The Summer of Becoming Friends

This morning as I sat outside sipping a hot cup of coffee to jump start the day, a cold breeze whipped through the air. 

The news reporters say that Pittsburgh is experiencing residual wind from Irene, but I’ve felt these breezes before.  A chilling morning wind is always the first indication of  summer birthing into fall.  Autumn is my favorite season, but this year, I don’t want summer to end.

The End of Summer

This summer has been VERY interesting to me for a lot of different reasons, all rooted in the circumstance of it being the first summer without my mom.  

As many of you know, my mom passed away in March after a long, horrible illness.  When I think back about our relationship, one of my biggest regrets is that my mom and I never had the chance to be friends.  I left home at 17, went to college, moved to the west coast, and lived away from my family until I came back to Pennsylvania at age 35.  A few months later, my mom got sick.

Home Cooked MealBefore leaving home, I was the kid and she was the mom.  Shortly after moving back, she got ill and needed me…like I needed her so many years ago.

There is only one thing that I would have changed about our relationship.  I would have made time to get to know my mom as a woman and a friend. 

At her funeral, people said some wonderful things about her that I never knew…like how she was so compassionate that after her nursing shift ended, she’d punch out , come home, change her clothes, and go back to her workplace to be with a dying patient…because she believed that no one should die alone.  You’d think that I would have known that about her….but I didn’t.  After all, I was the kid.  She was the mom. 

I vowed not to make the same mistake with my dad…not knowing him as a person and only as a dad.   

Being Friends with your DadThis year has been the summer of becoming friends.  Yesterday, we made the time to go golfing together.  When we got to the 11th hole and he lit up the cigar I gave him for Father’s Day, I wished that time would stand still.  I wished that the moment of knowing and loving my dad as a friend would never pass.  I wished that I could find the right words to tell him that even though I still need him to be my daddy, I love him for the person he is, in a non dad-ness kind of way. 

As our team’s putt plunked into the last hole, he held up his hand and expressed the universal sign of friendship.  With a wide smile forming across my face, I raised my own hand to meet his.  And there under the blue, breezy sky of a Pennsylvania summer was a father and daughter engaged in a high-five as he said, “Good one, girl”  and I responded, “Good game, dad.” 

Can parents and kids be friends?

# 5 – Finding Hell in a Drawer

Continuing on with the Battle of the UNs, I backtracked to complete Task #5…the purging of a closet or drawer as suggested by Sidney.

IMG_2556There is one particular drawer in my house that was nearing an overflow explosion of great proportions.  It’s the one that I fill with papers that are “not important enough for the safe deposit box, yet way, way, wayyyyy too important to mix in with anything else.”

I purged its guts onto the floor…

and started to to rifle through the contents. 

Among paperwork about insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other legitimate important-ness, I found THIS little gem:


Seriously.  There it was.  Right under my Social Security Statement.  This little 23-page pocket guide to hell was stored in a drawer side-by-side with the Social Security Administration’s verification that I earned $3.35/hour in the summer of ’88 working as a “salad bar girl” at the local rural airport.   

I have no CLUE why this pamphlet was in my “important stuff” drawer.  I obviously put it there, but why?

Did I have a good reason to think that my soul was destined for eternal destruction?  If so, did I honestly believe that having a pocket manual to punishment was going to make things go a little easier?  Did I need directions for the damned? 

I want to read it, but sub-headings like…

  • Where is Hell Located?;
  • Punishment by Cold; and
  • Greatest Pain of Hell

…have me a little freaked out tonight. 

Plus, I  hate the cold and I don’t particularly want to know where Hell is located…although I have a pretty good idea that it’s somewhere near the storage locker at an airport salad bar in Pennsylvania.

In my own belief, I think that there definitely is a Hell and that the choice to go there is made during life, primarily by outright rejecting God.  I can only assume that’s the point of the pamphlet and the reason why I decided to throw it in the important drawer.  After all, what can be more important than a reminder that after this mortal life, there is more yet to come?

