Category Archives: Road Trips

Excursions and adventures with a map!

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.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Martha’s Vineyard 1985
Thinking back to the summer of 1985, I was 17 years old and going to be a Senior in high school that coming year. My brother, Bob would be going to Duquesne College in the fall and my sister, Debbie would be a Junior in high school. Tommy would have been nine years old. And Aunt Mary, my Mom’s sister came with us, who in addition to being our Aunt was also a good friend.

I have so many fond memories from that vacation in Martha’s Vineyard — and I have wanted to return ever since that year. I think that vacation was bittersweet — not knowing at the time it would be our last big trip as a family.

Martha’s Vineyard 2015 — What had changed?
I’m glad we ended up going the last week of September over my birthday — during off season. It was probably about as busy as it was in 1985 during peak season. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in peak season if we had gone in June! I would think there would be traffic gridlock on the island and in the towns. We had a hard time finding parking almost anywhere we went. Of course, they recommended alternative forms of transportation, such as biking, but that’s kind of hard to do on crutches!

We noticed lots of contractors — I mean at every turn. Maybe everyone hired contractors at the end of the season. But these guys had big trucks with ladders over the top and buckets hanging off the back. And they didn’t stop at stop signs or yield to other vehicles whatsoever. The streets were narrow around Edgartown, and you could barely get by their vehicles. Thank goodness I had mirrors that flipped in, because I swiped a telephone pole more than once.

I can only imagine the Millers of 1985 coming into Edgartown with our big truck camper! It’s quite a different atmosphere today. The shopping in Edgartown is only for the luxury shopper. There would be nowhere to buy a water purse filled with glitter or pop beads today. Most of the stores were clothing stores and were exclusive and expensive — and we all know that’s just not us. They cleaned up the docks in a bad way. Gone were the birds — the cranes and the seagulls. I used to sketch those birds on the docks in Edgartown. They even built a restaurant where the fishing boats came in. It was so clean and there was no fishy smell. I’m sure that was part of the island’s tourism plan. Sometimes forward progress makes me sad.

I couldn’t wait to get to Chappaquiddick Island! I wanted to see what had changed and what had stayed the same — I have such vivid memories there. The Dike Bridge has been repaired and expanded — obviously a tourist destination — and you had to pay $280 to drive your vehicle across your bridge and out onto the beach. I remember the carefree day that we spent as kids crossing the bridge, watching our step so we didn’t fall through and going out onto Leland Beach. Deserted. Just us. It was amazing. We carved messages in the driftwood. Today, it is a nice touristy thing to do, but I’m so thankful that we had that day back in 1985.

Martha’s Vineyard had become a true tourist destination in every sense of the meaning. Regardless, we had the best vacation we could ever imagine.

Tom and I went somewhere everyday, despite the rain that had moved in on Wednesday and the fact that I was on crutches. We found great bar & pub restaurants — and even tried new food choices. We didn’t have fast food for an entire week, because it’s not allowed on the island (except for a Dairy Queen that was grandfathered in before it became law) . The fact that it was next to the last week of the season — almost everything in Oak Bluffs was 50% off. Oh, did I mention Oak Bluffs? I don’t remember that town at all from 1985. And wow, was I missing out!!!

Oak Bluffs was my kind of shopping! One entire street was dedicated to typical tourist souvenirs. And everything was 50% off. My favorite shop was Craftworks, a store that had artist works from all over the country (not 50% off)! I love glass work and bought the most beautiful bird plates and platter. I also purchased handblown glass pumpkins just in time for the holiday!

This town was nothing like I had ever seen before. There were rows of “gingerbread houses” — all with slightly different architecture and colorful paint. Some of them were bed & breakfasts, but we’d never stay there. We found plenty of parking in Oak Bluffs — maybe it was just the time of day or the fact that it was cold and raining, but we loved it.

Going to the Gayhead Lighthouse was a challenge for me that I refused to give into! You had to climb stairs, then a gradual climb to a steeper climb where we could finally get photos of the lighthouse and cliffs. Coming down was more of a challenge. I was afraid of losing my balance, so I asked Tom to walk in front of me! That night I had to use the ice pack!

