poodlewalker.com let me engage you

Tag Archives: Natalie Lewis

A look back at 2017

As we get ready to ring in a New Year – 2018, it’s easy to say, where has the year gone? Did I even accomplish anything? I know I wanted to organize more, entertain more and clear the house out of things that don’t spark joy (wink) well, I fell short on most of those goals.  But instead of focusing on that I did not accomplish I came up with a list of things that did happen in 2017 that made this year one to savor and celebrate. Weddings of friends and a baptism for Wesley come to mind. But hey, we are alive and experiences are what keep us feeling engaged in life. How about #1? Improved my health! Guys, I look back at pictures of me and think..what took me so long? Take care of yourself and walk away from processed foods. Here are my top 17 highlights of the year.

1. Eating more greens, greens, and proteins. Starting my days with salads and making soups. Positive changes in my overall health. My check up was a celebration and my doctor called me her “gold star” patient.

2. The University of Richmond Athletic Hall of Fame honoring Natalie Lewis and the 2011 swim team. Also, Ginny Doyle the Woman’s basketball coach and good friend. Being back on campus with Natalie’s friends, swimmers, Ginny’s family and coach Matt Barney was good for our souls.

3. The annual Heart of Nardin Award – Mass and award ceremony.  Past winners include in 2015 Ariana Revelas, 2016 Maggie Logel, and in 2017 Maura Casey. So heartwarming to see the qualities of Natalie live on and inspire the high school students at Nardin Academy. Also, nothing means more to our family than a celebration of a Catholic mass.

4. New Career! I am a Tour Hostess at http://www.knowhowtours.com which opened my eyes to appreciating the beauty of the world so close to us and all just a bus ride away! A trip to Vermont and New Hampshire was the highlight. I lead tours that visited Groundhog Day off season! Punxsutawney, Pa and seeing the economic impact one little groundhog can make. Amish Country in Ohio, Seneca and Del Lago Casinos, Stratford Festival Ontario, and how about lunch at Hurd Orchards? They were all first time experiences thanks to my new position as a tour hostess.

5. New windows in the front living room and upstair bedrooms. So happy to have windows that open with a finger, well insulated to bring in the fresh air. I tend to keep the windows opened just a crack all winter long. I had no idea these old houses had window pulleys and as much as you like to keep the old / original to the house and are so thankful for the old craftsmanship, the easy open and high efficiency of the new windows won.

6. Canadian Swimming Olympic star Penny Oleksaik makes an appearance at the 3rd annual Natalie Lewis Town of Tonawanda Titans Spring Invitational Swim Meet. What a thrill to meet this delightful 16 year old Canadian sensation and hero. We cannot thank her enough.

7. College Reunion at the University of Dayton. Seeing my old roommate Sara Miller and catching up with classmates and seeing the beautiful campus was fantastic! So glad I finally made the time and committed to return to campus – I cannot believe it took me this long. 

8. Fancy birthday cake from my daughter Caroline. Wow. I can still taste it. Thank you for making it so special. Never underestimate the importance of a birthday cake to a celebration.

9. Visiting Detroit. We went for our neighbors wedding and fell in love with the grit and resurgence of the City of Detroit. The history of the Henry Ford automobile plants almost came alive.

10. MacKenzie Childs Barn Sale. Oh boy, I always wanted to experience it and I was not disappointed.  Funny how you can say “never again” when you are experiencing the event and then think back with gratitude and make plans to do it again.

11. PAL Athletic Award. In 2014 Nora Brown, 2015 Taryn Koeppen , 2016 Maggie Schmarder and in 2017 Akbar Muhammad. You have no idea the importance and example you imprint in others in something as little as a summer job. Natalie made a lasting influence and the PAL tennis is now know as “Love to Serve” and replaced “Raging Racquets” Lead by example and Live to Inspire others!

12. Just One Overnight Visit to Pittsburgh. How fun to visit Pamelas Diner and the Strip District, visit friends and stay in a downtown hotel. It can really give you a boost. Just one night away.

13. Festivals with good messages! Right down the 90 thruway to the Fingerlakes. The Charles Dicken Christmas and the Wonderful Life Festival. How delightful!

14. Florida after Thanksgiving and bike riding coaster bikes made us realize how much we like it and why not enjoy it here in Buffalo too? Inspired by our bike renting, we bought ourselves bikes for Christmas to continue the fun up north!

15. Just like that- 15 new blog posts and 32 movies that I created in 2017

16. Service trip with Nardin girls to Cincinnati!! I had no idea how much this experience would mean to me. The young ladies I was privileged to get to know better put me in a better place. Deweys Pizza was a score. We enjoyed helping others, visiting Xavier, praying each morning and evening together and being exposed to the city of Cincinnati with far more bridges and hills than we are use to.

17. Free Coffee for a year! On a whim, I woke up early to be one of the first in line for the new Lexington Co-Op. Guys, I love this place. It’s part of my daily ritual. I know I’m going to have a great day when I go to daily mass followed by a healthy breakfast at the Co-op. Heavenly food to earth’s finest. It is like having a personal chef create for me fresh salads, soups and dishes. Now that is feeling groovy!

