I had been living in my apartment for about a year, I was good and settled and had everything in its place. I had a box of miscellaneous items that didn’t seem to find a “place” in my life so I decided to sell them on eBay, these items just no longer served me or spoke to who I had become. One of the items was a framed sketching, like a pencil drawing; it was of two older ladies sitting at a table having, what looked to be, an intense conversation. I always thought that they reminded me of a couple of witches from a fairytale chatting about a concoction for their next spell. I had purchased this framed sketching at a flea market, somewhere in Ohio, years earlier for $35. I had a hard time making out the name from the signature but did my best to translate what I thought I saw and took lots of detailed photos for the listing. My handful of auctions ran for 7 days and ended late one night while I was working a shift at the restaurant as a bartender. All of my coworkers were going out afterwards but I chose to go home so that I could see what all of my items had sold for. I sat down at my computer and pulled up my eBay account, I was flabbergasted! That framed sketching sold for over $700, I had to do a double take, but it was true! My next fear was that it wouldn’t get paid for but, as luck would have it, the winning bidder paid for it immediately. I was so excited that I jumped in my car and drove to the hang-out where all of my coworkers had gone, once there I bought everyone a drink to celebrate along with me. I don’t recall all of the exact details of the order but the item did go to someone internationally. I was a nervous wreck packing that thing up properly and prayed for the next few weeks that it would get there safely and the person wouldn’t want to return it for some reason. The next day, back at the restaurant to do another evening shift, I spoke of my exciting eBay sale to a few other coworkers who had not been around the night before. One of them asked… “You know how to sell stuff on eBay?” - “Yeah” I replied. “Would you help me sell a doll collection?” - “Sure!” I replied. Little did I know what this was going to lead to.
The following summer, 2006, my little hamlet of High Falls organized it’s very first annual pet show contest that would be a part of the annual High Falls Fair Day, a small-town mini festival that took place every year. There was a recent changeover of committee members and with the new energy came lots of new activities to make it more appealing to locals and tourists alike. I decided that Henry needed to be in the contest, I figured “why not”… I was living in the center of the hamlet and getting to know the locals, and Henry was adorable. I placed him inside of the backpack pet carrier that my boss had given me as a gift the Christmas before, he thought that I would be taking Henry with me when I went to visit my family in West Virginia for the holidays, I had no intentions of doing that… I hired an in-house pet-sitter instead. The backpack pet carrier was finally coming in handy! I loaded him onto my back and we walked over to the local churchyard where the pet show was being held. I signed him up and got a number. We waited until it was our turn to go before the judges in a small grassy area under a tree a little bit away from all of the barking dogs. This was the first time Henry had ever been out of my apartment, and the first time he was ever around any other animals. I had no idea how he would react… and you know how cats can be! He was such as good boy; he just sat on my lap and looked around at everything that was going on. I kept the pet carrier open and very close by, ready for any instance that I might need to place him in there and zip it up. Henry was the ONLY cat that was entered into the contest; I figured he was a shoo-in if there was a cat category (which there wasn’t, by the way). Our number was called and we went before the judges, I held him in my arms and I took one of his little paws and waved at the judges as we walked past each one. We went back to our grassy area where I had left the backpack pet carrier and waited for them to announce the winners. Well, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear… Henry took home a blue ribbon and was proclaimed “Mr. High Falls 2006”!
It was the fall of 2005, I was settled into my new apartment and feeling like it was time to introduce a new cat into my life. I called on my co-worker friend, Colleen, to escort me to the local SPCA in Kingston, NY. I had never “adopted” a pet before, always got them from friends and friends of friends. We arrived and were shown to the cat room, it was approximately 20’ x 12‘ with cat cages along the perimeter and cat trees and other types of cat condos going down the middle of the room. I was in search of a new Max/Benji, an orange/buff colored cat with longish hair and a fluffy tail. I went around that room several times searching for the perfect match, looking inside of the condos and other cubbyholes, but to no avail. Finally my friend calls out to me… “What about this one?” I turned and looked down, she says… “He has been following you ever since we got here”, “Really?” I replied. I kneeled down to pet and examine the cat and that’s all it took, I immediately fell in love. He was not what I was looking for but he was looking for me. He was a little tiger cat, approximately five months old and he was adorable. He loved on me like I was his savior. I filled out the application and went home, keeping my fingers crossed that all would work out. I panicked a little that night, wondering if taking on the responsibility of a new pet was too much or not the right time. I reached out to the guy that I had recently started dating, expressing my anxiety and concern. I don’t remember what he said exactly but he calmed me down, he had a way of doing that that would come in handy many more times in the future. When the SPCA reached out to my boss/landlord, he put in a good word for me and told them he approved of my having a pet in the apartment. The next day I received the call from the SPCA telling me that I was approved to adopt “Sam” and the following day (September 15, 2005) I was off to pick up my new furbaby. I named him Henry after a stuffed dog toy that I had as a child; a tan beagle pup with floppy black ears, a black pom-pom nose, a red felt tongue that hung from the side of his mouth, and a patch on his chest that had the word “Henry” embroidered on it. The nose, patch and most of his tongue had been chewed off by previous pets but it was one of the few things that I hung onto from my childhood, it was the most cherished of all of my stuffed animals growing up as a child. I welcomed Henry into my home, completely unaware of just how special he was truly going to be.
