The Weekend the Pope was in Town

The past several years have been quite the adventure and full of stories, most of which, I haven’t been able to share until now. In part due to being smart about the timing of when to share certain adventures and for some experiences, well, just being ready to tell them.

My travel misadventures during the weekend the Pope last visited the U.S. falls in the first category.

In the late summer of 2015, I was working remotely for a company located in Long Beach California as an SEO Specialist. I was also doing a fair amount of free-lance consulting in the hours before and after the office in Cali came to life. For a variety of reasons, it became obvious to me that it was time for a change and I added a full-time job search to my already full plate.

My goal was to get back into a leadership role, be a part of a team and return to the world of eCommerce and making websites easier for people to use. Much to my surprise and delight, I didn’t have to wait long until my first in-person interview.

On the evening of September 24, 2015, I boarded a plane to Indianapolis. Indianappolis Boarding

I lived in Philly at the time but had the company I was interviewing with make my flight arrangements through Newark, N.J.

Knowing that the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia and NYC that weekend had the potential to make local travel a hassle, I figured it was safer to suffer finding my way around the airport in Newark rather than risk missing my flight.

The flight went off without a hitch, I landed on time and felt like a fairy princess when a limo picked me up from the airport and again in the morning at the hotel the next morning.

One interview blurred into the next as I answered what seemed to be the same questions over and over again. Midway through the back to back day of interviews, the executive admin assistant who had made my flight arrangements burst into the conference room.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but your return flight was canceled and we had to rebook you. We’ll adjust the remaining interview schedule and the limo will be here to pick you up an hour earlier.”

I looked at the itinerary she handed me and replied, “This will actually work out well, this flight will get me home an hour earlier than the original flight.”

A final limo ride to the airport, a glass of wine and some dinner to celebrate the day and the flight took off on time, I made my connection without missing a beat. And then…

About 45 minutes before landing, I pulled the itinerary out of my bag to double check connecting gate and the details for my final destination. My heart almost stopped.

I turned to the young man sitting next to me, “Am I reading this right? Does my flight land at LaGuardia, in the middle of New York City?”

“Yes, you’re reading it right.”

“But, my car is parked in Newark. I’m supposed to be flying into Newark, not New York.”

“Let me start checking train schedules for you. Oh,… but wait, the Pope is in town. The train schedule will be completely unreliable. Let me see if I can think of something else for you.”

While I appreciated his optimism and desire to help, it seemed unlikely that he was going to be able to help me out of my predicament. I was on a plane that was about to land more than 30 miles away from where my car was parked. Thirty miles in the Midwest is nothing, it’s thirty minutes or less depending on how fast you drive. However, thirty miles between NYC and Newark is an hour’s drive under the best traffic circumstances, let alone on a Friday night when the Pope was in town.

I turned to my journal and started listing out possible solutions while bargaining with my travel angels. If perhaps I could get a taxi from LaGuardia to Jersey for $100, the day would be saved. The chances of finding a hotel room were none, so images of myself on a bench in Penn Station or on a chair at LaGuardia, one eye open, seemed to prevail. I had no idea how I was going to get home that night.

I closed the journal with the realization that I would just have to figure it out.

The young man next to me flagged down a flight attendant, “Her flight was booked into the wrong airport and she needs to find a way to get to Newark tonight. Do you have any recommendations?”

“Well, a cab is out of the question. The fare between New York and Newark is normally at least $100, but with the Pope being in town, the traffic is crazy and it will cost at least double that.”

There went my hopes.

“But, there is a bus that shuttles passengers between JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. I think it costs around 30 bucks.”

Hooray! The day had been saved, or had it?

My flight into LaGuardia landed late. Like a madwoman, I made my way through the crowd – down the escalator and to the ticket counter for the airport shuttle bus. The agent was just turning the sign from open to closed, the hours said 9 am to 10:30 pm. It was 10:33.

I must have looked like I was going to burst into tears, or perhaps I actually did. At any rate, he turned the sign around and asked, “How can I help you?”

I explained my situation and he nodded along.

“Here’s the thing,” he said.

