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It’s Only A Shirt

     It was only a dinner yet the night was just beginning.

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Father Joe invited all in the St. Rose and St. Marks parishioners to a night at the Phoenix restaurant and it turned out to be so memorable.

      Recently, there was an announcement in our church bulletin that Father Joe was hosting a wine pairing dinner at the Phoenix restaurant for a set price. It would be on a Monday night when the restaurant is usually closed. What fun. The restaurant would be filled with only our friends and it was going to be a gourmet 5 course dinner. Why not?! No decisions need to be made – just conversation. Evan and I are active at the parish. Certainly we would know everyone there. Aww right. Not true. Don’t ever think you are a big shot. When we opened up the door to the restaurant, we looked at each other and said…do you know anyone? True we knew Father Joe and our friend Anne but very few others.

      Finding a table to sit was a bit awkward. But once you sat down and started being served wine and food; heck conversation started to flow. I remember thinking that the noise level went up substantially around course 3 and 4. It was around this time when a waiter bumped into Evan with a nice deep red wine. Maybe not bumped; maybe poured? No, no it was an accident. Dark red wine all the way down Evan’s shirt. Everyone gasped and waited for his reaction. To everyones surprise; he didn’t care. He wasn’t mad. He laughed and said…”Who cares??!! It’s only a shirt!”and then proceeded to dance in a circle and show off his mega stain. Isn’t it true that in every situation, we are given a chance to influence others in our response? The Chinese meaning of “crisis” has two interpretations: danger, and opportunity. In all siutations we have the ability to get angry when we are wronged. Yet, we also have the ability to make an opportunity for whatever we wish, a new joke between new friends, a learning experience, and the opportunity to influence others by our actions. But by laughing it off, and realizing that a stained shirt is nothing in the scheme of life, we can send a powerful message out there. Evan did not ask for the shirt to be cleaned. No, it’s just a shirt! I heard him say “I’m just gonna toss this baby”, right after I watched him leave a tip.

 

 

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No, this is not blood. It’s dark red wine that soaked his shirt, undershirt and skin. Laugh it off. Mistakes happen!! This is not life or death.

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Evan and his wine spilled shirt posed for pictures.

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Here is the 5 course menu with wine pairing. We passed around the wines we did not care for…no one was going to touch my Sauvignon Blanc.

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By the end of the evening, after a couple glasses of wine and a dirty shirt dance by Evan…the crowd had bonded and friends were made.

     Here are a few clues that you have too many shirts. Maybe you can’t close your closet or your dresser drawers. Maybe you have shirts at the dry cleaners and don’t even miss them. Maybe you find your self buying more hangers to hang up all your shirts. Maybe its time you and a couple of your friends go out for a few glasses of wine and get rid of some!!

    My message to you is anything can be tossed and nothing should not be taken too seriously. Be easy on yourself and one another. The seriousness of life will bring you down, but only if you let it. We all make mistakes, we all find ourselves in a crisis. But our job is not to make people feel badly about it, it is to accept a new opportunity, and who knows, you may find yourself happier and with a new story to tell because you did.

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.

 

 

 

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.