We went onto South Beach the same day we arrived. We knew rainy weather was coming, and I was determined to see the ocean! It was tough-going on crutches— sinking in about 10″ — but I figured it out. There were probably about 10 people on the beach. Nobody was in the water that I can remember, even though Tom said it was really warm. I could see vehicles out on the beach about two football fields away. We found the entrance to that area, and I tried to talk Tom into taking my SUV out there. But he was too afraid we’d get stuck in the sand and have no experience with what to do. He was right.

We wore shorts on Monday, because it was so warm and even considered going swimming. Tuesday, we wore jeans with a light jacket and by Wednesday, we dug out anything we brought that resembled winter clothing! It was COLD.

Even our ferry ride back to the mainland was an adventure for us! We moved our trip up to 8:00 am (from noon), because our family in Pittsburgh was worried about the hurricane and the weather. They wanted us to get off the island while we could, and we didn’t have anything planned for Friday. After all, we heard that Hyannis had already canceled their ferry transports. We got there about 7:30 am and were second in line. A freight ferry had just unloaded and the crew asked each of the cars that were lining up for the 8:00 am ferry if we wanted to get in early and catch a ride on the freighter. We were like, “Sure!” Tom said, “Can we get a spot near the elevator, because my wife is on crutches.” The guy laughed and said, “There is no elevator and you stay in your vehicle.” And that was that.

Of course, every time we boarded the ferry, both in Woods Hole and now in Vineyard Haven, we got harassed about our Steelers license plate on our vehicle. Tom would always talk scores with them and it was all in good fun. Once we boarded, we realized after about 15 minutes that we were the only vehicle facing out to the ocean, and the gate they closed was some kind of mesh net. Are you kidding me? The ferry was already rocking from the rough water. It turned out to be terrifying and exciting all at the same time! I was texting with my sister the entire time, and Tom was keeping his foot on the brake and emergency brake. We actually talked about what to do if our SUV plunged off the backend of this freighter. I mean — the water was rough! The waves were crashing over the sides at times. And it was rocking! But, we got to the other side safely and got an early start home.

I’m sure that Tom got sick of hearing the phrase, “30 years ago…” as I must have said that a hundred times, remembering all kinds of small things as we toured the towns in Martha’s Vineyard. But, that was 30 years ago, and I love the trip we took this year. It is now my new Martha’s Vineyard with Tom. So maybe one day we’ll be saying, “10 years ago when we were here…” and remember those days fondly.

Always  B E L I E V E !

The Sound of Silence

So here it was, just one week after Easter and we left mass frustrated — again. We went to mass at St. Ferdinand and were meeting our friends for dinner after that. They were all going to St. Killian, but Tom and I don’t care for mass in an auditorium. We would have gone to our own parish, but didn’t want to get caught up in the First Holy Communion ceremonies. So here we were listening to this awful chanting music for the next 20 minutes before mass started. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t pray or think or even concentrate on anything. And then that’s how mass went too. At every turn, the music interrupted the mass. This is how the music was there during lent, but I thought it was just something special they were doing then. I guess not — oh, how I don’t like change for change sake. The music used to be one of the best things about St. Ferdinand.

It seems like we complain after every mass anymore. We left mass and Tom turned to me in the car and said, “this seminar next weekend better be inspiring, because I’m thinking I’m not sure about going to church anymore.” My heart sank, but I knew too that I felt the same way.

Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
The seminar by Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic was the following weekend. We drove about 3 1/2 hours to Mechanicsburg, PA and booked an overnight stay so we could drive back to Pittsburgh on Sunday. I wasn’t feeling the greatest, because I had the stents in my kidneys changed two days before, and my doctor used bigger stents which were a little uncomfortable. But there was no way I was missing this!!!! We desperately needed inspiration!!!!!

And wow, did we get it! The program was almost four hours, but there were three breaks during the presentation. Matthew Kelly is the best speaker I’ve ever heard — period. The material was what we needed to hear and mix it with his own sense of charm and humor — simply AMAZING. Seriously, I laughed out loud during that four hour period more than some of the comedy shows I’ve been too. His jokes were clean, but so funny, because they were about things mostly only Catholics could relate to. When he portrayed Jesus with his disciples, he played a role of light humor with meaningful lessons. He tried to make us see that all these holy people we put on pedestals are really just like us, including the disciples. Matthew Kelly was all about statistics. He had them too — he talked about a multi-year research project that showed the current state of Catholicism in America. He compared our percentages to those of Europe. He shared insight into developing a closer relationship with God — finding God’s purpose in your life. Seriously, INSPIRATION.

