Tag Archives: memories

A Lesson from Dad

Today was the first day I had to drive in the snow all season. First, we haven’t had any snow until last week, and traffic was at a stand still in many places. It was actually ridiculous, because everyone knew it was coming for two days. I can never understand that. 

Today we were at a meeting in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, and it lasted until about 3:30 pm. When we came out, our vehicle was completely covered, as were the roads. It wasn’t a white-knuckle drive back to the office, because we took our time. After all, I had my staff with me too. And as we drove north, the snow was less and less, which was a relief! After dropping off my staff at the office, I continued on home. As I was coming through our housing plan, my neighbors were snow blowing and shoveling their driveways — we had less than 1″ of snow! It was almost comical.

My Dad snow blowing the driveway after a big snowfall. Gosh how I miss him!!!

My Dad snow blowing the driveway after a big snowfall. Gosh how I miss him!!!

Then, as I was looking through my photos to update my cover picture, I came across this photo today of my Dad. There he was smiling at me as he ran the snow blower in the driveway at home. I try to think what he may have been saying to me — I don’t remember, but whatever it was, he was making a joke, because he was laughing. I can tell by the look on his face. Memories flooded back! I thought, “wow, what a perfect day for this photo to pop out at me.” We lived in the country with beautiful pine trees everywhere and no neighbors in sight. The snow would stick to the branches — it was diamonds sparkling on the limbs. Now that I live in Cranberry, and I do have neighbors, it’s not quite the same. Okay, it’s nothing like how I grew up. The serenity is gone, and now I live in a fish bowl.

My Dad worked hard to give us the home we grew up in, and he loved the land where he built our home. He taught us to love the outdoors and enjoy the beauty of it. Every year we hiked the entire property, and Dad would spray his land markers with fluorescent paint. He’d show us different mushrooms or where deer traveled by the markings on the trees. We’d hike to this one high spot where you could see over the entire area. It was just amazing. My Dad was so amazing. There was nobody like him. And in the winter, he’d help us make a killer sledding hill, and he even got us these giant inter tubes from someone he knew that had large equipment. Dad made sure we always had fun.

I believe that God gives us these opportunities to see the beauty in life. If I never saw a sunrise or a sunset — wow, how I would have missed out. Or if I had never seen the ocean, or built a snowman — wow, again how I would have missed out. Sometimes we’re in such a rush, we miss all these stunning things around us. All these things that help us find serenity in our lives.

So today, I unexpectedly came across a flood of memories with just one picture. One photograph that I’ll cherish forever. One photograph to remind me to stop every once in a while and enjoy what is all around me. A lesson from Dad.

Always B E L I E V E !

Kind of All of That

So tonight our friends Chris and Marsha met us for dinner at the North Park Lounge. It’s been quite a whirlwind of a trip home for them — dealing with the sad news that Chris’ mother, Donna had passed away late last week at age 82. I received the news on Friday morning and felt truly sad, as I had remembered Chris’ mom as a very kind woman.

That morning here in Cranberry was a gorgeous day. It was two days since the snowstorm that gave us another 7-8” of snow. And the sun was gleaming against the bluest sky you can imagine. Crisp, cold, yet beautiful. I was driving to work and came up over a crest and saw the most breathtaking snow scene across a farmer’s field. It was truly peaceful, and I thought of Chris’ mother at that moment. What a glorious day it was to welcome Chris and Marsha home during this time — I said a quick prayer for their safe journey from Cary, NC to Darlington, PA. And I pondered for a minute, as it was one of those magic moments when you realize that everything was as it was supposed to be.

I called Greg on Friday night. I decided that I didn’t want to call Chris, as he probably had a lot of things coming at him at once. I wasn’t even sure when he would be getting in. Greg and Chris had been friends for almost 30 years — and had been best buds for a very long time. They had met working at McDonalds, which is how I became friends with the both of them. And when we all went our separate ways, Greg and Chris remained very close. Greg and I talked for a long time on Friday night. I think it’s these kind of events that bring everyone together — maybe it’s just to hear each other’s voice, or maybe it’s to make sure everyone’s okay — or maybe it’s kind of all of that. Not that we needed a reason to talk — we certainly touched base every so often — always with the best intentions that we would get together soon.