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Thanks again to Sidney and her suggestion to purge a drawer.  Half of the contents were trashed, the other half were organized, and one little hellish pamphlet was…ahhh, I have no idea what to do with the thing…but I’m sure it will find a new drawer and shock the next person who finds it there.

Doing the Y.M.C.A. of Life

Step 1 – Go to any wedding in America.

Step 2 – Wait for the DJ to spin The Village People.

It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal. You can do whatever you feeeeel.

Village People YMCA

I’m certain that you don’t need any further instructions.  In fact, you probably have your arms raised into the letter Y  position above your head already.  I do.

Too bad life can’t be filled with such unabashed, embarrassing fun every day of the week! 

Most of the time when we’re doing the Y.M.C.A. OF LIFE, it’s a little more serious than the song. It also doesn’t involve wearing plastic construction-worker hats while dancing with an intoxicated bride and groom.

Let’s break it down…

Your life is going along just fine until…it’s not.  A relationship ends.  A family member dies.  Your car catches fire at the gas station.  Your wallet is stolen and a stranger spends your life’s savings at Radio Shack. Get the picture?

When these things happen, they are easier to process when you realize that the Y.M.C.A. is about to play.

Stage 1 – WHY

You question what happened.  You are mad….upset….emotional…can’t understand WHY.

Stage 2 – EMMM

You step back and think about it…seek to find answers and gain understanding.  Emotions are calmed as you release an audible breath…EMMM.

Stage 3 – SEE

You begin to SEE the situation differently…realize that some good has come from it…or that you’ve grown stronger as a person…or that  it is beyond your comprehension and in God’s hands.

Stage 4 – AYE


Sometimes the Y.M.C. A. OF LIFE can start and finish in a day.  Other times it takes years, with a person being stuck in the EMMM position for a very long time until they finally point both arms in the same direction and realize that…

Young man, young man, there’s no need to feel down.  Young man,  young man, pick yourself off the ground and….

Have you done this dance in  your life?  Do you ever get stuck at the EMMM?

When Things Go South

On Saturday night I headed to East Carson Street in the South Side of Pittsburgh to a bachelorette party.  The South Side is Pittsburgh’s party section of town, dating back about 125 years when there was a bar on every corner.  Pittsburgh was a “working mans” city and the steel workers were known to crowd the corner pubs and restaurants after every shift…morning, noon, and night.  The steel mills lined the rivers and the bars were just a short walk away. 

Although the mills aren’t around any more, many of the bars remain.  Some are converted into trendy places and others look like they have 100 years of beer spilled on the floor.

Ordering a few of these in the company of twenty-something-year-olds preparing for wedded bliss wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. 


…but, after the worst Friday on recent record, I needed to get out.  The place was packed with humans who still legitimately get carded…and a few creatures on two feet who I seriously questioned might not be human.  Nonetheless, the band was playing some good tunes. 

Just a small town girl…… livin’ in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train……goin’ anyyyyyywhere.

The twenty-somethings call this an oldie.  Heh. 

So, on the South Side, I temporarily forgot about my life  taking a slight southerly turn on Friday.  If you didn’t read that post, I fell into a mini-panic after having a bad day and getting an e-mail at 4:55 PM from a client saying that my work wasn’t up to par. 

Being that a big part of my job is writing, I felt personally attacked.  When someone doesn’t like 100+ pages that you poured your heart and soul into, and asks for a re-write, then it’s hard to not take it personal.

I’m not sure if this is a strength or weakness in my BACKBONE, but when someone tells me I’m not good enough or can’t do something, I set out on a mission to prove them wrong.   So, after reading the e-mail over about 25 times and letting the message sink in, I started the re-write and have been at it ever since (except for the time-out for drinking with humans and non-humans in the South Side).

By the way, I was also once told that I would never start a blog.  I did.  Exactly one year ago today.  Proved THEM wrong, didn’t I!

Gotta get back to the re-write….I’m only on page 12.

