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Monthly Archives: August 2015

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One is Silver and the Other Gold

      We are all familiar with the childhood song “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  I found myself singing it a few times over this past weekend. You see as much as I enjoy the nostalgia and truly cherish visiting the same places we did as a family with Natalie, I find myself wanting to push myself to experience more out there. Not long ago in a previous blog of mine, I mentioned how special it was to visit Chautauqua, a place where our memories with Natalie are felt throughout. This week, I wanted to share the beauty of finding a new place, instilling a peace of mind combined with the absence of constant reminds of what we should be doing; the endless work calls, the dinner that needs to be made, house that needs to be cleaned. I mean the list goes on. The irony is, what we should be doing is taking care of ourselves and one another. One way to do that is to spend time seeing the beauty in this world, not only in familiar places we love and cherish, but also in new places to inspire us and open our minds. I’m not sure how to adequately explain what stirs inside me and, I am certain many, many others. For one, it’s an urgency to appreciate life and one another. It’s a desire to explore beautiful things in life and keep feeling alive. Just as I enjoy reminiscing and appreciating all that we were, a family so strong that I believed nothing could ever happen to us, there is a need to keep seeing the good out there and not to lose heart. “Make new friends, but keep the old” can relate to any scenario, cherish memories of vacation places as they are, without a doubt, part of what makes us who we are. Such is the urgency to learn more, see more, do more. There is the realization of the fragility of life and not to waste a minute. You simply yearn to keep living, loving and making a difference everyday.

      So, this summer, we discovered Skaneateles, prompted by a gift certificate by dear friends to Mirbeau Inn. Let’s face it, we can all say we want to go someplace till we are blue in the face but there’s nothing like an expiration date on a gift certificate to get you moving. We started the summer going there and just returned for another visit as a way to wrap up the summer of 2015. There is confirmation on how much we like this place; returning with no gift certificate. We took the mail boat cruise on Skaneateles Lake, dined at Elderberry Pond serving certified organic food in the lovely rehab barn with beautiful beam ceilings, went to a farmers market, shopped, walked and simply enjoyed the picturesque town.

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You cannot beat the gorgeous setting of the Mirbeau Inn dining view. Elegant dining. Beautiful Spa. This is how we kicked off the Summer of 2015.

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This picture may look fake yet it clearly exists. It’s all inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. You feel like you just set foot upon a fairy tale. We both want to return.

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The mail cruise ship is not impressive until you set sail. It’s the smaller one on the left. It seats 34 people. It is run by Mid-Lakes Navigation tours. The cost is $26.00 per person. It leaves promptly at 10 am and returns at 1:00 pm. You can order lunch or wait till you get back.  Since it delivers US Mail, it’s not going to wait for you.

We set sail on a “picture perfect” day

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Appreciate life and one another. If you are fortunate to be alive – love one another.

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This is Pete delivering the mail. It’s heartwarming. The Lordes Camp run by the Catholic Diocese at the 10 mile point is the biggest customer. 6 bags of daily mail in and out and a can can dance from the campers on the dock to boot. The camp had let out for the summer when we cruised on August 28, 2015. It was all fascinating to watch. Crawling onto the boats bow to hand and receive mail to the Lake residents. 

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If you are looking for a charming and delicious restaurant tucked away you should visit Elderberry Pond. We had a delightful dinner and night there.

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Skaneateles Lake is 16miles long and has the highest elevation of all the Finger Lakes. It’s water is so pure that the City of Syracuse and other municipalities use it unfiltered.

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One of the beautiful million dollar plus mansions on the shore of Skaneateles Lake.

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Anyplace that has been around this long has to have staying power.

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One thing we noticed right away is the amount of public benches available for use. Another reminder that small acts change the world.

 

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Tucked in behind the Sherwood Inn is this hidden gem of a bakery. Evan could not get enough of the flakey pastries. Why look, there is Evan entering the bakery right now. 

      Now we are certainly not Skaneateles experts. I mean, I keep checking to see if I have spelled Skaneateles correctly. We have only spent two different weekends there. We cannot believe how refreshing it is to get away and how close it is to Buffalo. (2 hours and 15 minutes) But we are both a little confused about the beach access. We love the village, the shops, the restaurants, and the bakeries. The charm of this town is off the charts. We loved seeing all the glorious beach front property on the waterways. But we were looking for the ever popular “long walk on the beach”stroll. We still can’t figure it out but we will. Is there beach access at Skaneateles? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Comfort Zone

 

 

