Route 66 Association of Illinois…jumping right in!

I had a wonderful time this past Sunday attending the fall meeting of the Route 66 Association of Illinois down in Pontiac. It was a perfect, sunny, autumn morning to set out for the hour-and-a-half drive through the country.

I’ve been a member for at least five years, but this was just the second meeting I’d attended. Anyone reading several of my past posts should recognize my serious interest in The Mother Road. 

When we drove the entire route—Chicago to Santa Monica—in September of 2017, I wasn’t completely sure where any of this would lead. What I’ve discovered is that it only whetted my appetite for all things Route 66! And living here in Illinois, where so many miles of the historic route thread their way south and west, what better reason could there be than to join the Association?

Since I’ve all but sworn off spending my valuable time perched in front a TV screen to watch the NFL, I had not one bit of hesitancy in dedicating my Sunday to all things Route 66. When I attended the fall meeting two years ago—before all of the Covid insanity—I had not met any other members, in person, so I was eager to do so at the meeting. As it turned out, that meeting went well, and I did meet the officers and a few of the other board members. 

Yet, I went away feeling as though I was still really not involved. Of course, I realize that was my shortcoming—failing to make my availability known to all. Instead, at meeting’s end, I headed to the parking lot and my car for the drive back home. I could—and should have—kicked myself for not being more assertive and volunteer to get involved in some aspect of the Association. That’s something with which I’ve always been way too lax.

This time around, however, I told myself on the drive down to the meeting that I was determined to come away with being involved in some way in this wonderful group of people. I didn’t necessarily desire a board or officer position, but there’s always a need to fill out committees. And, as it happened, I gladly accepted the offer to serve on the Museum Committee, although I’m not altogether clear on just what I’ll be doing. Even so, I’ll be happy to help out in the fantastic Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.

After the meeting, my drive home that afternoon was much more enjoyable than the previous experience. Having spoken with and gotten to know most of the members who were in attendance, I came away with a feeling of being included and counted on now to be a contributing member.

Sometimes one has to just get past those worries and hesitancies and speak up and jump right in! There’s so many wonderful miles ahead here with the Route 66 Association of Illinois, and I’m recharged and eager to enjoy it all! Anyone with a smidgen of interest in being a member themselves, should visit www.il66assoc.org

“Illinois — Where the Road Began.”

Writing those characters to the finish line…

Hello out there! Here’s hoping that all is well wherever you may be on this October autumn morn that feels more like an early summer one. But it’s a good one all the same. Some rain the past few days and overnight have given the plants, grasses, and trees a good drink. There is a kind of sparkle on the street and the walks and driveways from it all as the world comes alive once more. The yards have a spring-like green again, as though a long, hot dry spell never set in a few short weeks ago. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

For my personal update…I’m actually writing again, although it has been a struggle to find the enthusiasm and motivation to sit myself down at my little desk here and regularly get the Scrivener opened and get the dust blown off that neglected (not forgotten!) story I’ve promised to get back to sometime. If for no other reason than I really want to be done, once and for all, with the thing, I’m finding that to be motivation enough. However, I’m still eager to learn where my characters will take the story to its end and how they do so in a good and interesting way.

I’m back, it seems, in the early mornings when I don’t have my Jump Start Your Heart exercise class, having a cup of coffee here at the desk, Beautiful Instrumentals tuned in on Internet Radio, and my Scrivener program opened up, and all of the characters waiting for me to take them somewhere—anywhere. Just get them moving!

I must admit, it does feel good to have finally re-discovered some purpose once more—for better or worse—and to be spending the time here in my library/office/writing room and actually attempting to get those stalled characters to where they need to be. As the old tortoise learned, slow and steady wins the race. This “old tortoise,” however, has been way too slow and steady. Without a doubt, I’m long overdue to assist those people in my story, so I’ll quit this now and go see what I can do to get them to that finish line.