The best part of it being in Mechanicsburg was that Tom and I talked about it off and on the entire drive home. It not only brought us closer to God, but closer to each other. We had meaningful conversations about what it meant to us that we embrace our Catholic faith. We talked about all those things that we were going to implement in our lives.

We started to make real action items. The first is silence. With silence comes clarity and allows us to hear the voice of God in our lives. So my new morning routine starts once the alarm sounds. I shut off the music and lay in silence. And I begin my morning prayers at that time. I start praying about my day and talking to God about the things coming up — what I’m worried about or excited about or just not sure. As I lay there, the ceiling fan is almost hypnotic. I also have these two prayer books. Well, they’re pretty beat up. I read sections from them every single day. I’m going to have to repair the spine on the one book. I have the same routine, now only I added 15 minutes of silence where I can talk with God.

Tom and I are reading the Gospels every night — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Well, we’re still on Matthew, and we read 1-3 chapters out loud every night before going to bed. We’ve only missed a couple of nights — nights when we were just too tired or one of us went to bed earlier than the other. We read out loud and comment on things we didn’t realize, how we interpreted something or just something that didn’t make sense. It’s a much different experience reading out loud in the silence together. I’m hearing things so much more differently than in church with all the commotion at times.

I’m also reading the book that was part of our packet from the event. It’s called The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Much of what was discussed during the night is reinforced in this book. I’m about half way through and am finding some additional techniques in prayer and following a new format for making prayer more meaningful. It’s such an easy read and I gave one of our copies to my Mom on Mother’s Day.

I feel as if I’m on this wonderful journey that I’ve been invited by God to take. I don’t know how this came about. I remember seeing a link on Facebook from my friend Val to join Matthew Kelly in his Lenten program online. I signed up for those daily messages and after that, something was awakened. That’s the only way I can describe it. And, it’s interesting that I’ve been seeking silence for the past couple of years — trips to quiet towns — away from it all, away from the craziness. Maybe God has had a message for me and I just couldn’t hear it. Well now, I’m ready to listen.

Always B E L I E V E !

Dreaming of Sunny Days

Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard, MA

Our vacation is finally booked and we’re ready to go! Tom and I are headed to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. I’ve been there twice with my family while I was in high school and have always wanted to go back and take Tom. 

It’s been over 30 years since I’ve been there. I loved Martha’s Vineyard. No, it’s definitely not anything like an island in the Caribbean, but it’s wonderful in completely different ways. I have so many fond memories and some things that are burned into my brain — I just have to see if those things are how I remembered them. We used to stay in Edgartown and could walk or ride our bikes to the town. I went everyday, riding to the pier and watching the ferry take travelers to the island of Chappaquiddick. I sometimes took my sketchbook and drew the big birds or the working fishing boats. Did you ever go somewhere that just felt so familiar — so safe and so much like home? Well, it was nothing like home, but it was so familiar.

One day, my brother, my sister, Aunt Mary and I took our bikes on the ferry to Chappaquiddick, and rode to the other side of the island to the bridge that Ted Kennedy drove his car off of. There was nothing there — nobody else but us. The bridge was closed and you couldn’t drive over it. I remember it was made from thick wooden planks with no rails and was about five or six feet in height from the water. We walked under the bridge — there was a lot of super smooth and brightly colored sea glass there. It’s hard to imagine that somebody actually drown there, because it wasn’t very deep — okay maybe a few feet deep right under the bridge — it’s hard to remember. We walked across the bridge through the dunes with tall grasses that opened up to a deserted beach. We carved our names in some driftwood along the beach. Here we were, on a deserted beach on the Atlantic Ocean. What an amazing moment in life! I have no idea where my parents were. It was just like going outside to play at home, because it was so familiar and so safe.

Edgartown has so many shops on Main Street. I remember I bought a pair of jelly shoes (who remembers those?), a water purse (a see through purse filled with water and glitter), and a whole bunch of “pop” beads. Pop beads were all the rage, and you could make bracelets and necklaces of all kinds of color combinations. I think we bought more beads everyday when we rode our bikes to town. We also rode our bikes to town to watch movies in their theater in the old court house. We saw “The Goonies” there.