“I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but the Pope is in town. This has changed our regular route. Normally my bus would take you to the parking lot at Port Authority and the next bus would pick you up from there and take you to Newark. But because the Pope is in town, the roads have been rerouted.

We would drop you off near the Port Authority parking lot and then you would need to walk about a mile to a temporary lot. From there we can get you to Newark.”

This was not what I wanted to hear as the hour was nearing 11 pm in the heart of NYC.

Just then, a man near my age turned to face me.

“I’m in the same boat and am trying to get a cab. Would you be interested in splitting the fare with me if I can negotiate it?”

Without thinking twice, I answered yes. Somehow, he miraculously negotiated a fare of $160, to be split between us.

My share, plus a $20 tip equaled a $100 taxi ride from LaGuardia to Newark.

I never saw the Pope in person, but I’ll never forget the weekend he was in town. It was quite an adventure.

The Art of Letter Writing isn’t Completely Lost

Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN

My family moved nine times before I was fifteen which meant that every couple of years I left my school and friends behind in one town and began the adventure of making new friends in the next one.

I can call it an adventure now, although that’s not really how I felt at the time, especially when I reached my teenage years. In sixth grade my best friend was Lynn. We spent countless hours playing with barbie dolls, spying on her older sisters, and teasing my younger brother. I’m not proud of the spying or the teasing, but hey we were 12.

I thought my world had ended when my mom and dad broke the news that we were moving from Aberdeen, South Dakota to  Waterloo, Iowa. Lynn and I vowed to keep in touch through the mail and an occasional phone call; a promise that we kept until we both went away to college.  Somehow we both got too busy and the time between letters grew longer and longer, until one day they just stopped.

Our letters always started with a salutation that was about three lines long because we had so many silly nicknames for each other. We shared our innermost secrets and wrote about the boys we “just liked,” “squiggly underline liked,” or “double squiggly  underlined and explanation point liked.”

I couldn’t wait to open the mailbox to see if a letter had arrived. If there wasn’t a letter from Lynn, chances were good that there might be one from my Great Grandmother who wrote like she talked, with an accent. Windy was “vindee,” which might not have made sense to anyone else, but I knew exactly what she meant and heard her voice in my head.

I saved all of the letters in a scrapbook, which sadly is no-where to be found. It disappeared somehow during my move from Omaha to Pennsylvania. I would love to have them still, both for the memories and because they might have a clue that would help me find my friend Lynn somewhere online.

stick your neck out part 2
Stick Your Neck Out – Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN

One of the things I think is great about social networks is that it makes it so much easier for people to keep in touch. If we’d been besties in the day of social media, email, and cell phones I have no doubt that Lynn and I would still be in contact.

Social networks and emails are great for keeping in touch, but they can lack is the personal touch that is present in a handwritten letter. I don’t know about you, while I enjoy exchanging emails with people and it does make it easier to stay in touch, it’s not quite as much fun as opening the mail box and seeing a letter personally addressed to you.

I spend quite a bit of time on various social platforms as a part of my job. In my world it’s an important and valuable way to network and generate business. It’s definitely helped me expand my professional network, but it’s also expanded my personal one. I’m amazed at how many  genuine people I’ve met who have similar interests to mine and a willingness to share.

It’s not uncommon to meet someone online and have that relationship extend to a “real-world” interaction. One of my favorite stories about this phenomena took place in April, which is the National Letter Writing Month. I didn’t know that either.

One of my Google Plus friends, Jennifer Broderick is passionate about writing letters and notes. She’s been writing and sending handwritten letters to friends and family since she was a little girl. She shares her passion with others by creating beautiful cards and stationery.

She presented our circle of Google Plus friends with a challenge and an opportunity. Jennifer promised to send each of us a sample of her unique work in exchange for a handwritten letter. Many of us responded and she received letters from people close by and as far away as Wales.

I sent my letter to her on some fun stationery of my own and waited with anticipation to receive my letter back. I have to say I was blown away when I opened the envelope. Inside was a package of stationery wrapped in light teal tissue paper and topped of with a soft ribbon bow. Jennifer’s calling card made the gift-wrap complete.

