Josie Armstead was a truly wonderful and caring woman who always tried to assist those less fortunate than herself. She identified herself first and foremost as a mother. She also identified herself as an artist and a tutor.
Enormously talented, I am not aware of any artistic endeavor she was unable to conquer. She once reupholstered her sofa. She could sew, knit, and crochet. She enjoyed singing and playing guitar. Ceramic work came easily to her. She could draw and paint with various mediums. Her pisanki egg creations were amazing.
Josie was equally talented in both written and spoken English. She used her powers for good. An English tutor at the college she attended she touched, and was touched by, countless lives. When I would talk with her over the phone she would tell me endless stories about the people who shared their lives with her.
I just found a letter my mother wrote to a high school friend. It talks about her life. I have posted excerpts below:
How have I been? Gosh, high school was so long ago. What is pertinent and what is not? Been up and down, and down and up. Its been interesting; never boring!. Married/divorced twice. Had 4 kids with #1, none with #2. 1 girl, 3 boys. Did the single mom thing without much grace, but they are all productive members of society. I win!
#1 was Navy, and I got the travel bug. Lived in the Virginia and South Carolina for awhile, then Guam (loved the island--and shushing out the culture--what was left of it.), then came to San Diego, where I stayed.
I worked as a computer and hardware writer and trainer for control systems for about 10 years. That was an exciting job: Water, waste water, power generation and power distribution. Worked in Malaysia, Mexico City, all over the US. Also got to go to Korea and Thailand on side trips. 9/11 capped the business…a mom/pop set up. All bids got pulled for new security requirements, which the company could not handle financially, because we needed a constant stream of work.
Later, I moved to corporate US software companies…hated being driven by the stock market. It’s a lying/dirty business.
In the middle of all that, I also did a lot of volunteer work for preschool to eighth grade…I thought for awhile I would pursue that age group. No way…too many problem parents. I had fun though…designed and implemented a music program for an elementary school. Selecting and presenting American folk music to match up with history lessons. Thus, if the class was studying the opening of the West, the kids were introduced to cowboy songs! You might appreciate this…back in school, you were kind enough to show me basic guitar chords. In one of the classes, I had a troubled kid, whom the teacher specifically pointed out to me as needing a little more attention than the others. So he was hanging around after class one day, and wanted to goof off with my guitar. I showed him those same basic chords, and from then on, he always stayed late. Almost 10 years passed, and I was performing at a coffee shop, when a young man came up and said “You probably don’t remember me, but you used to let me play your guitar in Mrs. O’Brian’s class. I really liked it, and I convinced my parents to send me for lessons. My buddies and I just cut our first album.” So, your influence lives on!
Probably the most significant event in my life was when I lost my beloved dad, my favorite grandparents, and the part of my heritage I valued the most.
Dad met Mom, married her, adopted me, and life went forward. A child could not have asked for a better dad, especially given the options. It took me a long time, but I finally came to the conclusion that my family is who I want to be family…
Nowadays, I have my dream job; tutoring immigrants and inner city kids in English at the college level. Giving back to my world, and learning a lot in the process. The stories I hear (gasp)…I have met lot of unsung heroes. I work for the community college system. Lots of Latino Americans, and Ethiopian, Somalian, and Darfurian immigrants. I have gained a deep respect for our Muslim brothers and sisters…its nice being outside the “fear fold.”
One thing I will say for all the health issues I have been undergoing: I have been pretty lucky from start to finish. It started about 2 years ago, when I was putting in every hour of the day, painting my house. I thought I was just exhausted, but went to the clinic anyway, where they told me I had atrial afibb. If I had waited a day, I would have died they said. Angels watching over me? Then I had a series of little strokes bought on by the affib. However I was always around people who knew the signs…I would not have known if I had been on my own…too small, none of the classic indicators I would have expected. As the docs poked around because of the strokes, they found a tumor in my brain…the very best kind a woman could ask for…it was growing from the outside to the inside—just pushing brain matter away, not ripping it up with nasty old roots inside. Also, it was benign…without the strokes, we never would have known. Now it’s gone, and I had some of the finest surgeons in the US in attendance.
In the aftermath, I realized the whole process gave me absolute clarity: I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to do. I don’t know many people who can claim such clarity; I love “my” students, and they love me. Like I said: pretty lucky!