Of course, the island was much bigger than Edgartown. There’s Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Tidsbury, Chilmark and Gay Head, among other places. The photo above of the lighthouse with the red cliffs is the Gay Head Lighthouse. I remember that we could walk right up to the edge of the cliffs. I think there was a railing, but you could see everything. To get to the island you have to take a ferry at Woods Hole, MA and come into either Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. We’re coming into Oak Bluffs, because that is closer to where we’re staying.

We’re staying at a newer place — the Winnetu Oceanside Resort at South Beach, Edgartown. All of the places that we can afford are more Bed & Breakfasts, which we don’t like. There aren’t many hotels on the island. This place is nice — every room has a full kitchenette — it’s supposed to be the best of both worlds — like living at home with the conveniences of a hotel. We did look online through a website called Airbnb — where people rent their homes on the island. There were some great options for us, but I didn’t find this site until we had booked the other. We plan on driving to some of these locations while we’re there and considering this option next time we go. We are taking my SUV, but the plan is to rent scooters for the week as you can easily get around with those or bikes. It will take us two days to drive there and two days to get home, so I’ve booked hotels along the way. We are all set!

Tom’s birthday was yesterday. I think it’s the one day that Tom most looks forward to all year long, even more so than Christmas. This year I bought him clothes suitable for cooler summer weather. And each gift was wrapped in bright yellow paper with a photo of Martha’s Vineyard on the outside, telling him where he would be using whatever was inside. It was a fun gift to open and get excited about the trip.

So as the snow continues to fall outside and pile on top of all the other snow we have, I am dreaming of a road trip to the East coast with lots of sunshine. What a great way to kick off the summer!

Always B E L I E V E !

Late Summer Road Trip

Our road trip to New York and Canada seemed like a long time ago now. The leaves were still green and the weather was still warm. Our trip started with a weekend to Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes where I knew we could photograph a few of the waterfalls in that area without having to hike a long distance. Then we would head to Canada where we would spend time in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.

We had three goals with this trip. The first was some serious rest and relaxation. Work has been very stressful for me this summer and I couldn’t wait to just get away. The same for Tom and we hadn’t yet had a vacation this summer. The second was to make a trip to the Small Talk Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I had decided to create a basket using their “dinner party themed” wines (just gorgeous, creative concept and labels) for the Quigley Catholic Gala. And lastly, we had wanted to photograph some landscapes and waterfalls, as we had been working so hard on getting the silky water effect with our new camera.

Finger Lakes, NY
We spent the day just outside of Ithaca and photographed the following waterfall in the Robert Treman State Park, just off Enfield Falls Road (Rt. 327) at the west end of the park.

Using NDx8 filter

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

From there we traveled west on Rt. 327 to Seneca Lake and Watkins Glen. We had stopped at many waterfalls along the way, but this was my other favorite photograph, taken at the SHE-QUA-GA Falls in Watkins Glen. I was so surprised, because the last time we had visited this waterfall in the winter, it was gushing with water. But I loved that it was so wispy and dainty with rich patches of green moss.


This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

Niagara Falls, ONT, Canada
We headed to Canada from there. I dropped my camera on the first day at the White Water Rapids exhibit. I had gotten a couple of photographs using our ND filters, but when I dropped the camera, the strap had luckily caught on the tripod and it wasn’t impacted. But I was still holding the remote release and it ripped apart, partially broken inside the camera and the rest of it was in my hand. Nice. We were done using filters. We tried, but every one of them that required the long exposure came back blurry — we just couldn’t hold the camera still enough, even propped on a hard surface. Here are a few photos that I did like:

Silky Rapids

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release.

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release. This shot was taken with my iPhone 4s.

Overall, the trip didn’t turn out quite like we had planned. We wished we had stayed in the Finger Lakes a couple more days and less in Canada.

We changed hotels the first night in Canada, because our Hampton Inn was so outdated that neither of us could deal. When Tom couldn’t stay, you know it’s bad. Nothing like a tiny shower stall, while having a giant heart-shaped jacuzzi tub in a retro 1970’s pink plastic. It was like a bad movie. So we moved further away from Niagara-on-the-Lake and to the Sheraton overlooking the Canadian Falls. It wasn’t the greatest either, but much better than the Hampton.  We had also seen and done everything in Niagara Falls, so after five days, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. By the end of the week, I didn’t have much energy and wasn’t feeling so great — little did I know that I would be in the hospital the following week!