Until next time…

Kicking off the dust and beginning again…

Hello again, everyone! I plead guilty in all respects for having not posted anything since April. There’s absolutely no excuses, either. I’ve simply battled so many months of being uninspired to have the desire or the patience to sit at my desk and be serious once more with my writing. 

That being said, I’ve hadIMG_7448 a pretty good year so far. My health has improved greatly, although there are days when I think I’m going in the wrong direction, a leftover from the open-heart aortic heart valve replacement surgery one year ago today.

I am a devoted member of the Jump Start Your Heart exercise program at the Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital Health and Wellness Center,  where I had the surgery. I’m feeling good during the workouts and afterwards, and my overall wellness is so much improved. 

Now, I’m not certain that my health ordeal the past year is the total reason I’ve been too lax in being that writer I’ve longed to be for so long, but I believe that the whole situation changed a lot of things in my way of seeing my life.

As always, I’ve found it way, too convenient to pick up the current book I’m reading and settle in, losing myself in the story, instead of creating my own tales!

And I could sit here right now and announce that I’m going to once again dedicate myself to a disciplined course each day and finish that novel, which sits mouldering away. But I won’t, as I’ve let myself down in that regard so many times before.

We just returned from a 3,000-mile-plus drive down and back to Florida. It was a short trip for all those miles, but there’s always been something refreshing and stimulating to “hit the road” and break the same old routine of life at home.

On the way home, we spent four days in the Smoky Mountains in Western Carolina. Just the difference in the terrain and topography was a delight, yet when it was time to head back home to Illinois, I was eager. 

Now, it’s mid-August and life here once again is tied to routines and “what’s on the calendar.” The grandsons’ football games will begin in a week, and we’ll be into autumn sooner than later.

Have my feelings about writing changed? The fact that I’m actually sitting here typing this seems to be a first step back to believing that I have something relevant to offer in posting. I hope so. As the expression goes: “The ball is in my court!”

My goal today: I’ll try not to wait several months between posts!

Yes, indeed, I’m walkin’. . .

Well, last week it finally rolled around. Yep, for the first time in a long, long time, I set out on the open road and drove east to see my 92-year-old mom in Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. My last journey to see her was March of 2020, just as the craziness of the COVID mess was getting into gear. And so much in my life happened during that period of time.

To begin, the night after Easter of 2020, I was admitted to the hospital with what I discovered was A-Fib (irregular heartbeat) and knew that I was treading awfully closer to the inevitable aortic heart valve replacement I’d known was in my future. But I really didn’t think that “future” was so close!

Although I was better following a two-day stay in the hospital, I still was not as I should be. My ankles still were swollen and my heart was still in an irregular pattern and always seemed to be working in overdrive, something that is very disconcerting and uncomfortable. Any form of physical exertion sent me into fears that I was going to drop dead, right then and there!

Thus, I tried to avoid walking any sort of distance, which made attending the grandsons’ baseball games a near impossibility most of the time. I returned to the hospital in May for a scheduled cardioversion procedure that was designed to shock my heart back into normal sinus rhythm. For whatever reason, that didn’t seem to hold, in fact, I knew as soon as I tried to sleep back home that night that I was still in A-fib. Talk about being worried and depressed! But I rode things out as best as I could. . .hoping things would miraculously improve without any further attention.

My birthday came and went in June, and I was treated to one of those “drive-by” celebrations as I sat in our driveway. I appreciated everyone’s efforts in making it happen, but I would have loved to have felt better and relish turning 70 the “old fashioned” way. But restrictions, fears, and health issues wouldn’t allow for that.

As the summer rolled along, we managed to get to most of those baseball games, even though I struggled to walk more than fifty yards without feeling on the verge of collapse. I recall one early-June game where I could barely walk the very short distance from the parking lot to the field. 

I suppose that since we couldn’t travel or do much of anything else, other than to stay home through those summer months, what came about in August seemed to fit into the grand scheme of things. Leading up to that time in 2020, I had visited my cardiologist to see exactly what my heart status was and to try and figure out what I needed to get done ASAP.