How do YOU handle criticism?  Ignore it? Drink your problems away?  Turn the other cheek?  Get confrontational?

One of THOSE Days

I’ve read many blog posts and articles about how making small, positive changes in your life can add up to one BIG positive change.  Well, if that’s true than so is the opposite.  A lot of a little annoyances can add up to one, huge, crappy kind of day.

It all started out this morning.  Upon getting dressed in a new shirt, I felt the tag.  Scratchy.  Ouch.  I knew it had to come out.  This is the one and only shirt in my closet that’s an XS, so I was proud of that tag…although it was probably on the discount rack at Gabriel Brothers because it’s really an L …mistagged in China as an XS.

Putting the kitchen sheers to good use, off came the mistagged proof that I could fit into an XS. 

Scratchy Tag 

In a flurry to get into the office on time so that I could selfishly leave on time, I failed to eat the most essential meal of the day.  By 10:30, I was starved at my desk and ate a brown-bagged lunch…ham sandwich on white. 

Eating at the Office

When lunchtime neared, I had no lunch.  Damn.  So, I begged a snack off my office mate…half a Kandy Kake, which wasn’t worth the 120-calorie punch to my mistagged XS.

Kandy Kake   Kandy Kake with Coffee

My doctor’s office mailed an insurance statement to my office address.  Can we claim a HIPA violation on that smooth move?  Even though I have insurance, gave them my insurance card, and paid the shockingly high $50 co-pay, apparently their completely incorrect records indicate that I don’t have any insurance  and owe more money for the 10 minute, no results appointment that occurred 6 months ago.  Fabulous. 

Bill I Owe!

It was HOT today.  AC clicks on, internet goes out.  AC clicks off, internet comes back on.  AC clicks on again…bye-bye internet.  With the fight for electricity ruining my work flow, I decide to leave the office early and finish out the day on my laptop from home. 

Lucky for me, it’s a short drive home.  Unlucky for me, I’m sitting in a puddle.  The one day in forever that I leave the car window down, we get a mid-afternoon thunderstorm.  Go figure.

Since I was working from home , it made sense to make the husband some dinner.  I could tag-team work and dinner….no problem.  Meanwhile, I get an nasty-gram e-mail from a client telling me that my work is a serious disappointment.  In the 18 years I’ve been doing this job, no client has ever said such a thing.  The gull.  I walk away from my desk, glassy-eyed with fury and think about dinner.  With the Kandy Kake a distant memory, I was  ready to eat…but had to make something first. 

Less than 5 minutes before I had the casserole dish filled with chicken enchiladas ready to hit the oven, the entire neighborhood looses power.  And yes, my oven is electric.  After waiting 2 hours for it to come back on, at 8:30 we end up having take-out pizza, by candlelight.

Pizza by Candlelight 

I guess it’s time to think about inspirational messages that positive blog land tells me to remember…

….tomorrow will be a new day with a new perspective.

….at least I’m not in Afghanistan.

….there is food in the fridge.  Starving children in Africa would be grateful for my cold pizza and unbaked dish of enchiladas.

….be humble, I’m really not an XS and so the tag deserved its demise.

Ever have one of THOSE days? 

Three cheers for a good weekend and the end to THIS day.  Peace out, Friday.

#6 – Adult Playtime

Get your minds out of the dark, dirty gutters my friends.  I know what the title of this post could imply, but it doesn’t.  There’s nothing but PG-13 going on here today. 

This is me as a kid.  My parents were a little hippie dippy and my mom made some of our clothes.  It was the 70s and things were Flower Power back then.  Can you dig?

IMG_2522 Tracy

One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to go outside and PLAY.  No fenced in yards.  No cable TV.  No fears that my face would appear on the side of milk carton. 

At some point in everyone’s life, we abandon the luxury of free play.  When a bird flying outside the window calls “chase me to the highest limb,”  we stay seated at our desks….continue doing laundry…keep typing on our computers.  Go away, bird.  I’m busy. 