So, we have no more road trips planned for the rest of 2014. But we do have a Caribbean trip coming up in November to Aruba. And we’re taking the camera!!! And I’m feeling fantastic!!! Let the countdown begin!

Always B E L I E V E !

Camera In Tow

This shot was taken with a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera using a manual mode, f/22, ISO 6. Click image for full size.

This shot was taken with a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera using a manual mode, aperture f/22, shutter speed 1/6, ISO 200. Click image for larger size.

Tom and I spent the day at McConnells Mill (again!), trying to figure out how to use all the features on the camera that we bought at Christmas. It was our hope that after taking our photography class and making the time to go out and shoot, we would learn how to use the manual mode. I think we still have a long way to go!  We’ve been on a mission to capture silky water, fireworks and star trails — all photographs requiring long exposures or long shutter speeds. 

We’ve played with the camera settings all summer and at every opportunity. Every time we came back from shooting, we re-read the manual, re-googled for new thoughts and ideas about what we are doing wrong, and made notes for the next time out. It seems like a long process, but rewarding at the same time.

While we still don’t have the lighting quite right, we’ve somewhat achieved the silky water, even though it rained all week and the water was muddy. And of course, after downloading the photos today, realized we had the ISO at 200 and thought we were shooting at 100. If you’re new to photography and want to try creating silky water, my best tip is to look for a cloudy day or go shooting in the morning or at dusk. The bright sunshine or daylight will blow out the water. We had a lot of sun today and had to wait for it to go behind the clouds. The other challenge we continually face is my ability to scale over the side of gorges and very steep gullies. It’s been our experience so far that some of the best sites require a long hike — and maybe even rappelling! Unfortunately, my hip doesn’t usually co-operate.

McConnells Mill is an absolute amazing place. The glaciers that came through western PA left rocks the size of homes. These rocks are nestled on the way into the park, as well as throughout the entire gorge. You can see just how large the one rock is that Tom is leaning against. While the summer may be coming to an end, we still have a couple of good months to shoot outdoors. We have trips planned to the Finger Lakes, NY, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ONT and Tionesta, PA. And then when it starts to turn cold, we’ll be headed to Aruba, camera in tow.

Always B E L I E V E !

Glorious Days

Looking back, I have absolutely wonderful memories of my Dad’s fishing boat. As Debbie and I floated around the pool this past Sunday, we started reminiscing about all the good times on the water or at the cabin — and sunny days on the fishing boat that could comfortably fit our family of six. Mom and Tommy sold the boat this past weekend to a very nice family of four that would use the boat for all the same reasons we loved it as kids.

Dad bought it new in 1978. I was 11 years old and I remember him telling us about the colors he picked — the sparkle in the shiny fiberglass finish and the white contrast of the design. He talked about the two lounge seats for relaxing and the two high seats meant for fishing off both ends of the boat. It even had a snazzy container for keeping fish. He brought it home and shined it up, and we were all fitted for life jackets and fishing gear. I can remember how excited we were — like kids on Christmas day.

Life revolved around fishing in the summers and relaxing on the boat. Sometimes Dad would get us up at four in the morning so we could get on the lake before sunrise. Mom and I would take the lounge seats, wrapped up in blankets and napped until daybreak. It would be chilly on the water and sometimes it was covered with a thick, cold fog. We’d watch the sun break through that and burn it off to reveal a glorious sunny day. Sometimes I would just look over the side of the boat and see how far I could see into the water. It would rock rhythmically on the water and was very soothing.

Mom always packed lunchmeat, double stuff oreos, homemade chocolate chip cookies, M&Ms and chips. One of the storage bins below the lounge chairs held the food, while the other had ice that stored cans of soda. Debbie and Tommy usually rode on the front of the boat and Bob and Dad had the back seats. Tommy was only two when we got the boat and rarely joined us on the water until he was seven or eight. That kid loved to fish and he was pretty good at it.

Dad_fishingDad was at his happiest on the boat. He always was laughing and smiling and left all the problems of work at the office. This was his time with the family. I think it was one of his special places — that ranked up there with spending time at the cabin — hunting, fishing, hiking and just being outdoors. And it rubbed off on us — we all love the water.

I remember one time Tommy was learning to cast — he threw his pole back, as he was sitting on the back fishing chair, and snagged my nose when he cast forward. I had a nose piercing long before that was cool — except for the night crawler hanging from my nose. Another time, we took the boat to Lake Erie. This was back in the day when Mom and Dad rented these little cabins in Vermillion, OH along the lake for a week. The water was so rough that Dad made us get out and swim to shore to our beach area. He decided it was better not to have his entire family on the boat if it capsized! Most of the time we took it to Lake Arthur, because it was closest to home. And later the Tionesta Lake once we built the cabin. All of these lakes catered to fisherman. My Dad complained when anyone disturbed the fishing — as you could use high powered boats and jet skis at Tionesta Lake.

My high school years, Dad worked for a specialty glass company in Coldwater, Michigan after the last B&W steel mill closed. He rented a small, one-room cabin right on the water that had its own dock — staying there during the work week and coming home to his family on the weekends. He docked the boat there a couple of summers, and we all took turns spending some time up there. The boat gave Dad some comfort during the long weeks alone. He sacrificed much so that we could go to college.

Sometimes those glorious sunny days on the boat would turn into steamy afternoons with a pop-up thunderstorm. We usually didn’t have time to get to the car, so Dad would pull the boat along shore and we would ride out the storm on the water. I would be petrified. The boat would fill up with water above our ankles and there wouldn’t be a dry spot anywhere. I would always think, “there’s no way God will hit the boat with lightning, because Bob’s on the boat and he wouldn’t take a priest, because there’s a shortage of priests!” That was the time that Mom tried to get Dad to change out of his heavy wet jeans into her purple polka dot shorts just while his pants dried. He refused and said he would rather sit in his underwear, because someone might see him in those shorts. Sure enough, the fish & game commission came around to check our fishing licenses.

The last time I was in the boat was in 2009, a couple of months after my major surgery. I had fallen into some kind of funk or depression, as I didn’t have the strength to go back to work at that time. My brother, Bob was convinced that I just needed to get out of the house, so he took myself, Tom and my Mom out for a day of fishing on Lake Arthur. I’ll always remember that day as the day that started to bring me back to life.

This boat represented good things for 36 years of my life. While the boat may be gone, of course, the memories remain for each one of us. I doubt my Dad had any idea just how much it meant to all of us. And now a new family will start new memories of their own.

A L W A Y S  B E L I E V E !

Cabin Fever

Well, this has been one of the coldest winters I can ever remember. And, while I love the change of seasons, including winter — the single digit temperatures is bone chilling. Mix it with just a little dusting of snow, and we’re talking about a stressful commute to work. Everyone I talked to today commented on how sick they are of winter. I’m tired of the nuisance snow that we get three days of the week.

We’ve been feeling a little winter cabin fever and haven’t done much since new years, so we decided to plan things to get us out of the house a bit. Tom and I are taking a digital photography class and an ancestry class through Butler County Community College. We bought a new digital camera that has all kinds of capabilities, including manual modes. We wanted to get something to take amazing photographs when we travel. And researching our family history has been something Tom and I love to do, but we’ve kind of done all we can on, so we’re looking forward to what else we can do to continue our quest!

We’re also going to the musical Mamma Mia in February for Valentines Day with Paula and Jerry, friends of ours. I love, love, love ABBA — and Mamma Mia — and can’t wait. Tom is a good sport and enjoys musicals too, even though his buddies have been jag gin him. If I can get him dancing in the aisles, you’ll all see a video on here! The following weekend, we have a long weekend trip planned to Ellicottville, NY. We’re hoping it warms up a bit so that we can go tubing at Holiday Valley. If it doesn’t, we’ll still go as long as there are no major snow storms predicted for our trip. We’ll go to the Brewing Company and maybe hit the casino up there. And of course, we’ll take our new camera!

Paint Monkey

Last night, Gert had planned an excursion to Paint Monkey — an art gallery where they give everyone the same picture to paint. It had been more than 20 years since I used acrylic paints — I felt like I was back in art school. It was such a good time — there were seven of us — and we had a lot of laughs. It was amazing to think we could paint a picture in just two hours. If I had another hour, I would have felt better about adding details and shadows! And how appropriate that we painted a beach scene on a night that was 7°! I painted teal water and bright orange flip flops, thinking of my favorite island in the Caribbean. It was truly a bright spot in this cold and gray month of January.