Station Teen Packaging
Station Teen Packaging – Jennifer Broderick

Inside the tissue was a sample of her stationery, as promised. What made it  more special than I anticipated was that it was obvious the designs she sent me were chosen just for me. She remembered the comments I made about one of her new series, “Stick Your Neck Out,” and how much I liked it.

Stick Your Neck Out – Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN
Stick Your Neck Out – Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN

She also included a note card decorated with a butterfly and small flowers in two of my favorite colors. I frequently use pink and green in my artwork and my doodles are filled with butterflies and flowers.

Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN
Stationery Designed by Jennifer Broderick. StationTEEN

Last but not least, she included a lovely handwritten letter back to me. She shared about her love of art and writing letters as well as a lovely childhood memory. I was so touched it brought tears to my face.

Jennifer’s challenge was a wonderful reminder about the beauty of a handwritten letter. Just a few words on a note can brighten someone’s day.

If you’re now in the market for stationery, check out Jennifer’s work at StationTEEN.


What’s Missing in Today’s Corporate Culture? A Lighthearted Walk Down Memory Lane

Lancer Label Group Picture

I started my career at a family owned business in Omaha Nebraska over 25 years ago (yikes!). I actually worked in retail and sold life insurance before that, but consider my job at Lancer Label to be my first “real” job.

This group picture was taken sometime in the late 1980’s, my guess is 1986 or maybe 1987. I can’t say that I’m sorry the days of big hair and shoulder pads are behind me.

Lancer Label Group Picture
Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s hard to believe that when I started there people could smoke at their desks. Smoking was eventually limited to the break-room and then banned completely, but back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see the owner of the company walking throughout the offices and press room with cigar in hand. He once started a dumpster on fire with an unfortunate flick of hot ash.

Harry Riley, the owner and founder of Lancer Label, was a man who recognized his own strengths and limitations, saw the best in others, and cared deeply about his employees.

Lancer Label_Harry Riley
Harry Riley – Photo by Bud Phillips

John O’Brien was the president of the company while I worked there. I know I’m not alone in saying he’s the best business mentor I’ve ever had. He was tough but fair and had a talent for giving a person feedback that was constructive, sincere, and spot on.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he knew everyone by name; he managed the company by walking around. He took the time to stop and talk to people no matter what their position was; sometimes to tell a joke and other times he would just listen.

Lancer Label_John OBrien
John O’Brien – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry created and nurtured a culture of respect, quality, continuous learning, and fun. To this day, some of the best training opportunities I ever had were during the time I worked for Lancer Label. They spent money investing in people and providing resources to help us all succeed together.

It wasn’t unusual for them to initiate a company-wide training initiative and then celebrate the successes that came from what we learned.

Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room - Copy
Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room – Photo by Bud Phillips

They believed in recognizing people for their contributions and every year at the annual holiday party awards were presented to a few individuals for their outstanding performance.

Lancer Label Holiday Party_ employee recognition
Lancer Label Holiday Party Employee Recognition – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry also believed in putting family first and having a good time. The annual company picnic was held in a different place every year and always included activities that were fun for both kids and adults.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The picnics weren’t elaborate but they sure were fun.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The leadership team never missed an event and participated in the activities with enthusiasm and delight.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The highlight of the year (at least for me) was the holiday party. My favorite memory is the year we put on a “concert” that featured a few of our favorite rock stars.

ZZ Top treated us to “Hot Legs

Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp – Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party  ZZ Top Hot Legs - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Top Hot Legs – Photo by Bud Phillips

Ike and Tina brought down the house with “Rolling on the River

Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner – Photo by Bud Phillips

The night wouldn’t have been complete without the Pointer Sisters and “I’m So Excited

Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters – Photo by Bud Phillips

And of course the ladies went wild when Elvis entered the building. His body guard had to work hard to keep them from storming the stage.

Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis – Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s no wonder that the company was awarded with the “Best Managed Company” in our industry niche multiple years in a row. They invested in and cared about their employees and it was returned to them tenfold.

I will always feel fortunate for the experience and for the people who touched my life while I was there. There is no better example of how a business should be run than depicted in this walk down memory lane.

Photo Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Bud Phillips for posting these wonderful pictures on Facebook and giving me permission to use them in a blog post.