I underwent an angiogram shortly afterwards. In mid-July, most of one morning and afternoon was spent at the Heart Valve Clinic at the hospital where I was treated to an echocardiogram, EKG, CT scan, carotid artery test, X-Ray, etc. 

At this point, it was pretty clear that valve replacement had become necessary, so these tests were to determine which type I would undergo: TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement) or SAVR (Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement). Of course, I was hoping for the less-invasive TAVR. But that was not to be, mainly because of a discrepancy in valve size that would not work for me. As such, I had to go the open-heart replacement route (SAVR).

And that’s what came about on Monday, August 17, 2020. Fortunately, I had no need of bypass surgery or stents or anything else other than a new valve needed! But I wasn’t looking forward at all to being opened up and put on a heart machine!

After I was prepped and wheeled into the operating room, I don’t remember anything until coming out of anesthesia sometime later that evening and having the greatest thirst I ever recall! I recognized my wife first and then slowly came out of my fog with tubes and wires coming from so many place on my body. I was to experience the best care one could ever hope for, and those nurses will be forever in my debt!

As I soon learned, the open-heart surgery had gone well, but I would need a pacemaker implanted soon, as my heart rate became dangerously low over the next couple of days in the critical care ward. That took place on Thursday, August 20.

I was able to go home on August 23 to begin my recovery. And though everything was strange and uncomfortable for a long time, I had a good “nurse,” my wife, who supported me and encouraged me all the way. I really couldn’t have bounced back so quickly without her help.

On September 21, I began cardiac rehab three mornings a week back at the hospital, and that helped me begin to really turn things around in my life. I wore a heart monitor for each session, but I had slipped back into A-fib and had another cardioversion scheduled for October, this time with the electrophysiologist who had implanted my pacemaker. Unlike the first one, this procedure worked, and with a change in some medications, it has made all the difference in remaining in a regular rhythm.

After I “graduated’ from cardiac rehab, I was ready for the next phase, which was a program called Jump Start Your Heart right there at the hospital’s Health & Wellness Center. Of course, I could go anywhere else that I wanted to, as I had completed everything at the hospital, but after the free three-session tryout there, I was hooked and promptly joined with a discounted membership.

We live about a half-hour’s drive to the Health & Wellness, yet I look forward to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week as I get out of bed at 6 a.m. and leave the house at 7 and make the drive there for my 8:00 exercise class. It’s a program that has made all the difference, and I do, indeed, get out walkin’! I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Until next time…

The road home & on to many memories…

Writing my recent posts was fun going back to that summer of ’73 and recollecting just how scary and rewarding the events turned out to be in my “mad scramble” to land a teaching job. After all, I’d spent five years at Kent State preparing for it, and I’d thought I had one already in the bag after I graduated in June. But that wasn’t to be, and in hindsight now, forty-eight years later, I still am amazed at how everything worked out.

As it all turned out, it was worth it! That long day spent with my dad clicking off so many miles between Western Springs, Illinois, and Munster, Indiana, and south to parts unknown in Mulberry Grove, Illinois, and back home through a dark and stormy night, will forever be etched in my vault of memories.

A few days after I was back home, I was offered—and I accepted—a position as junior high English teacher and coach at Mulberry Grove Community Unit Number One. And so my thirty-five year career was about to begin. Eventually, in posts down the road, I will share various items of the people and places that were a vital part of my years in the teaching world that began in tiny Mulberry Grove and about the many old and historic roads I travelled.

Until next time…

A ride through the rain, a beer at The Night Owl, & a start…

Through the dark and the rain, we started our trip north at the intersection of I-70 and US Highway 51. Again, I’d never had any occasion to have ever been on any portion of this road, so I had no concept of its significance at that time. Suffice it to say, it’s another long and historic route between Louisiana and the far reaches of Ironwood, Michigan. It basically cuts right up through the middle of Illinois, with several well-known—and many not-so-well-known—towns along the way: Carbondale, Centralia, Patoka, Vandalia, Ramsey, Oconee, Pana, Macon, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal…OK, you get the idea.

