Category Archives: Friends

I love my friends, and I will always blog proudly about them!

This Little Light of Mine

It’s been a long road. I kept telling myself that over and over, and somewhere along the way I got tired of hearing myself say it — first joking about it, then realizing how true it’s been. Then I started to think about just how exhausted I was — dragging myself around with a leg that didn’t move well, even though the femoral nerve was pretty much back, and learning that the cancer in my pelvis was now debilitating my hip and it created a stress fracture. The pain was getting worse. When did it all change so quickly? So it begins again…………..

I looked to God for the answers. I talked to him everyday, all the time, like he was with me, like I always did — but where was he, I couldn’t hear him anymore? I felt… hopeless. Whoa, what is going on? I completely trust God. I focused on that, but somehow, I don’t know I believed it anymore. He wasn’t answering my prayers. Okay, so his plan and mine aren’t meshing right now — I get all of that, but it was making me very sad. I prayed for God to send me light.

I knew that somewhere along this long road, I had to recharge the light inside of me. I was always so full of positive light in everything I did — always living large. That light got me through some of the darkest moments without ever losing faith or hope over the past 15 years. As disappointing as it is that I have to deal with this again, it had to still be inside of me.

Green trees with the glorious sunshine.

Green trees with the glorious sunshine.

When I was a kid, I would love to lay on my back and look up through the trees, at the stars shining like diamonds in the sky, under the Christmas tree with all it’s twinkling lights, or at the clouds on a blue-sky kind of day. Debbie and I used play a game — who could find the best shape in the clouds. There was always a dog. A face. The mane of a wild stallion. Maybe a cross. Or a streak of light breaking through the clouds. I used to pretend that streak of light would break out of the sky and shine directly on us from the Heavens. Hmmm. It had been a long time, but I decided to meditate and take myself back to our grassy front yard on a puffy cloudy, warm and sunny day to imagine this exact scenario. Only now Debbie and I are adults, but we still see some of the same things. I focused on the streak of light and imagined the light coming from Heaven into my body. I would send some to Debbie too, because she was fighting her own battle. Then I prayed, “God send us light.”

The plan came sometime in late February that we would genetically test my tumor cells. You’ve probably heard about that kind of stuff, but do you really know anyone who’s been through that? So regardless of my condition, it gave me something to be excited about! Well, the process was delayed by three weeks with an administrative error, but I eventually got the testing and the results, and there was a new drug — a targeted bio-agent that would kill my cancer cells. There were actually four, which I hear is fantastic, but only two had been approved by the FDA and my doctor sent both to my insurance company for approval. In the meantime, one of my other doctors did a cryoablation to help get rid of some of the pain I was having. About the same time, I got the news that the bio-drug was approved by my insurance company. We finally had a treatment plan!!! I thanked God for he was unveiling his plan, while continuing to pray. I had to wait three more weeks to start the treatments. This new drug would only “target” my cancer cells and not touch many of my normal ones, therefore there would be very little side effects and no hair loss. I was starting to shine.

One morning I woke up and the sun was coming in from the window in the bathroom on the back of the house. We have these nifty dual view honeycomb shades — you can pull them down from the top and a more sheer fabric appears, while still blacking out the bottom. We keep all the blinds in the bedroom and bathroom about 12″ from the top so we get a lot of natural light into the rooms. Well, that morning the sun was so intense, it shone through the sheer fabric and directly hit the large statue I have of Mother Mary that sits on my dresser — she stands about 22″ tall, looking down with her hands outward. And that light shone across her tiny hands and belly. I couldn’t believe it. I imagined the light was coming from Mary’s hands to me and I prayed, “Mother Mary, send me light.” Things were getting better. This was a sign. I was shining brighter!

All it really takes is a little morsel of some happy news in the right direction to put me on top of the world. If that happens, you can’t bring me down. I had my worst and best day this past Tuesday, in that order, and ever since then, this little light of mine, shines once again. I had gone to the hospital to have my blood work done — something I have to do every week during treatment. I had planned to take myself, but for some reason, the pain in my hip and leg was greater than it ever had been. This had me worried, but it didn’t matter at that very moment, I had an appointment at 9 am, so my sister took me. After my blood was drawn, my nurse took my temperature and blood pressure, and said, “Pam, do you have a fever?” It was reading 100.3°. I was like, huh? Yes, I mean, I’ve been having low-grade fevers all weekend, I’m not surprised. I promised her if it reached 100.5°, I would call my doctor.