We both commented on how strong Chris’ mom was through all her trials — the loss of her husband and then her daughter, before losing her own long battle with cancer. All her pain was gone now, and she was in a better place — at peace, reunited with her husband and daughter. While there’s something very comforting in that, it still must be very difficult to lose your mother. And we knew this would be a tough weekend for Chris and Marsha.

So Wednesday I started getting the strep throat that everyone else in my office was getting. Even though I had started taking antibiotics, Saturday I was pretty sick and didn’t even go to church with Tom. Sunday was the memorial service at her church in Darlington, PA, and I unfortunately couldn’t go. I was sneezing and coughing every few minutes and would have made everyone uncomfortable around me in church. It made me very sad and at 4 pm, I prayed for a nice service in her memory.

So that brings to me today! Chris and Marsha met us for dinner — it was a nice break for them to get out of the house and away from the executor duties that Chris had been doing for the past two days, along with Marsha. And for Tom and me, well I am finally feeling better and really wanted to spent a little time with them. I’m just sitting here thinking about what a wonderful evening we had. What’s the best thing about Chris and Marsha? They’re like comfort food, you know? It’s like you’ve been friends for a lifetime and it’s so easy to be with them. You know, the kind of friends where you have everything in common — you laugh at the same things — you enjoy the same everything. And, it’s like you see them and realize they’re both okay, and they’re going to be okay.

Birthday WheelGreg joined us after work a couple hours later. It was good to see him too, and we all sat around talking about some of the best times from a long time ago. And then we talked about the big anniversary tomorrow — Chris and Marsha’s 20th wedding anniversary — an amazing 20 years!!! Where did the time go? We joked with our waiter that they wanted to spin the birthday wheel for their anniversary. We told him that they were visiting us from North Carolina, and while we wished we had a birthday, we had an anniversary instead! The manager gave them a spin. And wouldn’t you know, as luck would have it — they landed on the skinniest section of the wheel — a chance to win the grand prize of a Florida vacation. Marsha was jumping up and down and everyone was cheering — you would have thought they hit it big in the lottery! The spin off is in April, and Tom, Greg and I will be going back to spin for them with 52 other people.

I know there’s a still a long road ahead for Chris, as he has the responsibility to wrap up her estate. I think the process part of all of that is actually the easier part. Wrapping up someone’s entire life and passing it to a new generation has to be difficult — maybe it’s the memories, or maybe it’s the moments you’ll wish were still to come — or maybe it’s kind of all of that. God bless you both, Chris and Marsha during this time, and always.

Always B E L I E V E.

Above All, There Was Love

One day we got off the school bus and Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson’s car was in the driveway. Oh, we were so excited that they were visiting!!! As we got closer to the house, we realized there had been a big fire out by the burn barrel that sat next to the compost pile on the other side of the garden. We ran to the scene where a half an acre or so of tall pine trees stood smoldering like ominous black poles with charred sticks of all shapes and sizes. The same pine trees we played in as kids — they used to be so plush with evergreen branches. My Mom was holding a shovel and hitting small flames as it still burned, and Grandma and Grandpap and Aunt Mary were there helping her. They were covered in soot, obviously fighting the fire all afternoon. She smiled at us and told us that she was burning trash in the burn barrel, and next thing she knew the trees were on fire. We were fortunate that the fire department was able to get it out as quick as they did. I think three different fire departments came to the scene that day. I was probably 10 or 11 years old.

It was devastating at the time, but that’s where my Dad cleared the trees and built the barn. Once the barn was built and the pastures created, the signs of the fire began to diminish.

Dad was an amazing engineer!!! He could build anything and do anything he put his mind to. I admired that about him — he was so full of ingenuity and creativity. And he told us we could do anything — that everything was within reach if we worked hard enough for it. He was from the city, but always dreamed about raising a couple cattle and having a farm. The Goehring family from South Beaver talked to Dad about joining the Beaver County 4-H Stockman’s Club and it was on!

We had met Goehrings when we joined the Blackhawk 4-H Club, and my parents became leaders of the organization. Raising steers, sheep and pigs was a far cry from our sewing projects and flower gardens, but Dad was determined we could do it!

He built the barn using the sides of an old chicken coop that someone had torn down — he could do a lot with a little. It was a work-in-progress for some time, as the barn was only about two-thirds complete when the first animals arrived. The back of the barn was completely open. Little by little, my Dad finished the barn — then continued to enhance the functionality over the years with things like the installation of automatic waterers. What a major improvement that was in itself!

