When I moved to Neosho from my hometown of St. Joseph, there was more than a little culture shock. The small picturesque town on the edge of the Ozarks and the historic old river town of my birth were very different. I came from a working class neighborhood where the aged houses lined the streets like weary soldiers, where we kept time by the Goetz brewery whistle a few blocks away, and where the expectation was to be born, live, grow old and die in the same place.
Because we moved, I broke the pattern.
In my early years in Neosho, I didn't seem to fit. My parents weren't sure how long we would stay so I was hesitant to put down roots. We often returned to St. Joe on weekends or over holidays so for a very long time, my main connection to Neosho was school.
I spent my first year in Neosho at Intermediate School. Once upon a time, it had been the second high school in Neosho and today it serves as senior housing as the Greystone Apartments.
For 7th grade, I began the year at the junior high school at the south end of NHS. I soon learned, however, that due to what seems to be ever present crowding issues, some of us would be bused back to Intermediate for our social studies, English and math classes. Each morning I stepped off one school bus and waited to ride another to Intermediate for my morning block of classes. I loved school and words. In fact, I carried a dictionary with me each day.
Fast forward from the 7th grade and I graduated from Neosho High School, then moved onward to first Crowder College (where I majored in journalism) and then to Missouri Southern State University where I majored in history and English. Those were - and are - my passions and seemed like a good foundation for a would-be wordsmith to have.
I moved into the world of broadcast media after college and spent seven years in radio. During that time, my writing career launched beyond campus publications. No matter what jobs I held or where life carried me, I wrote.
Along the way I married and we had three children. For their first years, I stayed home. In addition o motherhood, I wrote. And among those writings, I wrote some novels.
We moved from our rural hill top in the middle of an Ozark wood into town, After 80 tries, I sold my first novel to a publisher in 2010.
I returned to the workforce as a substitute teacher because the hours and days matched my children's schedule. But, at the same time, I did some writing for first The Joplin Globe and then The Neosho Daily News. My column in the Daily began in 2004 and has continued to the present.
I wrote more books and saw them published. I moved from a columnist to a stringer and then to a full time staff writer. My kids grew up and earlier this year I became a widow.
Life is a journey and although 7th grade is distant in my rearview mirror, I was reminded of that year when one of my teachers, Mr. Stan Atkinson contacted me.
He's followed my career, following some of my work in The Neosho Daily News and my other writing pursuits. Hearing from him made my day - with comments that included " I remember you vividly as a petite and curious and very creative and bright student, somewhat timid but very fun to have in class."
We've exchanged a series of emails and the past came alive. So, this week I'm reflecting about the past, especially that 7th grade year and one of my old teachers, Mr. Atkinson!