#3 - Adirondack Mountains or bust


Graduating college in August was not the best time to start looking for a teaching job, so I decided to throw myself into the gladiator ring of substitute teaching. A friend lived in the Adirondack Mountains. Seemed like a good place to substitute teach AND it would be a wonderful place to 'get outside'.

The largest park in the contiguous United States with six million acres - big and beautiful wilderness! I was definitely in need of some fresh air and mountain views with all my recent city livin’. The Adirondack State Park was just the ticket.

I packed it all in my Honda and headed north. The problem - I couldn’t move in right away. My friend's roommate was planning to move out, but hadn’t quite yet. I’d need to find temporary housing.

Well, with tons of student loans and no savings, pickings were slim in my price range. I managed to find a motel that rented rooms week to week – no kitchen, no phone. But they weren’t too far of a walk from a pay phone. That was a plus, since the sub service wasn’t able to call me (those days before cell phones). So I would need to call them at 5:00 AM every morning. I'd wake up, collect my change and walk to that pay phone.

All caricatures of me were created by my daughter Anola - she likes cats ;)

The sub service sent out teachers for 28 school districts. Certified teachers (which I was) got first priority. So by calling them early I always got a job.... as long as I wasn't too picky. I substituted for just about every subject under the sun - somewhere in northern New York. With 28 districts, it was often a far drive and usually to a different school every day. Tough way to start an Art teaching career, but I really did enjoy teaching - from kindergarten to 12th grade, from music, to special needs to science, math and even welding. You name it, I subbed it!

Eventually, my friends roommate did move out and I moved in. That’s where I met John – co-worker of my roommate.

Lunch break on a hike with John and his dogs - with a friend who took the photo.

John was born and raised on Lake George in the Adirondacks and also had gone to Art school. We 'got outside'... canoed, kayaked, hiked, skied, cliff jumped, spelunked and even snorkeled. All right in our Adirondack State Park backyard - a beautiful hidden of gem of wilderness in northern New York.

Shortly after meeting John, I got a call from my Mom. My older sister Connie had an aneurism in her sleep the night before and died. She was in her 40’s. With our age difference, she had been my ‘second mom’. I had grown up living just down the road from her, her husband and her 3 daughters. Her youngest was still living at home and going to high school.

That hit hard.

My father, who was very close to Connie, died from a massive heart attack within the year. My Mom said it was from a broken heart.

Then my mother had a major stroke, needed continual care and died a couple years later from it’s effects.

This is where I learned life can’t be taken for granted – not ONE. SINGLE. MINUTE.

A quote by Randy Pausch from “The Last Lecture”…

"Time is all you have, and you may find one day, that you have less than you think.”

So life was changing dramatically for me now. No more family support system in Pittsburgh. John was working nights at the newspaper in graphics and printing.

I was still paying off student loans and hoping to find a teaching job.

Since John and I had both gone to Art school, our creativity was looking for an outlet -and we needed money. We decided to combine creative talents and make furniture.

FURNITURE + PAINTING

What would that look like? Having no money to start a business, we headed out into the woods in search of raw materials, thinking “HOW HARD COULD IT BE”?

We’d collect some wood, branches and miscellaneous 'forest stuff'… I would paint on the pieces and we would sell them locally. That was our first business plan :)

and our humble beginnings of self-employment...

We could only go up from here, right?? Stay tuned!


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