I just had the pleasure of spending time with some people who were closest to Natalie. Katie from Richmond, Michael, and her sister Caroline. I could not help but think of the word restore. To restore means to bring back and in many ways they helped bring back Natalie…with stories, memories, laughter and the same attitude of “I’m going to enjoy this moment”, and “let’s help others have a better day.”
Katie mentioned a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Katie likes the simple joy of eating a banana everyday, and looking at the colors of front doors on homes. My list went on and on….striped candles, post-it notes in fun colors, oxford shirts, the fragrance of star gazer lilies, a neatly made bed and listening to frogs ribbet near a pond.
Natalie was Katie’s #1 fan.
Enjoying time with Katie, Caroline and Michael
Episode 34. Add Marshmallows to Your Hot Chocolate. Guest Katie Sieben
The quote that Katie has on her desk.
“ Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The small things that Natalie did for me stay with me. The foot rubs, brushing my hair, the little notes, the special meals, all left a beautiful ripple in the pond that travels on and on….
We don’t know what each day will bring but we do know to take notice of the beautiful gifts that surround us and to leave someone and every situation better than you found it.
Yesterday, my husband was straightening up the hallway upstairs, something we rarely do. He is not even sure why he had the motivation to do so. But, he came across a white pillar candle that was Natalie’s First Holy Communion candle from May 2, 1998….exactly 18 years ago! He paused and called me up to see it. He lit the candle and prayed and thanked God for giving this little sign from heaven. What a beautiful reminder of how important it is to have your children receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Today, I received a beautiful plant from a friend who raised her son Nicholas along with our son Evan. She simply wanted to remind me of the beautiful memories she has of Evan’s beautiful little sister watching the “big boys” play. May is filled with new life, blossoms, signs of goodness and people reaching out.
What is the likelyhood of my husband coming across this candle exactly 18 years later? The reminder of Natalie’s First Holy communion day and the little signs from Heaven above.
Episode 33. Open Your Door. Guest Julie Snyder.
Julie Snyder has been the friend at my side. Not only did she set up camp at our house when this tragedy happened to us, she also planned the funeral, made the program, and organized everything we were too numb to do. But perhaps the best gift Julie gave me was hiring Natalie in the summer of 2011 to be one of the first interns at BCBS in the Communication program. That meant Natalie would be home in Buffalo spending all her free time with us. A gift so great ..that the word priceless falls short. Natalie with her positive energy, making us meals, motivating us to work out, organizing the house, taking time for others and inviting people over. Life was always so much better with Natalie.
Julie understands our family and has been a major part of it. She knows us deeply and personally. She nicknamed Natalie ..Nat-a-leah-a. She thought I took too many pictures of her and all my kids, she was a witness to me ending any phone call abruptly if the caller ID said Natalie.
When you open your door to others and expose ourselves, life is richer. Remember the song by the Goo-Goo Dolls to “Let Love In.”
Isn’t life better when we involve and invite other people in our life? Isn’t life so much deeper when we watch other children grow up and take part in their lives? Loving others that are just not our own is so satisfying.
Julie has always been at my side all the years we were raising our children.
God dispenses grace through human beings. There is so much bonding that happens when we celebrate joyful times together. Yet when we experience suffering, and life gets messy, it’s when we really bond and realize we can get through anything. Marriages unite. Friendships solidify. Our faith is strengthen. Open your door, allow people inside and let love in.
Natalie working as a Summer Intern for BCBS and being filmed for a commercial.
Natalie was the best hula hooper around and people would stop and say “Hey Hula Girl!”
Julie and Natalie at the far left at a luncheon in 2014.
There are neighbors and there are neighbors who become friends. Friends because they are so special and you share so much in common. Pam is an exceptional person. She has the ability to put herself out there for the neighbors. She helps those in need, checks in on the elderly neighbors, hugs all the kids, and is always willing to listen. She is a giver and always has a smile on her face and a big hello for all.
Pam is the type of person who made monkey bread for the construction crew on the street. Pam will walk your dog, water your plants and bring your mail and newspaper inside. She is known for her delicious Buffalo chicken wing dip, spaghetti casserole, turkey vegetable soup, and the most delicious cut out cookies you have ever tasted. No street party is complete without Pam. I even admit that I asked Pam to make me a lasagna for a dinner party I was having and passed it off as my own. Hey, you can’t beat Pam’s lasagna. I recommend you trying the same trick!