The life that barn brought to our family was nothing short of stupendous. The life it contained within its walls, as well as the life lessons that we learned over the years of hard work and responsibility — truly shaped who we are today. There were moments of pure elation and profound grief. There were frustration and tears, laughter and joy. And above all, love.

It's so sad to see the barn that was the center of our lives for so many years, be torn down and taken away.

It’s so sad to see the barn that was the center of our lives for so many years, be torn down and taken away.

And last week, Mom had the barn torn down. It was a decision she made as it was unsafe in its current condition. Mom called me that night, after it was gone, and I could hear the sadness in her voice. All the memories. All the memories of my Dad — he not only built the barn, but he created what became the center of our family for many years — living his dream, teaching us so many things about life.

It had been almost 20 years since the barn had any inhabitants. Well, any inhabitants that we wanted in there.

This is where the sheep lived. The back wall was completely gone.

This is where the sheep lived. The back wall was completely gone.

My sister Debbie took pictures just before they tore it down. The pictures looked like a ghost of a barn with broken walls and an open roof. They were able to salvage to the automatic watering system and take the copper piping out for scrap. The rest of it likely became someone’s bonfire.

So tonight I was thinking back on some of the things that happened in that barn.

I remember the very first auction we went to and Dad bought a steer — weighing only about 450 pounds! It was a Hereford and Bob’s first steer. He was such a cute little calf. Oh my gosh — we were really going to do this! And the barn came alive!!! Then we went to more auctions where we bought lambs. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were being coached by various 4-H leaders and friends of my parents. I couldn’t believe it — Dad bought me two lambs at an auction — a truly heart-pounding moment — waiting to see if we got the little babies we picked out!!! And we did!!! One was a Dorset lamb — completely white, and the other was a Dorset/Hampshire mix. Debbie had two lambs — both were Suffolk lambs with black legs and black faces.

We had wood pallets that lifted the feed barrels off the ground to keep the bottoms of the barrels dry. To get the feed for the steers, sheep or pigs, you had to step up on that palette and scoop the grain into a pail. Sometimes a little grain would slip over the sides and fall under the palettes. One night, I swung open the door to the feed area and stepped up on the palette and heard a loud hiss!!! Below my feet, between the wood in the palette, was a fierce opossum. All I remember seeing were those red beady eyes and flashing teeth — yes teeth. I think I screamed for several minutes — totally flipping out. My Dad came running and went into the feed area with a pitchfork. I was standing about 20 feet away, and I heard a crunch and squeal — my Dad had stabbed the opossum with the pitchfork. He had it upside down as he took it out the back of the barn.

Another time when my Dad worked and lived in Michigan (during the weekdays), we managed the chores without him. In the winter time, it was dark by 5 pm, but we did have lights in the barn. One night I got the feed for the steers and started to dump in the chute that distributes it in their feeder and I heard a hiss — another opossum. It ran back and forth in the feed bin like a caged animal. My Mom and I stood there trying to figure out what to do — neither of us what going to stab it with a pitchfork! So, since my Mom worked for the township, she knew the policemen in the police department well. So without having to officially call the police, she called the police chief and asked him to come over to help us. Danny came over and shot the opossum right in the feeder. I had to clean up the mess before we could feed the steers.

There were mostly good times in that barn, though.

I loved all the sheep!!! These were new additions shortly after the auction.

I loved all the sheep!!! These were new additions shortly after the auction.

Every year we brought home baby animals — lambs, pigs and steers to raise for the fair. After a few years, my Dad had cemented the floors to all the pens so they were much easier to keep clean. Every night I would clean the pens and put a layer of fresh straw over the cement. That way the little sheep could curl up in the fresh straw or the steers could lay down in a fresh bed. Sometimes I would sit against the wall of the sheep pen and talk to those sheep. I can still smell the straw. And my hands would be so soft from the lanolin the wool. Sometimes Debbie joined me, and we would sit in those pens playing with the sheep for a long time.

Me showing my white Simmental steer for 4-H. He weight 1250 lbs and that year I won the weight gain trophy.

Me showing my white Simmental steer for 4-H. He weighed 1250 lbs, and that year my steer won the weight gain trophy — for the largest gain during the season.

