By MELISSA MATHIESON Staff Columnist
t is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through another year. “Time flies when you’re having fun” is a saying often said, but at my age, it seems that time flies whether I’m having fun or not. I’ve blinked and suddenly find myself in my mid-forties. How did that happen? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure when or how I “grew up”. Or maybe I haven’t yet? Surely I’m not the only person who feels this way.
Yet, though time seems to fly, I can look back over the years of my life and it feels as though I’m like a cat with nine lives and I’ve lived five or six of them already. My life has been full. Full of people, full of jobs, full of memories, full of purpose, full of heartbreak, full of all the things that make up life.
June is my birth month so it seems this time of year I usually become a little reflective, looking back on my years thankful I survived and only lost half of my mind. I suppose I have the coming years ahead to lose the other half.
I was born and raised in Central Florida as the oldest girl in a family of ten children. I had two older brothers, so I was child number three. I was raised in a small Independent Baptist Church and attended an even smaller private school where we never had more than 18 or 20 kids in one grade. I was a good student and loved learning. Anything less than an “A” on any assignment would make me cry.
Like most people, I had several teachers that made a lifelong impression on me. Mr. Smith was my fifth-grade teacher. He was short in stature, a bit burly and his face seemed to stay red a lot. I think it was likely from the fact that he had to wear a button-down shirt and a tie every day as part of our school dress code. He caught me cheating once when I let the cutest boy in class sitting next to me copy some of my test answers to his own paper. Mr. Smith didn’t say anything. He collected my finished test and walked back to his desk.
At recess that day, Mr. Smith asked me to take a walk with him around the playground. In the kindest, gentlest voice he told me I was too smart and too special to let anyone try to talk me into doing something wrong in order to be liked or accepted. I never cheated on another test. It wasn’t because I believed I was too smart or too special (not yet) - I never wanted to disappoint Mr. Smith again.
I completed my last two years of high school in one year. I was ready to grow up and move on with my life. I had an opportunity to live overseas right after high school and moved to the Czech Republic.
I stayed in a small town just outside the capital city of Prague and taught conversational English and grammar at the elementary school there. This was long enough ago that there wasn’t Wifi for emails or FaceTime calls to friends and family back home. Calling internationally was expensive and charged by the minute.
However, I got a phone call on Christmas Day. In the short three or four minutes I talked with my mom and dad, I learned that my mother was expecting baby number 10. I made plans to be back in the States when my youngest sister was born.
I wanted to be a medical missionary after high school and living overseas seemed to solidify that desire in me. I had this idea that I would become a nurse and travel overseas. Some days, I wanted to go help the poorest of the poor in a remote jungle somewhere and other days I dreamed of helping with overseas adoptions by finding children with medical needs and bringing them to the States.
My parents had moved from central Florida to south Tennessee while I was living overseas, so I enrolled in the University of North Alabama to begin my journey of becoming a nurse. I started waiting tables at local restaurants to pay for school and rent and loved getting to meet people. The money was great, too. Walking out of work with a pocketful of cash each shift made a poor college girl feel rich. I started to become fascinated with money, budgeting, finance and business. I never became a nurse.
Several years later living in Tennessee, I was married and expecting my first child, Molly. The thought of going back to work and leaving my baby with a sitter was too much. When she was three months old, I launched into the world of small business and opened my first restaurant. It was a small lunch-type place with five tables and five sandwiches on the menu. We were open from 10 am until 6 pm, six days a week. Four years later, we had expanded to three locations in three cities and I was now a mother of three children under the age of 4.
After a difficult divorce, I closed two of the restaurants and kept the original store open, doubling its size and volume.
After eight years in the restaurant business, I felt a pull to the simple life. Hamilton, Alabama, called my name. I had been to Hamilton several times with friends and attended services at The Ramp on Sunday evenings. I was fascinated by the small-town feel and a Walmart that wasn’t open 24 hours! This was in 2008.
After leaving the restaurant in Tennessee in the good hands of employees that had become like family, this single mom of three started a new beginning in the foothills of the Appalachians. Hamilton, Alabama.
In the last 13 years, my children have attended all three schools in Hamilton. Two have graduated. The baby in the family will be a senior at Hamilton High School this year.
After 10 years as a single mom, I married my California-born-and-raised husband in 2014 and moved him to Sweet Home Hamilton.
In 2017, we lost our home in a storm that knocked several trees onto our house in the middle of the night. While it seemed like it could have been a good time to start a new beginning somewhere else, Hamilton kept calling our name. We spent the next 18 months rebuilding our home.
When I first came to Hamilton, I worked with some of the most incredible people while on staff at The Ramp for 10 years, helping with events, booking, travel, product development and more. We are still actively involved with Ramp Church.
A couple of years ago, I took a sabbatical and spent several months simply resting and spending time with my family. I sat on the back porch of our newly built home daily, read a lot of books, took a lot of naps and drank way too much coffee while catching up on conversations with friends that were long overdue. The sabbatical was one of the greatest things I have ever done for my health and well-being.
Although I wasn’t exactly looking for employment last year, I was given the opportunity to join the staff at the Journal Record part-time as the advertising manager and I have enjoyed meeting many members of the local community here.
My husband and I also had the opportunity to become licensed foster parents here in Marion County last year. In less than a year, we have seen 17 children come through our home while having the opportunity to work with birth parents and our local Department of Human Resources to see families reunited.
Like I said, my life has been full. Full of people, full of jobs, full of memories, full of purpose, full of heartbreak, full of all the things that make up life.
What do you do when your life is full? Pour some of it out. Let it splash on those around you - your neighbors, your co-workers. Find a place to volunteer. Become a foster parent. Coach a little league team.
What happens when you pour a little out? It makes room for something new to fill you up again. New experiences, new memories, new grandbabies, new adventures.
Don’t be afraid to pour it out.
See complete story in the Journal Record.