Here I am with Pam sharing a good time at the street Christmas Party. You can always count on Pam for the most delicious dishes and a hearty laugh.
Pam with her daughter Madison who was so kind to have Kindness Can Change the World bracelets made and has chosen the name Natalie as her confirmation name.
Episode 32. Neighbors become cherished friends.
This week, I simply want to introduce you to Pam. There are not many Pam’s out there. Someone willing to put themselves out there for people with a happy face. It’s simply a reminder how precious people can be and how much it means to me that Pam was a witness to our children growing up together and shared so many laughs and memories. Pam reminds us to live life joyfully even when life is far from perfect.
We all tend to go immediately into our homes after work. This is just a gentle reminder how much richer life is when your neighbors become your friends. If I have any satisfaction for anything that I have done for my neighbors, it is that I have photographed First Communions, Proms, Halloween Parties and the kids growing up. The pictures I have posted of Pam are all on my computer and I bet I have more pictures of her than she has of herself. Pam laughs so easily and is a priceless member of our street.
Funny stories and memories always good for a laugh. I’ll never forget the time that I gave Pam the key to our house so that she could walk the dogs for the weekend and feed them. We were out of town in Ohio watching Evan Jr in a swim meet. Pam had just finished walking all 3 dogs because she brought her dog Leo along for the walk..naturally. After the walk they went back in our house and the dogs went crazy running around and playing. It was so much fun that Pam decided to leave the dogs in the house for a while to play while she ran an errand. Funny thing, she closed the door which locked automatically and left the key in the house. She called me and asked sheepishly “How many hours away are you?” No harm done, the dogs filmed Home Alone III.
It’s easy to spend your time inside and not bother to get to know your neighbor. Who needs the hassle? I always joke with our son when a neighbor calls to ask if he can move or lift some piece of furniture. Yet, how many times have we benefitted from a push out of the snow, a friendly smile and a homemade meal? My street gathered together for us when we were living through our nightmare. They huddled together to pray for Natalie, filled our refrigerator with meals, and held us all close. What a gift.
Pam is a genuine person who is a giver and is always there for you.
My husband, enjoying time with his two treasured daughters sitting in Pam’s backyard.
It would be great to have things in this world “just happen.” But that is simply dreaming. Today, I talk to Liz Hays who use to hire Natalie to babysit. One important and lasting impression that Natalie left with Liz is to use each hour of every day to make it count. Even when Natalie would be home for a short weekend, she made sure she woke up, worked out, visited her grandparents, made healthy meal options and visited with those she was closest to. Liz always felt special that she and her family were on the list. I always admired her busy schedule and how she mastered time management. Natalie was able to fit so much into each day. Thank God she did! Natalie seemed to bounce out of bed in the morning. From the lists of ingredients she needed to prepare meals,the list of things she was going to do for the day, the work outs she would make for herself, and most importantly the people she would see. It was all part of who she was…healthy and happy. Caroline has so many memories of Natalie’s lists too. They would settle into bed and plan the next day together. Caroline is a perfect witness to how others can motivate us and how much people need people. Natalie knew how to prepare and isn’t every situation in life better when we prepare? We are all lead to believe that moments just happen. But you actually need to schedule events, family time and activities. I remember Natalie telling me to always plan something for the 4th of July. She use to tell me that it was one of those Holidays that should be celebrated with a great memory but often over looked in preparing something special. How true.
Time management is something Liz admired about Natalie. Make everyday count.
Episode 31. Guest Liz Hays. Make Each Day Count. Create a Space In Your House to Connect Your Family
It seems all of our homes are getting built larger and larger. We have separate bedrooms and our children tend to get lost in front of video games, phones and computers. Liz loved the way her family connected on vacation because they were in a small space together. Inspired by this, she took the kitchen table out of her kitchen and added a small sectional and chair so the kids could all gather together after school and bond. The kids are in different schools, different grades and having different experiences. When you step back to realize how short of a time in life your children are all gathered under the same roof…why not be together as much as possible by supporting, comforting, encouraging and loving each other. Nothing lasts forever. Be there while you can. After all, don’t those growing up years stay with you for life?
Thank you for listening and reading,
The basic way we seem to greet people is the simple question “How are you doing?” How we answer that question is very key to how we give our best selves to the world. It’s a first impression. It can kick start a good feeling. I simply want us to be conscious of how we answer the question of “How Are You Doing?” It can really have such great impact. It’s so much more important than we ever think or even pay attention to.
