The Holiday 2015 Edition: To All A Good Night! is now available online & print.
How many times have you heard or uttered this phrase?
Log into social media at practically any time of the day and you’ll find a dozen instances of the harsh reality that life isn’t fair. The last month has been particularly momentous and, too often, those momentous occasions have been marked by tragedy. So much sadness and outright ugliness has invaded my Facebook feed that, some days, I actually find myself at a loss for words to combat it.
“Life just isn’t fair,” I think, and reconcile myself to the fact there’s really not much I can do about the poisoned well except refuse to drink from it.
So, I pause before I share that political meme or repost that obviously biased news article. I think twice before I comment on someone’s status update, always asking myself: Is it worth it? Does it matter? What’s the point in alienating friends, family and members of my community simply because I want to have an opinion?
“Life just isn’t fair,” I repeat, and continue scrolling. It’s just easier that way.
Easier, except for the fact that it’s dead wrong. Wrong, because you can’t make a right with two wrongs. Indifference to the knowledge the playing field isn’t level is part of the problem and I, along with every other person who adapts that attitude, am the reason life will continue to be unfair for so many people.
Realizing this, I’ve begun a conscious journey of trying to discover ways I can help make life a little better for others, both in my community and on a more global level. That journey is reflected in the pages of this edition, and it’s a well-worn path to follow, trod by so many others before me.
One major change I’ve made was a fairly quick fix, not to mention an innocuous way for me to make a statement. I’ve started voting with my dollar, and refusing to support companies and organization whose business practices I find reprehensible. Speaking of dollars, I’m also trying to spend mine locally when possible. Sure, I’m just one person, but I believe I can make a difference, even if it’s just by leading by example.
We talked to so many great people for the edition it’s impossible to name them all here. A quick glance at the table of contents reveals no shortage of people trying to restore a sense of fairness to their communities, people seeking to assure everyone has an equal opportunity to experience the “good night” wished for all by Dicken’s Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.
“To all a good night,” he exclaims, expressing a sentiment we at Pennsylvania Bridges wish to share with our readers this holiday season. Merry Christmas, and happiest of New Year’s to you and yours.
Until next time,
Carla E. Anderton
Shortly after the fall edition was released, I had the honor of being invited to speak to the Publishing the Magazine class at my undergraduate alma mater, California University of Pennsylvania. I spoke briefly on my experiences in the magazine business but most of my talk centered on my passion for the industry. I recalled how during my teens, when most girls were spending their leisure time painting their nails and dreaming of Mr. Right, you’d find me camped out in the family room with a pile of glossy magazines, poring over every word of every article, analyzing every photograph and illustration for meaning.
Fast forward a little over 20 years and I still spend my “free time” devouring magazines. I’m the person who’ll volunteer to accompany a friend to the doctor just so I can hang out in the waiting room and check out what publications the office subscribes to. It was during one of these excursions that I first encountered O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine.
I know, I know, Oprah’s been a household name for longer than some of our readers have been alive, but this was my first exposure to the publication that bears her name. To say I was impressed would be to downplay my appreciation of this beautifully designed, masterfully edited magazine. I read it cover to cover twice, once to simply absorb it and the second time to take detailed notes on what aspects of it I wanted to emulate here in the pages of Pennsylvania Bridges.
Now, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t decide in that moment to give all our dear readers a new car. Still, two things struck me that I’ve tried to incorporate in this edition. First is what you’re reading now, the first installment in what I hope to make a regular feature, a piece on something I’m looking forward to. Second is a list stuff we recommend, curated lists of products and services suggested by our readers, our writers and our editors. Want to get in on the fun? Send me an email at email@example.com.
So, what is it exactly I’m looking forward to as we approach the holiday season? To answer that question, we must travel back in time to the year of my birth, 1977. My arrival into this world was a mere blip in the cosmos compared to the explosion into the universe the same year that was Star Wars: A New Hope.
The first film in the beloved Star Wars series, A New Hope was released in theaters on May 25, 1977. Dubbed an epic space opera, A New Hope was the highest grossing film of all time until the release of E.T., The Extra Terrestrial in 1982.
I didn’t get to see A New Hope in theaters for obvious reasons; I was only a little over three months old. However, my first trip to the movies was to see the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The effects were immediate. Han Solo will always be my first love, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was something about a guy – Darth Vadar – who can blow up entire planets on command that, well, speaks to me on some level. While I’d like to think I’ve spent my life using the “force” for good, there’s been times the dark side of the force has seemed equally appealing.
Call me a nerd. You won’t be the first. I’m so much of a geek I bought some Star Wars toys for my four-year-old godson and – if he behaves – I’ll let him come over to my house and play with them. I’m currently trying to bribe my husband into buying me the 31-inch Darth Vadar figure for Christmas. (Hint, hint, Eric. I’ve got the perfect spot in my office picked out.)