But as we traveled through the rainstorm, over unfamiliar highway, Dad and I had some pretty good conversation. All these years later, I can’t really remember much of what we said, but I have very good feelings of that trip that was just Dad and me! I may have forgotten a lot of what we talked about as we worked our way northward on US-51 through the stormy night, but I haven’t forgotten Dad saying that it was time for a beer and a burger when we approached the Night Owl Tavern on the outskirts of Macon an hour or so into our trip.

The warm and welcoming roadhouse had stood there on the bend on US-51 for many, many years, and this would be my first of many stops whenever I would travel home from southern Illinois. That first time, however, was just Dad and me. It was so good to relax and savor the greasy burger and fries and the icy long neck beer—I think it was a Schlitz—and begin to believe that everything would work out for my fledgling career. With so many miles yet to travel, regrettably, we couldn’t stay there too long, and we paid our bill and got back on the highway for home. Regardless of the quick stop at the Night Owl in Macon, Illinois, it will forever be a reminder of a special time shared between my dad and me—no one else!

The remainder of our drive took us on up to Bloomington-Normal, where we joined up with Route 66 on which we’d travel for many miles, paralleling the under-construction Interstate 55. I honestly don’t remember much of any of this portion of the return trip home as I’d finally given into the world of sleep. After all, it had been a long day, and even more than the physical state of tiredness, I was mentally drained.

When Dad gently shook me awake in our driveway at some ungodly hour, I woke up and thanked him for driving all that way and getting us home through the dark and stormy night. I will always hold his love and special care in my heart for that exceedingly long day traveling with me. Plus, he had to go to work at the usual early hour in just a short time. My love for my dad will never be diminished, and that event in my life was a prime reason.

As things in life tend to occur, this day turned out to be well worth all of the hours and miles that my dad and I spent driving to “get me that first teaching job.” A few days after arriving back home, and caught up with my sleep, I received a call from the Mulberry Grove principal who said that the Board of Education and Superintendent had been impressed with me and what I would bring to their school and offered me a job. At that very moment, I knew that everything was good and that I couldn’t wait to share the exciting news with my dad when he got home from his job. 

There was so much ahead of me now, but I’d at least gotten my foot in the door. My teaching career had some direction toward the starting line now, having travelled those famous highways.

Moment of truth: The interview…

And so it began!

The one-story school building had that “summer-cleaned-ready-to-start” look and smell, which I quickly picked up on the moment I scurried inside out of the downpour.

It was nighttime now, and the interior of the place was dark, with the exception of the small office directly ahead of me, and the library a couple of doors down. It wasn’t hard to figure out that this would be where the board meeting would be held, and the sound of voices from there confirmed this for me.

I didn’t have time to stand around and assess the situation, as a short, slightly balding man approached me from the school office. He smiled and introduced himself and said that he was glad I’d made it all the way from “up North.” He told me to make myself comfortable in his office until they were ready for me, and he’d come get me when they were.

Like waiting in a doctor’s office, a million thoughts coursed through my mind as the minutes seemed to plod on like molasses. Finally, the principal came and got me, and we headed the short distance to the library where the superintendent and the entire board of education were seated around a couple of long tables in the center of the room. In front of them was a single chair, no doubt for me to sit in and perform to the best of my ability, if I wanted to secure a teaching position—my first—in their school. And as I managed to put on a “happy” face and look relaxed (I was anything but), I eased myself into the chair and took a couple of deep breaths, all the while noticing that each member seemed to be studying me very closely. A few friendly nods of heads were extended my way, but most were stoic, serious demeanors.