Well, I got home later than planned, and my digital manager,  Jen and I had a call at 10:30. So I rushed in and up the stairs  — it’s like being in slow motion with my crutches and the pain! — Jen and I wrapped up in 15 minutes, because I could barely stay awake for the call. My eyes were so heavy — I could not stop it — something was pulling me to sleep. Pulling me… I woke up with a jump, completely soaked from head to toe, like I had taken a shower. Wow, it was so strange. So, so, so strange. I stood up, I had no pain. No fever. What had just happened to me? It was a sign. And today, my tears were happy ones.

God heals in unexpected ways — maybe it’s just some relief from the pain for a few days while I go through the process, or less anxiety as God speaks to my mind to tell me it’s going to be okay. While this journey is way too long in my opinion, I am following his plan for me.  Today I send light to all of you, my friends and family who have prayed tirelessly for me over the past few months. This too shall end, and nobody looks forward to that day more than me.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Ohhh, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

Always B E L I E V E !

Serve God joyfully. Let there be no sadness in your life: the only true sorrow is sin.
— Thirsting for God by Mother Teresa

Not a Care in the World

Well, the season for Pittsburgh Steelers is officially over. It was fun, and we can thank the Steelers for giving us a couple of extra weeks to celebrate. I was most impressed by a few Steelers who showed us what you can do if you put your mind to it, fighting through the pain of injuries. They’re an inspiration to us all.

What a difference between the two playoff games the Steelers played in. The first was the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were mean, spiteful and angry football players — just a poor example of bad sportsmanship for us all to see. As the game went on, they played dirty with unnecessary late hits, taking out not only our quarterback, but our best wide receiver — he ended up unconscious with a concussion. And the player who hurt both these players was just so proud and boastful — it was abominable. When Ben Roethlisberger, our quarterback, was wheeled off the field, the Cincy fans were cheering and some of them threw things at him. I never saw such a disgusting display of poor behavior. I honestly think very poorly of Cincinnati right now.

I don’t normally pray for outcomes of football games. But this is one game that I prayed to God that we would be victorious, because it was just not right that the behavior they displayed was rewarded with a win. And then there was an incredible turn of events, as the Steelers were moved down the field to score the win. It was not only unbelievable — it was miraculous.

Steelers Party Selfie (at Peters' Pub)

Steelers Party Selfie (at Peters’ Pub)

What a difference one week makes. The Steelers played the Denver Broncos this past weekend. While we lost the game, the team and fans showed respectful sportsmanship. And I can circle back around to Big Ben, who played his heart out with a painful shoulder injury. It’s the first time in his career that he took a shot for the pain to get through the game. That’s an inspiration to me.

I live my life everyday with managed pain in my hip and pelvis. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed. But then my mind starts running through all the things I have to do that day. It still takes me two hours to get ready, and that’s rushing — being on crutches is just not easy in the morning. I’ve never been a morning person, and now I’m getting up at 6 am! I set the alarm an hour before, because I take some pain medicine, so I can actually get up at 6 am. My daily responsibilities are endless and many people count on me. Some days I dream that I’m snowed in with my husband in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere with the fireplace crackling. I think of it all the time. I have not a care in the world.

But, then I volunteer for everything I can, make time to spend with friends and family, talk to my Mom often during the week and find time for my husband. Life is too short to do any less.

So, always keep the faith and believe that God truly does have a plan for you. I may not always understand the plan I’m on, but I still believe. And for each of the Pittsburgh Steelers, well, somehow the nastiness that goes on with their sport is all part of each God’s plan for them.

Complete Trust in God
Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with dread and fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them.

He has guided and guarded you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to his dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms.

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and everyday of your life. Either he will shield you from suffering or he will give you the unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.

Always B E L I E V E !

Angels Among Us

Every time I meet someone new at the office, we exchange smiles and pleasantries, and I always get a question about why I’m on crutches. I suppose it’s just human nature to ask what happened and offer support and sympathy. It’s the same for acquaintances, like someone at church, to ask the same question. It’s tiring, but I appreciate the caring and kind words. I guess we all have challenges in our lives. I can look across the conference table with a new client and not really know what challenges they face. I carry mine openly for everyone to see.

