Tag Archives: family

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.


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.

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 !

A Canfield Reunion

RoosterIt would still be dark out when we got up for the Canfield Fair in Canfield, OH. As kids, we would be sooooo excited that we didn’t even care how early it was. The weather was the same every year — so cool in the mornings that we would have to wear a jacket — and as the sun came out and it warmed up, a thick dew would coat the grass. The Canfield Fair marked the true end of Summer and the beginning of Fall for us. It was held every year over Labor Day, starting the Wednesday before and running through Labor Day.

We usually went on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, getting up at the crack of dawn, meeting the rest of our caravan at the intersection of Rt. 168 and Rt. 51 in Darlington, PA to get prime parking at the fair. Yea, we were those people that were there before the gates opened at 8 am. The caravan consisted of our family car, my grandparents and Aunt Mary, and my Uncle John and his family. And all three vehicles would be fully packed with coolers and food, folding chairs and card tables. Uncle John and his family drove up from Parkersburg, WV — and we were just so excited — we could hardly wait to see our cousins Teresa and Matt. We got to see them three, maybe four times a year. And it was never enough! And when our caravan met up, we weren’t even allowed to say “hello”, we just had to get on our way like we would miss something! I remember turning around in the backseat of our car, just hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

Megan and Debbie with Antone's Fried Cheese (Debbie's #1 for attending the fair!).

Megan and Debbie with Antone’s Fried Cheese (Debbie’s number one reason for attending the fair).

It wasn’t good enough to eat greasy fair food — we had to bring our own. We would meet up and eat at the cars for lunch, pulling out card tables and coolers, even covering them with table cloths. My Dad made fried chicken the night before. Aunt Polly called my Dad’s fried chicken, “Uncle Bob’s Fried Chicken,” and we had the same conversation every year that he should open his own restaurant. I may be partial, but it truly was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Even with the recipe — I’ve tried to replicate it, but it’s just not the same. We always had a big spread. Teresa reminded me that Grandma always brought bananas, and after we were all done eating lunch, she gave each of us kids a banana. I don’t think I would have remembered that without the reminder — it’s funny what our brains retain and funny to realize what each of us remember the most.

Grandma and Grandpap always had a case or two of beer in the trunk, even though nobody really drank much alcohol. One year, Grandma’s beer was confiscated, and she was madder than bull in a china shop. When we were ready to leave the fair for the night, she was sure to reclaim her beer at the office and give them piece of her mind for the second time! I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of the wrath of that polish woman! But, little did they know that she had another full cooler of beer, and she enjoyed a cold one despite them anyways!

So this past Thursday, Tom and I met up with my sister, Debbie, my Mom and my niece, Megan at the fair. It had been an exhausting week at work, but I really wanted to go. Tom was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to walk the entire fair. And I knew he was right, but I figured we could take our time and leave when I wasn’t able to go any longer. That’s why going in the evening was perfect — a few hours and call it a night.

I was overwhelmed with nostalgia just pulling into the parking lot. Very little had changed, except now we made our way to the handicap parking lot. I felt privileged to park four rows from the gate. But, somehow it was deceiving. I felt like I was in some kind of bad dream — the entrance gate just kept getting further and further away, and I could ever seem to reach it. When we finally got there, Tom said he would slow down. Was I really walking so fast to get through the gate? My hip was already thumping, and I feared that this was going to be a long night. Little did I realize until we exited later that night that there was a slight grade and we were going uphill, while going at a faster pace. But by that time, Tom had to bring the car anyways. My leg had had enough.

Goats at the Canfield Fair.

Goats at the Canfield Fair.

The gate we went into came right to the goat and sheep barn. On the other side of that barn were all the steam engines. That made me smile, remembering Grandpap Knowlson. He would spent the entire day there — as a kid, I never understood his fascination with them, but later when he told stories, you knew he missed the “simpler times” in his own life. I wonder how the “internet kids” generation (those born after 1990) will define “simpler times” one day? Some of the old-timers still operated the steam engines — sputter, sputter, putt, putt, spoof and then all over again in a soft rhythm.

Pony in Old MacDonald's Barn — I couldn't get Tom to pet this one.

Pony in Old MacDonald’s Barn — I couldn’t get Tom to pet this one.

We walked past the steam engines and toward Old MacDonald’s Barn. This was a special barn where they showcased all the baby animals. Inside were baby ducks, rabbits, lambs, goats, ponies and more. Nothing had changed — only now it seemed smaller to me than I remembered. Plus, there were wash stations and the entrance/exit, and they encouraged you wash your hands to stop e-coli bacteria. I think I got more bacteria on my hands trying to use the pumps, because the sanitizers were empty!