Celebrating Life – An Afternoon in New Hope

the Delaware River on a Breezy day in March

The second weekend in March is an anniversary of sorts for me. Five years ago was my first visit to New Hope and in many ways it was the first day of my new life.

It would be an understatement to say that the move to Pennsylvania was a challenge on many fronts. At that point in my life I did nothing but worry, and in my mind I had a lot to worry about. The company I moved to here to work for declared Chapter 11, the adjustment to living in a new state far away from friends and family caused many emotional difficulties, and the fact we hadn’t sold our house were at the top of the list.

It didn’t help matters that we didn’t leave the apartment for anything other than to go to the grocery store or to go to work. I was thrilled when we finally found a dog sitter and arranged to take a day trip.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The forecast prompted a last minute change.  It was a Sunday and we’d made plans to go to Manayunk, PA but the chilly March temperatures, threat of rain, and dog sitter schedule limitations caused a change in plans. Instead we went to New Hope, which is twelve miles away not fifty and going anywhere was better than staying home. All I knew is I was desperate to get out of the apartment.

Our first stop was Made In Italy. Elaborate Venetian masks covered the walls, glass shelves held hand tooled leather belts and accessories, and black velvet jewelry busts showed off bright colored beads and bangles.  I was drawn to the case dedicated to less elaborate necklaces and fell in love with a solid silver sun with wavy rays.

I’ve always had a thing for the sun; it could be because I’m a Leo, but it’s more likely because my favorite memories are made of endless days spent playing in the sun at Big Sand Lake in Minnesota.

I started to play the rationalization game to justify the purchase and promised myself that if the necklace was still there when it came time to head home it was meant to be mine. We visited all of the eclectic shops we could and at the end of the day, my mood was lighter than it had been in months, the grey skies parted just enough to let a bit of sunshine and blue sky peak through, and of course the sun necklace was still in the case waiting for me.

I put the necklace on as soon as we got in the car and it immediately became a tangible symbol of the promise of a new and happy life. It didn’t seem like a coincidence that the threat of storms changed our destination and led us to a place called New Hope.

I wear the necklace as a daily reminder of hope, happiness, and the importance of being me. I also take a day trip to New Hope every year on the same weekend to celebrate life and the woman I’ve become. This year I added a few additional stops to my day.

I started my afternoon adventure by treating myself to a few slices of margherita flatbread at a local restaurant called The Vault.

margherita flatbread

I’m not sure why but I find it amusing to think about a micro brewery in a building that used to be a bank. They have great beer that is brewed on site and the food is yummy. You can buy what’s called a Growler and have them fill it with your favorite brew and take it home, it’s re-fillable and they sanitize it for you. I don’t have one, but I’m tempted to make a purchase.

The Vault In Yardley PA

I turned right instead of left at the end of East Afton and drove toward my old apartment. In a moment of impulse I stopped to take a few pictures of one of my favorite views of the Delaware River.

the Delaware River on a Breezy day in March

Feelings of relief, happiness, and accomplishment came over me as I drove down the street toward my old apartment. The two years I lived there might possibly have been the most difficult time in my life. It was also life changing in ways that have turned out to be amazing.

I took a picture of the apartment building, but deleted it. Instead I chose to remember the gateway leading to the Delaware Towpath.

Tree Lined Path ledaing to the Delaware Towpath

I’ve spent countless hours on the towpath running, riding, taking pictures, and thinking. Lots and lots of thinking and also a few life changing and difficult conversations.

Before beginning my anniversary tour of the town I stopped a the playhouse to pick up information about upcoming shows. My new goal is to do something fun each weekend so when I look back on this time in my life I’ll have a list of “I’m glad I……” instead of a list full of “I wish I’d…..”

Bucks County Playhouse

My first visit in New Hope was to a psychic. There are almost as many psychic’s in New Hope as there are restaurants which has made it difficult to choose one. I finally decided on Readings by Edith because of the golden sun on the sign.

Readings by Edith Sign

The funny thing was that Edith turned out to be a 300 pound man. He happens to be Edith’s son, but I still found it amusing. He does palm readings, tarot cards, and has a crystal ball. He read my palms using a large magnifying glass and I have to admit even I was surprised at the details the tiny lines revealed.

I wandered through several of the stores. The doodle designs on these sticks were fun and reminded me of the many ways that art comes into our lives.

sticks with doodle designs

I ended my day with a glass of wine and a bowl of French Onion soup. I was lucky enough to get a bird’s eye view of the street from the restaurant’s outdoor patio.

Beth in New Hope

New hope has to be one of the best places in the world for people watching. My favorite from yesterday was the bird man. He walked around the street with his Raven and another unidentified bird on his shoulders.

man with a Raven on his shoulder

Of course I wouldn’t go near him for fear that one of the birds might decide to leave his shoulder and hover over my head. I wonder how many times he’s shared the story of his birds with strangers on the street.

My day of celebrating life ended on a perfect note and I completed the first version of my second grade art girl dress.

i am me - Doodle Art Dress

It was a great day of celebrating life and being myself.

Don’t Throw Out the China

holiday table set with fine china

Divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best it’s not an easy experience. It’s laden with “what if’s,” “should have’s” and “what do I do now’s.” This is my fourth Christmas as a single mom and tonight I’m more thankful than ever that I didn’t throw out the china.

Backing up just a bit, a little over three years ago Christian and I moved into my lovely artist’s vessel, aka home.

my lovely artist's house - the livingroom

We’d been living in an apartment that was one third of the size of the house we left behind. This meant that one third of our belongings were sold, a third was in storage, and the rest was in the apartment. Although I’m not so sure it was quite as evenly split as that.

After much angst we found a house to rent and it was time for the belongings that had been gathering dust in a storage container to meet the light of day. I scheduled the moving company to deliver the contents of the storage container and my parents volunteered to help me unpack.

surrounded by boxes

I won’t go into all of the details but suffice it to say it took me 322 days to unpack all of the boxes and turn my porch into a slice of summer.

finishing touches

Unpacking items I hadn’t seen or used in two years was almost as surreal as walking through my house and marking things with labels that designated the disposition of individual belongings as keep, sell/donate, or store.

My standard line for the day the storage arrived was, “I haven’t used it in two years so I don’t need it, put it in the donate pile.” Memories, both good and bad, poured out of each box I opened. Naively I thought the experience would be without emotion.

One of the most difficult moments was when I opened the box labeled “china.” I unpacked a dinner plate; memories of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and special occasions flooded my mind and pushed tears down my face.

Hoping no one had seen, I stood up and said, “I haven’t used it in two years, donate it.”

It’s an understatement to say I was irrational that day and if Christian hadn’t asked, “but Mom, what dishes will we use for special occasions?” – I would have thrown out the china.

For me the china represented the hope I had as a new bride and the disappointment that things didn’t turn out the way I had planned. For him the china represented family, traditions, happy times, and perhaps stability or familiarity.

Tonight he asked if he could set the table for dinner. We’d invited his girlfriend to join us for pre-holiday meal; he chose to use the china.

holiday table set with fine china

Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out.

Being Happy is a Choice not an Enigma

purple flower in fall

tulipI have never been happier in my life than I am right now. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in Pennsylvania for over five years. This year marks the third fall in my house on Pine Grove Road.

What’s even harder for me to comprehend is the incredible ways my life has changed, it’s almost as though it’s a brand new life. In many ways it is. Never in a million years did I think that a job interview with a company 1/2 way across the country would eventually lead me down the path I’ve been traveling.

I remember the day of my interview like it was yesterday. I flew from Omaha to Philadelphia at the crack of dawn and felt a celebrity when I saw a limo driver holding a sign with my name on it. After a day of being “on stage” and being interviewed by a half dozen people I headed back to the Midwest with high hopes (and a few misgivings).

Five months later I boarded a plane on Super Bowl Sunday wondering if I had made the right decision but knowing there was no turning back. I was in pursuit of happiness. My job, my marriage, and my outlook on life all needed some adjustments. My hope was that a new environment would mean a fresh start and new found happiness.

Nothing turned out according to plan. My house in Omaha didn’t sell so we moved into an apartment that was 1/3 the size of our house. We sold, donated, or stored the majority of our belongings, keeping only the things we absolutely needed. The move made the chasm in my marriage bigger instead of drawing us closer.