I go through all kinds of feelings with the healing of my leg. Sometimes I think it’s a harder burden to bear than chemotherapy was for me. I mean chemo was just a few days of sickness, and the side effects were bearable. But with a leg that I cannot fully use, I can’t do the simplest of things — like carrying a glass of water into the living room. I can’t carry anything really. Or I have to get creative — find a bag with handles to carry items in. I’ve even ordered these screw-on ice picks for the bottom of my crutches. I’ve been worrying about the coming snow and ice. This infliction is the most fear and suffering I’ve ever endured.

For physical therapy, I have to pack the night before. Tom has to carry the heavy bag to the car, along with my purse and computer. Every. Single. Day. And then it takes me 10 minutes to get down the stairs to my car, only after the two hours to get ready in the morning. At least I can drive using my right leg. Then someone at the office has to come down and unload my SUV so that I can climb the three flights of stairs at work. I guess have lots of angels in my life and many blessings too, but it’s a horrible place to be dependent on someone else. When my husband said his vows at our wedding, I don’t think he ever imagined anything like this. I told him he’s made his penance for the rest of his lifetime. But I think he’s secretly counting down the days until I can wait on him hand and foot — and trust me, I’ll be so glad to do that!!!

It’s hard to always be positive. I have had more tears in the past six months than I’ve had in my whole lifetime. Nobody see those tears. Only smiles. Again, if I didn’t have the crutches, nobody would know there was a challenge in my life. But, I’ve made the best of it. I completely trust in God, and somewhere deep down, I know this too shall end.

Bronner's Christmas Store

Tara, Debbie, Mom and Tom at Bronner’s.

We put the summer on somewhat of a hold, but managed to get through the important things. Things like Megan’s graduation party, a tour of Heinz Field with my cousins from Charleston, SC, MarketSpace’s 10th anniversary celebration at Kennywood Park and our team building event at Nemacolin. Sure, we had to modify things, and someone else always had to do things for me — all those angels in my life. We did site visits for MarketSpace’s new office space, took a disastrous trip to the Outer Banks, NC and managed to still take our vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. We rated it our top vacation of all time. Now, I’m looking at an island off the coast of Seattle! Sadly, we had to cancel our Aruba trip. The airport is just too much for me, and Tom learned from the other trips that managing both sets of luggage is a major chore for him. And of course, I can only stand there feeling guilty. But, we still took a couple of days off work and went to Bronner’s Christmas Store in Frankenmuth, MI instead. Tom and I planned our company Christmas party during that road trip — it was the perfect time to do that. And we celebrated Christmas with our team last Friday.

I know you haven’t heard from me much this summer. It’s just been hard for me to find the inspiration. But thinking back over the summer, I realized that God had provided so many opportunities to be thankful for the blessings in my life. And just yesterday, one of my staff text me their appreciation for the Christmas party, “I’m so grateful that I found you and MarketSpace!” My heart just melted, and that one line changed the course of my Christmas.

I had been praying for God to send me an angel to help me get through this. And he surely did — they’re all around me. It really confirmed that they are those who love me — those angels who are always there, always ready to lend a hand, never expecting anything in return. My family and my friends — Tom, Debbie, Dona, Jen, Trish, Mo and all the staff at MarketSpace, my Mom, Fr. Bob, Megan and Tara, and Gert, Val and my closest friends from St. Gregory’s, my dear friends Karen, Greg, and Tracy. And for all those friends and colleagues that I missed mentioning here and those that pray for me or are thinking of me. I’m thinking of you too. And right now, the tears that roll down my face are tears of joy and not sadness.

And as I go through this Christmas season, I’m going to pray for those who struggle every day, yet I do not know their need. For everyone is struggling with something. And for all my angels. I promise to try to always appreciate and pray for you.

Always B E L I E V E !

PS: I learned that making 250 meatballs in a roaster without being able to do it all by myself is not a good idea. Tom, you really are a saint.

Grad Celebration

Megan’s graduation party was on June 28. I was so disappointed that morning as I hobbled around, still using my walker.

A quick update to an earlier post “I Give It Up“. The PET scan showed cancer cells in my pelvis that the doctors never thought was cancer. This was a huge find, because we had missed it the last couple of scans. So yes, my doctor was aggressive on this round, getting all of it! But in doing so, also froze my femoral nerve in the process. I woke up, completely unable to feel my leg. My doctor told me it would take 3-5 weeks to get my mobility back to full strength. Most of my leg came back while I was in the hospital, everything but my femoral nerve. So that means I can’t walk, because my knee buckles and I fall. Yesterday I hit four weeks, and I’m just beyond frustrated that I’m still on crutches. I’m having a hard time with it — mentally more than anything — my biggest fear is that my femoral nerve is not going to come back anytime soon. My doctor assures me that it can take longer, but will come back. Ugh, I’m so impatient, and I have so much going on at work — I need it back now. Physically it’s hard with three flights of steps at my office. And three flights at my home. 

