Discovering Frog Island

So we put the bed in the truck and headed west. The story of how I found my dream place is notable. The whole experience is born out of frustration and external forces that drive you to seek out your dreams even though you don’t really believe it’s possible. Shanna is a very strong women. A characteristic that I really respect in a woman. Seven years ago she lost her husband Nate at the same time she found out that she was pregnant with her youngest son. She worked as a nurse in the burn unit in Lincoln Nebraska, that alone tells you what a special individual she really is. Being totally devastated at the loss of her sweetheart and burdened with the prospect of having his child, she decided to embark on another life changing event and threw all of her children in her vehicle, packed up a horse trailer and moved to Lawrence, KS. I know of few women with such bravery and sheer determination. That very same year I was struggling with life events of my very own with the loss of both my parents within a 90 day period. I had no idea Shanna existed but we both embarked on a journey of self discovery and devastating loss. I was married at the time, A marriage that would end suddenly after 27 years.

My divorce was finalized the summer of 2016. I pitched a tent at a mom and pop camping ground in Concordia Missouri and set out to find a job and attempt to put my life back together. In September of 2016 I took a job with an education related marketing company as a programmer. I was devastated, the job was the only opportunity that was available to me, and I begrudgingly accepted the position that started on Sept 6th. I lived in my van for two weeks prior, scraped up enough money to rent a week by week hotel room and got by until the paychecks started rolling in.

Shanna and I worked closely together on website projects. I was amazed by how smart she was and I was grateful that I had someone to lean on as I unraveled the logic behind the existing websites. I am a person that likes to give praise openly to those that deserve it and that one characteristic, along with my moles, attracted Shanna to me from very early on.

Here is one other thing you should know about me: friends and relationships are very important to me. I very much wanted to be Shanna’s friend but I wasn’t quite ready to be her lover.

I believe that our base level of companionship is our ability to work well with each other. And we had that in scores. It was a pleasure working with a strong, competent and funny coworker. She saw me through my clouded vail. I just wanted to disappear but she would have none of that. When I met her, it was hard for me to even admit that I was divorced. The first time my ex referred to me as her ex during this period I was livid, thinking, “I am no one’s Ex!” even as the reality of my divorce from a lady that I truly loved and love set in.

Shanna had different ideas about my present and my future. We started going to lunch, sitting next to each other every morning, and Skyping each other at work. At the time I was just relieved to have one friend that was in my life on a daily basis. Divorce is a hard thing and at one period in my divorce. I lost absolutely everything that was near and dear to me, including my relationship to my kids. I thank God that Shanna is so stubborn and persistent because I wouldn’t be writing this article without her.

Our relationship has had its twists and turns but the one constant is the overwhelming sense that there are external forces that have brought us together. We both believe this and can point to numerous events that have shaped and molded our relationship.

If there is any advice that I could give our readers it is this one thing. Trust your gut.

Relationships can get very hairy at times. You may not know where you are going or where you’ll end up. But if you focus on the things that you have in common, and find a way to be self analyzing instead of critical, everything will fall into place naturally.

Shortly after our friendship expanded, I spent one marvelous weekend in Lawrence with Shanna. We listened to a Phish concert on her porch. She had some friends over and i was just what I needed. Human contact with people that I liked and respected. After that weekend, I bee-lined to the rental office of my apartment complex and severed my lease. I had no place to live but I did have two months to figure it all out.

During this two month period over the summer, Shanna struggled with the idea of whether she even wanted a relationship, and I probably did too. But in my heart I was crazy with respect and admiration for her and I wanted her badly. We had amazing experiences all summer long together, and dappled with arguments and conflicts. She wanted me around, but she also wanted her space. This was frustrating for me, because I’m an all in person. I applied to rent a house a couple blocks from Shanna and her lovely family.

On one particular Saturday I had the realization that I could in no way ensure her happiness. I was mentally exhausted. I could only control my own level of being content.

To me, happiness would mean being with Shanna, but that didn’t seem a reality. So instead of signing a lease down the street, I took a drive through the country to network and find a place that suited my needs and not necessarily hers. That said, I knew that country living was something she longed for as well. That Saturday, I found myself in front of the only bar in Linwood, KS. A blues band was playing and the owner, Stacy, came out to wave me into the bar as I sat looking at a phone number that I had obtained from a realtor. I immediately had the overwhelming sensation that this was the place. It was less then 10 minutes from Shanna in Lawrence. I went into the bar, ordered a beer and I called the number. I spoke with a very nice man and my life long dream of self sufficiency and peaceful living was born that day.