When we went to the fair as kids, all the girls went together in the morning before lunch. This included me and my sister, Debbie, my cousin, Teresa, my Aunt Mary, my Aunt Polly, my Mom and Grandma. We followed the same pattern — first going through all of the “buildings.” Us kids loved the health/education building. We got Mr. Yuk stickers in there. And a big yard stick. And lots of pamphlets on stuff we didn’t know what it really was — and I wish I still didn’t! There were health demonstrations, screenings for blood pressure, glaucoma and other things. We were fascinated by it all. One area was set up like a doctor’s office from the turn of the century. It was so old and had original instruments and apothecary jars. I still have at least one wooden yard stick from the fair days.

We would split away from the adults at some point, probably when they were ooing and awing over every single entry in the floral building and the arts & crafts building. We would walk the aisles, looking for things to spend our money on. There was one stand we visited every year — and older woman who owned a jewelry stand. The woman was probably close to 60 back then, thin with leather-like wrinkled skin. She always wore a black cowboy hat with lots of bling. We would go through each piece of jewelry, touching all the shiny objects, the crystals, the gemstones. Or we sifted through all the feathers attached to roach clips that people clipped to their cowboy hats. Boy was I surprised when I learned what roach clips were used for later on! She’s no longer exhibits at the fair. Maybe she got too old. Maybe she retired. Maybe she passed away. Either way, she’ll be burned into my memory forever.

We also loved the booths below the grandstand! They had the best stuff. There was a guy who sold pins — the kind you would wear on a shirt that had a tac on the backside to hold it in place. Aunt Mary and I bought a bunch of Duran Duran pins. I still have those. Teresa tells me that she still has a cat pin and a strawberry pin that she got on two different years. That pin stand is still there! As is the blown glass booth. We used to spend an hour at that booth, looking at the ornate pieces that we could never afford. I would marvel at my favorite piece — Cinderella’s carriage with its big glass wheels and finely spun cage. The detail was amazing and even included a pumpkin with spiraling vines. That same piece was there every year — they either kept making new ones or this one never sold! Either way, it may have well cost a million dollars  — it was far, far out of my reach.

Walking through the grandstand building was a bit depressing now. It’s only half full of vendors. The guy who sold the “natural gems” jewelry is no longer there. He sold tiger’s eye, black quartz and jasper with sterling silver. Of course those pieces were so much more expensive than our black hat lady. But we looked anyways.

Tom liked the custom Steelers' bike complete with logos.

Tom liked the custom Steelers’ bike complete with logos.

As we left the grandstand, we realized that it was “bike night” at the fair. There were all kinds of bikes all over the place. They all had entry tags. We took a rest on the benches in the middle of this chaos. We saw all kinds of bikes — from decorative painted to custom things I have never seen on the road! The big rock was still in the middle of all these benches — just like years ago.

There were all the same food vendors, the same salt water taffy man and the Culligan Water booth that featured a giant spigot with water going up the spout instead of the down. The same vendors selling fudge, elephant ears, funnel cakes and ice cream cones. The same vendors selling hot tubs. Seriously, who buys a hot tub at the Canfield Fair?

Then there was the commercial tent — we never made it to this year — but every year my Mom bought a new pairing knife or two. They used to put on demonstrations of things that were “As Seen on TV.” Things like the “miracle rug cleaner”, the “best slicer, dicer, all in one gadget you’ll ever need” or “the best pots and pans you’ll ever own.” I think everyone bought “salad spinners” there one year, and we all got super sprayers for our kitchen and bathroom faucets (those really did work great). We would stop and watch it all. I’m sure this year featured the “Aqua Rug” or some other gimmicky thing.

It’s sad to me that those days are gone and the tradition was lost. Things just change over time no matter how much you wished it stayed the same. But then again, the change is good and it’s forward progress. But, I’m thinking a Canfield reunion is in order for the original crew — the Knowlsons and the Millers and our current families. And for Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson and my Dad, we will always cherish our Canfield memories of them. So here’s to Labor Day 2014 — our Canfield reunion.

What are you best memories from the Canfield Fair?

Frozen in Time

I had one of those “magic moments” last weekend when Tom and I went boating at Shenango Lake with my family. We truly had one of the most enjoyable and memorable days to kick off summer! There were a few minutes during the day that I stopped to take it all in — and it literally took my breath away.