So back to Megan’s party. I was so bummed out that I am still on crutches and not able to go around and visit all the relatives. I had planned to take photos of everyone! Tara took the outdoor photos for me. Thank you, Tara, you’re so good with the camera. It also rained the entire day. The entire week before and the Saturday before. Everything was saturated. But that didn’t phase Megan. They moved their tent to the driveway and everyone managed to stay dry.


For me, the best part of the day was seeing all my relatives. It started when my cousin Teresa, her husband Mike and their son Noah drove 12 hours from Charleston, SC for the party. They stayed with Tom and I. They drove through intense fog with a long backup in the mountains of West Virginia on Rt. 77, followed by rain, then hard rain, and through a tornado warning before reaching our house. I was so happy to see them!!! And it was great to spend time with them. We even managed to squeeze in a tour of Heinz Field on Monday, and they accommodated me with a wheelchair for the tour. They brought Tom and I “Charleston Strong” t-shirts in remembrance of the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The back said “Pray for Charleston.” It happened on June 17, so it was so real, so close and so fresh for them. I guess it’s personal when it’s in your own city. It caused me to pause and think about that. Teresa told me that the church turned the other cheek and is praying for peace and love — that the people of the entire city is standing behind them and praying for peace. They created a Unity Chain on the Ravenel Bridge where thousands turned out — hand in hand — stretching across the bridge. I couldn’t believe it when she told me that a group from the Ferguson shooting and riots came in to protest their peace and start screaming racism. The church ignored them and they soon went back to wherever they came from. That disgusted me that there are traveling hate groups with the goal of throwing the race card whenever they can, and trying to get riots started. They are the ones who continue the cycle of racism when in reality, the rest of us see everyone as equals. Are they so miserable that they fill the void with hatred? I just don’t get it and it’s just so ugly.

At the party, everyone was there. From the Miller side, I was happy to see my cousin Karen and her husband, Bill. I was bummed that I couldn’t go outside and sit with them for a while. I also saw my cousin Kathie and her husband, Ritch. And my cousins Patti and Dave. I didn’t get a picture of them either — what a bummer! Well, I did get one of Karen. Karen also brought her Dad, Uncle Jim — my Dad’s brother. And my Dad’s other brother, Uncle Frank was there with his wife, Aunt Ruth. I miss seeing Kathie, Patti and Aunt Ruth at bingo. If there were others, I probably missed them as I was stuck inside with my crutches.

From the Knowlson side, besides Teresa, Mike and Noah, there was my second cousin, Barbara and her husband Rod. Teresa and Noah were fascinated with her sixth sense stories. Noah couldn’t even sleep on Sunday evening — he said he fell asleep around 2 am, because he kept thinking about all the stuff Barbara had told them. My second cousin, Chris and her husband, Del also came, as well as Arlene and her husband, Jerry, and my second cousin, Nancy. I hope I didn’t miss anybody.

My Mom’s friend, Marcia came with her daughter, Nancy. And there were family from the Pettner side, including Tonya and her children, including Allison, Derek and Jason, Brenda and her Mom and her husband, Tom, and their children Katrina and Kyle. From the Pettner side there was also Fay and her husband, Frank and their son, Matt, and Val, Scott’s sister from Texas with her family, and others that I just don’t know very well, as well as Hookstown fair board members, Debbie and Scott’s card party friends, friends of Megan’s, and friends from MarketSpace, including Jen and her husband, Mike and daughter, Béla, as well as Trish and Dona with her husband, Greg and two daughters. And friends like Belinda and her husband, Ron who I knew well from St. Rose. There were probably 150 people that attended.

Of course the immediate family was there — all of us kids, myself and my husband, Tom, Father Bob, and Tommy and his fiancé, Gretchen. Debbie spent the entire day in the kitchen. Some of her friends came that were in her wedding. And Lori and Harold were there with their granddaughter, Brianna. And Brianna’s mother, Elaine and father, Greg. I loved holding Brianna, she’s such a cutie!

