July 2017 Edition – “Fun in the Sun”

july2017-coverThe July 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesFun in the Sun – is now available online & in print.

Thoughts from our Editor: July 2017

I’ve written before in this space about some of the personal and professional challenges I’ve faced as a writer and publisher. The predicament facing me now, as I sit in my office on the afternoon of the 4th of July, is I find myself at a loss for words.

What meaningful contribution can I add to the voices assembled in the pages of this edition? What can I say but that I am so blessed – and grateful – to have such an eclectic group of writers share their talents in this publication?

Early in my career, a former colleague told me “If you got content, you’ve got everything.”

It is with no small amount of pride I can say we’ve got such terrific content this month that I’ve been referring to this edition as the Everything AND the Kitchen Sink Issue.

Beginning on page 5, veteran and seasoned reporter Dave Zuchowski takes us on a tantalizing journey to family owned Salamone’s Italian Market. It’s an appetizing read that will leave you ravenous for more.

Still hungry? Looking for a pick me up to perk you up? Flip to page 7, where freelancer Lauren Rearick talks with the proprietors of the Mon Valley’s newest java and culinary destination, Perked Up Café in Charleroi.

Simply turn the page, where we’re delighted to feature an article by noted historian Christopher T. George about the Battle of Monongahela. Taking place on July 9, 1755, this battle “focused the world’s attention” – as Chris notes in his piece – on our region.

Only a couple of pages later, we’re pleased to announce the return of The Entertainment Chuckwagon, where staff writer Chuck Brutz serves up a nostalgic tribute to the late, great Adam West, TV’s Batman.

Speaking of writers making repeat appearances, technology columnist Eric Worton is back this issue with Tips from TechBoxz, with a tongue in cheek commentary about a mobile game his wife can’t stop playing.

Staff writer Keren Lee Dreyer explores the full spectrum of the arts, with stories about a children’s theater program and a local fine arts exhibit.

Columnist and licensed aesthetician Tasha Oskey shares tips on how to prevent sunburn and sun damage.

Managing Editor Fred Terling and contributor Stan Popovich tackle heavy hitting mental health topics, while columnist Reanna Roberts gives her take on the paranormal.

Finally, if you’re looking for a cool activity to enjoy on a hot summer day, we’ve got you covered, with an extensive list of things to do, people to see and places to go this season.

As always, thank you for taking a break from your fun in the sun to peruse our pages.

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton

Pennsylvania Bridges June 2017 – “Rise Up Singing”


june2017-coverThe June 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges“Rise Up Singing” – is now available online & in print.


Thoughts from our Editor: Rise Up Singing

Sun IconSummertime is upon us, and with it comes all the trappings: longer, brighter days, the feel of freshly cut grass beneath your bare feet, the sensation of the sun’s rays warming your skin. The smell of chlorine in the neighborhood pool mixed with the sweet, tropical scent of suntan oil, the sound of childish voices at play, the sight of sandcastles lining the beach, the taste of ice cream enjoyed in the shade – all are synonymous with the onset of our hottest season.

Summertime, and people seem to laugh more, relax more, and frown considerably less than they do in colder months. There’s a greater sense of camaraderie and shared experiences, as individuals and families gather for picnics and celebrations in our parks and on our waterways and strangers become fast friends.

Summertime, and as the old jazz standard goes, “the living is easy.” Indeed, as we first heard from the great songstress Ella Fitzgerald, the “fish are jumping and the cotton is high.”

My favorite line of this George Gershwin tune comes later, however, when Ella tells us, “One of these mornings, you’re going to rise up singing, and you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky.” What a wonderful sentiment is expressed here, this notion that with enough motivation and enthusiasm, we can soar to new heights and expand our horizons.

This is a sentiment shared by many of the people and organizations featured in this edition, the idea they can “rise up singing,” improve their lives, and make their communities a better place.

For example, look at our friends at the Phoenix Arts Center, who’ve risen from humble beginnings to become an established beacon for the cultural arts in Fayette County and the surrounding areas. Fayette isn’t alone in this regard, as the members of the Valley Art Club have been promoting fine arts in the Mon Valley region for two-thirds of a century. Stories on both groups are on pages 15 and 5, respectively.

The aforementioned organizations are only two of the community groups making positive changes in their hometowns, and several more are mentioned in this edition of Pennsylvania Bridges.