 

Never underestimate the joy of a fancy birthday cake.

 

We beat ourselves up pretty hard at the end of the year thinking nothing has changed except we are a year older. We may feel the aches and pains a little more and find a few more grey hairs. Did I mention lines on the face? Stop. We need reflect on what positive things we were able to do at all last year and give thanks for all the opportunities and experiences we did have. I am certain if you look back you will find moments to celebrate too in 2017. Go ahead, take a minute to pat yourself on the back for what you accomplished this past year! Get out your note pad and sketch your new goals for 2018. It’s never too late. Just keep striving! We are all examples to others. Be easy on others and don’t let your phone control your life.

See you soon 2018.

Sincerely, Trish

 

 

 

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.

IMG_5268

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. 

DSC_0651

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.

DSC_0100

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.

photo

 

 

 

Just A Summer Job?

DSC_1193
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.

DSC_1196
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.

DSC_0859
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.

IMG_3702

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

IMG_3657

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

IMG_3682
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.

IMG_2149  

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!

DSC_0781

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

DSC_0361

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

DSC_0379
A lot of joy when the 2015 award winner was announced. Taryn embraced it! Thank you to Modie Cox from the PAL office.

DSC_0421

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

DSC_0377

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!”

 

DSC_0414

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!

DSC_0427

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

DSC_0404

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.

 

 

 

Hey, Do You Want To Meet For Breakfast?

 

Aww breakfast. It’s drilled into us that it is the most important meal of the day, yet many of us skip it. Busy. Rush. Race to work. I’ll grab something at my desk. I understand. But I also am going to give you 5 Reasons To Meet Someone For Breakfast. I have more than 5 reasons. The number one reason for me is because it was our beloved Natalie’s favorite meal. Maybe it was all the early morning swim practices, maybe it was her love of eggs, pancakes, and sausage, or maybe it was because she was so full of life and love and was always so ready to seize the day. Natalie knew the best places to go for breakfast in Richmond and she sure knew them in Buffalo too. What an exceptional breakfast Natalie made us every Christmas morning for as long as she could grab a step stool and mix the eggs in a bowl with her daddy. It wasn’t long until Natalie took over as lead chef and upgraded from omelets to egg frittata. Preparing meals for us was another shining example that we are on earth to serve others and enjoy meals together.

IMG_0854

If you are wondering why I am so happy in this picture it is because I am sitting across from Natalie and the conversation and laughter always just flowed. photo credit: Natalie Lewis


5 Reasons To Meet Someone For Breakfast

 

#1. It’s Cheap

Let me be more discreet – It is relatively inexpensive. There is no paying for cocktails except for coffee. Well, I have been known to upgrade to a latte. You may get lucky and have free coffee refills. There are no expensive appetizers or dessert. Most meals are $7.00. Omelets and pancakes are my top 2 choices on the menu. The thing I like about pancakes is they always taste better in a restaurant (especially Pancake Restaurants!) and you don’t have to mess up your own kitchen. Somehow there is always extra batter in my bowl. Somehow the first batch never turns out. The bottom line is -order pancakes out- it’s easier!

2. It’s Simply Delicious

Pancakes. Omelets. Brunch. Oatmeal with the fixings. Fresh brewed coffee. French toast. Waffles. Blueberries. It suits all types of eaters. Gluten free, vegetarian, paleo, carnivorous, and the ever popular no-restriction dieters.

3. It’s Fast. No Strings Attached

You can meet someone and not feel any pressure to do anything afterwards. After all, we all have to get the day started and we all have something else to do and someplace to go. We are off and running. The no pressure and the no expectations of anything happening after is a real benefit. No doubt great for dating or getting to know someone. Also, service is fast. It’s an energetic meal and the pace and energy are appealing.

4. It Gets the Day Started Right

Do you know how great it is to meet someone out? Fellowship. Friendship. Relationships. We are all so much better off as humans getting out the door and connecting, supporting, and seeing people out. When you leave the restaurant, I promise you that you will feel so much better not only because your belly is filled but because you are sharing stories, experiences, and connecting with a family member, friend, new acquaintance or business contact.

5. There Are So Many Places To Go

No doubt you have a favorite place to go. Maybe it’s a Sunday tradition to go out to breakfast after mass. That is my kind of tradition. Look at how many amazing breakfast places we have in Buffalo alone. Kostas. Sophia’s. Ashkers. Spot. Sweetness 7 Cafe. The choices are unlimited.

DSC_0461

Here she is…Natalie getting ready to dive into her favorite breakfast at Weezie’s Kitchen in Richmond, Virginia. Natalie was not a coffee drinker. She never needed it. She woke up early and was ready to go with a big smile on her face.

DSC_0555

A few years ago Natalie said to me..I always wanted to go to Hershey, Pa. I’m so thankful we went together. Here she is getting ready to eat another delicious breakfast at our B&B.