And food — there were roasters all over Debbie’s kitchen with stuff cabbage (my Mom makes the BEST), homemade meatballs, pulled pork, Pittsburgh potatoes, kielbasa, fried chicken, potatoes salad, linguini salad, homemade gnocchi spaghetti dish, fruit salad and six or seven desert salads. Megan made all the baked goods that included cake balls and cookies. And I made buckeyes, in honor of Megan attending Ohio State, but I forgot them!!! So I have 15 dozen of buckeyes in my freezer.

I can’t believe that Megan grew up so fast and is going to college this August. She is so excited. I know that everything will change from here. But it’s a good change, and I pray to God that he watches over her. I know my Dad will be watching over her.

ALWAYS B E L I E V E !

It’s almost a week after the party and I’m still on my crutches. Please pray for me that I heal soon and can walk again very soon.

Thinking of Dad with Laughter

Memorial Day — one of my favorite holidays when we remember those who served and those who gave their lives so that we can be free. In Pennsylvania, it’s the official kickoff to summer with a long weekend, usually warmer weather and family cookouts.

Friday, the 22nd was the funeral mass of a friend’s wife. I had never met her, but I knew about her illness as I talked about it with him. She had an aggressive form of cancer and he had asked me about mine. I prayed for her often and for peace for her family. I lit a candle for her when I heard about her cancer and then again when I heard she had passed away. I had no idea until I attended the mass just how much faith they had.

Thursday evening I was apprehensive about attending, because she was only five years older than me, and I was worried that I might be pensive the rest of the weekend. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. In fact, I was inspired. I know that is an odd thing to say after leaving a funeral mass. I felt the same way when my Dad passed away and we left his funeral mass. It’s because I believed! I remember belting out “On Eagle’s Wings” as we left the church, and I knew in that moment that my Dad was with God!

Their family believed. During the eulogy, he told us their story — that they put all their faith and trust in God that he would make her well — but they knew if he didn’t that it was his Will. And either way it was a win-win situation for her. His faith was simple and beautiful. And he believed that everything came with a lesson and was teaching them something. He smiled and laughed — and he had peace, as did the rest of their family. As we sang “On Eagle’s Wings” as we left church, I thought of my Dad. Saturday was the anniversary of his death — May 23, 2002. It’s been 13 years.

I thought about my Dad all day on Saturday. Tom was servicing the jet ski, because we were taking it out to Shenango Lake on Sunday, even though the water was only 68°. If you’re careful, only your legs get wet — I figured we’d be okay as long as we didn’t fall in. We were going to church at 5 pm at St. Gregory, going out to dinner at the Waterhole after church, and then watching the fireworks show at Cooper’s Lake.

I talk to my Dad all the time, even though he’s not here. I pray for him everyday and then I talk to him. I’d just love to see him smile at me one more time. When I think of him, I remember a very fond memory of him where he is sitting on his bed watching TV and I go into the room and his face lights up — he grins and exclaims, “Pam! What are you up to?” And I jump on the bed next to him and give him a hug. I can recall his face so clearly and the sound of voice. I think of this all the time, because I never want to forget him.

Pyrotechnics at Coopers Lake

Pyrotechnics at Coopers Lake.

As we waited for the fireworks to start, I was thinking of how appropriate to watch fireworks on this day, because Dad loved a good fireworks show. We couldn’t hear the music during the fireworks, but I imagined something patriotic — in memory of Dad.

Sunday we headed out to the lake. Tom got up early and waxed the jet ski, because it was looking a little dirty and sun-faded from last year. That turned out to be a big mistake!!!

We met up with my brother Tommy and his fiancé, Gretchen and her son Sam who were already on the boat. After cruising around a bit, Tom and I went out on the jet ski for a couples ride. We didn’t do that often, because it’s not as fun with the extra weight on the jet ski. When we went back to the boat so Tom could get off, Tommy wanted to take the jet ski out with Gretchen. So we both decided to get off. And that’s when it happened.

Memorial Day on Shenango Lake.

Memorial Day on Shenango Lake.

Somehow Tom leaned the wrong way when I was supposed to get off and the jet ski started to tip, but as I tried to counter balance, my foot slipped on the side of the jet ski and boom — I was in the water before I knew what hit me. I twisted my bad leg and I’m not sure what I’ve done to it (I can’t put any weight on it when I go up the stairs). Tom also fell in — we were lucky that neither of us hit our head or were injured any worse. Tom’s leg was also stuck sideways in the jet ski.