I hope that all of you are finding things to get you out of the house this winter. Or maybe you’re finding more comfort wrapped in a blanket in front of a crackling fireplace. Whatever you’re doing, stay warm, be happy and always believe!

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

White Friday

Today my brother Bob and I decided to drive to Ellicottville to Holiday Valley Resort so he could go night skiing on their opening day. I love it there, so I had no problem making the three hour trip and hanging out in the lodge for a few hours.

Ellicottville is one of the most charming small towns I’ve ever been to. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere in New York, and there’s not much else here besides the ski resort. Well, there’s actually two ski resorts. But the HoliMont Ski Resort is a private club on the weekends. Holiday Valley is amazing in itself with resorts and cabins — it’s truly one of the most rustic places you can imagine. Bob told me that he’s skied a lot of places, but nothing compares to the skiing here. It has something to do with the snow and how they groom it.

My brother brought us a back way off of Rt. 86, and we were able to see some of the most beautiful mountains — with a ton of snow — like 24 inches. And then we came into Ellicottville a different way than I know. It turns out that tonight is light up night in downtown and there were people everywhere. There were horse & carriage rides, photos with a live reindeer, outdoor caroling, shopping, santa and other festivities. It was amazing. I’m glad it was still daylight outside so that I could take the video as seen below.

I didn’t grow up on ski slopes. We were fortunate to experience many things growing up, but skiing wasn’t something that my parents ever did. I tried it once in high school, but it wasn’t easy at all, and I gave up after two horrible crashes at the bottom of the hill. I used to think our school trip was to Seven Springs Resort in PA, but when I had gone there about 15 years ago with my work, I didn’t recognize anything. But when I first came to Holiday Valley two years ago, I immediately remembered the main lodge and the place where I had literally wiped out twice. Our trip had been here.

Besides the group of loud and rowdy adults at the bar, there are a lot of kids here — actually a lot of families. I think learning to ski probably best happens when you’re like five years old and flexible — and have no problem getting back on the slopes when you crash. Or you have endless energy when you can’t get up off your back after getting off the lift. I’ve been there too. I don’t know how my brother learned as an adult. But he has that adventurous side in him. Anyways, these kids had all the ski gear. I mean the special boots, wake boards, helmets, snow pants and all kinds of layered clothing. I noticed them putting on layer after layer as they got ready to go back on the slopes. You know the skiers from the non-skiers, because they all walk around with these non-flexible boots and have to walk heel to toe. This is obviously an expensive hobby from gear to ski passes.

It’s an entirely different kind of life. I just heard a guy go up to the bar, raise his glass and say, “here’s to a new year — the start of our ski season!” and everyone cheered. After all, today is opening day, and these people are stoked. Just as everyone has their own talents, everyone has their own way of living life to the fullest.

I love it when I get the chance to step inside someone else’s world for a short while. While it is somewhat foreign, there’s something completely familiar too. There’s been a feeling of coming home every time I am here. I can’t quite explain it — and haven’t been able to explain it since we came here two years ago. From Yodeler Lodge to the wonderful small town of Ellicottville.

Bob after a long night of skiing at Yodeler hill.

Bob after a long night of skiing at Yodeler hill.

Bob just came inside to eat dinner with me and was telling me that he was warned about the “ice balls of death” at the one turn when he rode the chair lift with another couple. He said the best part about skiing by yourself is you get to bypass the ski lift line and go to an expedited line for single skiers. So he was able to ski more, as well as hear all kinds of crazy stories from the other people he met on the lifts. He had all kinds of stories! What a great way to meet other people. It could be like speed dating on ski lifts for single guys or gals — maybe we should teach my little brother how to ski!

Light Up Night in downtown Ellicottville.

Light Up Night in downtown Ellicottville.

Anyways, I guess they’re still perfecting the hills and turns. We laughed at his stories. We had a quick bowl of soup for dinner, and then Bob hit the slopes, waving to Mom from the webcam at the bottom of Yodeler hill. The Lodge is clearing out as everyone is either on the slopes or headed home for the night.

We left the resort by 8:30 and went back into Ellicottville to see the lights. There were still people everywhere and Ellicottville Brewing Company was packed so we didn’t go inside. Next time. We said goodbye to Ellicottville and headed home for the three hour trip. It’s been a great day spending it with my brother. And a great way to spend Black Friday — spending it at “White Friday in Holiday Valley.”