Kathy and Mary Jo, two dorm students a year ahead of me. I would see him with the two women joking and making plans, there in the lobby of the dorm. There was something attractive about Mike’s energy and relationship with Kathy. She was considerably taller than he. Mike was just 5’7” tall, but filled the room with his dynamic presence.

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Gratitude Celebration 30: Waltzing with Blue Eyes

“Someone who met you wanted you to have this.” Dr. Gerry, whose last name I can’t remember, was handing me a piece of paper, inscribed with a short verse. “Blue eyes, 98⁰ Fahrenheit” or something like that, it began, then unfolded in the words of a modern Shakespeare in love. What I couldn’t fathom is that these words, according to Dr. Gerry, had been written by another student at the table the day before. “Do you mean, John?” I asked. “I hardly even talked with him! I was just saying hi and being friendly!”

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Gratitude Celebration 29: Romance Confused

When I told my high school boyfriend, Chuck, that I couldn’t marry him because I needed to meet other men before settling down to marry, I envisioned that unfolding rather neatly. As it turned out, I met a variety of lovely friends who lit me up with romance, friendship, song, and heartache too.  I had not anticipated being confused about sexuality, though!

On the very first day of orientation, I met a guy whose voice wafted over me like a warm southern breeze.  His Memphis drawl made me want to ask him endless questions, so he would keep talking to me. I didn’t do that, of course, but I wanted to! I was happy to learn that he was a Biology major like me, so I would likely meet him again. Mark would become my best friend in college, the man I most wanted to be with, and yet my most challenging relationship of all!

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