     Maybe the timing of this blog is off. But the message isn’t. It’s the end of the summer. School is approaching. Money is tight. Stress is in the air. Schedules need to be made. The last thing you are thinking about is going away for a week. We all seem to be pulled in so many directions. We need to organize and get the house in order. I have caught a few of my closest companions exclaiming “I need a cleaning person”,and “I guess I am the only one that does anything around here!” We all need comfort. I bet we all miss those days when we were carefree as children and felt complete by being comforted by our families and friends. Our ages have changed, but our souls have not. We are still renewed and comforted by the love our families and friends give us. I just want to remind us all to stop and reflect. Our life begins in a blink and ends in a blink, although some days seem unending and agonizing long, it changes before you know it. Changes happen inevitably, but that is part of the beauty of it. Although it seems crazy to go out, get school supplies for the twelfth year in a row, to clean out the closet one more time, and vacuum when you swore you just did it yesterday- – enjoy it, as life won’t always be this way. It is all part of the beautiful life we have been given. The kids will grow up, our parents get older, and life as we know it takes on a new look. There are countless good things happening, but the reality is, everyone on this earth will suffer challenges and difficulties too. There is no escaping it. Nothing prepares us for the absence of a loved one. It changes our world and it changes us. There is no textbook way to adapt to change, but when you believe, and you look back at the beautiful moments of your life with an open heart, you can find comfort in all the wonderful memories you have as well as ones you will continue to make in your life. This summer, I have found comfort in returning to the Chautaqua Institute just remembering how much Natalie enjoyed it there. It is a quiet assurance that “we did right” vacationing here for just a week each summer. Comforted, by the memories, the feeling I felt when I stepped onto the grounds as we did for so many years ago, knowing that we had the most beautiful memories there. We loved and laughed here. We made countless practical jokes here. We vacationed here with all generations of parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I left feeling inspired, nostalgic, and compelled to share the comforting messaging that life will be okay, even when the unthinkable happens. And sometimes all you need is just the comfort to go back and remember even if it’s just for the day.

 

Here she is... Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011.

Here she is… Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011. I just want to reach out and touch her hand.

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Father Tony Rigoli, OMI invited us down to Chautauqua Institute on Thursday, July 9, 2015 where he offered the 12 noon mass for Natalie. It was extra special knowing Father Tony was assigned to St. Rose of Lima parish when Natalie was a student there.

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua even thou there was always work to do. The practical jokes we played there keep you alive in my heart and give me comfort. If you don’t have one, start a tradition of going away. It doesn’t have to be far. I am so grateful that our father did.

 

The Athenaeum Hotel. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things seems to n

The Athenaeum Hotel. Picture taken in late August 2015. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things never seem to change. Things will be ok but never the same without Natalie and my dad who really contributed so much to our happiness. 

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Here is Caroline braiding Natalie’s hair at an outdoors concert at Bestor Plaza at the Chautauqua Institute. Take time to be together. No one ever wished that they worked more.

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It doesn’t matter where you go..create a tradition of returning to the same place every year for a week was comforting to us. When you love and cherish each other, and take the time to be together, you have fewer regrets.

 

      My last picture on this blog post is a picture that Natalie posted on her Instagram account. It was taken at the Chautauqua Institute and gives me such comfort that she chose to use it on #tbt (Throwback Thursday). It makes me think that “we did right” and gave Natalie joy in spending a week in a familiar place with the comfort of her family who loved and cherished her so much. This is what life is all about..living, loving, giving and being together. Knowing we had all of these wonderful experiences…now that is my comfort.

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Just A Summer Job?

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Why did Natalie care so much about this little summer job? I now know why…Natalie’s life is her message to the world. Make every second, every opportunity count.

     There is No Such Thing As Just A Summer Job

     Of course there is no such thing as just a summer job. Every second of every day is a chance to influence and make the world better. If anyone taught me that, it was Natalie.

     For 3 summers, from 2008 to 2010, Natalie taught tennis in Buffalo for children aged 6 to 17 years old.  I remember Natalie putting so much into this little job and coming up with a “word of the day” along with games and obstacles courses to keep the various ages of kids and various levels challenged. She even played duck, duck goose and came up with countless tennis drills. She would make a special themed tennis cake to share with the kids. She laughed. She loved. She inspired. She kept careful attendance and had the kids help her decorate her special instructor notebook.  She waited with every child till they were picked up and never complained to the parents for being late. I remember thinking…why does Natalie care so much and put so much into this little summer job?  I’m embarrassed to say that I told her she was doing too much for this position.

     Well, I know why now. It has all been brought to light. Natalie’s life was her message to the world. Decisions that she made, to do more and care more for others, made a difference and we all have that capacity if we want to. It’s a choice we make. A lasting effect in other’s lives that can be big or small.

     People noticed. Lives touched. And now there is an award to a Buffalo youth in Natalie’s honor.