I don’t recall after all these years exactly how long the interview lasted, but it seemed as though it was much longer than it really was. Throughout the whole ordeal, I could hear the rain pounding unmercifully on the roof, which made hearing difficult. When the interview had come to a close, and I was still a functioning human, I had a pretty positive feeling about it all. I seemed to have handled all of their questions–unexpected ones as well as the “usual” type. If nothing else, I had gained a valuable bit of experience in the interviewing process—and with the whole school board, superintendent, and principal, to boot! 

Afterwards, the principal told me that he thought I’d done well and that the board seemed to be impressed. Of course there were other candidates to interview in the days ahead, but I could expect to hear from him—one way or another—by the first of the next week. He wished me luck and reminded me to travel back home safely that night. 

And so, I returned to the car where dad was waiting, and the rain had eased up a bit. I gave a quick rundown of all that had taken place and how I felt about things. I knew I’d spend many miles on the ride ahead, rolling things over in my mind of how I could have done better, and I was awfully glad that my dad was with me on that dark and stormy night.

But now, we needed to get ourselves northbound, as it would be very late when we got home to Western Springs. Without further delay, we pulled out of the school parking lot and turned back to the interstate to head a short distance eastward to Vandalia where we’d connect with another old and famous highway to begin our travel north.

Until next time…

Getting our bearings & finding the school

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mgschools.com

After a more deliberate drive around the small town of Mulberry Grove that didn’t seem to have much life to it, we did come upon the junior/senior high school, a low buff brick building that appeared to be well tended to and very pleasant looking. Just seeing this nice-looking school, I felt so much better and slowly began to look forward to my upcoming interview there in a few hours from now.

Dad and I found our way back out to the main intersection where the small gas station/restaurant was located. We discovered that we could get something to eat here, but since there was still plenty of time to “kill” before I had to be at the school for the board meeting that evening, we decided to see if there was anything outside of Mulberry Grove where we might eat and do a little exploring.

An elderly gent behind the counter of the service station told us we could either go west about five miles to Greenville or back east about the same distance to Vandalia. We decided to see what Greenville had to offer.

As I wrote previously, this was totally foreign territory to me, so it would be good to get a feel for the lay of the land. Greenville, a much larger town than Mulberry Grove, had a college and a lovely town square with various businesses on all sides. We leisurely drove through many residential neighborhoods, always ending up back at the town square.

In a while we came upon a restaurant that specialized in chicken dinners, and we could go inside to relax and eat. We both agreed that it was good to be out of the car for a while. I can still recall the hot chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and cold iced tea that Dad and I enjoyed on that long-ago afternoon.

The day had certainly been long and tiring, and we both felt rejuvenated after the southern Illinois-style meal. We must have spent well over an hour and a half in the restaurant, eating, chatting, and pondering what might lie ahead that day and night. Dad, in his special way, managed to encourage and calm me in preparation for the upcoming interview. Once again, I realized just how glad I was that he was along with me.

Before we realized it, the sun had given way to heavy and dark clouds that hung low overhead. The typical summer humidity in southern Illinois seemed to intensify. The rain that had been in the area early in the day seemed to be bent on returning. Distant thunder rolled off in the west. Without a doubt, a storm was imminent for that evening.

I had one special task yet to do before heading to the school that evening. I needed to change back into my shirt and tie and sport coat that I’d worn to the morning’s interview in Munster. Thankfully, I’d been able to change out of that outfit at a rest area facility on our way south. We returned to the gas station/restaurant on Mulberry Grove’s outskirts and I used the tiny men’s room there and finagled my way into my “interview outfit” once again. Fortunately, I’d brought my shaving kit along and was able to have a quick shave and also to brush my teeth. 

After changing clothes and freshening up, I was ready to wend my way to the school. Of course, my stomach was turning circles and my nerves were working overtime as I anticipated the various questions that would be thrown my way later. And to add to the mystery of things, the imminent storm had arrived and a steady and unrelenting rain hammered down.

