Gratitude Celebration 21: Extra Parents

“Get off that roof!” I heard Mr. Steigerwald yell from across the street. I had crawled out my bedroom window to sit on the roof where I could think on my own for a bit, but one of my “extra parents” had seen me and scolded me for it. I was thinking, “You’re not my dad, so you can’t tell me what to do!” But I really didn’t believe that. If I didn’t do what he said, he would be calling my dad and let him know where I was. Other times, Mr. Steigerwald would help me out and I ‘d really appreciate his parenting. Like when my brothers and I could walk a few blocks from the swimming pool  to the bearing shop where he worked and get a ride home instead of walking for an hour and a half.
We had several neighbors who I felt were extensions of my parents. I knew they were watching out for us and cared about us.
All of us kids on our block, once I counted a hundred, knew which yards were fair game for our Kick-the-Can and Cops-n-Robbers marathons which would last from morning’til the street lights went in. We’d have twenty kids playing and could spread out over about half the block, running through the yards of certain neighbors. read more

Gratitude Celebration 20: Bold New World

Broadening my views of life and people and enticing me to love my body and outwardly express myself were the gifts offered by my Living Arts teachers. I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people who made a difference in my life. Today’s recipients are three men who had very different views of life than my Catholic School teachers.

Bing Davis was probably the most radical person I had ever encountered. His art and conversation opened up a whole new world of self expression and raw opinion. He was the first African American teacher I had, and a very outspoken one at that. My first encounter with him was at an introduction to The Living Arts Center that I attended with John Spinnato and both of our moms. read more

Gratitude Celebration 19: Friends at Last

I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Yesterday, I remembered two girls who gave me the opportunity to feel the pain of rejection and make me question my value as a friend. Today, I want to express my gratitude for two young women who lavished me with friendship without question. They liked me just the way I was and I liked them back!

Barb, who I met in eighth grade became my friend for that year. I don’t know why I had not known her all along in my Catholic school years, since most of my classmates had been there since first grade! Maybe she and her family moved in later, or didn’t put their kids in the school until that year. Anyway, Barb and I seemed to bet along pretty well, and we did a lot together because we were in the same Girl Scout troop. I had not been active in Girl Scouts for a few years, but Barb’s mom organized a troop for “Cadettes”, junior high aged girls, and I joined it. read more

Gratitude Celebration 18: Rejection Transformed

“If you were somebody worth being friends with, then we would be friends with you.” That’s what the note in my desk read. Did Ann and Jean really write that in response to the note I had left at Jean’s house? “I thought we would keep walking to school together. I want to be friends.” When I had gone across the street to pick her up as usual, she wasn’t there! I saw her walking down the street with Ann. Ditched! Rejected! Replaced!

My thirteen year old heart was broken and I didn’t know what to do. I wrote my note and hoped for the best, but I already knew that Jean, who had just moved into the neighborhood, was choosing Ann and not me. Ann and I had not been friends any time since first grade, so I figured we weren’t going to start now. read more

Gratitude Celebration 17: Teachers

Today, I’m reflecting on my elementary school teachers in my 60 days of Gratitude to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Each of these women brought certain qualities that help shape and form my journey as a spiritual being having a human experience.  There was Sister Joanna Mary in first grade who I just remember as being very kind. She encouraged me to use a box to support my feet at my desk.  I was so short that my feet would not touch the floor when I sat on the seat.  I always sat in the first or second desk in the row.  I remember making a page with “what I wanted to be when I grow up”.  I want to be a teacher so I can teach others about God.” read more

Gratitude Celebration 16: It’s a Human Experience!

She was steadfast and gently authoritarian, and I enjoyed her half-day kindergarten, my first foray from home. That was my teacher, Mrs. Wilson.   I walked to the school  by myself every day. I am very grateful that my neighborhood was safe for a five-year-old to walk 6 blocks to school every day. It’s interesting that I don’t have any recollection of meeting other kids for walking, or even making friends with anyone except Charlotte. Was her full name Charlotte Adams? That’s what pops into my head. read more

Gratitude Celebration 15: Surrender to Spirit

Gratitude Celebration 15: Surrender to Spirit

My youngest brother, Paul, was so cute. He gave me the excitement of having a child without the responsibility. My mom was pregnant with her tenth child when I was a high school biology student. As my luck would have it, our unit of study was Human Reproduction.  “How fascinating!” I thought. “I can study my mom while she’s pregnant.”  When Paul was a toddler, my photographer friend thought Paul, with his angelic blond curly hair, a perfect subject for black-and-white photo practice. I often volunteered to babysit my little brother so my friends and I could play with him! read more

Gratitude Celebration 14: Rescue Me!


Betsy brought us to the trailhead of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

My sister Betsy rescued me several times in my life! The last time was as recent as 6 months ago! I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life, and today I’m celebrating Betsy’s “life”-saving deeds.

“I’ll be there in an hour.” Betsy said without hesitation, when I called her from the lodge at Seven Springs Ski Resort. My hiking partner, John, and I had been stumped, faced with an obstacle we were resigned to ending our week-long hike. On our fifth day of winter hiking in Pennsylvania, we stopped dead in our tracks when the trail opened up onto a ski slope teeming with skiers. It was the first snowy Sunday of 2013 and thousands of people had hit the slopes! We were not aware until that moment that the trail literally followed the ski slope for half a mile to the top of the mountain. It was early afternoon and we still had nine miles to go after surmounting the ski slope to reach our required destination. I was not willing to walk up the ski slope and there was not enough time in the day to arrange a ride up the lift to the top of the mountain. We had chosen to call it quits on the trip and see if Betsy would pick us up and shuttle us to our car, thirty miles down the trail. read more

Gratitude Celebration 13: Humor and Boundaries

Boundaries give us the space to take our time. Today, in my thirteenth post in my 60 days of gratitude for people in my life, I celebrate my brother, Jim.

Jim is my brother who is eight years younger than I.  Jim played a big role in a pivotal time in my walk of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. He lives within a few hours of the spot where I needed to get off the trail to take a week off for completing my training as a Radical Forgiveness Coach. He and his wife, Katherine took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, picked me up, and took me to the Richmond, VA airport. A week later, they brought me back, along with my husband, who was planning to hike with me for three weeks. read more

Gratitude Celebration 12: Generosity and Persistence

Generosity and persistence are my brother, Tom’s, virtues for which I am thankful. I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Enjoy! Please comment with your own stories, and feel free to read previous and subsequent essays.

Today’s gratitude goes to my brother Tom for his generosity and persistence. What I’ve noticed about Tom is that he insists on making sure that people have what they need. He goes out of his way to help people. He did that for me when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. My trip started close to San Diego where he lives. Tom, and his wife, Mary, invited me and my hiking partner to stay at their house for our last few days of preparation. Tom opened his workshop to create a special mailing tube to send our food canister when we needed it. read more