It was the Saturday before Father’s Day, and I was already feeling a bit of melancholy without Dad here. We had planned to take our new wave runner out for the first time of the season — and our first time ever — it’s a 1996 Seadoo — we purchased from good friends of ours. We couldn’t take it out the weekend we bought it, because it was too cold. I had gotten a kidney infection on Wednesday night and missed two days of work from the fevers and pain — I was miserable. We figured our chances of going out over the weekend were pretty much not happening. But Saturday I got up with no pain, no fevers, feeling on top of the world before 7 am — which is a miracle in itself for me on the weekend! I made Tom a big breakfast — pancakes and bacon, and we sat down to watch the morning news — and learned that this day was going to be 83° — and quite possibly the most perfect day of the summer for us. We decided to take it out.

We met up with my brother, Tommy, my sister Debbie and her girls, Megan and Tara. Debbie’s husband, Scott came as well, but he didn’t join us on the water — he fished from the shore. Tommy has a pretty big recreational boat that he wake boards with or pulls someone on a tube. Not my thing to ride the tube, because it’s so jarring — nor something my doctors would probably ever approve, so I go along for the ride and enjoy the day under the sun. And as I think about it, I’m not sure what my doctors would think about me on a wave runner either — but I think they would approve of me enjoying life to the fullest — and being as active as I’m comfortable, while knowing my limits.

My brother Tommy testing the limits of the jet ski.

My brother Tommy testing the limits of the jet ski.

Before lunch, everyone managed to ride the jet ski either by themselves or in a duo. Tommy was the crazy one, driving it at top speed and then turning sharply 360°, causing the nose of the wave runner to plummet down into the water, kicking the back-end up with water gushing all around him. I knew that was something I would never even attempt — even on my bravest day! My husband took it out the most, taking each of my nieces on it. Everyone in my family, except for me, had their boating license already, so even my nieces were allowed to drive it alone. I had to get mine before we took it out.

So, I had managed to pass my boaters safety course earlier in the week. It took me over six hours online, and I kept getting confused on the same things — the night time lights — it was like one of those old math problems, “if a train is traveling from Seattle to Pittsburgh at a speed of 72 miles per hour…” This test had questions like, “If you see one white light on a boat at night with a red light is it: a) a sailboat; b) a sailboat with a motor c) the back of a motorized boat or d) did you actually study for the test?” That’s how it felt anyways, I would seriously get confused. Not to mention when I studied online, I kept skimming over the areas that weren’t super relevant to me — after all, my “PWC or “personal water craft” doesn’t have any lights as it’s put away well before dark. So I don’t really care what color the lights are! Anyways, I passed and Tommy kept asking me things like, “Ok, so you know what to do if you flip it over…?” and I was like, “that is NEVER going to happen.” LOL. I guess you never know, but for me, it’s highly unlikely.

Tommy’s boat has these big speakers mounted to his wake boarding tower. It’s a major set up that was pretty foreign to me as he kept describing it all winter on Facebook. He managed to rig up the sound system to stream music live from the internet through his phone using some bluetooth device he found online. And, that’s when the moment happened…

Left to right: Tom, Debbie, Tommy, Tara and Megan.

Left to right: Tom, Debbie, Tommy, Tara and Megan.

Tommy and Tom had tied the jet ski to the boat and we were going to have lunch together. Nothing fancy, but Debbie pulled cold cuts out of the cooler and everyone was chattering about as they fixed their sandwiches, trying to get a seat in the shade under the canopy. The song “Highway Don’t Care,” by Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban was blaring out of his speakers, and I was sitting in the back seat so I could get the full affect. The moment just reminded me of us sitting in my Dad’s fishing boat as kids as my Mom pulled out cold cut sandwiches, cookies and soda. I took a picture of everyone and in that moment, my eyes welled up with tears — it made me so happy — it doesn’t get any better than this — these are the magic moments in life! These are those fractions, those seconds, those moments in time that if you’re not paying attention, will just pass you by — a missed opportunity. Tom had to ask me twice if I wanted ketchup or mayonnaise — and the word, “ketchup,” caught in my throat, but I quickly recovered — thankful that I had my sunglasses on so that everyone wouldn’t wonder why the tears. It’s been over a week since this moment happened, yet I remember it like it just happened seconds ago — frozen in time.

I pray that I am able to realize one magic moment every day. Sometimes I think that I can’t experience them if I’m too busy or too stressed — or simply because I wasn’t looking. I think the formula is pretty easy:  family/friends + love + faith = magic moments. For me, maybe a little nostalgia mixed in as well. I also pray that everyone is able to take time in their busy lives to make note of all those little moments that touch their heart.

Always B E L I E V E !