Category Archives: editor’s note

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

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

February 2017 Edition: Moments & Milestones

february2017 cover.qxdThe February 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.

Moments & Milestones

This month, I am set to reach one of life’s major milestones. On February 23, I will turn 40 years old.

I find this fact astonishing only because I can recall with crystal clarity the day I turned ten, when I thought an eternity would have to pass before I reached the great sum of 15.

Still, I reached that milestone and many others, and 30 years later, here I sit thinking of past accomplishments and future feats yet to be achieved.

Forty seems like an appropriate age to take stock of your existence by counting the milestones along your life’s path. From learning to walk to learning to fly, so many occasions have had a profound impact on me. Giving birth to my favorite person, graduating from college and graduate school, publishing my first novel, and marrying my soulmate a few years back have all been events that shaped me in dramatic ways.

Having said that, what I remember most vividly about the last 20 years or so has not been so much the milestones but rather the moments I’ve shared with friends and loved ones. This is hardly an original concept and I must credit the source, the late Rose Kennedy, who raised a U.S. President and two senators along with six other children. She was also a leading philanthropist who lived to the ripe old age of 104.

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments,” she wrote in her autobiography, Times to Remember.

The moments I cherish best have been the most unexpected, and at times have not fit neatly into the narrative I once believed my life would follow.

For everyone official milestone I’ve met, there are hundreds of moments that have eclipsed their standing. This is not to diminish their importance, rather it is emphasize how incredibly rich my life has been to date.

Like anyone, there are instances I’d rather not repeat, difficult lessons learned the hard way. Still, I can’t discount any of them for – without them – my life might have taken an alternate course than the current one.

Speaking of alternate courses, this issue is dedicated to those who go out of their way to help those whose lives have been touched by hardship and/
or tragedy.

In this edition, we honor the first responders on the scene, as well as those who raise their voices on behalf of the silenced. We pay tribute to those who support the downtrodden and the disadvantaged.

In an effort to be a positive force for change, we also are spotlighting organizations and causes to which you can contribute your resources. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still make a difference by volunteering your time to help others in need. Have a spare hour or day? Want to help – among others – hungry children, people with life limiting illnesses or victims of domestic violence? Details about several worthy causes are listed within this month’s pages. Remember, volunteering can be a rewarding solo activity or a great way for families to bond and instill good values in their children’s hearts and minds. No memory is as precious as one that’s made while lifting others up.

Finally, this issue contains over 50 notices of places to go and things to do in the month of February, from celebrating Valentine’s Day at a local restaurant with your special someone to discovering the diversity of artists and performers in your own backyard.

Whether you elect to mark your life by milestones or moments, take time to appreciate the unique beauty of each.

Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton

January 2017: New Beginnings

january2017 cover.qxdThe January 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesNew Beginnings – is now available online & in print.

New Beginnings: January 2017 Editor’s Note

confidenceOne of my all-time favorite actresses is Julie Andrews. I’ll save you the trouble of Googling to see if 2016 took her, too. Fortunately, at 82 years young, she’s still with us. While she appeared in a number of iconic films, one holds a special place in my heart, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. As far as I’m concerned, everything about this film is amazing, from the masterful performances of Andrews in the role of Maria and her co-stars – particularly Christopher Plummer as the dashing Captain VonTrapp and Peggy Wood as the ever sage Mother Superior – to the infectious tunes that provide the movie’s soundtrack.

Perhaps my favorite scene in The Sound of Music is the one where Maria first travels to the VonTrapp estate from the familiar confines of the convent, where she thought she’d live out the rest of her days.

“What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be?” she asks, her voice a mixture of uncertainty and eagerness. As she approaches the palatial home and prepares herself to meet “a Captain with seven children” she ponders “what’s so fearsome about that?” and sets off with renewed confidence.

It’s an inspiring instance of resolution and determination that tells the audience what sort of person Maria is, during which their view of her shifts from flighty and scatterbrained to confident and composed.

For me, however, the most motivational part of this scene is at the beginning, when Maria exits the convent, bags in tow, and prepares to leave behind the only life she’s ever known.

As the gates of the abbey close behind her, Maria says, appropriately, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

My first viewing of the film was in 1984, so long ago that my grandmother actually rented a VCR from our local Kroger grocery store so we could watch the movie on VHS. (That’s right, I said “rented” as, at the time, most working class people couldn’t afford to own VCRs.)

In the years since, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve held on to that sentiment, that when God closes a door, somewhere a window opens. I uttered it to myself the day I left my hometown at the tender age of 22, filled with anticipation of the possibilities that awaited me in California, Pennsylvania. I repeated the phrase over a decade later, when I made another earth moving change. Only a couple of months ago, I had to say “Au Revoir” to a place I considered my second home for 16 years, and as that door closed behind me for the last time, I kept in mind the thought of the window that’s opened for me again and again, just when I’ve needed to set my sights on something new.

If you’re reading this, you’re looking through my personal window. Thank you, and don’t mind the dust! With the shift from bimonthly to monthly, we’re adding lots of awesome, original content as well as expanding our current offerings. One example has been a marked increase in event listings. Looking for something to do, close to home, in January or early February? We’ve got you covered.

2016 was a challenging year for a lot of people in myriad ways. Maybe it was a good year for you, maybe not. Maybe you’ve had doors close behind you, too, and you’ve found yourself searching for an open window. May 2017 be a year of renewal for you, of change and new beginnings.

Speaking of new beginnings, this issue is dedicated to those who have set off on innovative courses, just as the ever cheerful Maria did in The Sound of Music. May confidence, too, be their guide!

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton