Friday, January 7, 2011


Happy Friday my friends.

Today my fellow blogger, scarf sister and friend Patty
will be sharing HER story.  
Her words, her photos, her "I'm Better For It".

In the summer of 2004, 
after teaching special ed. for 27 years, 
a friend and I came up with a plan.  
In my job I was constantly overwhelmed 
with student referrals - 
students who had not received early support for the difficult 
and complex task of learning to read 
and were now failing.

Our plan was one of prevention.  
If we could target and help students early enough, 
before they started struggling, 
we could save so much personal frustration and 
also potentially keep them from needing special ed., 
saving the system millions of dollars.

I poured my heart and soul into this project.  
Research… workshops… books.  
It felt like I had finally found what I was meant to do.  
I worked long hours, but didn't mind, because 
I had a goal and was finally using my skills 
in a way that could produce relatively 
quick and lasting results.

We tested all of the students in the school, 
set up intervention groups, trained parents and volunteers and worked closely with teachers.  
We shared our program ideas with others 
at workshops and conferences.
  Our test results showed significant improvement 
the first year out.

We wrote grants to help fund the program, 
but each year it was threatened by budget cuts.  
At the end of the third year, I was heartbroken 
when my position was eliminated, 
forcing me to move to another school.  

I started all over.   

After a lot of hard work, we were again able 
to show positive results at the new school. 
Reading scores were up and special ed. referrals were down.  
It was working!

Sadly, during this time, the CA state budget 
was in a shambles and in April 2009, 
I was told there was no money to continue the program 
or my position.  
I waited through the summer hoping that 
things would change, but instead of getting better, 
they only got worse.

Going back to special education felt like a 
backward move at that point,  so in August 2009,
 I submitted my paperwork for early retirement. 
Instead of feeling excited at this prospect, 
I was devastated.  

After all of the planning and groundwork 
to get this desperately needed program off the ground, 
it was simply going to vanish into thin air.  
There would be no more BLAST program and 
no more formalized early intervention.

I quickly realized how much of 
my identity and self-esteem had been tied to my work. 
No one said good-bye. 
There was no party to end my 32 years of teaching.  
No one called to wish me well.  
It was like I just walked out and evaporated 
(yes, insert a couple of pity parties right about here.) 
My hope was to pursue my creative interests, 
but I didn't know where to start.  
I cried the day the new schoolyear started and 
felt completely lost. 

The previous spring, I had stumbled upon an art retreat 
scheduled for October on the Oregon coast.  
I felt really drawn to this, but due to the uncertainty 
of my work situation, I hesitated, 
ending up on the waiting list.  
I completely forgot about it until I got an email 
in September about an opening.  
I almost talked myself out of it, but, t
hank goodness, I did decide to go!

The retreat was life-changing for me.  
It came when I needed it most and had a powerful impact.  Connecting with other, like-minded women 
gave me the courage to start a blog and 
to put some of my creative work out into the world.  

Eventually I started holding my own little retreats 
and am so excited to be guiding other women 
on their creative journeys.

I still miss parts of teaching, 
especially the students, 
but I am on a brand new path and it's OK.  
I have stayed connected with the women from the retreat 
and it has been pretty amazing.  
In fact, we just had a reunion!  
So, it’s not what I would have chosen… 
but, yes, 


Thank you so much Patty for sharing your story
here in my little space.  
You can visit Patty HERE
 where she shares much of her creative prowess 
through words and amazing photos.

And thank you everyone for
stopping by and taking the time to read
another wonderful story of how when
things don't go exactly as we planned....
there is another plan... and we can certainly

if you want to share...please
email me at:
you never know how your story can help someone else.



  1. Another lovely story, thanks to both of you for sharing your hearts!

  2. Thank you so much for this Fabulous Friday Idea!!! How inspiring it is to see what people walk through to become ....... better for it. Patty's story was so sweet. Her heart was so selfless, yet it seemed she was on the loosing end of the story (how frustrating) yet look at what she has gained...... A beautiful story thank both so much. Her outlook on life is lovely and hopeful. She really did take lemons and make lemonaid. NICE!

    big hug,

  3. Great story, especially because I am a teacher who works with young children struggling to read..and special ed. Thank you for this heartfelt inspiration. Kath

  4. miss kolleeniebolleenie....i am loving these pieces. what a great way to share our storys.
    you are such a smart girl.

    unearth was life changing. patty i am so proud of you. i knew a few snippets of this story. but as a kid who grew up struggling through tests, growing up with very low self esteem and breaking down in my mind everyday in school. i personally extend a big hug to you for all that you did for those kids. and let me tell you - they have not forgotten you and one day when they ace a test or find their college acceptance letters or their children are born and maybe they can apply what they learned from you and pass it own to their kids, so that they have tools, they will think of miss patty and smile.

    what you did - mattered. your photography matters. and i am blessed that i have you in my
    life. i just love you girls so much!

    okay sappytime over.


  5. Patty, like i said in Manzanita, i am in awe of you and how brave you are. i love your story and i love that you're just taking off!

  6. It's a process for sure and it took me a long time to actually write this out and discover just how cathartic and freeing it was to not only write it but to share it! I so appreciate your taking the time to read it and comment!! Kolleen, I think you are on to something here.... thanks so much and I look forward to more stories in the future. I mean, pretty much everyone has one.... or two.... or three...., right??

  7. what a lovely post!...and hi kolleen : ) thanks for your sweet comments on our blogs today!!! gloria is on break right now and away from home, but when she get's back I'm sure we will love getting together....sounds really fun! have a lovely rest of your weekend!!! talk to ya soon,

    <3 Carrie

  8. I just keep thinking about all those kids that you helped and how much you must have influenced their lives. It's frustrating that you couldn't continue that good work, but your work was not in vain. You made a difference and the world is a better place because of you.

  9. PATTY dear....i LOVE you and every little road it has taken to get you to the place you are today. you are an AMAZING woman, friend and photographer along with endless other talents. i love you and love your willingness to share you story. i am so grateful to call you my SISTer and my FRIEND.


    thanks K for sharing these stories...they are so amazing.

  10. wow, patty, how life's tide turns & invites us all to be students!
    & what gold you have mined from that seat!
    i love that photo with your arms out
    facing the whole wide world...
    the art of it is clearly yours for the taking
    & i send you love under our shared beautiful sky. xox
    (love to you too, dear kolleen!!! xxooo)

  11. What a lovely story and thank you Patty for sharing it. It's a great reminder that sometimes God closes doors (even though we don't like it) in order to open new doors for growth and exploration.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story with all of us here. It was wonderful to read your words. I am so happy that you were there on the Oregon Coast. It was wonderful meeting you and I love watching all that has been unfolding for you since then. xoxo

  13. it is wonderful to learn more about you Patty and hear how you were better for it!

    Thanks for sharing this Kolleen!

  14. What you did mattered and what you do now matters. I loved hearing your story. (Selfishly, I must confess that I am glad you were at the retreat so you could become part of my life.)

  15. What a wonderful story about moving forward and connecting.

  16. I can't believe it took me so long to get here and read this! I am loving that you are doing these pieces, Kolleen. And Patty, yes, you are better for it! I can only imagine the heartache that you went through - and continue to go through, likely - when you've given of yourself for so long. I remember you talking about your story at that first retreat when it was all fairly fresh for you - and I remember the grace that you had & your ability to look at the positives.


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