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Natalie’s message..Be happy! Smile and laugh! But push yourself to be more and live to know and serve God and others.

The AWARD CEREMONY

      It’s an informal setting at Delaware Park. Picnic tables, pizza, specially designed t-shirts, and cookies with a special Natalie message to “say something sweet” to others. It’s beautifully casual under the shade of trees. It’s not showy. It’s sweet and innocent just like Natalie. It’s filled with a good spirit just like Natalie. It’s everything that matters. I cannot begin to tell you how touched we were on August 15, 2014 when Mayor Brown declared it Natalie Lewis Day in Buffalo. The mere fact that it fell on the feast of the Assumption of Mary was a God nod that did not go unnoticed in our family. The second Friday in August is now the day set aside for the Natalie Lewis Character Award to go to a fun loving Buffalo youth.

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Natalie made tennis theme cakes to share with the kids at the end of each tennis session. Hard work and accomplishing something always called for a celebration in Natalie’s world.

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Summer photo of the PAL tennis instructors in Buffalo in 2010. Earl is still the man in charge of the tennis program.

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If you have the ability to make someone happy (and we all do)- Do It!

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Natalie was fun and made tennis theme cakes to share with the kids. She made people feel good with her smile and love of the sport. Hey, if you are alive..make someone’s day!

 I shared with the kids this year the 3 lessons of Natalie’s life I would like them to remember.

1. BE HAPPY

If you have the ability to make someone happy- Do it!

Hug them, write them notes, smile, laugh out loud, tell jokes, personalize gifts. Make people feel good if they accomplish something even if it’s little.

 

2. PUSH YOURSELF

Don’t expect results without hard work. I don’t know anyone who worked as hard as Natalie did in the pool, in the classroom, or in any employed position. Natalie woke up early. She had discipline and structure and a purpose to each day.

 

3. LOVE YOUR FAITH

Natalie was faith filled and knew God created her to make the world a better place. No one has your talents, your hair, your nose, your voice, your eyes, your mind, your story, your life. God gave it all to you for a reason and that is to use your gifts to make a positive influence on the world.

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August 15, 2014 – Mayor Brown declares it Natalie Lewis Day for the positive impact she had in the PAL tennis program and the youth in Buffalo. We loved that it shared the same day as the Assumption of Mary. Last year was so soon after the Hot Air Balloon tragedy that the ceremony was more somber until the award winner was announced. Lenore added spark!

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The first award winner! Lenore Brown. The award took her by surprise and she displayed innocent sweetness.

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The informal park setting for the PAL youth award is filled with the spirit of Natalie.

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A lot of joy when the 2015 award winner was announced. Taryn embraced it! Thank you to Modie Cox from the PAL office.

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Here she is..full of life and love..the 2nd annual Natalie Lewis youth award winner with all the current PAL instructors. Congrats Taryn.

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There is no doubt that the award winners are hand picked from heaven above! Taryn Koeppen was so surprised and happy…the first thing she said was..”I’m a swimmer too!! And I know all about Natalie from Fr. Joe!”

 

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Caroline is photographed with Josh. Josh was a PAL participant when Natalie was an instructor. Josh remembers Natalie’s smile, laugh and always telling him how tall and strong he is getting each summer!  He wanted to influence kids just like Natalie did for him. Now he is a PAL instructor and doing just that!

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Pictured here with the Chief of Detectives for the City of Buffalo, we would like to thank Dennis Richards.

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This picture! Only after someone casually took this picture of the 4 of us did we notice a picture of Natalie on the tree behind us. What a sign! Natalie is right there with us.  A sure sign that Natalie is interceding for us all and cheering us on to be the best we can be. God nod for sure.

 

 

 

#todayonmywalk

     Let’s face it, if I wasn’t a dog owner I certainly would not take a daily walk or two. I would attempt. But it would not be daily occurrence especially in the rain, snow and sleet. Even on beautiful sunny days, something always comes up. You know, you always have to go somewhere.

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My inspiration for the name of my blog and my appreciation to slow down and sniff on daily walks. Meet Rory and Lucy Marie. My favorite walking or strolling companions. We stop and smell the roses and take pictures. #todayonmywalk

 

     But, inspired by my dogs, this summer I decided to take a picture with my cell phone camera and post it on Instragram with the hash-tag #todayonmywalk.  It’s a fresh look and the same walk I have been walking for years.  It’s the ability to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us daily. The simple joys. Our two dogs enjoy stopping and sniffing and using all their senses on walks. As soon as I pick up the leashes near the front door of the house, the “ladies” start circling around in utter joy over a chance to walk the neighborhood. When we go for a walk, they act like they won a million dollars. But, we do something worth far more than that…we walk, breath, and appreciate the beauty we see everyday. This is Buffalo in the summer. I am going to keep this up for all the seasons.