How long has it been since you’ve simply PLAYED?  When was the last time you felt free from potential embarrassment…free of any fears…had an entire afternoon to forget about the obligations that hold you hostage to adulthood?

Andie suggest that to battle the UNs, I take some time to be a kid again. So, over the weekend among a  fun-loving group of family and friends, it was PLAYTIME! 

There were water balloons filled….


…and broken.

Water Balloon Toss 

There were raw eggs tossed…


…and caught.

 Egg Toss

And after the second-place winner of the egg catching contest basked in her glory, there were apples floated and bobbed for….by kids and adults alike!


Many studies have shown that unstructured, imaginative PLAY can help kids to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.  It can help build creativity, social skills, and even academic potential. 

So, I ask.  What happens when we reach adulthood?  If giving children a break from organized activities, TV, and other electronic screens is essential to healthy development, then what about us adults?  SHOULD WE HAVE PLAYTIME, TOO?

When is the last time you simply…played?

#8 – Pow Wow WOW

Have you ever had a once in a lifetime experience?  You know….a WOW moment that would be very difficult to duplicate.

This past weekend while on a girls trip to New Mexico, we came upon an authentic Native American Pow Wow.   The only word that can describe it is WOW.

Taos Pow Wow 1 Taos Pow Wow 2

Taos Pow Wow 3

The trip was very spontaneous.  When we found out that a Pow Wow was happening about 60 miles from where we were staying in Santa Fe, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed north…following the sound of a beating drum. 

Taos Pow Wow 4 

The goose bump part was the opening speech, introduced in English but delivered in one of the Pueblo languages.  Everyone was very quiet, listening with intensity to the words being spoken about culture and tradition and spirituality.  I couldn’t understand the words, but the aura of the crowd was unmistakable. 

Taos Pow Wow 5 Taos Pow Wow 6 Taos Pow Wow 7

Like any traditional fair or festival, there were arts and crafts for sale…

 Taos Pow Wow 20

good food…

Taos Pow Wow 15 Taos Pow Wow 9

and lots and lots of dancing.

 Taos Pow Wow 11Taos Pow Wow 12  Taos Pow Wow 13

And then it got dark under the arbor and it was time to pack our moccasins and go.

Taos Pow Wow 10

Absolutely amazing experience.

Regarding #8 in my battle of the UNs, “Travel and Make it Worthwhile” suggested by Jo, I declare you complete.  The UNs are definitely leaving my life.  I’m going to backtrack and complete #5 and #6 this weekend so that I can finish up all 12 tasks before the end of summer!  Also, it’s time for me to get back on a regular blogging schedule.   The recent spurt of travel is now over…back to regular programming. 

Have you ever been to a Pow Wow or experienced a traditional culture up close? 

If you liked this post, you may also like Folking Around.

Where Are Your Feet?

Another trip into Business Land has come and gone. At first, I grumbled about needing to travel for work over the holiday weekend. 

Then, I realized that my feet were in California, my flight home wasn’t until noon on Saturday, and I could wake up early and enjoy the beach!

Feet in the Sand

So often, we think about where we’re going (or where we want to go) in life instead of where we are at this very moment .   About 10 minutes before taking this picture I was packing my suitcase and dreading the plane ride home.  Then it struck me.  I was near the beach and had two hours to live in the moment of NOW. 

Had I kept looking into the future instead of the NOW, this is what I would have missed…

Newport Beach  Surfer in Newport BeachLifeguard Station 44   Newport Beach 

Crashing waves (whoosh) sea gulls (whaaaak, whaaaak, whaaaak), the whisper of a cool breeze off the Pacific Ocean (shhhhhhhhhhh), and people having fun (hahahaha). 

Can you hear it?

Life unfolds before us in the present…right in front of our own two feet.  Too often, we let the present slip away…unnoticed…unseized…and wasted away while we’re worrying about the future.   When we’re away from our family, we long to be with them.  When we’re with the ones we love, sometimes we can’t wait to get away.  At work, we think about going on vacation.  On vacation, we think about the work that’s piling up on our desks.