In the winter, it was cozy in the barn. The lights were soft and it was actually quite a bit warmer inside than outside. We would close up the windows to keep the wind from whipping in. I loved it in there. The sheep were always talking — baaaaaaaa and mehhhhhhh — and they rarely stopped. The steers had these big noses and you could see their breath in the cold air. Bob usually cleaned the steer pen. But sometimes we took turns. He didn’t pay much mind to the other animals. He took care of his two steers. I only raised one.

Tommy took care of the pigs. He would spray their pen down with water and the dung would go out the back of the barn. Dad had built that wall with a gap so that it was easier to clean the pig pen. And it’s true what they say about pig pens — pigs love to be messy. They love to roll in mud and muck and be sprayed with the hose! They’re not so cuddly and not so cute, so I stuck with the sheep and the steers. 🙂

In the winter we carried water. Later after Dad put in the automatic, heated waterers, we didn’t have to lug giant pails of water from the house to the barn. The steers basin was stainless steel, and I would shine that bowl until it sparkled, making it so fresh for them. All they had to do was the push the button with their nose and it filled the bowl with fresh water. The sheep and pigs had spigots that they would lick and when the lever was pressed, water came from the spigot. The water was always clean and always fresh.

Just a few days after the lambs were born — they could barely stand.

Just week or so after the lambs were born — they could barely stand. (Love the hair by the way).

Dad showing Debbie how to sheer her sheep before the fair.

Dad showing Debbie how to shear her sheep before the fair. He always taught us — he never did it for us.

My ewe Amanda had two baby lambs on Easter Sunday. It was the event of the year and all my family was there to watch, perched on the walls of the pens and sitting on bales of hay. Our cousins, Teresa and Matt were in town from Parkersburg, WV and their whole family was there too — and Aunt Mary and my grandparents! There were at least 13 people there for the event!

We had never birthed any animals! My Dad did what instinct told him — and two little lambs were born that night. I remember kneeling at Amanda’s head, talking to her softly, coaching her through it. My heart was pounding with excitement! One lamb was completely black — I named him Buster and the other was white with black spots — I named him BoBo. I stayed in the barn with the newborns most of the night before my Dad made me go inside to bed. You couldn’t keep me from the barn after that. I would go out as soon as I got home from school every day. Debbie’s ewe, Cassandra had just one lamb a couple of weeks later, and she named her Christina. The ram that fathered the baby lambs was named Sam. He was a peculiar bugger with his big lips — he would open the pen gate and the sheep would get out in the pasture — we couldn’t figure out how the gate was getting opened. When we caught him in the act, we couldn’t believe it. He even had a mischievous look in his eyes.

I miss all those sheep. I loved them all so much!

That barn was home to lots of cats. One time I counted 23 of them. Most of them were extremely friendly, and you could pick up a cat almost anywhere around the barn. I remember we were stacking hay off the back of the truck near an area where we had stacked straw just a week before. And out popped a cat. I climbed off the truck, suspecting she had a litter of kittens in that straw — and yep, there were four tiny fur balls all cuddled in a nest that Mama cat had made. My Dad was saying something under his breath, but I made sure we didn’t disturb the nest. The next day, she had moved them, and I couldn’t find them for three weeks!

We had an old pony named Turk for a short while. Someone had given him to us and my Dad thought it might be good for us to have a horse. The problem was that all us kids felt too big to ride him. He required a lot of attention, brushing and fussing. And he got extremely lonely without any other horses. Our barn just wasn’t big enough for us to add anymore to it, so we gave Turk away to a good home.

There were mostly good times in that barn, until we lost an animal.

We tried not to cry in front of Dad and Mom, because they felt bad enough themselves. But when I was alone, I would weep for them. Buster and Bobo got a disease that killed Buster first. I found him lying in the straw one day. I sat next to him in the straw for some time with tears streaming down my face, sobbing. My sister ran to get my Dad. We called the Vet, but lost Bobo two days later before we even knew what they had. I was completely and utterly devastated. The disease killed our entire flock of sheep, and my Dad was so heart broken that we never got anymore.

Ahhh — the old barn. The sights, the sounds, the smells. The days of being literally covered in poop, sweat and who knows what else. Would I do it all over again? Yes, in a heartbeat — for Dad I would do anything.

Life changes and we move on. Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye — tearing down that barn somewhat signified the end of a perfect time in our lives. A perfect time when we were all happy and healthy, and we had Dad with us — who was the source of all that love.

Always 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 !

