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.

‘Tis the Season

Music Through the Decades Pennsbury Prom Float

We tend to think of seasons as changes in the weather and holiday celebrations because those are evergreen and constant.  However  certain stages of life include a season of proms and graduations.

My youngest son, Christian, is a high school senior and will be graduating in a few weeks so I knew that I’d be experiencing his graduation, but was doubtful that this spring would include prom activities outside of taking pictures at the school and the parade.

In Yardley, PA, the Pennsbury Senior Prom is a big deal and a community event.  Last year was the first time I witnessed it.  The day starts with parents staking out their territory in front of the school and creating rows and rows of labeled lawn-chairs along the drive. The school opens at noon to the public and people line up along the length of the building waiting to see this year’s prom decorations.

People in line in front of Pennsbury HS on Prom day

It’s an all ages event, everyone from young children who dream about the day they’ll build a float and attend the prom to couples who graduated more than 50 years ago eagerly anticipate the day.

This year’s theme was “Through the Decades” and it seemed like every square inch of the school had been decorated.  We were greeted by flappers and gangsters from the Roaring Twenties.

Gangster Cutout Pennsbury Prom Decoration 009

The gold rush era was complete with cowboys and a river made of clear blue strips of cellophane, nuggets of fool’s gold, and a miner’s pan.  The cafeteria was transformed from the place that students inhale their lunch between classes to the time of sock hops and ducktails.

I left the 1950’s and entered a trip down memory lane.  The walls were lined with  posters that depicted the T.V. shows I grew up with.  My particular favorites were “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched.”

I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched 044

It was fun to hear the parents around me reminiscing about the shows and their memories.  It made me think about how Saturday mornings were the only time you could hang out with your favorite families like the Jetson’s and the Flinstone’s.

Flinstones and Jetsons posters Pennsbury Prom Decorations 050

The florescent lights were covered with pink and green crepe paper and created a psychedelic lighting effect that was perfect for setting for the Beatle’s and the Yellow Submarine.

Flinstones and Jetsons posters Pennsbury Prom Decorations 052

This year the boy’s restroom was command central for NASA and was complete with control panels and a splash down.  (which made me laugh out loud).

Control Panels in Boy's Restroom Pennsbury Prom Decorations

I would have included a picture of the splash down, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to crop out the portions of the facilities that aren’t very attractive. 🙂

I ran out of time and didn’t get to see all of the decorations this year, but I’m certain they were amazing and each decade was represented in style.  By the time I made it out of the 1960’s it was time to pick up a corsage and gather for the traditional pre-prom picture taking extravaganza.

Christian doesn’t care much for dancing and until a few months ago had only a marginal interest in going to prom. A certain lovely young lady brought about a complete change of heart.

classic prom

The parent’s took charge and lined the kids up for the time-honored tradition; too many adults with too many cameras making a group of teenagers temporarily cross-eyed as they try to figure out which camera they should look at.

Prom Group Picture Taking


The parents and kids head to the school separately.  After  few phone calls I met my friends Paul and Mary at the beginning of the parade.

“What float are you seeing now?” I asked.

“The Winnebago that’s decorated like the Mystery Machine just passed us and two firetrucks are coming up next,” replied Mary.

“Hmmmm, I see a Cinderella horse and carriage and a couple of classic cars.”

Sometimes I’m not sure what we did before cell phones.  The spectators hid under umbrellas and wondered how the kids were going to keep dry under the cold and drippy skies.  Last year I got sunburned, this year I could barely stay dry and warm.

It made my heart smile to see Christian and his friends on their float singing along with the soundtrack he created, music through the decades.

Music Through the Decades Pennsbury Prom Float

Everyone was surprised when the was over and it was only 6:15 pm, normally it lasts until 7 or 8.  My guess is that some of the kids bailed because of the weather and there seemed to be more floats with twenty or more kids this year.  The biggest one was a tribute to the Olympics, complete with bleacher seating for somewhere between 50 and 60.

Olympics Float Pennsbury Prom

I met Paul and Mary at a local eatery for a bite to eat, lots of laughs, and the perfect end to the day.

Next up another prom followed shortly by graduation.  Where did the time go?

I know I’m not alone when I say “It seems like yesterday…”.

Superbowl V – A Championship Year

Five years ago today, I boarded a plane in Omaha, Nebraska and landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a bittersweet day and one that set in motion a series of changes in my life that I never could have foreseen.

“Did you land safely?” he asked.

“Yep, I’m about to head north to Bensalem and I’ll check into the hotel,”

The conversation paused while the wave of applause and cheers subsided.

“Wow, sounds like it’s quite a party.  I can’t believe I’m missing it,” I said.

“I know first time in almost twenty years, hopefully you can find somewhere to watch the game and enjoy it.  Good luck on the new job tomorrow, give me a call and let me know how it goes. I’d better get back to the game and guests,” he replied.