There were days I didn’t think I was going to survive let alone find happiness and I’d become my own worst enemy. Thank goodness for the support and love of my friends and family and in particular for the advice I received during one of my darkest times.

The advice was to “learn how to draw,” “take more pictures,” “play the piano again,” or “write, just write more.” “Use your gifts, be creative and constructive, be yourself – don’t destroy yourself.”

The next day there was a brochure for online classes through the local community college in my mailbox and I registered for my first writing class. Of all things, I took a class about how to write romance novels. The class was the first in a series of turning points, personal discovery, and an ever growing belief in both serendipity and faith.

The journey has been anything but smooth (just ask my parents). It turns out that the road to happiness isn’t paved with lemon drops and rainbows; it also has a fair share of obstacles, challenges, and disappointments. I’ve learned that happiness has more to do with how we choose to handle the obstacles and not that life is without them.

I now cook for one, report to myself (and my business is thriving), and have gotten back in touch with my creative side. I don’t know what the future holds and I know there will be joyful times and difficult times; I hear that’s called life. :). I do know that I’ve never been happier and even the most difficult things I faced in my past have helped to shape me and it’s because of them I am where I am today.

I used to wonder if I could experience happiness and it turns out the choice was mine all along. It will be interesting to see where I am 5 years from now and it’s amazing to feel like I’m headed in the right direction after having been lost for a very long time.

Wasn’t it Just Yesterday?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. My Ex and I had been looking for a dog for a few months, with the help of his mom. She was very active in animal rescue and adoption efforts and passed along leads to us as they came her way.

The phone conversation started something like this:


Long pause.

“A miniature dachshund?! How much smaller can a dachshund get?”

I dashed downstairs to the computer and Googled “miniature dachshund,” printed out pictures of half a dozen cuties, and ran to the top of the steps holding the pictures up and singing, “see how cute they are!”

Although he was skeptical, Eric agreed to go meet Annie, a beautiful auburn mini-dachshund with a heart shaped spot on her tail. I don’t think it’ an exaggeration to say it was love at first sight.

A few months later we decided to surprise the kids with a pal for Annie. Romeo, a handsome dapple joined our family as a Christmas puppy. From the very first day we brought him home, Annie and Romeo were inseparable.

the puppers

You may be wondering why we didn’t call them Romeo and Juliet. Annie was already well over a year when we adopted her and over two by the time Romeo came along, so it didn’t seem right to change her name. Besides, we’d already assigned her several nicknames like, Anna, Anabelle, Belly, and Bellerbee and who wants to start learning a new name let alone a bunch of alternates ;)?

Romeo was a compromise for Oreo, which Katie had set her heart on for his name. We all have a different memory about how the name Romeo came to be the choice, but we all remember Katie being adamant about The name Oreo.

They loved long walks in the park, digging holes, and chasing squirrels. Back in the day when people used to thaw meat outside in the sun without worrying about food poisoning, Annie managed to leap frog onto the patio table via a chair and consumed an entire package of pork chops. Pork Chop Annie was quickly added to her long list of nicknames.

Romeo was known as Mo Mo, Me mo, Mobert, and Moby to name a few. I generally referred to them as a pair, they were my “dudes.” The dudes spent many hours chasing each other around the legs of the table, scurrying under one end of the sofa and reappearing on the other end, and slipping and sliding on the hardwood floors. Any toy with a “squeaker” became squeakerless within the first few seconds of receipt.

The winter before last, Annie’s age began to catch up with her. Stairs became more than she could manage and Christian and I shared more than a few tearful nights wondering how long she would be with us. I was thankful that she defied my prediction and came back just as scrappy and sassy as ever.

Last spring I thought the “time had come” again; Jeff and Katie even made a special trip over Memorial weekend to say farewell. Little did we know that things would turn out quite differently than we thought.

An injury and old age took Romeo from us unexpectedly in August. He was a proud boy who chased squirrels and hunted for rabbits every chance he got. He stood guard fearlessly before a storm, but had an unusual fear of flies that would send him under the nearest bed or into the closest closet.

romeo standing watch before the storm

Annie loved giving kisses, sitting on laps, and never turned down a tummy rub. Every afternoon at 4 pm, Annie assumed a watchful position on the bottom step, waiting for Christian to come home from school. Her habit didn’t change after he left for college.