The place was perfect. Audrey, an amazing lady that lived until she was 107 years old, had died recently and her property was available. It was a large ranch off of a county road. The place had outbuildings, lean-to’s, a pond, pastures, and woods. It was absolutely everything I had ever desired.

I grew up in Suburbia. But I also was my fathers shadow. He took me hunting, fishing, camping and instilled in me the desire for a more simple life. A life I’d come to think could never materialize for me. But it did, mostly through sheer frustration. I’ve learned that being frustrated, and feeling as though you are being mistreated in your situation can be a great catalyst for life changing events. Learning to not take things personally is the key. A widow woman that is pregnant with a child, has two other small children, who roots up her life and creates a wonderful existence for herself and her children has her own issues. Her issues are in no way a reflexion of me nor are they in any way related to me. That is the lesson that I am learning. Criticism, does not work. I need to own my own shit and give people the space to work out their own problems.

Ultimately, this blog is about my learning experiences in my transformation from city boy to country boy. But the overriding theme and pulse is that of my personal growth, and learning how to be compassionate and empathetic in every aspect of my life.

That brings me to the owls! Our first trek to the property together was an amazing experience for me. I was super excited to leave my city life behind and embark on a new adventure. I was also excited because Shanna had never seen the property. I didn’t know how she would react.

It was a diamond in the rough, that is for sure. The grass was out of control, and there were overgrown weeds all around the house. The beautiful rock wall and the sidewalks were nearly indistinguishable. On the way to the property on the county road, we diverted off of K-10 around dusk. I was startled by what I thought was a comet or some sort of aircraft. Shanna pointed out that an owl had swooped my truck and passed in front of my windshield.

I’ve seen plenty of owls in flight in my lifetime, but never had one made such an impact on me. Amazed, we drove on and when we got even closer, a few miles down the road, another owl swooped my truck and this time it flew right along side us. I could see this owl flying next to the truck, matching our speed and visible from the drivers side window. Amazing! Two experiences with owls in one night, it was a little creepy. We talked about it briefly, pulled into the driveway of Frog Island and I watched Shanna’s face the entire time we inspected my new “digs” (significant word here) together. The inside of the house was not at all clean. The cabinet doors were sitting on the counter and the appliances were worn out. No matter, in life you can choose to look at the world for what it is now, or you can be like me. I choose to look at the world and the people in it for what they can be.

We left the property to head to Lawrence and have supper with the kids. And it happened AGAIN. Another owl swooped our vehicle. We were dumfounded. Blown away. Some people live their entire lives never seeing an owl in the wild. We got three encounters in one night. They were probably different owls, but who knows, it could have been one very curious owl.

I’ve had countless experiences in my lifetime that I would categorize as inexplicable. But for most of these experiences, I’m alone or I’m pushing myself to do something significant by myself. This time it was with Shanna. The interesting thing about this experience is that it meant different things to each of us. For me it was a confirmation of a concept from the Bible called, “Place of Blessing”. I’m not a Calvinist but I do have the sincere belief that we are put on the planet with purpose. Just as the trees process our carbon dioxide and give off life sustaining oxygen, I believe whole heartedly that each of us has a purpose to fulfill, and when we find it, it’s our place of blessing.

Shanna had a different take on the experience, as you would expect. But it immediately elicited thoughts and memories of her late husband Nate. Like maybe this was a warning to me to take care of his best gal. I won’t count anything out. I think we could both agree that if you can derive any significance out of some pissed off owls on a dark night, that’s the day you get your keys to your new dream. The lesson I think we both discovered was that one chapter of our life was ending and a new chapter was beginning!

The coffee cup you see was something that Audrey left me, in her cupboard. It had probably lived there for decades. I really sort of cherish that cup and I cherish the thought of a woman, living in peace until the ripe old age of 107 in the very same place that we will enjoy for years to come.

BTW, Shanna cherished the Velveteen Hot Curler set from the 1960’s that Audrey left her as well 🙂

 

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