Life is more enjoyable when your body and your mind are in the same place.

Surfers in Newport Beach

I’m going to take my own advice and enjoy the NOW, back home in Pittsburgh, with the minutes of the July 4th weekend ticking away. 

Where are your feet today? 

#7 – Whiskey, Anyone?

Don’t let your eyes fool you….


  That’s the front of my shirt.  The back reads….


A lot of people look at the front and think it says “Walt Disney.”  Then they see the back and realize that their eyes played a trick on them.

Given that Task #7 in the battle of the UNswas Drink a Shot of Whiskey, the shirt fit the occasion.  The setting for this task was a motorcycle rally held in my home town.


I love riding on the back of a motorcycle and dig the whole vibe of 200,000 people with wind-blown hair and tattoos walking around the streets of town.

When I was growing up my dad rode a motorcycle and took me and my sister for rides.  We both got really comfortable riding and can easily side into the ‘biker chick’ role for a weekend, leaving our regular life behind in the dust for a few days.

 IMG_2144  Thunder 2011

Did you know that your first impression of someone is largely shaped by the environment you meet them in?  For example, if you met me at work, you might think of me as an educated conservative.  If you met me at a bike rally ordering a shot of whisky at a crowded bar, you would think something completely different.  Just like the Malt Whiskey shirt, your eyes might fool you

Me:  I’ll have a shot, please.

Bartender:  A shot of what?

Me:  Oh, a shot of whisky.

Irritated Bartender:  What kind?

Me:  Oh, I don’t know, whatever.

…and that, my friends, was the beginning of a fun-filled weekend and successful completion of Task #7.  Thanks Mike, for suggesting that one.

When you’re in different environments, it’s important to know your own BACKBONE and be consistently you, no matter where you are and what’s happening around you.  The person you are in church is the same person you are at work…at a motorcycle rally…or in Las Vegas for the weekend. 

Different Sides.  Same Person. One Backbone.

Have you ever pinned someone wrong because of the environment you met them in?  Have you ever been misjudged yourself?

It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here

Since last post, I’ve been as busy as H. E. DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS!  Let’s see…I planned and executed a golden anniversary party for my in-laws, celebrated father’s day with my dad, went on two interviews for a volunteer board position and, oh yeah, work a full-time job.

Is it Friday yet?  This weekend I’m skipping ahead to #7 in the Battle of the UNs, which involves yours truly and a shot of whisky.  Stay tuned…

In the meantime, enjoy this guest post by Andie, a regular reader and commenter and a cool chameleon herself.  Drum roll, please….

I am reading the book, God’s Power to Change Your Life, by Rick Warren. Tonight, I read the following paragraph.

Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?  You are one or the other.

A thermometer registers the temperature. It simply reflects its environment, whether it’s hot or cold.

A thermostat, on the other hand, controls the temperature. It influences its environment; it sets the standard.

Which are you-a thermometer or a thermostat?

I have been pondering this question and feel stuck in self-analysis like a person gets stuck in quicksand. 

Making changes in a person’s life isn’t as easy as turning up the heat or clicking on the AC.  I wish it was.  Don’t you? 

Beach ChairIce and Snow

People just don’t just magically change. We have to make the DECISION to change our lives.  For example, as I got older I gained a lot of weight.  I knew how to eat right and how to exercise property.  I just didn’t do it.  I was a thermometer on the beach of laziness.

Being Lazy

Recently, I started to lose a lot of weight.  Why?  Because I made the DECISION to do it and am following through with what it takes.  I feel more like a thermostat every day, setting a standard for myself and a temperature that feels just right.  I’m trying to do this with other aspects of my life as well.  I want to be better, to do better, to be kinder and gentler, and to be a better communicator regardless of my environment; to be more like a thermostat set on a comfortable 75.5 degrees.   

Which are you – a thermometer or a thermostat? Is it time to change the temperature?