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”.
It was February 8, 2004, right before my move to New York, that I made a road trip to go visit my mom and my sister in West Virginia. I was traveling down route 36 in Coshocton County Ohio towards I77 and I spotted a SHOE on the side of the road… I got so excited! I started traveling with a camera in preparation for the next shoe I might spot ever since spotting that ladies brown clog a few weeks back. I pulled over and headed back in the other direction of the divided highway, turned around again and drove slowly until I came upon the shoe, pulling off on the shoulder just before it. I grabbed my camera and then froze, I couldn’t move! The thoughts of having strangers stare at me while I took a picture of a lone shoe on the side of the road terrified me. This was a busy four-lane highway, the chances of there being a window of opportunity where there were no cars was slim to none. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw a police car coming up behind which only added to my anxiety. “Oh my god, what am I going to tell him” I thought as I pretended to be fumbling with something in the passenger seat as he slowly drove by; he didn’t stop to my dismay. I sat there struggling with my fears and watching cars pass by, hoping for a minute of time when there were no cars in sight. I finally mustered up the courage… I grabbed my camera, jumped out of my car and took the fastest three photos of that shoe; I don’t even know if I even bothered to focus the camera. I jumped back in my car where I felt safe and protected, I was sweating and my legs felt like Jell-O. Back on the road and on route I replayed the whole scenario in my head over and over, repeating to myself “you’re never gonna be able to do this, you’re never gonna be able to do this”. I decided that having strangers stare at me while doing something odd was well out of my comfort zone. As I drove onto the I77 entrance ramp the image of the shoe I just took a picture of popped into my head; so bold and so vividly, it was as if the shoe was speaking to me… “Just Do It!”, the shoe shouted. I gasped and then calmness settled in, yes, I thought, I just have to do it. If someone would’ve asked me to describe that shoe I probably would’ve said it was a white sneaker; I was so nervous and took those three pictures so fast that I really don’t think I would’ve been able to recall any details, so it was strange when that image popped into my head. I was using a film camera back then so there was no pushing a button and getting a look at the pictures I had just taken to verify anything; I would have to wait until that roll of film was all used up before being able to confirm the make of the shoe. A couple of weeks and one more shoe sighting later I anxiously opened the freshly developed photos… That shoe looked nothing like what I thought I remembered but it was, in fact, a Nike!