 I do not take for granted the incredible happiness just having the ability to go for a walk with my favorite walking companions – Rory and Lucy Marie give me.

Now let’s look at some of the pictures that made it on #todayonmywalk

And follow me on Instagram at poodlewalker1. Thank you for reading.

 

 

This line-up of geraniums in large pots can be found outside a store on Elmwood Avenue. #todayonmywalk

This line-up of geraniums in large pots can be found outside a store on Elmwood Avenue. #todayonmywalk

A flower filled coffee table on the porch of a friends back yard. #todayonmywalk

A flower filled coffee table on the porch of a friends back yard. #todayonmywalk

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This bucket surrounded by little rocks really caught my eye. The whimsey flowers add to the “old fashioned” homey feel. #todayonmywalk

 

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I spotted this on the Buffalo Garden walk. I truly think it’s the prettiest window box I have ever seen. #todayonmywalk

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This house caught my eye because the house number is written out in cursive writing. Love it. #todayonmywalk

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Here you go, this is what you do with the unattractive tree stump on your lawn. Fill it with flowers. It stopped me in my tracks. #todayonmywalk

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Curb appeal. The double wreaths. The matching pots. The dog statue. The high ornate windows. Stop and stare. #todayonmywalk.

 

 

Rock On Rock City

Our society loves rocks. I can see why. Rock n Roll. Rock salt. Rock candy. The Paper, Scissors Rock game. Rock stars. Rockettes. Rocky movies. Sports fans cheer “We Will Rock You”. Chevy tells us their pick-up truck is “Like A Rock”.

And then there is the bible adding such imagery and strength to the rock. Go to Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” And the instructions we were given in Matthew to build our house on rock. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it didn’t fall”.

A house of rock means quite simply building your life, your family on God. He is our rock..you will not fall. 

It’s no wonder that I wanted to return to a place my Grandfather Blassey took me many moons ago. My mother’s family is from Olean, NY and a big attraction has always been Rock City. Rock City has been an attraction since 1890. Whoa. But that is nothing to the rocks itself that were formed 320 million years ago. The park is located on Route 16 in Olean very close to Pennsylvania.

 

The entrance to Rock City Park. Opened daily from May till October. $5.00 a person. $4.00 for seniors. $3.00 for kids. Age 5 and under are free.

The entrance to Rock City Park. Opened daily from May till October. $5.00 a person. $4.00 for seniors. $3.00 for kids. Age 5 and under are free.

As you pull into the drive way there are all these great signs to greet you.

As you pull into the drive way there are all these great signs to greet you.

As soon as the hike began, we came upon Fat Mans Squeeze. OK folks. It's a narrow path. Better suck your tummy in.

As soon as the hike began, we came upon Fat Mans Squeeze. OK folks. It’s a narrow path. Better suck your tummy in.

See what I mean. Narrow. But really...you can fit. No one has ever gotten stuck except for the Jolly Green Giant. At least that is what my grandpa use to tell me.

See what I mean. Narrow. But really…you can fit. No one has ever gotten stuck except for the Jolly Green Giant. At least that is what my grandpa use to tell me.

My hiking buddy today was Caroline. No words can describe the depth of love a mother has for her daughter here.

My hiking buddy today was Caroline! No words can describe the depth of love this mother has for her daughter here.

This is a 1,000 ton boulder balancing on another rock!

This is a 1,000 ton boulder balancing on another rock!

They say the trail takes 45 minutes. Not if you stop and take pictures. I enjoyed going during the week. No crowds.

They say the trail takes 45 minutes. Not if you stop and take pictures. Map quest also said it took an hour and 45 minutes to get there. Not if you go with us! I enjoyed going during the week. No crowds.

The path itself offered some stairs but it was mostly an up and down walking path.

The path itself offered some stairs but it was mostly an up and down walking path.

The gift shop offered skinned rabbit fur and fox tails. Caroline did not like that. But, they do offer a large selection of the most beautiful wooded walking sticks that I have ever seen.

The gift shop offered skinned rabbit fur and fox tails. Caroline did not like that. But, they do offer a large selection of the most beautiful wooded walking sticks that I have ever seen.

The sign says it all.

The sign says it all.

When we reached the top we were all smiles!! Caroline told me I was hiking in bling!!

When we reached the top we were all smiles!! Caroline called me the “Hiking Bling Queen!”

We are forever grateful for the kind person who left this heart made of stone in our garden. The rain indeed fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on our house, but it didn’t fall. Our home is built on rock.