Well after this fiasco, Gretchen and Sam no longer wanted to go on the jet ski. I told them that I have never fallen in — because that has never happened to me! Thanks Tom for waxing it and creating a super slippery surface. In the shock of what happened, I never even felt the 68° water temperature. So, after talking Gretchen and Sam into going, Gretchen starts to climb on the jet ski as Tommy is already seated on it and she slips on the super slippery surface and before you know it — she’s in the water too.

We got the biggest laugh about it on the way home. It was hysterical, and I wish we could have been on one of the boats around us. I’m sure they got a good laugh at our expense. These are the kinds of things that happened when we used to go boating with Dad. Despite my new injury, it was a great day. And I hope my Dad got a good laugh with us.

Always B E L I E V E !

The Best is Yet to Be

It’s one of the moments in life when you get a phone call and the world seems to stop for just a moment, or maybe, longer. A week ago Sunday, I was holding the phone reading the caller ID, “Albert Ott,” registering Gert’s parents. Oh yes, she was going there to take a cake to her Dad to celebrate his 89th birthday that coming Tuesday. Oh no! Why would she be calling me from there? That couldn’t be good. Her Mom! Oh no! Something happened to her Mom! Gert was on the other end of the line, and I knew right away from her tone that something was really wrong. She told me through her tears, “Pam, my Dad died this morning.” And the world truly did stop for a moment. I could feel my heart beating and Gert was telling me what happened. We weren’t on the phone long — I remember her telling me that her Mom had found him in the morning asleep on the couch. I just couldn’t believe it and my heart was filled with sadness.

Al was just one of the good guys. A United States Marine — Semper Fi or Always Faithful. He used to say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” He served in WWII as a still life photographer. I can only imagine the kinds of photographs one would take during a war. I asked Gert if he took amazing pictures of her younger years and she said “nope, he always bought one of those disposable cameras when he wanted to take pictures.” Maybe after you take photographs during a war, you don’t have the same passion for taking pictures when you return home. I don’t know — I never asked him about it.

I obviously met Al through Gert. And I met Gert at St. Gregory when Tom and I signed up to serve on the Super Bingo committee where she served as the chair. It’s been more than 10 years. Al and his wife, Lois came to almost every Super Bingo. Even though he loved any kind of game of chance, cards, casinos, and even game shows — he didn’t love Bingo. He came because Lois did love it — and it gave him an excuse to see his daughter and her family every month — and harass all of us. And we got to know Al and Lois during that time.

The first summer Gert invited us to their camp in Conneaut for the day, it rained. It not only rained, it poured. We were on the lake about an hour before the storms started and we ended up in the cabin. That was the same weekend we met Gert’s brother, Glenn who came riding to their cabin on a golf cart. Tom and Al started drinking Manhattans. Well, Tom had never drank a Manhattan before and Al introduced him. Needless to say that I had to drive home that day. From then on — it became a thing between Tom and Al. And from what I learned this past week — Al seemed to have a Manhattan thing with a lot of friends. That’s just it — he had a way with people that they could call him friend.

Today was his funeral mass at his hometown parish in the Allentown neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh. Their church — St. John Vianney — was an amazing sight to see. When you think of an old, Catholic church, you imagine something this immaculate with a long aisle and endless pews. There were many friends who traveled from St. Gregory to pay their last respects to Al. We were there not only because he was Gert’s Dad, but because he was special to us too. Sitting in the front of church didn’t prepare us for the number of people that attended the mass. The number of Catholic people that came to communion seemed never ending. It warmed my heart to see the church completely filled — and it spoke volumes of the man who was Albert Ott.

The US Marine Color Guard gave a military tribute to Al at the back of the church, expressing their gratitude for his service. It was beautiful and amazing. A simple trumpet played the familiar Taps tune and three single rifle shots echoed among the building walls outside the church. They folded a flag and presented it to Lois.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made,” as Al would often quote poet Robert Browning. Rest in peace, dear Albert. We will miss you.

Always B E L I E V E !

Djòdjò

While Buffalo, NY was getting buried in record snowfall, Tom and I were vacationing in Aruba with perfect weather at 86°, as it sits almost on the equator. Bòn Bini (or welcome in Papamiento, the language of the island)!!! We went with our good friends Tony and Val, and Gert and Drew. They stayed at the Tamarijn, while we stayed at the Divi Divi resort. We could enjoy all amenities at either resort, as well as the Divi Beach resort that sits off the ocean, and travel between them all with golf cart-like transports.