All kidding aside, for me the Star Wars story is about more than good spacemen versus bad space guys. It’s about the triumph of good over evil, a theme that has resonated throughout history. So, this holiday season, the thing I’m excited about is the arrival in theaters on December 18 of the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens. I’m not much of a crowd person so I’ll skip opening night, but come December 19 or 20, you’ll definitely find me firmly planted in a movie theater seat, popcorn in hand, with a wad of hankies for the inevitable flood of happy tears I’ll shed when – after more than 30 years – I’ll get to see Han Solo swagger on to the screen.
Merry Christmas, and May the Force be with you!
Written by Carla E. Anderton for Pennsylvania Bridges
The Fall 2015 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.
It’s with a heavy heart I sit down to pen my column in this edition. As I was sipping coffee and preparing to wrap up this issue – our biggest yet – I learned via social media my good friend Ron Shannon, whose byline you may have seen in the pages of past issues, has passed away after a short battle with cancer.
I started percolating ideas for what I wanted to say in this space a few weeks ago when my assistant editor, Hayley, and I settled on the cover image and the theme for this edition.
I wanted to mention this issue is all about new and evolving local businesses, and I was planning to pair that information with the fact that we’re celebrating our first birthday as a print publication.
My late grandmother, Eleanor Jean Allen, had a saying about birthdays. “Every birthday is a gift from God,” she’d say when asked if she found her own steady march of years alarming.
She and my grandfather, Carl, were given exactly 65 “gifts from God” before they were tragically taken from us in a tornado in 1996. Nearly 20 years later, I still get a lump in my throat just typing that, but I take comfort in the knowledge my grandparents loved life, and lived every moment of those 65 years to the fullest.
I could share so many memories about my grandparents; they were remarkable people who were loved by many, evidenced by the fact their joint funeral was standing room only. Not only were they cherished by others, their love for each other was obvious in both large and small ways.
Theirs was a love story that began when they were only 12, when my grandfather first noticed my grandmother playing with her dolls on the front porch of her parents’ house. Theirs was a tale of romance punctuated by moments like the time my grandmother had a sweatshirt airbrushed for my grandfather’s 60th birthday that read “Not Older, Just Better.”
Not older, just better, like so many of the people and places featured in this edition. New commercial enterprises melded with stories of people in the process of reinventing themselves. It’s not about the number of years they’ve been established but rather the burst of energy they bring to their respective ventures. It’s about their passion and zest for making their communities better places.
Not older, just better, just as we are at Pennsylvania Bridges. You may have noticed this edition feels slightly heavier in your hands than the last. Over the past year, we’ve steadily increased the number of pages, the quality of the paper we’re printed on, and the scope of our coverage. We’ve welcomed new and veteran contributors and expanded our distribution. Your response, dear readers, has been tremendous, and as we celebrate our first birthday, we’d be remiss if we didn’t say “Thank you!”
In conclusion, however, I’d like to shift focus back to the tragic loss of Ron Shannon. Ron was a terrific guy who always had a kind, encouraging word for everyone. He was also a talented and prolific writer whose books I’m proud to have on my bookshelf. We met as fellow students in the Writing Popular Fiction MFA program and subsequently at alumni events. When my thesis novel, The Heart Absent, was published, he was one of the first people to read it and write a glowing review. When he learned I had started a publication, he was quick to offer to write for it, and never shirked at any assignment. It is to his memory and his spirit I’d like to dedicate this edition. He was my constant cheerleader, and I’m going to miss him so very much.
Until next time, Carla E. Anderton
The August/September edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – Take it Back! – is now available online and in print.
My friends and anyone who has ever spent more than a few moments in my company would be surprised to learn I was a shy, reticent child, prone to spending hours alone, penning stories in my mind that sometimes made it on paper.
My parents, who I idolize, worked long hours to ensure I had food, shelter and a promising future. Like many children of my generation, I spent my after school hours and summers attending various day camps.
The summer between first and second grades, I attended a day camp held at a local community center. My family and I had just moved to a new neighborhood so my mother could attend law school at the nearby then Memphis State University.
Knowing me as she did, and knowing I was certain to feel uncomfortable on my first day at a new day camp where I knew not another living soul, my mother packed a beloved stuffed animal – a pink bunny rabbit I revered above all of my other toys – in my Care Bears bookbag. Whenever I felt sad or lonely or afraid, she told me, I was to hug that pink bunny and know how much I was loved.
It didn’t take long for the camp bullies, a group of kids a couple of years older than me, to decide I was to be the latest target of their derision. Their ringleader, a 9-year-old blonde haired, blue eyed monster, took especial delight in tormenting me and, one day, that cruelty took the form of him snatching my precious “Pink Bunny” from me. With a gleam in his eye I’ll never forget, he jerked one of its plastic googly eyes from its socket, leaving me in hysterics and my poor rabbit half blind. To add insult to injury, he then absconded with it to parts unknown.
It was a case of my word against his, and without a “body” it was decided there was no crime. I spent the rest of the day suffering in silence, fearful of further recriminations from the bully and his band of merry pint sized followers.
I went home and told my parents what had happened. They asked me if I wanted them to go talk to the camp director. No, I insisted, there was no point. The bully in question’s father was the camp director. Even at the age of seven, I knew enough about the world to know the odds weren’t skewed in my favor.
A few days later, however, opportunity presented itself during naptime. Always a restless youth, I frequently made use of our daily sanctioned nap-time to visit the restroom. On my way back from one such trip, I passed the row of cubbies where all campers’ belongings were kept. Peeking out of the corner of the cubby belonging to my childhood tormenter was a ragged pink floppy ear, an ear belonging to that favorite toy of mine. With care, mindful not to disturb the cubbie’s other contents, I rescued my beloved bunny from captivity and returned him to his rightful home, the confines of my Care Bears bookbag.
When my mother picked me from camp that day, I was barely buckled into the passenger seat of the family’s dark green Chevette when I unzipped my bookbag and presented my mother with my day’s bounty.
“Did one of the counselors make that awful boy give Pink Bunny back to you?” she asked.
“No,” I said, matter-of-fact. “I saw him in Tommy’s cubby and I took him back.”
“What made you do that?” she asked. “You should have gone and told a counselor what you found so he’d get in trouble for stealing.”
“I don’t care if he gets in trouble. I just missed my bunny. He’s mine and I love him so I took him back.”
My logic must have made sense to my mother because that was the last we spoke of the matter.
Maybe there’s something – or someone – in your life you’ve lost and you feel hopeless about the future. Maybe there’s something holding you back, some struggle that’s keeping you from reaching your full potential, whether it’s your job or family issues or some internal torment eroding your sense of self confidence and worth.
Seven-year-old me has one piece of advice for you. Take it back. Take back control of your life and your happiness. It’s yours. It belongs to you and no one and nothing has the right to deprive you of living your live to its fullest.
This edition of Pennsylvania Bridges has many stories of people who’ve triumphed over adversity, who’ve decided to take control of their present and their future with the aim of making it great. We’ve also got a ton of fun arts and entertainment features, too.
Until next time, happy reading!
Carla E. Anderton
The Summer 2015 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges, Seeds of Rebellion, is now available online.
Several of my friends have had babies in the last year. Thanks to the wonder of social media, I’ve had the opportunity to witness countless photos documenting the first year of their children’s lives. There’s perhaps nothing more miraculous than a newborn baby, no sensation so sublime as to hold one in your arms or to see them smile at you for the first time. There’s no feeling so powerful as to realize someone depends on you, no motivation greater than the knowledge someone looks up to and admires you.
However, as any parent will eventually testify, there comes a bittersweet moment when your child gains more autonomy and independence and – suddenly – you cease to be a super hero in their eyes. No longer their Superman or Wonder Woman, just like that. You’re only human, they’ve discovered, full of flaws and not always invincible. Then there are the days they treat you like an outright villain.
My own son will turn 18 at the end of October. While I envy my friends the joy of new parenthood, there is no power on earth or elsewhere that would compel me to repeat the experience of shepherding a child through the teen years. Adolescence is a particularly rocky road, along which there are many pitfalls. Think the “twos” are terrible? Give me a toddler over a teenager any day of the week.
All children rebel against their parents. It’s part of the cycle of life, and as they grow older, they develop ideas of their own, notions that sometimes frighten us.
Watching those we love most make mistakes can be heart breaking on the best of days and soul crushing on the worst. Yet, we weather the storm of injustices that accompany parenting an adolescent. We know that in order to learn how to do the right thing, sometimes we must first do the wrong thing.
While the transition from child to adult can be seemingly traumatic, a light does beacon at the end of the darkest of tunnels. That’s because, as adults, we’ve already walked this path. We know that the seeds of rebellion sowed in youth will blossom into hardy flowers given proper care.
As we prepare to celebrate the occasion of our nation’s birth, it’s important to take a moment to recognize this country was founded in the spirit of rebellion. Revolt against tyranny and oppression is the building block with which this nation was built. Our forefathers vehemently questioned authority and believed in the free will of the individual.
We pause on Independence Day to honor their memory, but their ideals have continued to advance, their spirit of rebellion alive and well. Just as teenagers question their parents’ once seemingly infallible judgment, we as Americans still demand answers from those in power. It’s part of what makes this country great.
Happy birthday, America! We at Pennsylvania Bridges wish everyone a safe, fun filled summer. We’ll be back in August with our Back to School edition.
Until next time, happy reading!
Carla E. Anderton, Editor-in-Chief