Dad and I sat in the school parking lot for an interminable length of time, relaxing as the rain poured relentlessly. Once again, I hoped that this gloomy monsoon was not a harbinger of things to come, since I would be going inside shortly, and I closed my eyes and thought a million thoughts, waiting for any kind of easement of the storm so I could go inside. Dad would wait for me in the car, and he wished me luck one more time, and I quickly opened the door and made a mad dash through the rain and on into an unfamiliar school!

Iconic roads & parts unknown…

 ( In my previous post, I wrote of my attempts to land my first teaching job. The story continues here.)

My dad, God rest his soul, offered to take a day off from his work and spend the day with me visiting Munster, Indiana, and then down through “parts unknown” to the Mulberry Grove, Illinois, School Board meeting that same night!

And that’s exactly how it went, on what turned out to be a very memorable and important day and night in my life. As for the morning interview at the Munster school, I never heard from them again afterwards—although the experience seemed positive, unlike my first one a few weeks before. I didn’t have time to stew about anything since we had a long trip ahead of us in order to reach the 7:00  p.m. school board meeting that night.

While I’d been with the Munster High School principal, Dad had planned out the route we’d take to get to Mulberry Grove. The closest and most convenient route from where we were at the moment was US Highway 41, at one time the major route between Copper Harbor, Michigan, and Miami, Florida. Of course, it would later be replaced by Interstate slabs, but at the time, Highway 41 would serve us well, getting us to Terre Haute and I-70, where we’d turn west to get to the town of Mulberry Grove way down in Bond County in south central Illinois.

With the Munster interview finished, we set out on the next leg of our “job interview” adventure, southbound on Indianapolis Avenue—U.S. Highway 41—through a drizzly, dreary July morning. Dad drove; I sat back and closed my eyes, pondering what lay ahead miles down the road, hoping that the rain that had set in that morning, as we made our way south, was not a harbinger of things to come.

Down through the rural Hoosier land we travelled. I dozed, off and on, and finally was fully alert and awake by the time we reached Terre Haute a couple of hours later. At this point, we’d leave one of the nation’s old, iconic roads and hop on I-70 and travel west. Being the first time that I’d ever been in this portion of either Indiana or, soon, Illinois, the surroundings took on a rather new and special meaning for me. It was my first introduction into south central Midwest. I had only heard or read about many of the towns and places we came upon.

Before too many more miles clicked off, Dad stopped for gas and a “necessary” visit to the facilities. Afterwards, I took over driving so Dad could nap a bit. If all went as expected, we would be in the Mulberry Grove area by mid-afternoon in plenty of time for that night’s meeting.

Of course, I had no idea that the Interstate on which we were driving was the replacement for another famous highway, U.S. 40—The National Road. As I later learned, the majority of its route through Illinois, follows this road. However, on this day I wasn’t at all concerned about any of that; my focus was on getting to the school board meeting on time that evening. Eventually, I’d appreciate the historic importance of these roads I journeyed on at the moment.

As we neared our destination in early afternoon, the rain had abated, leaving a hot and humid day in its wake. Dad and I were both eager to exit I-70, and the large, green sign couldn’t have appeared ahead at a better time! 

“Mulberry Grove Next Exit”

As I slowed the car to leave I-70, Dad said, “Well, we made it with plenty to spare. I think we need to find somewhere to grab a bite.” Although I was in complete agreement, that was easier said than done, since we had no way of knowing where anything was–or, if there were any restaurants nearby.

On first driving into Mulberry Grove, I read the sign that indicated that the town was comprised of 700 people. As it turned out, there was a gas station/restaurant just outside the town, which seemed to be the center of any activity. We took a quick drive through the town–didn’t take long!–and I had a rather sinking feeling in my stomach. What a difference from the hustle and bustle of the world we’d left up north that morning! Two words came to mind: Tired & Worn.

I now had thoughts of turning the car around and finding the closest road running north and forgetting this whole idea of going through with an interview in an unfamiliar area in front of total strangers. Dad had a feeling that I was thinking this, and he broke the spell and calmed my churning insides: “You’ll feel better after you relax and get something to eat. You’ve come this far, and you’ll do well.”