Mi Dushi, Tom and I have been to Aruba five times, including our honeymoon and a wedding of a good friend of ours. We had decided at the beginning of 2014 that we were going to take a break from the Caribbean this year. But then in the summer, while at charity bingo event, our friends invited us to go with them. If they had said they were going to Antiqua or St. Lucia, we would have passed. But we can’t say no to Aruba — there is just no place like it — from the crystal blue water — to the wonderful waves in the ocean — to the amazing tropical drinks, Balashi beer, and outdoor oven pizzas — morning, noon and night. I could list 100 reasons why we love Aruba.

We went away the week before Thanksgiving. And while in Aruba, we were reminded of all the things to be thankful for, including our very good friends. We laughed every day and enjoyed every minute of our trip. And when we said Ayo (goodbye) to Aruba, I knew it wouldn’t be forever. We will meet again.

The video below says it all. Djòdjò (enjoy).

By the way, did you ever see a sunset on the equator? Well, it lasts only about two minutes, so you have to be ready for it — or you’ll miss it! I missed it numerous times until the last night there. It’s my last photo in the video — I finally got it a split second before it was gone. 

A L W A Y S  B E L I E V E !

Finding Perspective

It’s been an unexpected month of September and here we are — well into October! I haven’t posted in some time, because I’ve been in the hospital and recovering. It’s really hard for me to be optimistic when I’m struggling with so many things at once. That’s when I don’t write on the blog. I take everything to heart, so thankfully nothing is physically wrong with my ticker!

I used to think that having a “big heart” would make me a better manager and motivator, but that theory is continually proven wrong, so I believe it’s quite the opposite. Okay, I’m being cynical — I don’t really believe that — I believe in people and try to see the good in everyone, even when it hurts.

I know a few people with “big hearts.” I’m not talking about a physical larger heart, but figuratively speaking — it’s having a heart that cares too much, puts others ahead of one’s self (even at your own expense) and is easily persuaded and manipulated. Yep, that’s me and for those of you with big hearts, you know who you are. I’m always trusting, always worried about what others think or are feeling and always vulnerable. I feel personally attacked at times. And then flip the coin — when I hurt someone else, I can’t get over or let go of that either.

A friend and mentor of mine talked me through some things this week, helping me to separate the personal from the facts. It’s having that broad view that makes me realize that this big heart of mine just has too many holes in it. I know I need to let some things go — to accept things for what they are. This week, I felt deceived when presented with some vague story that didn’t make any sense or have any facts. I don’t like conflict, but I’d prefer it over being masterfully manipulated. And then I go through a series of emotions — I’m hurt, then deeply hurt, then resolute, possibly happy, then angry as more details begin to emerge, and finally hurt again.

I need to find perspective.

First, it’s not just about me!

Second, it will only take a few days to dissipate and harmony restored. So I need to relax.

And lastly, and most importantly, it’s just not that significant in the whole scheme of life. So it’s truly a matter of finding perspective. It’s taking this “big heart” of mine and using it to listen to what God is saying to me. I need to quiet myself and hear his words deep within my heart. And then it will be as it should be.

And then smile, because I am physically feeling on top of the world!

Always B E L I E V E !

Beyond Viral

A lot of clients will say to me, “I want that to go viral, or create something for us that will go viral.” If it were only that easy — that I could snap my fingers and there it is — a viral marketing strategy that exceeded expectations beyond anything imaginable — pure magic. And nobody is quite sure what that mix is that sets something skyrocketing.

The ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, started a campaign in late July that featured celebrities challenging each other to “take the #icebucketchallenge,” to raise awareness for ALS and make a donation. It was about 10 days ago that the challenge hit Pittsburgh when Pittsburgh Penguins’, Sidney Crosby, took the challenge on the local news. And two days ago, my husband Tom was nominated to take the challenge.

My Facebook news feed is filled with friends taking the challenge and challenging each other, making donations — and above all — raising awareness. I’ve never seen anything like it. From national celebrities to everyday moms and dads, from grandparents to aunts and uncles — even children as young as two or three years old — The audience is so all-inclusive. It’s good, clean fun. It’s all these little moments as we come together in one collective effort that I can see God working in our lives.