Annie_saying goodbye

Yesterday, I had to do what every pet owner dreads for the second time in two months.  It was hard, but it was right. The vet was kind and compassionate and reminded me that when one of your “dudes” loses their passion for life and is experiencing discomfort, the kindest thing we can do is say goodbye.

It was a sad day indeed, but I cherish the memories of the joy the pups brought to the lives of my children and I take comfort in the knowledge that Annie and Romeo are once again together.

Fall, a Season of Ch-ch-ch-Changes

Spring is usually the season we associate with new beginnings and fresh starts. As the plants and trees come back to life after lying dormant during the long winter months our hearts fill with hope. We look forward to the season of graduations, confirmations, and weddings, the ceremonies and celebrations that represent new beginnings and change.

I hadn’t thought about it until this year, but in many ways fall is really the season of fresh starts and new experiences. Fall marks the passage of children from necessary nap-times to kindergarten kids. Every new grade marks a milestone for students and the parents who shake their heads and wonder where the time went.

This year, fall brought about one of the most significant changes in my life since the birth of my first child.

On Wednesday August 21st Christian packed up the remaining travel necessities like snacks, Cd’s, and our not so trusty GPS.


He somehow managed to squeeze the last few items into the back seat on top of an assortment of suitcases, duffle bags, and boxes which were piled as high as possible without blocking the rear-view mirror.

Christian and his girlfriend exchanged one of the longest pre-sunrise goodbye hugs in the history of young love. The sky was clear and dry, but our eyes were not.

We started our 17 hour journey with a stop at Wawa for a not-so-nutritious breakfast and a giant cup of coffee.

The last time we packed up the car to drive 1/2 way across the country was five years ago, the fall we moved from Omaha to Yardley. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the number of changes that have taken place since we moved.  Among the many changes, is the fact that Christian is no longer a boy; he’s grown into a mature and wonderful young man.

It seems like yesterday he was making a goofy face at me on the drive to Pennsylvania.

Christian in the car on our move

And it literally was almost yesterday that he helped me tackle a thousand mile drive.

Goofy face while driving

We abandoned our outdated GPS in favor of Siri fairly early in the trip. Our not so trusty GPS kept losing the signal and recalculating routes because it lost our location.  Christian’s foot was more than a bit heavy, so it’s a good thing I was driving when we pulled into this rest stop or he might have started his college career with a speeding ticket.

speed trap

I didn’t know until this trip, just how many goofy faces my son could make.


Thank goodness he’s also willing to smile and show me his handsome face.


It also turns out he’s a great multi-tasker. He can switch CD’s, text with his girlfriend and at least 5 other people while having a conversation with his mom. I seriously thought his phone was going to explode.

Our stop at “Steak n’ Shake” meant free wi fi.


Another goofy face while pondering the menu selection.


More texting (not sure what has happened to our technology free meal rule).


And a giant Cookies and Cream shake topped with a mountain of whipped cream.


We arrived at Kay and John’s at 11:02 pm, just like Siri said we would. After seventeen hours in a car it was wonderful to get a hug from family friends and have a glass of wine before falling into a comfortable bed.

We followed Jeff through the maze of morning traffic and I somehow managed to keep up with my oldest son’s lane changes. Orientation leaders directed us through the parking lot and provided instructions for the drop off.

It’s incredibly well organized, the kids on the orientation team load each student’s belongings into a large bin on wheels and before you walk back from the parking garage it’s in the dorm room ready to be unpacked.

The actual unpacking was a bit discombobulated, but that’s a story for another day. People kept mistaking Jeff for an incoming student and not an alum, which gave us some good laughs.


The next two days were full of orientation sessions. It was all a bit exhausting and overwhelming. For the first time ever, I secretly kept tissues in my purse because tears kept creeping out at the most unexpected times.

Saturday was the final day of orientation and after lunch it was time to say goodbye for now. I snagged one of the orientation leaders and cajoled Christian into one more picture.


Now begins my journey as an empty-nester and another season of change.