After about six months of living with the friend that I had moved in with when I moved to New York State, I decide it was in my best interest to find a new place to live. It was a great place to be to get my bearings and my feet planted firmly, but I was outgrowing this particular living situation and it was time to move on and start the next chapter. I had made good friends with my neighbor, and her daughter was looking for a roommate in order to get out of her own uncomfortable living circumstance, so the timing was a perfect opportunity for us both to move forward. We found a modular home rental on a quiet piece of property in what felt like the middle of nowhere, even more so than the house in Olivebridge. But it was a bit closer to my job so that was a bonus and I very much loved that I had my own bathroom and lots more closet space. My new roommate and I became best friends, often sitting down with a cocktail when we got home from work to talk about the accounts of the day. Her mom remained a very close friend that would go with me on my days off searching for lost soles and showing me around, introducing me to new little towns and shortcuts to get to and from. When the holidays came rolling around I was invited to join them and their family for get-togethers, it was nice to be included and helped me not miss being with my own family that was miles away. It was the perfect living situation until about six months later when we received a call from our landlord letting us know that we needed to find new living quarters, his daughter was wanting to live in the house and so back to the drawing board we found ourselves. It just so happened, at that exact same time, that my boss at the Depuy Canal House had a vacant apartment above one of the B&B rooms. I made a proposal, one that I felt he could not refuse… “I need a place to live and you need an Office Manager/Jill-Of-All-Trades, in lieu of a raise, which I am overdue, rent me out the vacant apartment for $500 a month”. My boss agreed! I hired a moving van and another chapter begins. It was a small, one bedroom apartment but it was my very first place to live all by myself. This was a monumental moment for me at the age of 37, and the start to an even more independent life.
I arrived in New York State on February 14, 2004. I moved in with a friend who lived in a blink-and-you-miss-it town called Olivebridge and I was ready for my new chapter in life. I started searching through the local papers and looking online for jobs that I felt I was qualified for. With no college education and only a high school diploma it felt very limiting and I hesitated applying for many positions even if I felt I was qualified and sometimes even over-qualified for the job. I had been my ex-husband‘s right-hand for so many years, taking care of the bookkeeping/payroll side of his business but with no real formal education. I went on a few interviews which was scary since it had been SO long since doing such a thing. I finally landed a job as an office manager for the Depuy Canal House, a New York Times four-star restaurant located in tiny little hamlet called High Falls that was primarily made up of a postage stamp sized Post Office (pun intended) and 6-8 restaurants. I was thrilled to be hired for this position and loved the energy of the atmosphere and the quaintness of the town. The lady I was replacing trained me for one week and then she was gone and I was left to figure things out as I went along. I never used QuickBooks to keep bookkeeping records for my ex-husband‘s business but now I was faced with learning this newfangled software. Since math was always my best subject, I quickly got the hang of it and I was able to do my job with flying colors. My boss, John Novi, and I formed a close friendship and I felt he truly liked and trusted me, which from stories I would hear wasn’t usually the case with many of the office managers in the past. Before I knew it I was asked to do several different job tasks including filling in when waitresses didn’t show up or when we got extremely busy, being a hostess or bartending in the evenings, and cleaning the five B&B rooms that the restaurant also operated when we lacked cleaning staff. I got the hang of using Quickbooks and took charge of the company’s accounts payable/receivable in a way I believe no one else had in a LONG time. Life was good, I was making new friends, spending my days off roaming the unknown roads searching for “lost soles” and familiarizing myself with my new surroundings; I felt very much at home and my new life chapter was playing out very gratifyingly.
I arrived at my mom’s house in West Virginia to spend the weekend, I would be moving to New York soon so this was our last time spent together for a while. I shared with her and my sister my lost shoe sighting and how the “Nike” shoe had spoken to me and told me to be brave. My mom and my sister both thought this project of finding lost shoes on the side of the road was a brilliant idea and were very supportive and encouraging for me to get over my fears and tackle the project with passion and gusto. The more we talked about it the more comfortable and excited I started to feel about the project. My sister and I were in the car together and I was keeping my eyes peeled for lost shoes on the side of the road, as I searched for my next shoe a name popped into my head… “Lost Soles of the Highway”. It was the perfect name and it made me even more excited to face my fears and “Just Do It”. On the second day of my visit my mom and I went for a hotdog run. There was, it is now closed down, a little hotdog stand in Sissonville called Skeenies; my family favored Skeenies hotdogs and it was a trip that had to be made every time I visited. As my mom and I drove to pick up lunch we talked about my lost shoe project, my move to New York, and when I would come to visit again. We picked up our hotdogs to-go and on our return trip home I told her about my rainbow sighting. My mom thought it was a mysteriously fascinating story and shared with me how it had been a really long time since she herself had seen a rainbow. Without hesitation I proclaimed out loud “God, me and my mom need to see a rainbow”. We continued chatting and as we rounded a bend in the road there before us in all of its glory was a breathtaking rainbow. This time I wasn’t by myself, my mom was a witness to this miracle. Both of our jaws just dropped and we looked at each other in disbelief. We stared at the rainbow until it slowly disappeared into the atmosphere. I’m pretty sure a tear formed in both of our eyes, it was such a beautifully magical moment. From that moment on I knew rainbows would be my go-to sign that I was “on the right path”.