Episode 30. “75 and Sunny” Press to listen.
I understand we all have things to worry about and concerns. Money, health, our children, a project hanging over our heads, a failed relationship, or any number of things.
Most of us answer the question with a ..”I’m good, how are you?” Although proper English grammar is “I’m doing well, thank you.”
We all know people who answer the question with a …”I’m here, aren’t I ? Or a …”Same stuff, different day.” or “Another day another dollar”…Hummm, hardly inspiring. Who wants to hear grumbling? Feeling the appreciation for a new day lifts others.
My daughter Caroline and I are reminded of my dad, her grandfather and how he answered the simple question “How are you doing?” Perfect. Life was rough in his later years, his health, his mind, his agility were all going downhill. Yet he chose to answer the question with a “perfect.” That helped put my mom, his children and grandchildren and ease that he continued to putter along and fight the good fight.
Caroline also remembers the sweet way she would be greeted in the morning by her sister Natalie. A gentle scratch on the head, a tender kiss on the cheek and a simple “I love you” filled Caroline with such nourishment to take on the day so loved and encouraged.
Recently I saw my brother in law Pat. I asked him the simple question..How are you doing? He answered “75 and sunny.” What a great answer! Isn’t 75 and sunny considered an ideal day?
Your thoughts don’t control you; you control your thoughts. Make it a great day and when someone asks you ..How are you doing? Why not answer “75 and Sunny.”
Caroline holds such cherished memories of the way Natalie would greet each day. A gentle head scratch, a kiss on the cheek..a I love you reminder.
Ask my brother-in-law Pat..”How are you doing?” He will answer “75 and sunny!”
My dad would say he was “perfect” despite declining health.
Pictured here is Samantha Palma, Eleanor Clay, Natalie Lewis, France Stevenson and Coach Scott Vanderzell.
Episode 28. Guest France Stevenson. Just Keep Swimming.
I am so happy that being Natalie’s mom I was part of so many good times and memories while she swam on the Tonawanda Titans. It was an exciting time when the team was reaching new heights it had not reached before. For the first time, the team had swimmers qualifying for sectional swim meets and even National meets. Natalie was part of it. I am so grateful that I can look back and think that I was able to be part of this exiting new time by attending the swim meets and taking pictures! The team was something special.
Today I am going to introduce you to France Stevenson. Frances, who goes by France, made an impact on Natalie and the rest of the team by being her best self. Frances became a close friend of all on Titans because of her open mind and although she was a few years older, still opened her heart to learning from younger athletes. She developed her own look on the pool deck wearing spandex and sneakers in-between events, and it quickly caught on. She also stayed in the game of competition when most swimmers hung up the swim suits. After competing all 4 years at UB undergrad, she then continued swimming even through law school. Using swimming as a time management tool, she was able to continue to touch lives of all swimmers and coaches on Titans. France still swims when she can with the Titans and has her goal on masters swimming. A lot of people feel that maybe they are “too cool” to hang around younger athletes. But France use to swim with 12 years olds on her relay, age did not matter. Talent is talent. France is humble enough to admit that she gained motivation from the younger swimmers too. France lead the team in trends on the pool deck and giving them the example to continue swimming when the rest of the world says you are too old. Now that France is an attorney she maintains being her best self by not caring what others think of her when she is still competing in swimming, and fully indulging in all that life has to offer. She feels, if your heart is happy doing it, who cares what others think! Thank you for being a part of Natalie’s life, and thank you for being you, France!
You are never too old to see a G rated movie, to swim and play and to be part of an Easter Egg Hunt. Thank you to our neighbor Polly for starting a new tradition on our street. One person can change the world. Remember that this Easter season calls us to believe in the promises of Christ. If we do that then we can live in happiness and joy. The devil wants us to have no hope and to live in darkness and despair. We can fight evil with joy and humor. We can hardly wait till the movie “Finding Dory” is released this June. Just Keep Swimming!
- Pictured here with Natalie Lewis is France Stevenson. France swam 4 years at UB and after college while attending law school. She is still swimming.
- France and Natalie after a flight home from national swim competition were delighted to find Olympic swimmer Katie Hoff on their flight.
- Natalie loved to make treats for her friends. Celebrating is an important part of life to make people feel valued, loved, and appreciated.
Natalie giving France a big bear hug squeeze.