When Flora greets us on a late January afternoon, the sun is teeming in her floor to ceiling sliding glass doors, illuminating the ice crystals and snow on the edge of Lake Champlain. The views and colors from her living room, dining room and kitchen are stunning. Her three dogs roam back and forth, excited by the visitors and wagging their tails. The logs in the woodstove are burning brightly and Flora looks at peace. Framed on the wall is the quote she now lives by “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Until February 2011, Flora served as Georgia School’s administrator. Severe fatigue and a diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome sent the world as she knew it screeching to a halt. She retired much earlier than expected and took on the task of healing and reinventing herself. Her foremost responsibility now is to keep her stress and fatigue to a minimum. She meditates regularly, journals, bird watches, gardens in the summer months and creates a variety of driftwood sculptures from the scraps that wash up on her shore. In her front yard, positioned next to each other, are several Adirondack chairs, painted white with a variety of colored designs her former students and staff presented to her as a parting gift. Once a long-distance runner, Flora now walks or jogs with her dogs as much as two miles a day. She has grapefruit every morning because it provides her with an emotional boost and she has reduced her red meat intake. And each year, she organizes and sponsors a fundraising walk/run at Niquette Bay State park to educate others and provide some dollars toward Sjogren’s syndrome research.
Flora introduces us to her friend and peer coach, Cindy Little, a Georgia school guidance counselor. Good friends in adolescence, they reconnected when Flora became Georgia’s principal. They have remained each other’s support system for several years, regularly walking together and annually participating in PATH’s peer coaching course. Every week during the course they send each other a motivating quote. This week’s standout – a quote from Oprah Winfrey – “Passion is energy that comes from focusing in what exists for you.”