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After being a full-time Mom, wife and homemaker for twenty years, I found myself widowed and with four teenagers who had lost their father and little brother. I began the search for I knew not what - new meaning for my life, perhaps. Needing an additional focus for my life, I opened a small retail art gallery/gift shop -- Centering! And one thing led to another. I opened a second store -- a women's clothing store -- Tarika. I then combined the two stores and then opened a second Tarika in Sacramento. After reading Lynn Caine's Widow, I co-founded a Bereavement Outreach program with a friend. It was through facilitating that program that I worked my way through my own grief process with the usual ebbs and flows.
About fifteen years ago, I closed both stores and organized an upscale consignment shop with a non-profit board to benefit 12 agencies, serving the mental health needs of Yolo County -- All Things Right and Relevant. After this highly successful store and non-profit board took on a life of its own, I resumed my career as a retail consultant.
In the process, I renewed an acquaintance with Flo Grossenbacher, a 4th grade teacher (a former Tarika customer). Through conversations with Flo, I became aware that she had four children in her class she considered at-risk because they did not read well. She assured me her class was not unique -- that there were many other children, who needed help. I told her I was sure I could find others like myself who could spend a few hours a week tutoring. And thus began Be SMART!
I got training through the American River Literacy Corps in Sacramento and SMART Kids, which has run tutoring programs for over 34 years. I recruited, trained and coordinated 16 tutors to start with, working with 26 children once or twice a week. It grew into a program with 84 tutors. What had started out as "reading," I expanded to include more writing,, spelling and comprehension.
I received wonderful recognition from Yolo County Women in History (although I'm not quite sure I like being thought of as "history" -- I think there's a lot of life in the old girl yet!).
It's been over forty years since the deaths of Glen and Keith. I'm married to a great guy. My children have all grown up well and have families of their own. I still feel the loss. I also feel the new life it gave me. That sudden loss took me places - careers, a way of giving to my community - I'd never dreamed of. It's an ill wind, indeed, that blows no good.