Remembering Idora Park

Idora Park Video

Well, after my post yesterday, I’ve been thinking about Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio. My Dad was an engineer with Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) Steel and every year they had their annual company picnic at Idora Park. I was probably 12 or 13 years old when B&W stopped their picnics, because they closed in the early 1980’s.

As a kid, there was nothing better than waiting all summer to go to Idora Park! We would go as an entire family — my Mom, Dad, Bob, me, Debbie, my Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson, my Aunt Mary and my Grandma and Grandpap Miller. My little brother, Tommy went later after he was born in 1976, but he could only ride things in Kiddie Land. We would get there early — parking in the first row and then waiting in the car for the gates to open! This is where my sister, brothers and I fell in love with roller coasters and theme parks. And, this is why I love nostalgic things — it reminds of a simpler time when I was a kid.

My Dad would stay up late and make his special fried chicken — my parents actually took an entire picnic, and set up shop at the picnic pavilion with all of my Dad’s friends from the mill, like Bo and Marcia and Tony and Midge. Bob, myself and Aunt Mary could ride most of the rides, because we were tall enough, but Debbie couldn’t ride anything until later years. She would spend time with my Mom.

I liked to ride with Aunt Mary. She was so much fun — we would ride the Jack Rabbit over and over and over. One time, it was raining and we got to ride it three times in a row, because they couldn’t get the car stopped on the freshly oiled track. Can you imagine that today? Another time we were riding the boat ride, The Lost River and our boat got stuck on the hill before the waterfall. The clutch wouldn’t catch on the chain. They workers made us get out of the boat, stand on a narrow side ramp that was about 8″ wide, holding on to a rickety hand rail while they put our boat back on the chain. And then they made us get back in the boat! Thank goodness I was a kid and had no problem with any of that!

Oh, but thinking back, I can still remember the feel of the super smooth paint under my hands — all 25 layers of glossy red paint that coated the railings to the Jack Rabbit roller coaster. We waited in that line at least 100 times! Maybe 200 times! The line for the the Lost River went really slow — the smell of the water was hot and stinky — I can’t imagine my friends letting their kids on this ride today! The water was iron-colored brown! I don’t think they used Chlorine back then. I can still hear the drums and the screeching of the wild jungle animals and elephants as you waited in line. I loved that ride! I can also remember how my hands would slip on the steel wheel in the center of the Turtle cars from sweat as you were flung over the short, stumpy hills. I was so skinny back then, I got thrown around like a rag doll, but the smile never left my face. And then there was the smell of the burning rubber from the Bumper Cars ride. Idora Park was full of sounds and smells that I’ll remember forever!

I remember the Turtles, the Spider, the Bumper Cars, the Silver Bullet Rockets (later replaced by the Swings), the Caterpillar, Tilta-Whirl, the Shooting Gallery, the Funhouse with the wacky mirrors, the Scrambler, a glorious Carousel (I think I rode every single horse over the years) — and so many more. There was one roller coaster — the Wildcat that my Dad didn’t allow us to ride by ourselves, because it was such a rough ride and Mom worried we would get hurt. Dad was a big guy, and I couldn’t have moved in the seat even if I tried! Even Debbie got to ride the Wildcat before we stopped going there.

Glasses that my Dad won for his Mother with dimes.

Glasses that my Dad won for his Mother with dimes.

My Dad liked to play games — he would throw nickels that had to land perfectly in these round dots. He won my sister and me both these lacy, decorative dolls for our dressers. Mine was yellow and Debbie’s was hot pink. I have glasses that my Grandma Miller gave me before she died. She told me that my Dad won them for her at Idora Park, throwing dimes into the glasses until he got her an entire set — only five survived, and I don’t use them — they sit in my china cabinet. I had to keep them — just because they were vintage and cool, but most of all — won by my Dad at Idora Park! If any of the Miller clan ever had a glass of pop at Grandma Miller’s house, they would remember these very retro glasses.

Just thinking about days gone by. It seems like all the old parks are gone now. Sadly, most of Idora Park burned down in 1984. There were some rides that did not burn, including the Carousel that was purchased after the fire and fully restored. It now resides in New York City. For us kids, Idora Park represented a little piece of Heaven. I think back to those days and how much anticipation we had as kids for that summer picnic. I think if I was given the opportunity to go back in time, just for a day, I might just have to choose a day at Idora Park.