IMG_5068

Sure we all like to eat at local restaurants but chains such as Panera and Corner Bakery Cafe offer some great choices.

The last Christmas breakfast Natalie prepared for us. Serving others folks. Keep giving. Just keep giving.

The last Christmas breakfast Natalie prepared for us. Serving others folks. Keep giving. Just keep giving and loving.

.

My Top 8 Buffalo Summer Traditions

Hello and welcome to summer. Buffalo style. I often say, there is too much to do around here. Too many gorgeous places to visit. We really are spoiled in the summer months in Buffalo. We don’t have much time, we have too many options, but there are certain MUST-DO’s that we always find time for.  We like to stay close to home in the summer and enjoy our own back yard. You can travel to far off places but really everything you ever wanted is right here. There is something so sweet about summer. Wearing sandals, eating corn on the cob, moving at a slower pace and reading under a tree. It’s swimming outside. It’s doing handstands in the pool. It’s going off diving boards. It’s swinging on a swing. Summer is really all about kids and bringing out the kid in you. It’s about connecting as a family and nurturing and being playful. It’s where I hold cherished memories of my own childhood and think of my wonderful years being a young mom. We are off the clock in a way. No homework projects due. New friends develop and new skills are learned. Now mind you, it’s not all perfect, there’s pesky mosquitos, humidity and quite frankly, I can do without fireworks. But, as a family, it would not be summer without these 8 traditions. The Canadian beaches, visiting Chautauqua Institute, Swimming outside and outdoor swim meets,  grilling and eating outside, the annual family picnic at Chestnut Ridge Park, the inspiration of the Garden walk, Saturday mornings and walks to the Famers Market and one that will never be the same is taking an annual picture of our children. Again, I know we have a lot of options and I did not even include Niagara Falls or baseball. But hey, this is my list. And these 8 traditions are true blue with our family.

1. Go Over the Peace Bridge to Canada

IMG_4820

It is always a thrill to enter Canada and take advantage of our friendly neighbors and our unique geographic location. In 15 minutes we are on the bridge from our house. So close yet it feels like a world away.

DSC_0451

The first picture in my blog. Poodlewalker!! Inspiration from our dogs running free on the beach of Windmill Point, Canada. Fresh water from Lake Erie and the perfect place for beautiful walks and swims.

2. Spend a day or a week at the Chautauqua Institute. 

 

Here we are sitting on the rocking chairs of the Anthethian hotel.

Here we are sitting on the rocking chairs of the Athenaeum hotel. I thank God for these happy memories. Traditions and family vacations fill our hearts with memories and closeness. I know only too well you don’t get that time back. You are just so so glad you did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the gate of the Chautauqua Institute. I am so thankful for these vacations that my parents started and that we continued with our children. Chautauqua is only a one and a half hour drive from Buffalo and has old fashioned charm and is located on a lake in a community that offers lectures and evening performances.

 

3. Swim Outside – just to relax or to watch a swim meet outside

Oh the years of outside swim competition warm your hearts and memories for decades. the magic of summer.

Oh the years of outside swim competition warm your hearts and memories for decades. It’s the magic of summer. Swimming outside and breathing fresh air is a delight. No hot natatoriums. Nothing but fresh water and the joy of watching your children and others compete.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Titans swim team enjoyed the short outdoor swim practice season. The cold water entering the pool was welcomed on a hot day. After practice the treat of a ride down the slide gave Natalie such joy.

 

4. Grill and Eat Outside

DSC_0320

Entertaining is much easier and more colorful in the summer. Natalie fussed and showed us how to prepare meals with happiness and joy. “It doesn’t take much to step it up a notch” she would explain.

DSC_0403

The fresh fruits and vegetables are bursting with flavors.

 

 

5. Reconnect at the Annual Family Picnic

DSC_2465

Chestnut Ridge Park. Such a rustic and homey feel to the park. There is such comfort to returning to the same shelter year after year. Follow the paper plates and connect with your family. Here is my dad in the navy shirt and our Uncle Dan in white who paved such noble paths for the family. Uncle Hank, the baby, is missing in the photo.

DSC_0655

How fortunate we are to have the focal point of our family picnic be a celebration of mass. Here is Father Jack Mattimore, SJ with his nephew Michael serving as altar server.

 

6. Enjoy the flowers and Garden Walk

DSC_0309

The Buffalo Garden Walk is inspiring and who doesn’t enjoy getting ideas and seeing peoples back yards.

 

7. Saturday Farmers Market

DSC_0376

The fresh vegetables and fruits are delicious but the mini bouquet of flowers are a colorful treat.

 

8. Photograph and take the annual family picture of the kids

DSC_0366

Here is a playful pose of the 3 children. Natalie will always be so loved and adored and lives in all of us. We are all changed and are better because of Natalie. This was the last photo shoot of all the children. I always took the Christmas card picture in August and told the kids how beautiful their hair and skin looked in the summer. Gathering our children together for a yearly photograph is beyond cherished to us now. We could not do this last summer. We know we have to forge ahead but this is the toughest of all.