The first day at my new job included introductions to my new staff, a tour of my new apartment (which looked nothing like the pictures online), and an outburst of tears when I discovered the fact that I’d improperly packed senior pictures and they were covered with scratches.

Five years later I’m writing this from my new office, which is located at the top of my stairs.

15_linkedin and a whole new world

The pups are in their place, sleeping soundly at my feet while I type away – the clicks on the keyboard are a constant sound in the house.

19_my assitants romeo and annie

It would be easy for me to look at the past five years and say that moving was a bad idea.  A near foreclosure, major changes in family status, and the helplessness I felt when we first moved as I watched my youngest son experience severe growing pains in a completely unfamiliar environment top the list.

There were times when I felt like moving boxes was a bigger challenge than moving mountains.

ceiling to floor boxes
ceiling to floor boxes

But somehow the space magically transformed into a little slice of paradise.

finishing touches

There were days I questioned myself as a parent and doubted my choices. I’ve come to learn that we all do.  The smiling faces of my beautiful children is a constant source of joy and realization that what’s important is the communication about the choices, not the decisions themselves.

NYC in the rainy cold at Christmas

At the age of fifty, I learned to laugh out loud, with joy, and without embarrassment.  I began to understand that life is meant to be celebrated.

the gangs all here

I discovered the gift of writing and that the color of my soul is the sun.

perfect reflection of clouds at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

I now know that there’s more than one way to experience a visit to the zoo.


And a walk through the neighborhood can reveal unexpected treasures.

fred the frog
fred the frog

I’ve learned that it’s never too late to learn something new and that we all have the capacity to amaze ourselves.

029 final sunflower_cropped

I know how to “batten down the hatches” and draw strength from candles in the storm.

candle in the storm - ink drawing on handmade paper

When I started this blog a year or so ago the title “It’s a Whole New World,” was the biggest understatement of the century.

Each of the past five years has had it’s ups and downs and in one way or another they’ve been a winning season, but this past year has definitely been a championship year.  I have a feeling, the upcoming season is going to be even better.

Sunsets on Big Sand

perfect reflection of clouds at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

I’m always sad to see summer come to an end.  Summer always has been and always will be my favorite season.  I love the heat, the sun, and especially the long days.  Although the one thing that’s nice about the sun rising later is so do the dogs.

Looking at the upcoming forecast and highs in the upper 60’s and lows in the 40’s was a reminder that I’m going have to trade in my flip flops and ankle bracelet for shoes that cover my toes and eventually socks.

It seemed like a good day to post some of my favorite pictures from this summer.  I don’t think there is anything as beautiful as a sunset on  Big Sand Lake, MN.

My parents have a cabin on the bay, their beach is called Iowa Beach even though the lake is in Minnesota.  I think that’s because at one time most of the cabins on the lake were owned by families from Iowa.  The gate between their cabin and the lake always fascinates me.  I think it makes a great frame for a sunset.

sunset on big sand lake through the garden walk gate

On the first night we were there, the sunset reflected off of the pontoon like an invitation for an evening cruise, which of course is one of my favorite things to do at the lake.

pontoon at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

One of the things that amazes me about the lake is the variety of cloud formations.  No two days are alike and its always a treat, my favorite is when they turn vibrant colors like pink and orange.

pink clouds at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

Every once in a while a picture just happens and the unbelievable reflection of the clouds in the calm surface of the water was a once in a lifetime moment.

perfect reflection of clouds at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

My favorite dinner cruises are when we take chicken dinners and wine on the pontoon and tour the lake while we eat.  Hmm…I don’t have any pictures of that; I must have been too hungry to think of capturing the moment – next year.

The pontoon not only doubles as a dinner cruise ship, its often also a fishing boat.

fishing at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

Sometimes my kids don’t mind when I take pictures of other people.  They’ve never said it, but I think there are two unwritten rules.  Only take pictures of people if there is absolutely no chance of being caught and make sure it’s a picture worth taking.  I think the image of a canoe slipping through the water at dusk follows both rules.

A Canoe at sunset on Big Sand Lake, MN

Oftentimes we stay out on the lake until the sun has almost set and we can see the lights on the other boats and pontoons as they quietly return to the bay.

Pontoon coming to shore from a sunset cruise on Big Sand Lake, MN

My dad caught the shutter bug this summer and took over for me after I left.  I think my favorite picture and sentiment is the one he sent from his phone in an email.

He said – “the lake without beth”

I said – are you trying to make me cry?

He said – yes

stormy sky

He knew it would make me both cry and smile to know he captured a moment that said “it’s not the same here without you and we miss you.”

Farewell to summer and greetings to fall.  I’m lucky because sunsets on the towpath are beautiful as well.

sunset on the towpath