We donated to livelikelou.org, a non-profit organization in Pittsburgh that raises awareness for ALS and strives to provide meaningful impact to those affected by the disease locally. A good friend and colleague lost his mother to ALS just a couple of years ago, and his dedication to local and national awareness for ALS is inspiring, as he continues to support scientific research targeted at finding a cure. You can find more information on his efforts at ALS Connections. I can’t even begin to imagine how many millions of dollars this will raise for the ALS Association — and it’s time they found a cure!

In less than three weeks, every person I know has heard of the ice bucket challenge. I guess God is really at work in our lives in a very big way, too. And that’s beyond viral.

Always B E L I E V E .

Celebrating 20 Years

Smiles of happiness

Smiles of happiness

Debbie and Scott celebrated 20 years of marriage on July 11, 2014. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years! It truly seems like yesterday — except fast forward to today — and see a happy family with my two beautiful nieces. It’s indeed been 20 years.

My Grandma Miller made Debbie’s custom gown. She used to be a seamstress at a bridal shop in Beaver Falls, PA for years and years. She made the gowns for all of my cousins on the Miller side of the family — and even my Mom’s wedding gown in 1963. Debbie’s gown was the last full gown she made (to my knowledge). By the time I got married in 2001, Grandma could no longer make gowns of this magnitude. I remember Debbie gave her a couple of pictures and they went shopping for fabric at a store in downtown Beaver Falls. There are no stores like that there anymore. Grandma also made her headpiece.

Hot pink bridal gowns

Hot pink bridal gowns

Now our dresses were another story. The dresses were true to the time — I could have played a part in the popular TV show Designing Women! The dresses were hot pink with a funky design off the shoulders. I think the late 80’s and early 90’s were all about how much fabric could be layered on your upper body to make you look at least 20 pounds heavier — that included those beloved shoulder pads! I never, ever, ever wore my hair up, and not only did I have it up for Debbie’s wedding, but it looked like a bird had built a nest in it! I have to admit that the color Debbie picked was something I would never have personally chosen, but it made such a beautiful wedding with the vibrant color to compliment the black.

Debbie and Scott were married at St. Rose church in Darlington, PA, our hometown parish. Our brother, Bob married them — it was one of his first weddings. He had been a priest almost two years now. The reception was held at the Jewish Community Center in Chippewa, PA. It was one of the hottest days of the year and something happened to the air conditioning and we had none for the evening!!! It was unbelievably hot. Debbie’s girlfriends Melissa and Lisa were also in the wedding and we all set up the hall earlier in the day. Debbie had designed the center pieces — using clear bowls, filled with water — and we floated hot pink flower-shaped candles on the water. They were gorgeous when burning.

Bird's nest hairdo

Bird’s nest hairdo and dancing with my friend, Cathie

I had designed Debbie’s program for the church and we tied hot pink ribbons around those. Randy Rastetter, a long-time friend, used to sell wedding invitations from a big book back then at his printing company. This was long before digital invitations. And those invitations were gorgeous — I remember Debbie’s had roses with opal foil stamping and embossing with hot pink accents on a heavy, uncoated cream paper with a deckled edge. The inside had a silver panel and silver foil stamping with their wedding details. You can’t find invites like that anymore. Times change and so does so much else.

Grandpap Knowlson died the same year of Debbie’s wedding — in August of 1994. I remember thinking at the time that she was so fortunate to have him there, as he had been slowing down for a year leading up to her wedding. It’s hard to believe that it will be 20 years since he passed as well. And now I think about how I feel so fortunate that my Dad was at mine — he died the following year in 2002. It makes me think a lot about life in general. It’s like a giant timeline of milestones that define who we are and how we fit into history — in our very own little story.

Debbie and Scott leading the locomotion

Debbie and Scott leading the locomotion

There are some things that never change — Debbie’s wedding had lots of alcohol, fabulous food and endless cookies. Exquisite cake. And lots of dancing from the polkas to the Hokey Pokey to the Electric Slide and the Locomotion. It’s a day we waited for with anticipation, because you know that you’ll soon be celebrating with all your family and all your friends at one time in one place.

If you take a few minutes to soak it all in, you’ll be able to witness history filling the pages of your own story. And those will get passed on 20 years later to your children who may laugh at your hair and your clothes, but have a little more insight to what life was like before them. Or maybe they’ll dream of their own wedding one day, when they start the next chapter in the story.

A L W A Y S  B E L I E V E !