Although I was inclined to think that Dad was just trying to put me at ease, I agreed to give it a chance and to get myself ready for the upcoming interview that night. Besides, I was hungry, and we needed to find some place that offered a decent meal. And so that was our next objective!

Until next time…

A long-ago teaching job interview “adventure” . . .

I have now been retired from teaching middle school kids reading and English since June of 2007, yet I still can recall—with vivid clarity—the  job interview back in late-summer of 1973 that helped me get the proverbial “foot in the door” and eventually secure a teaching job. It had become rather a hectic and frantic “scramble” that summer to overcome the loss of a position before I even had the position! 

None of this helter-skelter would have been necessary had the job I’d thought was mine had acutally been offered to me. Alas, it wasn’t, and the whole unforeseen experience was a colossal wakeup call, one I very much needed, mind you! How naive I had been to believe that my first teaching position was a foregone conclusion. . . in the bag. . . a sure thing, etc.! I even had delusions of spending most of that post-graduation summer lazing around and taking my sweet time gathering up whatever I would need for my new life in a different town.

Oh, how wrong I was!

When June turned into July, and I still hadn’t heard from the superintendent, who’d previously “unofficially” assured me that I’d have a job in the school system back in my old hometown following my graduation, I began to worry. As much as I hated it, I called and spoke with him directly. After the general run-around, he informed me that the job was no longer vacant and wished me good luck on my future career endeavors. Thus, any thoughts of “lazing around” for the rest of the summer quickly flew the coop!

After a period of disbelief and shock, I came to my senses and knew I had to figure out a way to jump start my situation and get going on a now-crucial job search. During this near-panic-driven stage, I saw an ad in the local paper for a teacher employment agency.

Without hesitating, I contacted the agency and signed up to receive vacancy notices each week, even though I understood that any job I took would require me to pay a fee out of my first contract. At this point, I wasn’t too picky and didn’t rule out any opening that came my way. It was imperative to find something before the new school year was to begin. July didn’t offer me much wiggle room in that regard!

Soon, I began receiving the “vacancy” bulletins, with job listings and contact information. Had we had our computers and iPads and the Internet then, all of this probably would have been solved before it really got going!

Although I was not very familiar with much of Illinois outside of suburban Chicago, I was willing to go just about anywhere if there was job security and a pathway to a worthwhile career in the mix. I think it was kind of the beginning of my interest in setting off to previously unheard of spots. Of course, being twenty-three, I’m sure I didn’t always think things through all the way, but I had to go about things a different way now.

The first opening that looked “possible,” was at a high school in a small town in central Illinois, not far from Champaign. “Might as well get things going,” I told myself. I arranged for an interview with the principal there. I’d like to say that the two-and-a-half hour drive through the cornfields in typical summer heat a few days later, paid substantial dividends.

Quite frankly, it was a complete waste of time from the very beginning. The lethargic principal seemed merely to be going through the motions, not really showing any interest in what I might have to offer as a member of the teaching staff. Disappointed, I went back out into the hot and humid air and headed back northbound, thinking about what my next opportunity would be, or, perhaps, what other field of work I might consider.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out. The next job bulletin I received included a couple of potentially rewarding positions, and I quickly contacted the appropriate people at the two schools to arrange interviews.

The first one, in Munster, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago and not a far drive at all from home, would be with a high school principal on a Tuesday morning a week from my phone call.

The second one, in a place named Mulberry Grove, in south central Illinois, would take place the same evening of my Munster interview.

Two interviews in one day. . . Hundreds of miles apart. . . Could it be done, realistically? 

I had no idea, but at this point, I was willing to give it a try. After digging out my Rand-McNally Road Atlas, I figured that it would be about 350 miles between the two places. When I mentioned this situation to my parents, they were glad I was getting some leads for a job, but they thought my plan wasn’t a wise one to attempt alone.

Stay tuned.

Until next time