I know you’re eager to dive right in, but before I go and let you start reading all the outstanding stories contained within the pages of this issue, I want to take a moment to say “goodbye, thank you, and best wishes as you move forward” to our longtime Faith Columnist, Pastor B.T. Gilligan. In addition to penning his regular, thoughtful commentary on how faith transforms lives, Pastor B.T. has been both a friend and spiritual advisor to my family, and we will miss him dearly. His final column – and his “goodbye” to our readers – is on page 8.

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton

May 2017 Edition – “May Flowers”

The May 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges“May Flowers” – is now available online & in print.coverproof

Thoughts from Our Editor – May 2017 – “May Flowers”

UFLO1190-8MB We’ve all heard the saying “April showers bring May flowers.”

A little digging reveals this sentiment’s origins harken back to 17th century Great Britain and Ireland where the level of precipitation in April is high because of the direction of the jet stream.

Meteorology aside, however, this expression also finds root in the idea that after a long, dark, and cold winter, a more optimistic spring awaits.

“April showers bring May flowers” is a phrase often intended to lift the spirits with the prospect of a brighter, more beautiful tomorrow. Even in the midst of a torrential downpour, we can imagine the splendor to come.

Dazzling and bold, hardy May flowers have withstood the deluge and now shine as brilliant as the sun, their vivid colors a symbol of hope realized. Who among us cannot relate to the resilient flowers of May, and to the notion that we are better for having weathered the April storms?

However, science tells us this common adage isn’t always accurate, depending on the type of flower and where you
call home.

Those living in warmer climates, for example, may see perennial buds beginning to burst as early as March or even April. Because their bulbs have been slumbering in the ground all winter, one month’s rainfall has little effect on their growth and overall health. Rather, it’s the accumulation of precipitation over many months that matters.

On the other hand, annuals, which must be replanted each year, can’t be put in soil until winter and the accompanying menace of frost has past. In climates like ours, that usually means waiting until spring is in full swing.

Whatever the type of flower, it’s clear what matters most is not precipitation but temperature. When the sun begins to warm the earth and spring like conditions have us trading our winter coats for light windbreakers, the first flowers appear, despite how much rainfall occurred during the previous month. Given a hospitable climate, they bask and thrive in the abundant light.

Again, we can draw a comparison between ourselves and flowering plants. Under the right circumstances, given warmth in the form of love and support, we also blossom and flourish as individuals. With help and encouragement, we prosper.

This edition is dedicated to living May flowers, to those who’ve experienced and overcome adversity on the path to success, as well as to those who’ve been sources of guidance and inspiration for those weathering life’s storms.

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton

April 2017 – Spring Cleaning

april2017-coverThe April 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesSpring Cleaning – is now available online & in print.

Thoughts from our Editor: Spring Cleaning

SpringCleanThe strong scent of bleach, the warm softness of freshly laundered linen, the gleam of polished fixtures and newly mopped floors, all these evoke for me childhood memories of helping my family spruce up our living space each spring. Somewhere between St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, at least two whole weekends would be dedicated to cleaning our house from top to bottom.

Given that time of year is also college basketball season, one of my most vivid recollections of my formative years involve my stepfather wiping down the glass shelves of his beloved entertainment center with Windex, all the while yelling at full volume at the TV. By his estimation, three things were sacred above all: his Magnavox stereo, his record collection, and then Memphis State Tiger basketball. To me fell the task of gently dusting the covers and spines of four crates of vinyl, hoping for the safety of my hearing the Tigers played well and the refs didn’t make any “bad” calls.

Chances are, you’ve got your own memories of spring cleaning, whatever form they take. I hope, for your sake, they were less noisy than mine! When thinking about my own remembrances, I found myself wondering when exactly did the yearly custom begin, and what was the original purpose?

In this digital age, one doesn’t have to waste time wondering, so off to Wikipedia I went. Here’s what I learned.

Spring cleaning is an annual tradition that dates back to Biblical times, with evidence that the ritual of cleansing your home from floor to ceiling coincides with certain religious observances such as Passover and Lent. Purifying one’s domicile is seen as an act of renewal, of preparing the spirit for the year ahead.

As recently as the 19th century, it was recommended homes be thoroughly dusted during the month of March, however, this was for practical, not spiritual, reasons. In March, particularly in northern climates, windows and doors can be opened without fear of draughts or – alternately – insect infestations, and swift moving winds help carry dust from the home.

