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.
Where to find Joan Callaway online
It's an Ill Wind, Indeed...
by Joan Callaway
This memoir is the story of one woman’s climb out of the abyss after the sudden death and loss of her husband and young son through a fire in their home – a story of survival, coping, and eventual healing. I’m here to tell you that one can stay mostly sane most of the time, survive and eventually come out the other side. Although death ends a life, it never ends a relationship.
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