With the advent of vacuum cleaners and the decline of the coal furnace, it’s no longer necessary to confine these activities to the month of March. Yet, today, in 2017, spring cleaning remains a popular activity, or so I’ve been told. Domesticity has never been my strong suit. Still, even a packrat like me can appreciate the feeling of contentment and accomplishment that accompanies a truly tidy house. Clean is calm. It’s almost impossible for chaos to thrive in the midst of sterility.

While no one has ever accused me of having an immaculate house, I do have my own routine cleansing rituals. After each issue is sent to the printer, I organize, sort, and file the dozens of piles of paper that accumulate as we prepare the content of the same. Active computer files are archived in storage and copies sent to “the cloud” for back up. Databases are updated, and contacts added. Actual cleaning products even make an appearance, with surfaces like my desk and keyboard getting a much needed bath. (On a related note, our technology columnist and my husband, Eric, who generously donated his column space this issue to a last mention notice about a youth fishing tournament, insists I tell you that you should never immerse your electronics in water. He’ll be back next issue.)

Whether your home gets a carpet to drape makeover each spring or you simply take a few hours on occasion to organize and regroup your space, it’s important to also take time for what may well have been the original intention of spring to cleaning, to restore the spirit and re-energize the soul.

Happy spring cleaning! Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton

March 2017 – “Helping Hearts”

march2017-coverThe March 2017 Edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Helping Hearts” – is now available online & in print.

Helping Hands, Helping Hearts

Call it vanity, but I’ve always been proud of my hands. Slender with long fingers, they’re what my grandmother used to pronounce “piano player hands,” in spite of the fact I quit taking piano lessons at the age of 11 after a year and a half of frustrated attempts to skillfully tickle the ivories. Truly, I am the musical black sheep of my family. My mother is such a talented musician and singer she landed a full opera scholarship, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, much to the chagrin of all those who’ve suffered through my few pathetic efforts to sing at local open mics. You can come out of hiding now, for I’m never going to sing outside of my shower again.

Instead, I found my instrument in a computer keyboard, and there are moments when I’m writing that my fingers seem to dance with all the grace of a prima ballerina, the steady, comforting click clack of the keys beautiful music to my ears.

These hands have written countless articles, essays, poems, plays, and a full length novel. They’ve taken the work of other writers and polished it to a high sheen. They helped me to become the first member of my family to graduate with a terminal degree. They’ve enabled me to keep a roof over my head and feed my family. With these hands, I guided a person from infancy to adulthood, and along the way I joined them together with my soulmate’s during our wedding ceremony in 2014. And, finally, these hands built this publication you’re holding in your hands right now.

Sadly, roughly six months ago, my left hand became quite uncooperative, having succumbed to the ravages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and typing has become a real chore. As with any obstacle, you make allowances, and you adjust and adapt, but the reality is my mind races along at a rate my fingers can’t match. The joy I once found in the very act of writing has been replaced by fear of the pain, and the result is I’m a lot less productive than I used to be. Surgery’s an option, but it will have to wait for a more optimum time.

In the meantime, as mentioned above, I’ve adapted. I’m training my PC to recognize my voice, as well as using the voice to text recorder on my smartphone. Touchscreens are easier to manipulate than a keyboard, so I frequently write articles and make lists on my tablet. It’s slow going, but it gets the job done. Still, for all my efforts to adjust, there are days I stare longingly at my monitor like an animal peering through the bars of a cage, feeling like a captive in my own mind.

Outside of my desire to share my voice, my very ability to create is compromised. For example, my husband, out of love and concern for my safety, will no longer allow me to chop vegetables for fear the result will resemble a crime scene in a slasher flick.

Those days when I feel particularly helpless, I’ve come to realize, those are the days I have to ask for help. And, like my childhood attempts to pursue a musical career, accepting my limitations and asking for assistance is not one of my talents. It takes courage to admit you need help, and – for me – bravery isn’t always abundant.

What I’ve learned through this process, however, is most people have a helping heart and are happy to lend a hand. All I have to do is ask. Where need exists, generosity provides.

Nowhere is this more true than here in southwestern Pennsylvania. This issue is dedicated to those with helping hearts and hands, who devote themselves to caring for others. On behalf of those who often or on occasion need assistance, thank you. Take pride in what you do, and in the good work you do with your hands and your hearts.

Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton